Eight Coping Strategies For (Special Needs) Moms

I have always wanted to be a mother. I had a childhood fantasy of having twin girls named Stacey and Tracey (adorable, right?).  I was more than eager to start a family after getting married.  At that time in my life I was working as a speech therapist and not enjoying it.  It seemed like the perfect time to take a break from one job and begin my lifelong dream- starting a family.

I was sure that the void I was feeling in my life and career would be filled the second I became a mother and I would finally have the sense of purpose I was longing for.  And in many ways, this did happen.  Man came into this world, tiny and perfect, and filled my heart with so much love—a kind of love that I didn’t know existed. However, from early on, he was a challenge.  I can recall him military-crawling across the room at four and a half months old and thinking he was a physical phenomenon.  I realized shortly after—when I found he had slid himself to the top of the staircase and was about to take a ride down the stairs headfirst, that a phenomenon he was not.  What he was, was a danger to himself.

People often ask when I knew my child had ADHD and SPD.  I didn’t know immediately what he had, but I knew from birth that he was different, and challenging in a way that many kids were not.  At two, when other parents were reducing their babyproofing efforts, we were upping the ante in our house.  By four, when his peers had begun to listen to directives from their parents—directives that would keep them out of bodily harm—Man was still deaf to my warnings, running wildly through parking lots, thrilled and care free, as I yelled at him to stop.  He was my sweet, loving, first born little boy, and he made my heart sing—but he was (and still is) HARD.

I wrestled with my feelings about this for years.  Parenting was supposed to make me happy and complete me in a way that nothing else did, right?  Imagine my sadness and fear when I had to face the fact that motherhood was taking a larger toll on me than I had expected.  All parenting is challenging, but being the parent of a child with special needs, whether mental, physical, or medical, comes with its own unique set of challenges. It took me a long time to accept that.  I found it nearly impossible to face the fact that being a mom, something I had wanted forever, was not exactly what I thought it would be.  Having such feelings was confusing and depressing.  It was tough to distinguish the feelings regarding my role as a special needs parent, from my feelings about my sweet Man.  I loved my Man, but I did not always love the challenges he threw my way- and that fact in no way made me a bad mother.

It took time to come to the realization that our challenges required a different set of answers than those of my mom friends with neuro-typical children.  Over the last year, I have completely overhauled my life and the way I view my parenting.  Here are some things that I have done to stay sane and productive as a special needs mom:

 

I stopped comparing my child to those of my peers. This was huge for me.  Every child is different and unique.  The strengths of one are not going to be the strengths of another.  This fact is what makes the world go around.  If we were all the same, there would be no innovation, no advancements.  Every person serves a purpose, and my child’s purpose is different than yours.  He might never play soccer, or be class president, but mark my words, he is brilliant and unique in his own right.  He may cure cancer one day.

I sought out other special needs moms. I need other moms of children with special needs in my life.  They are my rocks and my support.  They understand my day to day successes and failures in a way that other moms just can’t.  I simultaneously stopped trying to get parents of neuro-typical children to understand my plight.  It was taking an emotional toll on me to continuously try to get other parents to understand that their day-to-day lives were just different than mine.  I’m not diminishing that their days are difficult, but it truly is just different.

I got a babysitter and sought more help from family! For far too long, I thought that I could and SHOULD do it all myself.  I was afraid to put the responsibility of Man on anyone else.  Frankly, following a few bad experiences of babysitters dismissing my warnings about his behavior as me being a “hover mother” and then learning the hard way that I was not, I was also too worried leave him with anyone.  But as he got older, I let go of this fear and accepted the fact that I desperately needed a break and that didn’t make me selfish.  I found someone that I trust and now she spends oodles of quality time with the kids while I spend a little time on me.

Which brings me to the next one, I spend time to myself! I gave myself permission to focus on me.  Being a parent doesn’t mean that I must be my children’s sole caregiver.  I now have returned to school to pursue my passion.

I exercise.  Endorphins are amazing things, my friends!  It gives me a mental and physical health that allows me to face the day to day challenges in my life.  If you feel good about yourself, it makes everything else in your life that much easier.

I accepted that my best was good enough. As a parent of a special needs child, we want to fix our kids, to make that square peg fit into a round mold.  This is just impossible.  All we can do is our best to support them in the way that they need it, and the rest is up to our kids, and that must be ok.

