This year has been different from years past. It almost seems like all the changes we’ve made over the last few years have led us to the point we are at today. There have been some differences for my wife and me, but many of the differences revolve around our daughter.
The differences are huge too. Some of it is just due to her getting older, but a big part of it is about the changes we made in our life that brought us to where we are today.
Our daughter, Faith, is an only child. My wife, Dream, and I made the decision to have one child. It seems like there is a cultural norm to have multiple kids, but as you can see we try to steer clear of many cultural norms and do what we decide suits us best. Since she is an only child, it has been important for us to make sure she gets plenty of play time with other kids.
When we sold our house and moved away, Faith had to give up the friends she made during the first five years of her life. It was hard for her as she felt the sadness of leaving her friends. We moved mid school year while she was in kindergarten. She was also battling Selective Mutism (SM), although it wasn’t diagnosed as such at the time.
The move was hard for her, and she spoke very little during the remaining part of her school year at the new school. She missed the space she had in our old house and she missed her friends. We found places to visit that helped with the space issue. We signed her up for some gymnastics classes so she could run and jump and tumble. We also spent a lot of time at public parks, of which we have four favorites within biking distance.
Over the summer between kindergarten and first grade, we received the diagnosis of SM. This diagnosis gave us a wealth of new information and resources to draw from. Now we understood why she couldn’t speak, and how it was rooted in social anxiety. We weighed our options and decided to put her on Prozac to relieve the anxiety. It’s always a tough decision to use drugs to medicate your child, and we took our time to consider our options. From the results we’ve seen, I believe it was the right decision. The medication suppresses her anxiety, which allows her to learn the skills she needs to be more confident and comfortable when speaking.
First grade was a complete turnaround from her kindergarten experience. Before school started we spoke to the principal and requested that Faith be placed with a teacher that would work with her and wouldn’t pressure her to speak. (This is in contrast to her kindergarten teacher who we later found out had threatened to send her to the principal’s office if she didn’t speak to her.)
With the anxiety suppressed and with an appropriate classroom environment Faith flourished. She made friends like never before. Dream helped arrange play dates with kids in the area. Faith also started cheerleading and got to flex her voice in a way that didn’t bring all the attention on her. In addition to the therapeutic benefits of cheer she made more new friends.
In the middle of her first grade year, we moved to a new apartment. She remained at the same school, and the new place put us closer to school and closer to a few of her friends. The first move (from our house to an apartment) was good, but came with some emotional baggage. This second move to a new apartment was simply good. We are within walking distance to one of her best friend’s house, and within an easy drive of her other best friend.
The place we are living now is nearly perfect. It’s right off a main side street, and it makes it easy for her friends to drop by. We even see some of her friends drive by when we are sitting on our porch.
This has been the year of an apartment full of kids. It seems like Faith has a friend or cousin visiting nearly every day. Weekends are especially busy with Faith usually having friends sleeping over or with her sleeping over with friends or cousins at their homes.
Faith is thriving with friendships and play, and I’m so thankful that everything has worked out so well for us and for her.
I am also taking the opportunity to learn and better myself. I find I have some lingering narcissistic tendencies left over from growing up and being around my father. I often have expectations of how children should behave, but there really isn’t any one way. Each child is a result of his or her genetic makeup combined with the influences of parents and family. I’ve tried to relax my expectations to: Don’t lie to me and respect us and our belongings.
Faith had a friend and a friend-of-the-friend over the other day. He was looking in our fridge for a drink and he grabbed a beer. He told me that his parents didn’t have any beer so they said he could drink it at his friend’s house. (This kid is 8 years old.) Of course that didn’t fly and I told him to put it back, but that lie and a couple others he told will prevent him from being invited back.
Faith’s other friends each have their quirks that would have annoyed me more in the past than they do today. I’m really making an effort to be more tolerant. Several of them get a little too caught up in wanting adult attention. One has some food hang-ups and doesn’t like to eat much of anything. For example, he likes pizza, but only if it’s from certain places, and he used to like chicken nuggets from McDonalds until someone told him they changed the recipe. These things are part of what makes them unique.
We basically have an open door policy on kids in our home. Anyone that wants to play with Faith, and that Faith wants to play with, is welcome to come over anytime.
Selling our house and moving to an apartment has made much of this possible. We have more time to entertain and keep an eye on the kids. We also have more money so we can include these kids in meals at home, meals out, and any of the various activities we decided to do.
It’s been a busy, fun-filled, and kid-filled year and it’s all been possible because we rethought our dreams and changed them into what we have today.