Ever have one of those proud parenting moments where you absolutely want to crawl under a rock? I mean, it's like something highjacked your sanity and you can't believe what you just did or what just came out of your mouth.
I'm here to share with you that you are not alone!
I've had more of those moments than I'd like to admit, but not understanding our child from a hard place multiplied those in our early parenting days. We sort of look at our parenting life as BK and AK, no sacrilege intended. Before Karyn Purvis, I parented like that; after Karyn, I parent like this. We had some major quilt to overcome when we began to understand that our son's difficult behaviors were a result of differences in brain development, neurochemistry, sensory processing, and attachment.
One such BK disaster stands out in my mind, so today I thought perhaps you could use a good laugh - on me!
Our family was spending the day at Six Flags Over Texas with our dear friends and their three children. We'd been in the trenches long enough to know this would more than likely be a horrible day, but I guess we were slow learners and somehow thought today might be different with our high-risk special needs son and our sick-and-tired-of-chaos daughter.
Keep in mind I knew nothing about sensory processing then, even though I had a Masters degree in Special Ed. Guess in the 80's, they were more concerned with teachers knowing how to make eye-catching bulletin boards and how to perform task analysis by breaking a simple math objective like 2 + 2 into 14 smaller steps. Thank you very much!
As we entered the amusement park, one of the first rides was a 3D virtual dinosaur adventure. You know, the kind where your seats are jerked and jolted until you nearly throw up and a 3D virtual attack is raising your adrenaline off the charts as flying pterodactyls race toward your face. The line to get into this joy-filled adventure was an hour and a half wait time. No problem for a child with the kinds of issues Dane had, huh?
I know, shaking my head in shame as I type!
We some how managed to get through the line in one piece and not yet headed for divorce court. Dane was complaining the whole time and we, of course, were using our best logic to tell him how much fun he was going to have. As we entered the dark room, he became really upset and started the clinging/begging type behavior to not go. As I began to dread missing yet another time with my family, I started to take him out when my friend, "Miss Normal Mom," blurted out, "He'll be fine. He's eight years old! They have a bench on the front row if he can't handle the moving seat. Just let him sit there."
There I was, exasperated by another Dane-a-mania moment and succumbing to peer pressure, even though I was nearly forty years old! I peeled Dane off my neck and lovingly told him we'd be just a couple rows back and he could sit on the bench. Using my most convincing tone, I explained that he was safe and Mommy would be right there when the ride ended. I even told him he could just cover his eyes if it got too scary.
UGH! What was I thinking?
We took our seats and the ride started. Sanity was long gone, and I naively thought I could have a couple of minutes with Megan and Alan... and no fingernails scraping my neck!
As roaring, virtual dinosaurs came at me from every direction and my seat catapulted all over the place, I tried to keep an eye on my precious little one, but it was quite dark. Suddenly the ride came to a halt and lights were back on. My friend looked at me and said, "Did it break?" I knew EXACTLY what had just happened.
Sanity returned and you've never seen a mom leap over people and rows so fast to get to my child. You guessed it - he was screaming so loudly and was so distraught they had stopped the ride! "I'm sorry, Baby. I'm sorry. Mommy is so sorry I made you sit here. I'm here." Today in my AK state of mind, I can almost hear the announcer say, "Would the Mom with the Dismissive Adult Attachment Style who thought it would be okay to leave her terrified, sensory impaired, neuro-chemically imbalanced, insecure little boy on the front bench - please get your six down here!"
You know when Dr. Purvis talks about "felt safety...." I wasn't even close. To this day as I think about this incident, I sometimes feel the urge to call child protective services on myself to confess what I did. He's 24 now, so I don't think they can take him from me.
So what caused me to have such a leave of absence of my brain? I actually see it happen often in parents. What causes us to miss things in our parenting that afterwards seem so obvious? Lack of education, for sure, about the body, brain, and belief systems of a child from early harm. But even then, we still sometimes miss the mark. I think it's several things.
We're tired. It's been years of hard parenting for some of us. And the term "weary in well-doing," well, we hit that long ago.
We're stuck. Stuck in our traditions that tell us a certain way to think and to parent. We still tend to mix some of that old stuff into our trust-based parenting model. And distancing + connecting don't mix well.
We're influenced. Influenced by others who aren't on the journey of parenting a child who has major differences in the way his brain processes. That look from an in-law or that comment from someone at church can get to us.
We're not always emotionally present. We can't always feel what our child feels in the moment and truly understand. This may be because we haven't dealt with our own triggers and history of attachment, thus, we unintentionally put our own needs before our child's.
We're overbooked. We have too much on our calendars and in our daily schedules to truly do what it takes to help a child from a hard place heal. It takes lots of time and repetition to grow a healthier brain.
Thankfully, Alan and I can now look back on our dinosaur parenting days and laugh. Dane and Megan have forgiven our mistakes and trust-based parenting became easier as the months and years went by. Belief systems can change, compassionate understanding can be learned, and relationships can heal.
What things in your dinosaur parenting need to change?
P.S. Don't forget to laugh at yourself, forgive yourself, and offer yourself some grace along the way.