I stopped hiding my feelings and I forgave myself. When I finally admitted that I was unhappy with the life situation I found myself in, I could begin making changes.  You can’t control your feelings, but you can control how you express them.  I was angry for a long time, and now I have the chance to let go of that anger and replace it with more positive energy.  But that was only possible after I could let those feelings out.

Being a special needs mom isn’t easy, in fact, it’s downright hard most days!  However, your personal happiness does not have to be tied to your child’s challenges!

Dear Mr. President; Love, A Jewish Mother

Dear Mr. President,

Over the past few months, hundreds of bomb threats have been called in to Jewish Community Centers (JCC) around the country.  Yesterday, a bomb threat was called in to two such centers just miles from my home.  My friends and I have children of preschool age, many of whom attend school programs at various temples across our county.  Frighteningly, these children participated in lockdown drills yesterday due to their schools’ proximity to the JCCs.  Many had police presence within their schools for the remainder of the day and this morning, welcoming their children to school.  These children are between the ages of one-and-a-half and five.  That’s right, toddlers and small children of the Jewish faith around my county are being escorted into school by police simply because of their religion.  Their parents are frightened to send them to school.  The children themselves are confused as to what is going on, and in turn, scared.  Let me reiterate just how young these children are.

I watch you sign bill after bill allowing guns to be places in schools.  Why?  Because you claim that you want to keep students safe, and this is how it will be done.  I watch you make speech after speech about closing our borders.  Why?  Also, in your eyes, in an effort to keep the children and citizens of your country safe.  You will no longer allow refugees into this country.  Families and children whom are being killed daily, hourly, in the name of religion are being deemed unsafe by you and your cabinet.  However, your silence with regards to what is happening in your own country is making my children, my friends children, and my families children unsafe from fellow citizens born and raised right here on U.S. soil.  This threat isn’t come from any refugee or immigrant, it comes from our neighbors.  Yet, you remain relatively silent.

You put a woman like DeVos in power because you preach the idea of a free and better education of a parent’s own choosing for our children.  My friends send their children to these temple schools, yet are now considering removing them for their own safety.  I ask you, is this your definition of proving an education of a parent’s own choice? I want my children to learn their letters and numbers, shapes and colors, play skills and interpersonal skills; but I also want them to learn about their faith.  These threats are making that impossible and your stance, or lack of stance, on the issue is allowing this to continue.  My choice is no longer where my child will get the best education, it is where they will get an education safely.

I have heard you make one single speech on this subject.  You claimed that, “No one was less anti-Semitic then you.”  You pointed out that you had a daughter and a son-in-law of the Jewish faith, and three grandchildren.  Are your grandchildren getting threatened every day?  If so, how can you stand by and watch that?  No, Mr. President, having family members by marriage, does not make you anti-Semitic, it just makes you another person who has Jewish relatives, plain and simple.  I watched your Press secretary, Sean Spicer, claim that it was ludicrous that the murder of two innocent Indian men in the name of hate, could have anything to do with you and your rhetoric.  Are you blind? Deaf?  Ignorant?

You campaign promised to “Make America Great Again,” to make it safe again… Is this what safety now looks like for my family?  You spend so much time pointing out the threats from other countries that you have turned a blind eye to the increasingly severe threats right in our own back yard.  You want to spend 45 billion dollars to increase our defense fund.  Why not spend that money on programs to teach the people of our country tolerance, love, and acceptance?

Fellow citizens filled with bigotry, and the numbers of those citizens are growing exponentially every day, need your guidance.  They need you to denounce the killings, the prejudice, and the threats.  They need to see that you are a man of peace, and love, not one that drives this country through hate.  What kind of a leader are you if you can’t keep all of your citizens safe, not just those of religions you deem acceptable?  Please, I beg you to do something about this, something meaningful, something drastic, something now.

 

Love,

A Jewish Mother

Imagine Your Child With Sensory Processing Disorder

I have written a lot about ADHD, however, I have only merely breathed a mention of a lesser known challenge among kids today, Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).  When many of you think of SPD you either have absolutely no idea what it means, or you’re like, “yes, yes, that’s when your sensors are processing all wrong, right?”  Well, in a way, yes, but do you understand what that really means for daily functioning?  I’ll break it down for you in a way that is most easily understood.

