“I have good new for you! We are declassifying your son!”
This statement was recently conveyed to a friend by a member of the Special Education Department at her child’s school… and it was decidedly NOT good news.
This has been a running theme with many of my friends and fellow special needs mama warriors lately: declassification from Special Education and the removal of their child’s IEP because recent test scores show that they are “too smart for an IEP.”
It’s infuriating. If you think about the way the ADHD brain functions this statement doesn’t even make sense!
This very concept has struck a chord of fear within me. Am I going to walk into Man’s next meeting and fight to maintain the Special Education services that he desperately needs just because he happens to be producing grade level work?
Most children with ADHD and other behavioral and emotionally manifested disorders are, in fact, quite smart. We had Man tested recently and, as expected, the scores show that he is NOT intellectually disabled. They indicated that his IQ is adequate to maintain age appropriate, grade level work, if not work that even is somewhat above grade level.
However, his ADHD makes that impossible.
My incredibly smart and gifted son can program a computer yet can’t find his way out of a paper bag.
Because the ADHD brain lacks executive functioning skills. This means he can’t organize his classwork, he doesn’t know where or when to start an assignment, or how to pace himself so his brain doesn’t fatigue a third of the way through. He can’t remember the materials he is supposed to gather, or if he was supposed to do it in pencil or crayon. He can’t plan each step out or problem solve if he get’s himself stuck. Therefore, it doesn’t matter what his IQ is, he cannot use his intelligence effectively without the help of the Individualized Education Plan that creates goals and accommodations to account for his lack of Executive Functioning.
My incredibly talented and smart child has a command of math that is beyond his years, but some days he can’t add 2+2.
Because the ADHD brain lacks the ability to regulate emotions. This means that if he is feeling too anxious, his brain might just shut down. If he is extremely angry or sad it can affect him to the point of being unable to complete classroom work that day. If he is tired or overwhelmed simple tasks begin to seem insurmountable and he just gives up and walks away. Therefore, his excellent math skills don’t matter, he cannot use them effectively without the help of the Individualized Education Plan that creates goals and accommodations to help him with emotional regulation on the days when he simply cannot do it for himself.
Some days, all you see is Man’s ADHD. It’s worn like a badge, displayed like an eye sore across his chest. Everything he does, everything he touches, is affected by it. Without an IEP in place every day the bad days wouldn’t just be bad, they would be disastrous.
Some days, Man’s ADHD is imperceptible. A mere hint showing itself at random, innocuous moments, leaving him undisturbed and highly functional. Without an IEP in place every day these great days would only be somewhat satisfactory.
The only thing consistent about ADHD is its inconsistency. Frustratingly, its symptoms will come and go without rhyme or reason. Some days its sufferers will be super-starts, far exceeding the expectations of those around them. Other days, they will be deceived by their very own brains, and even the simplest of tasks will seem impossible. Therefore, the accommodations and support that an IEP provides must be a constant. The solid steadiness of that IEP is a vital guide for grounding these fragile, ever fluctuating students and their teachers.
No parent wants their child labeled or “classified.” If we could fix our children and make their brains function perfectly, we absolutely would. However, you are not calling us with “good news” when you tell us that you want to eliminate the services that they rely on to manage school successfully. You are essentially removing their lifeline to victory.
Being intelligent and being able to effectively use that intelligence are two entirely different things. Intelligence is so much more than just being “smart.” It’s a combination of a thousand distinctive characteristics that must all be operating in synch with one another, like a well-oiled machine. ADHD takes a huge wrench and just gingerly tosses it into that machine. It doesn’t matter how “smart” a child is, an IEP works as a tool to eliminate that wrench so our children can effectively use their intelligence.
I understand that a 504 is a valuable resource. It makes sense that schools want our children to thrive in the least restrictive environment. However, academic demands change drastically from year to year, as does a child’s social and emotional growth. The rush to declassify, an act that is virtually impossible to reverse, prior to a child demonstrating long-term, consistent success across a few grades seems drastic and irresponsible. We should be more cautious with our children, as even the slightest inkling of failure and struggle can have dire consequences with this population.
