The Hidden Greatness and My Saddest Day

Way before I became a parent, I could have guessed that raising a child would involve, happiness and fear… joy and sadness… laughter and tears. I watched enough 90210 and Full House to know parenting Isn’t easy. I’ll be honest, I pictured this parenting thing being a lot easier than it has been. The highs can be so high, but the lows can be so low.

Realizing that I’m not going to raise the perfect child… the by the book, meet the developmental milestones has been tough especially for the elementary school principal who has spent his entire life working to improve young children’s academic and social/ emotional development has been hard. Then again I also am raising one of the smartest little boys I’ve ever been around. I’ve known 4th graders who can’t follow directions as well as jax does. Following three step directions, even ones that are not sequential is a common occurrence for him. He smiles all the time, laughs often and loves his family and Buster and Max. Those are things that can’t be taught and for that I’m so proud and lucky. 

Disclaimer: I don’t want this blog to turn into a pity party or make people think I have this horrible struggle each day. I don’t. I have an amazing son and he has two great parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles who support him and worry about him and brag about him daily.  

I’ve described my fears about not being able to help my son. As someone who has spent my life working to improve children’s academic and social/emotional development. I’ve dedicated so much of myself to other people’s children (and I will continue to do that)… I just wish I could help my son more than I am.

We have so much fun together. I can make him laugh with just a look… and he can make me laugh just by laughing. But the times when we get stuck… neither of us able to figure out what it is the other is trying to say… when he is trying so hard to tell me something… to watch the frustration build as he tries harder and harder to convey his message… it’s heart breaking. It’s been one of if not the worst feeling as a parent for me so far.  

I sat three feet from my son, I listened intently as he “talked” to me about something. I talked back… he listened and then answered with some words that were understandable and others that were not. I answered him and asked him things to illicit more conversation. I watched as his expression slowly changed as he realized I wasn’t quite understanding him. Frustration began to set in, which turned into tears. Tears that no parent wants to see. The tears that can’t be fixed with a hug, or a bandaid, or a few words of encouragement… Those are the worst.  

Immediately I tried to process a million things… What was he trying to say? Am I not listening hard enough? What does that sign he’s making mean? Can he point to what he wants? What is he saying? I found myself asking him things over and over like we were playing 20 Questions. It was a horrible, helpless feeling. Stephanie and I had tears streaming down our faces and Jackson gave up hope and collapsed face first onto the couch and cried. 

It was my lowest moment as a dad. I had to help my son and couldn’t. I struggle with balancing letting him deal with things on his own and protecting him from harm. But this was different. It was just sadness. It was a little boy trying so hard to be understood. It was my little boy trying to tell me something. It was a difficult night. 

Then each new day is a new opportunity for improvement. Frustration and sadness are part of the parenting process. I know he’s got those words in there somewhere… and they’ll come when he’s ready!  So I’ll just keep the faith and keep encouraging my little man to be the best he can be… even if the encouragement comes with some tears (mostly mine). 

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