I have been underestimating the value of praise lately for Michael. It’s not that he has not been doing great things at home as he has out in the world. It’s just that there have been more challenging things happening at home to distract me from his good moments. Throw in some Mommy self-pity during these challenging times, and we have had a vicious circle of him not even trying some days to be at his best. That fortunately has started changing this week. I’d like to say that it was me with all my Exceptional Mom love that made it happen. But no it was Michael who reminded me, as he often does, about what is truly important and/or missing. He was dilly dallying in bed the other morning stalling to get up. He had just had a great dream he said, and he wanted to continue thinking about it. He knew if he got up, he’d have to start getting ready for the day. I told him he needed to be out the door soon for day camp, and he had to move quickly or we’d be late. I was getting annoyed as it had been getting harder and harder for Michael to get to camp on time. The thing is he loves this camp, but is tired in the morning. I’m not sure if it is the medication he is on or the diabetes or both. We are still trying to figure that out . But I spoke in an annoyed and irritated voice which did not help matters. Michael responded with a sigh and irritation of his own;
“You know Mommy, I’m doing my best. I’m giving it my effort, just like they are teaching me at camp. ”
A tiny part of my brain digested this. Yes, at camp they give the kids beads for positive behavior. The kids then put these beads on a friendship bracelet. Each time a bead is given, they sing a song. Michael has gotten MANY beads for respect, good listening, kindness to others, and giving it his best no matter how hard. I heard him, but my mouth did not follow what my brain wanted me to say. What came out instead was;
“I know you want to continue your dream, but it’s time to get up. People will get upset if you are late everyday. The real world does not work like that!”
Michael sighed and got out of bed. In the end, we arrived right on time, not ten or fifteen minutes late as what had happened in the past. Why did I respond like this even though my brain knew better? It’s called Mommy exhaustion where you get to a point that you are blinded to seeing anything positive. Most of our kids do at least some positive things every day. It’s important as parents that we note the times they do this, and file it away for future when we are frazzled. This way we can tap into those positive things when we need to.
After a pretty good departure at camp yesterday, I also started remembering Michael the night before showing me with pride his beads on his friendship bracelet. I also remember him talking about how he tests his blood sugar at camp to make sure he really needs to take extra carbs at certain times or not. I also recalled how when we go to the park after dinner, Michael makes sure he has his blood testing kit and a water bottle so he can make sure he is feeling good. I let him walk into the park by himself and supervise from a long way off. He behaves so maturely with the other kids, waits his turn, and loves this independence. How could I have forgotten these milestones that are being performed in the middle of grappling with some serious phobias and anxieties lately? He is also making a bigger effort to control his aggression, both physical and emotional. He is slowly learning to use the strategies for this. He is also motivated to do the exercises his Educator gave him and do them properly. He is trying really hard, and I had forgotten that.
So this morning when he woke up, the first thing I did after saying good morning, was to praise him for his beads at camp and his diabetes management. I was rewarded with a cute shy smile and he said;
“Really? You’re proud of me? Thank you Mommy.”
My heart both filled with love and sadness. I had somehow given him the impression that I was not proud. I started to realize that lately I have been sounding sort of shrill and bossy. I have been hearing my own voice and inside my head saying, “Yeesh Joanne, you sound annoying.” But I could not help it. I did not know why until last night. That is when I did some thinking and realized my tiredness combined with extra challenges made me focus so much on the difficulties he is having that I forgot about the positives he is doing. I vowed with all the challenges Michael is and will be facing in the future, I have to remember every day to find something positive about what he has done or who he is. Even on the really bad days, there have been moments of light and beauty. Our Exceptional Kids struggle a lot and have a hard time putting it all together. That’s where as Exceptional Parents, we are called to be that much more patient, calm, and be the anchor they can safely hold on to when the sea is stormy.
It’s also ok if we lose it as parents sometimes. We can use it as teachable moments, as I do with Michael. Your child may even surprise you with some positive words as I have been receiving lately. Also, we as parents have to see our successful moments and not just the difficulties. I have learned that as well.
Exceptional Parents, do you remember to praise your child even during the times it is not always obvious to do so? If not, remember it is never too late to start. Praise should go hand in hand with good therapeutic practices. Cherish the good times, and with effort on both your ends, the good times will hopefully multiply in the future. Until next time.
Feeling stressed about special needs parenting? You are not alone. I have been there before realizing the gift of who my son is. For more information about me and my journey, check out my website :www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com as well as my FREE E-BOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL PARENTING” at http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com/ebooks.