I have released a free printable sample of my kids journal (a weeks worth) because it’s so important to me, that our kids have access to resources to help them process their feelings and emotions during this time.
This is not my first rodeo with social distancing. In June 2010, our daughter was diagnosed with Cancer and just like that, isolation became our new normal.
On Chemo, her immune system was compromised. We had 4 younger children and we all know how kids are incredible carriers and conductors of germs and viruses and basic filth. It’s like their super power. Anyhoo…..we basically holed up and all social life halted for the 2.5 years that she was in treatment.
There are differences between then and now. One, we’re all in this together. That’s HUGE. Do not underestimate how incredible it is to have others know what you’re going through. Two, back then we were fighting only for our daughter. Today we are fighting for our world. Again, knowing that you’re not the only one going through this situation is incredible for the mind, body and spirit.
2.5 years of isolation is a long time. It’s long enough for friends to move on. It’s long enough for you to lose so much of yourself in the monotony and loneliness that you’re unsure you if you will ever find yourself again.
I’m not some naive “Pollyanna” and my life is not in any way, all rainbows and roses. Social distancing and isolation can either destroy you or make you; and I fully believe that you have a say in how you respond and move forward.
I remember the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness that I felt back then. I remember standing in my living room, trapped in my home, with no end insight. I remember feeling so incredibly powerless and out of control. my only option was to hold on tight and ride this journey, until it was finished. I felt like I had no control and no power. I felt like a victim of the whole situation. I was miserable, scared and lonely.
I remember the day that I decided that I would reclaim every bit of power that I could. The sun was shining. The warm air floated in through the window. Geli and the baby were both sleeping and the other kids were occupied. I pulled out my camera to find something good, something beautiful, something that was full of life. The situation had taken so much from me, from our family. We were surrounded by the hardship and struggles ; but I was determined to balance the scales and shift my focus.
I couldn’t change the immediate situation but I could choose to look for and see the good things that were happening in spite of, or even as a result of the hardship. That was the day that I was reborn. I didn’t realize it at the time, but now I see it so clearly. It wasn’t an immediate change. It was a slow, gradual process but looking for the good. Searching for the light. Finding the joy even in the middle of the darkest times, was life changing for me.
There are studies about the practice of gratitude rewiring the brain. I didn’t know this at the time, I just knew that practicing gratitude was like air to my drowning soul.
It is a practice. It requires effort, at first; and then it becomes a part of you; a glorious, life giving, transformative part of your very being.
I’m not encouraging that you lie to yourself, or that you pretend that everything is perfect. BECAUSE IT’S NOT! These are tough times that we are living in. Acknowledging the difficulties and finding the joy are compatible.
What I am encouraging is a shift of mindset.
My kids and I are trapped in this house and fighting like idiots because they are anxious and uncertain; but I am so thankful that we have this time together and that we are healthy.
I didn’t get my complete order of food because of panic and hoarding and now I don’t have any orange juice or Mr. Noodles; but I am so thankful that we do have food to eat and that I have time to bake and make meals for my family.
I can’t go out and be with my friends right now; but I’m so thankful that we have technology that enables us to connect through the internet so I can still see and chat with them.
Even finding the beauty in little things, helps to shift your focus from what you don’t have to what you do have.
That tiny bud on the tree that’s just emerging shows us that everything moves according to seasons and where there is a winter time, that a spring will follow with new growth. That the desolation of winter is always followed by the glory of spring.
Food spilled on the floor by your children is so annoying but it also means that you have food for them to eat.
My windows might be dirty but the sunlight shining in, is glorious.
There is good. There is always good. Sometimes the good things are easy to find and sometimes you have search harder. What I know is that searching “the good” is life changing. I do find that if you can acknowledge what you see in a tangible way, it seems to imprint on your soul. Whether that’s making a list on a piece of paper or in a journal; taking a picture to save on your phone, sharing your photos or thoughts with a friend or posting on social media…..there is power in acknowledging the good. It encourages you and it encourages others.
This is why I choose Joy and why I encourage you to choose Joy, as well. There is so much benefit from a shift of focus and a bit of perspective, right now. We are all in this together.
It was almost a decade ago.
She sat in her chair in a small room at BC Children’s Hospital ADHD clinic and calmly and quietly spoke to my child as if he knew and understood himself.
As if he, this frantic, frenetic child who couldn’t seem to slow down enough to eat or sleep or play appropriately or articulate well, could communicate the mysteries of his mind.
