January 22, 2014

Let It Go

The Struggle and the Acceptance
Our struggle with my eldest son is that he needs constant reminding of everything. Ever since he was a little boy, his father and I would always have to remind him his daily duties. From simple things like brushing his teeth before sleeping to feeding his dachshund. None of those duties are complex, in fact, they're your everyday things. But with my eldest, we checked on him all the time. Even when there's a list of his duties displayed on the wall.

He would leave his brand new bike out in the rain right after his long and serious talk with his father about taking care of bikes. He would fail to bring extra clothes even after reminders. He would forget to wear his dental appliance even after warning him that he'll be grounded if he does. He'll have a hard time executing a 4-step instruction because by the time you're done explaining the fourth step he already forgot the first one. He sometimes wears his clothes topsy-turvy without him noticing unless someone points it out. These and many other things have been happening for a decade. Our long and serious talks about him would happen 4-6 times a year. There were times that I would literally pull my hair out.

He doesn't mean to be stubborn or naughty or disobedient, he just naturally have a forgetful mind. Rather, his mind is always somewhere else. The person who had the hardest time accepting that is my husband who was almost always disappointed, and he always wondered why his son "never learns". This created a weak relationship between the two.

Friendship hindered since his father would always interpret his absent-mindedness as disobedience and obstinacy.

The second person who has trouble accepting him for 'what' he truly is, is my mother. She thinks she knows my son well, often giving unofficial diagnosis/analysis on my son's behavior, so much so she insisted (even sponsored) for my son to see a high-profile (and very expensive) child psychiatrist. After several sessions and thousands of pesos, the final (and official) diagnosis of the renowned doctor was this: My son is a very kind person, he just needs constant rhythm in his daily routine, and if he appears to be disobedient, know that it's normal among teenagers. In short, my son is normal. But my mother still insists, up to this day, that my son has Attention Deficit Disorder. In fact, you would always hear her say that my son is not right for traditional schools because he would be shunned. Take note that my mother's favorite grandchild is my eldest son. Maybe that's the very reason why she thinks he's special and that he needs her protection. But it doesn't help. Especially when my son hears her talk like that, he starts questioning his capabilities.

Don't get me wrong. It's not like I didn't go through a phase of anger, disappointment, frustration, and denial. I went through all of those. It's not easy. I sought the help of teachers, mentors, and doctors in Waldorf multiple times and they've given a few insights here and there to help us cope.We tried many methods and we would often end up asking ourselves where we went wrong. Our frustrations didn't help at all because it was too tangible for him that he'll often express his anger and confusion towards himself. It was a nasty cycle that we were all too tired of.

I guess it all boils down to this: Do not expect perfection from your children.

He's a fine kid. He would tell lies here and there like any other kid, snarl and snap at people he dislikes, but overall, he's a very nice and sensitive kid. He's smart, sweet, thoughtful, generous, gallant, polite, helpful, artistic, optimistic, funny, and list goes on. If only we could just focus on his gifts rather than his shortcomings (or rather just embrace his "shortcomings"), then it wouldn't be that hard to raise him.

Year 2014: Officially a Teenager
Alas, he's now fourteen. So much mental, emotional, and physical growth had already occurred. But it's not too late for us to channel our energies somewhere else. We have to surrender and accept that he just have a sanguine temperament. We have to let go.

The Universe granted us the perfect chance to let go. My ever-generous parents gave me and my brother our own "starter homes", and it is conveniently near my son's school. Our arrangement this year is that my son would move in to our new home with his cousin next to my brother's house where he lives with his wife and 2 other children. While pregnant with our third child (oh yes, dear readers, I'm pregnant again! More on that soon!) I am to stay in my parents' house with my toddler because it is also where I handle 3 jobs. To shuttle myself back and forth would be too taxing for me. Then my husband has to be in the city, which is an hour and a half away, during weekdays. Suffice to say, we are only complete during weekends now.

He lives here now with his cousin, my godson, who is only a year younger than him.
My brother's house is just next to mine, so in effect, he is under their care.

It wasn't easy reaching the decision to let go. In fact, my husband and I spent several coffee dates talking only about what could happen to our son. We were scared. We were unsure. We were apprehensive. Who will be there to take care of him? Who will be there to remind him his duties and chores? It was a 50/50 deal. Our son can get worse - and never bounce back, or he can step up and improve - and we'll have a smooth future.

We are only 3 weeks in and so far so good. There's a vast improvement according to his teacher. Her term is: He is now more awake. More conscious of his schedule, responsibilities, and tasks. One thing I love about Waldorf (my son's school) is that their teachers have a very personal approach. She has been my son's teacher since third grade in a low-population setting. That means she has the capability to track our children's overall growth.

One of his new daily chores: Watering the newly landscaped garden
He has the whole year to step up and prove to us (and more importantly to himself) that he can stand on his own two feet. It's probably a good change for him that no one is breathing down his neck all the time. I have no idea if he brushes his teeth before sleeping since we're far away from each other now, but as his mother, instinct is telling me that it's the right time to say "so what!" and just let go...

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