An excerpt from my upcoming book “Hero’s Journey in Parenting: Parenting the Child You Didn’t Expect While You Were Expecting”
“Relinquishing Control and Building Your Support Network
The ability to relinquish control is a common source of tension for the parents I work with in my coaching practice. Many with children who are on their own developmental timeline or have physical or medical needs have difficulty allowing others to care for their child.
The Storyteller (our creative thinking mind) likes to create all sorts of thoughts about how nobody else will be able to handle them. The Guardian of your Heart also gets involved and tells you that you might get hurt by allowing someone into the reality of what your life is really like. This of course activates the Battle Ready Bodyguard who then creates all sorts of boundaries and challenges so that this cannot happen.
I completely relate to this all as I had many stories around what would or could happen to my son if I wasn’t there to watch him closely. No one else could possibly be able to understand his apraxic utterances to know that what he was asking for was apple juice in a purple cup with a pink straw.
Because of this all, I had set major boundaries. I wouldn’t let anyone except close family come over because I couldn’t guarantee that my son would have clothes on or that he wouldn’t be having a meltdown. My Bodyguard and Guardian of my Heart teamed up and were on full alert, protecting my heart and ego from feeling any sort of discomfort or defensiveness around who and how he was, as well as my parenting of him.
This changed once I began to notice and question the thoughts and stories of my Storyteller. With practice, I started allowing others to support us. I began to relieve my Bodyguard of its duty, loosening the reins a bit as I gathered evidence of how my son was okay when I wasn’t around to meet all of his needs and wants. Turns out, there was quite a bit of evidence that he could find ways to get exactly what he wanted or needed without words better than I could.
When I did not allow others to support him (and me), I was actually denying all of us opportunities to learn and grow. With others, he learned how to communicate and express himself in different ways. When I denied others from getting to be with him and learn from him, I was also denying them the chance to hang out with a kid who was really interesting and fun to be with.
Relinquishing control triggered all aspects of my Warrior big time. My Storyteller, Battle Ready Bodyguard and the Guardian of my Heart went into high protective mode, so I started with super small steps to try to keep them calm. I invited caregivers, who were usually college aged children of people I knew and trusted, to come over and play with him. I was still nearby, doing random things like laundry or checking email, which allowed me to ease any discomfort I had around thoughts like, “What will happen if he is not understood? What will happen if he has a meltdown?” I was close so that I could step in to support them if needed.
My nervousness quickly vanished as I realized that the people who were playing with him were fun and had far more energy than I did to do the things he wanted to do. They were also there for short amounts of time. Their job was to play with him. They weren’t distracted by things like cleaning, laundry, making meals or any of the many things that would catch my attention as soon as I sat down to play with him. Since I could get a lot of those things done while they were at our house, when they left, I was able to give him more of my energy and attention.
These caregivers became part of our family and he loved being with them all. While most of the time was spent having fun, they all experienced challenging times with him. Almost all of them were interested in education, occupational therapy, speech pathology or social work.
They were helping me out and I like to think that we were also helping them out. They got to experience the reality of caring for a child who was on his own developmental timeline. They also got to experience a child who probably didn’t respond in the same way that other children did. They learned that he could not be controlled and wasn’t easily distracted or going to forget once he set his mind on something. With my support, they figured out plans for what to do the next time so everyone was on the same page and ready for any challenges that might arise.
I remember many situations around filming ceiling fans at a nearby hotel attached to our neighborhood club. He was adamant on the order he would see them and if he ran out of room on his phone, would expect to start all over again. If this was not possible, strong emotional reactions ensued. The sitters all learned how to handle these meltdowns beautifully, while also acknowledging how tough it was in the moment. This confirmed for me that I wasn’t the only one who struggled at times with my son.
My initial worries and fears had us living in the shadow energy of the Teacher/Community Builder archetype and if I had listened to my Storyteller, I would have kept us both from expanding our network of supportive people. He wouldn’t have gotten to have all of the fun experiences he had or learn from different people who approached things in different ways. Relinquishing my own desire to control and the thought that I was the only one who could take care of him, was a huge weight lifted off of my back. As a result, I had more energy and time for myself. In addition to that, my son has learned how to be more flexible and to feel safe and cared for even when I am not there. How is that for a turnaround?!?!”