I’m not sure that I had lofty illusions of being a parent. Having worked in early intervention for years had shown me time and time again that every child is different and every parent is doing the best they can in that moment. So it was with this on my mind that my husband and I moved forward in adopting our first child – a joyful, curious three and a half year old. What I wasn’t prepared for was what others referred to with great disdain as his “behaviours”. He often seemed out of control and I worked hard implementing all of my known strategies to try to help him through difficult transitions with very little success.
I had no friends with little children at home and my hopes of meeting other moms at Ontario Early Years and the parks were dashed when every single time my son “acted up” and we had to leave – often him screaming and kicking and me fighting back tears. When I tried to tell some friends and co-workers I was told that I was holding him to too high of a standard and that it was “just a phase”. Somehow their urging to reach out to those parents that had just witnessed a meltdown felt impossible.
What worked for us
Involvement with Early Intervention. Sometimes I felt our Resource Consultant was the only person who understood what I was going through. She was able provide me with strategies and suggestions and I also felt that she really “got it” and that meant the world to me.
Reading a few key books. We are all busy. Not all books are helpful for everyone. Ask your Resource Consultant if there are any books they would recommend. I know for me that Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka was game changing. I now had a positive way to reframe what my son was going through and I was able to see that his “behavior” was not my fault. Even better, there were concrete suggestions of things to try to make things more manageable.
Regular Respite. We have no family in town so care of our son was solely left to the two of us. I never felt guilty about using Respite – after all, our son needed a break from us just as much as we did from him. It was a special time spent with a special friend.
What I wish we had
Parent Groups – When my son was young, parent programs such as Cope and Triple P hadn’t made it to our community yet. I have heard wonderful things and spoken to both facilitators and parents about it. I did do some groups when my son was older and I met some wonderful parents who were experiencing some of the same challenges as I was. It was nice to not feel so alone. I can’t urge you enough to speak to your consultant to see if there are any groups being offered that would suit you.
Been kinder to myself. I really didn’t take care of myself or treat myself very well in the early years. My dentist and doctor appointments got put off while I tended to my sons needs. Friends I had from before his arrival got tired of never hearing from me and moved on. I put myself absolutely last all the time. It doesn’t have to be this way.
It’s all about a healthy balance. Parenting is not a race, it’s a marathon. We all need to pace ourselves and accept help when it is offered. What that will look like is different for every family. If you take one thing from what I have written here – know that you are not alone