So no, I refuse to accept that any child is too smart for an IEP.
Man hold up his hands like a gun and takes fake shots. He laughs maniacally at the video he’s watching. It’s one of those silly kid’s videos where guys are using Nerf guns to shoot each other in idiotic places. He thinks it’s hysterical.
“Turn that off right now!” I say curtly.
“What’s the big deal?” He asks innocently.
“You know daddy and I don’t like guns or shooting or when you watch videos of shooting!”
“It’s just a Nerf gun mom, it’s funny.”
“Well, one day it could be a real gun!” I say as I rip the iPad away from him.
He looks at me, his already giant doe eyes even larger. “Mom, I was watching that!!”
“Well, now you’re not.” I spit back.
I take a deep breath; my emotions are running high. I have just read another article about the Parkland shooting and I’m sad, scared, angry, defeated…
“I have to talk to you about something, buddy.”
“One of the reasons daddy and I don’t like you playing with guns or thinking they are just fun toys is because one day, it might be hard for you to tell if someone has a toy gun or a real gun. One day, someone might start shooting and it won’t just be pretend.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Well, you know all of those lockdown drills you guys have? It’s because someone with a real gun might come into your school and start shooting and they want to make sure you know what to do. That happened today at a school in Florida. Some people even got killed.”
“Stop saying that mommy, you’re scaring me. I don’t want to hear that!!”
“I know little buddy, and I don’t want to have to tell you this, but I do. It’s important that you know that guns are dangerous and that they are not toys and they can hurt people.”
I’m crying now, and he looks at me a little lost. He continues to back away from the conversation, scanning the room for his iPad so he can remove himself from this discussion altogether. He can’t handle what I am saying and, quite frankly, I can’t either.
A million thoughts are racing through my head: “He needs to hear this stuff, it’s a matter of life and death.” “He’s only seven, I shouldn’t be scaring him like this.” “Am I doing this right, because I’m not sure how to have a conversation like this with my seven-year-old?” “I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO HAVE THIS CONVERSATION WITH MY SEVEN-YEAR-OLD!!!”
This morning they read the names and descriptions of the 17 killed on NPR. I began to cry again.
Then, just now, I read some of the text exchanges between parent’s and their children. I began to cry again.
Then I began to feel guilty, am I allowed to cry? Am I even allowed to feel this way? It wasn’t my school, or my children, or even anyone I know. My sadness cannot take away from the sadness and distraught felt by the friends and family of whose lives were taken.
My emotions are so confused and disconnected.
I don’t know what I am allowed to feel; but I do know that I am heartbroken.
I don’t know what I am allowed to feel; but I do know that I am angry.
I don’t know what I am allowed to feel; but I do know that I am helpless.
There is so much I’m feeling, but mostly, I don’t feel it is my right to have any feelings on this matter at all, not until it happens to someone I know.
And there it is… “Not until it happens to someone I know.”
The likelihood of it happening to someone I know is significant, it’s only a matter of time.
That fact alone gives me the right to feel!
To feel angry!
To feel that nothing, NOTHING is being done!
To feel scared because we are all just sitting around waiting for it to happen again!!!
This didn’t happen to me, it happened to every single parent and child in this country and somewhere along the way we’ve been told to accept the fact that there is nothing we can do.
In the end, why feel at all if those feelings aren’t going to amount to anything.
It’s impossible not to feel overwhelmed with sentiment and emotion as I pack up my family and ready us to move out of the first home we ever owned. A decade ago, a young, excited engaged couple made the traditional migration from a thrilling life in the big city to settling down into quiet suburban living. In the years that followed, we filled this home with a marriage, two children, pets, ups, downs, and in betweens- moments of love and laughter have bounced joyfully off these walls, while times of sadness and regret have seeped deeply into its cracks and crevices. I can see the memories in every corner of every room- from smalls scuffs left on the baseboards from tiny kicking feet to art projects depicting our happy family taped lovingly to bedroom walls.
