My family is changing, I don’t know what to do about it, and that’s okay

Guest post by Lisa Seese-Paterson
By: htakashi – CC BY 2.0
By: htakashiCC BY 2.0

Through single motherhood, relocation from the continent back to Hawaii, custody battles, family drama, building a new relationship and creating our family, job changes, graduate school, and career readjustments, I’ve had very few moments in which I’ve questioned what or how I was doing as a parent. Parenthood has taught me not to expect the status quo — every day is different. Every day brings a new challenge or change, and every day you stretch a little bit more to be the parent you need to be.

These last few months in particular have offered me a new lesson: your kid is changing, and those changes are unpredictable, and your response to all these new developments will not be prescriptive.

Our kid is a lot like me when it comes to emotional responses and his closest circles. He hates to have any of his people disappointed in him or upset with him, so his default setting is to ignore issues, hide problems, and put on a happy face. Inevitably, his instinct to internalize creates a pretty large cache of STUFF that goes unprocessed and unfiltered, and up bubbles a whole lot of anxiety.

I get it. I know it. I lived it. But having this part of me manifest in our little guy is a whole new experience. Because I know what I’ve had to do to deal with this crappy coping mechanism (it tends to involve a whole lot of journaling, some serious therapy, usually some tears and, thankfully, a wife who gets me and whom I trust implicitly). But dealing with all of this in our kiddo isn’t so comfortable.

He’s nine. It’s hard to be a nine-year-old. You have all these things you know, you think you know, you want to know. You have a whole lot of things that you’re confident about because you have mad skills, and you’ve worked hard to acquire them. But then, there’s a whole lot that you’re uncertain about but it’s not always easy to find the words or ways to say it. And sometimes, you don’t even know if you can say it. The life a nine-year-old can be filled with some crazy, wild storms. I get that. And I get that all of this STUFF builds up. All of this STUFF makes it hard to be comfortable closing your eyes at night without worrying that something might go or be wrong. Maybe the butterflies in your tummy build up to a roaring tornado and you don’t exactly know why, it’s just the way it is.

But, what I don’t know is how to deal with it all. I don’t know if we need to be rigid and enforcing. I don’t know if we need to cuddle and walk slowly. I don’t know if we need to check the locks and lights together every night. Or if we need to make a list of everything that we’re scared of. I don’t know if we need to have nights when all we do is cry. Or yell. I don’t know if temper tantrums and sullenness is a part of our new norm, or if it’s all a phase we’ll tiptoe through together. I don’t know these things. Not yet.

But that doesn’t mean I won’t figure it out. It doesn’t mean that we won’t get through to the other side of this part of that whole kid/parent thing together. It just means that things right now a little bit rougher than they’ve been for us in the past.

In a nutshell, the lesson for these past few months is simple: I don’t have to know. I don’t have to know because we’ll figure it out together. That’s what this whole family thing is about. That’s why we’re pretty damn lucky because we have two mamas in this family that aren’t afraid of the work it takes to be a parent. And we have our boy who loves and leans into us when things are just out of sorts.

So, we’ll just put aside all the STUFF that we think we need to know or should know. We’ll stop worrying about all the expectations and the differences of what was and what is. Just let that all be. And, right now, we’ll just take it day by day, holding hands and figuring out what works for all of us in the here and now.

Comments on My family is changing, I don’t know what to do about it, and that’s okay

  1. From my own life experiences, at this stage of your sons life, I would do my best to do fun and exciting things with him, keep all those deep thoughts ‘light’ and let him feel it out and get to the point of asking you, and then you tell him your views. But I would fill his days with sport, fun, (zip lines, skiing,etc) I don’t know, but thrilling things to enlighten him and get him out of his own boxed world for awhile. Be happy. Be happy and he will internalize that. He won’t be full of anxiety if he sees you aren’t. I am sorry if I at all offended anyone, but really, kids mimic and pick up negative stuff from us as parents.
    Codependency is awful to live with. (depending on how you feel, then I feel). The boy needs to know who he is, and the journey has begun! Let him go to camp, let him go to overnighters with his friends. Let him join boyscouts, or sea cadets, engage him in all that. And don’t forget to be happy, really, enjoy every minute, as the teen age years come quickly and alot of them don’t know how to be happy without their phone gagets and stuff. Hope your boy gets to love nature, and learns to experience all the thrills of what is healthy fun and hanging with the guys as well. It is all good.

  2. Oh man 9 was a hard age for me. I was really doubting myself as a parent until a friend linked some articles from Waldorf I think, explaining how kids around age 9 shift completely in how they see the world and everything is suddenly completely different and they see themselves as part of the world now, instead of the world as part of them? Or something? Anyway, it helped a lot. Hang in there 🙂 Sounds like you’re doing a great job <3

  3. My son is almost 11, he is also mildly autistic. I feel your struggle, it’s this stage where other people’s opinions (especially peers) seem to be so much more important. And frankly, sometimes other kids are a$$#○£€s. For us, I’m lucky in that my son is usually ready to open up to me, but it seems to help us both if we can be doing something at the time we are talking, like was mentioned above. We aren’t really sports people, but maybe working with our horses or swinging. It’s tough because I try to explain it from a what’s going on with the other child to makes them say _____, point of view, and also from a maybe they need an outlet, while also making it clear that it’s not OK for others (or him) to bully and I encourage him to stand up for himself and others in those cases.
    I agree, I think we read and research the “best” method of the moment but we are all flying by the seat of our pants. Good job mommas, and it’s nice to know I’m not the only one.

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