Your Children Are Listening

your children are listening

Photo credit to Gage Skidmore

We are screwing this up, y’all.

A few weeks ago, I took the boys out for wings to celebrate surviving the first week of school.  Once my newly minted third grader had coated approximately 87% of his person in sauce, he became a chatty treasure trove of information.  After four solid days of interrogation, chicken wings bought and purchased all the details on the first week of class.

I did not like a lot of what I heard.  And it’s our own fault, fellow grownups.

My son’s voice shook as he was telling me about a conversation he wanted clarification on.  He led with a shaky, “I’m kind of scared to ask you this.”  I gritted my teeth, prayed it wasn’t one of those questions, and told him to lay it on me.  He teared up and said, “Donald Trump kills babies.  What will happen if he wins the election, mom?  Do you think he will kill my brother or is he too old? Why would he kill babies?”

MY THIRD GRADER THINKS THAT DONALD TRUMP MIGHT MURDER HIS LITTLE BROTHER IF HE WINS THE PRESIDENCY.

We have officially lost our collective minds, y’all.  How numb has society become when you can say that Trump kills babies within earshot of an EIGHT YEAR OLD?  It didn’t stop there.  He asked me about Trump “blowing other countries off the map just for fun”, and WHAT IF HE BLOWS THE WHOLE WORLD UP, MOM!?!.  Adult diatribes full of sarcasm and bitterness tripped off his tongue and landed in the middle of our table.  Did you know that people who vote for Trump (their children included) are “a bunch of idiots”?  So are the ones who vote for Clinton, in case you thought the argument at school was one sided.

My son’s class did a project last May and he choose to decorate his with a ridiculous comic about Trump.  Granted, it made no sense, but I still found that VERY odd.  Especially considering our circumstances.  Thanks to his severe anxiety and several epic fails when he was very young, we don’t watch the news in front of him.  We do not talk about politics in front of him.  Once he gets an image or thought in his head, he can’t get rid of it.  So we rolled him up in bubble wrap and protected him from all the things.  Which is proof that I’m one buttered roll short of a chicken dinner myself, people.  I clearly should have taken him out of the cocoon a long time ago, but I was too busy burying my face in the sand.  If people are going to spew hatred and anger out of the microphone of their children’s innocent mouths, then I’ll need to get in there first.  For the love, y’all.

I’m not going to play saint here.  This election is a TRAIN WRECK of suck.  I brace myself every time I open Facebook – the whole place is a hate explosion.  At night, I rail at my husband about all the stupid while pacing in front of him – flailing my hands around and leaving a trail of Skinny Pop in my wake.  (I’m the hot head in our family.  Bless my heart.)  We have all kinds of conversations together in private where I trash talk and lose my temper about the candidates.

THIS is what I said to my child:

We live in the best country in the world.  We are blessed that brave soldiers lost their lives so that we may be free.  Free to have our own views and opinions.  Free to express them. Free to vote for who we want.  When it’s time for an election, the candidates will tell the American people about their beliefs and how they would run the country.  Then we get to decide who will run our government by voting.  People will always disagree and as you get older, you may find that even your closest friends will have differing views than you do.  That’s okay.  We aren’t supposed to agree about everything.  The mark of a good man is one who shows respect, even when others around you don’t.  One who knows how to disagree politely and without malice.  One who can make an educated and insightful argument without belittling people.  It’s hard, but it’s important.

THIS is what I promise to do going forward

I’ll teach him about the democratic process, the party system, and how it all works.  I’ll share our views with him when he asks, and I will do so with a kind voice.  I’ll explain why we feel the way we do while doing my very best not to speak negatively about those who disagree.

Right now, at his tender age of nine, I want my little boy to learn the big picture.  I want him to see the words “President of the United States of America” and have his heart swell with pride for both the role and and our great nation.  I want him to respect the position, learn how incredibly hard the job is and why it’s a selfless act to run our country.  He’s got plenty of time to learn about politicians and social media debates and “them” and “we”.  I don’t think it’s naive to expect parents to temper their words in front of little ones.  It should be a given that while we may dislike a candidate, we don’t utter phrases like “Trump is a baby killer” within earshot of a third grader.  Call me crazy, y’all.

We are human.  We slip up.  We aren’t perfect.  We say things we shouldn’t.

We can do better than this.

Let’s decide now, TOGETHER, that we won’t let a couple of people running for President push us to the point that we poison our own children.  They still have a few years left before they have to be subjected to all the hateful realities of adulthood.  There is a lifetime to be jaded.  It doesn’t have to start now.

The Truth Behind Picture Windows

 

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I’m sitting in the front room of my house, early morning sunlight filtering through the big picture window.  It looks like the sun has decided to shine today.  I’m impressed by this now – the sun’s insistence on shining despite the whole world falling apart.  I hear the meaty footfalls of my three year old and turn to find his giant blue eyes and flopping curls in front of me.  He’s holding a slightly sticky Superman action figure and smells of syrup.

Mama, where is Bubba?”  He knows where Pea is, but he still asks me over and over again. I understand.

He’s still at the hospital at his super special overnight camp for his anxiety!”  I wonder if the false cheerfulness in my voice is perceptible to him and then push the thought out of my mind.  Again.

Yes.  He’s got a sick spot in his brain and he’s getting better so he will want to play with me again.  We will play superheroes when he gets home.”  He nods at me as though he is convincing both of us.  I gather him into my arms and we perch together at my desk, looking out into the quiet front yard, watching the world carry on as though nothing has happened.

