By Carey Snide
Be a soft place to land, pick your battles, parenting is a rollercoaster (fun and terrifying), spend time celebrating the small things…these are just a few of the things I wish I had learned when my kids were young and things that I will carry with me in my own parenting and professional journey. About a year ago I did a zoom meeting with Dr. Erina White and her team, they were interviewing me to see if I would be a good fit in their mission to serve parents as an intern. I remember knowing when I got off that Zoom that I would really love this opportunity. I had no idea just how much I would learn, not just from Erina, but from the parents in these groups.
My oldest is graduating this year, my heart is full of fear and excitement. I wrote about the art of letting go a while back, what I did not include is just how helpful and uplifting one particular mom has been to me in our groups. I’m not worried about him cooking his food or taking care of his car, I worry that he will become overwhelmed, anxiety flooding his mind, which can turn into him hiding in his room and becoming so stuck in his head that he does not take care of himself. I know what this looks like on him, but no one will be there who knows that. Who will stop him, hold his hands, hug him and ground him to the moment so he can get unstuck? When my thoughts begin to spiral in worry about this, I hear this particular mom saying how important it is to be a soft place for him to land and how she navigated helping her children set up support systems. This slows my heart, this encourages me. She also reminds me just how important it is for me to take care of myself so that I can be available to support him (even if it is through the phone).
Having a child with autism, ADHD, and anxiety (triple-A as he puts it) has meant a lot of work in our home finding the right balance between setting boundaries and giving space. I have also learned from one particular parent in our groups, just how important it is to celebrate the small victories on this rollercoaster we call parenting. One lesson from her is to always remember how far we have come when we feel the terrifying part of the rollercoaster, notice the drops are not so steep and that the ups come back faster. When my son begins to break down, I know better how to help him through it and we can deescalate this a lot faster than before. When I am in the middle of it, feeling the overwhelm of the moment, I think about the gentle laugh and kind words of this mom who has fought and made great progress in a battle for her kiddo, just like me, and her success reminds me to see my own. It pulls me up and gives me the courage to keep going.
More than one parent has reminded me to celebrate when we have victories, with my kids. As a mom, learning how to be a kinder, more patient mom, I have lots of regret for the way I reacted or acted when they were younger and I just did not know what to do. What I have been practicing, and what I have been hearing from many parents, is forgiveness is real and important. We do not have to do it perfectly, we just need to keep trying. This weekend we went on a hike with our boys and niece. I was commenting on how much I used to take this trail, I would go to work first thing, then take a little walk in the woods before going to my second job, then walk to my house before leaving to go back to the first job. At some point, I think there was a third job mixed in there. My niece turned to me and thanked me. She thanked me for working so hard and for always making them dinner.
I have been learning, from all these amazing parents in our groups, to slow down a bit and find time to do the parenting things that bring joy. For me, cooking for my family brings me so much joy. My niece specifically thanking me for that meant the world to me. Hearing those moments from the parents in the groups has been a source of encouragement when things are hard. Times such as a parent sharing that their child actually brushed their teeth, that a mom risked it by making Hello Kitty pancakes, a mom taking a walk when she needs a break…all these wins carry me through.
As I move to the next phase of my education, I’m sad to not see and hear from these beautiful parents each week. I am going to miss the laughter, the tears, the connection. This little blog does not do justice to all that I have gained from this experience and from these interactions. Thank you all of you. As I leave I want to encourage anyone reading this who is a parent to contact YHAV and join. You will find a safe place to be real, to be heard, to be validated, and to be supported. This village is a true blessing.