"Like as soon as our adrenaline is activated or cortisol spikes. It's really hard to be a respectful parent."
"And I think I've been because I have to spend so much time resting. I've like been training for this my whole life."
"Verbal redirection is not all that effective when they're flooded."
"And his sensory needs became more than just touching me. Then it became much harder."
"And I guess it's giving myself enough compassion to believe that that is louder deep in him than the way it feels to him when I have to walk away."
Hey there. I'm Alyssa Blask Campbell. I'm a mom with a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education and co-creator of the Collaborative Emotion Processing method. I'm here to walk alongside you through the messy, vulnerable parts of being humans, raising other humans with deep thoughts and actionable tips. Let's dive in together.
Welcome to our new limited series, "Respectful Parenting: In Real Life". I get to hang out with some folks and dive into what this work looks like outside of scrolling through Instagram, or that picture perfect snapshot of respectful parenting. What does it look like when you drop the ball, when it's messy, when we're imperfect humans, and when our kids don't respond perfectly as we planned. Buckle up for some real stories from real humans. And I hope that you get to see glimpses of yourself or your kids in these stories to know that you definitely are not alone in this journey. And there's a village of folks walking right along side you. Alright, let's dive in.
Hey everyone. Today on our episode, respectful parenting in real life. I get to hang out with Jessica Slice. Hello, Jessica!
Hi, I'm so happy to be here.
I'm so happy that you're here. We reached out to Jessica. I don't know. It feels like eight years ago, forever ago, asking her to be on the podcast as it used to be as the podcast and then when we did connect, it was like coming into this new era of we're going to do it in series mode and this series was partially inspired by you Jessica so I'm so grateful to get to dive into this with you today. We were chatting about how you as a disabled human, experience respectful parenting in a different way and that a lot of what you might see on social media, doesn't fall in line with how it happens in your house. And I think that it's such a necessary conversation about how respectful parenting looks different in every home and there is not one single home that looks like the picture perfect, Instagram perfect, social media scroll, and so I'm jazzed to get to, to dive into this today. So you have a child who is 5, yeah?
Awesome. And can you share a bit about just your family unit and, and what, I guess really like, what respectful parenting means to you as Parent.
Yeah, so I live with my husband David, and our five-year-old Khalil. And we have a Golden Retriever named Honey Puppy, and I was familiar with your work and respectful parenting before you reached out and really appreciate how much you value the internal experience of kids. And how much, like you see that the behavior is as a reflection of their needs and a reflection of their experience and not. And not that's something that they're doing to get your goat or to annoy you, or to rebel that, it's not a power struggle. It's an expression of needs and I really appreciate that. And it's sort of my natural tendency as a parent, is to try to hear what Khalil is saying with his actions and his words, even when like at first glance, what he's saying, can feel pretty irritating or exhausting or like nonsense.
Yeah, I dig that, actually just this past summer, we were on vacation with family and I was talking about Sage who was like four months old at the time and I was sharing how like ever since Sage was born one thing that felt really uncomfortable for me was the idea of like passing him around, like I mean I guess outside of even just like covid just like it made him feel like an object. Right? Like people want to hold the baby and he's been a very engaged human from the minute he was born anyway, but like, I guess like, yeah, the idea of like, you're just going to hold this human and I was like, oh, there's so many other ways to interact with him, and he also didn't love, he wasn't like a snuggly baby. He wanted to look around. He loved being talked to, laying and stretching and moving, and so that was like a boundary I set a lot where I would say to grown adults who were trying to pick him up and hold him, or wanted to, or wanted to turn of, with holding him. Like, oh, you know what he seems to be really enjoying being on the ground, he does like X, Y and Z and giving them like ways to interact. And I was talking about this on vacation and the family member was like, yeah, you have such a deep respect for children and I was like Yeah, I see them as humans. I just like I think so often we separate it as like I don't know, like, kids and adults. I call them tiny humans, and I think part of that is I really just see them as tinier versions of humans. They don't have a full adult brain. They don't have fully developed prefrontal cortex, right? There's a lot of differences between kids and adults in that sense, but they're humans, and I do see them as communicating with us all the time. And so thank you. Thanks for acknowledging that because it really feels like a core part of me and how I show up in the world with kids and this work.
What when you're looking at at Khalil's behavior and, you know, the surface versus the needs. How do you get there? Like, how do you in the moment, get past the behavior to be able to see, do you not have parts that surface and say like this needs to stop or he needs to know how to do X, Y and z and can't communicate in the world like this. Like those parts of me still surface in the moment and I have to regulate to respond with intention, do those come up for you?
So I think, yeah, I think that really like taps into why we originally started talking, which is you know that I'm disabled and when Khalil was a newborn for his, really for his first six months, the way that I live in the world, almost like meshed perfectly with the way he needed to live. for those six months. We were foster parents. And so I didn't know we were about to be parents. We got a call about him about 12 hours before bringing him home. So there was really no preparation. But within hours of meeting him, I felt like I got him. Like I felt like I understood his messages and I think a lot of that is my disability because I have to spend so much time resting and being still that I had really learned to tune into smaller to smaller signals and and that you know, and then also I just loved him but those first six months it almost like I, in therapy at the time I kept saying to my therapist, "Is something wrong with me? Shouldn't this be hard?"
