13 November 2008

Do You Overparent?

"Overparenting is kind of a way of life around here, whether in directing your every energy to taking care of a disabled son whose communication skills are—-while better with each day—-minimal and not always verbal; in writing daily emails to his teacher to explain all the things that he doesn’t; in strategizing how to spend another long afternoon together in a (hopefully) at least semi-productive way."

"Again, I’m not sure I could adequately take care of Charlie without being over-scrupulous, closely considering (if not obsessing) about minute details of his education, health, reactions to food and things that happen, sounds, the weather."

-- Excerpt from Kristina Chew's post on Overparenting.

It's very hard to know when to let go and when to step in even if you have a child who meets all developmental expectations and functions well in social situations. Do you call the mom of that nasty bully? Do you phone the school? Do you let your kid "tough it out," reasoning that there are plenty more like that bully in the "real world?" Give him karate lessons and hope the bully gets what's coming to him next time?

But if you have a child whose needs are beyond what you thought you were signing up for, you know how tough this is. You're going to have to overparent in ways you thought were never possible, and underparent in others. YES, I let G go outside in 30-degree weather in his shorts. Do you have any idea the sorts of fights we'd have otherwise? And is it really worth it? This child is two inches taller than I am and just lifting him and putting pants on his kicking legs, or making him sit and telling him "no" until he obeys isn't happenin'. Come to think of it, um, it wouldn't even be appropriate to change his clothes for him any more, would it?? So every now and then, he'll run back home for a pair of pants *quick* before the bus arrives.

I am afraid of social services coming over and getting into my business if a "concerned teacher" makes a phone call about seeing his skinny, muddy little knees in the freezing weather, but I also am a realist. I could hide his shorts, maybe, and deal with "wrath" like you wouldn't believe... but I'm not up for it this week. Anyway, more likely than not crowded foster-care services aren't going to want to take in another kid like this, so the social worker would probably let things slide. Hope so, anyway. I sure can't say his extensive needs aren't documented through the public schools, and who wants to take on that, with hormones?? (Any takers with large working farms may have a visitor, after wrestling season. He'd have his bags packed tonight and ask every five minutes if it's time to leave yet. And yes, he can drive a tractor, pick up cow poo and clean up fallen limbs like nobody's business. He loves it. Well, ok, not the cow poo so much.)

And Elf. I love Elfie McMelfie, but he's nearly nine. And he still REALLY BELIEVES he is an elf who works in the Keebler factory at night. If you tell him that he isn't, or that elves are not real, he will break down and cry. You're saying that *I'm* not real, he'd sob. Sigh. Ok. It's cute... he's really cute, but can you imagine what's going to happen if he puts "Keebler Elf, 17 years" on his job application later? Or says, well, I can't come to work today because I know more than two people will be in the office and I can't handle that? Or, I'm scared today... can I bring my Mom and sister so I feel safe? Or hiding under his desk and going "eee" when someone new is introduced? (That would work. Mm-hmm.) So later on, watch me go to his first employer and talk about how we have to make "accomodations" for his disability. Which, as Patrick would probably quickly point out, is really "just giving him whatever he wants so he doesn't get all upset."

All upset. Freaking out and being unable to handle things. Yes, I spoil him so. But what will I do later when staying at home isn't really practicable? He will, at some point we hope, take classes with someone other than Mom during high school. Maybe not all of them. But something. Somewhere. Maybe a small co-op or online classes? I'd like him to be able to be taught by someone else, or learn from someone else... somehow. At least a little so that I'm not everything to the child when he becomes an adult. And eventually, I should also be able to stop telling the children that their tests are "brought to you by the Keebler factory" to motivate Elf to work. Eventually, I won't have to tell Elf that I'm sure ALL the Keebler elves learn long division in third grade.

And little Woodjie. My heart is broken, but the child doesn't like speaking. He's friendly! He likes people. But please don't ask him to speak - he gets very upset. I can't even think ahead to tomorrow with this child. He's precious, but I know as he grows he will need unique parenting as well.

5 comments:

  1. lol You do so great with life's *little challenges*. We used to joke Ditz would get married & bring her Dearest home to us & they'd both crawl into bed between us. She doesn't like me to mention it now but she was 10 before she moved out of our bed & even now rarely turns off the light. Boogey men, you know.

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  2. You are in a unique position where you will probably always have to 'overparent'.... and there is nothing wrong with that if your child needs you! I would LOVE to know the kids real names... not for publication of course, but it has been on my mind. If you so wish, you could send me a private email? G, Elf, Emperor, J and S MUST have real names!

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  3. Oh my.

    Hang in there.

    I'm not wise enough to offer more.

    ~Luke

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  4. Okay, I am sure most parents will not like this, but I do think homeschooling cuts down on the overparenting. When I see a change that needs to be made, I do my research and I do it. That freedom from convincing a committee that Pamela needs what she needs is one of the beneifits of homeschooling.

    I also think the style of homeschooling and the autism therapies one chooses prevents overparenting. Charlotte Mason used a term, masterly inactivity, which means knowing when to be inactive to prevent overparenting. In RDI, you focus on a few things at a time as part of your typical day rather than spending every waking hour drilling a child.

    I agree with you that some battles are not worth picking! You know your children and you have to go with whatever keeps you all sane. Our recent victory was Pamela's television habit of kicking her brother out at exactly noon for an entire hour. That was standard for 18 months, and now the sacred hour is over. It was nothing we did specifically. But, I think the general work we have been doing on dynamic thinking and living with uncertainty might be helping Pamela loosen up!

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  5. I have to pick my battles every day. Sometimes it's just not worth the effort. Other times I probably overparent because the issue is important to me.

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Non-troll comments always welcome! :)