Kids need to feel they are part of something greater
I know that there are so many amazing moms out there, who can share the pearls of their motherly hearts with us. There is nothing more comforting, reassuring and eye-opening than the testimonies of moms who managed, who succeeded, who overcame, who changed!
So, let me present the story of another amazing mom – Juliet!
Juliet is mom of 10-year-old Paula who is gifted and deaf, and 4-year-old Diego, who has normal hearing. Since becoming a mom she has been through post partum depression and undiagnosed hypothyroidism. She learned sign language and has explored the world of twice exceptional people like her daughter. Her daughter is now adjusting to her first cochlear implant, so a new chapter in their adventure has begun.
Juliet is a freelance writer and editor living with a musician husband in Chicago. She was born to white American parents in Lesotho, a small country in southern Africa, but spent her childhood in Western Colorado and her teen years in Central America. So she calls herself a Third Culture person. The family Juliet has made with her husband is rather mixed-up as well, because he’s Mexican-American and Catholic, while her cultural background is a combination of British Isles ancestry, Western US and Northern Latin America. He’s Catholic, She’s Baha’i. So a lot of their family life consists of connecting through and/or dealing with their diversity.
Juliet, you have mentioned having a twice exceptional child, who is gifted and deaf. Do you believe that Nature or God balances every disability with amazing abilities?
I’m not sure I do believe that. I believe that each person is completely unique and new in all of the universe. We are each endowed with a unique set of capacities and potentials at birth, and we have the opportunity to develop those in life. Of course, some babies aren’t born into loving, stable homes, or never receive any spiritual guidance, so it’s essential that in addition to raising our kids in the best way we can, we work for social justice and universal education that includes character development. As for my daughter and the “why” of her being deaf, I believe it is part of how she is meant to develop her innate potential. It affects how she experiences many things in life, but it does not define her. I also see that everywhere in the world there are people living with different physical limitations, so why not me or my family?
As you mentioned, my daughter is also gifted, which carries its own set of challenges that compound the challenges of deafness. Although she is very verbal, processing and producing spoken language takes her a bit longer. Combine that with a rich imagination and inner life, and she can really struggle to verbally share her ideas with the world. But she loves to write and draw, which do not require speech, so she has invested a lot of time and energy into developing her ability to communicate visually. I think our strengths and weaknesses are often two sides of the same coin. Understanding and working with them as we explore service, creativity and relationship helps us find a sense of calling in life.
In what way we can help our kids reveal and develop their unique talents and capacities? Please, share your insights.
First we must try to see clearly who our kids are. They are souls first, so they need love and guidance in developing a spiritual outlook in life. They have individuality – that unique aspect of their personality which is neither hereditary nor environmental, and the specific gifts they bring need to be cultivated. And they need to feel they are part of something greater than themselves. Whether it’s the family, their school band or a junior youth spiritual empowerment group, setting goals and accomplishing them together makes the child feel valued and their self-esteem is built up in a healthy way. Kids also need to struggle, make mistakes and fail. It’s no fun to watch this as a parent, but these experiences build their ability to make decisions and feel compassion for others.
Do you have a special story that marked your approach to educating your children?
When my daughter was a baby I spent a lot of time in the home of a friend who had three kids at that time. This friend was a teacher by profession but was at home while her kids were little. She read with them a lot and encouraged their interests. But she was also extremely relaxed as a parent. She didn’t micro-manage her kids. She didn’t stress out about little things and she really enjoyed her kids. She also got out with her friends regularly and took care of herself emotionally. I was so anxious as a new mom, terrified of messing things up, and my daughter had colic, sensory issues and hearing kids which wasn’t diagnosed until she was a toddler. So it really helped me to see this friend’s example. It gave me hope that I could enjoy being a mom and not stress out about everything. So over the years I have tried to find ways to enjoy parenting, to relax more with my kids and connect with them instead of trying to create a perfect picture of what life is supposed to be like according to someone else.
What are the most valuable lessons you have learned from your kids?
I always thought I was going to be a certain kind of mom when I had kids, and that image was very self-serving. I thought I would be so great at parenting that my kids would just be perfect, flawless creatures and the world would fall down on its knees before me. Ha! Well that didn’t happen.
My daughter cried all the time as a baby, shrieked like a banshee when she wasn’t crying, developed a love for eating dirt that showed itself at the most awkward times, didn’t sleep from 1 to 4 every morning for months on end. If this was a reflection on my quality as a mother, I was totally messing up. So I rejected that notion. I finally had to accept that I’m here to love and guide her, keep her safe and try to educate her. But the reality of any child is something I cannot control. I am doing my best and even though she’s older she’s still a challenging kid. Adding her brother to the family had made things easier in some ways and more insane in others. But I try not to take too much credit or blame for how either of my kids is. Life is messy. I’m banking on love, effort, prayer and the value of time spent together to get us through.
Should we use various methods and theories in upbringing or we should rather listen to our own instincts, to our heart and follow the intuition?
I believe it’s a combination of the two. Read the books, but only use what feels right and works for you and your family. Or better yet, learn from other parents. They are the real experts.
What do you love most about motherhood?
I think my answer to that is the best and hardest thing about motherhood: the love for my kids. I never knew I could love anyone so much or work so hard for anyone before I had kids. Seeing them happy, proud of some new skill or accomplishment is the very best thing. But when they are in pain, or when we’ve all been sick and I’m running on empty and all of a sudden we’re arguing and angry, loving them so much feels just miserable. It wouldn’t hurt if I didn’t care. And without love, forgiveness and tenderness we wouldn’t get through those hard times.
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