You guys, thank you so much for all your comments on that last post. I was pretty worried about putting it out there, and to be perfectly honest JB wasn’t exactly 100% super totally completely thrilled with me for doing so, but I felt like the relief of talking about it and maybe getting some ideas would be worth any negative repercussions. I was right. Thank you for everything you shared with me.

I’ve had a couple of moments with Riley recently that taught me a thing or two. In talking about the swimming freakout together and using the dog metaphor, he said, I couldn’t tell my dog to sit, Mom. I was trying, but he was just yapping and yapping too loud. Oh. Oh, my boy.

Yesterday it was gorgeous and summery and I took the kids to the lake to play on the beach. I didn’t even bother bringing swimsuits, figuring no one would be getting in the water. After we’d been there for about ten minutes Riley had made some new friends and soon he was wading in the water—tentatively, then less so. The next thing I knew everyone, including Dylan, was completely submerged, hooting and splashing and having a blast. And that’s where they stayed for the entire morning.

“Mom! Mom! Look at me!” Riley shouted, waving madly from the water, his sopping clothes clinging to him. His face was brighter than the sun.



49 Responses to “His own way”

  1. Megsie on July 7th, 2011 8:47 pm

    Amazing what a day or two can do…I am so glad that he made this leap now, when you can see it. I love the dog yapping metaphor. Perfect!

  2. Aimee on July 7th, 2011 9:05 pm

    I love to see them take new hurdles! Way to go, Riley!

  3. Sadie on July 7th, 2011 9:26 pm

    This was really beautiful.
    You are a great mother, Linda, even if you don’t do it right 100% of the time. No one does. And Riley sounds like a great kid. Your love and pride for him shine through everything you write, in the same way I’m sure his face shone today.

  4. squandra on July 7th, 2011 9:38 pm

    Oh, RILEY.

    “I couldn’t tell my dog to sit, Mom.”

    I’m childless by choice, happily so. But that right there is on a very short list of things that make me want to have kids. You two have a hell of a boy there.

  5. Amanda K on July 7th, 2011 10:04 pm

    That’s awesome! Great job, Riley!!

  6. NancyJ on July 8th, 2011 2:06 am

    Aren’t kids amazing? THEY know what they want for themselves at a particular time….it’s up to us to let them make decisions in their own time. I wonder if he hadn’t gone on the Slip n Slide at all he may have come to you that evening and said “gee that looked like fun. I hope I have a chance to do it sometime”. You and JB need to remember in the future “PICK YOUR BATTLE”!

  7. Jessica on July 8th, 2011 3:00 am

    That’s wonderful! Yay for Riley!

  8. Anonymous on July 8th, 2011 4:50 am

    I know you already have, but keep telling him how proud you are of him for accomplishing that. Over and over again. He’ll never hear enough of it.

  9. Amy on July 8th, 2011 4:51 am

    I didn’t comment on your last post, but I’ve definitely been there. I struggle so much with Gabe, who is the same age as your Riley. It’s not easy to be calm or rational with your child when you have no idea where they’re coming from and can’t understand why they won’t trust you or just listen. As you wrote here, it’s often their peers that help them overcome fears. I’m constantly learning about Gabe as I watch him interact with friends. I know it wasn’t easy putting yourself out there like that for all the internet to read, but thank you for sharing. It is nice to know that other people have been there and that you’re not alone.

  10. Julie on July 8th, 2011 5:43 am

    My son did the same “freak out” for years, then at disney where he could walk in on his own, he finally learned how great swimming can be. It’s so hard to hang in there not knowing what to do, but deep inside, they know and will show you at their speed.