Yes, little cub.  That’s exactly right.  I can’t wait.

I’ve sat in my chair endlessly in the wee hours of the morning, pondering this moment.  I’ve wrung my hands while intense, blinding fear washed over me in crashing waves.  Pea was admitted into the hospital a couple of weeks ago and spent four days and three nights having his medication changed and participating in intensive therapy to help him take control back from his anxiety.

Do I share what happened?

My social media accounts stood silent for weeks while I lost the battle to make him better.  I’ve had a crash course in grief.  What will I say?  What will people assume?  What if Pea loses friends?  Everyone knows that Pea has an anxiety disorder.  I’ve shouted from the rooftops on so many occasions that mental health should NOT BE TABOO.  But that was before I had to use the word “inpatient” in a sentence.  Can I talk the talk and then walk the walk?  The answer came to me on what would end up as Pea’s last night in the hospital.  I had just finished dressing down a nurse in GLORIOUS SPLENDOR and was flip flopping down the long, sterile corridor that connects the “Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Unit” to the other properly sick kids with illnesses that DIDN’T deserve a locked door hidden in a corner of the top floor.

Yep, it was right about then.

I found myself smiling through my tears because HOT DAMN, this is what I’m supposed to do.  I’m not going to be quiet.  Honestly, I don’t think I’ve been quiet in my entire life, so why start now?  I have a whole bunch of precious kiddos to stand up for and THOUSANDS of parents who need to hear me say that WE ARE ALL OKAY.  And much more importantly, I have society to educate.  And society turns out to be a lot of people, y’all.  I’ve got to get busy.

I referenced “dressing down” a nurse, but I want to tell everyone right off the bat that Pea was cared for by an AMAZING TEAM OF SUPERHEROES.  We are BLESSED to have access to such wonderful care and his team of doctors, nurses, therapists, and specialists are life savers and TRUE heroes.  The field of pediatric psychiatry has to be the hardest specialty to decide to go into, which would explain the HUGE shortage of doctors and nurses in the field.  I’ve seen things in the past few weeks that made my heart hurt so badly that I couldn’t find my breath.  And I’m not talking about Pea.  There are some sick babies out there and these people come to work every single day and take care of them when there’s nowhere else to turn.  Mental health disorders are fickle and insidious and the same chemical imbalance presents completely differently from patient to patient.  I can’t imagine doing the job those angels do day in and day out.  They have my HEARTFELT AND ULTIMATE RESPECT.  We would not be here today, on the road to feeling better, without them.  And I’m going back to Pea’s very first diagnosis at age 3.  These people are the very definition of selfless.

That being said, we’ve got some BIG ISSUES, AMERICA.  The mental health system in our country needs an OVERHAUL.  A “tear it down and start over” overhaul.  I’ve decided to talk about that.  I know you’re shocked.  I’m generally SO reserved.  Ahem.

Today, I’ll start with one fairly simple concept that I want to lay out for you.  This is my first post on the topic and my “outing” of the fact that Pea was hospitalized for 4 days.  So we will stick with just this ONE issue.

I FEEL LIKE I AM OUTING US.

That is utterly and completely ridiculous.  If Pea had been diagnosed with a brain tumor, or the “C” word that I can’t even utter, or suffered a traumatic injury, I would have rushed right to Facebook with a plea to all of our friends for prayers.  I would have kept everyone updated constantly, posting test results and lab findings and surgery times . Pea would have been nestled in a hospital room just around the corner from the giant castle decorated atrium, his room bursting with balloons and stuffed animals and get well soon cards.  Visitors aplenty would arrive with gifts, love and well wishes – if he was well enough to receive them.  There would have been trips to the adorable play rooms as he felt better and fresh air at the elaborate playground off the main entrance.  There would be walks down the halls and high fiving nurses and cheer because it’s a children’s hospital and they do such an amazing job of making it not so scary for the children who have no choice but be there for treatment.

THAT IS NOT WHAT HAPPENED TO US.

We sat ALONE.  We were scared and hopeless and hopeful and worried and prayerful and ALL THE THINGS…and we were well and truly alone.  I hemmed and hawed over every single word I said to anyone, fearing that having to be hospitalized would mark Pea for life to everyone around us.  Word travels fast, after all.  Pea isn’t violent or scary or “a danger to himself or others”.  No, wait.  That’s false.  He IS a danger to himself…in the sense that OCD and Anxiety are ruining his childhood.

He was first enrolled in the Partial Hospitalization Program, or PHP as it’s called there.  It’s the same program that he did last August that I wrote about on this very blog.  This year, it wasn’t helping fast enough.  He barely made it through school and we quite literally heaved ourselves over the finish line by the skin of our teeth.  He was so anxious that he was making himself physically sick.  We just found out that he officially has OCD in March and I’ve learned quite a bit since his spiral downhill started.  OCD is not just about locking a door five times.  The “O” is for obsession and Pea has obsessive, intrusive thoughts around the clock that will not let him be.  His thoughts tell him that he’s not good enough, his school work is horrible, his friends must not like him, his parents probably wish they had a different son, etc.  The problem that brought us to this point is that Pea tries desperately to hide it. He won’t share what is spinning in his head All. The. Time.  He plasters on a smile and tries to fit in.  He tells jokes and makes up silly words and tries to hang on while he’s dying inside.  And everyone buys it.  Sadly, he’s even fooled me before.  My Pea was born with a chemical imbalance in his WONDERFUL brain and put simply, he needed new medicine and better therapists that specialize in OCD.  We want him to be able to go back to school in August and BE OKAY.  We found out that he needed a complete overhaul on his medication and LOTS of therapy from a team that specializes in acute care – people trained to hit the reset button when things are BAD.  We got everything we needed.  He’s home and feeling much better and we are doing the hard work now of attending new therapies and trying new methods and FIGHTING to teach Pea’s brain to unravel everything in his head and rewire it correctly.

