With my Humanity Faltering….

We took a Mental Health Day, today!

Jude had climbed into bed with us, at some point last night. First thing this morning, He opened his eyes, looked at me and said, “I just can’t go today.

Like I mentioned yesterday, we have a kids day camp this week. It’s fun. It’s amazing. It’s epic. It’s theme is “Power Up”. They do Fortnite dancing, and crafts and have snacks and an epic water day. It’s AWESOME!

And in the last two days, my kid has used up any and every bit of emotional and mental reserve.

So, I declared today a Mental Health Day and we did nothing taxing; and only things that we wanted to do.

I have pretty firm opinions on parenting. I don’t like to put up with any garbage or judgement from others. It makes me sick when I see children being treated as bad or devious or evil. I do understand that there are some children who have been so hurt that they need extraordinary help and support; but so many children are spoken to as if they aren’t real people.

Real people who have rights, deserve dignity and autonomy. Real people who deserve respect and kindness regardless of whether they are non-compliant, misbehaving or just young.

But for all of my opinions, I’m still human.

I grew up with old school thinking that disrespects children. Thinking that says that I’m the boss and if I’m just tougher or more authoritative or just force a child to do something that they will get over their issue. Their issue, that isn’t legitimate anyway. They’re probably just faking it, in the hopes of getting away with something.

I don’t believe that line of thinking for one second. And yet, within the stress and chaos and exhaustion of parenting high needs kids, there are times that my resolve falters. I question my moral compass. I question my parenting skills. I question my ability to know or think or believe anything.

In that space, I allow the worry, the questions and the self doubt to surround me, for a moment, before I shake them off. Those thoughts don’t fit on me. I can’t wear them with pride, courage or confidence

**********

I believe that children, innately, want to succeed and do well.

I believe that if a child is not succeeding and thriving; that is not because they are intentionally misbehaving. They are struggling.

I believe that children try to do their very best and if we feel that their best is some how “missing a mark” then we must step along side and support them, in ways that are meaningful to them.

I believe that behaviour is communication and as the adults, it’s our job to detect what they, the children, are struggling to put into words and to help them…..not judge, shame or criticize.

I believe that our children should run to us when faced with problems and not try to hide from us, out of shame and guilt. It’s our actions, words and reactions that reinforce those beliefs and actions.

So in this moment of humanity, when I question my ability to parent my child, to help him to be resilient, to help him find his strength and his voice, to help him find his way in this world knowing that he is valued and loved and capable…….I pause.

I remind myself of what I believe and why I believe it.

I remind myself that it’s okay to not be okay.

I remind myself that taking a Mental Health Day is a gift and not a punishment.

I remind myself that I’m teaching my children invaluable life lessons by honouring them, respecting them and teaching them to be in tune with their needs.

I remind myself that this season will not last forever.

With my humanity faltering, but my beliefs unwavering, I carry on; doing the best that I can, in this moment and knowing that it’s okay to not be okay.

It’s okay!

What Can You Recognize?

It’s Summer time and I have memories of VBS in the local churches in our community. I remember sweaty hot rooms and making macaroni art, singing songs and snacks! I remember memorizing verses for stars. I LOVED to win the stars. Not to compete against others but to see just how many I could get. Summer camps both short day camps and overnight camps were a highlight of my summers.

I just picked up my 9 year old from camp after he bolted. He just ran away.

Jude deals with Anxiety and Trauma from living with Siblings with Autism. Life can be very chaotic, unstable and uncertain.

He struggles with doing things that seem like they should be fun; normal “kid” things And as his parent, I feel like I’m constantly balancing accepting where he is at and encouraging him to stretch his wings. I’m constantly balancing his emotional and mental capabilities and trying to encourage growth without wearing him out completely.

As his parent, it’s exhausting. Either I’m doing activities with him (like Grade 3 or Summer Camp) which means that I don’t get anything else done. Or I’m trying to encourage him to participate, which often means I’m hanging around close by; still unable to take care of other responsibilities. Or we stay at home and avoid “outside activities” and I can usually get some of my responsibilities accomplished.

