Monday, February 24, 2014

Digging Out of a Funk

Parenting is HARD.
Parenting neurotypical emotional children is HARD.
Add trauma, a mood disorder, toss in a little sensory stuff and attachment, and well, there are days you wonder why you bother getting out of bed, getting dressed or making any sort of effort. Speaking period can be dangerous and triggering.

Are you with me?

I hope you nodded a little or even shouted a resounding “HELL YES” at your screen.
I promise this post will not include a purple “back-pack, back-pack” and a fox named Swiper.

Are there days the the idea of facing one of your angry elves has your head and mind racing, even before the alarm goes off and you just DON'T WANT TO GET UP, FACE THEM, SMELL THEM, or BE IN A ROOM WITH THEM?

I mean rrrrreeeeeaaaallllly don't want to get up and face the angry, sad, sullen, yelling, screaming, silent treatment control games, that seems to be an endless game of specialized torture just for you?

Can I get another “HELL to the YES.” Even if you don't always feel this way, come on, sometimes you do, right? RIGHT?

My kids (cuz lets be honest I have so darned many) like to take turns with making certain seasons of parenting them an extra hard painful (like pulling my fingernails out with pliers) affair.
So very painful. When they are struggling, when their shame is eating them alive and holding them under, when their ability to regulate emotion is null. You become, after themselves their favorite bonding buddy of misery.
In their need to explain their pain they enroll me in their boot camp of “Feeling shitty, angry and rejected.”
And I can be a damn good soldier.
They want me to join their ranks. They poke and prod and pee and lie and steal and hurt me so that I can 'get' a fair understanding of how they feel 99% of the time.
They are Share-bears on crack. The result being, neither of us end up feeling too great about each other or ourselves.

We BOTH get stuck.
We both need to be dug out.
And since I (unfortunately) am the adult, I eventually have to realize, we are either going to have to stay stagnant in the stuck, or I am going to have to grab a friggin shovel.
Because even IF I want THEM to do it and unstick themselves, they can't.

At this point in the stuck, my usual, booty shaking, music playing,goof ball tactics are not working, and really, my heart isn't in it as much as I want it to be. When they roll their eyes at me, I want to join them, in a “Right this is ridiculous that I am EVEN TRYING” eye roll of solidarity.
I want a bag of mini snickers and a good Netflix series to get lost in, not dealing with their crap and my emotions surrounding it.

Shovels up. Clink here we go.

Ways to dig out.
These are not sure fire, they don't all work for all kids, and I would LOVE to hear different idea's from different sources.

Somethings I have learned about the dig outs, is: a) the least obvious and ostentatious the better.
When we do something for our kids when we don't want to, they can smell it.
Might as well drag it through the dog pooh of “See you are mean to me and I STILL DO NICE THINGS FOR YOU.”
Not that I have done that 5 hundred million times.
Because to them, it is still shaming, it is still saying, “You are mean, you won't let me love you, SEE I do nice things, and am nice and you are not and this is proof.”
Yup, and that reception? Not going to be taken well.
You might get a brand new pink swimsuit with glittery butterflies, or a Green and Blue Bey blade spinner thrown back in your face, but there I go being all specific and shit.

You have to be stealth.
The stealthiness, the sneak, and the dig, gives our kids the oppertunity to react without the pressure of us looking for their response. The dig sometimes is a big back hoe brought in the middle of the night, or at times is bit by bit, teaspoon by teaspoon.

If these reconnections can be made without the need of them having to accept it from you, or you even expecting an acknowledgment, it creates a safer environment for them to accept it.

Around Christmas time and my now favorite tradition is the “secret elf”.
Instead of elf on a shelf, we all draw names on Thanksgiving and begin a season of random anonymous acts of kindness. There is no pressure to preform the duties, or acknowledge them.

So when I am hurting, with and about one of my stuck kids, I like to become a Secret elf, to my Angry Elf. There are simple things bit my bit that can help knock out a season of stuck.

My beautiful brilliant friend Christine is an AMAZING example of this. I am soo thankful for her day to day reminders and examples of how fiercely she loves and parents. Many of theses ideas are her gems.

So, here is my list of a handful of ways to still be emotionally protected, in a healthy way that protects both of you, and slowly bring you both back to a better place.

For smaller people
Hidden sweets in their pockets, or shoes left on their car seat or under a pillow.
A new coloring book and crayons just sitting out.
A new blanket or soft toy, sprayed with your scent, left somewhere it obvious it is for them.
Gentle music is a biggy, PLAY it. Have a wind up something available.
A reason they need lotion or you do on feet or hands.
A class that you as parent and child participate in.
Cooking in separate bowls (even if they are just stirring yogurt) something that you then eat together.
Just sitting listening to your favorite music, closed eyes.
Planting flowers,or seeds and bulbs in their own pot with complete permission to through the dirt and anything else they feel like throwing.

