Everyone has those phrases they swore they’d never say or those things they promised they’d never do – either the ones that stuck with us from childhood of those naive things we saw parents do while we were still childless or (worst of all, perhaps?) those tips we read in parenting books.
Me? I told myself that there are certain things for which the wee ones woudl simply have to face the natural consequences. They’d learn that they needed to – and could – rely on themselves and take responsibility. I pictured this with them as elementary school kids who forgot lunch or homework at home or neglecting to study for a test or something similar.
They’re all relatively non-critical in the long term type things – nothing wiht a big risk. Having minor failures like this and learning to deal with them is something that helps engender feelings of confidence that they are capable of being resilient enough to bounce back and find a solution. And to be responsible enough to avoid repeats in the future.
Yesterday? I made an unexpected stop at Mister Man’s kindergarten.
After he had gotten off on the carpool and Little Miss had made it onto the bus, I walked back through the foyer on my way to the office to do a couple quick catch up things before I ran some errands. And I spotted a little bubble wrap bag sitting on the floor of the foyer.
I flashed back to the night before where Mister Man had done his daily job of unpacking his backpack and talking through what’s in it with me. He was so excited that he got to do show and tell the next day – something that happens only twice a year. He immediately decided to gather his favorite Lego creation and show how it was made and what it did.
Right after he’d placed his Lego into a protective bag, about to place it in his backpack, my parents had walked in the door. Needless to say, that threw our whole evening out of rhythm. And apparently that bag had remained on the floor unbeknownst to … me. (Really, who else would notice, anyway?)
I debated internally for a few moments – thinking about my vow not to be saving my children constantly and letting them deal with the consequences of their actions. And honestly, had this been Little Miss, that bag probably would have simply been placed on her placemat for when she returned home.
Mister Man though? He’s still in kindergarten. And this failure to have show and tell would be visible to all his classmates. And he’d been interrupted mid-routine through no fault of his own.
Again – all of these things, Little Miss could have dealt with and simply shrugged before getting over it. Mister Man doesn’t. Something like this – especially with the public aspect of it – would ruin his day. It would cause him to go into a downward spiral of shame and frustration that would result in him not paying attention in school, in not cooperating with his classmates, in having a yellow or red day.
It’s an unfortunate consequence of the Autism Spectrum Disorder that he’s been recently diagnosed with. They can’t move on from things like this and shake them off like neurotypical kids can. He has a lot of challenges, and I’ve become far more patient with them and him knowing that it isn’t just him being difficult but rather that he’s doing the best he can with the deck – in many ways – stacked against him. And for the most part, he does a pretty good job.
I thought about what was more important for him in this instance. Had it been homework he’d forgotten? It would have gone in the next day. Had he not taken his snack? He can go without a snack. This, however, was something that he wouldn’t realize was an issue until the teacher asked him to retrieve his show and tell item from his backpack and the class all awaited his presentation… that would never come.
And I immediately called my carpool buddy to see if he was still in the car so that she could reassure him that his show and tell was coming. Unfortunately, she’d already dropped him off, but she was still at the school and volunteered to stop by the classroom to give him the heads up.
I did drop off his Lego creation in its special bag with the office. And he did give his presentation. When I asked him how it went as I picked him up? Mom, you brought it late! I didn’t give my presentation until the afternoon – but it was so cool!
And with that, my heart swelled, and I know that I’d made the right decision for my special child, for my boy who may need me to bend my rigid rules a little to find a way to support him. I ask the schools and other places to make accomodations for his needs, and I’m starting to realize that I need to do so, as well.
But I really meant it. When he’s in fifth grade and forgets his social studies homework, he’s just going to have to take that zero!