Sometimes, he needs the complete break so he can recharge……like an older rechargeable battery that can only hold so much charge and takes longer to absorb the charge. He wears out easier than typical kids and requires more time to recharge.

Going to a high energy camp with a LOT of kids is exhausting so why do we do it?

It gives him another opportunity to practise and grow and to see how much stronger he is compared to last year.

It’s also SO important to live in community. We were not created to be alone. And even though it may seem easier to do it alone, it’s not. Loneliness is soul crushing. We are built for love and acceptance and interaction.

So even though it’s hard and awkward and too often we feel judged by people who don’t understand or “get it”; we believe in the value of community and so we do our best to connect, in ways that are meaningful for us, and yet don’t overwhelm or wear down us down.

I held back tears when I picked my son up. Tears for how hard it is for him. Tears because I’m exhausted. Tears because of shame. Tears because of guilt.

I told him I was SO excited to see him. And we carry on with our day.

The next time you see a kid bolting, understand that there’s a good chance the child is panicking for some reason.

Realize that they need support, understanding and help.

Recognize that kids do well, when they can.

Recognize that behaviour is communication.

Recognize that when kids are in panic mode they are more likely to “act” than “speak” and it’s ups to us, as adults, to lend our calm and to not add chaos.

Recognize that you can be a part of the solution or you can add to the problem.

Recognize that the child and their parents, most likely, have limited emotional/mental/physical resources in reserve.

Recognize that you can be a life line in both the child’s and the parents life.

Recognize that Shame and Blame help NO ONE!

Recognize that “villages” and “community” are SO desperately needed.

Parenting PTSD, the Educational Version

I recently received an email that sent me into an absolute tailspin.

I’ve just realized that with all the info blacked out, this email could be for any one of them, because all 3 of my boys have the same initials. All 3 have IEP’s and “school teams”.

Do you see anything wrong or even remotely threatening or negative about this email?

Nope! Neither do I and I asked for a meeting. Regardless, as I lay in bed, my heart started to race and the thoughts in my head sped out of control.?

What if they are upset with my child?
What if they are upset with me?
What if they are going to tell me that it’s too much effort to support my child?
What if they chalk his issues up to bad parenting instead of trauma?
What if they judge me?
What if they are tired of trying?
What if they put it all back on me to solve and fix?

And the thoughts spiral out of control until I’m choking back the tears and barely holding myself together.?

{I know that these are “what if’s….” and I really don’t want to live in the world of “what if’s….” because….what if it all goes amazingly well? And really what does it matter if someone thinks poorly of my child. I know the truth. But truth doesn’t always vanquish the trauma…..at least not right away.}

This is Parenting PTSD, the Educational version.In the past, I’ve had administrators and teachers say those things about my child. I’ve heard those things said to me, said about my child, and said when it was presumed that I wasn’t listening. To hear those things, destroys a piece of your heart, mind and soul. It breaks your ability to trust, to really even hear at all, let alone with an open heart and soul.

It is devastating to hear that people feel your child is too difficult, too much effort, or just not worth the effort.

While I know that currently, we have people on our teams who actually care for my boys, that past wounding, that TRAUMA is still there. It’s runs deep and it excruciatingly painful.

As a parent of a child with extra needs, you are already soul crushingly weary but usually with no real option or opportunity to rest. You are almost always in fight or flight mode. If for some blessed reason you aren’t there, it only takes one second to be activated …..sometimes when it’s not even necessary.

I’m extra exhausted right now and pretty close to the edge of tears, most of the time.

I’m not alone in this, either. There are thousands of parents, with kids who have challenges, who feel traumatized from dealing with the people within the education system.

We are desperate for people to truly see our children for the wonders that they are. We are desperate for someone to share all the good and amazing things that they see about our children. We are desperate for people to look beyond the challenging behaviour, to see what our children are saying, to listen and really hear their hearts. To champion them into becoming all they they can be and even more.

