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Pushing Limits and Plugging Leaks

Children go through regular developmental stages where they are pushing limits and challenging those around them. It is a natural response to brain development. The brain growth lets them view the world in new ways. The new perspectives lead them to ask knew questions and to wonder if that limit is really a limit, or if it can be bent. As with any living system there is variation, but these challenging periods are approximately 3-6 months out of every twelve. I try to keep this in mind when one child is driving me crazy while another is a delight. In a few months they’ll probably have swapped spots.

Last Fall I had three kids hit “challenging” all at once. It was something of a perfect storm and about all I could do was batten down the hatches and hope to navigate through. We all survived. Life has settled down quite a lot for both Kiki and Link. Gleek is still struggling. In fact the level of challenge seems to be increasing rather than tapering off. Which has me laying in bed at night and worrying that maybe the last four months have actually been the calm ones. I hope not. I really hope not. Because I don’t want to have to deal with harder. I don’t want Gleek to have to deal with harder, she already feels lost, caught, and lonely.

Two months ago I decided to have Gleek write in her journal before bed. The idea was to give her a tool to sort through her tangled emotions. It was a great idea and it worked for about 3 days. After that she started writing Mad Libs in her journal and then she lost interest completely. I shrugged and let it go. I knew we could always pick it up again if necessary. I think I’m standing in the middle of necessary. Gleek needs something. I know she needs something. But I also know that whatever it is that she needs, I can’t be the one to build it for her. She needs to find her own strength that she can carry with her rather than having to flee to me as her only support.

This independence from me is something that I am working on with all of my kids. My natural reaction to problems, particularly those of loved ones, is to stretch myself to fix it. This sometimes solves the problems, but it leaves me plugging the leak with with my finger. Eventually I run out of fingers and there are still leaks to be plugged. Since last fall I’ve been focusing on helping my kids build structures for their lives where I am a useful support, but where they do their own maintenance. I’m attempting to teach them how to man their own leaks. They don’t like it much. It was much more convenient to them for me to plug the leaks. But until they stand there themselves long enough to get thoroughly tired of plugging leaks, they don’t understand why everyone is much happier if leaks are prevented rather than plugged. Long term this is better, short term it is exhausting.

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