I used to read parenting books. I don't any longer.
Don't get me wrong. I read. A lot. Reading is my "go to," when everything else fails. I love reading, so it was natural that when I was pregnant, I read everything I could get my hands on about pregnancy and babies. It's the way I handle a new challenge that I don't feel up to - I read to gain understanding, tools, and to discover ideas. When my son was a toddler, I had books on every topic imaginable. Even in preschool and early elementary, I was still in thrall to all the Parenting Gurus out there. I just knew that someone could help us figure this thing out. I wanted a parenting manual, and I looked everywhere for it.
But I didn't recognize my child in any of the children described in those books. Where was this child who, when given the appropriate consequence, responds with corrected behavior? Why didn't the "cry it out" method OR the "cuddle him to sleep" method work? Attachment parenting? Who are we kidding - this kid was far too interested what is OUT THERE to want to be attached back here. The formulas, so clearly elucidated in each book, didn't work for us. Ever. With one exception, Mary Sheedy Kurcinka's, Raising Your Spirited Child. That one nailed him. And me.
One day, a friend of mine with a wonderful child who happens to be on the autism spectrum, said to me, "I bought a normal parenting book for the first time in years." And that's when it hit me - normal parenting doesn't work for non-normal children. They might have wonderful ideas and reliable tips and tools - but they aren't meant for a child who is so asynchronous that we're dealing with four stages at once. I can't imagine talking to my child the way some of the books I read suggested. When he was 4 years old, he didn't need to be told about sugar-bugs on his teeth; he already knew about cavities. But launching into the full story of what it's like to lose your teeth isn't right, either - the emotional side of him couldn't take it.
Recently, I picked up a much-lauded book on teenagerdom. I was excited to read it and find out more about what is going on in my son's body and brain. I was, once again, disappointed. Those things it said about how he is in this process of sculpting his own individuality - he's already light years ahead. He's been separating from his parents (us) intellectually since he was 7, even though - at 14 - he's still emotionally connected to us like he's 8. And reading it made me incredibly sad - hearing how all those "normal" high school activities and behaviors affect how his brain is reconnecting neurologically; and yet he won't have most of those activities or behaviors because of his unique wiring. The book talked about the goal of separation - going away to college to learn to be on his own. Well, he's going to college at 14, so he won't be going far. That transition will have to happen in another way. Again, it doesn't fit. I closed the book.
I do still read many books on giftedness; books on the unique challenges and wonders these children present us as parents. And these books fit... better. They aren't perfect, because every child is so unique, and the Teenlet's uniqueness is a brand I haven't seen anywhere except in small circles of amazingly exceptional children. But I can take the ideas these books present and adapt them to our individual circumstances; sucking the marrow from the bone in order to understand my child better. And from understanding comes better parenting.
So this is the bottom line for me: does what I read lead me to understand him better? Because, with understanding comes making good parenting decisions. I can't push him to do something for which he isn't ready; but I can push him to stretch himself to take that next step - understanding him means being able to see that fine line (or at least guess where it is... approximately).
And as I learn about my child, I learn about myself as well.
|This post is part of a blog hop on Gifted Parenting, hosted by the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum. Find other amazing posts here.|
Mona's recommended books on giftedness:
Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students, by Christine Fonseca
Off the Charts, by Neville, Piechowski, & Tolan
Giftedness 101, by Linda Kreger Silverman
Living with Intensity, by Susan Daniels & Michael Piechowski
If This is a Gift, Can I Send it Back? by Jen Merrill
Misdiagnosis & Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults, by Olenchak, Goerss, Beljan, Webb, Webb, and Amend
Parenting Gifted Kids, by Jim Delisle
A Parent's Guide to Gifted Children, by Webb, Gore, Amend, and DeVries