Hitting the Nail on the Head (or in the Head?)
You know that funny video, “It’s not about the nail…”?
Sometimes I have felt like that, when talking to some of my friends about my kids’ issues.
People always want to offer advice to fix the issues or to fix my parenting.
I have a friend who was clearly annoyed at our video (“Sh*t Moms of Kids with ‘Issues’ Say”) and the fact that we seemed to be “pampering” or catering to or being manipulated by our children. Her child had had some similar issues, particularly with regard to homework, and she had cracked the whip. She clearly thought I should have done the same.
It’s very true that there are techniques I probably could have used to address that issue more effectively.
And to her, I was (and am) just like the woman in the video … sitting there with a very obvious nail in my forehead, and ignoring the very obvious – and very simple – solution:
It’s so obvious! What’s your problem? And why are you sitting there complaining about it? Just pull it out! Crack the whip and make him do the homework! No ifs, ands or buts about it!
BUT. The real issue for me, and the real issue for this blog, is that IT’S NOT ABOUT THE HOMEWORK.
The homework issue, and the phone calls from school, and the million appointments, etc., that we show in our video … those are frustrating and infuriating and difficult and crazy-making things (to us, to our kids, and to those watching it all from the outside).
They are NOTHING compared with the pain of watching your child be ostracized, marginalized, excluded and bullied.
They are NOTHING compared with the helplessness you feel when your child is almost literally trying to crawl out of his or her skin, or crawl into a shell and never come out.
And they are NOTHING — NOTHING — compared with the terror you feel when your child is so depressed and overwhelmed that you fear he (or she) may hurt himself.
So, yeah, maybe you can fix the homework issue by cracking the whip.
I’m much more concerned about the much more important things that can crack …. and how to fix THEM. Or, hopefully, to keep them from cracking in the first place.
The bottom line for our blog is this:
Our kids’ issues can make things so difficult for them that their lives really suck.
And our lives can really suck when our kids’ lives suck.
That’s it. Just an acknowledgement of that.
And of the fact that we will do whatever we need to do to make it suck a little less, so that they – and we – can get through it … without completely cracking.
Because while many of these issues can, and often do, get better with time … some of those cracks can be permanent.
And perhaps most important ….. until they do get better … and even beyond (because for many of us it never really goes away, even though for some of us it does) …
We know that it is our mission to show that, throughout this journey and beyond, there is a huge power in connecting with other people who are also dealing with “the nail” — and who know, without a shadow of a doubt, and without ever having to say it to each other, that the bottom line is …
It is not about the nail at all.
And if you don’t understand that …. then you don’t have a nail in your forehead.
I have a kid with lotsa issues and I get this video. But I can also see how parents of kids w/o issues would have a hard time grasping this. Yes, sometimes it is about the nail, but the difference is how it’s removed. To the parent with issueless kids, just pull the damn nail out and move on. For us parents of kids w/ issues, no rational way of removing the nail will work, and even if we do everything right and remove it, there’s another nail in the head the very next day.
Thanks so much for your comment. It does look so obvious from the outside. And some people are honestly trying to help; others are being judgmental when they offer advice. But what people who haven’t “been there” don’t really get, I think, is that the nail (or the homework issue, or the tantrum, or the school refusal, or whatever) — that obvious thing sticking out of the forehead — is really just the SYMPTOM of an underlying problem. And that problem manifests itself in — as you point out — lots of different nails all over (some of which are not as immediately apparent to the eye, and/or are just waiting to pop out). So you can’t just say that if you fix that symptom, you fix the problem. It’s like putting a spot treatment on hives, or putting anesthetic on a toothache, or whatever. There is an underlying issue that may not be apparent to other people on the outside … and sometimes, it’s not even apparent to us as parents … and we keep searching and searching and searching for more answers … and trying whatever spot treatments we can find (they won’t really work, though), as well as ways to treat the underlying issue itself …..
When my daughter was first going through the whole diagnostic process, the doctor looked me in the eye and said “there’s no silver bullet,” and he really was not kidding. You pull the nail out by adding a new medication or therapy and five more pop out in unexpected and unpredictable places. And it really isn’t about the nail anyway. My daughter functions so well, but you know, she really does still have nails sticking out all over. I think the difference is that she’s learned to rock those nails!
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