I don’t remember exactly what she asked or what he said. What I do remember is thinking to myself,
“She sees HIM. She really SEES him and in truly SEEING HIM; she’s giving him the opportunity to speak and to share from a space of being KNOWN. And in being seen and known, he has the permission and confidence to speak and be heard.”
This one moment is one of the many “pivotal” moments of my journey through parenting.
I remember the awareness hitting me so hard and fast that it was almost a physical impact.
My child, who I thought was an impressionable, immature being – a chaotic, unsleeping, hyper, frustrated, frustrating, exhausted and exhausting person……
I was shocked to find out that even at 10 years old, my child had insight, wisdom and knowledge of what he was feeling, dealing with and going through AND he could communicate that with us , even though it seemed he was only reactionary and impulsive.
I remember him sharing something profound about the way his brain worked, how his body and mind felt; and what he wished he could change.
I remember looking at the Dr incredulously while she carefully wrote down a few notes and thanked him for his input. She had a few suggestions for him and us. She spoke to him like his thoughts really mattered. Like he was “the patient”. Like he had some say over his life.
She wasn’t ever patronizing. I truly believe she saw and heard her patients and really believed them and cared about their input.
This moment changed my life forever. Jeremy was 10 years old when we met Dr. Jokhani and I am forever grateful for her care and support of him; but the impact of this encounter radically changed my understanding of how we interact with our kids.
Too often, we think or assume for them. We assign them thoughts or words based on what we see. But what we see, what they feel, what they perceive, what they know and if they have suggestions, desires or wants gets laid aside.
I’ve been asked how it is that my kids seem so self aware and insightful. How I’ve taught them to be able to share so eloquently? Is there something special about them?
The reality is that I’ve not taught them anything except maybe to trust themselves. Too often what we need to do is JUST ASK and then WAIT! We need to really listen to what they say. Listen to truly understand.
As an example, when Jeremy was asked to share what it felt like inside of his brain when he was at school; he explained that it felt like his brain was moving so fast that he couldn’t catch any of his thoughts. It felt like everything was buzzing so loud.
But when he took meds……everything got quiet and slower; and he could hold one thought until he wanted to put it down.
It might sound childish and simple, but it’s a brilliant explanation of the ADHD mind both on and off of a stimulant.
Mind you, he did all of this explaining, with his back to us while playing with LEGO.
Our children are going to share like children.
- Will we stop long enough to ask them questions?
- Will we listen long enough and with open enough hearts and minds to be able to really hear them?
- Can we trust them to know themselves?
- Will be give them opportunity to make a mistake and to teach them that mistakes are just a part of learning?
- Can we give them the safe spaces to practice communication and advocacy?
- Will we allow and champion opportunities to practise this skill?
I believe that we, as a society, win when we teach our kids self awareness. That we win when we teach our kids to self advocate. That we win when our kids believe that they have a voice worth listening to – when they believe that they have value and worth. That we win when our kids believe that they are valuable not in spite of who they are but because of who they are.
I’ve seen this play out hundreds of times with my younger sons…..starting at early as 3-4 years old.
Our kids are never too early to be heard, seen and known and loved.
I’d love to hear about a “pivotal” parenting moment for you?
“If I’m being honest with you, I could care less what he learns as far as academics or what his grades are.”
With equal parts liberation and hesitation, earlier this week I shared this statement with my child’s teacher, case manager and support staff.
I don’t mean that I don’t want my child to have an education. I don’t mean that I don’t want him to learn.
But….at this time, I care more if he feels safe at school. I care more if he has a desire to learn. I care more that he learn to confidently advocate for himself. I care more that he learn to communicate respectfully. I care more that he learns self awareness and self regulation skills. I care more that he learns to confidently interact with those in authority, and with peers. I care more that he finds his voice. I care more that he believes in himself. I care more that he has empathy for all. I care more that he eats. I care more that his digestive system is functioning smoothly. I care more that he gets enough sleep. I care more that he gets enough exercise.
It’s not that I don’t care about his education. I just have SO MUCH MORE that I care about. There is so much that a typical child would learn by osmosis, by watching and listening and absorbing; those seemingly simple things….they have to be taught to my child. Over and over and over……and so while I may say that I don’t care about academics……what I truly mean is that it’s just not as high on my priority list as all these other things.
I wonder what life would look like if my biggest worries were what grades my kids were getting; or if “grades” were even on my radar.
But that’s not my life and so I don’t dwell on that. Partially because I just don’t have the time or energy to; but also because it doesn’t serve me to hold that ENVY.
