Ok I have a confession to make: I made a huge parenting blunder this weekend and I’m coming clean.
The blunder came early Friday morning as I was racing to get the boys’ lunches made and get out the door in time to round at the hospital before going to the office. I used to make the lunches the night before but that, of course, is not what I did Thursday night. So after a long night with Declan in my bed after a ‘bad dream’ and the FABULOUS sleep you can imagine a parent can get sharing a double bed with a 5’2″ man-boy who actually turns into a hyper octopus at night, I was spreading peanut butter onto bread (the last step in the lunch-making process for me) when Declan asks if he can be on the Quarton Science Olympiad team. I stopped spreading mid-stroke, my tired mind churning away wondering how to answer this one. You see, Declan has special needs. He spends some of his time in the LRC at school and stutters. Admittedly, science is an area of strength for him as well as enjoyment, but this is a timed contest and he would be part of a TEAM. Talk about a minefield! My first instinct was to defer the decision and think about it over the weekend. No go. The permission slip was due that day. Next I suggested that Declan and I go to the event and cheer on the Quarton team and learn more about it before signing up since neither of us knew much about it. No go. He REALLY wanted to be on the team. It is at this moment that I made a colossal mistake and told him that I didn’t really think this was a ‘good fit’ for him. Little tears welled up in his eyes and he asked if I thought he was too dumb to do it. I responded quickly that of course that that wasn’t it! I told him that science is an area of strength for him but I wasn’t sure if he could think on his feet fast enough and talk clearly enough in the time allotted to be on the team. Now I was knee deep in the crap I had laid out and was stuck. You see, Declan isn’t dumb but I was not so sure that he would be viewed by his classmates as a plus on the team. I was protecting him! Wasn’t I?
He said he still wanted to do it and then dropped the bomb by saying, “Dad said I could.”
GREAT. SUPER. Now not only am I the soul-crusher but now I have to find out why Kevin said yes, figure out what I think is really best for Declan and decide all in the minus 4 minutes I have left to get ready for work.
So off I went to talk to Kevin about it who had indeed said yes to Declan (I was secretly hoping that Declan had thrown that out there just to persuade me) and we had a very brief discussion which ended with me signing the permission slip and Kevin contacting the teacher who organizes this to talk about it more. It turns out that the teacher is happy to have Declan on the team and all we have to do this weekend is choose the categories/events we think best fit him and he will participate only in those. Great ending to a terrible morning.
I learned a couple of things: first is that Kevin and I were both guilty of making the same mistake by telling Declan yes or no without talking to the other. The two of us have to remember that before we give our verdict on something that isn’t just routine, we talk to each other. Second, I realized I might well have been selling Declan short and not allowing him the joy or pain of participating, succeeding or failing on his own. I wanted to protect him from what I imagined would be the reactions of his classmates and his difficulty with the tasks on the team and instead I was coddling him in a way that isn’t good for him (or me).
Walking the line between protecting my kids from failure or pain and encouraging or at times even pushing them to take risks is a balancing act I’m obviously still learning.