You have five senses, touch, sound, smell, sight, and taste.  Additionally, and less known, our bodies also take in information through body movement, position, balance, and muscle control.  During your day, these systems work seamlessly together to take in the environment around you- so seamlessly, in fact, that you likely don’t even register the workings of this finely tuned machine until a wrench is tossed directly in its cogwheel.  You have all put something in your mouth, like tapioca pudding, or heard nails run down a chalk board and had a visceral bodily reaction.  You shutter a little, maybe gag on that weirdly textured food, and are generally left with an overall edgy feeling for a few seconds.  What if you felt that way throughout your day, and you never knew when it was coming or what exactly will cause it?

Sensory overload is very real, and very challenging.  It is easy to see a child having a tantrum at a birthday party and think, “There is THAT kid, the one whose parents can’t control him, the one who needs a good spanking, or the one that is just a total wuss.”  Now, stop and think of that same child hearing experiencing the sounds of the other children running around the party like a heard of lions roaring in his head.  Consider that because his balance is off he has a hard time participating in the designated party activity without falling and this makes his sad and frustrated.  Ponder the fact that he doesn’t know where his own body is in space, let alone how far away he is from the kid he is supposed to “tag”.  Now, look at him again.  Does it seem strange that he is cowering in the corner and crying?

man tantrum

SPD infiltrates every aspect of a child’s day.  There is no time in which your body is not using its sensory system.  This is just a small picture of how it affects a child.

 

It’s 4:45AM, your child rolls over in bed and tries to go back to sleep, but a bird chirped outside and it might as well have been as loud as a bell ringing directly in his ear.  He glances at the window and notices that it’s just starting to get light out.  Time to get up, there is no going back to sleep with cacophony of birds and the bright light peeking through the sides of the blackout shades.

Breakfast time, he’s already tired because, well, he’s been up for three hours.  Food choices are severely limited.  This is not just a picky eater, this is an eater with sensory issues, a completely different ball game.  He struggles to get down the same thing he eats every morning, a cooled toasted waffle, with a THIN layer of butter- because too much butter makes the waffle soggy and that feels “weird” in his mouth, a cheese stick- right out of the refrigerator because if it’s sits around for more than a few minutes it warms up and gets “squishy”, and if we are lucky some apple slices, but make sure that there are no bruises or excess skin hanging off of the slice, that would deem it garbage.

Prep for school comes next.  Brushing his teeth only happens with one specific flavor of tooth paste and a very soft bristled brush-  it’s important to keep that gag reflex in check (this issue also makes going to the dentist a nightmare).  Socks must be perfectly placed on the feet and ankles; it’s impossible to put shoes on if there is even the slightest imperfection!

Bus time!  It’s important to sit in the front and it makes him miss sitting with his friends.  But let’s face it, the bus is loud, a sensory overload nightmare, and it makes his body out of control.  When his body feels this way he lashes out and someone might get hurt, or, say, hit in the head with a seat belt.  He’s a young child and only has a mild understanding of what is happening to his body in the moment, he has yet to develop the skills to control himself all of the time.

School… so many different challenges throughout the day.  The cubbies are in a small space and sometimes all the kids gather there at once, he feels claustrophobic and sensory overload is imminent.  He tries to get out of the area but there are just too many bodies in his way.  Overload begins, he is being crushed into a small space with no movement and he starts pushing kids out of the way so he can get free, breathe and calm his body.  Being surrounded in such a close space by so much (kids in this case) is overwhelming, he can’t figure out how close he is to the other children and then when he bumps into them it feels like he is hitting a brick wall that is blocking his much-needed freedom.

He tries to sit and complete his work, but the students next to him are tapping their pencils and moving around in their chairs.  Don’t they know that that sounds like a symphony of distraction and makes it impossible to focus?

Lunch brings its own trials.  Don’t forget that most food is unappealing and has too much flavor to begin with (he has broken out into a cold sweat from certain brands of chicken nuggets that are “too peppery”).  Now add yelling, excited kids to the mix and eating, though being hungry, is practically impossible.

The afternoon wears on and the 4:45AM wakeup is taking its toll.  Any resistance he has had of keeping it together is fading fast and sensory overload comes quickly, often, and hits hard.