School aged kids and readers ( again given and done stealth with very little expectation)
*Any of the recommendations above.
*Random unsigned notes in pockets, shoes, lunch boxes
*A book on tape or music you know they would enjoy when you are in the car with them (avoids arguments too)
*$1 store Puzzle Book and fun new color pencils
*New socks and under clothes left on their bed ( because we all know how often they go missing)
*Random “just because” snacks they can bring or have dropped off to their classroom or Day Care
*A new to them shirt or item they have been wanting or that has been taken away returned with no words
* An after school movie date with Popcorn
*Craft Supplies left on their bed
*Their favorite music primed and ready for specifically HARD mornings or trips in the car.
* A surprise outing planned with a friend or sibling unearned, like a picnic and trip to the park.
* Having finished their chores for them, or cleaned their room wordlessly, without expectation of acknowledgment.
* Putting a framed picture of them up in their room, with a sticky note of why you love this picture of them.

Teens and young adults * all of the above, including the coloring book and crayons
*Gas, music or fast food gift card just laying on pillow
* Their favorite movie rented and a bag of microwave popcorn sitting out
* New Body wash, soap, shampoo, waiting in bathroom (always a bonus when a teen smells better)
* Tickets to somethings they really have been wanting to see or go to, left somewhere they will find.
*Making their favorite dinner and having their favorite snacks around on a particularly hard day
* Sticking gum or mints in their wallet or purse.
*Picking them up at a time they were expecting to walk
* A journal and new pens sitting on their bed
* Taking care of a problem for them, without being asked
* leaving flowers in a vase in their room
* making their bed with clean sheets

Is anyone dry heaving yet? Hand raised. I know all of this sounds HARD when you are being treated like dirt, I KNOW. And I can't promise at all that any of these teaspoons of digging them and you out of being stuck will work, but what I can promise? Doing something, is way way better than doing nothing.
And while you may not get a single positive reaction or change, you may be cracking a foundation, you may be loosening some soil, you gasp, may be giving your child the room for them to have a single positive thought about you, and therefor themselves.

    YOU have got this .
    Give it a try, can it hurt or cause any more funk in the funk you are facing?

    Shovels up, Clink.
    Here, we go.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Pre-Waiting Room Letter

Last night I stayed up and helped my husband whom is a LMSW, prepare a presentation on early childhood trauma, identifying the symptoms, behaviors and best practices in therapy to a class of social workers about to join the public health force.
Unfortunately he only has an hour.
I told him to lock em down with food and water and give em the rest of the month, and after the first hour I would drop the kids by, and give em all a little "hands on experience."
He didn't think I was very funny.

He has the rare insight of working in this field and parenting healing children.
Still their were times I was all “ UM NO, you can't say that.”
It was truly a labor of love and patience and moments of tears and frustration recognizing the struggles we continue to face and remembering behaviors that are long since gone that have snuck away so discretely we didn't notice.

I decided to write a form letter, in a parents voice for him to share.
One that gives parents and care providers like us a voice and consideration by the professional who’s office we are about to enter.
Feel free to use this, if it might help you in your brave, nail biting experiences of the dreaded waiting room.

NEW therapist, counselor, pediatrician, or teacher, (health care professional)

              Whew, we are taking a big breath and a giant leap by walking into your office.
We are nervous, excited, exhausted and so very, very hopeful and feeling so incredibly vulnerable to be here meeting you.
You see, we need help, and new opportunity's for our child, ones we hope you can provide.

Your office is one of many we have sat outside of, nervous, hoping what I am about to tell you about my child’s special needs and behaviors are things you are familiar with, understand and well really will simply believe.
We have been in situations where this was not the case and truly increases the anxiety of seeking your, and others help.

We hope you can listen openly, know in the past I and this child has been met with disbelief and judgment, and that has been painfully hard and hindered healing for both of us.
You see we both have healing to do from the onslaught of pain that has overtaken both of our lives from the aftershocks of their trauma.

Nothing I share about my child is meant to shame or demonize them. Their trauma already has them believing the very worst about themselves. I am hoping in sharing their past and hurts and unhealthy coping behaviors you can aid in giving them more tools to combat their and even my pain in trying to parent them.

Some things I need you to know.
My child distrusts people who try to get close. In the beginning it is very possible very little truth will be told in most circumstances it is a coping mechanism for my child to control the information and if you ever have any questions about the validity of something my child has said, please, please ask me, I will do my best to not be defensive.

