I Would Die For My Children, But I don’t Just Live For Them

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.

 

fam school

Family back to school day!

 

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.

mothers day

 

Back to School With ADHD

Even before I had children, I always knew that the end of summer was near because of one specific commercial. I can see it now: a dad glides gleefully down a store aisle, gingerly tossing school supplies into his shopping cart as his children follow behind him.  “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” plays in the background as an announcer plugs the great sales on all things school-related at Staples. 

As a student, I always loved purchasing school supplies. Putting dividers into new colorful binders and filling my pencil case was always so exciting.  With each new year, came new possibilities and I truly looked forward to all of them.  Even now, in returning to school as an adult, I get a little thrill each semester when purchasing textbooks and fresh packages of erasable pens.  Dorky? Absolutely!  However, completely true. I love being a student and assumed that my son would as well.  How could he not?  He is brilliant and always interested in learning.  Most of our time together is spent answering questions about obscure subjects or listening to theories on even more abstract concepts.  I mean, his hobbies include learning all about sharks (do you know what ovoviviparous breeding means?  Because he does.) and building Rube Goldbergs.  The very idea that school would not appeal to this child’s brain never even crossed my mind.

Like the dad in the commercial, I figured that back-to-school shopping for Man would bring me the same joy.  I would relish in the excitement that he would get from a new folder covered in hammer head sharks and a new 12-inch ruler, as that meant he would get to measure things all day, another favorite pastime.  I would meet him as he came running off the bus on the first day and listen intently as he eagerly told me all about his new teacher and all the fun they were going to have that year.  A little unrealistic?  Maybe, but in those early years especially, much of school should be relatively enjoyable.  They should instill a joy of learning and an understanding of the importance of school.

 This has not been the case for my Man and me. Every item purchased on the school supply list means just another thing that he must maintain and keep track of.  And getting off the bus for those first few weeks, even months, I’m met with a child who is deeply saddened and frustrated by the day’s events.  In that initial period, I get almost daily phone calls from the teacher and the vice principal, listing his challenges for that day.  In those early months, every morning, I hear a little boy ask why school can’t be more like summer camp—an engineering-based camp that does hand-on, academic-based projects, mind you – and ask the question, “Do I really need to go today?”  Every day, in these final weeks before school begins, I am filled with worry; will this year be the same as the one that came before it? 

ADHD causes specific academic and behavioral challenges in students.  Man has difficulty organizing and executing tasks, making in-class assignments very challenging.  Once he feels like he can’t do something that every other child around him appears to be doing with ease, he does what he does best – runs off and does something else he knows will bring more success.  For children with ADHD, their classroom challenges often manifest as poor behavior.  Most of the time, they don’t even know where the challenge lies, or how to say, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing right now.” What they do know is that causing a disruption will get the attention of the teacher.  It takes a savvy, patient teacher to understand this fact and to have the capability to find the root of the behavior and not just dole out immediate punishment.

Because children with ADHD are wired differently, their intelligence doesn’t present itself in the same way as their neurotypical counterparts.  Man will never, EVER be the child that can complete classroom assignments with little to no assistance.  He does not learn like other children do – lecturing from the front of the room and then expecting him to complete an assignment quietly at his desk is pretty much out of the question.  He has already lost focus on what the teacher is saying by the second sentence; his thoughts began running wild with what was expressed in the first one.  Therefore, he requires a lot of repetition and asks a lot of questions.  Unfortunately, this can make him seem just average, or even slightly below.  Thus, he is treated accordingly by all who must educate him and he misses out on the opportunity to learn on an appropriate and stimulating level.

Many things come easily to Man, however, when something is a challenge, he wants no part of it.  Challenges for other children are 100 times more difficult to a child with ADHD.  It’s like hiking up a steep mountain with an extra 100-pound backpack on.  This is what ADHD does to my child, especially in a classroom setting.  When he is tired and just can’t take on the extra work that each day brings, it makes him look defiant or like he cannot follow simple classroom rules.  He needs a teacher who is going to understand this, look past it, and make it interesting for him to want to attack the challenges head on.  Will this be the year that he gets such a teacher, I wonder? 

Just like neurotypical children, atypically developing children are all dissimilar as well.  A diagnosis of ADHD means different things for different children and the educational strategies are not one size fits all.  When someone tells me that they have experience teaching children with ADHD, that means almost nothing to me.  The most important thing that a teacher needs to understand is that they must look beyond the diagnosis and assess my child’s needs based on what they see, not what they expect to see.  This was not the case last year and he suffered greatly because of it, and as his mother, I suffered right along with him.