I go through the house daily, methodically emptying drawers and clearing shelves. In this endless quest, items that were once thought to be gone forever begin to resurface. I come across a bag containing the clothes Man wore home from the hospital- I had put it away for “safe keeping” in his closet over seven years ago and then, naturally, forgot it existed. I inhale deeply, it has since lost its newborn baby smell, but the memories of that day come flooding back as though it were yesterday. He was so small, a mere 5 pounds and 13 ounces, that he didn’t fit into the newborn sized onsie we had purchased for him and we had to fashion an outfit out of clothes the hospital provided. A smile breaks out on my face and a tear streams down my cheek as I am swept up in the joy of the memory.
I move on to my bedroom closet with a broom stick in hand to help knock down items stored long ago on it’s very top shelf. A white, pleather bowling bag falls and almost hits me in the head. I rifle through its contents and find Madonna style 80’s lace gloves, handcuffs, edible underwear, and other kinky goodies. Holy shit, the gag bag from my bachelorette party! I am inundated with more memories; a bonfire on the beach, lobster dinner al fresco, and penis shaped shot glasses filled with too much tequila. Suddenly, I feel old and tired; I’m so far removed from that young and carefree bachelorette.
All this mess, all this purging and packing, it has been an emotional roller coaster. I am tense and exhausted.
I have spent months endlessly scavenging furniture stores and websites for new and fabulous items, vowing to fill our home with beautiful and CLEAN couches and rugs that have not been stained by children and gnawed on by pets. Countless hours have been devoted to choosing the perfect wall colors to compliment the new and attractive “big-girl home” I am determined to have. Walls filled with color that have not been marked up by crafting projects or dirt stained little fingers.
All this time, all this effort to create a new, improved, beautiful home, a home that is nothing like the dirty piece meal house I live in now. I am anxious and feel undue pressure.
There has been so much time and effort dedicated to salvaging what we can still use, tossing the old and searching for the new, that the meaning of the move has been lost on me entirely. This house, no, this home, wasn’t born out of “stuff” it was created by the people who dwell in it. I have completely overlooked, or quite possibly just ignored, the fact these walls have seen the growth of family. To avoid the overwhelming emotion that accompanies leaving my home, I have placed more value on the items inside of it than on the feelings, sentiment, and memories that it holds.
I became a wife in this house. My husband and I were just three months shy of our wedding day when we moved in. I can see us as newlyweds, glowing with love and enthusiasm, unmarred by the life that was to unfold before us. I can feel the love that we had for each other, new and eager to please, carefree and wildly passionate. I learned how to be a wife in this house, how to be a partner. I learned about communication and compromise and how to come to resolutions together as a team. I hear the fain echo of words spoken in times where we both thought we would never make it, where we were ready to give up on our marriage and go our separate ways. I sit now in our bedroom and see the spot where he stood when we decided that we loved each other and our family far too much to give up and decided that we were worth fighting for. I feel surrounded by the love we share now, as we have come out on the other side stronger and even better than before.
I became a mother in this house. I can see the spot where I peed on the stick for the first, and second time. I still have the same garbage can that I tossed those pregnancy tests into after they gave me the answers that I was hoping for. I sit, right now, in the very bed that I napped together with my babies, desperate for some shut eye. I can see the chair I sat in as I pumped my milk, praying that just one more ounce would come out. I can feel the relief in the room where I decided to stop pumping and just feed my child formula, because I wasn’t a failure, I was just doing what I had to do. I can picture the messes made and the floors littered with clothes that my then undiagnosed ADHD Man created in his tornado phase. He moved swiftly and with purpose destroying much of our house. I can sit at the table where he used to feed his little sister and speak the words, “Millie’s talkin to me!!!” I can relax on the couch where he first held her the day we brought her home. I can return to the spot in my closet where I would hide and cry because motherhood was not what I expected and it stunned me to think that I was not as happy as I “should be.” I can feel the warmth and the love of all the moments of laughter, triumph, fun, enjoyment, first times, and continued successes that this house has brought us.