We are desperate for people to see our children as human beings; and as valuable, worthy and important as the typical kids.

On our end, it takes the courage of showing up and being there even when you don’t know if it will make a difference or if you’ll get hurt again. It takes vulnerability to share your hurts, your ideas, your successes and your failures.

If you work within the education system, know that you have parents and children who are incredibly triggered right now.

show love,
show compassion,
show mercy,
show grace,
show acceptance.

Invest in relationship.
Foster communication.
Build trust.
Be Respectful.
Be a life line.

And the benefits will be innumerable.

But recognize that there is Trauma and it’s not going anywhere soon.

Be a part of the solution, not the problem.

Facing It Head On

I’m having a hard time settling down tonight.

We had an appointment today regarding one of our kids. This is not our first time having an appointment like this but I don’t think they get any easier.

As parents, we want to see the best in our kids. We talk to other parents about their achievements. A typical parent may brag about their child being on the honour roll or a sports club their child was invited to be a part of. They may share about the recognition their child received in Cadets or Guides.

Special needs parents want to share about the wonders of our children, too. But our pride may be in the fact that our child spoke at 8 years old, or learned to tie their shoe laces at 14, or shared a beloved and sacred item with a sibling. We are ecstatic (and often terrified) when they get invited to a birthday party or for a play date .

Would you even consider bragging that your child got invited to a birthday party or for a play date? It’s ok if that would never cross your mind, it just means that we function in different circles, on this great earth of ours.

Here’s something else that’s different…..

Parents of typical kids will probably never experience this situation, and if that is you, count yourself blessed. It’s a special kind of hell to go to an appointment and speak and share about all the ways your child is missing the mark. To spend a couple of hours talking “down” about your child. To fill in form, after form, after form, about all the things your child can’t do, and specifically doesn’t do, well.

You almost have to disassociate from yourself to do this. But you MUST do this, in order to get your child the supports they need.

So you do it, regardless of the fact that it goes against every parental instinct to cherish and protect. You dig out all the dirt and ugliness; and you lay it out there for all to see.

It’s hard because it’s not like you don’t know that there are things your child struggles with, but when you put it all together in one pile, at one time…..it’s overwhelming; and frankly, soul crushing.

That pile of crap in that picture up above……it’s all the stuff I swept out from under my couch. Some of it is garbage. Some of it is useful. Some is necessary. Some was misplaced.

It’s easier to know it’s there; but to only focus on what’s in front of you. If the room looks okay, then it’s good, right?

Its when you sweep it all out into the open that you are faced with a challenge. You can start sorting and do the work and effort that’s required to place things in order. You can throw it all out. Or You can sweep it back under.

You can’t throw “this situation” out or throw “this” away; and ignoring it doesn’t work out well for anyone. There really is only one appropriate option and that’s to put in the time and effort and to “sort things out”. As a parent of special needs children, those are two things that I have the smallest reserves of……time and energy!

But I will get up tomorrow and try to figure out what the next steps are because that is what you do when you love someone with all your heart and soul. When your goal is to help them succeed and be the very best “them” that they can be; you do whatever you can do.

If you have children with disabilities, you’re either nodding in agreement or horrified at what you may soon be asked to do.

If you don’t have children with disabilities, know that your friends, acquaintances, those parents……..they go through things that are tough. They do things that no parent ever wants to do; and they do it so they can afford their child the best in life. But those parents, they are tired. They are often overwhelmed. They may feel like they’ve betrayed the wonder and beauty of their child, in the name of “support”. The hardest part is that that there are no guarantees. You may not get the supports that are needed and then it feels like it was all for nothing; and that’s REALLY tough.

Parents of typical kids, I’m sharing so you can know…….so you can be aware…..so you can show compassion.

Not pity. Not ever pity.

But awareness, seeking to understand, and compassion are huge gifts that you can give us parents of kids with differences.

Take Aways…….

