We are coming to the end of close to three weeks of tantruming and illness. It’s been tough, but God has met with me in this time, and it’s been a breath of fresh air. At this point in our gentle parenting journey, I’ve realised that it’s time to focus more on boundaries and limits for Noah. Somehow through the difficulty of putting him to bed these few weeks (a process which takes less than half an hour with others but can stretch to up to 2-3 hrs with me), I realised that the time has come to spend less time second guessing what he needs and to emphasise more on how he needs to obey our authority as parents.
The interesting thing about all this is that it’s so much about timing. I know there are schools of thought about how children need to be taught to obey without question from birth, and are happiest within the boundaries of adult – imposed structures. Yet I feel that the time we have spent this far trusting Noah to communicate to us what he needs instead of trying to train him a certain way has been so necessary. I feel more confident now in reading him, and telling the difference between what he really needs, and what he is just demanding as part of childish wilfulness. With this confidence, I have the conviction to see through the limits that we do impose on him, and persevere in maintaining them regardless of his protests.
The whole experience of putting him in school/ childcare has yielded such rich learning for me. When we first started him off in March, he was only 18 months old, technically still an infant. Of course there were tears, and much guilt for putting him in school on my part, but I was comforted when he seemed to adapt. All these issues came flooding back in September though, when he went through a bout of fighting school intensely, and is now articulate enough to say things like he is afraid of being hit by friends, or that his teachers don’t like him. All these lines strike fear in a parent’s heart. Given that I was never fully convinced that school is really necessary for him at this age, these worries threw me into a tailspin of doubt that made it difficult to fight the tears each school morning.
After a lot of soul searching and seeking others’ opinions, I was prompted at a particular cg session on prayer to trust God in this situation. We pray with Noah on the daily walk to school, for protection and favour. If I were to keep him from school out of fear, what would that be teaching him about how God responds to our prayers? Having done the necessary fact finding with Noah’s teachers, we had determined that there were no extraordinarily negative experiences for him beyond the usual challenges of a toddler having to adjust to separation and being in an environment where things are not fully within his control. So, in order to allow him the opportunity to experience how God does indeed answer our smallest prayers and cares enough to tackle or fears, I determined to stick it out with school despite his protests.
Lo and behold, shortly after settling my heart and mind in the issue, Noah fell ill with a cough that lasted almost a month. It is his most serious illness yet, being the first time that the phlegm got into his lungs and with terrible vomiting almost every night for two weeks. So after all that agonising about whether to commit to sending him to school more regularly, it turned out that he was physically unable to attend school for more than three weeks. This would mean that all my previous efforts would go down the drain as the long break would surely mean getting him to adapt to school all over again.
Amazingly, God knows best. Though the period of illness was hard for our family, with all in the family under the weather and finding it hard to cope, Noah developed so much in those few weeks. He was probably also going through a developmental phase at the time which made his tantrums more intense and nap times so difficult. As a side effect of being cooped up at home for so long, I think Noah also started to appreciate the activities and people in school a little more!
Some signs that convinced me he is now more ready for school:
- He has begun involving soft toys in his play more, assigning roles to them. This demonstrates a readiness for more social play, where previously he was pretty happy being the only agent in his play activities.
- He has started to enjoy activities like painting and reading a whole lot more, where previously his attention would have wandered within five min of starting an activity.
- He can articulate his thoughts in a lot more detail and depth, so I think this means he can communicate his needs better to his teachers.
- He is starting to be able to spend time playing on his own, where previously he would need someone with him all the time. He is also ok being left alone with the helper, and is clearly secure in the knowledge that papa and mama will return whenever they are done with whatever they are doing.
- He is able to lie down, close his eyes and drift off to sleep without any cuddling or rocking. This is a relatively new development following our bout of nap time battles. He also understands the routine in school where he sees his classmates prepare their mattresses and have their milk in prep for the afternoon nap. All this tells me he is ready to try napping in school soon.
So, it’s now day four since Noah’s been back to school and though he still resists school initially, he usually tells us that he has enjoyed his time there when we ask him about it afterwards. Moral of the story for me: Trust God and His timing. Also, when going through particularly challenging moments, trust that the child is simply working through issues to get to the next stage of his development. No need to play the blame game or take on mummy guilt for the way things are not going well.
Parenting is a journey of trust indeed, learning to trust the child, trust our own instincts as parents, trust other caregivers, and most of all, trust that God, who is in charge, really cares about the smallest details to do with our wellbeing. Without that trust in Him, every other kind of trust is so easily shaken and we find ourselves lost and out of control. That’s my takeaway through this season.
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