Hindsight Parenting: How to Raise Emotionally Resilient Children?
Embrace Her Quirks
“Embrace her quirks,” said the world renowned pediatric neurologist. “More importantly, help her to embrace her quirks.”
“Ah,” said Hindsight. “Therein lies the problem because YOU my dear Logan are completely and utterly NOT equipped to teach a child that.” (Maybe it wasn’t Hindsight who said that…maybe it was my subconscious, or the Doubter, as I like to call him.) Anyways, that statement, “Help her embrace her quirks.” has paralyzed me.
Each year we go on a yearly trek to a magical place called Rochester to visit a very informed, much respected, very busy, Dr. Mink. He has been my daughter, Ila’s, pediatric neurologist since she was 11 months and we have always felt completely at ease with him because of his wealth of knowledge and his concrete suggestions and ideas to try and tackle what seemed to be an unidentifiable movement disorder in my daughter.
Each year, we leave his office with a plan of action that the brilliant therapists that are involved in Ila’s life play out in the utmost professional and serious of manners. Because of their hard work, Dr. Mink was duly impressed by the level of strength that she presented with in comparison to our last visit. However, there were still questions and concerns. Things we needed answers to; like why she seemed to disconnect at various times—going into a trance like state? Why was it that her interpersonal relationships didn’t seem to go smoothly? Why do noises seem to bother her so much, and why, even though she has a very strong pair of glasses, is she still struggling with visual perception?
His answer was definitive. She seems to fall into the category of a child with movement dyspraxia…
Without going into too many details this diagnosis basically means that the integration of movement is difficult. But it also explains her tendency to disconnect (when directions or stimulus is too difficult) and it also explains some of her quirkiness. Dyspraxic children have difficulties with social situation and holding onto friends because of both their manner of movement and thought patterns.
These things, especially the disconnection or fogginess and the problematic social interactions (that make her an easy target for bullies) have been worrisome for a while now, but it became “real” when Dr. Mink began to speak to us about it.
Here’s the thing…my subconscious or Hindsight, whoever was speaking at the moment was right. I feel like I have no compass to help her navigate through these difficulties. At this moment, the movement stuff seems secondary to the much more urgent task of armoring Ila against the possible pitfalls of being a kid who will disconnect and who will have difficulties with social situations. I want to make it so that Ila loves who she is as we do. To put it as bluntly as I can, she and her funny jokes and her imaginative brain and her matter of fact blurtings make her absolutely, incandescently the best. We love her. We already embrace her quirks and honestly wouldn’t have her any other way.
But, alas, that won’t always be the case with everyone. Being a teacher, I can unfortunately attest to knowing several fellow educators that have difficulty with their students “spacing out.” I have witnessed teachers struggling with students for not paying attention even when clearly attention is a developmental problem that the student needs help with. And more worrisome, being a mother of grown children and a teacher for two decades I am highly aware that quirky kids (different kids) are not readily appreciated for their strengths. They may be funny, intelligent, creative, musical, kind and empathetic…but stand out in any way that doesn’t look like the average kid opens them up to a multitude of things that mothers all over the world worry about. Bullying, being picked on, not accepted, left out at recess—all of these nightmares, I have to admit, have been just plaguing me since Dr. Mink informed us that these little quirks that make Ila who she is, may just make her a target of all of the above. Hence his recommendation to “Help her embrace her quirks.”
But how? How do parents get their children to have such a strong sense of who they are that no slight or eye roll could shake their confidence. I am so not sure and dear readers, I WANT to be sure.
And so starts a conversation in our household with Ila’s closest family members, her therapists, her teacher and her surrogate grandparents. Ila’s dad and I feel like the more advocates she has, the better chance she has in seeing how thoroughly beautiful she is inside and out. At night since that doctor’s visit, I have taken to asking Ila to tell me something that makes her special. I have also started to talk about the best and hardest moment of my day at dinner. My hard moments have been examples of being rejected by peers or moments where my feelings were hurt and how I handled it. However, while these small gestures may help, I feel a bit baffled as to what else to do so that Ila is prepared—prepared for what MAY lie ahead for her. How many times as parents do we experience this feeling of helplessness for our children? How many times? I know because Hindsight has taught me that there is no SPARING Ila from what may be. She needs to experience hardship to help her grow into an adult that can handle disappointment. However, I want her heart to be steel, her brain to be titanium. I don’t want a mean spirited person to change who she is. I don’t want cruelty to make her ashamed of her spirited self. I, like so many other parents, want to put her in a cocoon and shelter her from anything that may damage her psyche. But alas, we can’t. I can’t. The knowledge of that, that she will at some point or many points in her school life experience feeling less than makes me ache with sadness.
So dear readers, I would love your input. How? How do we make it so that our children’s sense of self is so strong and fortress-like that most jabs and digs and spears thrown hard will bounce off them leaving them without a dent in essence of what makes them who they are.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s Motherhood, Eye on Education, Faces, and Appleseed. Logan’s previous column for Hilltown Families, Snakes and Snails: Teenage Boys Tales ran bi-monthly from June 2010-Feb. 2011, sharing stories of her first time around as a parent of two teenage boys. — Check out Hindsight Parenting: Raising Kids the Second Time Around every first and third Tuesday of the month.
[Photo credit: (ccl) Yosuke Yamada]