Friday, April 22, 2016

Dear School, A note about my Puffer Fish and I...

Dear School,
A note about my little Puffer Fish and I.

First off. If I could and it be socially acceptable, I would like to begin every phone call with these two sentences, and every IEP, 504, behavioral planning meeting with them written in sharpie, on my face.
So it is the first thing you hear or see.

Before we begin.

If you are educating a child who is struggling, a child who is actively acting out, rude, obstinate, and sneaky and to you feels like their objective is to create chaos and disorder.

Yes. You are absolutely correct.

Also you are wrong.

That child, unless diagnosed with a specific mood or conduct disorder ( and those kids too) if you look back far enough, in their history are surviving. They are surviving the effects of complex trauma.
They are coping.
YES, they are difficult.
YES, they make your life harder.

Yes, they may seem like obstinate, selfish, controlling chaos makers enjoying their ability to create mayhem.

Yes they argue.
Yes they take no ownership.
Yes, they balk at your consequences and answer that they don’t care.

You see they are puffer fish.
Have you ever seen one?
I mean you deal with the proverbial ones all day every day…but a real salt water guy swimming around looking pretty normal, acting pretty cool, going with the actual flow…until a perceived danger occurs…

and BAM.

Survival mode kicks in, they literally puff out their chests, push out their protective poisonous spikes and

and they will….they have learned that survival has more to do with endurance, with staying alive and the strongest the longest, for you see that is how they have learned to live another day.

Real live Puffer Fish according to Kids National Geographic .com (because let's be honest they actually used terminology I could understand) explain them as ; “
Also known as blowfish, these clumsy swimmers fill their elastic stomachs with huge amounts of water (and sometimes air) and blow themselves up to several times their normal size.

Some species also have spines on their skin to ward off predators….”

Huh, yep. That.

These kids you are working with, are constantly in a state of survival. They have very little ability for anything else, and what is so very confusing is what looks to be difficult behavior, is actually them coping.

Loudest most obnoxious kid in the class?
Maybe that kid grew up in an orphanage, or home where drugs were the priority and they are SO desperate to be seen, heard, because as a baby their screams and crys of pain and hunger, primal need of actual connection and safety, fell on unavailable/uncaring ears.

That kid that steals, lies, hoards.
Maybe they have never had anything be concrete in their lives. Maybe they know what it is to not know when their next meal/hug/need being met  is coming.

That child that charms, and is studious and perfect, yet the parents look exhausted and constantly ask about their seemingly perfect child’s behavior, is the child that may have been taught, the perfect ones get away with the most, the perfect ones control the adults, the perfect ones get the best attention from the adults, and that insures survival, control and then they go home and spin out.

The children that seem more sexualized, maybe that child learned early on, it was easier to give it away, than have it taken from them….

The kid that doesn’t seem to react to any consequence? If they have been starved, neglected, raped, abused, there isn’t much a expulsion, or F Grade can do to motivate them towards better behavior... they have already experienced the worst of the won't and can't motivate them with fear.

They can’t show weakness.
Weakness means not being strong, being stronger and smarter and not caring more than anyone else means they can’t get hurt….because these “Struggling kids?” Are really suffering kids.

Where you see miss behavior and disrespect, I promise if you dig a little deeper, you may also find trauma, you may find survival, which looks an awful lot like behavior.

Because a truth deeper than the ocean is what we all know about ourselves and others…happy healthy people who feel safe, don’t act out in this way. They don’t need to.
They aren’t afraid of anything, they don't  have anything  to control, they have nothing survival contingent to fear.

Happy people are happy because they feel safe.

Suffering people are suffering, because they are in pain, and afraid of that pain.

and I get it, I do. My kid who ran away and pulled down his pants and told the school P.O. to “suck it”, doesn’t look like a terrified little first grader. The way he laughs in your face, and says “I don’t care” .

I get it the teen age girl with the ‘eff you attitude’ that stole her teachers wallet and bought lunch for all of her friends....seems callous and fearless, is actually trying to prove that she isn't terrified of not being cool, unaccepted or left behind.

I get it the boy who calls on the adult, when he is using foul language and goading him on to “go ahead and HIT HIM”…is actually maybe trying to have a say this time, in how and when he gets hit, because in his past he may have has no say.

He makes you believe those spikes are really there, a part of him. The more scared he is the further he will push them out and prove to you, he is scary, he is mean….he feels in so much danger , he wants you to feel that too.

