This afternoon at the baseball diamond down the street from my apartment I sat on the bleachers trying to decide which was worse:
a. the other parents seeing my tears because I needed my sunglasses on top of my head to hide my bad hair day or…
b. the other parents seeing my bad hair day because I needed my sunglasses on my face to hide my tears
I’m at my 5-year old son’s first “T-Ball Training Camp” and he’s doing exceptional well. Not at T-Ball, scratch that, not just at T-Ball (because he’s also kicking ass at T-Ball)… he’s doing exceptionally well at all of the other parts too! He’s making friends with new kids, he’s intently focused on the new skills he’s learning, he’s respecting the coaches with his attention and interest, he’s helping out other teammates with their gloves and helmets.
This from a kid who according to his kindergarten teachers:
- “doesn’t listen”
- “won’t keep his hands and feet to himself”
- “doesn’t care”
- “won’t pay attention”
- “is obsessed with fighting (and guns and swords and death)”
It’s been a rough nine months. In August, he started kindergarten at a time in his life when all of the change was finally too much for his little psyche to handle. His father and I had split up, we had to moved to a new city, he was starting a new school and an entirely different academic environment… and he wasn’t getting the connection he needed to thrive at school so he communicated his distress to all of us the best way he knew how: by being “difficult.”
And there were times when I judged him for it too. I wondered what had “happened to my child” and “who this one was.” I didn’t know how to cope with him in this new state any better than he did… but over time I started to remember that his needs are simple and go back to what I knew worked. Connection. When he feels connected, he is cooperative. We he feels heard, he will listen. When he feels loved, he loves back. He is human, after all.
And with a focus on connection, we got our relationship back… We’re still working on convincing the teachers at the school that it’s as simple as that.
Today, at the baseball diamond I saw the coach make a point of learning and remembering his name, of honoring his every contribution (and his weren’t the only ones… a gaggle of 4-5 year old boys has a lot to tell you about what they’re thinking), of squatting down to talk to him face to face, of inviting him to be a helper and giving him a role… from the very start. And out there, on a bright, sunshiney day, in the middle of a grassy field, he had a great experience… from the very start.
And I cried tears of gratitude for this coach who knew, without me having to tell him, that connection is what we need to be successful.
Cut to: Us leaving the park and getting in the car where my son asks if we can go to Target to buy a new lego set because he “doesn’t have enough” and me responding, inspired, with a positive-encouraging-validating answer (that was no–because we needed to go home for dinner and bed) and him slumping into a groan of “I want to buy a new lego” over and over and over all the way home, up the stairs, and for another 20 minutes on the living room floor.
And, I’m eating carrots and a handful of chocolate chips for dinner tonight.
You can’t win ’em all!