Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Letting Go

I had a revelation yesterday in gymnastics class.
 But first let me back up to Monday when Addison had her preschool transition meeting. It all went beautifully, and Addison even showed off all her skills (unusual for her to do during these types of meetings). Seriously, she was charming, happy, talkative, and mothering her doll in the corner when we didn't need her immediate attention.

At the end of the meeting, the special educator coordinator asked me if there was anything else that I wanted them to know about Addison. At first I was speechless, trying to figure out how to sum up the awesomeness that I see in Addison in a few sentences so they would really truly be able to help her learn.
 "She's a very manipulative learner." I started explaining slowly while they stared at me quizzically.

"She'll pretend she doesn't understand what you say even though she does. She'll resist when you do hand-over-hand learning because she wants to do it all on her own. She'll scream and fight if you try to get her to do something the way you want her to do it- even if she has all of the skills to do what you're asking. She'll act like she can't do what you're asking her to do but as soon as you turn your back and walk away she'll do it when she thinks you're not watching"

They started to nod slowly, but still I continued (sometimes I have a hard time knowing when to wrap things up cough cough)
 "She is very stubborn in when she will show off her knowledge. She's very smart and can do way more than she lets on. But little miss Addison will only reveal her brilliance when SHE wants to reveal it. And then she will do it in HER way which will probably look a little bit different than what your way might be, but she can do it and she does understand."
They wrote down what I said, and I worried if I explained it right. But overall I felt like that was something important to share with her new teachers.

And then with that meeting fresh on my mind, I approached this week's gymnastics class with dread wondering if this should be one of her last gymnastic classes. These last few weeks Addison has acted out again and again. Last week I finally figured out that she was trying to tell me something through her frustrated screams and wiggles to get free, but for the life of me I couldn't figure out what. I decided that she just didn't want to be in gymnastics class, and that maybe we should mark down the lessons that she has learned and walk away for a bit until she's older.

But then right before class today I remembered what I told the transition meeting as I stood on my self-righteous soap box, declaring that I had my daughter all figured out (face palm). And I realized that I hadn't been practicing what I preach.

I realized that I had to trust Addison. We have been learning how to act in this class for two months, and she gets it- she understands- she can obey. But I refused to let her go to SHOW me that she can follow instructions on her own, and she was spending the class venting frustration because she couldn't do on her own what she knew to do. I guess I was afraid of what she would do/where she would go if I just took my hands away and waited for her to do the next thing. But yesterday I did.

I let go and let Addison participate in her own way. 

Yes, we waited for her turn. Yes, we did the obstacle course. Yes, we followed the class. I'm not saying that I didn't tell her "no" when she wanted to cut in on someone else's turn or pulled her back to class after she wondered too far away- because I totally did both of those things. But in those in-between moments when I was so afraid of what she would do and who she would bother I let her go. When she did the obstacle course and skipped over some of the stations, I let her go because it didn't hurt anyone (they were all on the other half of the course) and the one she was jumping to was one that she could really DO and enjoy. When I gave her the next instruction, I let go and just waited for her to decide to do it on her own instead of physically guiding her into it. And then after she did a complete round of the difficult "bar" obstacle course, I let her just go and walk around for a bit. She was telling me that she needed a break, and I listened and let go.

During her break from the class, she found a ball and started kicking it around. I think she had as much fun with this as she did the rest of the class (which she totally rocked, by the way).
 And then after a few minutes on her own, she rejoined the class. Participating in her way but still obeying. 

I think the problem was that I was expecting her to act exactly like all the other children, so I would hold her in place or flap her arms or legs when their arms or legs flapped. I would INSIST that she do every station of the obstacle course even if it wasn't even fair to expect her to be able to do them all. I wouldn't let her express herself in the confines of the class because I didn't trust what she would choose to do with that expression. I was afraid that she would stand out from the other kids in a bad way.

But I forgot that Addison might have a different way of showing her participation- her obedience- her gymnastic skills. I forgot about her "learning manipulation". And she spent the last three classes crying- trying to remind me of her unique learning style.

"LET GO MOM! I got this."

And I finally listened. Really listened to what she was trying to say. In doing so- I learned a lot.
 (here she is getting her well-deserved stamps 1 for good listening 1 for good gymnastics)
 She didn't do things exactly like the rest of the class did them. She marched to her own beat. But I could see her working to obey. I could see her processing instructions and obeying them in HER WAY- not mine. It's OK that her model behavior will look different than theirs. Because she's different- and I'm OK with that too.

I was so proud of her in this week's gymnastics class.
Just because Addison struggles with communicating with words doesn't mean that she isn't communicating through other means. And I forgot to listen. It's no wonder she was frustrated. 
 Because yes, while gymnastics class is there to teach her important skills about participating in a class, it doesn't take away her individuality, and she should be able to participate in her own way.

...and a mother who realizes that this is a good thing (-:

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