But let me tell y’all something else…my son was born with a very unfortunate illness when it comes to sympathy and support.

My son has an illness that isn’t supposed to be talked about.

My son has an illness that we are supposed to cloak in darkness and share privately with the fewest people possible.

My son has an illness that is judged by an ignorant society because it can’t be seen or touched, because he’s had enough therapy over the last six years to generally present himself well, because he’s brilliant and funny and occasionally talks too much and if it looks like a normal 8 year old, it must be a normal 8 year old.  I do not say that with anger or hate…I was once the ignorant person through no fault of my own.  In our country, we have public knowledge about so many diseases – but when it comes to mental disorders, the only “awareness” is from those of us who have no choice but to be “aware”.

My son has an illness with symptoms that are behavioral and therefore it is an illness unworthy of support from the village.  He has an illness that we are carrying him through, one day at a time, one hour at a time, by ourselves.  This should not be, friends.

And so I’m here.  I’m standing up tall and telling you that my fabulous son lost a battle to his anxiety and OCD, but he WILL NOT LOSE THE WAR.  I’m telling you that he was in the hospital and he’s doing MUCH BETTER, thanks for asking.  I’m telling you that we don’t need any dinner deliveries, but I might need a sitter for Little Bear occasionally.  I’m telling you that I’m NOT AT ALL ASHAMED that Pea was born with a chemical imbalance and he fights it all day, every day, LIKE A ROCK STAR.  I’m telling you that he might not ever want to go to a huge party or compete in sports or be class president, but he IS an amazing kid, fabulous friend, and the best and bravest person I’ve ever known.

If someone finds Pea’s hospitalization a reason to distance themselves or their children from him – that is a MONUMENTAL loss for them and, quite honestly, doesn’t mean one damn thing to us.

If there is ONE thing that I will accomplish as his mother, it will be to instill in him that WE ARE NOT EMBARRASSED OR ASHAMED of his diagnosis and NEITHER IS HE.  He is not defined by this illness, but he IS defined by the battle he fights and the BRAVE WARRIOR he has become.  My son is going to grow up and become a champion for pediatric mental health disorders and a voice for all the little ones who have to put one foot in front of the other and walk into that hospital unit buried in the back corner of the hospital – just like he did.  I know this because he told me.  And I believe him.  If you don’t know him, you should.  He’s a big deal.

If this ever happens again (God forbid) – I’m putting it on Facebook and posting updates and asking people for prayer chains and laying it all out there, just like any other illness.

I certainly can’t demand change without BEING THE CHANGE MYSELF.  

I’d love for y’all to join me.  Tell your stories.  Be brave.  It doesn’t help to sit in front of picture windows and wish that people understood.

You have to TEACH THEM.  Dr. Ross Greene, a pioneer in child psychology who is fast becoming my hero, has a mantra: “Kids do well if they can”.  I believe the same simple (yet incredibly profound) concept can hold true for all of us.  Generally speaking, society will be kind, helpful and understanding to the plight of our kids IF THEY CAN.  That means that we can’t expect them to read our minds and innately have knowledge that they’ve never been given.

And so here I stand, dusting the cobwebs off my idle blog, telling you the truth.  He fell apart.  He went to the hospital.  He’s doing much better.  He’s playing superheroes again…

AND HE IS ONE.

Pea and Little Bear

Pea and Little Bear today

In Summary

IMG_0046Last night, I actually printed those adorable little forms that are currently sitting on the buffet table.  That was the designated NYE activity in the land of excitement known as Our Home.  I saw the form posted on Facebook a couple of days ago, maybe more.    Being a naturally nostalgic person prone to fits of simultaneous joy and melancholy over this kind of thing, it had my full attention.  “Oh, we have to DO THIS!”, I exclaimed excitedly in my head when I saw it.  “We can do them EVERY YEAR!!!”, I chirped with enthusiasm.

You may have noticed that we didn’t do them.

I’ve been writing a post in my head for several days to end 2015 with.  After I finally closed both bedroom doors upstairs and shuffled toward my next duty (dishes…so many dishes), I saw the bright white forms sitting untouched on the buffet table and it hit me.  That is the perfect way to summarize 2015.

Sometimes the best laid plans go awry.  It doesn’t matter at all.  Be happy, anyway.  

This year has been a huge jumble of ups and downs…said every single person ever.  The days of this life all run together and years simply pile up.  With the exception of the ones that include major life events or tragedies, they just bleed into each other, one after the other.  Rather than years, time seems to lump together into periods.  I’m deeply buried in the “young children” era right now and all I can seem to do is concentrate on the here and now.  I am FOREVER making plans like the sweet form that remains untouched tonight.  I don’t need New Year’s Resolutions.  I need resolutions for tomorrow.  Usually they consist of me asking my phone to remind me to do the thing that needs doing tomorrow at 8am.  And then watching the banner pop up all day as I say, “I AM TOTALLY GOING TO GET TO THAT NEXT!”  Until it’s 8PM and I’m not sure how we got here and oh, well…TOMORROW IS THE DAY!