Have you ever seen a puffer fish, deflate, after it realized it was safe, that the harm was gone, that the environment could support him and keep him safe?
I am talking about fish again…but then again, maybe I am not.

Have you ever tried speaking gentle to him when his spikes are out. Have you ever just stayed, accepting the spikes and sat, not making any sudden movements and allowed calm?

A child of trauma with a perceived need, will stop at nothing to get what it is they believe they need to survive. Actual necessity or not, if they believe it is something they need, morality takes back seat to survival, every time. It has had to. That’s why they are still here.

I know this is a lot to remember when my child is refusing, ignoring , obstinate or disrespectful, but if you could , every once in a while…see my little puffer fish for exactly who he or she is…and help them realize they are safe, that the harm is gone, that the environment can support them and keep them safe?
I promise, their spikes and puffed out chests may pop out, but they will have the ability to deflate that much faster.

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter, and
about my little Puffer Fish and I.
I would like to repeat my sentences one last time.


Also, thank you again.

and if you ever have any questions, or I can help in any way, I am here, I am open, and I am grateful for the people helping me surround my sweet child in safety.


The Mama Bear who loves her Puffer Fish 


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Heart Shaped Rocks

Sometimes I take my children on a hunt for heart shaped rocks….
Really, I am taking them on a peaceful walk and practicing calm.
Finding success in their ability to put one foot in front of the other.

I don’t tell them bilateral stimulation gets both side of the brain working together.
I don’t tell them while walking as a group I have turned their hypervigilance off of each other or the thing that is dysregulating   them, and helped them focus on one single thing.
Sometimes if they need more stimulation not to make word wars with each other, we add music.

And there we are subconsciously walking to the beat, maybe humming along putting one foot in front of the other, and repeat.

Sometimes we talk about “the thing” big or small…most often times we do not, funny, it seems to disappear in the horizon behind us, simply by walking,  and being, and matching step.

Somedays that’s all we get....

The walking.

Somedays I find that in the process I have to over and over remind them; “I like it when you stay on the path, that way I know you are safe.”

Somedays we get home faster all together, somedays we complete the full three mile circle, and sometimes…we have to turn around and go back the way be came.
all of it is perfect and just right for that day.

Somedays they try to run ahead, and yet, find a stopping point and wait…because they do want me with them…somedays I worry they won’t slow down, or will run to far off the path into the canal, or barbed wire.

Yet they don’t. and never have.

Sometimes we find dozens of heart shaped rocks.
Sometimes we might find two.
There are days they find a round rock and try to convince me it is indeed heart shaped.
I don’t argue, that is not what this practice is about.

I accept that it is, and we put it in our pockets and keep going.

I should in theory have buckets full of heart shaped rocks.
I don’t.
Somehow they disappear.
Somehow at any given time I can only find 3 or 4.

I don’t know if they are throwing them in the field behind our house.
Burying them…or perhaps have these heart shaped rocks hidden somewhere in their rooms, secret treasure.

What I do know, is in the search, in the quiet, in the acceptance, we find a pocket full of peace.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The pot holes in Great Expectations

         Recently with the guidance and recommendation of a local therapist, I have been meeting with a brave, hurting group of parents that are beginning to learn the ropes (and marathon style life) of therapeutic parenting.

Our first support class began with a conversation about expectations…and the need to recognize why sometimes being the parent to child that struggles with behaviors or special needs can make us feel so lost, sad and frankly desperately angry at times.

Simply put, whispered into the depth of our truths;
“This is not what I thought it was going to be.”
“They are not who I thought they were going to be.”
“I am not who I thought I was going to get to be.”

Damn expectations.
Those daydreams that were used to fill the time when our arms were empty for them, and our hearts felt like they would burst in the wanting, to love a child, to parent a child, for the relationship that was to come and how amazing it would be.

Sure there were to bumps and bruises to be expected, maybe a cast, or a broken window or two…

Not what is here.
Not who I have become to be in the moments I don’t recognize myself.

Author Brene’ Brown did a humans study on forgiveness.
I am paraphrasing her glorious work when I say, “that in order for forgiveness to occur, a death has to happen, something needs to be buried….so something new can be reborn.

I remember watching that and my jaw dropping open.
“YES, I yelled at my computer screen! YES”

In order for acceptance and the ability to move on from what I thought my parenting experience was going to be, I needed to grieve the child I thought I would have.
I needed to mourn who I thought I was going to be, I needed to tell them both how much I loved and wanted that day dream, and then I needed to kiss them good bye, and bury them, in order to fully face what is here and now and to come.

