Jake is the baby of our family … the youngest of three boys.
Although Jake wasn’t diagnosed with apraxia until age three, he began speech therapy when he was a little over two years old. And even as a baby, before I knew the threat of a speech disorder loomed in the distance, my life was consumed with severe eczema, ear infections, mild asthma, and food allergies.
All of these things have eaten up my mommy time. And the combination of being the baby of the family, along with these other challenges, stalled out the typical big boy aspirations.
Jake will start kindergarten in August and will turn six in September. There are some skills I want him to have in place before he starts school and I have come to refer to this mission as “Operation Big Boy.”
What are the goals of Operation Big Boy?
1.) Bathroom skills – My neighbor, the Pre-K 4 teacher, has been all over me to make this happen for over a year now. It is the ultimate annoyance for a teacher to have a child that cannot take care of #2 moments.
I am having to play hardball with Jake because he’s been using his skilled mama as a crutch for several months. I have explained to him the proper way to do this job and when he calls for me I have to stand firm and say, “No, do the best job you can.”
2.) Thumb sucking – Oh my, this is a hard one and the one I have been the least disciplined on. Jake loves to suck his thumb when he goes to sleep. We were putting a sock on his hand at bedtime for a while and that was working for several weeks, but I just cave when he wants to do it. My husband is much better at enforcing this rule; I am a weakling.
3.) Going to sleep by himself – When Jake was about three, my husband started putting him to bed on a regular basis. He would snuggle and fall asleep with him. This habit resulted in a little boy that refused to go to sleep on his own.
But, success! For the past few months, we have a new routine … bath, probiotic, brush teeth, pajamas, read a book, and prayers. I snuggle with him for about a minute and then leave the room. He has adapted and is doing great.
4.) Tying shoes – After about two weeks, I gave up on this one and bought velcro shoes. I’m pretty sure at some point in his life he will figure out how to make this happen.
5.) Showering/bathing himself – Yes, pre-Operation Big Boy I was soaping my child up and drying him. In my defense, it’s always been important to me for him to bathe well because of his allergies. Not only does he need to make sure the allergens are off of him to promote wellness, but he also has flare-ups of eczema on his heels due to his grass allergy.
This skill is in progress. It’s been hard to teach him how to soap up properly and sometimes I cave and do it for him. But, for the most part I want to eliminate this chore in my life and the only way to do that is to teach him and stand firm.
6.) Swimming – Last week Jake took swim lessons for the first time. I swear, this kid would wear floaties for the rest of his life if I’d let him. I have been hesitant to put him in swim lessons because until this year, he couldn’t communicate very well – especially in a stressful situation. I didn’t want him imploding emotionally because he couldn’t express that he was terrified.
A few times last week it got ugly, but by the end of the four days, he was swimming pretty good and finally jumped in by himself. It didn’t come naturally or easily for him and many tears were shed, but he did learn some basic skills that he will be able to build on for the remainder of the summer.
In addition to not forcing my child to do the skills above, I have been guilty of being a helicopter parent. I have just always felt the need to shelter and protect my little boy. I wasn’t this bad with my other two children. I think it goes along with the apraxia and/or food allergy territory. Don’t you think?
I’m a lot like Jake when his swim teacher had to throw him into the deep end last week when he was making up every excuse in the book not to jump in. I literally had to force myself not to go in after him, but I knew he had to figure this out on his own.
He had to learn. He had to grow. He had to swim, not sink. And as a parent, it is my responsibility to allow that to happen.