As a reminder, I had surgery on my foot a couple of weeks ago, which requires 6 weeks non-weight bearing (aka crutches, scooter thing, pain in the ass). In the week prior to the surgery, I had some anxiety. Can you guess what the anxiety was about? Nope. I wasn’t worried about the surgery or the anesthesia. Nope. Not worried about the pain or the scarring or infection. Not even all that worried about getting around with only one foot. The single factor contributing to my heightened anxiety: what I will do over this 6 week recovery time when meltdowns occur and I’m solo parenting. Unfortunately, the fringy-ness doesn’t take a break simply because I’m broken.
2 weeks into this adventure and we’ve experienced countless meltdowns, 3 major ones on nights when Jon has been working, so it’s been me and the 3 kiddos. Containing a melting down 100 pound girl is nearly impossible when all appendages are working. Containing a melting down 100 pound girl who runs to a different level of the house is impossible when you can’t walk or go up and down stairs. Enter Cub, stage left.
I hate that he gets put into this position. He has had to take on more responsibility than any 11 year old should have to. Jon and I try very hard to keep Cub out of the mayhem whenever possible. And now, I’m required to ask him to dive into it.
The first one footed parenting meltdown occurred just 3 days after my surgery. I was able to get up and around, but not up or down stairs yet. KBear bolted downstairs and started going after her little brother. I could not physically get down there, so I stood at the top of the stairs, shouting directions and encouragement to Cub, as he used his aikido skills to restrain KBear in a non-violent way. Chimp was crying but safe, KBear was screaming, Cub was calm but forceful, and I was upstairs crying, wishing desperately that I could take care of it. But I couldn’t. All ended well. And, actually, Cub was glad to help. He felt proud to help.
Shortly after that my boys and I sat down and chatted. We chatted about how we would handle meltdowns. I was blown away when my Cub said, “Mom, I wish you’d ask me to help more. I can do it. I can handle her. I know when I’m out of my league and I will get out, but most of the time I’ve got it and I’m just fine.”
And it’s true. He does have the ability to calm and contain his sister. I resist because I don’t want him to have to be in the position. But, the truth is, our whole family is affected by the atypicality and higher needs of my daughter, and me wishing my sons didn’t have to deal with it does not change the situation. It is a matter of reality that for our family, right now, we deal with at least 3-4 meltdowns most weeks. It is a matter of reality that for our family, right now, we often have only 1 parent at home. It is a matter of reality that for our family, right now, Cub is more physically capable of containing those meltdowns than I am.
My children have a different childhood than I did. And, yes, it can be stressful and filled with frustrations and challenges, but it also has a few major upsides. The most important of which, is that we are a solid team. In order for our marriage and family to survive the higher stress of a higher needs child, we HAVE to communicate well, be on the same page, have each other’s backs, be understanding, give breaks, be compassionate. We have to be a team. Team Boorman! And many times, I am the leader of the team. But, sometimes, I can’t be. Sometimes my husband is the leader of the team. And sometimes he can’t be. So, here comes Cub, again, entering stage left.
When I birthed the boy did I imagine or hope that he’d be our family’s team leader at times? Did I dream for his childhood to be so drastically different than my own? Did I anticipate or hope that he’d be taking on the responsibilities that he has at the young age of 11? Of course not. But, in reality, for team Boorman to function, sometimes he has to. And, really, that’s ok. He enjoys it. He learns from it. He understands the stress on our whole family and wants to help. And I need to let him and be ok with it.
Yes, we talk a LOT about safety first and knowing when he needs to step out. We talk a LOT about knowing that Jon and I are the parents and he’s second or third in command. We talk a LOT about things that genuinely are grown up problems and not things he needs to think about. We give him the opportunities to be 11 and goofy and silly. But, I am constantly amazed by him. Other adults regularly compliment him on his character. And much of this is directly BECAUSE he has the family and siblings he has. And I need to let myself be ok with that. His family can teach him leadership, priorities, safety, aikido, self-defense, hostage negotiation skills, caregiving, empathy, compassion, tolerance, patience, communication, and so many other things that will help him be an amazing adult. But, only if I let it. Only if I stop trying to protect him from these lessons. Only if I step back and actually encourage him to help.