The sounds and feels of summer…waves, crowds, traffic, and warmer water to jump in after volleyball. The ocean serves as the cheapest and most efficient ice bath for the aches and pains that have to be tended to to live to play another day. Then there is the sight of seeing Matthew paddling out or stand up on his board, something that the long wet winter had me wondering if we would ever see again. Summer also means tutoring for him. To stay sharp, he needs lots of repetition as we work to improve those frontal lobe executive functioning skills that came more naturally to his sisters and his brother. He’s aware of it, and he’s searching for what he is good at, and that process tugs at my heart strings when he gets frustrated. So much of the time I think his mind works differently than mine or my other kids, but hearing him articulate what he is searching for makes me realize that in many ways his path is the same as mine.
I overheard him chatting with his tutor the other day, they were working on math, but he knew a little bit about her schedule and asked her questions about her travels the week before. His questions were engaging and focused on her experience, not his, he was genuinely curious.
It’s actually moments like these, not when they are going through common denominators, but when he is engaged on an emotional level that I know we have a good learning connection.
I told her, if he is relaxed enough to ask you questions like that, then he can learn. Getting him out of fight or flight is the key to the educational stuff sinking in, it also makes me realize that I am far more concerned about raising a kid who cares about other people than how fast he can finish a math worksheet. Not to say I’m letting him off the hook on that, but the bonds he creates with other kind humans and learning how to connect with the goodness that comes from them is something that what will help him find his successful process in his life.
There are three things that have been at the center of my own path the last few years that have helped me define my process. The first thing was finding calm. I have learned, through lots of self reflection and yoga, that I spent way too much time in fight or flight mode. I called it “waiting for the shoe to drop”. When I think back to the jumpy feeling that was almost always with me, that I spent so much energy masking while I projected outward calm, while my insides were anything but, I realize now that I could never accomplish what I want to in this life in that state. Too much energy was going into just trying to survive. Fight or flight isn’t an age thing, it’s a human thing, and we have to train it. As I have learned to calm my own nervous system, I have new techniques for calming his.
Yoga brought my feet to a grounded path, and my mind to a still place where I could connect with the sensation of feeling safe in my surroundings, and then begin to trust that I could handle what was coming next without having to anticipate it.
I also have wrapped my head around the concept that it’s ok, and in fact maybe even better, for my path to look different that others.. Letting go of expectation has been one of the most freeing feelings in walking my own road. It has made me self reliant in a way that builds my strength and confidence, helped free me of guilt and shame, and quieted that voice of “I screwed up” so that I could have the energy to define and create my own success. Our uniqueness is what makes the world an interesting place, and success is not something that comes in one form. Free yourself of other peoples expectations and go after your dream in the present…it will lead you to the most beautiful moments of flow. And then we build on those.
As I have let go of expectations, I am also learning to let go of other people’s judgment and what they may (or may not) think of my path. As a recovering people pleaser, this one is the hardest. It’s an exercise both in not giving credence to other people’s judgment, which is definitely there, but also in realizing that they aren’t thinking about your path as much as I may have originally thought. We all have so much on our plates, most often, people are concentrating on that, and judging the next step you make really isn’t high on their priority list. Either way, the opinions of the masses are something we have to learn to set aside when we know the goals we have for ourselves, and are trying to crush them. If I let perceived judgment scare me, or slow me down, it produces the heaviest energy in my day, limiting the progress I make on the course I have set out for myself. Success is built on putting your head down and believing in yourself, no matter what other people are or aren’t thinking about you. So if you think about it, either way it doesn’t matter!
The gift of being a parent is that what I learn about myself in this beautiful and challenging life, I get to use to teach my kids as they learn to navigate their own life paths. It turns out, Matthew’s words to me about trying to find what he is good at aren’t any different than what I am looking for in my own days. I am helping him define his process, and I get to be the one who teaches him to find calm, realize that his path is unique, even beautifully unconventional, and that what the masses think about it really doesn’t factor into the discovery.
Life is life, and the process isn’t all that different at any age.
My job isn’t to worry, it’s to use what I have learned to teach him to be brave enough to wrestle with the questions life presents and develop a consistent process to get them answered. Then he can press forward on his path. Safety, love, and hard work…I am confident I can teach him what it feels like to feel all three, so that even if the waves toss us around a bit, we can learn to emerge standing on our own two feet.