Oh my gosh. Yes, I oh my gosh. I literally said the same thing in therapy where I was like the hardest part of parenting right now feels like having to do any other life stuff, but like the parenting part didn't feel hard at first. It feels way harder now in other ways, but I, that resonates so much with me. Sorry to interrupt you. I was just...
I'm happy to hear someone else relate to that because I was in a new moms group at the time and there was, people were having a really hard time and I really my heart went out to them and I just kept thinking like "I love this. Am I forgetting to worry about something? Am I is there a part of this that I should be hating?" and I but it was that I, we spent, Khalil and I spent almost all day touching those first six months, and I think unlike Sage, Khalil just wanted to touch, he wanted his head on my chest all day long, and I wanted his head on my chest all day long. And because of my disability, I'm used to staying home and I'm used to not moving and so I didn't have I didn't feel anxious to get out of the house. I didn't feel like my world had shrunk to just this baby and just my sofa, I felt like this, my world is like completely vast inside my house with my baby and on my sofa. And so I kind of took it for granted during that time that like I can hear what Khalil needs and then as he started, you know, as he went through his, like, Erickson stage of developments and started to need independence and needed to explore, and his sensory needs became more than just touching me. Then it became much harder. The needs of my body started to conflict more with the needs of his body. And also my ability to interpret has become like foggier because often I feel like a little at risk because of his needs and like and you'd I know you talked about this a lot like as soon as our adrenaline is activated or cortisol spikes. It's really hard to be a respectful parent because you're just thinking like, danger, danger. I need safety and so it's like his you know, I mean, it didn't happen really at six months, six months he was still pretty inert, but it happened as if he became a toddler and now a kid where I get him, you know, we do really, really connect, I'd say we're like pretty in sync, but there are times when it is very difficult. And I almost wish I could go back to those first six months me and be like, just soak this in, do not worry about how much you're loving this because it will get hard like, don't you, don't you worry.
Oh I've said the same thing, yeah, I yes. And I'm only ten and a half months in right now and I look back and the newborn phase for me, first of all I felt it. I didn't share a lot about it because I felt like it was almost taboo to say, like I'm really loving the newborn stage and this part doesn't feel like there were a couple things that felt hard. He didn't take a bottle and that was stressful for me because I knew I was going back to work at some point. So it wasn't a, this is stressful now, it was like future planning Alyssa, that was, he still, fast forward, still has never taken the bottle. We figured it out and by figured it out. I mean, the I have the privilege of having him at home with a caregiver where I can nurse throughout the day and then so that and then I did feel the loneliness at one point where it just like got to the point of like I wanted someone else to do the nothingness with you, you know what I mean? Another parent who was home too. I didn't want to do anything. Like I wasn't trying to like go to the park. I was just like I want someone else to be on my couch too that I can share in the nothingness with of like being, you know, and so, I did feel bad at one point. Those were the just to be totally transparent those two hard things came up, but I agree. I like, gosh. I wish I could tell her. It's okay to just soak this up and you're allowed to feel, it will get hard. Yeah, yeah, totally. So when you are looking at, you know, one of the things that we talked about in respectful parenting and we were just having this conversation in the Village Membership with an occupational therapist who did a workshop on signaling safety to a child who is in that fight, flight, freeze, fawn mode. And especially when they're in a fight mode that like their nervous system if we think of like posturing animals, right? That like an animal postures and another one postures up and where they're in a cortisol, like fight mode when. So when a human postures up they're in fight mode. If we have another human-like postures bigger. We're in that fight mode back and forth and that like a huge part of this is being able to signal safety and that it's a lot of body cues and it's a physical risk for someone who is not disabled and so for you. What I'm curious about is like how do you signal that safety and truly keep yourself safe. Does that make sense?
Yeah, it does make sense. It's really hard. So when Khalil is feeling dysregulated. He tends to crave really intense pressure, which there are some ways I can do that. You know, we have a Nugget and we, I can like fold him in the Nugget but and I guess taking a step back. I haven't said what my disability is. So I have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which is a connective tissue disorder. And one of the many ways that manifests is that I'm injured very easily. So, connective tissue makes that, you know, your joints are made of connective tissue, and many things are made of connective tissue. And so I get sprains and strains and dislocated ribs and injuries, just, I can, you know, my hip can come out of socket from rolling over in bed. So a kid who needs intense pressure can feel really dangerous to me even if what he's doing is in like is appropriate, you know, and I don't have a great way of signaling safety. You know, I do like I I will put up my arms to block myself from him, you know, I end up in a lot of really defensive poses, like if he's needing high pressure, if he's feeling really flooded or really overwhelmed, then he moves past needing pressure and needing to like to act that out I really hesitate to use. It's not like hitting and kicking is as much as like, he's just wanting to express his. Expressing how overwhelmed he is.
