Tag Archives: Parenting

Tiggers are made for bouncing

 

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I sat on the crowded bleachers overlooking the floor at our local gymnastics center, leaning forward and cricking my neck so I could keep an eye on my little dude, one of 5 boys in the beginning gymnastics class and one of about 40 kids down on the floor at the time.

I marveled for a moment that we were even there, in such a large place which was completely unfamiliar to him. The concrete building echoed with the noise of so many kids practicing all at once, and although the chaos was organized, it was still busy and loud. At one time it would’ve been overwhelming for him to even be in the building, let alone willingly and happily participating by himself in a class.

He told me the night before how scared he was to go but when the time came and the instructors gathered up their classes he excitedly followed the rest of the boys into the gym, bobbing along with his goofy, enthusiastic bounce-walk.

A preschool teacher once described him as always having a “spring in his step and a song in his heart”. In taekwondo they told him to stand still and stop bouncing. Those are two things that my little guy just doesn’t do.

Twice a week for two years we shuffled off to taekwondo. We thought it would be good for him, help him to focus and burn some energy. And, he wanted to be a ninja.

But his mind was always somewhere else and he rather quickly lost his enthusiasm and got bored with it. Eventually I realized that the only reason we were still going was because I was insisting on it, which seemed silly, especially because I had started to dread going as well.

I had stopped watching him in class at taekwondo.  When I did I felt like I had to explain to other parents about his delayed motor skills and sensory processing challenges that make it hard for him to pay attention and learn and control his body like other kids. Then I would feel guilty for feeling embarrassed and I’d come down hard on myself for it.

Taekwondo felt like trying to contort him into a shape that his soul was never meant to take. Why force my joyful, silly, fun-loving, march-to-his-own-beat, little man to stop bouncing? So instead we decided on gymnastics where we could put a spring-board beneath his feet and see how high he could soar.

Also, he still wants to be a ninja and learn to do back-flips off of walls.

Watching him down on the mat, practicing cartwheels, my heart fluttered with love and pride. Not because he was nailing them but because he wasn’t yet he kept trying, one after another, after another. I was proud of him for being him, for being there, for showing up and for trying even though it was hard. I reveled in his enthusiasm and how incredibly hard he works at even the smallest things that most of us take for granted.

And then he landed one, his face beaming with excitement and accomplishment and l wanted to stand-up and cheer – it was as if he had just stuck a perfect landing in an Olympic moment- because for him, it was that big.

After class he asked me, “Mom, did you see me do that cartwheel!?”

I told him, “I sure did baby, and I loved watching you!”

~“Tiggers are wonderful things. Their tops are made out of rubber, their bottoms are made out of springs.”

Muchly inspired by this post from the ever-wise Rachel Macy Stafford. ❤

 

 

 


Beauty and the Beast (Part II)


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Continued from Beauty and the Beast (Part I)

Less than 12 hours after giving birth to my beautiful baby girl we were back at home and I was so grateful and relieved. I felt immensely blessed to have this sweet little being who insisted on sleeping in a bundle on my chest.

Yet underneath it all there was a familiar and unwelcome feeling. Like the evil fairy that we “forgot” to invite to the party. It surfaced as a tightness that constricted my breathing and felt like a giant lump in my throat. I forced myself to swallow hard and I tried to push it away but it had taken root and the more that I stuffed it down and tried to ignore it the bigger and more powerful it became.

It was fear. Fear that I wouldn’t be able to love both of my children the way that they deserved to be loved. Fear that I would fail one or the both of them. Fear that I wasn’t patient enough or kind enough or resourceful enough. Fear that in the end, I wasn’t enough.

The insomnia returned and sleep deprivation made me weepy and detached. I was anxious and irritable and all of these things only reinforced my personal myth of failure and unworthiness.

My little girl was only happy when I held her or carried her so I wore her in a carrier constantly. This was supposed to be calming for both of us but instead of being this beautiful bonding activity it made me feel over-touched and over-taxed. I felt like I was suffocating or drowning, I needed to breathe but couldn’t get any air.