I started this blog in 2015 to share the story of our lives with a child suffering from a severe pediatric anxiety disorder.  I heard from so. many. people. who were excited to have someone talk about what we are all going through.  “It’s going to be AMAZING and LIFE CHANGING for ALL THE PEOPLE!!!  This is my CALLING!”, I crowed to the husband as I rolled out my big plans.  And then life happened…job changes that led to schedule changes that led to me running out of time.  I felt so guilty as I raced to complete everything that I needed to at night, while the clock kept ticking later and later.  “I’ll write tomorrow!”, I assured myself every single day.  Yet, there has been no writing.

I started working out religiously over the summer – at a gym very close to my house that I LOVE SO MUCH – but I had to stop going after the huge change in my husband’s schedule this fall.  I just happen to have a big kid who can’t handle the decibel level of the gym and a toddler who can’t handle seeing mommy going into class while he stays in childcare.  “I’ll go twice a week when he’s at preschool!”, I assured myself.  But after I do all the things that need to be accomplished for our family…those short hours are gone.  I have to prioritize the elusive time without a little one around, and it doesn’t often leave room for “me” time.

I have a beautiful friend who wrote me the longest letter that I haven’t responded to days and days and days later…because I need to sit down at a keyboard and type, uninterrupted – and I can’t seem to do it.  There is no time that is uninterrupted.

However, I refuse to see this as a failure, and you shouldn’t either…because I know you have your own list of epic fails.  Here’s the thing…epic fails result from epic plans.  And we make these plans because we are TRYING SO HARD.  And that’s pretty damn awesome of us.  We want to be super mom.  We have great visions.  We think the 2015 printable for our kids to fill out will be a fabulous memory.  So we add it to the list.  It didn’t get done, but we tried.   And we missed it because the short one wanted to play Hot Wheels Super Track Ninja Dinosaur for three hours and the tall one wanted to have light saber fights at the park with his best friend.  And that’s a fabulous memory, too.  Granted, they won’t remember the details of today, but they would have remembered if their mother barked angrily for them to stop playing and COME FILL OUT THIS CUTE FORM FOR ME TO REMEMBER YOU BY, DAMNIT!”

I’m absolutely going to write this blog.  More than once every three months, I swear.  I’m working on it.  I’m still paying my monthly dues at the gym because I will figure it out, sooner or later.  I’m going to return those emails and be a better friend and make that 4th of July wreath from last summer that I bought all the stuff for.  I have no idea WHICH 4th of July it will be ready for, but that’s neither here nor there.  Right now, mamas with the littles, we will get through tomorrow.  And we will go with the flow and let life happen and not worry about the printables that don’t get filled out.  I’m 99.9% sure the dinosaur ninja skills that I’m currently honing will make up for lost Pinterest ideas.  I’m kind of a big deal.  

Happy New Year, friends!!!

The View from the Trenches

It’s 9:30 at night and I’m standing in the kitchen with a ziplock bag in my left hand and my right hand buried in a box of Lucky Charms.   My kids don’t actually like Lucky Charms as a whole.  They do, however, like the marshmallows.  Pea learned years ago to quit asking for them because “I’m not buying an entire box of junky cereal and watch you make it even worse by only eating the marshmallows”.    There is something about that box, though…Little Bear went banana sandwiches to have it today as we swung through the cereal aisle.  Little Bear is one of those “willful” children that gets loads of articles written in HuffPost offering prayers to their mothers and promises that they will “be leaders” and not kill us.  Or something to that effect.  Anyway, I bought the damn cereal.  I still had groceries to buy.  I’m not even sorry.  If he had asked for a pony, I would have given him that, too.  You don’t EVEN know.  Anywhoooo, now I’m standing in the kitchen with said box.  And I’m fishing out the marshmallows and putting them in a bag for Pea.  I’m stashing it in his lunch box tomorrow so that he will open it and feel joy and know that I love him more than all the moons and stars and heavens above.  Or at least just smile a little bit.

I had to break down all the Amazon boxes in the garage this afternoon in order to fit them in the recycling bin.  I never buy things in actual stores.  See above comments about willful children and ponies.  I’m not made of money, folks.  So cardboard is always cluttering the garage.  The boys thought this was the most fun they’d ever had.  They pulled lawn chairs, two coolers, dad’s entire set of some tool I don’t know the name of, two pool noodles, a giant box of bamboo plant stakes (Previous owners?  Plant stakes?!), five random bricks, Pea’s rock collection from 2010, a mallet (!), the shop-vac, an outdoor extension cord and four left over tiles out into the driveway.  Oh, and a large bowl of Chex Mix and two drinks, which Pea made and spilled all over the kitchen.   They had a GRAND TIME, friends.  I think they were being ninjas, but I’m not entirely sure.  I had to say “don’t sword fight with the bamboo stakes!” about 75 times and at one point Little Bear figured out that knocking over the “brick tower” with ninja kicks caused the bricks to break, which made him very VERY happy about his existence.  They were so dirty that they resembled Pig Pen from Peanuts by the time we had to come in for dinner.  And it took me just as long to clean up the driveway as it did to break down the cardboard.  But THE JOY.  Their dusty faces were lit up from within.  We laughed as we hunkered over the sink and watched the water run brown from our hands.  And then I reheated pizza for Bear and empanadas for Pea and brought my own salad out in the backyard where we had a dilapidated looking dinner on the tiny toddler picnic table.  I couldn’t fit, so I sat on the floor and told Bear not to jump from the top of the playhouse about 50 times in between Pea telling me every last detail about what he’s building in Minecraft.

