Guiding from the Side

Posted 02/19/15 6:34 PM by
                                            Momma and As

Aiden: “I’m getting made fun of about my temper”

Hmm … words any momma hates to hear “I’m getting made fun of”.  Aiden sent me this text yesterday while at school.  I carefully read and re-read is words and sent back:

Momma: “Are you mad about something?”

Aiden: “No.”

Momma: “Whose making fun of you and why?”

Our conversation went on from there, with him explaining that he didn’t know why the kid was making fun of him, or why. I told him to ignore the kid and go play with someone else.  That was the end of our text conversation, I knew what we needed to talk about wouldn’t be served well via text.

I began thinking back to how I might have handled that situation when Cooper was 11 – Cooper wouldn’t have been met with the same response.

I’ve grown up as a mom in the last 17 years, a lot.  There’s a lot to be said about the study of birth order – and for us in our house it has a lot to do with what I learned while parenting the older boys and how I have changed. One of the biggest lessons I learned is that they don’t always need me to protect them – even when I feel an overwhelming urge to do so. I don’t want him being made fun of. It hurts my heart and makes my belly ache. But …

When Cooper was 11 he had a difficult time with one particular boy in class. Coop and Johnny just couldn’t get along. I grumbled along with Cooper every time he came home with a story of this child’s poor behavior – marking him on a list of devil children whose only purpose in life was to make my son miserable. They battled hard – recess fights, disruptions in the classroom. I always had Coop’s back. I will never forget the day that he came home devastated that this kid had taken a hole punch and punched holes in the sleeves of Cooper’s Detroit Lions t-shirt. It wasn’t just any Detroit Lions t-shirt – he had been to their football camp and had received an award out of all the kids that were there, and had the shirt signed by a retired Lions football player. The hole punches were right next to the signature.  He was so sad, and I was furious.

Long story short, the kid did in fact punch holes in the coveted Lions t-shirt.  And Cooper had also used a highlighter to decorate Johnny’s shirt as well. It was up for debate which happened first – at any rate Cooper was as much at fault for the altercation as Johnny was. It was then that I began to realize that I jumped to defend without knowledge.  If I inquired with an open mind and a heart that needed to know what happened not just defend my son, the truth usually was found somewhere in the middle.

In the past 17 years there have been only two situations – only two – that when I really looked at all the information and the entire situation – did my sons really need my protection. Only twice. I didn’t come to this realization all by myself – I was passionate about protecting my sons, fierce in having their backs.  It was hard for me to step back and realize that all my protecting was actually damaging them. I’m lucky to have a friend – although she is just a few years older than me – that I can look up to and learn from, who encourages me to look at situations with a clear lens and mentors me as a mother. It was a series of long walks and conversations with her that gave me the strength and the resolve to really make an effort to see my boys for who they were: the good and the “bad”. I say “bad” as only a turn of phrase. We all have challenges, humans are flawed, when we can identify our challenges, and those things that challenge our kids we can work to become better people, help our kids to become better humans.

The fact of the matter is that Aiden has trouble controlling his emotions. We work on it, we have code words that I can say when I see him losing it to help him bring himself under control, we have planned strategies for him to use when he feels his blood begin to boil. What we also have is the power of natural consequences.  His friends don’t like his temper.  It disrupts their game, it makes them uncomfortable.  So, when one of them “makes fun of him for his temper” – It is my responsibility to find out what he did that contributed to the situation. If I had been the mom I was with Cooper – and had run to his defense, sending an email asking for the teacher to bail him out – I would potentially be getting Aiden out of the uncomfortable feeling of having his friends upset with him when he lost his temper over a recess game (it’s almost always over a recess game). I would lose a very powerful tool I have in helping Aiden to gain power over his temper – and fierce competitive nature.

I wonder now if Cooper would have struggled so much with Johnny in fifth grade if I had stopped interfering. If I had stopped coming to his rescue. It’s impossible to know – but I can tell you what happened with Aiden.

When As came home from school and I drove him into his weight lifting we had the opportunity to talk. I didn’t defend him, or his actions but instead tried to lead him to a realization about how to take his power back. As it turned out Aiden went to the kid after our text conversation and said “Hey, I don’t want you to make fun of me. It’s not cool.” The kid teased him a bit at first and then said, “You’re right.  Sorry. I was just teasing.” He was proud of how he solved the problem – and we were even able to trouble shoot what he might of done prior to being made fun of that would have completely changed the outcome. I was so happy for him.

I need Aiden to learn to control his temper, he needs to learn how to control his temper. Most of the time now he does it. He keeps it in check and has gained control over his deep well of emotions. He has done a great job learning and trying to figure out different ways to handle things – and situations like these give him a way to enact what we work on – unless I interfere. If I jump in and throw him a life preserver he doesn’t learn a thing. Never learns that he can, in fact, control his temper and manage his relationships with his friends. On his own. With guidance and love from behind, not with me standing guard in front of him.

Please don’t misunderstand me – I am talking about difficulties between friends – I am not talking about children who are being bullied, hurt, harassed and mistreated terribly at school.  Kids in those situations need fierce protecting. That happens, I know, but what I am talking about is relationships. Helping my boys figure out what their part is, learning about themselves and figuring out how to take care of their own hearts and emotions.

I am doing a better job of trying to see them all as who they are – not who I want them to be, or who I think they are. It’s hard, it’s the biggest challenge of parenting pre-teen and teenagers for me, I think. Letting them blossom, spread their wings, it’s amazing and beautiful. It’s also hard and uncomfortable. Our kids are their own beings, letting them be who they are while also guiding them to instill the morals and values we want them to possess is a tightrope walking exercise that I am not that good at. I am trying, I work at it everyday. As I learn and grow I realize that there is a freedom in saying that Aiden has a temper, it’s not a pleasant thing to say, but the other side is that his temper comes from passion and a depth of feeling that most 11 year olds don’t have. He is an old, wise soul who believes in justice and what’s right. His smile comes from his toes and reaches his eyes, he laughs with a wide open mouth and shoulders that shake, he takes every emotion and lives it. He will continue to figure out how to control his emotions, while he also learns how to channel that passion into a life that is full and engaging. I will try to stay out of his way, guide from the side and not lead from the front; because when I am protecting him from the front he can’t see where he’s going, he can’t choose a path, he can only blindly follow. I want him to lead. I want him to choose. I want to watch what happens as he learns who he truly is and I want to be there as he continues to gain control over his emotions and feels the pride and mastery of that power. Mostly I want him to know that we all have flaws, challenges, and all of us need to work every day to be better people. He is awesome as who he is – emotions and all.

Every morning Aiden and I read a precept from “365 Days of Wonder” it is the companion book to the book “Wonder”. If you haven’t read “Wonder” you need to start. Today. This mornings precept was:
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Nelson Mandela

Perfect <3

Take care,

Lara

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