Releasing that cortisol. I mean, it's got to go somewhere. Yeah, totally.
Yeah, and so, you know, I will verbally redirect him to, we have a big big heavy poof that he can press and kick and hit. But I'm sure as you know, like verbal redirection is not all that effective when they're flooded like it and I, in those moments I really need and I really wish that I had the power of my body that could redirect him. And so there are times when what his body needs is not able to be influenced by verbal, my verbal redirection. And so, I just leave the room and I have to lock a door behind me and that feeling like even saying that to my chest aches, like the feeling of saying to him, like what you need makes me need to leave the room. Like that's how I hear it, is like that. I worry the message, I'm conveying to him is like your needs mean that you're being rejected by me. And obviously that's not what I would say to him. But I worry that's what my actions convey and I never want him to think that who he is and what he needs would make him not accepted by a person.
I think it's easy to feel that if you scroll social media there are so many messages about like being that safe harbor for our kids no matter what. We have a post that we bring up a bunch that says like if you are dysregulated, it's okay to walk away from your kid. If they're safe, it's okay to walk away from them for you. And part of that I think like I think it's really rad to model for kids that we have needs too and that we're going to advocate for our safety and we can love them through all of that in the same, I love you, when you're frustrated, love you when you're disappointed, there's nothing you could do that would make me love you less or more. And it's my job to keep my body safe so that I can help then keep your body safe. You know, that oxygen mask component and it makes total sense to me for you to have those parts. And I just want to give that part of you like a big ol hug and be like, yeah, and there are these other gifts that I think are really crucial. I think a huge message in respectful parenting that can come up is almost this idea of like relinquishing our needs for theirs, and I'm going to call bullshit. I actually think that like the most powerful way to teach them about advocating for their needs and that they're allowed to have needs is to model that we're allowed to have needs.
Hmm, even when the those needs are, but I mean, but then there are times where having to prioritize our need over theirs, like in a moment. That modeling is effective. Even when it's saying like, at this moment my needs, I have to prioritize mine over yours.
Yeah, I do think so. And I think that we can come back in the repair moments and talk about that and connect around that and I think that's where repair is so huge and crucial in respectful parenting and just healthy attachment. I understand the fear of abandonment or of, I can't handle your hard stuff, right? It's like sending that message and there is some stuff that I would say like realistically. I have to keep myself safe like in the same sense that if someone was coming, if a child had like a knife and was coming at me. My response would have to be to protect myself in order to then be able to even show up for them, right? And it would have to be safety first and it wouldn't be me sitting down signaling safety with an open posture, right, you know, right. And so I think to like put that into perspective of like the way that your body needs safety is important, you know, and I think that as I know you shared Khalil lives with, he's a neurodivergent human. So as he's learning more about how his systems work and building in tools for his sensory regulation. I think it's powerful for him to learn that they're interacting with different humans will look differently and that you can handle his hard emotional stuff, and that there are some physical limitations to that and that you will have to set up boundaries to keep your body safe and that looks different for every single human. What those physical limitations look like. And what that the OT that we just had on one of the things she was saying, was that for, especially for kids who go into fight mode. What we're looking at often is that they need some dopamine, like a dopamine hit in order to be able to get back into their brain and we were talking about how like this can feel at odds with a lot of respectful parenting. A dopamine hit is a reward system, right?
So we're looking sometimes at distraction, we're looking sometimes even act like food, or a screen, or whatever. Something that gets them out of the animalistic part, so that they can access that whole part of their brain and start to produce serotonin and oxytocin or whatever. But that, as he is learning about his toolbox for dopamine for accessing that dopamine. It's so crucial that. You keep your body safe. And I think I truly think that's okay. I think you'd learn to separate those two things. things of like, My mom can handle my emotional hardships and a lot of the time that might come through repair that that's when he's not doing emotion processing work when he's deregulated.
His body has a flood of cortisol or adrenaline right? Like he', his nervous system is dysregulated. And before we're doing any emotion processing work we're regulating the nervous system. And it sounds like that is the gap here is that you can handle his hard stuff emotionally and his nervous system dysregulation can be overwhelming for your system right? And like that that's, those are separate things for me.
That does make, I mean it does make sense because a lot of the connection, you're right when we're in repair, which I take very seriously and so usually after something like this happens, we'll end up doing a lot of cuddling and a lot of talking. He has a, I don't know if you know, like a Wonderstick. It's like filled with sand and sparkles and you flip it and the same kind of like falls down through water.
Yeah. He's really soothed by that and I think, like, going back to the way my disability impacted, those early months is I have the capacity to stare at his Wonderstick with him for as long as he wants to, which was literally 45 minutes the other day. We just sat in bed cuddling, watching the Wonderstick and he like is the moon or the diamond gonna fall first and like and I think I've been because I have to spend so much time resting. I'd like been training for this my whole life. I can just sit here and stare at this. And, and those moments like we repair in that way. And then we also talk about what happens and he will say back to me now because we've talked about it so much that he'll say nothing in the world, makes you not love me. Nothing in the world makes you not love me. And he like, he knows, he knows that in these other moments and I guess it's giving myself enough compassion to believe that that is louder deep in him than the way it feels to him when I have to walk away.
