Last week, the kids and I staked out our territory and did some motel-camping. It’s a temporary situation while we wait to close on our new home. I call it camping because you have to get creative about your meals so you don’t go bankrupt from eating out every night. It’s not the most ideal situation, but I know it could be a heck of a lot worse. And it did give me a chance to slow down and be with my kids.
It was a pretty awesome experience. The first few days allowed us the freedom to investigate our new area before school started on Wednesday. We trapezed through parks, playgrounds, and swimming holes. Our singing voices echoed through the woods as we skipped down empty bike paths. Being void of our normal surroundings and everyday distractions, we were encouraged to stay present and try new things.
My seven-year-old son has really come out of his shell this last year, but he still has moments of timidness and nerves. The morning of his first day of school, he was extremely quiet. I immediately could tell what was going on. The quieter he is – the more terrified he is. And this quiet was dead quiet.
I’ll spare you the suspense and tell you he made it through the day. His second day of school was stellar, as was his third. Going through moments like this has taught me a lot. Where most people would see a scared, timid little boy, I see great strength and fierceness. I don’t know many people – holding onto that kind of fear – would willingly walk into the unknown like that.
Here is the short list of things I have learned from my son.
Listen to your gut
If you know my son, you’ll know that he’s a planner, perfectionist, and leans fully into direction and order. He thrives on knowing what’s to come and being prepped before any changes. When we’re driving somewhere new, it’s not uncommon to have two iPhone GPS apps going at the same time. One for the driver and one for him in the backseat so he can see the map and know exactly where we are going.
Imagine my surprise when we were looking for a new playground and he asked if we could “follow our gut” instead. I confirmed that I understood him correctly and he said, “let’s do that. No GPS.” I immediately jumped on board. I think we forget to follow our gut sometimes. I know when I’m paying attention to my first reaction in any given situation, it’s always the right one. It’s when I’m not listening that things don’t work out how I’d like them to.
Knowing yourself and sticking to your guns is important
Most kids know themselves and almost immediately know if they like something or not. My son has no problem expressing his opinions and I admire this about him. (Occasionally, I need to correct how exactly he expresses himself but, I honor his feelings – provided the tone is right.) I think there is a difference between being difficult and being true to yourself.
I am fascinated by my son’s ability to tap into who he is and how he feels about any given topic or situation at the moment – as it’s happening. As he’s getting older, I’m noticing how deep his thought process runs. His behavior never stems from what he’s feeling on the surface (unless he’s extremely tired). If his behavior is out of whack, it’s usually because there’s much more going on below the surface.
How to swallow fear when standing alone on the field
Or in front of your new school. I’ve really witnessed some mighty courage from my little man this week. He has entered a new school in a new area and joined a new football team all at the same time. Sure, he’s had moments of great hesitation, but he has really swallowed some of that fear and did what was necessary to get to the other side.
Fear can be paralyzing and it may take an act of god (or an awesome football coach) to help break the cement around our feet. No one can make us do the things we don’t want, but encouragement and sometimes just having someone listen to our woes is all that’s needed to break the ice.
Sometimes it’s OK to NOT be OK
A new school with new friends is one thing. Starting tackle football with new teammates, motel-camping in a new area, and not seeing Daddy all week, is something entirely different. My son had a complete meltdown by the end of the week. It was important for me to figure out if it was misbehavior or if it was something much more serious than that. It was serious. His behavior was totally out of the norm and bordered on a throw down fit. He was flailing.
Too often we push ourselves (or our kids) to be alright with a situation we are clearly not ready to accept yet. And sometimes that’s OK. It requires us to assess the situation and look at what’s happening. Is it something we push through? Or is it something we need to look closer at and change what we’re doing?
At one point he was hysterical, exclaiming he didn’t want to move. He was clearly freaking out and the overwhelm had consumed him. Of course, I don’t like seeing him like this, but sometimes we tell people to stop doing what they are doing because it makes US uncomfortable. I felt I had to do the opposite. I told him it was OK to cry. I told him to let it all out and I told him about all the times I had moved as a kid and how scary it was. We talked. Shed tears. Hugged. Then we arranged a trip to see his Dad.
Parenting can be difficult, but it feels like I’m on the right track when, after all that, my son says, “Thank you, Mom. For listening and staying.”