Then the guilt of wanting to get away from my baby weighed me down even more. My older boy, not much more than a baby himself clung to me more than ever, he needed reinforcement of my love, reassurance that everything was okay. I worried that my connection with him would suffer so I did everything that I could possibly do to maintain his routines and to continue to be there for him. But in all of my caring for my children I completely neglected to care for myself and suffered for it.

The fear and the guilt led to panic attacks. At my best I was tense and anxious and worried, at my worst I was afraid to leave the house. It got to the point that even going as far as the backyard was a panic inducing event.

When my daughter was 4 months old, my grandmother, my mom’s mom, passed away and I was unable to go to the memorial service. I could barely make it to the mailbox so getting on an airplane was a feat beyond comprehension. I was so devastated by not being able to go that I finally broke down and sought help.

It took 30 months. Two and a half years of living with some degree of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety before I finally reached out and said, “I need help.”

I had been stubborn but mostly I had been deeply ashamed.  It was like admitting that all of my fears were true. Admitting that I needed help felt like a confirmation, “I’m not good enough.” The truth is though that asking for help when you need it isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s an act of strength and courage. Getting help didn’t mean that I wasn’t good enough, it meant that I was good enough.

At first I didn’t want to take medication but I felt like I was falling down a dark and scary chasm and I needed a way to find my footing so I reversed my long-held belief about not taking meds and agreed to start on anti-depressants.

I hated taking them yet in many ways I feel that I owe my life to them. They provided me with a net. They caught me in my fall.

I didn’t feel like me again yet but I was finally able to get my feet back under me. I sought counseling; I improved my nutrition and started on a variety of different vitamins. I started doing yoga again and learned to meditate.  Then I started weaning back off of the medication. It was hard. One of the hardest things that I’ve ever done but I wanted to be me again, I wanted to feel again. I wanted to let the pain back in, to feel it and let it wash over me and know that it was okay. I was okay.

By my daughter’s 2nd Birthday I was completely off of  medication and celebrated my birth as much as hers.

I wasn’t perfect. I was messy and raw and some days were definitely better than others.  I discovered that it’s okay to be a beautiful mess. I learned that I was both the beauty and the beast and neither needed to win or defeat the other. I embraced both aspects of myself and learned true self-love.

Note:

I am publishing this story on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, in solidarity with the brave warriors at Postpartum Progress as they climb out of the darkness from shame to pride.

In the courageous words of Glennon Doyle Melton from Momastery, to all of those celebrating having overcome postpartum depression or anxiety or any other profound personal struggle and to all of those still fighting to overcome whatever battle it is that you fight, “carry on warrior!”

By the way, if you haven’t seen Glennon’s  Ted Talk about coming out of hiding to tell the truth about being a messy, honest, fully human being, it is so worth your time! 


Beauty and the Beast (Part I)

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“Having kids is going to change everything,” a co-worker said to me with a warm smile.

“I know” I replied, absent-mindedly stirring clumps of powdered creamer into my half cup of decaf coffee. Then I uttered the biggest lie of my life, “I’m ready.”

Fast forward about 4 weeks; I was lying awkwardly in bed trying to roll over to my other side. I reached down and scooped my gigantic belly up with my arm like a spatula; about mid-roll I felt a warm gush as my water broke. 20 minutes later I was in a full blown panic chanting, “Oh my god I’m not ready!!!”

I had 18 hours to get ready.  I won’t share the entire birth story here, that’s a telling for another time. Suffice it to say that labor earned its name and that we experienced some rather traumatic complications by the end of which left me feeling exhausted, battered and bruised.

That first night in the hospital, I remember looking at my face in the bathroom mirror and literally not recognizing my reflection. This was not the image of new motherhood that I had envisioned. I had postpartum edema (swelling) from all the IV fluids so my face looked like I had suddenly gained 50 lbs, my eyes were framed by deep, dark circles and my cheeks, neck & upper shoulders were covered with little red spots from broken blood vessels caused by pushing for over 3 hours. I went to bed, my new baby boy isolated in NICU, I was exhausted and desperately wanting to sleep but all I could do was cry. I cried the entire night. And the next night, and the next night.