When you have to prioritize your safety.
Yeah. Yeah. I mean I even have trouble framing it that way because I'm framing it from his perspective. But yes, from my perspective. I'm prioritizing my safety because that there's no, there was no other option. I thought of this call yesterday with respectful parenting. So, right now I'm a wheelchair user when I'm out of the house and I'm up in Canada, and it's so snowy that I really can't use my wheelchair, sidewalks aren't shoveled wide enough it so I'm not doing school pickups. So I've been waiting on the sofa inside the front door when he comes home and he comes home and he removes all his clothes except for his underwear and he climbs onto the couch and holds my hand and then the dog licks his toes and he just kind of like, rolls around like just like feeling everyone touching him and yesterday he came home and he took off his clothes and I was sitting on the wrong sofa cushion, like unintentionally. And he just collapsed to the floor and then he realized I was holding the wrong blanket too, and I hadn't really internalized like how much this routine was meaning to him until then. He just started, he could barely say it but he was like "wrong blanket!" and so my husband, I think like what what respectful parenting has shown me, is that there's no point in those moments being like "this blanket's fine too."
Because like what he's saying is like I need the safety of our routine. So my husband got the right blanket, brought it over. I moved to the right couch cushion, and we caught it and it didn't escalate. He was crying, but he came over, he crawled on my lap. He said, make me like a bird. And so I wrapped him in the blanket and he let me hug him. And I said what I saw that just happened is that it felt really sad to you to not be able to do what we've been doing every day and that I didn't realize how much you love that time. And I said, is it important to you that from now on I sit on the same cushion and I have the right blanket and he said, yes and I felt like okay, and that moment our bodies could work together like we could, I could meet him there and hear him. And then there is that part of myself thats stubborn. That wanted to be like, oh my gosh, like, don't tell me where to sit and which blanket to use.
Yeah, oh, I feel all of that. And for me it part of it that like the part that's like don't tell her where to sit or what blanket to use, also says like they're going to need to have resilience and adaptability in, outside of the, that can get huge for me and Sage is sound sensitive and that part has come up a bunch in this of like when to what that part sees as accommodate this and he has a noise canceling headphones that he'll put on if we're making coffee, or if there's a blender going or if the vacuum is going or honestly, if a truck drives by, yesterday the wind was loud and it, right? It's just like, he's like kept like lookin and I was like yeah, the wind is loud. And so, part of it for me a balance between like the exposure and yeah, that resilience component that word comes up for me a lot here of like will he have the tools to navigate hardships and different things if there's a loud noise around right? Like, will that get him through and we went to a wedding when he was three months old and he had noise-canceling headphones on and was still so dysregulated. He could not be in the space where music was it was too loud. It was too overwhelming and oh my gosh, so many parts come up and like, oh, we have such a quiet household. It's the three of us if he was born in Covid. So we're not doing a whole lot outdoors like did I feed into this in some way? Like, oh my gosh it all of the like, am I doing the right thing here to prepare him for life ultimately, right? And I think you hit the nail on the head though that the power struggle of no, he needs, he can be fine with this blanket. Is that part like digging in its heels, right? And saying like, nope, he needs to learn to have cognitive flexibility and we would, what I really really want for kids is to know, like it's okay to not. It's okay to say like I feel overwhelmed or sad or I have needs for safety and consistency and routine and right now, that's you sitting in a certain place with the blanket and it's going to look different in three years. It's going to look different in five years. It's going to look different in seven and nine. I remember when I went away to college and then I returned and my parents had turned my bedroom into, like, a room with like, it was just like had a few beds in it. I'm one of five kids and so then like, when people were all home more, people could sleep in this room and how dysregulating it felt, for me.
And I didn't grow up in a house where I was able to say. Like, I feel sad about this but it felt really sad and dysregulating and I didn't have the words for it for a while to figure out like, oh, it's because you were expecting to come home to your bedroom. And now, it feels like you left and this is no longer your space. Like, you don't have a room to return to was like the feelings inside my body. And simply that consistency of my bed being there, would have been a game-changer and all that to say that like this, the like safety and the consistency in the routine and expectations shows up
in our life, always in different ways. And right now it's just this one way for him and is it what does it really mean to us if he has that right now? What does it mean to me if Sage wears his headphones when we do the blender? And I mean like what is that? What's my fear? And what does it really mean short term long term.
Yeah. Well and I mean for me it's almost definitely like probably unhealthy messages. I internalized as a child of like you need to be tough and suck it up and it's not like I think the same resiliency thing too like he can't go around the world demanding where everyone sits, but also he's not, he just came home from school. He came home from a day where people were sitting all sorts of places. He was working so hard. He was wearing his collared shirt that pulls on his neck. He listened, he was practicing writing, which is hard. And if what he needed was to come home and have me, sit in a place and use the right blanket then like, then if I'm outside of my own like my own trauma and my own like desire to be exceedingly hard on myself, then I would say like then he gets that.