After school, he wants so badly to participate in activities but he is shot.  The lack of sleep, adequate nutrition, and heightened bodily awareness work against him.  After some quiet time, he may or may not be ready to participate in an activity of his own choosing.  Translation: there are things he wants to do, to learn, to engage in, and his body just will not afford him the ability to do so some days.

Night time approaches and it’s time to bathe, we have the same argument over washing his hair that we have had every night for years, his hair follicles hurt.  Moms, imagine what your head feels like after you have worn a ponytail for too long and you finally take it out, it’s sensitive, right? I assume that this is what his head feels like all the time.  Fully submerging his head under the water to get the shampoo out… a nightmare.

Finally, sleep time.  Luckily, he is so exhausted from his early wakeup that there is not much resistance.  His body is done and desperate for rest.  Some light scratching on the back and a few deep tissue hugs and he is out like a light.

 

This is just a snippet into a day with SPD.  It infiltrates every aspect of a child’s life because one’s sensory system is always engaged.  It makes certain sports impossible, some types of parties a nightmare, eating, learning, and simply playing with friends a challenge.  Some days it’s not noticeable, and other days it’s a constant struggle from the minute he wakes up until the minute he falls asleep.  So, next time you see a child having a fit in the middle of Target, ask yourself, is this child a “bad kid” or just possibly having a sensory meltdown?

 

sensory-overload

 

Confession: Being A Stay-At-Home-Mom Just Isn’t For Me

I have a confession to make, and some of you might cast immediate judgement—I truly do not like being a stay-at-home mom.  Thinking back, I’m not quite sure what my original plan was, six-and-a-half years ago, when I had Man.  At that time, I was a speech therapist working with the elderly population in nursing homes.  I told them that I would be returning after four months, but in the recesses of my mind I wasn’t convinced.  When Man turned three-months old, I barely knew how to take care of him myself, let alone teach someone else how to do it in my absence.  Therefore, I resigned from my job with the plan of returning to the workforce when he was one.

Surprise!  When he was nine-months old, I became pregnant with Lady.  It seemed unrealistic to go back to work for just six months before leaving so I again delayed my return to work.  I told myself that I would give Lady the same whole year that I gave Man.

Flash forward a bit to Lady’s first birthday and it grew obvious that Man was not like other children.  His then-undiagnosed ADHD and SPD made him VERY dangerous.  You must believe me when I say I literally could not take my eyes off him for fear that he was either in mortal danger or putting his sister in danger.  At that time in his life he was climbing on counters, getting into ovens, running out of the front door of the house daily, and unplugging any wire he could get his hands on.  He was one of those children who defied the laws of babyproofing.  I was his babyproofing.

As the years went on he remained dangerous in many ways and I just didn’t trust someone else to take care of him.  If he pushed some kid down the slide at a park, I, his mother, needed to be there to smooth over the destruction.  I know how overwhelmed I felt taking care of two toddlers, and I felt that there was no way I could ask someone else could do it.  Maybe, in the back of my mind, I was just scared to return to work after three-and-a-half years away, and this provided an adequate excuse.

Man entered Kindergarten last year, and in many ways life became easier. However, I had grown so unhappy over the years that the thought of going back to a job that I didn’t love seemed intolerable.  I had always wanted children.  There was never a doubt in my mind that starting a family was one of my number one goals in life.  So, imagine my surprise when after some soul searching I realized that being a stay-at-home-mother was not for me.  It took me six long years to admit that to myself.  I was under the impression that once you had kids, you were supposed to enjoy taking care of them.  Sure, not every moment of every day, but yes, ultimately child rearing was supposed to be satisfying.  Personally, for me, it did not bring the level of daily satisfaction that I want out of life.

We scrimped to hire a babysitter and for the first time in six years I had a helping hand.  Over the past six months, I have never felt better.  Much of that is due to the fact that I am now able fill my days with something in addition to child rearing.  A few months ago, I made the decision to fulfill a lifelong dream and applied to schools for a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling.  I start school tomorrow and I could not be more excited.

Of course, because the world works this way, my babysitter is on vacation for two weeks while I am beginning school.  Therefore, my mother is coming to help with the kids while I am in class.  We were going over the schedule:

“Are you getting home first or is J (my husband)?” my mom asked.

“No, I won’t be home until about 9:30 in the evening, I have a board meeting at the place where I volunteer right after class.”