At 3 weeks postpartum I called my midwife and told her that I couldn’t stop crying. She asked how much sleep I was getting, I told her not much. I had insomnia so I couldn’t sleep when the baby slept; and besides, he hardly ever slept. My little boy had moments of calm, quiet contemplation; he would stare out at the world with these knowing eyes that seemed to take in all of existence. The rest of the time he screamed as if someone was forcibly extracting his toenails.

We described him as a “highly sensitive child” this is the nice way of saying that he spent every night screaming for hours until he eventually passed out from exhaustion. Colic is mean. It tortured my baby and completely undermined my confidence as a mother. I was convinced that he hated me. I was inept. What kind of mother can’t comfort her own child!? Apparently a lot of them, but at the time I didn’t know that – I thought some mysterious maternal instinct was supposed to be bestowed upon me that would suddenly make me a ‘good’ mother. I figured I had gotten in the wrong line.

I was determined that I could get through it. Asking for help felt like admitting that I was a failure. If I let someone else hold him and he quieted down for them it made my soul ache, so I rarely let anyone else hold him. I was his mother and this was my job and I was going to figure it out. I had an amazing support group and I pushed them all away except for my husband. I latched onto him like he was a single buoy afloat in a vast ocean of nothingness. He was my lifeline. And when he was gone I was terrified. I was afraid to be left alone with my son.

After my husband left for work I would collapse to the floor and sob hysterically. I wanted to run. I fantasized about leaving. I wanted to get in the car and drive and drive until I ran out of gas and then walk to the nearest motel and never come home.

I wasn’t bonding with my baby, I loved him but it was like he wasn’t mine. It felt like any day his real mother; his competent mother would show up and claim him.

I continued to pull my way through my days. Every minute, every moment a personal victory. And it slowly got better, more tolerable. I had days when I didn’t even cry. But I didn’t feel like me anymore either, I was impatient and irritable. Even on the good days I felt a darkness buried deep in my belly, pushed down out of sight but always there threatening to take over.

Over time and as my son’s colic ebbed and we both started to sleep better I was able to convince myself that I was okay. I had felt my way through the murky waters and arrived at the other end armed with solace and beauty. I felt empowered and finally began to even feel like a good mother.

I felt good enough that I even wanted to have another baby. I was terrified to give birth again but rationalized that all the struggles that I had postpartum were simply a result of a difficult birth experience and having a baby with colic.

I sought therapy to help me finally process and come to terms with the birth and to prepare me to enter the arena again, this time on MY terms.

26 months after the birth of our first child we delivered our second, a beautiful baby girl whose birth was peaceful and perfect. I felt like a warrior, I had slain the demon, confronted my fears and arrived victorious! I was no longer a first time mom floundering about not knowing my way around a newborn. I was a seasoned professional, I had this shit down!! Hear me roar!!!

Imagine my surprise when I once again found myself staring down the face of the beast.

Continued in Beauty and the Beast Part II


Raising my words

I recently wrote about my journey to embrace anger and let it go. Inspired by the Twenty Five Days of Kindness blog about Kind Words, I’ve decided to do a 25-day (or there-abouts) No Yelling challenge.  That doesn’t mean 25 days of not getting angry but 25 days of not acting out on my anger by yelling at my kids.

I’ve been trying ease back on the yelling for the last few years with struggling success.

I started out with the very broad goal of “I want to stop yelling at my kids” but it was too big. It’s quite honestly been one failed attempt after the other.

But it’s not very realistic is it? Just “poof” I’m not going to yell anymore. And then the guilt of not being able to pull it off just adds fuel to the fire.

I realized that I needed to define the brush strokes. Baby-steps.

So step one was to start delving into the bigger picture with the question of “why do I yell at my kids?” which has been an interesting spiral-y adventure.

I decided that to find the answer I needed to start with being more mindful about it. Yes, my first goal to stop yelling was to yell more mindfully! To notice, “Hey l totally lost my shit just now, what happened?”

Turns out for me it’s almost always a matter of one of two things; feeling ignored or disrespected or feeling embarrassed in front of someone who I feel is judging me.

So my next step was to try to discern what it was about feeling ignored or disrespected or feeling embarrassed or judged that that gets my hackles up.