And like good for him for saying what he needs. And like you were saying coming home from college. Like you also had to see like you had to be so resilient in college. It wasn't like you were being completely sheltered and then one thing changed and you couldn't handle it, you were doing all sorts of new things and you just needed one thing.
Yeah, exactly. And I think that's the part of home. That's the part of secure attachment. That's the part that's different. Somebody on our team and I were just chatting about this idea of like a kid as your friend. And I was like, I don't see my kid as my friend. And here's why I like, they, I think my relationship was Sage should be different than he has with his friends. I want him to know that again, there's nothing, he couldn’t, that he could do that would make me love him more or less. And that's not true for friends. They're going to come and go and they're going to, it's not all unconditional love. That's for sure. And I've also had like long hard days where I've given everything I've got and I get home from work or from what whatever I've been doing and I don't have much left to give right? To my partner, to our home life, to whatever. And that's what's happening for kids. Every day. We hear all the time, like, oh, yeah, they're holding it together at school. They're not seeing this behavior at school, Etc. And then they come home and we're seeing a whole different kid because they don't have to hold it together for you. They know that you are there to handle that, right? And like that, for me is just a huge sign that Khalil does know that you can handle his hard stuff that you probably didn't do that same thing at school you know?
He had early in the school year he did have a day at school where it got to be too much and we didn't know why, but we got a call from his teacher said, he just could not calm down and we went to go pick him up. And we were so desperate to get to him that I told my husband not to worry getting my wheelchair out of the car and we planned on parking right in front of the classroom. So that like I would be close to them. But what ended up happening just where we parked. They were about half a block away and I can't walk that far. And so I got out of the car and sat on the ground, a half a block away watching Khalil weep with his teacher and David was going to them, and I just like this feeling, it was like another time where it felt like my body and his body. Like how do we make these work together? And I just wanted to be there and David got to the car with Khalil, eventually. I was not handling it well, I was screaming. "Bring him here!" like a mother on it movie or something, just like hollering down the street to bring him to me. And they got to me and Khalil was just weeping and we had hoped that we could connect with him before getting him in the car, but there was no way. And so we just got him in the car seat while he was weeping. And we were trying to talk to him and I think it clicked for me that that talking was not what he needed and that like, we just needed to give him room to cry. And I said you can scream and cry as long as you need to and we're here. And at that moment, I was safe, you know, he was in the car seat. I was in the front seat, David was driving and then eventually he stopped crying and then we held hands and then we talked and it it actually ended up, your Sage stories made me think of it. His classroom had gotten really loud that day. A lot of people were talking at the same time and it was just a bunch of four and five-year-olds and it was too much. And then he also didn't eat his protein at lunch. And so we sent him back with some headphones. And we also sent back some protein drinks for days he doesn't eat his protein at lunch. His teacher will give him a little protein drink and it hasn't happened again. It's been months and months and And so it's he found a way of like getting what he needs and he hasn't had another meltdown at school. But there was that moment of like he needed me and I was stuck on the ground and we were a half a block away from each other and I also wasn't helping things. I was not sending safety cues by screaming down the road. Bring him to me.
It's making me tear up because I like my gosh it. I just I know the feeling of like they need you and your aren't there, or it feels like they need me and I'm not there and I don't think we're supposed to in a regulated brain. I don't think we're supposed to be there all the time. I think it's we're practicing more practicing, and practicing and practicing and we are their safe harbor when they can access us and come home to us etcetera. And I want to be there every time.
I want to, yeah. And like, yeah, if anything happens and he I'm gonna, I was my mother-in-law does childcare for us on Fridays. I was about to head into a presentation and I did, I was upstairs. And I heard like the that cry that I was like, oh, that's not an I'm frustrated cry, that's like an I'm hurt cry.
I just like, no question sprinted down stairs. And he had just fallen and bumped his head. He, she could have absolutely soothed and supported him and I wanted to be there. I wanted, I didn't want him to experience something hard and for me to not be there and I know, yeah, I just know that feeling and I also know that he I mean, he starts school in September and I'm not going to be there. I'm not going to be there every time he experiences something hard and he is, I see that. I see the work we're doing now is practicing. And Destini. I don't know if you follow Destini @Manifestdestini (@destini.ann) is her instagram handle.
Yeah I do.
Yeah she did an interview for this podcast series too, and she used this like, she talks about practice all the time, like we're practice and all day long and I really do see it that way. That like we are practicing so that he has tools to call on or so that at the end of the day when he needs to break down when he gets home and we're going to navigate all, I'm going to get the hard stuff, right? Like he's gonna have that tough moment at school or whatever and then I'm going to get the hard stuff of the processing work later on and I'm going to try and welcome it with open arms, but gosh, I wish I could just like, I wish that every time he experienced something hard. He would have the safety of a secure attachment caregiver with him and it's just not going to happen and I hate that.
