My son absolutely loves letters, shapes, numbers, and colors. He can do different activities, but spends majority of his day focusing on the things that he loves most. He loves them because he understands them and they are always constant. A q is always a q, and b always comes after a. One plus one always equals two, and a triangle will always have three sides. Or in his case, his favorite shape, a dodecahedron, will always have twenty sides. A dodecawhat? Just trust me and stay with me here.
My son spends most of his day studying these things and lining them up. In fact, he lines everything up. I often even know he was in a room because of the telltale evidence he leaves behind. For example, the other day I knew he went into my bathroom because when I went in there, there was a line of tampons on the floor organized by color. He doesn’t have all the order that he needs in life so he creates it, and I’m pretty sure he would do this all day long if I would let him. Of course the one exception is that he likes the couch throw pillows on the floor and I like them lined up on the couch. Can’t figure that one out!
The point is that every day I feel like we often do the same things, over and over. I often even hear the same phrases and words over and over again. For me, this is the norm, and I am happy to live it, but sometimes I can’t help but feel like his life and mine are stuck on skip. Like a record that just can’t get over that scratch, or for any youngsters out there, a DVD that is skipping back to the same part. Or for even younger folks, buying a movie on apple tv that won’t play through. Isn’t it amazing that no matter how far we advance as a society, our issues are still the same?
Anyway, every day is similar and it is a good thing in our house when we find something new to line up or perhaps even change the pattern, because that is change! In fact, my son is so creative in creating new patterns that when family was recently over we all felt like we were doing mind puzzles trying to find his reason and new pattern choice. I see it like he is leaving mini works of art all throughout the home. If you could see some of his more intricate letter designs I doubt you would describe it any other way. I often call him a letterologist or letter ninja if there were such a thing.
While I smile when I see a row of candy corns standing upright like soldiers on the counter, paint dots lined up on the floor, or even tampons in my bathroom, I also worry. I worry because the world is anything but predictable and I know that while I can help him organize a schedule and routine in our house, I cannot control the world for him. All I can do is help him learn to adjust to change now and continue to help him build on those skills as time goes on.
While the majority of us adults may not spend our day lining up letters of feminine products, we are all guilty at one time or another of trying to control too much. We are all guilty of falling into patterns and habits, good or bad, and having our lives be stuck on skip. Perhaps you have been telling yourself for quite some time that you would make better food choices. Diet starts tomorrow right? Maybe you have been promising yourself that you would finally get into shape, but you have yet to take that first step. Oh wait you bought new workout gear. That counts, right? Have you been promising yourself or others that you would become more patient? How many times have you felt guilty and decided that you would never gossip again? Did you raise your voice yet another time to your loved ones or children after promising it would never happen again? Is this the week you are finally going to make the schedule changes necessary to make your family a priority? Maybe this is finally the last drink you will ever have? Or perhaps you just will have one small drink more. How many times have you told yourself that you will start telling the truth at all times? Maybe you swear that next week is a much better than this one to finally get your family to church? I know for certain that this is the last time that you will tell your child to wait just a few minutes while you scroll social media sites.
No matter what it is we all fall into these cycles and get stuck. If you don’t think you have anything to work on, I would suggest you go back and reread the question above about being honest. To take this all a step further most of us don’t know how to deal with the big things in life that rattle us to the core. The things that we didn’t plan, see coming, or line up ourselves.
I may be able to organize the items in my closet by style and color and it may look beautiful to me. The problem is that outside of my closet I can’t choose where everything goes and what comes in and out of my life. I am responsible for my actions and choices, but I do not get to choose a life that looks a certain way. I do not get to have the order that I desire or the scenarios I would always prefer or expect. Life is changing and forever will be. I cannot only stick to what is constant, neither can you, and neither can my son. We all have to acquire the skills necessary to stay healthy and live in a world where the unexpected can strike at any time. Even though I think that we all know that picture perfect does not equal beauty or happiness, we still too often forget and desire that most. The most beautiful things in my life have come out of the unexpected. Life is beautiful! Different is beautiful!
Make sure that you teach your kids that everything is not always perfect and it doesn’t need to be. Help them prepare for the real world by teaching them how to deal with change. You aren’t doing your child any favors if you keep the world around them picture perfect. Look at your own life and think about the things that you are trying too hard to control. What are you really accomplishing by doing that?
Really think about your situation and consider any places that you too may be stuck on skip. Think about the patterns that you need to break. You may not line up letters, but what do you do when things feel out of control and that constant, comforting feeling is taken from you? What you do during these times says a lot about your character at that point and time, and can have a big impact on the direction your life goes. Do yourself a favor and stop lining everything up for yourself and your kids.
We purposely do things to gently sabotage my son and teach him about unpredictability and how he can handle it. Not all children need that done in their lives, but what they do need are the skills necessary to deal with the cards that they are dealt. Don’t just look at what you are teaching them, be sure to take a look at yourself and your own choices. The real truth is that if you are living any part of your life stuck on skip, in some fashion your children are bound to that in theirs.
By Jessica Nieminski
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