Pea has two rats.  Minnie and Maisie.  He researched and prayed and asked and dreamed and we made him wait A YEAR, but finally broke down in June.  Yes, they have long tails.  No, they don’t look like those ugly things in the sewer.  I actually think of them as Disney characters and continue to be annoyed that they don’t make me spaghetti.  But I digress.  They live in the lap of luxury in a giant cage in the playroom upstairs.  My child who swore up and down and around the corner that he would take care of the rodents doesn’t take care of the rodents.  Because OBVIOUSLY.  As it turns out, I will not tolerate the smell of rats in my house, so I clean the cage constantly.  To MY standards.  It takes up my Scandal watching time.  I do it anyway.  Tonight was cleaning night and I hunkered down in the playroom with a bottle of 409 and a roll of paper towels and did what I always do.  I hurried because we were running late and it was bedtime.  The bathed boys had disappeared and I hurriedly wiped down the cage and tossed in new bedding so that I could find out why it was so quiet and what may or may not be on fire.  As it turns out, Little Bear had wandered into Pea’s room.  Pea was watching one of his endless Minecraft videos (why are they ALL British?!?!) and Bear was all the way under the covers with him, nestled into the crook of his arm.  I decided in that moment that our rats don’t even have to make pasta in order to earn my love…they gave me this moment.

After I fished the baby out of his bed and turned off the annoying sounds of Little Kelly playing Minecraft, I scooted Pea over and climbed into his bed.  I kissed his forehead and told him what a great helper he was in the grocery store today and began rattling off all the reasons that Little Bear would be lost without him.  His anxiety rears it’s ugly head when he’s trying to go to sleep, so we have a tried and true routine of chatting about mindless things while he’s nodding off.  It keeps the darkness at bay.  Tonight as I’m doing this, he got a strange look on his face.  I stopped talking and quickly asked if he was okay.  His answer?  “Yes, mom.  I was just watching you talk and thinking about how you are the best mom in the whole world and I just…I don’t know…I’m just thinking about you.”  And with that, I am full to the very top all over again.

I won’t remember the scene in the driveway or the $5 box of cereal that I didn’t need to buy or how tired I was while cleaning that stupid rat cage.  This giant conglomeration of days and nights and shenanigans called childhood will morph into fuzzy memory and I’ll definitely remember some highlights in vivid detail – but not the minutia.  I can assure you, though, that I will remember that they loved me more than all the moons and stars and heavens above and I was their best and only girl for just a little while.

 

SOMETHING!

Oh, HEY THERE!  Long time, no see!  How’s your mom?  Did your kids get back to school?  Have you had a Pumpkin Spice Latte yet?  It’s AFTER LABOR DAY, y’all!  It’s only been a month since I wrote.  I still have this craptastic stock layout.  I’m sort of the best blogger ever.  I should write a book about it.

My husband is a pilot and managed to be gone for three weeks.  Or 22 days.  In a row.  But who’s counting?  I survived the start of school with Pea, his anxiety and Little Bear.  It was super fun.  But anyway…

Pea.  I love him so much.  He’s having such a hard time.  I hate anxiety.  I despise OCD.  I want it all to GO AWAY.  I want him to just BE.  The hospital program was truly amazing – if we could live there, I swear we would.  But now we are back in the real world and the bottom line is that we have a LONG. WAY. TO. GO.  We are getting ready to start with a new therapist that will continue the work they were doing in the hospital.  He has been in play therapy for years, but it’s time to transition to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  We will start addressing his fears head on and teach him how to get through these moments that debilitate him.  It’s hard, y’all.  I’m not going to sugar coat it and I am the QUEEN of sugar coating.  Pea is now in his third week of school and he’s been to the nurse or counselor every day since day three, I think.  Sometimes more than once.  BUT, my friends, he stays at school.  I haven’t had to go get him.  He STAYS THERE.  And that’s a big deal.  You’ve got to look for the bright side in everything.

There’s a lot to talk about.  I’ll tell you all about what’s bothering Pea at the moment.  We can discuss color coded behavior charts at school and why they will be the death of me.  We should also talk about why I both love and hate Stitch Fix and how I want to be the kind of girl who rocks a scarf, but can’t.  (This is a reoccurring issue for me.  You don’t even know.)  But for now, Little Bear has a cold and has woken up 3 times while I’ve been trying to write this.  So you’ll just have to wait to hear about my issues.  I know you are on pins and needles.  😉

At least I wrote SOMETHING!

It’s a Great Time to Start a Blog!

Remember that time I started a blog?  I was all, “OH, I’m going to write EVERY day and share our story with the world and be both sensitive and hilarious and make ALL the people follow me with abandon and know ALL about pediatric anxiety!  It’s going to be awesome!”  I mean, sure…there aren’t three of me and I have one child going back and forth between a hospital 45 minutes from our house, family therapy that I have to attend and OH, YEAH…a two year old.  No problem.  OF COURSE this would be a good time to start the blog!  That’s sooooo doable, Mom!   Oh, and you should absolutely pick up that book about writing code so that you can format the blog yourself!  And return all the amazing emails that you’ve received from the blog.  And clean the house.  And feed the children.  And AND AND AND….