Yeah, it's the yeah, that's a great point because I frame it as like I want him to know that his hard feelings aren't too much for me. I want him to know I'm there but a lot of it is just this like our instinct as parents is we also want to be there, it feels like, it's not only thinking about his perspective that's thinking about just my own desire to be present.
You had talked a little about like, how I am showing him that that we all have needs and that respecting needs is important. And I was going to mention that he you know, my husband is actually autistic and then I speak about my disability a lot. You know, I write about it and talk about it and Khalil the other day said I have a disability, I said, what is that? And he said, I love dogs too much. And I was like all right, but that he said we are the disability guys and he thinks of it as like our superheroes.
I love that. Oh my gosh, I love it.
Yeah. Yeah. Our family is the disability guys. I, and I love the openness. I mean, I do really appreciate that. He's witnessing like a diversity of ways of having bodies and minds.
Totally. Yeah, and of being and and also that he's gonna learn that how he shows up in the world is going to ebb and flow depending on somebody else's body and mind and brain. And that we all do. We it's our job to be that, like, social awareness part of emotional intelligence that as we start to build our own self awareness, and self-reg skills. Then we get to work on the empathy, social awareness components, and part of the social awareness. Is that how I show up in the world. With one person is not going to be the same way that I show up in the world with another person, if their brains work differently, if their bodies work differently, we're gonna we're going to differentiate and adjust how we show up. And I I don't think that that's a bad thing. I think that that prepares him for the world.
Yeah. Yeah, I hope so.
I do. Yeah, I think so. Yeah. What is going differently than you imagined it with respectful parenting in your household.
Hmm. I would say as he gets older. And I would not, this is not disability-related. But as he gets older my own stubbornness comes out more because when he was less vocal it was easier for me to filter his needs through. Like, well, he's a kid like he is, I cannot expect him to be reasonable, but as he's gets older and like, he's a little bit more logical. I find myself like wanting to in my life, not as clear moments say like, no, I'm not going to change the blanket. I'm using, or like, when he expressed his desire with food or when he's not wanting to do his homework, which I also have feelings about the fact that he already has homework, but those parts of me that just wants to be like just just do it. This whole thing. We wouldn't have to that. I find like yeah, my own stubbornness comes out more than I thought it would. I thought I'd be able to override that.
Yeah, that's interesting. I don't see it as stubbornness as much as expectations. And I think this is true across the board that we all have biases around age expectations, right? And whether it's by this age, I expect them to be sleeping through the night, or by this age. I expect them to be using their words to communicate with me. By this age, I expect them to not be crying when they're having a hard emotion, by this age, we all whether we're conscious of them or not. We have these biases around expectations tied to age and so often it's from our social programming, when we were raised within the expectations for us. And I think this is when I look at Early Childhood, what I often see are very low expectations for infant and toddler and then very high expectations for three, four and five year olds. Where we don't expect an infant, or a one-year-old or maybe even a two-year-old to have skills that I think they're often capable of if we're laying the foundation, and then all of a sudden as three year olds we're like, we expect you to have a toolbox because you're asking us why constellations exist and your it seems like you're taking in all this incredible cognitive information. Mmm. So, why don't you have the social-emotional toolbox and I think it's super common. I think it's a yeah, I see it as like biases and expectations that I think you're in the norm. I think all of us have them and my hub is in infant/toddler and so I've just observed over and over and over low expectations of infants and toddlers. And I, in communication, I had said one point in the village membership when Sage was teeny tiny, something about he's such a good communicator. And one of the parents in there was like I never like thought of my infant as like a communicator, like I didn't see it that way and that it like shifted that framework. And for me again, I like truly see all I see them as tiny humans and I see these beings as communicating with us and building these tool boxes. And I think we do kids a disservice in this because I think that it's impossible to live up to our expectations of them as a three, four and five-year-old. If we don't support them with how, how to have those skills and the foundations for those skills and the realistic expectation, that no one has access to those skills all the time. And again, back to the like Yeah, I guess it's going to ebb and flow. Like there are some days where I know that this child can get themselves dressed or zip their jacket or whatever. There are some days. I'm going to do it for them because they're under resourced that day, you know, like maybe a lot going on or we had a hard morning and they're feeling drained. I can help you with these parts. I can zip your jacket for you. When I know that, you know how to work a zipper.
Yeah, you know, it's a great point. And I think the mention the cognitive development part is really useful because I don't I don't know that I would have identify that that's behind it. But like Khalil recently started doing like some multiplication which is and like he really loves math, he really loves for me to say, math problems out loud and for him to do it. And and so I think like If you can do that, then you should also be able to pull your own, duvet up to your chin in the middle of the night. Like and it just seems like, I hadn't articulated that that's what's going through my mind, but it is, it is like yeah. if you understand, multiplication then you can move a blanket.
And that that's not, that's not how we develop we don't develop all at once. And we also have different needs, different days and I have different needs different days. There are times I'm much more patient with my husband and I mean we all are, we all change our capacities all the time.