  11. Lucy on July 8th, 2011 5:50 am

    Linda, I have only just read your last post and not looked through the comments yet. Have you heard of Carol Gray’s Social Stories? I think they’re fab and can help a child to understand how to cope in all sorts of situations. You write it out in bullet points and add little stick drawings, so it’s easy for Riley to refer to. Eg:
    – Sometimes I get unsure of getting in the water. I worry about being too cold, my clothes getting wet, and the fish.
    – I know that Mom/Dad will make sure I don’t get too cold
    – I’ll be wearing the right clothing for the water, and will dry and change when I get out
    – The fish will swim away from me as they like their own swimming space!
    – I am a big boy learning to swim. I like to have a nice time in the water with my Mom, Dad and Dylan.
    It can reassure him and puts a very positive spin on the outcome.
    Also a ‘Can’t to Can’ reward chart – things Riley feels he can’t do, when he addresses them, they become a Can (tin can picture), set amount of cans = treat.
    These things work like magic for my very anxious little boy, he’s seven now but we’ve been using them since he was four. He even has the social stories in a folder and refers back to them whenever he needs to! Social Stories were first devised with Autistic kids in mind, but I think they are a fab tool for any child!
    By the way, you and your husband are GREAT parents – I really admire you. :0)

  12. birdgal (another amy) on July 8th, 2011 5:55 am

    My daughter was just like Riley around the water–then we joined a pool for the summer and she found a couple little friends to pal around with, both of which were relatively good swimmers (for 5 year olds at least). Now, she’s like a little fish–I learned, like you, that if I pushed her, she’d stubbornly dig in her heels and REFUSE (learning to swim, learning to ride a scooter, etc.). It pretty much takes her ‘learning’ from other kids, not me, which bothered me at first, but now I see it’s it’s just the way she operates, nothing personal. Kids, man.

  13. Lucy on July 8th, 2011 5:55 am

    Just to add, I’ve just looked at the comment you put in response to comments on your last post – I totally agree to stick with things. Putting things off makes it more of an issue. Just build it up – like five minutes in the water first time, ten thereafter – perhaps with a distraction of looking at the views, counting people etc so Riley doesn’t think too much about his worries?
    What a fab boy though for getting in the water himself! Your kids really are a credit to you and your husband! Perhaps he’s sorted it out for himself already?…

  14. Cheryl S. on July 8th, 2011 5:57 am

    It’s amazing how a different situation can change things. I’m so happy for Riley!

    At the lake over the weekend there were a ton of people and noise, he was probably tired and having to “perform” at that point was just too much.

    This was HIS choice, with his friends and his brother. BRAVO RILEY!!!!

  15. Alex on July 8th, 2011 6:04 am

    After reading your blog and following you on twitter for about a year now, I’m struck by how many time your posts/tweets are along the lines of “We’re going to have fun, god dammit, even if it kills us!”

    No wonder Riley isn’t having fun. You wanted him to do the slip and slide because it’s “supposed” to be fun. Maybe it is to you and others, but not to him, and is that really that big a deal? Never cared for them myself, saw nothing fun about throwing myself headlong on the ground to slide out of control. Can’t you see it from another point of view, especially someone who’s much smaller than you? It probably looks very different.

    What’s with parents playing with their kids constantly. Notice how he opened up more with kids his own age at this beach, by your own description? I remember hanging out with my parents to play, but not to the extent that you and other mommy bloggers seem to feel compelled to spend every possible moment maximizing the fun! Good lord, what an expectation for you and your children to bear. If he plays with kids his own age, they’ll naturally gravitate to what makes them happiest. I feel if you try and force him to do what you think is fun (and you and your husband seem like adventurous people), be prepared for him to disagree on that point, because he isn’t you and you can’t control his personality.

    If he’s panicking about something like school or reading or riding a bus or swim lessons (something essential that he needs to learn), I see that as a place to push him to do it and teach him to control his outbursts, because those things are important.

    If he’s panicking about a stupid slide or going into murky water, back off, who cares. Your definitions of fun won’t always be the same, and it just doesn’t matter. He’ll come around when he’s ready. You can’t force him to be brave about every little thing. He’ll grow into that naturally.

    Stop hovering and let him be.

