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The brutal truth of me, without all the sugary coating.
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Thursday, January 24, 2013

The judge inside my brain: Wisdom from my 7-year-old

Lately I've tried to spend about twenty minutes laying with each of my kids and talking before they fall asleep (if I'm not working the closing shift). I can see them struggling with the divorce and growing up and I want to have better communication between us before they become teenagers. Hopefully it will help them talk more freely with me when they hit their teen years, and in the mean time I capture a little bit more of them while they're still small(ish).

Each and every night we have these conversations I learn so much about them. Last night was a particularly important exchange with Asher. As soon as I laid down in his bed, he said, "Mom, I just think I'm dumb." 

I asked him why, and he said, "Because I am always doing the wrong thing." We've had this conversation before, so I knew what he meant. Asher is an extremely intelligent child, so when he acts out it's unsettling. I always take a moment and wonder why he would do things he knows not to do, as he has a good grasp on what will happen if he does. Sometimes it seems like he's unaware of the feelings of others, but if you talk to him about it, he's aware and feels badly about it. Saying he's sorry is one of the most difficult things he is faced with (which I relate to very much). He's like Steve in the way that he has great empathy for others, which overwhelms him, so he shuts it out in order to deal with the world. (Guess how many years it took me to figure that out about my husband? For a long time I thought he just lacked empathy, but that isn't the case. He feels others' pain more than most, if he allows himself to feel it at all.) 

I explained to Asher that he was born with a very smart brain, but that he must choose to make good decisions regarding other people. The ability of his brain (being "dumb") isn't the cause of his negative behavior. He said, "But it's like my mind just tells me something, like, 'Hit Joshy's Legos.' So I hit Joshy's Legos. It's like I'm just a remote control robot and my brain is controlling my body. It's like there's a judge in my brain and he decides. He's in charge, but he doesn't make the right decisions." 

Maybe it's just me, but is that the most profound thing you've ever heard? I completely understand what he means! My brain controls my body too, keeps me from doing what I really want to do, makes me do things I know aren't good for me. 

We talked about how our minds sometimes think one thing, but we need to override that with a better decision. 

One of my goals as a parent is to use examples of my own to show my kids that even parents/adults are just people too. I don't want them to become adults and be surprised by the fact that they aren't perfect. Obviously we all have this realization at some point, but I like to show them that I'm aware I also make mistakes. I remember as a child being so impressed when my father admitted to being wrong and making human mistakes. I remember feeling like I wasn't a bad person for making a mistake because even my dad, who was the smartest man in the world, also made mistakes. So instead of telling my kids the right way to solve their problems, I tell them a story from my own experience and let them draw their own conclusions. 

"You know how sometimes I get angry, especially around Dad?" 

Of course he does. He's watched his parents fight his whole life. 

"Tonight Dad and I took Max to the doctor together. Before I left the house I told myself, 'You are NOT going to fight with Dad tonight.'" 

Asher's eyes shifted and looked at me sideways, "Mom, you should always do that every day." 

I smiled. "Yes, I know, but like you were saying, sometimes it's really hard to do what you know is right. So I have to tell myself on purpose, 'Be nice.' And he still did things that bothered me, things that made me mad, but I kept telling myself to be kind. And you know what? We didn't fight once." 

He looked shocked, which made me sad. But that's the reality of our situation, and he knows it. We can't make it through a trip to the grocery store without my anger coming out. Might as well use it to teach something.

"Mom," he said, "You just have to stay calm, speak nicely, and ask someone to stop if they are doing something you don't like." 

So proud. "You're absolutely right. But it makes me so mad when I ask him to stop something and he doesn't stop, so I get angry and yell. That's something I need to work on, so do you think you and I could both make that goal? To stop and think, calm down, and tell our brains to do the right thing when we feel out of control?"

"I guess so. It's not easy."

"No, son. It's not easy. But the more you do it, the easier it becomes to be in control of your own mind and body. You have to practice it, just like anything else." 

Every single time I think I'm teaching my kids something, they are actually teaching me. Things I already know, but have forgotten, come out of my mouth and I realize I should have been working on that all along. 

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