As Michael and I each went to our “calm corners” the other day after a fight, I realized, and not for the first time, how similar our temperaments really are and why I am so easily triggered by his anger and anxiety when I am not taking care of my own stress. It was both comforting and annoying at the same time to see that when I am failing at handling our crises calmly, it is usually when I am overtired, stressed and anxious myself. My anger comes out at that point and I feel the need for controlling his outburts. I can’t. It’s that simple. I cannot control my son’s anger and anxiety. The days I realize this are the days I stay calm and the crisis is resolved faster.
I used to make it a daily task, thinking it was my job to not only teach Michael to control his emotions but if he failed, it meant I had failed, and not failed to show him a technique, but to stop it. Crazy huh. I finally stopped believing I had to control every single one of his emotional outbursts after he officially entered puberty. He was already well on his way to knowing how to express himself. He was stronger and getting taller by the minute, and most of all, though I had known this all along, puberty really brought home the fact that he was and is a separate entity from me. We are not joined at the hip as too many Moms think of themselves and their child. I had to stop taking everything he messed up on as a personal failure and address my own need to super control what I could not.
The next thing I realized was my own anxious and angry temperament when I was not using my newfound strategies to not ‘push down’ feelings. Yes, I was a pusher when younger. I had even fooled myself that I was happy, calm and had it together. I was really quite perfectionist, and thought that I didn’t deserve a heck of a lot. Over the last fifteen years I have worked hard to set up personal boundaries with people, practice self-care and learn about what helps curb my anger and anxiety. This is all thanks to my son who still challenges the hell out of me to make myself a better human being.
So how do you survive (and even allow yourself to occasionally laugh at) the possibility of having similarities with your Exceptional Child? Here’s what works for me:
- See the spirited side of you both: Yep. You heard me right. You know how we say hyper or anxious kids are spirited? Well, so are the adults. You bring people a different perspective on things because while over analyzing problems you see all the angles. Your child is like this too, so look at the positives in this. You are detailed, creative and ready to stand by your opinion. Just don’t let it consume you day and night and it is a positive.
- Recognize your needs for exercise or movement: What works for an upset me or an upset Michael is moving- rocking, walking, having a good cry or scream. Let it out in a safe place and then regroup and talk it out with each other.
- Celebrate the quirky, don’t diminish it: Whatever weird thing your child does you celebrate because it is who they are. If you have one of these traits, do the same.
- Don’t try to fix everything for them or you: Don’t be a perfectionist person or parent. It will only make you and your child miserable. If you want to do something special for them and they are not interested, don’t push it because you think you are a bad Mom for not doing it. Listen to what they say, unspoken and spoken. If you are not sure, go with your gut on what makes you and your child happy in the end. It won’t steer you wrong.
- Don’t take your child’s attempts to trigger you personally. Oh so hard if you are a sensitive parent yourself, but it really is true. Make sure you are as rested, calm and balanced as possible, and don’t let your child’s attempts to trigger you with words and actions seriously. Two out of control people won’t help. Show them what you’ve learned about self-control and practice it. If you mess up, and you will because you’re human, fess up. Take yourself somewhere to calm down, talk about what you did wrong, and how you will fix it. This will help them see what they could do right next time too.
Exceptional Parents, how many times have you been hard on yourself for yelling at your child for some of the same traits you had growing up? We’ll all done it. The important thing to remember is that by you recognizing your similarities with your child personality wise, the good and bad ones, it will bring you both closer as you continue to encourage the positive traits in each other and work on supporting your child while healing yourself of the negative traits. Remember, you are both raising each other in the end. Sometimes it will be beautiful. Sometimes it will be painful. In the end, there will be growth either way. Until next time.