Public school, it seems, is not designed well for Man, or any child with ADHD and other learning disabilities.  It’s no one’s fault; they must teach to the masses, and I totally get this – the entire school system does not need to turn on a dime for my son’s specific needs. While I appreciate that the district trains the teachers well and makes accommodations for my son, ultimately the expectation is that as a round peg, he adjusts and fits into their square holes.  In fact, every accommodation he has is to help him function better in a classroom designed for neurotypical students.  They have nothing to do with helping him use the brain he has, to learn to the best of its own ability.  They have nothing to do with teaching him how to use his strengths and overcome his weaknesses to simply learn the information that is vital to his education. 

I stress again that this is no one’s fault; it is just how the public education system is designed.  They do their very best to help with the resources available to them, but the end goal is always the same, to make sure every child is “on grade level”.  It doesn’t matter how much potential the child has, simply whether they meet the national standards for their grade.  Man did 50% of the work that the other students in his class did last year, 50%, and at the end of the year he was on grade level.  While only doing half the work as the other students in his class, he still came out on grade level.  Yes, while I’m thrilled he is on grade level, am I not allowed to expect that he could possibly be doing better if his educational environment was more conducive to his learning style?  Should I just ignore the fact that he no longer qualifies for certain accommodations because he is on grade level, even though the challenges within the classroom are still the same as they were the previous years?  Am I not allowed to be upset that my son already feels disappointed in himself every day because he sees the other children able to produce more than him while trying half as hard?  It’s not pressure that I put on him, it’s simply what he sees going on around him daily. 

So yes, I worry every day.  I worry that this year will be the same trying year as the last.  He does not deserve that, nor does any child who is like him.  Going back to school, it seems, isn’t the most wonderful time of the year for every family.

 

Five Things Not to Get us For Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and while there are lots of posts and sites dedicated to helping you find the most fabulously perfect gift for mom; I’m here to tell you what NOT to get us. You see, on this day, there ARE incorrect gifts, and it’s not just about the thought and effort that was put into it!  I sound like an ungrateful female dog, you might be thinking.  Um, hell’s yeah, I do, this is our day, and if you want to make it the special day that Hallmark has decided it is, you will follow this “what not to get guide.”

 

1)      Plants, flowers, or anything that is alive: I have absolutely no idea how and why plants became a traditional Mother’s Day gift, but the person who started this tradition was obviously never responsible for the life of another human being.  I mean, what exactly is the thought process behind this?  Now that we have become mothers we will suddenly take up gardening?  My thumb was black before the kiddies were born and it remains a serious shade of ebony today.  Listen closely, mothers Do. Not. Need. anything else to keep alive.  We already have the responsibility of keeping our little humans flourishing and thriving, that’s enough!  It’s just cruel to expect us to rear anything else.

2)      Brunch!  Have you been to a restaurant with your kids before?  Would you like to inflict that on your wife on her special day?  Thought so…

3)      Breakfast in bed:  Every morning I wake up to one of the kids in my face, poking me and prodding me with a moist (yes, I just used the word moist) little finger.  As sweet as it sounds to make mommy breakfast in bed, we just want to be left alone to sleep as late as we possibly can… like, 8AM would be GREAT!  Now, lunch waiting at the kitchen table that can be enjoyed peacefully while you are out with the kids?  That I can get on board with.

4)      Hand crafted projects:  Ok, now there might be some other moms out there that are all, “Noooooo, I love my kid’s little crafts!!’’ These women clearly have children under the age of two.  It’s pretty much a guarantee that they are already studiously crafting something at their desks for you at school, so that gift has already been covered… in glitter that will make the house a mess!  But honestly, so many craft projects are brought home every week, I just don’t have the organizational skills to keep them all in perfect condition… forever!  Ultimately, the kids just end up getting upset when they notice that mommy has tossed their precious creations in the garbage, thus, effectively ruining the holiday altogether. 

5)      A party… at our house:  While yes, it’s lovely to gather the generations of females in the family together to celebrate our societally dedicated auspicious day, if there is anything that this day excuses me from it’s the preparation that goes into having guests at the house.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to entertain, but it takes a lot, cleaning, shopping, preparing, cooking… A LOT!  So no, it would not be easier to just “have everyone over here!”

 

Now that you understand what not to get us, please, go forth and shop!  No, in all seriousness, this is a Hallmark holiday.  What makes me feel truly special is the love and support that my family shows me every day- that is the real gift. This love is felt in a million little ways all the time; from the dinner that you cooked because my day was just slightly longer than yours, to the kids begging for one more bedtime story just to be in my presence a little longer.  Mother’s Day is just another day that I get to feel this love.

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.