Epilepsy Awareness Month. Day 4!
You can be anything you want to be….except that.
Trying to be a positive, well researched and mindful role model while constantly PSAing Mr. Roger’s-like life lessons so that my kid is set up for a successful happy future is an impossible task. But trying to secure Buddha’s future with the uncertainty and constraints of epilepsy is a flat out exercise in futility. Not to mention a testament of my control issues and ego. I know this, but yet I can not stop!
As a teacher, I have noticed two bold styles of parenting when masterminding this future dilemma. No matter what we say, we all do it one way or the other. We tell them to dream big or dream real! We tell them they can be anything and nothing is out of reach. Or, we tell them to use their smarts and their hearts to navigate the unfairness of a base world where unavoidable cruelty will inevitably find them.
As a mother, I am constantly batted against these two choices and left feeling like I have somehow let my Buddha down.
I, by default, fall into the Dream Big category. I believe in always leading children to trust themselves and go after what triggers their souls! But I am afraid too. Isn’t it my responsibility to help light the way so he sees the reality of it all? How do I tell him that sometimes, most times, dreams don’t come true, knowing then they never will? How do I slowly show him the world without it breaking his heart? How do I let the world break his heart but help him believe in himself enough to rise above it and reach his dream? How do I let him live his own lessons and grow in his own spirit and life without being a neglectful parent?
And please, PLEASE, do not say the word balance?! I know it’s all about balance. Let me know when someone gets that bottled:)
In my experience, children don’t think about their futures in the “means to an end” sense we do. They live in the moment and want only to have futures that reflect their immediate and most internalized needs for safety, fun and attention met with as little push back as possible. They don’t realize that pretending to be a star or a doctor, an inventor or a truck driver, or even Magic Saver Girl (that was my best dream) is already identifying that basic human need we all have to find purpose. Playing through passions that are as light and fun as their shifting attentions is their idea of the future. It’s enough for them, and I think that IS magic.
From the time he was two, Buddha wanted to be a famous hockey player. He wanted to feel the power of the crowd and be the fastest, best goal scoring guy on the ice! He never stopped playing hockey…until he got epilepsy. He still loves it and thinks if he works hard enough and practices long enough he can be that famous hockey player. The problem is, he doesn’t have near the stamina or stability for hockey. Not to mention that getting hit and crunched against boards is beyond dangerous for someone in his condition and a liability beyond plausibility.
So what do I tell him? What do I do?
Be Real or Believe, that is the question.
Because does he really have a shot at becoming a professional hockey player?
No. No, he doesn’t.
When Buddha decides he’s going to do something, there’s no stopping him. It’s one of his best and worst qualities. It’s a humbling and proud moment when I hear him giving himself pep talks. “You can do this, Mitchell” he says. It’s awesome! I want him to believe anything is possible. I especially want him to believe it because I know that depression, anxiety, self medication, and suicidal thoughts are 1-5 chances higher in children with Epilepsy than other children between the ages of 5-15. I want him to know it’s hard AND believe he can get through the challenges!
I believe that if you put the energy you crave into the world it absolutely comes back. But, I also believe that how it comes back is not within our power, no matter how much I try and force it. I believe in hard work, determination, and passion. But I also believe there is a difference between following a passion through creative process and destiny. I have watched too many children grow up to not believe in destiny.
So what do I say? “Honey, you can be anything you want…except that”?
I’m constantly tweaking my position on this, but here is where I’ve landed today:
I do not tell him he can’t be a hockey player. I do not tell him he’s limited because of his condition. But, I don’t tell him he Can be a hockey player either. That might be wrong, but that’s where I am right now. I worry that if I don’t tell him he can then maybe he won’t put that energy specifically into the universe and I will be squelching his potential. I have been told that the more specific the energy the more chance you have to accomplish your dreams. But I will not lie to him. I just won’t. And for me, at this moment, the truth is he will never be a professional hockey player.
Instead I tell him anything is possible with hard work, trust and a little bit of luck. I applaud his successes and his failures. I tell him his condition is real and will help him discover his true strengths that will lead to his destiny. I tell him to listen to his body and look for the signs.
I tell him to dream big! The bigger the better! I tell him he has epilepsy but he’s good and worthy and wonderful.
I tell him the future is within his grasp but not in his control.
Maybe the person I should really be telling is me!