My experience has been as vast and unbelievable to most people familiar with neurotypical children.
Things as “normal” hiding the fact that they have spelling tests, to more manipulative behavior such as pretending they can't speak English in a classroom for week, to using another siblings trauma in therapy instead of sharing their own. Creativity does not run short.
Their need to constantly control their environment creates such barriers.
But they do feel safer with adults that hold them gently with truth and emotion regulation.

My child does not need a second parent.
Because of early trauma my child struggles with attachment at times and often sabotages their relationships with the ones they are closest too. Most often it is their primary care giver, and often my partner or other siblings and family members. They are masters at creating sympathies in strangers for more attention. I recognize the need for you and my child to have a working, trusting relationship, and absolutely support that, but ask you to recognize the importance of boundaries with them as to not to encourage emotional dependence on you.

My child also struggles socially with their peers. If you can help them in healthy ways look at creating those relationships that would be so helpful. Often my child is “ new parent shopping” and creating fantasies around a new home and parent situation. It is not rare to see my child on a playground and instead of engaging with the other children, seeking an adult to charm, please join me in redirecting the importance of age appropriate friendship. It has happened more than one that my sweetie has packed their bags ready to move in with their latest teacher, aid, therapist or playground monitor.

Please believe me as their caregiver. I can not express the pain, frustration and alienation that comes with parenting a child with so many special needs. At times the additive of doubt,blame or judgment to families like ours, magnifies the shame and pain for both me and my child.

Let me just say Thank you, once again, I know the responsibility to work with families like mine must be difficult, and I recognize your profession and education as such a benefit to what you can do for us and so many others.

We are so hopeful walking through these doors. Ready to put our faith in your ability. Grateful that you might be a step towards my/our child’s healing.
Please know we are available at any time and willing to do much to make this new relationship successful. Thank you so much for reading this letter.
I promise I am not quite as crazy as this letter makes me appear.
I am pretty darn normal, normal, and desperate, and hopeful.
Deep Breath, whew, here we go.


A basket case of a Mom with all of the best intentions in the world.


"I will bake you cookies if you can get my kid to stop peeing on everything, Peanut-butter balls if you can stop the lying. "

Dear ones,
I am curious,what more would you add to this letter, in hope to engage and help a new care provider understand your and your child's needs?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Shock Absorbers

When I was a Senior in high school and my younger brother a sophomore, we inherited our stepfathers old Rusty 1960 Ford Diesel truck. We dubbed it the “Green Monster” that thing could go anywhere, smash anything and survive with barely a dent. We once had a brush with a giant spider in the cab on our way to school, ending with my 6ft 2' brother screaming like a little girl, and a side swiped Beamer crumpled like silver paper.

The best and worst part about that truck was the shocks, there were none.
At times, while piling a bunch of kids in the cab and back it was considers fun as we hit bumps and rolled around smacking into each other getting a little air over speed bumps as our butts jumped inches off the seat.
However making out while in transit? While someone else was driving? Forget about it, you could lose a tooth, or end up with a bloody lip*cough * not that this every happened, ever, while my poor kid brother was driving, and I stained my fella of the months letter-man jacket.

Anyway, shock absorbers, kinda necessary,especially in a car, or you know “life”.

Good ole Wikipedia says “In general terms, shock absorbers help cushion vehicles on uneven roads. “
Part of the beauty of a shock absorber it the ability to gently rebound from the initial unsettling.


What about people? What about parents that are helping hurt kids navigate uneven roads ,what then?
How do we gently rebound?

This has been incredibly hard week, that being an understatement.
One of my children has upped her shame resulting in creative new ways of self harm.
This road seems more than uneven, it is bumpy and twisting, without enough guard rails and feels damn right scary. I have cried, felt helpless, and been tossed and banged up along with the pain my child has been feeling.

Much like that old truck, I have been feeling every inch of the road, every giant rock, wind gust and uneven trench, many being so unexpected.
It happens to all of us, driving along perceiving the road and and pot holes along the way and then BAM, there is a speed bump in the middle of nowhere that takes out your undercarriage.
I happens to all of us, the shock of, “wow, maybe I should have seen that coming, but I didn't".

And so we sit, reeling from the shock, the whiplash of sadness and pain and surprise that leaves your stomach doing flip flops and your mind racing while your body feels it could sleep for one hundred years.
As parents , in preparation for these uneven roads, even if we can't construct bubble wrap protection around our children, or our hearts having a plan, having built in 'shock absorbers' seems necessary.
Hell, it is part of the survival and unwritten manual of parenting healing children. If we are able to be too easily knocked around and bruised during those pot holes or surprise speed bumps, how are we capable teach our children to create their own shock absorbing strategies?