I’m actually the very opposite of Pea – although he looks just like me.  My first instinct is always a resounding, “Sure!  No problem!  It will turn out great!  No worries!”.  God definitely knew what he was doing because my personality is perfect when it comes to mothering Pea.  I’m a “don’t sweat it” mom.  I’m pretty hard to ruffle.  I’m not even remotely rigid.  Pea’s absolute favorite thing to do for the last…let me think…8 YEARS is to create worlds to play in.  He has never EVER played with a toy the way it was marketed.  He creates vast lands across our house using everything from cans in the pantry to all the dining chairs.  We move furniture.  He makes signs and badges and tapes them all over the house.  You want to use all the spices in my spice rack to make a choir?  SURE!  You want to take everything out of your closet to make it an office?  Let’s do it!  Can you have every piece of tupperware to use as aquariums in your marine biology lab?  No problem!  I’m calling it “fostering creativity”.  😉  Pea wouldn’t do well if I wasn’t okay with giant messes in the name of imagination.  And my lack of anxiety is certainly handy when it comes to helping him relax.  I consider us the perfect team.

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The Spice Choir, circa 2012

The downside to being laid back?  I always say yes.  I always think I can do it all.  I’m always up at all hours finishing ALL THE THINGS.  I walk around the house and clean it up every night so that Pea has a clean slate for his next idea.  I handle all the various appointments for Pea.  I’m always the room mom.  I’m going to be on the PTA board this year.  I’ll take on all the projects.  And throw all the parties.  And cook all the food.  And apparently start a blog or two.  Did I mention I have a two year old?  HA!  It works for me, though.  It’s just my personality.  And I always manage to get it done.  Mostly…ish.

Sooooo – that was my long winded way of saying that I swear I’m going to keep writing this blog.  And making it beautiful.  And bringing awareness to mental health problems in children.  It just may be 2am when the latest posts arrive.  🙂

This has been an emotional and overwhelming week, to say the least.  Pea is doing AMAZINGLY WELL at the hospital program.  He’s doing so well that I’ve now switched my anxiety from how he will cope with going to how on God’s green earth we will get through the transition to him NOT going.   He really loves it.  I’ve never seen him so happy to go somewhere.  Tonight as he was falling asleep, he said, “I wish I could go to anxiety camp tomorrow.  I hate waiting until Monday.”  What the WHAT?!?  I want to make them 1,000 cookies and knit them sweaters and kiss every last person over there.  This is clearly the right place for Pea.  We have our first family therapy session with him on Monday.  I’m very much looking forward to getting some insight into Pea and how we can help him more at home.  I’ll be sure and share any tips that I can.  He has shown them what he’s struggling with in many ways so far this week and they are coaxing him through everything.  The process is intensive and I am still utterly and completely optimistic that this will be the beginning of a smoother year for my Pea.  That’s how I roll.  “IT WILL BE FINE”, she said.  And they keep on keeping on.

A Birthday Party

Some days are just harder than others.  Pea attended a birthday party this evening.  It didn’t go well.  It should have been fine – but it wasn’t.  That’s the way of anxiety.  Everything is okay until it isn’t.

Parenting through anxiety is hard, folks.  It requires patience that is almost beyond you.  Here’s the thing…anxiety doesn’t reason.  It doesn’t care what you have to say.  Tonight, the party coordinator at the gymnastics facility started the party with the rules.  It was super simple stuff – don’t run, one at a time on the trampolines, stay with the group, follow my instructions.  I’m chatting with my friends while I’ve got one ear to the ground.  Those were a lot of rules and Pea is very serious about following rules.  Too serious.  I watched him run over to the trampolines and immediately sit in front of one to wait his turn, as directed.  I’m still talking to my friends, but I’m watching him with one eye for signs of distress.  He’s chosen the farthest trampoline from me and my view of him is blocked intermittently .  I don’t have to work at this any more, my brain being in two places at the same time.  I’m happy to be with my girlfriends and also watching for IT.  The moment when it’s not okay anymore.  With these kids, that moment can happen in the blink of an eye.  It doesn’t take long before he’s speed walking toward me across the gym floor – the terror making his eyes wide.  He bolts into my arms and ducks his head into my shoulder, mumbling furiously into my ear, “She said we have to stay with her.  That means I can’t come get you if I need you.  What if I need you? “.  I hold him firmly and tell him that she was simply telling the kids not to run off and play with the other equipment.  She wants all the kids to play the same game.  This does NOT mean that he can’t come get me.  I say it with conviction.  He stares back at me and repeats, “She said we had to stay with her.  That means I can’t come get you.  SHE SAID.”  Anxiety doesn’t reason.

I managed to get him back to the group.  At this point, he’s missed the instructions for the new game.  So he’s panicking.  I grab one of the extra instructors and she explains what he missed.  He wants to play.  He tries valiantly to recover.  I leave him to it and head back to my friends.  He’s eight now, so I make every effort to let him do it for himself.  I know that I’ll be back, but I leave him to it for now.  I’m the helicopter mom who always tries to land.  The big meltdown comes very quickly.  Remember those rules from the beginning of the party?  Well, Pea was having fun and he started to run to the next event.   As most of the kids did.   Pea caught himself running.  And panicked.  He ran to me again and this time was worse.  “I’m not supposed to run.  She said no running.  I shouldn’t go back because I didn’t follow the rules.  I can’t play.”  Have you ever tried to explain away a fear like this?  A fear that you are bad, less than, in need of punishment – because you started to jog?  Anxiety doesn’t reason.