I know enough about psychology to understand that many of the “bad” things that surface for us as parents are often rooted in our own childhoods. It only took a quick glance back into my own to realize that I spent a great deal of time feeling responsible for someone else’s anger. I came to believe that I wasn’t good enough. And that root feeling is typically the source for my current temper tantrums.

My fear of not being good enough triggers feelings of my kids not being good enough which triggers my anger because me not being good enough resulted in someone else’s anger when I was a kid. Spiral-y.

From there I needed to do a little exercise in forgiveness and understanding. It was an “a-ha” moment for me when I realized that when I yell at my kids it doesn’t really have anything to do with them. It has to do with me. And that likewise when I was a kid this other person’s anger probably had much less to do with me than it did with them.

I needed to explain to my childhood self that it was never about her. The yelling and the anger and the judgment, it belonged to someone else, not me. It was directed at me and I thought it was mine, so I took it. But it never needed to be my burden to bear and ensuring that I don’t pass it along to my children begins with me being able to put it back.

Now that I’m aware of these things I think that I’m ready to hold myself accountable for the letting go part.

I decided several days ago to see if I could get through the rest of the month of December without yelling, which sounds like a much more feasible goal than the “poof I’m not going to yell anymore ever at all” one.

I am going to try to recognize when I raise my voice that I’m holding onto someone else’s fear and that it doesn’t need to be mine and I don’t need to pass it on to my kids.

We’ll see how I do.

click image to go to 25daysofkindness.com

click image to go to 25daysofkindness.com


What makes you special?

I’m so proud of this little guy and I don’t even know him! This is courage. Standing up and speaking out about his condition, advocating for himself…if only we all had such strength and bravery.

He’s only in the 4th grade and understands something that many of us do not, that it’s okay to be different. I love that he embraces his Asperger’s syndrome and recognizes it not as a handicap but as a gift.

I came across this video at the perfect time.

This morning I dropped my son off at Kindergarten and, as I usually do, stood and watched him as he and his classmates ran around the schoolyard prior to going inside.

The other kids played tag and chased each other back and forth. My son did his own thing. He threw himself down in the gravel repeatedly, rolling around and laughing with his little sister. Occasionally he would turn around and watch as a classmate ran by, once or twice he tagged along behind one of them for a moment, not really engaging in their play, then he would split off and go back to the gravel.

At one point a girl came up to him and stood there watching him. Rather than saying “hi” or making some other form of civilized conversation he spit gravel out of his mouth, spittle running down his chin, laughed, did a silly dance, and threw himself back down into the gravel. The girl shrugged and ran off to play with the other kids.

Determined not to hover or intervene I watched from a distance with my heart in my tummy and a lump in my throat. Every fiber of my being wanted to go over to him, wipe the drool from his chin, tell him to stop playing in the gravel and coach him on how to play ‘appropriately’ with his classmates. But I knew that would only undermine his confidence and bring even more attention to his differences.  So I stood with my feet planted and I quietly wilted inside.

I came home feeling depressed and defeated. I had visions in my head of him going through school as an outcast, being made fun of by other kids who don’t understand him, not being invited to birthday parties and being the last one picked for games in gym class.

My heart ached for my sweet boy who doesn’t fit in. I determined that I needed to find him some social skills classes and get him involved in some activities at the recreation center.

Then Hartley Steiner of Hartley’s Life With 3 Boys posted the above video on her facebook page.

This little boy reminded me that the things that make us different also make us special and helped me to realize that I shouldn’t try to squash them out of my son in order to fit him into a mold to be like other children. Why in the world would I want him to be just like everyone else anyway!? After all, isn’t it the imperfections that make us beautiful? How can I celebrate a crack in a vase but not celebrate my son for his Sensory Processing Disorder? Sure, he may never fit in but I would much rather him stand out – no, stand UP and proudly proclaim that YES he is imperfect and that’s a good thing.

I will continue to advocate for him and help him build the skills that he needs to get by in the world but I believe that it’s now time for me to also teach him how to advocate for himself and to be proud of himself and own his limitations so they don’t end up owning him.

So ask yourself, what makes you special?

“There is a crack in everything…that’s how the light gets in.” ~ Leonard Cohen