Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Life I Planned verses the Life I Have

I was raised in a religious home. I attended a scripture study every day from Monday to Friday through my high school years. I served a mission in my early twenties for my church. For the past 15 years I have not actively participated in any organized religion at all, but I have remained interested in spirituality.
In my studies I have spent some time reading about Buddhism. One of the four noble truths of Buddhism is that "the cause of suffering can be ended".

The third noble truth is that the cause of suffering can be ended. Our struggle to survive, our effort to prove ourselves and solidify our relationships is unnecessary. We, and the world, can get along quite comfortably without all our unnecessary posturing. We could just be a simple, direct and straight-forward person. We could form a simple relationship with our world, our children, our spouse and friends. We do this by abandoning our expectations about how we think things should be.

I want to end suffering in my life. I am trying to implement this noble truth into my life and when I have been able to do so successfully I have seen that the principle works for me. Unfortunately I have a LONG way to go when applying the principle to parenting.

You see, although I always wanted to have children I didn't think in my lifetime it would happen. After coming out, my partner and I tried unsuccessfully to hear children. (HA! Freudian slip! I meant "HAVE" children, I am spending a lot of time now trying not to HEAR children!) We thought we would adopt, but the cost was prohibitive. We have now have successfully adopted through the foster care system and are the parents of two amazing boys. I have a lot of "expectations" about how my parenting will be - and it is not turning out that way AT ALL. As a result I am experiencing much sorrow and frustration, because I have not yet been able to abandon my expectations and accept things as they are.

For example...

I always wanted to have a child's room that was decorated beautifully. We had a theme, we had colours picked out. We had pictures for the wall and linens for the bed and we were excited to bring home our baby and put him in his room. Well, it didn't turn out that way at all. One of the challenges facing my son is sensory integration. He is overwhelmed by stimulus, particularly visual stimulus. When there is too much for his brain to "process" he cannot deal with his surroundings. His room was not a place where he wanted to be and where he could relax, but a place where he was so "over" stimulated that he literally had "fits" until the pictures came off the wall and everything came out of his room except his bed. We have managed to put a dresser and a night table back into his room but I think they are still too much for him.

And now my most recent disappointment:
In my ideal world we would put up the tree the first day of December. We would make cookies and sing carols, and do crafts. We would have nativities set up. We would have advents.
In reality - Christmas is too much.
When Max was two, and old enough to open presents, it took two days to get to everything under the tree. Not because there was much there, but because it was simply overwhelming.
Last year we found unopened presents at the back of the tree when we took it down - again too overwhelming.
We got the tree out to put it up on Sunday. We put it up and started to string the lights and Max started in. He is ADDICTED to lights. He has taken one string already and moved them three or four times.
I think I said "stop touching the lights" half a million times in the first ten minutes and then I was getting more and more frustrated until I actually said if he touched the lights one more time I was going to pick up the tree and throw it out the front door.
Don't ever say something if you don't mean it. He hasn't stopped touching the lights and I haven't thrown the tree out the front door.
We have a garland of red beads that look like they are cranberries. They are one of my favorite decorations. Max tied them around himself and CJ and they used them as a tug of war - which only resulted in the string breaking and beads going everywhere all over the living room floor. I managed to pick them up and bag them - where they still sit today.
So the tree is up. One string of lights is almost on. One string of lights is........hmn. I don't actually know where. And we are no closer to finishing the tree than when we pulled it out of the quonset.
On Sunday night I was so frustrated with the whole process I threw the boys in the tub, put them in pajamas and we all went to bed.
The problem is my expectations, but how do I change them? Max is THRILLED it is Christmas, more than he ever has been before, but it is still too overwhelming for him. I don't know how to adjust.


Anonymous said...

I think that is a huge challenge for all parents - not so much letting go of our expectations for our kids, but our expectations of ourselves. Those ideals we have ahead of time are great aren't they... mine sure didn't hold up though.

On the practical side:
Tabletop tree - a little one? Or would that just lead to daring feats of table-scaling? Or the pre-lit fake trees where the lights are wired right in?

And trees with just lights are quite pretty, IMHO.

Anonymous said...

Deep breaths, deep breaths!! You are a great Mommy!!

The Bumbles said...

What an insightful post! Expectations are such pressure. Especially when you apply them to others. Sounds like you are doing a great job managing them.

When we were little, my brother and I had our own little fake tree that we could do whatever we wanted with. We were given some old ornaments and also spent time making some of our own. And we decorated it ourselves - and re-arranged it constantly. That might be too much for Max but maybe it would actually allow him to focus on the level of stimulus that he felt he wanted/could handle.