“Oh, well… how are the kids handling all of this, Laura?” she questioned in her most “I’m not judging you, but really I am judging you” tone.

“The kids will be fine.  They want me to be happy and being home with them all day did not make me happy.  They have had me all to themselves for six and a half years and now it’s my turn.”

‘Uh huh…” she replied and abruptly changed the conversation.

The change in conversation was her signal to let me know that she didn’t agree at all but wasn’t going to engage me in a debate.  In her eyes, staying at home is most important, and above anything else, my children need me whether I was happy or not.  And P.S.- children are the light of a mother’s life, so why wasn’t I just happy?!

I disagree.  I feel I have been there for them and will continue to be there for them every day of their lives.  I love them so much, that I put my own feelings aside to fulfill the obligation of being their parent.  I thought that that was what was most important.  But, after a few years, I wasn’t being the mom I could be.  I was a shell of myself going through the motions.  I wasn’t present and I certainly was not giving them the mother they deserved.

I don’t like being a-stay-at-home mom and spending my days being at the beck and call of my children and my household.  I hate running them from activity to activity and bringing them to play dates just to sit and watch them play with another child.  I get bored after about five minutes of pretend play; please, PLEASE, do not make me serve fake food to that imaginary family one more time. Pretty please?  I do not want to beg anyone to eat his dinner anymore, standing over him imploring him to eat one single bite after one single bite.  I just can’t do it anymore.  I feel guilt and shame even admitting this because it makes me feel like I’m a horrendous mother, but I want to spend some of my days doing something else that stimulates me differently.  It’s what I need to be a happy person.  And as a happy person I will be a better parent when I am with them.  It’s not as though I don’t love my children and garner great joy from them, of course I do, but that joy is even greater, even more valuable, when I’m doing tasks outside of parenting.

So tomorrow, I turn my family upside down to do something just for me.  I’m sure many of you are thinking, “Well, if you didn’t want to take care of your kids, then why did you have them?” And the truth is, I feel very selfish doing this.  Nevertheless, I also know that I have no chance of being truly happy if I don’t.  I know I am no less dedicated to them as I was when I was staying at home all day; I am still caring for them.  I am showing them that it is never too late to follow a dream, while working towards creating the happiest home I can for them.  In my heart, I know I will still be here for them—I will still be their mom. I will make sure that they feel loved and cared for and if they need me, no matter what I’m doing, I will be there.  But I will no longer be resentful.

I’m Still Dreaming of A Jewish Christmas

I am Jewish.  There was a time in my life when I was in a serious relationship with a non-Jew.  When discussing marriage I always considered the religious difference; it hung heavily over my head like holiday mistletoe.  Would we celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah?  How would we explain it to our imaginary future children? It was certainly confusing.  Ultimately, this relationship ended (not due to religious differences) and I married a Jewish man.  I assumed, therefore, that other religions wouldn’t be a factor for our children.

This was my big mistake.

When he was one, I took Man to sit on Santa’s lap.  Why not? Since he was too young to ask questions or build memories, I figured there was no harm. We waited on the obligatory long line until it was Man’s turn—and finally we arrived.  Before us, there sat the red-suit-clad Santa with a real beard (a nice touch!) and a permagrin affixed to his rosy-cheeked face.  If I had listened closely enough I’m sure I could have actually heard the angels singing.   Like a little Santa factory, Man was placed on his lap, a picture was snapped before he could resist too much and off of his lap he went.  It was all of 30 seconds and if it weren’t for the single picture (and the fact that I’m now telling all of you nice folks) I could deny that this event ever took place.

manandsanta

Man on Santa’s Lap

I had never heard the word “Santa” out of his mouth again, until about two years later.  Then when his sister grew old enough to understand about Christmas, it became impossible to escape.  Christmas is everywhere, and well, let’s face it, Hanukah just doesn’t come with as much flash and pizzazz.

The questions started simply enough:

Q: Where does Santa live?

A: The North Pole.

Q: Do we have a chimney?

A: Yes.

Q: Can we go meet him?

A: Maybe.

Q: What do the elves do?

A: Build toys.

But now the conversations have grown more complex.  And just when I’m finishing answering a battery of questions from one of them, I turn around and have to answer a litany from the other:

Q: Why does “so and so” have a Christmas tree and we don’t?

A: Because we don’t celebrate Christmas.