It all comes down to priorities. I only have so much energy and I just can’t hold “it all”. So I pick and choose what is most important to me.
Teaching my kids to be loving, respectful, compassionate, hard working and contributing members of society who have mercy and grace for themselves and others…..that’s my goal.
I try to remind myself of that every time I feel caught up in “what we’re NOT doing” or in the fact that we aren’t “typical“.
It all come down to priorities.
I’d love to hear what your priorities are or what you want them to be or wish they could be. Do you follow societal norms because you want to or because you feel you have to? Would you do something differently, if you felt you had the freedom or power to do what you wanted to?
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.
I don’t know if it’s the loneliest road but being a parent of a special needs or disabled child is definitely a tough road to travel.
Gratuitous picture of Mac because why not….
I’m not talking about my child’s journey, at this exact moment. I’m talking about my journey as a parent of a disabled child…….multiple children to be exact.
I was talking with another parent this morning. It feels so dishonourable to admit that parenting a special needs child is hard because you are supposed to love and cherish and champion your children.
Which I do!
But I also spend a huge amount of energy advocating on their behalf. Unless you live this life, you really have no concept of what it’s like. This is one reason that I share so openly about our life; so that those who have no clue, can have some clue, if they want, about what it’s like to live with and parent disabled kids.
I also share so that other parents who are going through similar experiences can know that they are not alone. I know this because I have many parents share with me……..”I thought I was alone until I saw your post and then I realized that I’m not alone.”
Too often, we believe that we are the only ones going through this. And it’s not until someone is brave enough to say, “This is what I’m going through and it’s ugly and messy and beautiful and courageous all at the same time.” that we realize that others are on this journey with us and we are not alone.
And that is the beauty of community.
We all need community. We need to know that we are not alone. We need to know that others have walked the paths that we are walking. We need to know that others understand the exhaustion and the frustration and the pride that we feel for and with our children. We need someone to understand that we live within chaos and that there is still beauty within the chaos. That growth still happens within the chaos. That love grows within the chaos. That life continues within the chaos.
This is why I share. This is why I lay my soul open so others can draw strength and courage from the knowledge that they are not alone. That there is a connection within the loneliness and isolation of parenting special needs kids.
We all want to be loved and accepted, not in spite of who we are but because of who we are.
I see you.
I recognize you.
I validate you.
You are worthy of love and acceptance.
You are more than all you “do”.
You are doing your very best and that’s enough, even if it doesn’t feel like it.
YOU are NOT alone!
I mentioned previously that I’ve had an on-again/off-again relationship with running since I was a teenager.
Over the years, I have spent way more time in the “off-again” than I ever have in the “on-again” aspect of running.
I’ve also had self esteem issues, body issues, worth issues……let’s just leave it at “I have a lot of issues and my therapist need never worry about a lack of issues to work on.“
The last time I spent any amount of time running was in 2013. We were on the tail end of the “Cancer Years” and I’d just had a miscarriage for a completely unplanned pregnancy. This happened shortly after I was diagnosed with Anxiety and started on meds. The meds I was on were not optimal for early fetal development and so I quit……cold turkey.
I was in rough shape, physically, mentally, emotionally. I was in really rough shape. In an effort to run away from my problems or maybe to run towards my feelings……I started running “again”.
It was HELL.
I had no reserves to bring with me and while the running provided me with some short term endorphins. It just couldn’t sustain it.
Fast forward to 2017…..that was a year of trauma. It felt like all of my kids had HUGE issues all at the same time and I was drowning under the weight of it all.
My only instinct was to survive. I made it through 2017 and 2018. I have a lot of clarity now about the pressures we place on ourselves and how unkind we are to ourselves. But those are posts for another day.
At the end of January of 2019 – this wasn’t a New Years Resolution– I was in rough shape. I’d been extremely sedentary. I was crazy busy but a large part of my life was sitting. I didn’t exercise and it felt like my heart was going nuts. It would race and slow down and skip beats and basically just make me feel horrible and totally paranoid.
I decided to start walking. At first, a slow walk for a short period of time destroyed me. I was so frustrated because I knew where I had been and this was not even half of what I had been capable of doing. But I was determined to get healthier; so I kept going. I tried to walk at least every other day. It was slow going but I started to see improvement.
I wasn’t as sore after I walked.
I wasn’t as out of breath after I walked.
My heart rate wasn’t through the roof and it was steadily lowering.
I was able to walk faster and for longer distances.