I became a sober woman in this house, deciding once and for all that I could no longer successfully drink. I see the spot where I crumbled in fear and desperation as the realization took hold that I needed more help that I had been willing to admit.
I became a student in this house. After picking myself up and dusting off the remains of my unhappiness, I sit at the very computer where I filled out the applications and the wrote essays that would take me on this next journey in my life.
I grew up in this house, becoming a woman that I am proud to be- a happy woman, the woman I always knew I could be.
We became a family in this house.
If my walls could talk, they would tell me of failures and triumphs, of sadness and successes. They would share with me the pride with which they have surrounded me and my family. There is no new couch or new rug that matters more than the growth and the memories of the home that I have built with my family. I will cry when we leave all these memories behind, having safely stowed them in my heart. I will open the door to my new home with excitement and eagerness for the new memories we shall continue to forge together.
Tis the season of gift giving – that incredible time of year when you can force your children into good behavior by threatening to cancel Christmas or Hanukkah. Nothing beats a snow-covered morning at home, sipping coffee quietly while your delightful children beam like angels…because they’re scared half to death that you’re going to give all their toys away. 😉
But it’s also a challenging time of year. All. That. Holiday. Pressure!!!!! All that work to create the perfect holiday ambiance inside your home and spread the happ-happ-happiest holiday cheer outside the home.
I scroll through my newsfeed every evening thanking God that I was born a Jew – I would crumble into dust under the pressure that is Elf on a Shelf. The hours of time and creativity that people put into this tiny little stuffed elf… I’m in awe, truly I am. Someone recently told me I should purchase the Mensch on a Bench for my kids (because it’s not really a holiday until there is a socially acceptable Jewish Hallmark spinoff item) and I literally turned and ran away from the conversation as fast as my feet could carry me. In my house, if the dog didn’t manage to grab it first and claim it as her own, that Mensch would just sit and wait patiently on his bench while his furry little brown beard turned Santa Claus white. Eventually he would be covered by all the mounds of crap that I let pile up all over my house…until the following year, when I would find him the day after Hanukkah ended, and silently curse at myself for buying a new one after my yearlong search had failed. Stupid Mensch. If he were smart, he would run off with the elf and they would live out the rest of their days sipping Pina Coladas on the beach.
As I was heading for my room this evening, my daughter’s latest Hanukkah gift caught my eye, a Light Bright wrapped in the same classic 70’s packaging as mine was when I was a little girl. A little thrill filled me, “I can’t wait to play with that with her tomorrow!” (Full disclosure, I strongly considered opening it up and playing with it right then.) But it really got me thinking, when was the last time I was excited to play with one of my kids’ toys? Um… never! I’ll be honest, I find dressing and putting baby dolls to sleep mind numbingly boring. And no matter how many times Man attempts to engage me in lively conversation about Minecraft, I really just “yes” and “uh-huh” him to the point where he could be asking me to buy him a horse and I wouldn’t even realize that I had agreed to do so. My big question is, why don’t we get our kids presents that we want to play with- that we would enjoy partaking in ourselves? Wouldn’t that be so much better for everyone!?
I say, down with gifts that are torture to parents!! No longer do we have to stand for painfully stepping on that random tiny LEGO piece stranded in the hallway from the Millennium Falcon that is taking your child forever to finish! No longer do we have to follow our daughters around with the vacuum cleaning up tiny beads and glitter from our daughter’s art boxes. I’m here to say, I will no longer pretend that Barbie is strutting the fashion runway!!!!!
Here are the perfect gifts for your child… that are really for you!!
The Easy Bake Oven: Not only is this a classic from your childhood, but you get to enjoy the tasty treats of your efforts. Even if baking isn’t your thing, who wouldn’t want an excuse to snack on a bite size, full fat, full gluten, full sugar, full flavor brownie?
Nintendo DS or Atari: Yes, I say bring back Mario and Luigi in a big way!!! Go to town with your kid while you try and save the princess and battle the Kublai Khan! Have a blast while you achieve your lifelong dream of finally getting Frogger across the street safely!