  16. Faith on July 8th, 2011 6:35 am

    YAY RILEY!!!! So happy that he was able to conquer that! It may pop up again unexpectedly one day, and it may not. I wonder if not bringing the swimsuits took the pressure off enough for it to be okay? He knew he wasn’t expected to go in, so he could? Also, the dog metaphor is perfect. I said in my email that it doesn’t matter if I know I’m safe, my brain just keeps sending out distress signals. Sounds exactly like what Riley’s dealing with. Please remember that it isn’t an issue of him trusting you. It’s more an issue of him learning when and how to ignore that yapping dog – to take himself far away from that dog so he can see what the dog is really yapping about, and then to remember that there have been many times when the dog was wrong. Yesterday was one of them, and you can remind him of this when and if other issues present themselves. “hey, you’ve done stuff you were scared of before, so I know you can do this. If you don’t, it’s still okay, but I know you can and someday you will.”

  17. Nik-Nak on July 8th, 2011 6:49 am

    Those pesky, pesky children. Just when we go bitchin’ because they worry us about something they turn around and make liars out of us.
    My kid does this to me everytime, and everytime it makes me so HAPPY.

    You’re doing a great job raising those beautiful boys, don’t doubt yourself.

  18. Jaida on July 8th, 2011 7:07 am

    I’d love to know how it is that you can write a post like the last one and get such amazing, insightful comments without insane amounts of jackassery. Your blog and commenters is everything that is right about blogging.

    Just an observation – it seems like a LOT of people commented that their similar-aged kids display similar behaviors. Perhaps it is a developmental hallmark of what is a pretty important age in our culture (entering school).

    Also, as much as I hate to say it I think this behavior is harder for us to tolerate from boys. Obviously that goes back to some pretty ridiculous stereotypes, but I am willing to say I would have a harder time with a boy’s anxieties and vulnerabilities than a girl’s, especially in front of other people. Not even sure what that means but it’s the truth.

    Your boy (well, both of them) are fantastic individuals and they are going to grow into admirable men if you two keep parenting them the way you are. Have faith and go easy on yourself.

  19. Tracey on July 8th, 2011 7:36 am

    This made me teary. Yay Riley! I’ve got two little boys as well so I love reading your stuff.

  20. Alyssa on July 8th, 2011 7:44 am

    YAY Riley! That’s great.Man, he sounds just like my oldest boy. I know he gets his sensitivity from me, and it took me years to be able to handle it, so I feel for him. But that can make it more frustrating, when you see your not-so-good traits in your kid.

  21. Erin on July 8th, 2011 7:57 am

    My mother used to refer to this as percolating. My brother wasn’t unable to do it (whatever “it” was), but if he was able to sit with an idea and take part in his own time he was fine.

    Thanks for sharing all of this.

  22. willikat on July 8th, 2011 8:11 am


  23. PinkieBling on July 8th, 2011 8:46 am

    I wondered how JB felt about the last post. I thought it was incredibly brave of you to share it with us, and I could see that being really difficult for the non-blogging spouse. Please tell him thanks. Big ups to Riley for getting in the water! He is so adorable. Dylan, too!

  24. katie on July 8th, 2011 10:02 am
  25. Michelle on July 8th, 2011 10:03 am

    You’re a really good mom. I know Riley thinks so, too.

  26. Farrell on July 8th, 2011 10:10 am

    yep, all in his own time.

  27. Olivia on July 8th, 2011 10:23 am

    In his own way and in his own time. I think one of the hardest parts about being a parent is realizing this kid is truly a unique person and not just some extension of ourselves.

  28. holley on July 8th, 2011 10:43 am

    How wonderful. I just cried reading this. Parenthood, huh?

  29. Anonymous on July 8th, 2011 11:21 am

    I am betting Kindergarten will change Riley dramatically. Something about “peer pressure” (the good kind). The influence of other boys can do wonders for a more cautious boy’s fears. Last summer, my son was Riley. He wouldn’t even step on wet grass because the feeling icked him out. He also would not put his face in water. We tried everything — bribes, you name it — this child just wouldn’t budge. It killed me to see him sitting solemnly at the edge of the pool while other kids his age played and had fun. “Live a little, child!” I’d think to myself and shake my head in frustration. 

    Enter Kindergarten last fall. Fearless boys and adventurous types abound. A sensitive boy doesn’t want to be the “baby” of the group and he’ll branch out more to meet the acceptance of his peers. My son is a little more fearless these days and I attribute it to hanging with the more adventurous boys who don’t really tolerate whiners. I feel it’s good peer pressure. 