Admitting  this isn’t what I wanted, that I am not amazing, as much as I am just present.
That this is hard and messy, and there are days I long to lock myself in my bedroom in pajamas, binge watching Netflix, and eating an entire bag of Doritos in one sitting, doesn’t make me a bad anything, it makes me human…

cuz that’s what we get.
That is who we are, we are human.
... and as humans we see snippets of people’s Instagram, and create a whole life for them in our heads. We see humorous Facebook posts, and think, “gez, nothing bad must happen over there”…
We see crafty pictures on Pinterest and  believe  the myth that nothing but a perfect family walks the hallowed halls of that amazing Craftsman’s style bungalow.


Because, no matter the person, no matter the day or year, bank account or body type we all mourn something. We all have expectations blow up in our faces.   So.

Whatever it is that you needed to do today to get you and your kids through the day?

Going to the drive through at McDonalds because you didn’t have the energy to make dinner?
YOU are an amazing parent!

Slapping bandaids on yourself  after walking a child through an angry rage/
YOU are an amazing parent !!

You screamed at your kid to “GO AWAY”…because you just couldn’t be whined at or fought with for one more second?
YOU are an amazing Parent!!!
…and tomorrow is another day.

We are not our daydreams.
We are not a picture on Instagram
Our Craftsman bungalows have broken, kicked-in  doors and swear words written with crayon on the walls.

and in the wise words of Stitch, from Lilo and Stitch.

“This is my family. It is small and it is broken,
but it is still good.

Yeah, still good.”

~In tandem with the local parenting support class, my amazing friend Christine Moers and I are offering a live "Coffee Hour" with Christine and Lindsay online via Skype group on this very topic of "Expectations" through April 1st.
If you are interested in the details, and would like to join us, please check put these links, and we will see you there!
March 31st:

April 1st:

Friday, March 11, 2016

Yes, You may absolutley Run Away....

I said that.
While driving home from my kids therapy appointment last week.
“Yes, you may absolutely run away.”

You see, this ‘running away thing’ has been a ’thing’ since this kid was three.
He would get over stimulated, or mad, and take off.
Naked, with one sock..whatever…he was shoeless joe Jackson in the making.

This same kid, likes to hide.
Now, all of these things, not fun, or good, but then  add a lil’ thing like type one diabetes to the mix, and I was dealing with a runner and a hider could kind of welllll die, if I didn’t catch them or find them in time.

So last week as we drove home from therapy, while as usual processing what was being worked on, what homework he had, and what still seems to be tough issue, the running away came up.
I point blank asked.
“How come you run away, can you help me understand what goes on in your brain?

“I am mad. Usually something bad happened at school and I am sad/mad, and don’t want to be anywhere. I want to get away. I want you to KNOW I am running away and having big feelings. I want you to worry, so I won’t be the only one feeling bad!”

“Wow, thank you for sharing that with me, dude, that was really honest and insightful.”


“What if I told you,
“Yes, “yes, you may absolutely run away.”

He just turned and stared at me, confused.
“Don’t you love me anymore.”

“Oh baby, I do, I am just trying to really listen to you and what you need, and I think I have an idea….
What if, I told you, yes, you can totally run away, whenever you need to, but we have some ground rules…”

“Like what?”

“You have to come in from the Bus.
“You have to tell me you are running away”
“You may run away to anywhere on our property.”
“You will have a back pack packed with a blanket and snack to take with you…”
and…need to tell me which place you are hiding so I can come out and check your blood sugar on the half hour.”

“Can I still scream that “I am running away” and slam the door?”



And we shook on it.

This week he has ran away three times. Twice to our out building and once when it was raining to the old pick up cab. ( I may have left a note that it was raining and this would be a dry option to run away to)

Our kids’ behaviors have need and feelings behind them.
We can’t always stop a behavior, but maybe we can reign in those boundaries, and still give them room.
Sometimes when I can remember, it isn’t exactly the result that they are looking for, but the action, in the doing. I needed to put on my big girl britches and remember “HE is NOT doing this to ME, he wasn’t running away from ME, in a way, he was asking me to join him in his feelings, of feeling out of control.

 Our little people don’t always have words for how they are feeling, but they absolutely find ways to speak it…our job is to listen, to meet them where they are at.
We found a way to help him get what he needed, in a way I could support, and feel much less panicked about…and sometimes that is as good as it gets….

and in my world, that looks an awful lot like winning.