Since we spoke two weeks ago, my relationship with my (neurodiverse) child has completely transformed.
It’s me that’s different.
I realized that you were right. He’s not broken. And it’s not my job to fix him.
And if I want to have a relationship with him in the future, when he’s an adult, I have to stop trying.
So now I am watching my own reactions instead of trying to fix him. I’m realizing all the unconscious thoughts about him that I have: that I am a bad mother because he eats such a limited diet, because he’s on screens so much, because he’s not what I consider to be a good friend.
I’ve dropped the rope and I’m enjoying him so much more as a result. I can’t believe it.”
The first step in learning to enjoy our children and our parenting experience more is to “drop the rope.” It’s my favorite expression in parenting because it applies to everything.
It doesn’t mean that you stop holding boundaries. It means you stop caring so much about your child’s reaction to said boundaries. You hold the boundary regardless of how they react.
It also means you figure out which boundaries you REALLY care about, and let go of the rest. For now. You can choose to pick some of those boundaries up again later, but you can’t prioritize everything right now.
So maybe you focus on 3 goals for now: getting your child to school on time, getting your child to bed on time at night, and brushing your child’s teeth every night.
You let go (for now) of the goals of less screen time, of eating a more varied diet, of being a better friend (what does that even mean, anyway?).
Dropping the rope means tuning into yourself, noticing your own reactions to things, and taking care of your own nervous system without lashing out at your loved ones.
Dropping the rope means, ultimately, loving yourself more than you love your goal of your child doing “better.” It's only through being more kind and compassionate with yourself, first, that you can show up intentionally for your child.
And it turns out that if you can do this first, your child is a LOT more likely to tune in and cooperate on the things you really care about.
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Abby Wolfson is a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified child sleep consultant and certified life coach for parents. She divides her time between Brooklyn, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.