I follow a lot of homestead accounts on Instagram. Not long ago, I was watching the stories from one of these homesteads and their kids, all under the age of twelve, were building a playhouse from extra building materials they’d found. One of the girls was hammering in a t-post and I loved seeing these kids being so resourceful. It also reminded me of a moment I had with my son about a year after we moved to our homestead.
He was sixteen or seventeen at the time and wanted to build an outdoor enclosure for his turtle. We told him where he could find extra stuff to build it with and told him to go for it. He went outside, looked around, found a place where he wanted to build and gathered some tools and supplies. And then gave up on it.
After about a week, we asked him to put everything away if he wasn’t going to build the enclosure and he said he was going to build it, but he wasn’t sure how to and needed our help. Up to that point, we’d spent years trying to build up his confidence to be able to do things all on his own. Encouraging him, giving him tips, but asking him to do things on his own. He may have disabilities, but he’s an incredibly smart kid and we knew he was, and is, capable of doing whatever he sets his mind to. This was no different. But I also knew it was the biggest idea he’d come up with and it was probably overwhelming.
About that time, I needed to put some fencing up around some berry plants to keep our chickens and dogs away from them, so I went out and got to work. Our son watched me from across the yard because he was using the same materials for his project. When I was almost done, he came over and asked if he could help. I showed him what I was doing and let him try it out.
When I was finished, he asked me to help him with his project. I encouraged him to try it on his own and told him where to start. He had decided to use four-foot t-posts for the corners and pounded the first one in just fine. I watched from the back deck. He got the second one halfway in, and then said he couldn’t do anymore, it was too hard, and asked me to finish for him.
I told him he was doing great, and to take a break if he needed it, but declined to do the work for him. It took him a long time to finish the project, a lot of encouragement, a lot of yelling and frustration, and a lot of breaking down the steps into even smaller steps so he could feel capable, but he did finish it.
Of course, we celebrated his accomplishment and the grin on his face when it was all done was everything.
Now, I could end this story, and leave it there. Make myself look like a great parent who was patient and encouraging though this process. But I prefer to be authentic. This memory, now, is a good memory. But in the moment, when our son approached us with the idea, I groaned internally. I hoped he would forget about it. Because I knew how much of ourselves my husband and I would have to give and I knew it would be exhausting.
This was almost three years after I’d started learning about brain science. And I remember telling myself to breathe, to take a break, to walk away whenever her started yelling. I had to encourage myself to keep engaging with him after each outburst because I knew he could do this task, but if I didn’t stay open to communication with him, then he would give up and would never know for himself that he could do it. I had to keep myself from giving up and it was hard.
When he did finally finish, and it was all over, I didn’t feel like a super parent. I felt like a parent who’d barely passed. And after three years of learning about and practicing the mental health techniques I’d learned, I felt like I should have done better.
But from where I stand right now and looking back at this memory from over a year ago, I did do better than I had in the past. I’m not always going to get it perfect when it comes to my son or any other person, but neither will anyone else.
I don’t know that I really have a point to this blog other than, I remembered it and realized that despite the fact that day was difficult for me, it’s a good memory. So if you’re struggling to see the good right now, take a deep breath and take a break. It will be okay.