One day in March, I decided to run for a moment and just like that, I felt like I was back at the end of January, just about dying from the effort of it all.
I wish I written down my thoughts from the beginning of the year until now because it’s been quite a journey. But I’d rather start now, and be able to look back in a year and be so excited at the progress.
I want to lose weight because I’m larger than what I should be for optimal health. BUT health is my goal…..not skinny. I ran for 20 mins without stopping on Tuesday. Okay! I was slow as a turtle but you try schlepping 225lbs around for 20 mins and report back.
I ran again today. I have these delusions that I’m going to be able to just break my previous distance and time easily. Uh ya…..that’s not my reality.
While I did go a little further today, a little faster……it was minuscule compared to what my goal is.
I was talking down to myself and feeling bummed out and then I said to myself.
“This is a win. You went for a run. You were a little bit faster and you went a little bit further but regardless, you did it! And that’s a huge win.”
I’m trying to be gracious with myself. I’m trying to change the way I talk to myself and about myself. I would never talk to anyone or about anyone the way that I do to myself. It’s just not cool and I’m working on loving and championing myself; because I’m worth it.
You know, I never thought that signing up for a race would make a difference BUT….having a goal makes a HUGE difference. Why would I think I was any different than anyone else? Goals are amazing and incredible to have.
Knowing that I have the race, pushes me to stay consistent with my practice. It pushes me out of my comfort zone, in an effort to achieve more. It forces me to dream and plan and hope for what I want. It requires me to be accountable not out of shame but out of determination.
When the voices of fear whisper “What if you fail?“
I respond, “There is no failure; only a beginning.“
Like anything in life there are sides to every story…..often multiple sides.
My post about Parenting Trauma within the Educational System seemed to hit a chord with many and I believe its a huge opportunity for conversation.
Within the Education System we have:
– kids who are traumatized
– parents who are traumatized
– educators, administrators and support staff who are traumatized
There’s a lot of trauma.
And……no ones trauma outweighs another. Every trauma is valid and some how we have to figure out a way to navigate a system filled with traumatized people, who are doing their best; and have the end result be a safe, inclusive space for all to grow and thrive.
It’s an unfortunate reality that, at any given time, our best may be super messy and awkward. Just like our little ones……some days, their best may be flailing around on a floor screaming. And that “best” is better than lashing out at another person. As humans, we have the opportunity to come along side and support those who are struggling.
Navigating trauma that has been inflicted on your child, is brutal. While there are times that people intentionally inflict trauma on others; I would say that the majority of trauma within the education system, is not done purposefully. People don’t go into education with the intent to harm kids.
Regardless of whether its intentional or not, trauma happens and when we know better, we must do better; which is why awareness, and communication are so important.
When trauma is triggered, the brain shuts down and communication and learning are impaired. This is true for kids and for adults.
I’m aware that I hold trauma in my body and mind regarding my children and the Education system. When triggered, I try really hard to pause before I react and to filter what I say and feel; or to find someone who can help me regulate But, there are times when past trauma is triggered and all I do is react.
When trauma is triggered, my brain goes into overdrive. My thoughts immediately start racing. At the same time, everything is a bit of a fog. My only goal is to protect my kids, at any and all cost. Unfortunately, there can be fall out. In moments of fight/flight, I may say things that rational me wouldn’t say. I can feel my heart racing and my body tenses. It’s not a pleasant feeling. I can literally feel the surge of adrenaline washing over me as I prepare to fight or flee.
It feels awful!
And I know that many of you have been there; and many of you are there.
My hope, in posting about this, is to bring awareness. Awareness to parents, awareness to educators, awareness to people who have no clue that this happens. I believe that with awareness, there is opportunity to talk, to communicate more openly; and ultimately, to grow and heal. In order for relationship to build and grow, there has to be communication.
I believe that the “end goal” is that we all want children to grow and learn and be successful.
In the midst of trauma, its easy to loose sight of that. The Fight/Flight instinct kicks in and we go into Battle Mode.
As parents, its beneficial to know if we carry trauma regarding the Education System. We need to know that the trauma taints everything we see, hear, say, experience…….
I’m not saying that there haven’t been “wrongs” committed.
Because there have been “wrongs”. That’s a fact.
But how do we, as humans, work together towards growth and relationship. Especially, when we have a child (or children) in the middle of it all.
How can we communicate respectfully with each other?
How can we hear each other?
How can we come to an agreement with each other?
How can we be partners rather than adversaries?
