Freaky Friday - Tom and Julie Meekins -
What if for one day you could be inside your child's body and mind? You would see what he sees, feel what he feels, hear what he hears, smell what he smells. What if you thought the way she thinks? Had the same experiences throughout the day that she deals with every day.
A few years back there was a movie called "Freaky Friday". Google described it like this: "Single mother Tess Coleman (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her teenage daughter Anna (Lindsay Lohan) couldn't be more different, and it is driving them both insane. After receiving cryptic fortunes at a Chinese restaurant, the two wake up the next day to discover that they have somehow switched bodies. Unable to switch back, they are forced to masquerade as one another until a solution can be found. In the process, they develop a new sense of respect and understanding for one another."
What if that was you?
What would the world be like for you?
Imagine you wake up in the morning with someone opening the shades in your room. You immediately have to pull the covers up over your face because you are literally blinded by the offensive brightness. Once you recover from the shock, you are bombarded with loud commands: "Brush your teeth. Wash your face. Get dressed." You desire to obey and be cooperative, but you are already totally overwhelmed. All you want to do is shut out the light and the commands.
But you are forced to move forward. You make your way into the bathroom. The toothbrush in your mouth is like a million needles over your teeth, gums, and tongue. Then, it is back into the bedroom to put on your clothes. Everything itches or scratches your skin. You pick sweats, yet again, because it is the only thing that you can semi-tolerate on your body.
Now, it's time for breakfast. You beg your parents: "Please, please don't make me eat anything besides the bagel. I don't want to gag over eggs. I don't want to feel the crunch of bacon. I simply cannot stand the mush of oatmeal." You think to yourself. "The bagel is the only safe thing."
Everyday it is such a chore to get through the day without a major meltdown. The world does not understand. Your parents don't get it. They want to -- but they have never experienced these things so they really don't know what it is like. Your teachers really cannot care because there even more like you in his classroom. Some kids tease you without mercy because...you are different than them.
You wonder if you will encounter a spider [or some other phobia] today. Spiders make you totally creep out. You are always on the lookout. Adults tell you that you are not being rational, that spiders are so tiny, that you are being silly. But you don't feel silly. You are not amused at all. You are deathly afraid.
What if your biggest problem was school. As you sit at the desk and listen to the teacher, you want to do what she says, but you forget stuff. You only get some of the instructions and are totally confused. You used to raise your hand and ask questions but the kids would laugh at you and the teacher would get frustrated. So, now you just sit quietly in your seat and do the best you can. But it is never on target. You always seem to miss something. Adults always seem to be disappointed in you or mad at you.
When you finally get away from school and have some time to play with your friends, kids your age and your parents want to know why you either (1) only want to play with kids a few years younger than you, or (2) would much rather be playing video games by yourself. Then, you don't have to explain what you really don't understand about yourself anyway. You can close yourself off into a world that you can control. Sometimes you get so engrossed in a video game, you forget that the real world is happening, until someone interupts. The interruptions are like tsunami waves crashing onto the shore, first peaceful calm, then chaos.
We could go on and on painting the picture of what it is like to be the children in our world who struggle but we know you get the picture. The purpose here is to raise awareness in us, the adults, regarding the world in which these children live, to take time to see life from their perspective.
We know our perspective and it can be pretty frustrating sometimes. If not frustrating, it can certainly be exhausting to be the parents or teachers or other adults in their world. In our exhaustion, we may lose sight of their struggle. We may lack compassion and get lost in our own challenges.
Our hearts certainly are with you. We know the struggle. We know the exhaustion. We know the worry and concern and fear. Know that we know.
We also encourage you to do this exercise at least once a week where you ponder what it could be like to be this child.
When our Amy was a baby, we did a life-changing exercise that helped us to get perspective about children and their challenges from their perspective. We were blindfolded and put earplugs in our ears. Then, another person was assigned to be our guide. They had to tell us every single thing we needed to know in order to navigate the course. From that day forward, we began to put ourselves in Amy's place.
Then, when our Josh's health began to go downhill and he suffered with asthma and many food and environmental allergies, and his behavior struggled because of it, we had to remind ourselves that his challenges were not his fault. We were not perfect. We got frustrated, exhausted, and lost our patience more times than we want to admit. But, we reminded each other from time to time that our boy did not want to have meltdowns. He did not want to be challenging with his behavior. He didn't want to detest clothing other than sweats. He didn't want to be a carb addict. He didn't want to loathe bright lights. He didn't want his body to ache and his breathing to be so labored at times. He didn't want to be miserable.
Your child does not want to struggle.
Give him or her some extra compassion today. Look into what may be causing the meltdowns, or less than stellar academic performance, or misbehavior, or lack of follow through. Go deeper than the frustrations of the moment. There is help and support. You are not alone and neither is your child. If you are looking for support, send us an email at MarchForthFamily@gmail.com. And visit our website at MarchForthFamily.com
Tom and Julie Meekins