Tickets… to anything: Whether it’s tickets to the movies, or, if you can swing it, a show, this is the gift that keeps on giving. I don’t know about you, but I spend most kid’s movie outings taking a quick snooze, or catching up on e mails. If you can make it to a show, double bonus! Now you get the pleasure of being entertained while, simultaneously watching your kids be dazzled!
DVD’s: Need I say more…?
“Spa Day”: This is a great one for the little ladies in your life. They can get their nails polished up like a rainbow while you enjoy a pedi and a quick 10-minute back rub!
Mail Order Mystery: Once I convinced Man that there wouldn’t be a pirate curse descending upon us if we didn’t figure out the clues in time, this proved to be fantastically fun! I was just as eager as he was- and my husband would likely tell you that I was even more eager- to break that code and figure out the next clue. I go to the mailbox every day hoping to find another envelope from International Office with my, er, Man’s name on it. https://www.mailordermystery.com/
A Deep Space Planetarium: Just picture it, you snuggled in bed with your kids at night while they are entertained by simply gazing at the ceiling. That sounds like a little slice of heaven… literally.
Books from your childhood: Even if your kids can read on their own, how nice would it be to sit and read Harry Potter with them? I eagerly await the day that I can read Anne of Green Gables to Lady. To be able to share the love of your favorite series with you kids while enjoying it again yourself, there is really no better gift!
In this season of giving, I say it’s ok to be a little selfish. Go forth, and gift the gifts that YOU will enjoy as well!!
Yesterday evening I read an article in the New York Times entitled, “The ‘Problem Child’ Is a Child, Not a Problem.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/24/opinion/collaborative-problem-solving-children.html) It discussed how the appropriate method of behavior modification should be used by teachers to help “problem” children fare better within the classroom, especially in the earliest, most fragile years of their education. The article itself was fabulous, and extremely validating to parents of children with emotional and behavioral challenges. It suggested that teachers receive more training in adequate techniques to prevent situations like the one highlighted in the article—the case of an eight-year-old child having long-term emotional effects, subsequently resulting in educational challenges, from preschool teachers managing his behavior improperly. It emphasized that poor behavioral management in early childhood can have lifelong consequences.
Unfortunately, I made the big, no HUGE, mistake of reading the comments. I have never been so blown away by a lack of empathy, and sheer ignorance about this population. I am so angered and sad, but mostly, I’m disappointed and fearful. I’ll be the first to admit that much of the challenge with children like this is their behavioral functioning. However, another significant challenge is that the driving force behind such behavior is completely misunderstood. Here, right in front of me, was the glaring proof of such stereotypes- and not just any proof, but proof presented in well thought out and intelligent comments in the New York Times.
I am ashamed to admit it, but often, when I am out in public with Man, I find myself making justifications for his behavior in one way or another- An eye roll to a person here to indicate, “I know, I know, I can’t believe he is doing that either!” or a harsher than necessary talking-to so others around me don’t think that I’m just ignoring such behavior—a behavior, mind you, that he likely cannot control and that my stern warning will do nothing to deter. I then find myself feeling terribly guilty- why did I feel the need to defend anything my son is doing to anyone, nonetheless a stranger? Well, the comments section of this article just reinforced exactly why I feel such a need.
The comments fell into a few horrendous categories:
1) The “bad children come from bad parents” type of comments. I hear this often, that a child’s behavior is the direct result of bad parenting. While yes, it is true that sometimes my seven-year-old simply acts like a seven-year-old and, in that moment, I probably don’t handle it to the very best of my abilities—I mean seriously, who parents perfectly all the time? This is NOT what is going on for a child with ADHD. Most of the parents that I know personally—and the thousands that I interact with regularly as part of the vast support networks on social media—work tirelessly on their child’s behavior. We use behavior charts, talk to doctors, use family trainers, send our kids to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and are just generally on their cases about every move they make all the time. We are stellar parents who have literally tried everything, including medication in many cases, and we still come up short. Why? Because our children are just wired that way and no matter how hard we work, we cannot completely deter the behaviors that come along with ADHD and other similar disorders.
