Tonight my husband and I took our children to meet up with his family for a birthday dinner. We went to a restaurant halfway between our home and his mom’s so we could celebrate on a weeknight without driving too far. It was a really fun and delicious dinner with minimal drama considering there were six kids under the age of six.
An outing like this is not something we sign up for easily. We love people. We love food. We love beer. But do you know what I don’t love? Setting my son up for failure. I don’t love that when I say “yes” to a family party or a church event, I may be saying “no” to his predictable schedule and peace. I may be saying “no” to a sweet “goodnight” and “yes” to chaos and dysregulation.
Some of you may think this is over the top dramatic. But trust me, it is not. I know what my son can handle and I know what he can’t handle. And no, this not the average cranky kid meltdown. This is much deeper. It is much more. Which is why I take it so seriously. I take him seriously.
Because of the beautiful way that God made him, my son has sensory processing disorder. It has been a long, difficult, fascinating journey and it has changed me for the better.
I don’t just push through situations for the sake of having fun or meeting someone else’s expectations. I plan ahead. I prepare for the ways I can prevent meltdowns. I make sure my husband and I are on the same page, the same team.
Every time we do something that goes beyond our typical weekly schedule, it takes work. A lot of work.
This may all seem like a bummer to some people. It may seem like overkill. It may make you roll your eyes thinking I am uptight or controlling. Am I both of those things? Yes. But I’m also incredibly proud of how far we’ve come in this parenting journey. I am proud of how far my son has come in self awareness, healthy boundaries and good communication.
He’s freaking five years old and he is healthier than most adults I know.
Before we go to a party or gathering, he makes sure to pack his drawing materials or a bag of Legos so he has something to do if he needs some space for alone time. Let me say that another way for those of you not paying attention. AT THE AGE OF FIVE, he has the forethought, wisdom, and self awareness to know that he will get overwhelmed at a party. He will experience sensory overload. He will need space and quiet time without other children.
Not only does he plan for this by packing activities, but he also speaks up in the moment. He will pull me aside and say “Mommy, I need some quiet time”. Sometimes he asks me or my husband to join him, sometimes he’s fine to just go off alone. But the point is, the noise and the kid chaos are too much for him and he knows it. It may seem like he’s having fun, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t also getting totally overstimulated by everything going on.
Yes, sometimes I have to ask him how he’s doing. Sometimes I have to remind him that he’s allowed to demand personal space. He’s allowed to require quiet time. But for a kindergartener, he’s pretty freaking self aware.
Most adults I know don’t realize when they are overwhelmed until it’s too late. They don’t realize that they have said “yes” to too much until they are exhausted and resentful. They don’t understand how overstimulated their brain is until they are unable to relax.
But my boy… he is wise beyond his years. And that my friends, is partially because of me. I did that. I taught him. I raised him. I continue to teach and raise him. And I had a freaking epiphany tonight when I was reflecting on how proud I am of him… I realized I DID THAT.
I don’t often think about what I’m doing well as a parent, but tonight I am. I’m thinking about it. I’m thanking God for it. I am thanking God for the mom He has made me to be and for the son he has blessed me with. I make a lot of mistakes… enough to fill a thousand pages. But I am choosing to fill this page with the victories of my work as a mom.