  • Be aware
  • Seek to understand
  • Have compassion
  • Be kind – Always Be kind!

Anxiety

Oh, my sweet boy!

It’s Friday morning and I’m sitting in the school office. I haven’t been here in a while which is something that I’m SO thankful for.

Last year, I spent the majority of the year in the school and a huge portion of it, sitting in the office.

Judah has had a tough time with separation anxiety. It started in Kindergarten. Grade 1 was harder and Grade 2 was even worse. We’ve done lots of counselling and emotional “work” and this year has been a roller coaster of ups and downs.

One thing that I’m SO very thankful for is that there have been more ups than downs this year.

I get discouraged because this has been such a long process, and if I’m being honest, I just want things to be normal……whatever that is.

But, things are getting better and this is the first time that I’ve sat here in the office, in a long time.

We’re all tired and ready for Spring Break and the down time.

But today, I’m SO thankful for the forward progress that we’ve made this school year.

What are you thankful for?

Beginnings & Ice Cream

Well, here we are, day 1 of this Gratitude Challenge.

I’d love it if you would either leave a comment, here or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram…..however you found yourself here. Or even just leave a post on your own profiles, using the hashtag #marchtogratitude.

It’s going to be fun to see the posts on social media when you search, using the hashtag.

I’ll be honest, I’ve been a pretty negative person. For me, living a life of gratitude has been born out of my misery and complaining; and then my desire to not be a negative person. Usually, I will start complaining or moaning about something; and once I catch myself….then I look for something good in the situation.

For example, I hate mornings. That’s already been established. So when I came downstairs to start the morning “cat herding” this is what greeted me.

Cool Whip Container of Ice Cream

I could have got upset at my boys (that seems like a typical reaction to this scenario) but I’m constantly looking to “flip the script”.

My first thought was, “Ice Cream for breakfast, huh?!?”

My second thought was, “Take a picture of that, and send it to your sisters.”

Third thought was, “Well, Breakfast is taken care of.”

No upset, no anger, no disappointment. The bucket of ice cream is going to be gone sooner than I intended, but I wasn’t planning on having any so it really doesn’t affect me and when it’s gone…..it’s gone!

They got calories, dairy, and then they took all that sugar crazy to school. So, I’m good!

To wrap it up…….I’m grateful that my kids are independent enough to get their own breakfasts. I may need to talk a little more about appropriate food choices, but in the end, they ate with no complaining and I didn’t have to do anything. I got to drink my coffee that I was also SO VERY GRATEFUL FOR!

I’m calling it a win and moving forward with the day.

I’d love to hear what you’re thankful for today? Coffee? Sunshine? Family? A Job? What?

Advocating Hell

Advocating for your child is it’s very own unique level of Hell. The mind games alone are enough to make you walk away and not even try.

I’m trying desperately to help you understand my child and to see that he’s not deliberately trying to be difficult and defiant. While at the exact same time, I want to not lose your support, regardless of the fact that I may be challenging you to step outside of your preconceived understanding. I am desperate to not come across as a helicopter mom, trying to make my child’s life easy. I’m hoping that you “hear and see” me as an expert on my child with valid input and not as an overprotective, un-objective parent. I want recognition that I come as a well versed peer and not to be on the receiving end of some bias towards me or my child.

I view children as wanting to please, as wanting to do their best…and when their behaviour deviates from what we’ve come to expect…..I question, “What is their Behaviour Communicating to us? What are they struggling to verbalize. What are they struggling with?”

Siahs struggling at school. His behaviour is one of escaping into a safe world…..classically autistic. Rather than clamping down on the behaviour, I believe that we need to figure out what he’s struggling with. Once we can help him……he will have energy to once again rise to the level of success, we have previously seen and even surpass it.

Until this situation gets sorted out, I worry tha we are stuck in discomfort.

  • make (someone) feel uneasy, anxious, or embarrassed.

I dislike discomfort but I dislike my child struggling even more.

It’s hell.