2) The “parents should help the child, it’s not the teacher’s responsibility,” type comments. Most parents are doing all that they can with the resources available to them to help their child succeed in and out of the classroom. This is true for both the parents of special needs children and typical children. Even the mother of the child in the article stated that she would leave her child at school and then go and cry with worry. It is overwhelming to have a child like this in a way that is unimaginable to others unless they are going through it themselves. Diagnoses that largely manifest themselves behaviorally are incredibly challenging to treat. Like a medical diagnosis, it cannot be treated in isolation; for behavior modification to be successful, every person that works with that child must be on the same page and CONSISTENT. I often say that “consistent” is my least favorite word- you try getting teachers, coaches, babysitters, grandparents, etc. to follow a specific plan on how to reinforce positive behavior in your kid. Any slight deviation in the behavior plan can have dire results. Something as simple as you attending to your other child and not providing the proper, immediate reinforcement can set you back days or even weeks. A child is at school for a good portion of their day; if the teacher does not understand the behavior plan then the child might as well not have it. Additionally, many of these behaviors directly impede their learning, and therefore require the direct attention of the teacher, the person who is responsible for educating them within the classroom.
3) Which leads me to the next grouping of comments, the “children like this shouldn’t be in class with regular students,” type comments. These were the most hurtful comments of all. I completely understand where the parents were coming from; the comment was always based in the idea that these students take away from the learning experience of other, more typical children. That’s just disappointing and short sighted. Let me be clear; I am hyper-aware of how Man’s behavior affects others, especially his peers, but separating him is not the answer… for any child. My son teaches others empathy and understanding. He shows them that not all children are alike. He demonstrates daily how one can overcome struggle. He provides his classmates with a true cooperative learning experience, as learning to work together with a variety of different people is vital to lifelong success. He is a good friend, and a kind hearted and genuine child. He adds to the educational experience of other students by requiring their help with reading and handwriting—when students become the teachers, it is excellent for their development. He also adds to their educational experience by helping them with anything STEM related. Many of the comments also expressed concern that these children take up too much of the teacher’s time. I get that—I want both of my children to get the time they deserve from their teachers and some days they are going to be the children that require the time, and other days it will be someone else’s child.
4) The “children like this are just bad kids,” kind of comments. No, no they are not. If a child is acting out, it’s for a reason. One person even went so far as to say that children like this were all psychopaths and that instead of teachers being trained in behavior mod, they should be trained in the early detection of such a disorder. I mean… really? When Man can no longer sit still or his hand is aching from writing due to his poor hand strength, he acts out. He’s tired; he’s seven; he’s being asked to do something that he simply cannot do. He is not bad; he is just a child who is challenged daily by his ADHD.
The amount of parental blame in the comments was just startling. Attitudes and ideas like that only serve to alienate the most fragile of students and their parents. Instead of looking at the parents, we need to be looking at the public education system in its entirety. We are failing all students, typical and atypical. Increasing the number of teachers per school and per classroom, allowing for a smaller student to teacher ratio, would do wonders to allay concerns of all parents. Creating programs that allowed for more flexibility in learning modality, instead of just focusing on the direct teaching method, would also benefit all students. Pouring money into our educational budget instead of slashing it to its bare bones would benefit all students. We need to stop looking for the simple excuses and start focusing on better, more effective long-term solutions.
