How I Finally Found My Tribe

PowerWood Summer Camp

My life changed dramatically a year ago. I’ve always been an outlier, flitting round the edges of social groups, never comfortably fitting into one group for long.

I’ve managed for short periods, like when my kids started school and I somehow found myself a member the cool mummy clique for a few months. But sooner or later I’d get tired of pretending to be someone I’m not. I’d start to reveal my odd little quirks, my unusual way of looking at the world, and the invitations would gradually dry up.

Sometimes acquaintances would withdraw more abruptly, like when I threw a huge spanner in the school mum network by taking my kids out of school to home-educate them. I began home-educating because I could see that school wasn’t the right place for my outlier kids, but people sometimes think that homeschoolers have made their kids different by taking them out of school, rather than vice versa.

This confusion between cause and effect carries over to parenting generally. My kids are different from average. They are both, in their own ways, intense, sensitive, easily-overwhelmed and hyper-reactive.  Parenting techniques that work on most kids don’t work with mine. Luckily I figured this out very early and turned instead to books like Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishment to Love and Reason.

But other people thought my kids had meltdowns because I wasn’t strict enough. I couldn’t really blame them – it’s how humans are wired. If their kid used to have temper tantrums and they tried a technique that worked, of course they’re going to think that if only everyone used that method, there’d be no badly-behaved kids.

As my son got older, the gap between his behaviour and that of his peers grew wider – and I became lonelier and lonelier. My husband, who spends less time with our children than me, wasn’t convinced we shouldn’t just be trying a bit harder with some of those traditional methods of discipline (I hate that word).

In the absence of any external support, instead of working together to help our son we were wasting our energy, at best arguing about what we should be doing, and at worst accusing each other of making his problems worse.

Then just under a year ago we finally found what we needed: community. A group of parents who were experiencing very similar issues to us, who were familiar with our challenges, who understood how it felt to be judged and misunderstood, and who knew better than to point the finger and ask, “Why don’t you just take away his iPad?”

Within this community we’ve found the validation, compassion and information we desperately needed. And once we stopped blaming ourselves for our son’s non-average behaviour, we were able to understand him better. Freed from worry that he was ‘abnormal’ we could see more clearly where he needed support, and we could also begin to share with our kids what we were discovering about the positive side of overexcitabilities.

The PowerWood Community

The person who introduced us to that community was a wise and compassionate lady called Simone de Hoogh. Simone was inspired by her experiences with her own children to create PowerWood,  the UK’s leading not-for-profit organisation supporting families dealing with sensitivity, intensity and super-reactivity.

Everyone I’ve met who’s come into contact with PowerWood expresses the same feelings of relief and gratitude – finally someone gets their family. Perhaps that explains why Simone is now supported at PowerWood by a team of more than 50 volunteers helping share her wonderful work.

Here are 5 ways you can connect with the PowerWood community:

(1) Go to a PowerWood workshop

The next PowerWood OE Workshop (Intensity, Super-sensitivity and Hyper-reactivity) is happening in London on 12 and 13 March 2016. You can go to one or both days.

If you can’t make the workshop, Simone is hosting a free, informal ‘coffee with Simone’ event (also in London) on Friday 11 March 2016.

If you’re reading this after those dates, check the PowerWood website for future workshops.

(2) Join the PowerWood Facebook group

In the PowerWood Facebook group you’ll find encouragement, information and support from Simone de Hoogh, a team of friendly PowerWood volunteers and a wonderful bunch of other folks who are dealing with the opportunities and challenges life with intensity and sensitivity brings.

(3) Go to a PowerWood summer camp

I’ll say it now, I am not a natural camper. I find the whole process of packing my kitchen into my car and sleeping under canvas for several days completely overwhelming.

So it’s saying something that I utterly loved my first PowerWood camp  last summer. Being with kindred spirits for an extended period and participating in Simone’s workshops while my kids happily played with new friends left me on a real high, not to mention equipped with a whole bunch of information and tools to support my kids. (That’s me up there in the photo, hanging out with my tribe at the camp.)