We, special needs parents do not enjoy ruffling feathers. We do not enjoy pushing the bubble. We do not enjoy messing up the status quo.

We would give just about anything to just be typical and never need to spreak with you. But we don’t have that option and so we carry on. Please don’t judge us for that.!

Hear us! Really hear what we have to say!

BEING

Judah is at school.
I’m kind of in shock.
Let me be clear, I am NOT in school at this exact moment.

I took Hot Lunch to school for Siah, as a treat. Off handedly, I asked if Jude would like to stay with Siah and he agreed.  This afternoon is Art in his class or Games Group with the most amazing EA.  He said he’d like to stay for Art.  He was a little concerned about the 15 minutes of Daily Physical Activity but we’ve worked an arrangement for him and at this exact moment….the plan is that I will pick him and Siah up at the end of the school day.

I left the school almost scared and feeling really weird.  I don’t have my little shadow with me.  I was sure  he was going to come tearing out of the school after me begging to come home and saying that he’s changed his mind.  Nope!

I came home and wandered around, feeling a little lost.  I made lunch for myself and then surveyed my kingdom.  It’s in pretty rough shape.  My first thought was:

“I SHOULD clean this up. I ONLY have a short window of time.”

My second thought was:

“I don’t want to.”

So, I have curled up on the couch, with my laptop, in the middle of my mess.  I’ve put music on and am having a cup of tea.

I feel frantic, like I’m wasting an opportunity to “DO” things.  The list of things I COULD do is way TOO LONG!

The list of things I WANT to do, is also TOO LONG.

What’s more important than DOING ALL THE THINGS, is BEING!

I probably won’t get the opportunity to do much “resting” after I do nothing…..but in doing nothing, I am resting.

I COULD DO all the things but all those things will still be there when I’m done just “BEING.”

So for today, I’m breathing deeply and holding onto this moment.

Who will YOU see?

I cannot be happy enough to see 2017 close it’s doors.

I had thoughts that this year would look so much different. And while this year and its events have kicked my butt…..there were good things about it, I’m pretty sure.

I can’t think of too many at the moment, because of the severe brain fog due to mental exhaustion and stress.

Between the spring and the issues surrounding Jeremy and the High School; between the summer and all the fighting between my boys; between this fall and finding out that my baby has perceived trauma due to being a sibling of autistic brothers, to school refusal, complete out-of-your-senses panic, and therapy……lots of therapy; between helping one child feel safe within his school and with his teachers to advocating that they see the person and his strengths and not get sidelined by the “side effects” of his disability; from moving my babies into their own home; and doing so much more with my own creative endeavours, than I ever thought possible……..it’s been too much.

Many things and many people have been set aside as I try to survive. There is no thought of thriving and I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity to escape into art and creativity……because that small part of my life means that I’m not lost.

I’m not lost to chaos.

I’m not lost to meltdowns.

I’m not lost to advocating.

I’m not lost to lack of knowledge or understanding.

I’m not lost to special needs or trauma.

I’m still me.

But me…….
She…….
I…..
I am exhausted.
I am barely treading water.
I am in a tough space.

I like to say that seasons change and I know they do. I believe that I have more strength than I realize. I believe that I am capable of handling a whole lot……I know this, because I’ve had to.

And yet, I’ve never been more closer to giving up.

I’ve NEVER been this weary.
I’ve never wanted this badly to run away from everything and everyone and never be found again.
My sense of responsibility has been taken to the end of itself.

To. The. End.

Physically, I’m tense, like muscles in knots, headaches and migraine, tense. I can’t sleep. I’m exhausted. I can’t focus. I have to write lists to accomplish anything. And even then, I stare at my list with a blank sense of uncomprehension. I see people doing human things. Regular things, like going for coffee or a walk or popping out to the store to pick something up…..and I can’t even fathom how that’s a possibility for them. It’s Herculean effort to exist.

Do you understand?

Can you even comprehend?