So I ask you wise ones, What do you do for you? How can you find that steady ground of being O.K, even when things aren't?
What things help you cope? What things help you center when your kid side swipes a BMW....or self harms, or needs respite. What do you do when your child is kicked out of school, brought to the emergency room for a stomach pump, or stitches because their pain had to come out one way or another?

Today I went to yoga.
Today I sat and wrote this.
Tonight I plan on a warm bath and a funny movie.
Because tomorrow I may need that cushion of me being O.K. So I once again can be available to help my child navigate their uneven road, until it gets a little bit smoother down the way.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Hot Tea and Redirection

“How is a Raven like a writing desk?”
I remember watching the movie 'The Last Unicorn' as a kid, and wondering what the answer to this riddle was. And by the way? The old freaky lady that had the animal circus in that movie still gives me the full body shivers. FA-REAK-Y

So the other day, and today, and lets just toss in every day/waking hour of my life for the last four years I have needed to help a child of mine in a behavior adjustment or repair. It spans from basic, “lets not pick our nose and eat it” to “you really don't feel like burning the house down today, do you?”
Hey I like variety.
“It's the spice of life.”
er somthin.

One basic thing I am STILL learning is the dropping the suggestion, or recommendation for alternative behavior or thought is the 'leaving it in their lap to absorb/chew on/sit on/digest”....and WALKING AWAY...mostly the leaving it and walking away part.
Nope, I sometimes like to suggest, re suggest, AND THEN RE SUGGEST AGAIN ,add three more reasons for WHY my SUGGESTION is a GOOD ONE...and then sit and watch, and wait, and remind them to pick up the suggestion, and what to do with it...and REMIND them how to chew, and process...
to the point that I have bought myself a full scale battle with my kid.
Because sometimes I am awesome like that.
Because sometimes all of the time, I like to be right, and obeyed, and not have to wait.
NOTE: This never turns out well for me.

So how is Redirecting your kid like hot tea?

Just yesterday my child was “Doing their chores” , really this kid was slapping the broom down LOUDLY and scattering dirt. I was not feeling therapeutic, I was in desperate need of a snack and a nap and my blanky.
The come home had begun with a door slam and toss of coat and shoes and backpack in the middle of the floor (insert eye roll) and demand for a snack. Yeah, awesome.
I was NOT in the mood for Senorita Drama-pants.
I prompted with, “hey I am super excited to get your snack for you, as soon as your coat and school stuff is picked up and you finish up your sweeping that didn't get done this morning, when you were in a rush to get out the door.”

Beginning the broom and floor abuse.

“Sweetness, if you are too tired to sweep the floor nicely you may go rest first, and after you have rested come back and pick up your things, sweep and then ...may have your snack.”


Kablam, bam, bam...(the poor broom was loosing synthetic hair like a bad weave)

and here is where I blew it.

I walked over and tried to take the broom.
I engaged in a stupid control battle, one that she had been vying for the second she walked though the door.
She gripped it hard, screaming “LET GO.”

So I stood there and started talking, about how if she would just use her tools, and what her tools were, and how we had American Idol tonight, and didn't she want to watch that..and kept on talking, while she yanked that dumb broom and I didn't let go, because, I WANTED her to LISTEN....
The situation began to escalate,and my child was now spitting angry.
I was doing it.
Trying to give her a recommendation, but then MAKING HER TAKE IT, trying to make her chew on what I was trying to tell her, standing there wanting her TO HURRY UP and LISTEN TO ME.
NOTE: It took me five minutes of broom dancing to realize, this was not working.

So I stopped.
I apologized for trying to take the broom, told her the tools and things she needed to do to get the snack and the repair she would need do for arguing, so that we could make her snack together, and then walked over, with my phone and tried to pretend I was lost in Facebook, I WALKED AWAY and left it with her.

She stood there glaring at me, trying to argue.
I sat there, kind eyes and just kept on nodding my head and agreeing with her...and finally after I am sure she contemplated throwing the broom through my head like a champion javelin Olympian, calmed and begun sweeping.
Before I knew it, the menagerie of school stuff was put away, and she was sitting at the table waiting for me to get her snack.

How are our kids like Tea, or a Fine Wine?

If you don't have patience, and let things simmer, cool and seep....
You will end up with a HOT unseasoned burn of blah or bitter Nastiness.

Trust me.
I totally burn myself with tea, and children regularly.
Just a little thought, and reminder mostly for me.