As well as plenty of craft and play activities for kids, Simone even runs workshops for children and teens at the PowerWood summer camp. My children came away from these sessions understanding themselves better, and after meeting them in person, Simone was able to reassure me that they are quite ‘normal’ intense and sensitive kids!

(4)  Book a free 1-hour introductory Skype support session

I’m a therapist and coach myself, and over the years I’ve had some great coaching from a variety of people to help me in my life and as a parent. But nothing has ever hit the spot like the Skype support sessions I’ve had with Simone over the last year.

If you have OEs, there’s no substitute for getting support from someone who both understands how that feels and who can offer the information and tools to make a real difference to the issues you’re struggling with. (Book a support session here.)

(5) Sign up for the PowerWood newsletter

The monthly PowerWood newsletter contains stories from other parents together with information about upcoming PowerWood events. If you’re not quite ready for a workshop, signing up for the newsletter might be a good first step to finding out if the PowerWood community is right for you. (You can sign up here.)

Before I met Simone I’d read plenty online about twice exceptional children. I’d even visited the PowerWood website. But with so much information out there I found it difficult to pick out what was truly relevant to my own family.

What I needed was to connect with real people, to find my tribe. If you have sensitive, intense children, join me in the PowerWood community. You won’t regret it.

 

Of course, I’d love you to help other people find community too by sharing this post or by  liking Laugh, Love, Learn on Facebook. 🙂

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16 thoughts on “How I Finally Found My Tribe

  1. Thank YOU Lucinda so much this ‘tribe’ blog with o so kind words:)! You made my day when I read this blog post:)! The smile will stick to my face for ages:)))))))!
    When I set up PowerWood this sense of community, feeling safe with others for us and our children, was what I was aiming for, as that is what I most missed when my children were small. So glad you and your family feel part of our ‘tribe’:)!

  2. Feeling all emotional having read that, Lucinda! Once again I really identify with your struggle, and with the feelings of finding my ‘tribe’ at PowerWood. That at last here were people who understood our parenting struggle – because they were going through similar experiences with their children. Oh the relief! I’ve often doubted myself and my parenting over the years. Why did no-one else (I knew) seem to find parenting this hard? Why didn’t the ‘normal’ parenting techniques work for my child? Why was she so emotionally volatile and have such intense meltdowns when she hit out with such anger and hate? I now understand the answers to these questions (my daughter is HLP and has a number of OEs – as do the rest of the family!) and we are working on techniques to help. Thank you, Simone, for all the work you do to create this community and provide such wise advice. The understanding you have given us has made a huge difference to our family. Thank you, Lucinda, for sharing your family’s experiences – I get real comfort from hearing I’m not alone and I’m sure many others do too. Keep up the good work!

    1. And thank you, Kirsty, for reading and commenting with your experiences. You are playing a really important part in helping grow the community Simone started!

      “Why was she so emotionally volatile and have such intense meltdowns when she hit out with such anger and hate?”

      Indeed. Questions like these are so far outside most people’s experience that it’s no wonder they can’t relate to our intense experience of parenting. Yet I’m sure many parents of children with OEs have asked similar questions. Thank goodness we’ve found each other!

      Thank you again for your support and encouragement here. 🙂

  3. Lucinda,

    I can identify with so many of your experiences even though my children are different to yours. When he was a child, my eldest son would never participate in group activities preferring to do his own thing which was totally unacceptable as far as the other mothers were concerned. They thought I should make him conform and when I couldn’t, they thought he was undisciplined. I was a poor mother. All his life I’ve had ‘advice’ from others who don’t value his uniqueness. I have tried to make him fit in and be like everyone else, but when I see him pretending to be someone he isn’t just so everyone will accept him, it breaks my heart. In real life, I have never found my own tribe, but I am so glad to hear you have! It must be so lovely to have friends who make you feel understood and accepted and who really want to know and love you. And friends for your children too and camps and fun!

    1. Sue,

      Thank you for sharing your experiences with your eldest son. I can tell that you understand how it feels to feel anxious about your child and to worry that you’re not doing the right thing by him. We’re all trying to find that balance between helping our children fit in and honouring the essence of who they are, aren’t we?

