“Will everything be okay?” Parents and educators of 2e children often worry over this thought. 2e adults wonder about this in their personal and professional lives. If only we could know that our kids, our students, ourselves would turn out “okay” after all is said and done. I think I’ve found a way to frame and tame these fears. It’s simple, really. I’ve built a time machine in my mind.
For as long as I can remember my son has thought about time travel. He talks about black holes and figuring out how to travel in different dimensions. He doesn’t know this, but sometimes I do the same thing. Like if I’m running at home and I’m leaving for vacation in a few days or weeks. I imagine myself running in the vacation location. Then when I get there, I harken back to when I was running at home thinking about running on vacation. It’s a fun game and a way to trick my brain into thinking it traveled through time forwards and backwards.
One more anecdote before I relate all this to parenting, teaching and being 2e. Bear with me. My mother-in-law is a Holocaust survivor. She as a small child along with her brother, parents and several extended family members lived through harrowing experiences. Ultimately, they survived on false papers pretending to be non-Jews out in the open just about a mile away from the second largest death camp in Europe. I cannot imagine the stress of the unknown for them. They were hiding out in the open, and they were sheltering relatives very much under cover and in constant fear of discovery. Those families not only survived but thrive today in the United States and Canada – enjoying their families and success in their professional and personal lives. If only they could have time-traveled and known how it all would have turned out. The amount of stress, fear, anger, panic they could have avoided would have been tremendous.
Okay, so what does this have to do with raising, teaching and being 2e? We all know anxiety can run deep and wide in our population. Whether it’s primary or secondary to the challenges we face, it’s there. We must temper the anxiety, we must acknowledge the great efforts we are making to succeed and help our students and children succeed. Most of all, we must recognize the immense efforts our children make each and every day. Those efforts are the resilience that will help them in their current and future lives. But, if they go unnoticed, if they feel their efforts are never enough, they will become discouraged and they won’t see what’s right in front of them – their incredible efforts every day, against odds, to succeed.
If you’re reading this I’m willing to bet at some point in your life you’ve worried about your 2e child, 2e student or 2e self. Have you taken stock of all you’ve done for your child, your student, even yourself? Start by all you’ve read and tried to learn. Remember all the conversations you’ve had with your child’s teachers, your student’s parents, your spouse, your relatives, yourself. Remember how you’ve picked yourself up each day and started fresh – with hope and determination? Remember how you thought THIS would be the thing that would “make everything better?” That was not all for naught. That is determination. That is will. That is the motion that propels you forward and makes change.
Now think about your child/student. He wakes up every morning. He goes to school (or used to go to school). He tries every day to “fit in.” He tries every day to not do that thing that makes everyone upset. He laughs. He cries. He reads. He escapes into music or art or video games – whatever numbs the pain and stops the crashing thoughts in his head reliving the hardships of his day. These are all strategies to succeed – some are more acceptable or conducive to success. Some might be considered impediments to success. But what needs to be seen is the effort, the human nature sheer desire to feel good and to persevere.
Nope, we don’t have crystal balls. We still have to work hard at what we are trying to accomplish. In wartime Poland, even if they knew how things would turn out, they still would have had to take all the precautions, used all their strategies and remained vigilant in order to survive. My family didn’t have the time or luxury to reflect on how hard they were trying, they just had to keep at it. They didn’t have time travel or even perspective to see how things could turn out. But I hope they allowed themselves to revel in each major success they accomplished – and there were many. Giving themselves time to reflect on their own strength might have given them some solace and made them feel as though they could surmount the next major obstacle.
As a parent or teacher of a 2e child it feels like we are in constant combat against the world. We fight so hard for people to see the amazing strengths and talents in our incredible kids. But do we reflect on these efforts, where they’ve gotten us and our children? Most importantly do we show our kids how hard they are working to do the big and the small things they need to do every day? We have to help our children see these traits in themselves. Show them their efforts:
- “Wow, I noticed today, even though yesterday was so tough, that you got out of bed and went to school.”
- “Hey honey, I saw today that you came home and pulled out your homework, even though you had a tough day.”
- “You are listening to music really loudly and that’s helping you handle the stress of today – great strategy!”
- “I see you need to read for a while to give yourself a break – great idea to build up your resilience!”
It’s not exactly time travel, but it does call out approaches that will be important for our kids throughout their lives and as they move into different stages and on into adulthood.
Nothing good comes of expecting the worst. In the midst of struggle, it’s hard to see through to the other side. But this attitude does not garner success or fortitude. Allow yourself to see your child in the future succeeding at what he loves. Imagine him happy, making a difference in this world, doing something important. Our 2e kids, I believe, have an incredible opportunity, because of who they are, not despite who they are, to do something outstanding in this world. The journey to get there is called life – we can’t wait to see how it all turns out to start living. We have to recognize all the efforts along the way and notch those efforts in their belt measured as successes that we will see affecting their future. In this way we can travel through time and allow ourselves to see that everything WILL be okay.