3 Kids in diapers was chaos.
My 7 year old had autism, was potty trained at 5 and lost it at 6 when he had his second regression. My 4 year old couldn’t be trusted to put the poop in the toilet all the time, and my 1 year old… he’s a 1 year old.
So, everyone was in diapers. And they communicated telepathically to synchronize their poops. So it all happened at the same time. Or so it seemed to me anyway. Maybe it’s because they ate at the same time… whatever the reason, it was chaos.
They also synchronized their crying. Or maybe they set each other off. My son with autism couldn’t deal with crying at all, so anyone’s crying brought him to tears in a heartbeat. But all three crying was a spiraling wave of overwhelm.
It was chaos.
The strangest thing though, was that the chaos was inside me. At first, I couldn’t tell if the inside flurries created the outside storms, or vice versa. However it happened, Jaedon’s worse days were also mine. And regardless of where it started, I decided that I had to find the power to stop it.
No, I didn’t have the power to stop the synchronized poop fest or the chorus of tantruming wails. I realized that I had the power to stop my participation in the emotional chaos.
Well, I wasn’t sure I had the power, but something had to be done!
The sound of any child crying tripled my heart speed and caused my jaw to clench. The low level headache was a norm and my thoughts would race in an uncontrollable way. I was in a constant state of panic flavored anxiety. And you know what they say about anxiety: it kills. Well, I was still alive, but my day to day experience felt … just terrible.
So, something had to stop. Well, someone. Me. I stopped. I stopped believing the stuff.
Here are 3 flavors of the stuff I stopped believing.
1. I stopped believing in developmental windows and age specifications for specific skills.
A big source of my panic was the thought that this kid is x age and STILL in pullups. And if he’s STILL doing it NOW, what happens in x months, weeks, years???
First of all, the very belief that something MUST happen by a certain time floods my system with cortisol (the stress hormone that fries organs and kills us). It turns me into manic mommy as the ‘deadlines’ approached and my kids weren’t getting it.
And manic mommy, especially when she’s flirting with panic flavored anxiety, is not good for her kids, or herself. Letting go of developmental windows has been a tremendous gift to my peace of mind. And by the way, peaceful minds are much more capable of figuring out smart ways to work with chaotic situations.
2. I stopped believing that I could make my kids develop well.
3. … what my kids did reflected my parenting.
These are tricky, and I have to fight them constantly. But honestly, outside of coercion and mind-control strategies (please share your mind control strategies with me!… no .. kidding!!) we know that ensuring that another human does what we want, what we determine is good for them, is beyond our pay grade, and is right up there with job descriptions like, make the sun rise daily.
Our role as parents is to create the best environment possible and many of us know that threats and severe punishments to ensure developmental progress are acts of desperation, not necessarily designed to stimulate growth.
So, my focus has to be on the process of creating the best environment, nurturing, guiding and facilitating my kids’ growth, while we deal with the many things that can interfere with ‘typical’ growth, like the symptoms of autism, OCD and anxiety.
And, when skills, character traits, academics, or other stuff seem to be an issue for our child, we must release ourselves from the fear we have for their future. That, plus our worry about how our kids reflect our parenting cripple us. Letting go of the fear puts us in the best possible place to actually be helpful, to be a change catalyst for the people we’ve parenting.
Believe something else…It’s hard to stop believing stuff. Unless you decide to believe something else. And choosing more empowering, more peace giving, less stressful beliefs is a must have skill! I can’t get into all the stuff about how to choose and cultivate your beliefs. I’ll just tell you what I decided to believe instead.
My kids are incredible gifts to me just as they are and I get to partner with them in their growth. That anchoring thought helped me find a bunch of other more supportive thoughts because I could always challenge myself with ‘is believing this helping you to partner with them in their growth?’ and ‘what helps you to be the best partner in your children’s growth?’
I realized what I knew all along: nourished, emotionally balanced mommy is the best partner for her kids’ growth, regardless of the day, distress or diagnosis that’s unfolding in the moment. This hasn’t been quick, easy road. But understanding the mental traps that were triggered when stuff happened has been very helpful to me.
It helps me resist the panic, and that means my response in the moment is just less chaotic. That means I get to be a defuser, not a catalyst of the chaos. And mostly, I get to hold onto peace, while hugging my kids, creating a space that says, ‘whatever comes to you in your life, you can hold on to peace, resist unhelpful beliefs, know your triggers and find healthy ways to defuse the chaos.’
Because they will have chaos in their lives. And all this development we want for them is mostly caught, not taught.