    Also, I think as parents, we often fall into thinking our children should be just like us. And when we realize they aren’t, it can be a let down. But they are their own people, sometimes polar opposites from us. It’s tough to be mindful of that and not try to make then more like “us.” I am an avid swimmer. I could live in a pool of water. And my son still will not submerge his head or stop clutching the handrail in a pool. His fears about the water are irrational to me (“no son, there are no sharks in a swimming pool”). And sometimes I want to say, “just buck up kid, it’s water!”

    You and JB are fierce adventurers. You seem like the type of chick I’d want on my team if ever stranded on a Survivor-like deserted island. You are hardcore. And I think maybe because of that, you’re more apt to want Riley to be the same. I think it’s a totally natural feeling. 

    The fact that you’re even AWARE of all this makes you a really in tune, sensitive and introspective mom.

  30. Anonymous on July 8th, 2011 12:30 pm

    I don’t have kids, so I had exactly zero advice for you on all that. But I wanted to say that I think it’s great you want to find solutions for this kind of stuff. When I was a kid, my mom often reacted the same way(angry, belittling, embarassed), and reading your post made me remember how it felt (like, quite vividly, –which was kinda wierd). I don’t think something like that harmed me in any way shape or form, but, yeah, like you said, it made me feel pretty shitty at the time. Your desire to want to change this/find solutions/react differently just seems… oh, I don’t know, -awesome?

    […and yeeeah, what’s with these people playing with their own kids, I mean mygod, they might feel loved or something. ;)

  31. Heather on July 8th, 2011 2:40 pm

    Oh. I read your last post and I might as well have written it about our daughter (and us). Last summer (she was 7) at our pool she would NOT go down this one slide and we did that same thing…first cajoling her and then berating her and it felt like CRAP. Like the whole time it was happening I could see how crap it was but just couldn’t stop it. This summer, it is like a whole other kid came with us. She is on every slide, swims in the deep end…master of the water. However, she is now obsessed with the weather (thanks to a recent nasty storm) and checks the sky every 5 minutes. I think some are just wired this way. But you will never meet a more compassionate child…it’s hard to embrace all their little quirks that make them who they are, especially when we get so mired in what we think are socially acceptable responses to things. It’s hard for me not to care what others think…

  32. Molly on July 8th, 2011 4:28 pm

    I’ve been reading your blog since you were on diaryland, and I only read 3 blogs. I found it randomly and was hooked… I admire your strength of character in so many ways, and especially when it comes to being a mother to your children.

    To have the capacity to be so honest, and self-examining and to love your child enough to share the kind of personal inventory you do with the internet at large is an incredible gift and credit to you as a human being.

    Take heart in your failures, because the first step to correcting them is to become aware of where your efforts fell short of your expectations and you certainly possess this self-awareness.

    Also know that you are a fantastic parent, and that (coming from a 27 year old) all parents are just people, too. It took me awhile to see my parents as Liza and William and not just “Mom” and “Dad” — but when I did, I was able to give them the grace to have made mistakes. They got it right where it matters, and you have, too — you love your kids and you do the best you can to help them experience life to their greatest capacity. That’s all you can really ask for in a Mom or Dad.

  33. sal on July 8th, 2011 6:58 pm

    Awesome! Oh, the dizzying highs and terrifying lows of raising kids.

  34. Erin@MommyontheSpot on July 8th, 2011 7:54 pm

    Being a mom is the hardest thing. Ever. I always feel like I am fucking up in some way or another. We do the best we can in the moment. And our best is always changing.

    thank you, too, for the dog metaphor. We modified it for my daughter. She personifies her fears by naming them and tells them to go away.

    Also, we have been doing some yoga/meditation with her. If you are interested, check out Peaceful Piggy Meditations. It’s really helped us.

  35. Carrie on July 8th, 2011 8:51 pm

    Oh Linda.