We worked through the whole party.  He stayed.  I had to stand with him for a good portion of it – a lone parent in a sea of children while the other grownups sat in the bleachers.  But you know what?  While I stood there in line with them, I got to hear Pea’s best friends tell me all kinds of good stuff.  J spent the weekend at her uncle’s house and had the BEST time and spent the whole day at Hawaiian Falls!  And she spent a WHOLE DAY at his house.  B, a precious little boy who is dealing with his own Big Stuff and heading into first grade, talked my ear off about how tall he’s getting and he gave me a hug SO BIG that it took me off my feet.  So hanging out with that crew was pretty freaking great.  Pea did end up crying under the table during pizza and cake – this time because he accidentally took a bite out of his friend’s pizza slice – but we all lived.  And my friends gave me hugs and told me that I was doing a good job.  (Good friends ARE. EVERYTHING.)  And we made it through the WHOLE PARTY and didn’t have to leave.   I’m chalking it up to a win.

If you know someone with anxiety or depression, please know that they can’t reason with it.  They KNOW that it doesn’t make sense.  They hear you talking and they know what you are saying is true.  They are good, there is nothing wrong, they don’t have to be scared or sad.  But anxiety DOESN’T REASON.  There are no mere words that will turn it off.  This is the hardest part of our jobs as parents/friends/siblings.   We can talk until we are blue in the face, but anxiety doesn’t give a shit.   We have to just love them through it.

We can talk about my cursing and how I’m not going to stop doing it at a later date.  😉

Out in the Open

Hey, y’all!  I’m back!  Did you know that I have a better chance of seeing a unicorn than writing with a two year old in the house?  Using the desktop computer for anything other than watching Tumble Leaf and Paw Patrol is impossible.  I need an office.  Inside the “SheShed” that I want in the backyard.  And a nanny.  And a cleaning lady.  And a chef.  But I digress.

Let’s talk about the “personal nature” of this blog and how “brave” I am for sharing our story, shall we?  I’ve had an overwhelming response to my first little post in the last 24 hours, including LOTS of private messages from friends and strangers alike.  I’m honestly overwhelmed with how many people already need to hear about our struggle.  I’ve been feeling led to do this for several months and now I feel even more strongly that I’ve made the right decision.  I want to give mental health a voice and I’ve got a pretty loud one.  SO, let’s get down to it.  If Pea had been born with a heart defect, I would have built a blog immediately.  A friend would have shared our story and started a “Go Fund Me” account.  The elementary school would probably do a fundraiser.  We would be added into prayer circles and people would rejoice when I reported that treatments were working.  Everyone would know.  And this would be GOOD.  Why, then, is being born with a disorder in the brain so taboo?  Why don’t we talk about it?  Why didn’t I start a blog about our journey when Pea was diagnosed just before his 3rd birthday?  Why do my conversations about Pea take place on private Facebook pages?  I don’t really have an answer.  There is a stigma to mental illness.  There always has been.  I’ve decided that I won’t have it.  I just WILL NOT.  I am not embarrassed by Pea’s diagnosis.  Which, at the moment, is “General Anxiety Disorder with features of separation and panic”.  There have been more and there will likely be more.  At one point, he was diagnosed with PDD.  Then it switched to “probable Aspberger’s”.  The spectrum disorders don’t fit him perfectly and he never seems to perfectly fit into that box, although he’s definitely sitting somewhere on that huge continuum.  There are motor delays and OCD looming out there, too.  It’s the GAD that has always been our main concern and focus.  I’ve known that something was wrong since almost the very beginning and I’ve never felt the need to hide who he is or what he’s “got”.  The fact is that he is the most amazing boy in the universe.  He is absolutely BRILLIANT.  He thinks about the world in ways that you would never think possible.  The ideas he has – the way he sees our planet – the way he loves – the friend he is…he is AMAZING.  He’s hysterical.  He’s popular.  And he’s very VERY open about his anxiety disorder.  He tells the class and all his friends.  He writes it on  his “about you” worksheets.  He shares his struggles in his daily journal at school.  He does all of this because we have taught him that it’s okay.  “Everyone has something”, I tell him.  He is so kind and loving and notices when a friend needs him.  He will tell someone about his own problem in an effort to help them.  I do NOT want this to end.  Today, he is still just a baby.  He’s going into second grade and he’s not embarrassed about all the things that make him HIM.  His classmates are young enough to just take this knowledge in and then let it go.  They don’t care because they don’t know they are supposed to.  They just like Pea for who he is.  I want to do everything in my power to keep this going.  We. Will. Not. Hide.  I will talk about this and share the good and the bad and the ugly.  But I’m not brave.  I’m just a mom talking about one of the many curveballs that get thrown at us.  We all have them.  And if we feel free to share a diagnosis like diabetes or epilepsy, then we absolutely should for Anxiety Disorder.  Or ODD.  Or Bipolar.  OR ANY OF THEM.  I firmly believe that society needs a big fat push in the direction of mental health.  Let’s take this out of the shadows.  How amazing would it be for Pea to grow up and never once feel shame for having GAD?  I’ll fight for that every single day.