Q: Why not?

A: Because we’re Jewish and we celebrate other holidays like Hanukkah.

Q: What else do we celebrate?

A: Passover.

Q: What’s that?

A: You remember when we had a “seder” and we couldn’t eat until we finished reading stories from that little book, the Haggadah?

Q: Mom, can we decorate our house with blue lights for Hanukah?

A: I’ll talk to dad about it.

Q: Mom, those people don’t have lights on their house, does it mean they are Jewish too?

A: Possibly.

Q: Why is our holiday so boring?  We don’t get to decorate our house or do anything fun!”

A: It’s not boring!  We get to spin the dreidel and eat latkes!!

I could hear audible sighs of disappointment from the backseat of the car, and the rearview mirror reflects two little faces full of regret. I could see that I had lost them.  Here was this holiday with trees and sparkly lights, ginger bread houses, and a sweet old man who gives lots of gifts; everything really did seem merrier and brighter.  How could any of our Jewish holidays compare to that!?  I mean, it’s not like there is a man at the mall dressed as a Menorah, eagerly waiting to seat my kids on his lap and ask if he’s been a “mensch” this year.  To a six-year-old and a four-year-old, lighting the Hanukkah candles just doesn’t seem as exciting as having a big, beautiful light up tree.

milliechristmas

Mom, why can’t we have a Christmas tree?

Compounding this is the fact that everyone around them seems to celebrate.  It’s everywhere; Curious George celebrates, as does Peppa Pig, Team Umizoomi, and the Odd Squad.  So do most of their real life friends.  All of these people get to celebrate and they don’t, and this is obviously a travesty.  They want, no, they “neeeeeeded” their own tree and gifts.  I remind them that we celebrate Hanukkah, a holiday where they receive gifts eight nights in a row!  This does not soothe them in any way, for so do half of their friends who are of mixed religions and get to celebrate both holidays.

I feel trapped!  I have no other answers for my children then the ones I have already given.  We just don’t celebrate Christmas and with every discussion they grow more and more disappointed.

Now, you might be thinking, “What’s the big deal, it’s just a tree and some lights, why not just give it to them?”  But it is a big deal.  This is a religious holiday, which is not our religion; it is not an American holiday.  Do you fast during the month of Ramadan because your child’s best friend does?  I would be betraying our religion if I showed them that it was alright to celebrate something that we didn’t believe in just because it comes with fancy accoutrement.  I am proud of my Jewish heritage and I won’t compromise that.  Moreover, I will raise my children to be proud Jews as well.  So, for now they will just have to be satisfied with eating Chinese food and going to the movies on Christmas as Jews have done for thousands of years before them.

latkes

Hanukah latkes can rival a Christmas tree any day!

Election 2016: The Red White and Blue Lining

I teared up this morning as I propped my four-year-old daughter on my knee so she could help me vote. Her tiny hand gently held my arm as I filled in the bubble to cast my vote for the first female president.  I wanted-no, needed her to be a part of making history.  As I then watched her feed the ballot into the machine, I could fight the tears no longer and I let them flow.

 

My daughter and I making history!

We have always been a very civic minded family, at five weeks old; my husband carried my son in his arms as he cast his vote on Election Day.  Every year since we have brought our kids to the polls along with us and added to the album we call “Voting with Daddy Year By Year”.  However, not all in this country share this passion.  Just because our citizens have the right to vote, it doesn’t mean that they have been exercising that right.

voting-with-daddy

 

This year the election has been emotionally draining for each and every citizen.  I was told that the AMA actually put out special guidelines for health care professionals to treat the resulting anxiety produced by the campaigns.  However, if we take the time to look beyond the stress we see that something very important has happened- people have passionately backed a candidate in a most wholehearted and democratic way.  Democracy, at its finest, has been achieved.

 

This country was founded on the basis that every citizen has the right to elect the official of their own choosing. The person who secures the majority of these votes wins the position.  People died in wars fought to establish and maintain this very idea.  Brilliant men debated and labored to form a Constitution which holds these ideas as law of our land.

 

This election has been teeming with more passion and dedication by our citizens than one can recall in recent history.  Social media is bursting with pictures and posts of mothers, brothers, friends, sisters, millennials, elderly, African American, white, male, female, transgender, gay, straight, bi, priests, nuns, and rabbinical voters- you name it, EVERYONE in every group has been driven to the polls to vote.