      I think intense and sensitive people are often very aware of our differences, even between ourselves, but connecting with people who are experiencing similar challenges is definitely helpful. My tribe feels pretty small at the moment, but I’m trying to do my little bit to help it grow!

      As for you – I think perhaps you’ve created your own real-life tribe – the Elvises! 🙂

  4. Lucinda, I love that you have found something/somewhere/someone that is helping you and your family understand and embrace itself even more.

    It always confounds me how people love unique characters in TV shows … you know the quirky, odd person, but the reality is in real life it is difficult to be a non-conformist in a conformist society as people do not readily accept it and are so quick to bloody judge! I am blessed with some ‘quirky’ family members and so realise that whilst someone’s general appearance may appear ‘normal’ there in fact may be some personality traits that make them behave or react differently than how society expects them to.

    Sending you hugs and big happy smiles to hear of your happiness and success in this aspect your life and kudos to you for not giving up on finding your current tribe. I am sure you and yours are a welcome addition and by highlighting this am sure you are going to inspire others. xxx

    1. Lisa, Thank you for visiting me over here and for leaving such a heart-warming comment – it was so lovely to read!

      You’re so right about quirky people being more popular as entertainment figures. I love how you describe yourself as ‘blessed’ with quirky family members. 🙂 I experience some of my family as super-quirky (and delightful with it) but I’m amazed that it’s taken me until now to identify myself that way too. I suppose it takes a lot to set aside a lifetime of trying to fit in.

      Thank you for your lovely hugs and smiles – I’m sending the same to you across the continents! As I said to Sue, my tribe feels pretty small at the moment but I’m so happy to be doing something about growing it. Thank you for being such a supportive kindred spirit. 🙂 xxx

  5. I love the fact that you have found your tribe. What a wonderful way of expressing it! You sound so happy, and whilst I am only a blogging friend I am SO chuffed that you feel like you fit in somewhere where you feel you can be completely you. I am certain I would love the person you have been hiding from the world all these years. Shine brightly lovely person. The world is your oyster now 🙂

    1. Claire, you and I know that there’s no ‘only’ when it comes to blogging friends. 😉 I love how in this space we get to choose our people – maybe more so than in ‘real life’! You’ve always been an inspiration to me when it comes to embracing who you are. Thank you for being my cheerleader here, too.<3

  6. So glad you’ve found your tribe, Lucinda. It is very imiportant for one’s well being to feel connected and understood/accepted by someone. Feeling like you/your children have to pretend to be someone else in order to be accepted is very stressful at best, so you must be relieved now and thus are inspired to help others in the same situation. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Hwee.

      I guess as a parent one just tends just to get on with life as it happens, so that it’s not until later looking back that you realise you’ve been through quite a stressful time.

      You’re quite right, once I realised how much of a difference my family being understood and accepted makes (even by a handful of people) I want to share what I’ve learned with as many people as possible! 🙂

      Hwee, have you ever thought about joining the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum bloggers group? I’ve been really enjoying being part of it (not sure why my name’s not on the list there yet!). It would be fab to have more British bloggers there, and I’d love to read your contribution on some of the topics. I realise that ‘gifted’ is a much-misunderstood label over here, which is why I haven’t used it much yet on this blog, but I intend to introduce the topic (carefully!) soon, partly so that I can join in future blog hops!

      1. I’ve thought about joining the bloggers group, but not quite sure how (I’ll go and figure it out)… And the reason I haven’t blogged much about giftedness or talked about it is because of the potential backlash that mentioning it would bring about to myself or to my family, given that the atmosphere in the UK doesn’t feel very welcoming of those who the public perceive as “wanting to feel more special than the next person”, which is of course not the case at all. Identifying with the gifted label can draw more negative attention than positive ones, so I’m hesitant to put my hand up for that. 🙂

        1. I know exactly what you mean, Hwee. Simone tells the story of how she was once doing research at HESFES and was attacked for even using the word!

          I’ve found a lot of support among the GHF bloggers community (there’s a lovely FaceBook group), plus ideas for blog posts. Posts can get a lot of publicity thanks to the network, too. I’m now busy thinking of creative ways to participate without using the ‘G’ word! 😀 I’m going to brace myself and write a post on the subject at some point, I think!

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