Parenting is one of those things that becomes hard to see, because you are just IN it! Ever so often, though, something happens that allows…or creates rather…the opportunity to observe yourself. For me it is a recent shift in my son’s life that has put me face to face with judgement that I was totally unaware of. As we faced this shift as a family, I felt as though I was able to see myself “handling” it. I was not operating from a sense of calm & I felt that I was loosing “control”. With this thought, I found myself knowing suddenly that I was the obstacle…that my son was fine & even able to teach me. I want to share because it is beautiful, but also because as parents (and as humans) we need to be willing and open to changing our minds.
The issue I’m discussing is our decision as a family to try medication for my son who is eight. He has always had impulse and attention struggles and we have worked hard with teachers, babysitters, etc to support him…it takes a village. Still he struggled. Academically he thrived, easily keeping up and grasping skills. But, now his attention difficulties were beginning to impact him socially, and they had always created extra work for those in charge of him.
My openness to medication (which means an official diagnosis too) began because of the strong connection and good feelings I have towards my son’s school principal. In a meeting about a separate subject, we began to chat about my son. She shared her concerns for him beginning 3rd grade in the fall. Because of the care that was behind all of her message, I was able to listen. DO NOT overlook this part of the story! My listening has everything to do with my ability to navigate through the difficulty I was creating.
I left her office ready to talk to my pediatrician and try out a prescription. I knew this was worth trying and that there was a chance that my son would receive the support we had not yet found for him. This knowing made the decision not scary and I felt good. But…my thinking over the next weeks made this shift feel cloudy, heartbreaking and stressful. I realized that my experience as a counselor and as a Three Principles facilitator had allowed me to make sense of medications in a very skewed way. Somehow I had decided that innate well being and pharmaceutical intervention could not co-exist. Very scientifically I had decided that if a person needed medication, they were not accessing some part of their well being. I walked around in this belief without any awareness for years.
The truth is that my automatic thinking about medication was full of judgements and absolutes. Whenever I resorted to these old ideas, I felt what came with them. Example, “we’re taking the easy way out, and if I can’t help my son thrive (as a counselor and former educator) something is most definitely wrong with me.” “My son’s going to feel insecure about this!” “People will wonder how I teach about resiliency and human capability while my son is not able to be in his natural state.” Ouch, ouch, ouch! I was beating myself up.
When I actually look outside of this thinking, I see that my son is not insecure about his medication at all. He sees it as innocently as he sees his gummy vitamins. I see that he is now enjoying and connecting to activities and people like never before. I see that he is proud and well.
I also see that in moments of stress, my automatic thought seems more tempting…more automatic. During the moments when my son is struggling to swallow his pill…gagging and coughing…I begin to feel that this has all been a bad idea. I feel that I’ve been duped by the medical field…by the education system. I begin to want to run from my reality…fast & far! It is in these moments that I just know what I’m doing again. I know at this time that I have followed my thinking into darkness. I know that if I look, I will see my son in all of his ability. I know that I’m really good at creating my experience.
These things bring me back to what is ultimately true. The learning of swallowing a pill is not a struggle too large for my son. What makes is too large is my reaction and perception of the task. He is not likely to give up or be overcome, but if there are moments that he too let’s his thinking get to him, my resiliency is his life raft. My job, as always, is to stay connected to my own resiliency, and for that I must listen to my feelings knowing they are and indicator of where my thinking has taken me. Then I must be willing to adjust accordingly. Over & over.
But this task is not a task at all. No feeling of dread or effort is involved. I simply must return to my natural setting once I’ve roamed away in my ability to create. I hope you will allow your child to be your teacher as I have in this story…I hope you will allow yourself permission to see and to act from the place of a learner.