What about parenting and/or homeschooling do you find most challenging? What keeps you up at night, sounds its sirens to you at top volume during the day, and suddenly tugs at your chest just when you think it’s furthest from your mind? What do you swear you’re going to master or promise you’ve going to accept, yet only to find yourself face to face with it again?
I ask because I’m hoping I’m not alone here.
I’ve written extensively about the learning challenges my boys have. My younger son’s Asperger’s, formally diagnosed just over a year ago, is an omnipresent reality in our home. It was no less a reality for the nine and a half years before that, but without the blessing of a name (and is was, indeed, a blessing), it was harder to describe the brain difference itself. Instead, the focus was symptoms: tantrums, meltdowns, rigidity, precision, social skills, and more. He was the primary focus of household angst. He demanded it, not with words but by the depths of his distress. Today, his Asperger’s is no less present, but most days, he’s more settled and comfortable in his own skin and his world.
His Asperger’s is not my biggest parenting and homeschooling challenge.
My older son is a sensitive, compassionate, kind young man. He avoids conflict (sometimes to his own detriment) and feels deeply for others. He’s smart and talented, with a sense of humor that ranges from dry to slapstick. He’s helpful when asked and often even when not. I love him beyond all reason. He also has ADHD/Inattentive type, and some of the traits that go with his ADHD challenge me above anything else.
I joke that I have a case of acquired ADHD. I always seem to require a return trip into the house before we can finally leave the driveway. I misplace my coffee daily. I slip into autopilot in the car, finding myself driving to church or the library when my destination is in the opposite direction. But I don’t share his ADHD, not really. I don’t know what it’s like to live without a firm hold on time, to be distracted by minutia, to struggle to prioritize and order an hour, much less a day. I just don’t get it, and it shows.
Every week, sometimes every day, I start anew, thinking, “Today, it will sink in. Today, he’ll remember to complete his assignments/budget his time/organize his day effectively.” I’m that hopeful, I suppose. But I think that hopefulness is exactly the problem. I don’t wake up each day thinking my son with Asperger’s will now be appropriately social, able to read metalanguage, and enjoy unpredictable situations. I accept him where he is — who he is — and gently encourage his growth. Yes, I’m hopeful that he’ll find a way in the world that doesn’t leave him lonely. No, I don’t find myself hoping that this is the day he won’t have Asperger’s.
If only I were so charitable to my older son. My hopefulness damns us both to repeating the same (one-sided) conversations (tirades), where I think that this time, I got through. This time, he’s going to see how being more organized will make his life better, I think hopefully. And I really believe it. Then tomorrow comes and he struggles as he always has. And I’m disappointed.
What’s hardest for me is to accept is his attention challenges: the executive function skills that just aren’t in place because his brain is wired in a way that places priorities differently than mine does. It’s no more or less of a brain difference than his brother’s autism spectrum brain difference. Perhaps, however, I’ve always seen it as less. After all, he’s been a far easier child to raise, and he is pleasant and accepting nearly to a fault. He values family harmony, humor, and fun while caring deeply about the feelings of others. All these delightful character traits were part of what kept it from really seeing his ADHD until he was in double digits, when the difficult parts of ADHD really made teaching him harder.
Accepting his learning differences fully is what I desire. I want to accept his brain as-is, while encouraging him to acquire the skills he needs to get where he wants to go in life. I want, in a sense, to be less hopeful that tomorrow will be any different from today, that the long view is far more important that if this week’s planner use is any more effective than last week’s. Maintaining long-term hope for the ability to enjoy his higher education (yes, he wants that in his future) and find a career he finds satisfying is different from hoping for change today. It requires more emotional distance than I’ve been able to muster thus far. It requires more appreciation of his brain as-is than I often have. In truth, my deepest panic is that he’ll struggle years down the road, that he’ll find himself unable to do what he wants to do in life.
Saying it like that helps. Certainly he will struggle (we all do) and undoubtedly his every wish for his life will not come true. That’s life, and no amount of nagging, hoping, begging, or wishing will change those essential truths. Of course, I want him to struggle less and succeed more, but that’s parenting — wanting an easier way for our children.
So it’s out there. I’ve said aloud (or at least in print) what worries me most and challenges me the greatest. I’m seeking to be more accepting rather than constantly life-changing organizational solutions or hoping for sudden change. This works nicely, since acceptance seems far more likely to find and is actually within my control. I want better than the intermittent acceptance, interrupted by my fear and latest flash of (not) brilliance of what will help him now. It can only be better for him for me to find a deeper acceptance than that. It would also be better for me. I’ve not abandoned hope, but I’d like to move it to the periphery, like it is with my younger child. This is perhaps, ironically, the most hopeful course of action I could take.
Now it’s your turn. What wakes you at night about your homeschooling or parenting journey? What mistake to you fear you’re making? What would you like to master or to never do again?