    I didn’t comment on your last post, probably because it was too too close to home. Too close to those uncomfortable places of being a parent that you’d rather just set aside after the fact and forget. I have a kid that is incredibly sensitive to certain things. And while it makes him the wonder that he is, it also sometimes is just…OMG COME ON!

    But oh. This one was magic.

    Bravo. And, for what it’s worth, I think you’re a pretty rocking mom, and I’m sure your kids would agree. No one has a perfect way of doing this. It’s about working through each day, and making adjustments that suit you and your kids. And respecting the people they are, which I think you’re doing a pretty good job of doing, based on what I read here.

  36. Kris on July 8th, 2011 9:03 pm

    I hate to ask this, because my own little guy has autism & sensory processing disorder & I don’t want to seem like I’m projecting; but have you ever had him evaluated for SPD?

    Our occupational therapist has been a godsend, giving us some integration therapy techniques to work on when he’s getting amped up & can’t talk himself back from the ledge, so to speak.

    It might be worth making a quick call to Riley’s doctor, only because you’ve mentioned him being really sensitive about certain things. Even if you don’t want to have him evaluated for anything, s/he can probably give you some helpful suggestions for those times when the shit hits the proverbial fan.

    (Full disclaimer – I was a really anxious child, too; and my parents did fuckall for me. If you think Riley needs help, don’t be afraid to ask for it.)

  37. Amy on July 8th, 2011 10:14 pm

    First, your blog rocks! Second, that feeling you get after you realize that everyone in the supermarket is staring at your evil stepmother face after you hiss death threats to your child for fondling a banana? Yeah, that feeling really sucks. Third, you might like this article:
    I’ve spent lots of time reading & thinking on how to raise my kids without scarring them horribly. (“Damnit, I’m gonna do this right!”) Then I read this article and felt better. I didn’t learn the secret to perfect parenting or anything. Rather, I feel kinda reassured by the premise that EVERY kid is going to get screwed up by their parents somehow. Kinda takes the pressure off, you know?

  38. nicole on July 9th, 2011 11:30 am

    My son is much like Riley and the biggest game changer for him ended up being peer pressure. Boy Scouts and the craziness that surrounds all that boy energy has pushed him to try things that he wouldn’t try on his own. I’m a bit sad when they recess for the summer because it is one of the things that brings pure happiness into my son’s life.

  39. Kellie on July 9th, 2011 5:45 pm

    I know people will tell you to tell him how proud you are of him, but a major self-esteem builder is to bring it back to him.

    “Riley, look at you! yesterday you were scared to swim, but today you did it!!! You must feel so proud of yourself. Way to go!”

    I have a kid with sensory issues (not saying Riley does, just saying my kid is super sensitive too) . He’s 8 and I was losing my mind. We had a friend recommend conscious discipline. Do a you tube search for Conscious Discipline Noticing. I think it’s about an 8 minute clip. Just this one piece of advice regarding noticing changed our family. The videos seem a little silly at times but man does it work. Hope it helps. :)

  40. Kellie on July 9th, 2011 5:48 pm

    Wanted to add on the bringing it back to them. My three year old has started “doing brave” as she calls it. Basically she taking some steps further in the pool, face under, etc. When she is done she jumps up and says, “I’m so proud of me!” she’s building her own self-esteem that way. :)

  41. Melissa on July 9th, 2011 6:22 pm…god forbid you play with your small children.

    For what it’s worth (not much) I’d say you seem rather the opposite of a hover mom.
    I think the anon. post giving you kudos for being aware and sensitive to your boys strengths and weaknesses is spot on.
    Thank you a million times over for being honest and putting out there the best and worst parts of motherhood. We all have moments where we go “shit, did I just do THAT?!” and it’s because what we’re doing as mothers is SO important and SO emotional.

  42. Jem on July 9th, 2011 7:59 pm

    I just read your last entry…good for you for being so honest.

    I used to be nervous like that and what helped for me was just admitting that I was scared, and putting no pressure on myself to try anything. But really thinking about the worst case scenario if I DID try that thing, how likely that scenario was, blah blah. And now I really try to challenge myself to do things that I think I might actually like if I give it a go, and then if there’s something I really don’t want to do and there’s no reason for me to have to try it, I don’t do it.