Yeah, and the toolbox for multiplication is different than the toolbox for regulation, or emotional expression and it's not it's not lumped together of like all of these things are cognitive right that like, it's I can like hear my mom in my head right now of, I have one brother who is, he's wicked smart. He can absorb content so fast and retain it, and he was her biggest struggle in parenthood and she would say "You're so smart. Like what are you doing?" And I can like hear it. I can hear it as like him in High school going through this and it's because he has yeah cognitively. He is so advanced and can absorb content so fast and social-emotional toolbox is different than a cognitive toolbox. And I think we just think of these as like, you're so smart, do it right? Like I can just say, oh my gosh. I can hear the phrase coming out of her mouth and that you're capable of this and yeah, A: not all the time. Even if I am capable sometimes, not all the time and B: it's a different tool box. It's a whole different. It's like learning another language and emotional development is one of those things that you don't just get there, right? Like you don't, it's not like you will just I me we can see this in adults all around us. You don't just all of a sudden reach an age where you have a toolbox for regulation and processing emotions. There are things that have to be learned, that have to be taught, and if they're not, we will create maladaptive coping mechanisms and will express in ways that are not pro-social. And I think that part of this is, we expect kids to get to a certain age where they just have these tools and it's an ongoing teaching, learning, practicing process.
Yeah. Yeah, it is, and it requires a lot of emotional energy from us.
Or it for me to not react from expectation and to not react from yeah exhaustion or even like this kind of ego like where I'm just like you're irritated or cranky or you know...
Inconvenienced, yeah, and I will say like something. I've been really thankful for and proud of as a parent is that I don't really have much of a temper. I don't like I would not say when he, when I'm feeling irritated, that's where I go. It's more that I feel. It feels more like irritation and I feel very thankful for that.
Yeah, you don't go into fight mode.
I don't. And I think that's just, I mean, I think it's probably the my own work I do on regulation and I have some pretty good, like coping strategy habits, but I also think it's temperament. Like, I don't, I think, but I know that something I worried about as a parent. It's like seeing parents scream at their kids and lose it really frightens me and I don't think, you know, until you're in it. Are you going to be? Are you going to be someone who goes to that mode? And yeah, I've just felt really and my husband isn't either. And I felt really thankful that our house doesn't go there.
Yeah, same, I don't usually go into fight mode either. My reaction is flee or freeze.
And I don't know that it's better. It's just different but I think it looks better. It looks better on the surface, right? Like it presents better, in the same way that a kid who freezes or goes quiet, there doesn't mean they're not feeling, it doesn't mean they're regulated. It just is what we consider more pro-social in that they're not hitting, kicking, screaming and so it feels different on the surface. But yeah, I'm not yelling at him, but it doesn't mean I am always available emotionally in supporting him when I freeze. It's like a whoa Whoa, like yeah, it's not the same as when I'm calm and connected and he is dysregulated. It's different. But same. I usually am my reaction is not typically fight mode with kids. It is with adults. I'm like okay, you want to go to battle? Actually the other day Zach said something. And I, my husband said something. I like, he hit a wound and I fired back and I was like, oh you want to go to battle on this? And he said Alyssa, never once in our decade of being together, have I wanted to go to battle with you and I was like, okay, and it was like the reality check I needed like, Oh yep. I'm going into fight mode right now because I feel attacked about this thing and it was something so little, it was, it was about Sage's nails, he was like Sage's nails have gotten long. I feel like there's like a dagger that keeps getting me and I'm the one who clips Sage's nails and I was like, well, if you like if you ever clipped his nails that wouldn't be happening. Feel free to do it right? Like that part of me that just goes into that, like fight mode and I was at you want to go to battle and he literally said, not once have I wanted to battles. But I will do, that is more my reaction with adults, but with kids it's not, I go into more freeze mode. It's interesting.
Their nails grow, I know this isn't on the list but sometimes I feel like how as parents are we not only talking about our kids nails because I feel like I can never be on top of it. And it's such a pain to cut them and like, and I'm seeing, no one else is talking about this. Does everyone else just think this is not a big deal.
No. Yeah, we're screaming about it at our house apparently.
That's very comforting.
Oh man, and Jessica for my last question for you. What do you feel like is missing in the respectful parenting community like discussion. And as you scroll, what what do you think is missing?
It could, you know, it could be that I haven't seen it. But in the imagery and kind of in the discussion, I haven't seen a lot of visible disabilities. And I know that that I mean, I know that that really matters to me. And it also really matters like to Khalil, like he notices, when we are reading books or we're watching shows. He'll say, where is that Mama's wheelchair and like to him, it's like assumed that a mother would be using adaptive equipment.
And so I know I mean, you're probably talking more content. But yeah, as a disabled parent, I can feel like we're sort of invisible. Like there's a lot of shame about having physical limitations and I think there's a lot of I think it's a lot of sexism that like and I think you push against this in many ways saying like mothers don't need to be superheroes, but like our societal expectations, is that mothers need to be superheroes and therefore like a mother with a physical disability or intellectual or cognitive disability is like a shameful kind of mother and I think a way to fight that is to show us and like are disabled beauty.
