Parenting

I Had To Learn How To See My Son For Who He Was

After I made peace with who he wasn’t, I was able to embrace who he was.

Ariela Basson/Scary Mommy; Getty Images, Shutterstock

I recently told a friend that I used to know my son, but now I see my son. He turned 4 years old this past December. His name is Wylie, and man is he a “Wylie.” Naming your child comes with the gigantic pressure of creating their entire identity from the very second they are born — I would often test out this name while I was pregnant by experimenting with different voices to introduce him: “Now batting… Wylie Berger” in the deep voice of a baseball announcer, or “Paging Dr. Wylie Berger…” in a nasally voice over an imaginary intercom.

So, would the name fit the person? When we passed the one-year mark, he was up and off to the races walking early, and there was no turning back. We had to change his diapers standing up, he ran everywhere, he was always on the move. When he turned three, the non-stop action got more intense, and I wished he’d just sit still and want to color or even do a fun little craft project with me.

My whole world is about creating things. I built a company on it called P.S.- I Made This. Diving into the worlds of arts and crafts with my child was something I had fantasized about since day one. Watercolor, painting, baking — you name it, I was ready to do it all with him.

Instead, his energy and activity level continued to increase, as did my frustration. When I wanted to make or build something together, he only wanted to tear it down. I saw other kids sitting down, resting their bodies, being compliant…so why wouldn’t mine? Was there something I was doing wrong? Why couldn’t I get thru to him to do an art project or even take a break to rest his body?

Around the time he turned 3, when people asked me about him, I told them he was a lovable tornado. He never stops never stopping, and somehow the name just fit. What a Wylie! But the truth is, we really started to struggle with how to cope with some intense behaviors that were destructive and overwhelming. As a parent you start to feel helpless. Was this because he was a 3-year-old boy channeling Wil E. Coyote, or was it more?

We started him in occupational therapy to help with self-regulation and sensory processing. My entire life, I always told people I marched to my own beat and I was a visual learner — and right before my eyes I am learning that my son is the exact same. I started to realize he wasn’t being difficult or destructive because he’s a bad kid. It was because the activity or event was difficult for him. Or he didn’t know how to transition in/out of a given situation- he was wired differently.

The irony was, the main reason I started writing my third book, PS- We Made This, was to help parents connect with their kids. Being able to put screens down and use creativity in the craft room or kitchen can help kids thrive in so many ways: spatial recognition, identity, literacy, environmental stewardship, math, creative play, and much more. As I worked on this book it became clear to me that I also needed to lean into connecting with my own son in a way that worked for him, not just me. There is a saying in the world of retail, “meet the customer where they are.” I think it applies to parenting too. We need to meet our kids where they are.

I started to make peace with the fact that he may not be the kid who wants to sit and color for hours, or use a rainbow scratch pad/magic water pen on road trips. After I made peace with who he wasn’t, I was able to embrace who he was.

While he may not have the patience or focus yet for the activities I fantasized to do with him, I’m learning to lean into things that spark joy for him. Microphones made of paper towel rolls allow us to sing silly made up songs; we create obstacle courses using paper plates and pillows paper cups and don’t even get me started on the OMG moment I made sugar cookies that look like fossils. (All you have to do is push a small dinosaur toy into a warm sugar cookie to make an impression, aka a fossil.)

I recently remembered that I read the meaning of the name Wylie as “clever and crafty” shortly after he was born. At the time, I thought: a crafty son, jackpot! Four years into being a mom has made me realize he’s smart as a whip and knows how to push all the buttons like a smooth operator — a different flavor of “crafty.”

A lot of parents (myself included) try to project what they love onto their kids. To me, expressing yourself through creativity, art, and cooking is a beautiful thing. For kids, helping them hone and develop fine motor skills, their senses, and life skills can also be beautiful, and it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Because let’s be honest, parenting is the hardest job out there.

My advice to anyone out there looking for ways to connect with their kid: Keep it simple. It’s not always about the what you’re doing — but why. That’s something I needed to remember, myself.

Oh, and PS: don’t recycle those cardboard boxes from the holidays just yet. I promise no matter who your child is, they would be excited to turn it into a pizza oven or a monster truck ramp. Spending time together and letting curiosity and creativity lead the way will help them feel seen and foster a sense of belonging — something that all of us need, at any age.

Social Image: Stephanie Loren Photography

Erica Domesek is the founder of the innovative DIY lifestyle brand, P.S.–I Made This, which launched in 2009. Domesek’s passion for entertaining and hand making beautiful objects in ways that make everyday life more colorful, and fun quickly became her calling card. She has been a distinguished expert in the areas of design and style as well as a leader in brand marketing for 15 years. Her personal mission is to inspire and encourage people everywhere to embrace the concept of crafting the life they want. Domesek has appeared on The Today Show, Rachael Ray, The Martha Stewart Show, E! News, among many others. Erica lives in Los Angeles with her 4-year-old son, Wylie.