 

I have especially seen parents bringing their young ones to the polls.  As stated, we have visited the polls yearly and our children have been the only ones under the age of 18 in the room.  This year, however, parents are making it a point to vote as a family; thus, passing on the vital importance of the idea of democracy to the next generation.  We had once become somewhat complaisant with our right to vote, but no longer do we feel this way.  A new life has been restored to the idea that our vote matters, that without it, we would not be the incredible and free democratic society that our founders fought for.

 

Everyone agrees that this has been an incredibly challenging and particularly emotional election year.  Some even say that, as a result, the cavernous divide in this country is irreparable.  I will argue that there is a silver lining- the entire country has been filled with such a passion for our democratic right to vote; that the next generation is already being taught how important it is to maintain and continue this right; that we will never become complaisant again!

 

 

I See You, My Ghost Child

“Mom, I don’t want to be a princess for Halloween anymore, I want to be a ghost!”

 

This declaration hits me like a punch to the gut.  I mean, Lady can be whatever she wants for Halloween; the costume itself has absolutely nothing to do with my reaction to this seemingly innocuous statement.  It’s the use of the word “ghost” that makes me cringe and break out into a cold sweat.

 

“You’re already like a little ghost,” I think to myself, sadly.

 

Did you know, dear readers, that I have a daughter too?  I write about Man all of the time — hell, my blog is called MANvsMommy, but I so rarely write about his sister, my sweet Lady who is 18 months his junior.

millie

My fiery Lady

I did not coin the term “ghost child” myself, but I am quite familiar with it.  This term refers to the siblings of children with special needs.  Their parents are often required to dedicate so much time to their brother or sister that they are forced to be more independent than they should be at their age.

 

Lady has an unbelievable maturity about her.  It is unclear if this is because she is a girl, she was born this way, or because her older brother requires so much more of my time that she is forced to be this way.  It’s likely a mix of all of these factors.  However, there are times when as a four-year-old, she acts as such.  You can see her independence failing her and her need to have her mom’s attention pushes itself to the forefront.  Who can blame her?  She, like Man, is simply a child who needs her mom.

 

I want you to know, Lady, that I see you.

 

I see how amenable and flexible you are because you understand how much I struggle with Man some days.

 

I gaze at you happily eating all of your dinner, no matter what I put in front of you, because you see how much time I spend trying to get Man to eat.

 

I feel how happy you are just to sit next to me, no matter what I’m doing, just to be in my presence.

 

I see you pick out your clothes and get dressed and tidy your toys without me even asking.

 

I watch you let your brother go first… every time, just to keep the peace.

 

I am in awe of how long you can sit and entertain yourself, because I am otherwise occupied.

 

I am grateful for the smile you put on my face every day.

 

I feel incredibly guilty that there are some days when your needs come last.  I hope one day to be able to make this up to you.

 

I am struck by your uncanny ability to know just when I need a random hug or a secretly whispered, “I love you, mommy.”

 

I try my hardest to carve out special time just for the two of us, though probably not often enough.

 

I admire your independence.  At four, you are more independent than I, your parent, will ever be.

 

I see your sadness when I have to leave you to take Man to one of his many appointments.  I hear you question why you don’t have as many appointments with mommy as he does. I listen to you beg to go with us and not quite understand why you have to stay home.

 

I watch your happiness every day. Absolutely nothing gets you down.  Luckily, you have inherited this trait from your dad.

 

I take notice of the words you choose to use when you try and help soothe your brother from a total meltdown.  The care you take of him is exceptional.  Your understanding of his challenges, without truly understanding them, is nothing close to miraculous.

 

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Her love for her brother is fierce.

 

Your inner and outer beauty makes me shine.

 

Your, “whatever Man can do, I can do too” attitude makes me joyous.

 

The little girl that you are now and the woman that I know you will become one day makes me proud to be your mother.

 

I glow as I watch the command you have over every room you walk into.  You are larger than life in a most innocent and purposeful way.

 

I can promise you, my Lady, that I will always be there for you no matter what—that when you truly need me, I will be by your side, as I am for your brother in his times of need.

 

I see you.  I see all of you.  You are not a ghost; you are my daughter and I love you.

 

mommyandmillie2

Silliest girl EVER