Totally well, and I think on the content side of that, I'd imagine there's a lot missing and I think we can definitely do a better job of this around respectful parenting. When you have a disability, when you have to prioritize your safety when you do have walk away, right? The fact that like those are all things that are coming up for you and I wonder maybe I'm just not seeing them. If there are spaces where folks are talking about that more, not just around the if you're, you know, we talked about. If you're a dysregulated adult, it's helpful to take space and regulate before you can co-regulate, but if you have to keep your body safe, if you can't pick your kid up and give them that bear hug, if you can't move them to a safe space to express. What does this work look like I feel like we could do a better job of that representation wise in content as well. And I don't see it in the respectful parenting community.
No, I mean it's not in really any parenting community the place I see it is in disabled parenting like Facebook groups, there is you know, I'm in a Parents with Disabilities facebook group of a couple thousand and all of these conversations, I mean daily of like both, you know advice about what kind of crib can you get kids in and out of while you're in a wheelchair to like, you know, I saw a post today of parent was saying, like, I just can't keep our house looking peaceful with my disability, and my kids needs and like which I think is a common, you know, I think that's the and we've kind of touched on this but I haven't said it explicitly. I think that is the thing about disability is that we are all on the spectrum of disability, like anyone's, who's not, who's not disabled. It is only not disabled for now. We are all disabled at some point in our lives. And so there's this like threading, a needle of like disability is not a unique identity. And then also it is like there's this also kind of beautiful culture around disability. And so like it is both a social construct and something real and because of that, there's also something really beautiful there. And so I think, like the aches as a disabled parent are unique to us and then also, not unique to us. Like when I was stuck on the ground, not able to go to Khalil like you cried because that resonated for you because there's been times where you have like been stuck away from Sage. So I just think like so many identities. It's like both separate and then also not separate.
Yeah. This is maybe kind of, it makes me cry again thinking about it. Maybe a gross part of my postpartum experience, but I okay. I had a vaginal birth. I did not tear, my rectum, did not tear beautiful. Great. Thank you. Perineum is intact and then like weeks postpartum got an anal fissure that ended up being a months-long colorectal appointment, ordeal that I was in physical pain, any time I went to the bathroom or whatever, went to the bathroom for that day. I would then be in so much pain. I couldn't sit, walking hurt, like really what I could do is lay and I had lost like most control in terms of like when I had to go I had to go and so that for me, there were multiple times postpartum where again, it was like the parenting part wasn't the hard part for me. It was that. It was the like my body needing to be prioritized over caring for him and there were times that he would be like nursing to sleep and I'd be like, oh, I have to set him down in his crib. And he's now crying because he was nursing to sleep. We weren't done nursing. He wasn't asleep yet, and I'm interrupting this, setting him down in his crib and running to the bathroom. And then I'm going to be in pain. And then afterwards, I have to do a sitz bath for 20 minutes and can't do that until I get him back to all those like. And then I can't sit for the rest of the day today. I can't sit to nurse him. I can't, I couldn't sit to ride in the car, so I couldn't. I felt like I couldn't leave the house for a while. Yeah, and that, that was where my head when you shared the sitting on the ground and not being able to get to him of like mine was sitting on a toilet. But yes, yeah, sucked.
And so, yeah, I appreciate that. Like, and I don't at all want to say like, I know at all what it's like to live as a disabled human like a, I think you're right. It's like threading that line of there are some things where I'm like, oh I resonate with this part or connected with this and I don't know what it's like to be you and treading that water I guess.
But isn't that like the magic, of like detailed stories and not just like, focusing on, like, macro identity because it's in stories that like, we're able to really connect. It's like sharing the actual moments.
Thank you. Thanks for sharing your real raw moments. And sorry that you had to hear about my B hole.
I'm thankful that you shared! That sounds horrible.
It was really, really, really rough. Yeah, in a much better place now. Thank goodness. Thank you. For hanging out with me and for just sharing this, the reality of respectful parenting in your home. And there's anything you have to share, please.
Okay. I have a couple picture books coming out about disability.
Yes that's right!
Yeah. So one is called 'This is How We Play' and they're coming out with Penguin. So you'll be able to find them like, on Penguin Random House website or anywhere you buy books. And 'This is How We Play' each page celebrates a family with a family member with a disability, and they like unique adaptive ways they play. And 'This is How We Talk' is the second book and they're both co-written with Caroline Cup and it celebrates how people communicate with disabilities. So talking about AAC devices and sign language and board communication. And people who use little buttons on their belly button to answer. Yes. No. And just all sorts of like, beautifully, adaptive communication. So it shows disabled parents and disabled kids, and disabled teachers. And I'm really, really excited. And my co author and the illustrator are disabled people too.
Awesome. Incredible. When do they come out?
The first is 2023. And then next is later in 2023. And my Instagram is my name and I'll post updates.
Great and your name is Jessica Slice folks as a reminder. Yeah, head on over follow Jessica and when the books are live we'll also share about them on our Instagram too.
Yeah, of course. What an incredible tool you're creating. Thank you for doing so.
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