Year 2015: what it brought to my family and what it taught me
I am going to talk to my son’s teacher tomorrow. My son, Sylvian, is nearly 3 years old and he is going to a Montessori preschool. I prefer to call it just “school” and the people taking care of him there – teachers.I want to talk to her, I will call her Jackie, and give her some background information.
But let me give you some information about my son first.
He started at this school in late September and he’s going 5 mornings a week for 3 hours. At the beginning he was thrilled to go there. It was a new place that’s not home and is full of toys and objects. It took him some time to get used at first but after a few weeks he was beaming every morning before going to school.
Until he got sick.
He got 2 bad episodes of croup and a nasty cough afterwards all in the time of a month. He didn’t fully recover until just recently.
After his second cold something at school changed and shortly after I was called for a chat by his teacher. Jackie was concerned that he’s not following her instructions –wash your hands, tidy the toys, etc., and he was also a bit rough with the other kids. She decided to put on a star chart for him and as a reward he was going to take the teddy Mr Brownie for an adventure and fill in his book.
But I can sense that since our talk things are somewhat intense. Sylvie has been cooperating better but he’s still a bit rough with the other kids. I can see that he’s not happy there that much anymore. In fact, he says he doesn’t want to go to school nearly every morning, which wasn’t the case at the beginning. I can see he’s struggling and that Jackie is troubled.
Every day last week, when picking up Sylvie, I was getting reports that he’s still a bit pushy with the others. I got somewhat annoyed for just focusing on the negative stuff, because I’m sure there’s also things he’s great at doing. And also because this was presented to me, or at least perceived by me, as a problem.
And as many of you parents might know, when something’s “wrong” with your kid you’re beating yourself up and trying to find ways to fix it.
But we know it doesn’t work like that.
First of all, there’s nothing that’s “wrong”, but this is a symptom of a deeper issue.
Second, we don’t normally get to “fix” things by doing something particular, but it is a complex process and an amalgam of different steps and actions.
And three, feelings of panic and helplessness are usually aggravating things further, and this is often how we first respond when a problem is presented to us.
I even noticed myself getting somewhat angry at Jackie and starting to put the blame on her. I started looking at her as this other side, the enemy, and polarizing between each other. At the same time I know she has nothing against my son or me, and we are in fact on the same side, and should work together to resolve the issue. She is at the moment my best bet to try arranging a positive experience for my child while he’s at school. Jackie is indeed my best friend right now.
So I’ll take the initiative and give her some background facts about what’s happened during the past 12 months and how the events have affected me and my family.
Here they are:
1. My sister passed away late in March following a 3-year long battle with breast cancer
That has thrown me and my whole family off the rails. For these three years nothing was really certain about my sister’s health. Every day I was living with the subdued fear that my sister isn’t going to make it. Every phone call from her I was answering with holding my breath and bracing myself for bad news.
The time when my sister heard the doctor’s prognosis of “six months life left” was the time when my son was born. She managed to come over from England to Ireland to see him for the first time when he was already 18 months. But she came. Note: she did survive 18 months since the “six months prognosis”. But shortly after, her health deteriorated and I had to go to her on several occasions. The last time I went to England I stayed for 8 days and 5 days later she died.
That has affected my son’s development and my relationship with him. I wasn’t that much there for him during this time. I was torn between looking after him and also trying to be at least emotionally available for my sister and keeping in touch with her. I wasn’t emotionally available to Sylvie. I was also physically absent on several occasions.
I realise that often these choices need to be made and sometimes they’re not for the good of our children. I try not to feel guilt and I don’t regret for having tended to my sister. I regret the fact that life often presents us with these situations when we have to make a sacrifice. But isn’t that what life is all about?
Life often presents us with a situation when a difficult decision must be made. That usually requires some sort of sacrifice to be made as well. What we can do is take pride in our choices and never let the blame seep in and poison our decisions.
Instead, I need to take all the steps and walk backwards to the time where things started to affect Sylvie and take it from there, and piece it all back up. Luckily, it is not an irreversible process.
2. My partner was doing a postgraduate course which he finished in late August
My partner was also physically and emotionally engaged somewhere else. That has put an extra burden on the family and me because rather than having him as a support to deal with my grief, I was furthermore strained. At the same time, he was stressed by the course itself and the fact that he wasn’t able to provide for his family. He enrolled in the course with the hope to find a better job which can cover the family’s expenses.
All the time since my sister died, I have been trying to process the events actively and in the most effective way. And I have made significant progress. But that took my focus away from my relationship with Sylvie. It took my whole being to deal with these challenges and I wasn’t so present and available for my son. I was of course tending to his needs and was with him all the time, but not fully on emotional level.
In the effort to hold my being from falling apart, I have put all my attention and energy in that direction, thus depriving my son of vital emotional presence and availability. This was a required action and somewhat consciously made decision, because I knew I need to deal with this trauma if I am to be again a whole person, and a mother.
I’m more than sure that all this time Sylvie has sensed that something is not quite right with mommy. “Mommy is not feeling well”. And his inability to help has put him in a very difficult position. Clearly he wasn’t able to cope with it and as a result developed these problematic behaviours, at home and at school as well.
I have been trying to address these issues but I was looking at the immediate problems, rather than what causes these behaviours.
Often we get caught up and distressed on the surface levels that we just can’t see far and deep enough to understand what causes the problems. Or sometimes we are just engulfed in our own suffering and we’re not able to look beyond that pain. And that’s OK, because, like addressing other serious issues, this is a process that needs to be given all our attention and energy. Take it one step at a time.
I wouldn’t have come to the realisation what’s going on with Sylvie if I haven’t committed to dealing with my own feelings of grief, despair and lack of desire for life.
Now I know what I need to do.
It is not a problem anymore but a re-connection that I long for so much. I have missed my son so much – failing to see him and appreciate him for who he is. But I am ready to open my heart again and re-built the most beautiful relationship I have ever had in my life.
With my dear child.
How did the year 2015 go for you? What did it teach you? Have you ever struggled with emotional unavailability towards your closest people? Share in the comments!0