Tog bag teachings in failure

It’s 7.40am on a Thursday in April and I’m sitting in my car outside school, clutching Aiden’s swimming tog bag in my lap. I had illegally messaged the school asking if I could drop it off for him. This was a big no no, and I’m usually a stickler for rules but in this instance my irrational side was triggered and on standby.

This week marked a turning point in my life, but more so for Aiden. The parent-teacher phone call (because, you know… Covid) brought me on the verge of tears.  This time though, they were not tears of despair, sadness or hopelessness but instead I felt joy, elation, relief and proud. Incredibly proud.
Two years ago it was a different story.
Today I am humbled at the strength, resilience and determination shown by Aiden on this journey of ours.

Two years ago we sat on the kitchen floor crying and holding each other after yet another meltdown and I promised him I would do everything I could to help him. (Read: Breaking Point) I would do all I could from my side to help him find his joy, to embrace life and be the best version he could be. That’s all I asked. I had my own meltdowns in the process, introduced him to therapy and medication, moved us back home to the comfort and support of family and friends in Durban, and got him into a school with an excellent remedial unit in the hopes that he would be considered.

But I could only do so much.

The rest would be up to him. He needed to understand how his brain worked, what his triggers were and why routine and consistency were important. He needed to navigate the anxiety of yet another new school and making new friends. He is the one who has to take medication twice daily or suffer the “all fall downs” of forgotten tablets. 

In January, in consultation with his therapist, it was decided that the school’s remedial unit would be best for him. Sometimes gifts appear in unlikely forms. The delay to the start of the school year was a blow to all of us parents, but in hindsight it worked in our favour as it gave us the time to submit an application. It also gave Aiden the time to adjust and to reframe the idea of being in the “stupid” class. Kids can be so cruel. When school did eventually commence, Aiden had reframed his initial thoughts and was genuinely excited to start Grade 5. He took off like a Boeing and has been soaring steady since.

Back to the parent-teacher ten minute allocated call. We didn’t need the full 10 minutes. This boy is thriving. Not only is his confidence up, a lot, he is building up the confidence of his classmates, and is showing leadership potential. This is where my orbital sockets  suddenly sprung a leak.  He has chair duties in the morning- first thing – and so “drill sergeants” us out the house in the mornings, right on schedule, lest we get there after the school opens it’s gates. He’s understanding Maths concepts, is ahead of his homework schedule. And his concentration in class is good. What the actual..

Aiden : First term Grade 5 #nailed.
Aiden’s Mom : ummm not so much hey

Back to me sitting in the car, outside school like a stalker, harassing the staff – over a forgotten swimming tog bag. Forgetting something like that would have been a huge trigger point for a major meltdown, shattering Aiden’s fragile confidence and ruining a perfectly good Thursday in April. But is it now? How would he navigate this in his current state of mind? Well we will never know because I got flustered, and went straight to my overcompensating, enabling, “smooth over the situation at all costs” mode and fixed it for him.

As I sheepishly handed over the swimming tog bag at the gate I felt ashamed for judging Aiden on his past actions, and for being too quick to act on my trigger points.

Clearly I still have some way to go in accepting that with progress comes change and realising what once was isn’t what is now.

The things I needed to do then is not the same things I need to do now. Aiden is growing up, and although I’ve helped to lay a foundation for this, he too has worked at developing tools and now I need to learn to let him test these tools. He needs space to figure out how to deal with life’s little mishaps and sidesteps. He needs to learn responsibility and I need to realise when to back off. Fixing his problems won’t facilitate this. Failure will.
It took me forty years to figure this out.
The responsible thing for me to do right now is to let him fail in order to flourish.

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