Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: Jorinde Berben
Today is my son’s 8th birthday. O. is a special boy, full of energy, with an expansive vocabulary, smart and funny in his own specific way.
He also struggles with many things other children don’t struggle with to the same degree. One of those things is that he finds it hard to distinguish between what’s outside of him and what’s inside of him. The line between his fantasy and our shared reality is sometimes paper-thin, or even non-existent. What happens in a dream might, to him, feel like it happened in real life and all emotional reactions to that dream get carried into our waking life (usually right away at sunrise).
Sometimes, what happens outside is translated to what goes on inside as well. Often, it’s not completely clear to him, or to us who look after him, what’s going on exactly. It’s a bit of a riddle.
The way my son responds to events outside or to feelings inside is unique to him. He may get angry where others would be sad, or he may run away when he really needs to feel connected and safe.
Since January, we’re not the only ones trying to solve these riddles with him. He now goes to therapy twice a week and the school is also an active member in the team we’ve formed around him. Still, he feels most comfortable at home, with his parents, so we get to see more puzzle pieces than other people.
Solving riddles and dealing with the effect of unsolved riddles can be incredibly taxing. So much so, that I think I close my eyes to how much energy it takes exactly because it would be too overwhelming to deal with.
But there is also much to be gained from this riddle-solving we engage in on a daily basis. We learn to listen, not just with our ears but also with our minds, hearts and gut. We can show our children, all of them, that we really care about what goes on inside them, that it can be difficult to figure out, and that that’s okay, too. We learn to adapt to his needs, and to protect our own boundaries when he oversteps them time and time again. We learn to look beyond our own projections, beyond what we expect, to what is really there, what’s really going on.
My children have been my greatest teachers in life. They’ve held up the mirror to my face so often I sometimes mistake them for myself.
For that, I am incredibly grateful (even if, at times, I’m also really sick of it).