DISRUPTOR- n /dɪsˈrʌp.tər/: a person or thing that prevents something, especially a system, process, or event, from continuing as usual or as expected.
RAISING A DISRUPTOR- v: The act of parenting that kid named in the above.
We were taught in all our mental health counseling classes that we should be cautious of clients who may mirror our own issues because that can disrupt the therapeutic process for clients if we let it. What they don’t warn you about in any class is what happens when that same mirroring happens in parenting.
Lately, I have been struggling, with a capital S, with balancing work and home. At first I thought this was because of the time away from my kids. I love my work, but some days I think I should still be at every game or show or meet no matter what. What will happen to my kids as they age and I’m not around as much anymore?
As I’m apt to do, I’ve spent countless hours examining my own stuff to figure out why I am so physically uncomfortable with my current life (politics and natural disasters not withstanding). I came up with something (thanks in part to my loving husband who loves to jump on the chance to point out my flaws that he likes to call strengths) and it’s taken me some real gut checks to accept. Here’s what I got: I’m no good at working for other people. Don’t get me wrong. I’m actually an excellent employee. I work hard. I immerse myself in the culture and mission of a place and I’m reliable, loyal and usually pretty good at what I do.
The problem is not apparent to those at my work. The problem comes from the way I feel the rest of the hours of the day. When I stop to really think about it, I’ve been this way all my life. It’s not a control thing. I’m perfectly happy not being in charge. But, if I’m somewhere and I think my time could be spent more efficiently, or if the direction of something feels off, I have a hard time reconciling my conscious with my need to get on board. I’ll do whatever I’m asked, but I’ll be miserable doing it.
I figured this was just normal. I mean, who likes being told what to do? But then I started raising a kid who thinks WAY outside the box and my thoughts changed. I watch how painful it is for him to conform to societal norms. I have two other kids so I see that it’s more painful for him than for most. He’s very reasonable in many ways. If he is given a proper explanation, he can largely get on board. But, if he can’t get his mind to match the motivation behind something, then it is almost physically painful. He knows intellectually that he should conform. He knows what is the “acceptable” thing to do. Yet, you can watch the agony as he either chooses to go along to get along while betraying his sense of self, or stays true to who he is and deals with the disappointment it causes others.
Oh my gosh. Hello, Mirror Child.
In my life, I learned to conform. I learned to do what was expected, what was desired in order to make other people happy and I have lived a tiny bit miserable the entire time I was in someone else’s employ. It was only when I was in charge of my own life, working for myself and really in charge of my time that I understood what it meant to be at peace. All the years I thought it was the path I was choosing that was wrong when it turns out the path didn’t matter. It was always where I put myself on any path that hurt the most.
Now, I have this kid that is working through the same thing and I don’t know what my job as parent is. Do I teach him how to conform because life is easier if you just do what is expected, even if it kills you a little on the inside? Or, do I allow him the room to find his own way, even if it means he gets in trouble at school or doesn’t get grades that reflect his intelligence? Do I have a responsibility to the world to raise someone who doesn’t rock the boat for the well-being of others? Or do I have a responsibility to raise someone who stays true to their heart even if it’s disruptive to those in charge? Is there a way to do both? Do I need to investigate home school curriculums? Am I smart enough to teach him? (The answer to that last one is decidedly no.)
With all three kids, these same questions come up in social situations. Peers are the struggle with my first two. The main question: Do you stand for something, which can be very lonely, or do you conform in the name of friends? I was just in the middle of managing that battle when this new one came to light. The first one is easy. I know how it ends, with periods of loneliness but ultimately a strong moral code and truly loyal people around you. I can coach them through the bad times because I know the grown up good times are worth it.
But this new thing? Well, now, I’m really confused. What part of ourselves and our kids are we willing to sacrifice for the greater good? What if we haven’t figure it out ourselves? Really, is any amount worth it in the end?
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.