As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the past few months have been particularly challenging for one of my sons. I’m constantly thinking about ways to help him.
I realized today that there is one thing that I want to help him learn: knowing his limits. This may sound contrary to the popular notion that we should tell our kids they can achieve anything they put their mind to. Dreams are great, but on any given day, in a given situation, with a given set of constraints, we all have limits. Tomorrow we can change these limits, but today we still need to deal with them.
I’d like my son to be able to recognize when he’s in an environment that has become too simulating. I want to teach him to recognize the feeling that we all know as anxiety. I’d like him to realize when he’s getting tired. I’d like him to be able to identify situations that begin to cause him stress. I’d like him know when he’s had enough.
He’s actually already learning to recognize all of these limitations. He probably recognizes them as well as anyone his age. The challenge for him is that the environment exceeds his ability to tolerate it more often than it does for peers.
I really don’t care that his limits are ‘different’. I’d just want to help him recognize them so he can adapt / avoid / adjust or whatever works for him. He has helped me learn a great deal about my own limits. This past weekend, my family did some errands and visiting and spent a lot of time in the car. On Saturdayâ€™s trip, I found myself listening to a radio station that my wife chose while hearing periodic shouts in the back seat along with music playing from a game boy. We had lots of stop and go traffic mixed in with rain to add further stimulation. We arrived home and I was feeling more than a little agitated. I realized I was at my limit and I told my wife “I need to punch out for a while”. I had some downtime and got back to my ‘happy place’. We did the same routine on Sunday. This time my wife drove and I brought my iPod. It was a much better trip.
I would have never recognized my own limitations in this situation if it hadn’t been for my son. Without realizing it, he taught me to recognize when my environment gets to be too much. He helped me learn that those limits are OK and that I can chose how to adjust.
Its time for me to help him learn the same thing.