I share because I know I’m not alone. I know there are others out there who feel like this and blindly and stumbling keep putting one foot in front of the other, not knowing how but knowing they have to. Doing everything in their power to reserve the strength that they don’t have while pretending, as best the can, to deceive themselves into carrying on because there is no other choice.

——-

I am walking away.
I’m taking my crazy with me and we are all running away. We will put our toes in the sand. Pray for sleep and regulation. And hope that we can recharge in the sunshine and the water.

——–

But there are many, like me, done. Tired. Exhausted. Worn out.

Look for them.
Find them.
Love on them.
Let them know you see them.
Let them know you love them regardless of their ability to give back.
Let them know in a tangible way, that you see them – that you care.

———–

Some ideas: (in no particular order)

– Take a meal
– Give a Gift Certificate
– Drop off a coffee and donut
– or a bottle of wine
– take a kid out for a treat
– clean a bathroom
– clean out their vehicle
– give flowers
– offer to watch kids
– do a 10 minute tidy
– ask how they are doing, really listen and be okay with a hard reply
– connect and say hi (by text or email) and don’t expect a reply
– send a card to say you’re thinking of them
– learn about what they are dealing with (autism,ABI, ADHD, TBI,
DS, FASD, trauma, divorce, addiction, mental health, cancer, grief, etc)

There are so many ways to connect without putting more pressure on ones who are already tapped so far beyond what’s emotionally possible.

This holiday season, I’d love to challenge you to “see” someone, to hold their challenges with respect and reverence, and to be a support in ways that are meaningful to them.

It may mean being okay with the messiness (emotional, mental, physical and/or spiritual) that often accompanies our lives.

But it will be worth it! I promise!

A Small Dose of Saturday Morning Trauma

I got a call about 10 o’clock this morning. I could hear Siah screaming in the background. Jon hollered at me over the screaming, “I need you to come and get Siah.”

Not even finished my first cup of coffee and hair and make up not done…..I raced out of the house and down the street to our dentists office.

I walked in the door and they ushered me to a back room where I found this.

Good Saturday morning to you too!

Nothing like a spectacular dose of trauma to start the weekend.

It’s dental work. My boys needed fillings. How simple is that? Go in, get it done….BAM!

Not that simple.

I sat in the recovery room with Siah and listened to Judah screaming through 2 closed doors.

It’s hard to think straight when your world feels torn to shreds by trauma. When anxiety overwhelms to the point that nothing makes any sense. When trauma tells you that you are in terrifying danger. When you brain lies to you and it doesn’t matter because you can’t think beyond this exact moment of terror.

Siah was curled in a ball, yelling and screaming at me for letting them hold him down. He was so upset that I couldn’t even touch him or comfort him.

In the end, it’s more traumatizing for us because now that they have settled and the meds have worn off, they don’t even really remember what happened. Yay for the meds actually working.

I say that as sarcastically as I can because I was called there…..without the benefit of mind numbing meds, to witness and experience it all. To be hit and kicked, in fear. To be rejected and not allowed to give comfort.

As soon as he settled some, I traded off with Jon to go and see Judah, who was terrified, mostly because he heard Siah panicking. And being unable to see what was actually happening….he assumes the worse.

Siah actually finished his dental work. Judah wouldn’t let them near him…..even cracked out on meds.

We made it home eventually.

We’ll have to cough up the insane costs to have Judah sedated to actually get the work done.

Anxiety sucks.

Watching someone you love suffer from anxiety is brutal.

Experiencing anxiety is brutal.

Can I encourage you to have compassion for those you know who deal with mental health issues?

I’m gonna get up tomorrow, put make up on and go and sing my heart out. You’d never know what I experienced today by just looking at me…..and I’m not looking for pity.

Compassion and understanding though…..definitely. Especially when my boys are acting out and I have nothing left to give but I dig deep and create energy out of nothing.

But my sharing is not just about me. Be kind and compassionate to those parents and kids you know who struggle…….you have no idea what they really are going through and I guarantee you they won’t share the reality.

It would be too much to handle.

It is too much to handle.