I know this is a lofty ideal.
I don’t know exactly how to make it happen. I don’t believe that what’s currently happening is working; and I want to be a part of a change.
Here are some of the ways that I hope to affect change.
Awareness – I think speaking about trauma and other issues; and sharing openly and vulnerably is important. I can’t tell you how many people message me saying they “get it” or are going through the same thing. They say that it feels so good to know they’re not alone on this journey. That means the world to me because I know that I’m not alone.
Relationship – I have purposed to build relationship on a peer level with the people in my kids lives. This doesn’t mean that we are “besties”. But, I want them to know me as Patti, the person; and I want to know them as the person they are. Making relationship critical, means that when I’m feeling hurt by something or someone, I have a bigger chance of “pausing” before I say something hurtful to another human. It’s easy to rail against a system……and less easy when you really see the person in front of you.
Respect – If I had to choose one building block to build my life on, it would be respect. I want to act and speak respectfully regardless of how I’m treated. I’m human and fallible but this is one virtue I make every effort to embody. I believe that if you are a respectful person, as a general rule, you will be treated with respect. If you can continue to be respectful, even in the midst of difficulty, you will gain more respect. It’s just the way it works. That doesn’t mean you need to be a doormat and let people walk all over you. Part of living a respectful life is also having self respect and knowing what to accept and what to let go of; but speaking the truth with respect is powerful.
I’m not a policy maker. I’m not a name or organization within the system. I’m just a mom trying to affect change within my realm of influence; and these are just 3 of the ways that I hope to affect change.
I do, wholeheartedly, believe in the ripple effect. We have an opportunity every year to bring awareness, and respect to our relationships with the educators/administrators, parents and support staff that we come in contact with. It’s my hope that awareness, respect and relationship are the legacy that I leave behind, with every grade that my children pass through.
Don’t ever think that you don’t have any influence. We do have influence. Be a force for change. Be a positive influence and see what happens. It may take time, but I believe that it’s worth it.
Ya’ll I’m exhausted. It’s been a week FILLED with one thing after another after another and while none of those individual things are critical, the combined weight is enough to drag me under.
So today, I’m going to share a post that I read yesterday. I think awareness is so important. You can’t truly understand something, unless you’ve lived or experienced it.
BUT……you can learn. You can try to understand. You can lay personal bias and judgment aside and really seek to understand.
Jon and I have said for YEARS, that our kids have the capability to be wildly successful in life but that they would totally benefit and need a Pepper Potts to administrate things for them.
Those of us without Executive Function Deficits can often organize and structure our own lives. We can juggle all the balls, even the boring ones. But for those of us who have reduced Executive Function, certain tasks can seem insurmountable.
It doesn’t mean that people with Executive Function Deficits are stupid. They may be “Different, but they are not Less“. I will harp on that until the end of time. It’s so important. We all have strengths and challenges. It’s a part of being human. we should never belittle others for their challenges……EVER!
Here is link to an incredible article by Mair Elliot on Executive Function and how frustrating, and unpredictable it is to live with Executive Function Deficits; how much effort is required on a daily basis, and how it can affect quality of life even though the individual may be intellectually capable.
Please read this article with the intent to learn and understand.
Different, not Less!
I’m so excited to be thinking about this years garden.
We live in the city and don’t have a huge backyard. On top of that, we have a 14 ft. trampoline and a 16 ft. pool. Once we get both of those crammed in, there isn’t a huge amount of space, but there’s enough for some container gardening.
In past summers, I’ve been able to grow and harvest over 200 lbs of veggies from my small backyard. I think that’s pretty impressive considering the size of our yard. I do a lot of “growing up” as opposed to sprawling.
I love eating what we grow, but I think I love the whole process, even more. I love growing food and flowers from seeds. I love growing plants together to enhance their yield. I love going out each morning and watering the plants while sipping my coffee. I love watching the bees come buzzing about to fertilize my plants. I love the smell of the dirt. I love watching my garden start out so barren and stark, become a huge green fertile space, overflowing with flowers and greens and veggies.
Our yard looks pretty rough right now, but I can’t wait for summer. The planning and prep that we put in now is so worth it.
It’s like life. If you put in the effort and energy to plan good things, to dig out the harmful things that choke out life, to plant good seeds. Nurture them and you will see a harvest. Do nothing and the weeds take over and don’t allow for good things to be produced.
I’m so very thankful to be starting work on our garden and to be able to continue to work on my own life. So I can reap and harvest good things.
What are you thankful for?