    That being said, I absolutely love black water rafting and I’ve done it twice…the part that terrifies me is jumping into the water and landing my ass into the tube. The first time I did it, I was terrified. I concentrated so hard on actually jumping that I forgot to hold my breath and inhaled a heap of freezing water while I grabbed the guide’s arm and choked and choked. Not my proudest moment.

    The second time round I told myself I wouldn’t do that jump…but it turns out the only other way down isn’t much easier, so I had to do it. The tube I got was smaller than most people’s and I wasn’t sure my ass would fit in it. Well it can’t possibly go much worse, I told myself, as my friends (who knew I was scared) watched me as I jumped into the water, bounced out of the tube into the river and then choked on water anyway. Sigh. My proudest moment was when the guide had to stuff me into the tube because my butt was just too big to fit in it without being pushed in.

    The only good part was that Katy Perry was in the group behind us…we were meant to be in her group but she was running late so we got moved ahead…so I felt slightly less stupid than if she’d been watching as well!

  43. wealhtheow on July 11th, 2011 5:19 am

    It sounds SO obvious to say “kids are unique people and we shouldn’t be upset when they don’t enjoy what we do or find things hard that are easy for us.” But I’ve found that separation, and managing the emotions that go with it, to be one of the hardest parts of parenting. It’s one of those things I think you can’t really understand unless you have kids.

    Also, I just thought I’d something out here–when I was a kid we had a boat, and we went sailing every weekend, which I LOVED. But some weekends instead we’d have to clean the boat, which I HATED at the time. But looking back, those are incredibly good memories. Even though I couldn’t see it at the time, working together as a family like that was a wonderful experience. So even though Riley & Dylan might not appear to be enjoying something at the time, it doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t turn out to be a cherished memory for them.

  44. k on July 11th, 2011 6:41 am

    this book is helping my 6 year old tremendously, for whatever reason. it’s slightly above his level, but we read one or two chapters a night, and it seems to both help him cope and also not feel like he’s wrong or different. good luck!

  45. kristylynne on July 12th, 2011 2:00 pm

    Well, that is wonderful. Don’t kick yourself for losing it earlier. It is so hard to be patient when kids act up for no apparent reason. When I find myself losing my patience, or yelling, or whatever, I try to remember to stop, grab the crying, frustrated kid, and hug him. Sit down with him for a few minutes and tell him I love him and hug him. Maybe turn on his favorite show and sit by him and just cuddle him a little. This makes us both feel better and get back to our happy places.

  46. Karla on July 13th, 2011 10:07 am

    Kids… sometimes we teach them; other times they teach us. So glad it all worked out OK.

  47. Amy on July 14th, 2011 1:27 pm

    My son, Ian, went down a water slide (very small one) last summer. He’s nine and I think it was when his little brother did it without hesitation that he was like, dang…now I have to do it. He has a lot of tentative moments…just takes time.

  48. Christy on July 14th, 2011 6:03 pm

    My oldest is my sensitive kid. Everything new (everything) is met with anxiety/tears. Even at 9 years old, her first day of fourth grade was met with tears, just like every single first day she has had. It used to bother me/worry me – anxiety for her, slight embarassment that she isn’t like all the other kids. I used to push her, which didn’t work. What I’ve realized, and what my husband is still struggling to realize, is simply that she can’t be rushed. Everything new has to be in her own time, which just happens to be different from most other kids. She has always been terrified of the water. We’ve been unsuccessful with swim lessons on more than one occasion, and so we gave up until this year, realizing she really does need to learn how to swim. We paid for a private lesson, no forcing her to do anything, no rushing. She cried before it started but everything was up to her and she didn’t want to get out of the pool by the end of the half hour.

  49. Monica on August 2nd, 2011 9:43 am

    As a shy kid who grew up into a young woman with a fairly serious anxiety disorder, including two bouts of major depression by the time I was old enough to drink legally–find this kid a counselor. A good one. It’s the best thing you could possibly do to help him.

Leave a Reply