True Confession (to you and to myself): I care too much about what other people think. I know I shouldn't, and I'm working on finding my confidence independently from the input of others -- but I'm just not there yet. I want people to like me, to like my kids, to think I'm worthwhile as a friend, a wife, a teacher, and a mother. Being a mother is really the first role I've had that I value enough to really WANT to be good at yet have more days feeling incompetent than feeling confident. I know some of that comes from having a special needs child (I've written before about the feeling that the rug had been pulled from under me and how little I felt I knew once I learned about Josiah's SPD) but I believe I'd struggle with this some anyway. And I carry that insecurity with me into most of the rest of the relationships in my life, especially my friendships.
Particularly on those days (weeks -- heck, the last few months especially) where Josiah is having an especially tough time managing his behavior, it's really hard for me to muster the courage to stay sociable. On the one hand, my extroverted self really needs time interacting with other adults, having conversation and filling my energy tanks. On the other hand, I'm terrified of all the issues I may have to deal with having Josiah around other people, ranging from the frustrations of handilng his squabbles with other kids to the embarassment of his strange behaviors. I often spend the majority of the time with terribly split attention (focused more on monitoring my child than on any interaction with my friend) or feeling frustrated/embarassed that I wasn't monitoring him closely enough to prevent/avoid/deal with whatever challenge Josiah has presented.
There are plenty of days I avoid getting together with other people altogether, and many other days where I'm either really tempted to call off a social date, or actually do cancel it. I've had enough bad experiences to fear how we will be received, or at least question how effectively I will handle it (pragmatically and/or emotionally) when the challenges arise in front of other people.
Three separate times this week I've had something planned with friends or acquaintances and found myself nearly calling it off because of a frustration morning/day with Josiah. All three times I talked myself into going anyway, and all three times I was glad I did. No, those situations were not without issues -- there was misbehavior, and strange behavior, at every opportunity -- but I found less judgment and more grace than I expected. And I found that I actually felt fairly good about myself, even though I know I make mistakes in parenting and am certain I made a few then, too.
Maybe I'm making progress where my insecurities are concerned, beginning to find my own confidence in who I am that isn't dependent on the approval of others. Maybe I'm giving my friends and those around me the credit they really deserve for being more gracious and forgiving of me than I often am of myself. Maybe I'm forcing myself to just "get over it" because I refuse to deprive my kids of life experiences because of my own hangups. Most likely it's a combination of all those things coming together at the right time.
Oh, I'm sure there will still be those days. Days that I feel so discouraged and defeated that I don't want to leave the house, and days that I will follow through on that discouragement and actually stay in. Days that I question my competence as a mom, and doubt the hands of friendship others are offering me. Days that I'd rather be comfortable (by avoiding my insecurities in public) than take some personal risks so my boys can experience life. But I'm hoping that I'm moving in the right direction, that those days will be fewer and farther between. And for today, I'm thankful for friends who let me be me and let my kids by who they are as well, and invite us back to spend time with again anyway :)
Thanks for joining me along the journey! I'd love to hear what you want to know ... do you have questions about sensory processing disorder, gluten-free/dairy-free diets, homeschooling, faith, life in general? Send me a note or post a comment and I'll try to write something that addresses your interests and questions!