There he was, my 6 year old son—latex gloves on and cast cutting scissors in hand—at work beside the orthopaedic tech that was making a cast for my daughter. I must admit that, right then and there, I got a glimpse of what the future could hold for him. The passion and focus in his movements, the determination in his eyes, the full-on emersion in his new found possibility—he looked like a natural.
But I was on edge. I felt like I needed him to stop. I didn’t want him to touch anything. I wanted him to just sit down and behave. To give the tech some space so she could do her work.
His whole life up until this point, I’ve perceived him as “not yet able or knowledgeable enough” to do things on his own—especially things he hadn’t done before. I unknowingly created a world where he continuously had to prove himself to me. To show me that he could before I would let him. A world where things like failure or getting it wrong weren’t favoured.
Why? Because he could make a mess, he could get hurt, he could upset someone, he could offend someone, he could—fill in the blank. And all of that isn’t actually about him—it’s actually about me. Because if he makes a mess then I have to clean it up. If he gets hurt then I would feel like a terrible parent. If he upsets someone then I have to make it right. If he offends someone then I get judged. I’ve been preventing him from experiencing so many things because I wanted him to learn how to do it right—well at least that’s what I thought. But the reality is, I just wanted him to do things right because it made me comfortable. Because when I am comfortable, I know how to manage my life, my feelings, and my outcomes—things become predictable.
While I watched him work on his sister’s cast, I felt my reality collide and clash with a whole new reality. A reality where kids are treated like kings and queens. Where they are empowered and seen as capable. Where they are respected. Where they are seen as able-enough. As knowledgeable-enough. A reality where trust is given to them—not earned by them. At the Children’s Hospital, kids are given a voice. They are the centre of the universe. It’s a place where we, as parents, are just there to assist—to translate what our kids are trying to say, and to hold and comfort them when needed. It’s like the entire world flipped.
In my reality, if he would just do things the way I wanted them done then everything would be great—for me but not for him. And in the other reality, he is empowered and believed-in and supported, and he is seen as capable of doing the unimaginable. The same kid. Pulled between two realities. One where he needs to “sit-down-and-shut-up” and prove himself, and in the other, he is a king.
The thing is, I’ve lived my entire life feeling like I needed to prove myself. To show others that I could. To earn their respect. To earn their trust. And only once I had that, would I feel validated and worthy enough and be able to move forward. So it’s no surprise that I unknowingly created my son’s world in the same way—with the same rules and the same expectations. I am training him to become just like me. Yet deep down, all I ever wanted for him was to be able to do all the things I couldn’t do, and for him to know everything he needed to be successful—so he could be trusted and believed in.
What I realized from all of this is that a completely different reality exists in each situation. And that I have the power to choose which one I want to live in. We are all really good at recreating what we are comfortable with—even if it holds us, and the ones we love, back. We all have a choice in how we want to live and perceive situations in our lives. So which reality will you choose? Will you choose the “sit-down-and-shut-up” and continue the perpetual shit-making machine? or will you choose to see the king or queen in you and truly live the life you were meant to live—and allow others to also live theirs?