Family portrait; Ashfield Fall Festival; October, 2008.
Sometimes I think the perfect situation would be to have two kids: one typical and one like my darling Fluffy.
In my imagination, the typical, easy child would provide the feedback that I am not defective as a parent, that I have the ability to guide and teach, discipline affectively, shepherd my child towards his own, incrementally independent life through the baby steps of sitters, playgroups, preschool, elementary school, and the land of overnights elsewhere—friend’s house, relatives, summer camp, etc.,etc. I could finally be a member of the Parents of Typical Children Club with all its requisite ease and normalcy along with the trials and irritations, challenges and quirks that everyone has to certain degrees since, as far as I can tell from this side of the plexi-glass, no child is a disney prince or princess.
Continuing along in the la la land of my imagination, parenting the Fluffy child would provide what it has all along: the discovery that nothing is what you thought it would be, the freedom and fear that such a discovery can bring, the experience of having the ground ripped out from under you just as you think you are getting your bearings, the opportunity for developing inner strength and fortitude like those characters in myths and fairy tales, the ones who wander alone, underground, searching for their hands.
I would have it both ways. I would stretch and see things I could never have seen before. I would let go of old judgments and certainties and fall straight into the pit of what most parents fear: something’s is going on with your child that may profoundly affect their entire life, livelihood and happiness and you may or may not be able to fix it, ie, give them a life that is better than yours. I would have a toe in the door to other people’s struggles. I wouldn’t *get * it all but I would get a lot more than I ever could have before.
But I would also *get * the other side, the ‘regular’ side.
I wouldn’t have to brace against someone else’s child’s success. I wouldn’t feel that stick in my throat that appears when Fluffy veers wildly off course and I don’t know how to lasso him back to the track. I wouldn’t feel the ground beneath me rumble when I see the judgment and criticism of my son’s behavior or of my parenting. That’s when I veer off. I try not to. I work hard to stay calm, focused, good humored, resilient, to stay in the moment and FAR away from comparisons, worry, fear, hurt, anger.
But it’s hard.
And when the shit hits the fan, which it did over Christmas, in my imagination, with the two kids and the two worlds and the two points of view and me straddling the divide, I would be able to keep my balance, hold my tongue and wait it out, wait until the storm inside me passes with all the flying debris before I gather my words.
Tomorrow is a new day, a new month, a new year. Outside, fat flakes of snow steadily fall, covering the bare trees and triangular roof tops with soft and fantastically complicated designs, invisible to the naked eye. Imagine, that’s what the cold did to uniform and ordinary water droplets.
Howard Glasser is my new hero. His Nurtured Heart Approach feels like the answer we’ve been looking for since the fall. We began a few weeks ago but we will begin again now, in this new year, with a new parent training class and his most recent book. I even found a class for Fluffy at a center whose staff has been trained in the Nurtured Heart style of teaching.
Glasser’s main point is to look at the way we choose to radiate energy. That’s the key. He says, many times a day, look at what is happening with your child and find the ways you can accuse them of success, over and over. What is happening that can be held up as a success? What isn’t happening that can be held up as a success? Keep creating these moments of success, what he calls the Time In, so that, in time, your child develops a deep and abiding and truer sense of self that will then, naturally, manifest everywhere.
Glaser calls the Nurtured Heart a spiritual intervention. I love that. I have a feeling this will help me come up from underground. I have a feeling it will help me find my hands. And when that happens, I don’t think I’ll have as much use for the perfect parenting situation of my imagination. The truth is, when I feel as if my own life makes sense, when I feel as if I am finding my own, perfectly imperfect expression of my one wild and wonderful life right here, nothing sticks in my throat and the ground is warm and steady beneath my feet.
Here’s to another trip around the sun with my son, myself, my man, my family, and my friends in the physical, and the virtual, world.