I don’t often begin writing a post with its title. Most of the time, I have an idea that I want to express, so I sit down at my computer and within about 45 minutes, it’s gushed out of me with the emotion, power and force of Niagara Falls. I then go back and spend an inappropriately excessive amount of time trying to come up with a catchy title that screams “click bait.” A few weeks ago, I read a comment on a friend’s post. A mother had—and I’m paraphrasing here—stated that she lived for her children and that they were her absolute everything. Reading such a comment left my stomach in knots and my brain reeling. With my body tingling and tightened with angst, a realization formed: I just don’t feel that way about my kids. Of course, as a parent, I was immediately flooded with guilt—this line of thinking just felt all wrong, it felt selfish. I’m a mother, damnit, I’m supposed to live for my kids, aren’t I? I hesitated to add my own comment, sheepishly returning to the post multiple times throughout the day and reading what other parents had written before finally deciding to comment myself: “I live for myself,” I wrote, “and my kids benefit from the happiness that I exude because of this.” I left this provocative statement hanging on that page for all the world to see.
There it was, a perfect blog topic. A controversial feeling that only the boldest of parents would express publicly. Parental condemnation click bait!!! However, I didn’t know what exactly I was feeling and couldn’t yet quite put it into words. A million false starts of a post in my head never made it onto the computer, and then, this week, two things happened. I heard the incredible Brene Brown speak (if you haven’t read her books, get them) and we attended a back-to-school picnic at my children’s elementary school.
Brene, in all her glorious wisdom, talked about the concept of “belonging”. She began with the following quote from Maya Angelou: “You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all.” Was she talking about me? Has she been following along on my journey this past year? This quote, stated so simply and eloquently, encompassed the very journey of soul searching and self-actualization that I have been on lately.
This is what the journey of motherhood has been for me; trying to find out where I, both as just Laura as well as Man and Lady’s mom, fit into this complicated world. And the answer was right there in front of me in 1000-pt font and illuminated on a giant screen: nowhere, but also everywhere. To belong doesn’t mean to “fit in,” to perfectly fit some mold; it means to always be your most authentic self. When you’re authentic, real, and true, there is no place you don’t belong. Honestly, most of my life, even before having children, was spent attempting to achieve this. I essentially thought that having children would accomplish this very goal for me. I would finally belong somewhere concrete, I would belong to motherhood.
I was wrong.
From the time Man was born, I lived and breathed for his every need and want. As he got older and the demands of his ADHD took hold, my mood, my sense of self, my very being, revolved around his various successes and failures. If he had a play date where he didn’t destroy a friend’s home, I was thrilled for a month. If he pushed a child down the slide at the park, my week was over. Everything he did dictated everything I felt. Add the fact that I had another typically-developing child just 18-months his junior who also needed my love and attention and by the end of the day I had nothing left but my congratulatory glasses of wine and my misery. I wasn’t belonging; in fact, the opposite was happening, I was losing myself more and more with each passing year.
Last year I decided that I had had enough. I stopped drinking, returned to school to pursue my dream degree, and again begin the lifelong pursuit toward finding my most authentic self. I have never been happier or felt more of a sense of belonging. Furthermore, my time with my children has become more meaningful, fun, and contented; I am able to be present for them in a way I never was before. In allowing myself to accept my truth, that I needed more than just motherhood to complete me, I have become the best versions of both Laura the person and Laura the mother.
Yesterday, at the kids’ school picnic, I was reminded of just how significant this journey is and how important it is to be steadfast in its pursuit. Usually Man shies away from big events like these. They are too crowded for him and very overstimulating. However, due to the way the day’s events unfolded, I unexpectedly found myself standing on the school playground watching my kids play, feeling miserable – a feeling which had become all but foreign to me in the last year. Instead of adopting an attitude of belonging, I let my worries and fears about Man get the best of me. I watched every move he made, I saw every social success, every stumble, and everything in between. Instead of allowing myself to see what a HUGE step and triumph this was for him, or to even enjoy some time chit chatting with lovely ladies who I don’t often get to see, I was an emotional mess. My mood was, once again, tied to his every move, and ironically his moves were mostly absolute perfection. I was transported right back to a year ago and it was a harsh reminder that that person no longer belonged on the playground.
There is no doubt of how much I love my children. I would take a bullet for them, donate a kidney, and if it was possible, painstakingly remove every obstacle and hardship that this world will throw their way. I love them with every fiber of my being. I would die for them, but I can no longer just live for them.