to grow a boy
"Some kids are born with their 'windows and doors' all open" ~ Michael Reist
This post took its time.
It was hard for me to write. It's a topic that reveals some of my greatest failings as a parent. That's never easy.
The first time I heard Michael Reist, he was on CBC radio speaking about differences in the way boys and girls perform in school. I had to pull my car over; I wanted to take in every word.
Our boy was three at the time and sandwiched between two sisters. He had just started preschool and was having a different experience than his sister: fidgeting during circle time, resisting transitions to new activites, struggling with communication.
My husband and I wondered: a phase? the teacher? the school?
But listening to Michael, it was clear the differences we noticed were common for boys. We were relieved.
So for the past several years, with the help of phenomenal teachers, we've navigated a sometimes bumpy road as our boy makes his way through a school system better-suited to girls and extroverted kids.
A few months ago, I heard Michael was on a speaking tour for his newly released book Raising Boys in a New Kind of World and I made it a priority to attend. I hadn't read it, but expected to come away from the seminar with some valuable information on boys, school, and technology (i.e. screen time).
I was sitting in the audience taking notes when he started to speak about raising emotionally healthy children and landed on the topic of introverted and sensitive personalities.
He said parents of introverted children often fall into the "If you look bad, I look bad" trap. My heart lurched and my pen froze above the page. There was no reason to write those words down; I already knew them.
I thought of the countless times I've made excuses for his silence. An adult would put him on the spot and I'd speak over top of the quiet: he's shy, he's tired, he's distracted. I would add a good-natured eye roll to dispel the awkwardness. Even worse were the times I would correct him in the moment or allow someone else to, while I stood silent beside him.
I didn't want people to have the wrong impression. I wanted them to know he was wonderful and that I was a good parent. I told myself I was doing the right thing. But it never felt good or right and in the quiet of night I would often shed tears for my boy.
I started to make changes, I could see my approach wasn't working.
Sure I could pat myself on the back for working with his teachers to find ways around his shyness, but every time I made excuses, I was showing him I wanted other people to accept him. And, worse, I was telling him I didn't.
As I sat listening to Michael speak, I knew I was moving in the right direction. I was already seeing positive changes. I was catching glimpses of the confidence I wanted my boy to have.
"When these children come into our lives, we should take special care of them. They are not disordered or deficient in any way. In fact, their sensitivity is a great gift, but one they will in a sense have to 'pay for' in a world that lives by mottos such as 'suck it up' and 'just do it' -- a world that explicitly rewards insensitivity." ~ Michael Reist
In his book, Reist writes about Teflon kids -- those who seem to possess confidence and strong core self-esteem. He believes this can be learned at home, in an environment where "parents have not taught their children to twist and contort themselves for social acceptance." He says these types of kids "have been given a great gift."
He's so right.
While I'm proud of the way I parent my children, there are so many words I wish I could take back.
I can only give these.
My boy. You walk through life with the windows and doors to your heart wide open. You face every situation heart-first. You are true to yourself. You are smart and funny and phenomenally creative. You are endlessly kind. You delight in every thing you are given. You are good. You are a gift.
I am so proud that you are mine. I always, always have been.
There is a lot more to be said about this amazing book, but I can't find the words through my tears. If you are the parent of a son, it will resonate with you. If you are lucky enough to be the parent of a sensitive child, it will move and maybe change you.
To hear more about the book from Michael Reist click here.
I am thrilled to be able to give one of my readers a brand new copy of Raising Boys in a New Kind of World -- simply leave a comment below and I will randomly select a winner before the new school year begins.
More from parenting