No one ever sets out to undermine a child’s development

Before I got to the point where I knew my child was struggling, I was none the wiser to much of what I know now.

The advice for new parents stops at basis things like nutrition, pooping and sleep. Then more often than not, the creche or playschool does a lot of the heavy lifting. We read a parenting book or maybe just a few quotes on social media and we’re aces.

Until things go wrong. Then we feel like we are dumped into the most humongous jungle ever, with terrifying noises and no skills to get out. Some of us curl up at the foot of the biggest tree we can find and cry ourselves to sleep. This isn’t a completely bad plan. There’s a reason you choose the biggest tree and not the smallest sapling, right. You’re looking for comfort from this awful situation you seem to have been placed in beyond your control. You are self soothing – and that is great – you need it. Only, you can’t stay there. You cannot parent from a crouched crying position, you have to stand up.

So you do, you stand up. You wipe away the tears leaving muddy streaks across your face. You now look like a jungle warrior which is good, because that is sort of what it is going to take to get out. Only you don’t know this yet and you haven’t seen your reflection.

Then maybe you start trying to figure out what to do next. You secretly hope that a rescue party has been dispatched and you will be elevated out of danger in moments. Maybe even think about working out how you got there and retracing your steps. This is both wishful thinking. In this story you didn’t stumble into the forest, you just woke up one day and there you were. Kind of like Naked and Afraid.

Just like that show, you are about to be given opportunities to learn the skills you need to survive in this jungle. And they won’t be handed to you in a nice neat guide conjured up just for you. Instead, the tools will be all around you, you just can’t see them yet. Your task, if you choose to accept it, will be to develop the sight for them. And this kind o’ starts with self-reflection and working through that very bumpy grief cycle, maybe even a few times.

In case you don’t know, the cycle includes:

  • Shock and denial – avoidance, confusion, fear, numbness, blame
  • Anger – frustration, anxiety, irritation, embarrasment, shame
  • Depression and Detachment – overwhelmed, blahs, lack of energy, helplessness
  • Bargaining and Dialogue – reaching out to others, desire to tell your story, struggle to find meaning
  • Acceptance – exploring options, a new plan in place

As you begin this journey of accepting the new reality, you will be learning a lot along the way. Some lessons may come easily and at your own pace and in your control. Other lessons will come at you hard and challenge your ideas about who you are and who you child is and what the world does with that. And of course, many lessons will come back again and again, so that ou get a chance to master them.

But to go back to what I started off saying – no one every sets out to do harm.

Our intentions always have a positive start. They always come from a place of intending something to happen that will serve us. The only trick with parenting – your intentions impact your child. This is the hardest pill to swallow. We beat ourselves up over our reactions to them. We regret decisions we’ve made and we look for things to blame.

This is going to be hard – but if you do it with all of your might – you do come out the other end stronger, wiser, more grown, confident and you will rest in knowing you did what you could with what you found in the forest and you kept on trying. And what I know now, that my children are past 21 years old, is that the forest is always there and no one is getting out, because getting out isn’t the point. getting to know the forest is the point. Just as I learnt the skills I needed and found the tools I needed, I taught them what I learned and now they are better for it, the navigate the forest with more ease. And I am proud, of them and me.

You can do it too.

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