I’ve laid in bed many a night and wondered if I would “change” him if I could.  The answer is bigger than a yes or a no.  The truth is, OF COURSE I WOULD.  I would love for him to be able to bound into a new place without staring at me with huge fearful eyes.  It would be amazing for his teacher to ask the class to write about their summer and him not stare at his letters and cry because they don’t look perfect and he’s scared to death that he’s not enough.  But I also wouldn’t change a thing about him.  He’s beautiful and so incredibly smart and he is going to do INCREDIBLE THINGS one day.  He tells me all the time that he’s going to be a teacher.  He wants to teach elementary school.  I’m fairly certain that he could cure cancer if he wanted to, but he tells me emphatically, “Mom, I will be a great teacher because I can help kids like me.  I will understand without them having to tell me.” And he is exactly right.  He’s not embarrassed and in this family, we are going to consider this our crusade.  Pea is onboard, so y’all might as well be, too.  In this family, we won’t hide.  We keep all the lights on around here.  🙂

 

She Starts

It’s the hardest part, really.  Where to start.  How to explain.  How far back to go.  I suppose the narrative starts easily enough – the classic optimist who looks at the world from a place of goodness, regardless of circumstance – gives birth to a precious soul who is her very opposite.  His world is that of fear.  There is no true optimism for this baby.  It’s only anxiety.  It colors his every waking minute.  He’s drowning in his fears and I am his life preserver.   It’s a role that God gave me – of that I know.  Early on in this beautiful game of motherhood, I knew that the cards were stacked against my pea.  I met the challenge head on and began seeking help for him at the ripe old age of two.  We’ve had quite a ride thus far and it’s certainly only the beginning.  Pea just turned eight years old and next week he will enter a partial hospitalization program that is two weeks long and will hopefully help us get a handle on things again.  We are VERY excited – Pea calls it “Anxiety Camp” and we have hopes that are likely too high.  But I’m an eternal optimist, remember?

I think our battle is important.  Mental illness in children is not a topic that comes up in conversation.   Realizing that your child is battling a silent disease that he doesn’t wear on the outside is incredibly overwhelming and my wish for this public blog is that somewhere out there, a fellow parent will feel less alone.  Maybe someone will read our stories and understand more about a friend or family member who struggles with something similar.  Maybe a post will be shared that speaks to a mom who is struggling to understand why little Joey in her daughter’s class always seems so strange.  Or – even MORE importantly – there is always the chance that I will be able to tell our story in a way that makes everyone who reads it have more compassion for others in all walks of life.  I scroll past a meme in my Facebook feed at least once a day spouting the importance of realizing that every face you see is waging a battle of some sort.  “Be kind”, it always says.  Maybe I can help bring that meme to life.

As I sit here trying to come up with the perfect “first post”, I’m overwhelmed with what I might need to share.  I mean, if we are going to talk about this stuff together, you should probably KNOW me or something close.  At this point, you might be under the impression that I’m quite serious.  I’m quite NOT serious.  I am a silly, sarcastic mess of an individual.  I like to pepper my writing with hundreds of emojis.  Now I’m looking at the word “emojis” and wondering if that’s the plural form of emoji.  Maybe it’s just emoj-I.   I’m into proper grammar and old school hip hop.  I am incessantly cheerful and will happily hide under a table rather than have an argument with someone.  I want EVERYONE to be happy.  All the time.  Being my friend means that you field the “Are you okay?” question way. too. often.  I am very sappy.  I wanted to write “very” in all caps right there, but I was just thinking that I’m already overusing caps lock.  “She’s an over thinker”, you say.  That would be correct.   😉  I am the person who gives hugs to strangers, tears up over Time Hop memories, and tries not to eat carbs unless it’s the week that I’ve decided that I will eat carbs if I damn well want to.   I overshare pictures and joy on Facebook and I don’t care at all.  I’m all about saying yes to All The Things, even when I should say no.  I love being around people and turning a stranger into my friend. I can be annoyingly positive.  It’s kinda my thing.  I don’t shy away from the mundane, annoying or even bad parts of life – I just try to make them funny.  Or at least put them into perspective so that they aren’t SO bad.  I’m a writer without a home – I’ve always wanted to write professionally, but I’m not a novelist, I like to write short stories (who reads short stories?) and I figured out at 22 that I also don’t like to write obituaries.  Who knew?  I’m a wife to an amazing man who shares lots of traits with Pea.  He tries to get me to worry when it’s important and I try to get him to relax when he needs to.  We are a great team.  I am a mother to the two most wonderful boys in all of creation.  Okay, my creation, but still.   The little bear is two at the moment.  My beautiful boys are going to kill me in a thousand ways before it’s all over and I’m looking at an empty house without macaroni and cheese smushed into the grout.  You are going to get an earful about all of it – this big, little life.

“She Shines Her Light” is what I find myself doing the most since becoming a mother.  Pea’s world can be dark and scary and ultimately completely overwhelming.  I am his light.  I stand beside him and try my very hardest to illuminate everything around us.  If I shine bright enough, maybe he will see that it’s all going to be okay.  We all need a beacon sometimes.  This is the story of our journey through a severe pediatric anxiety disorder and all the other diagnosises that we’ve gathered along the way.  It’s also the story of the family that refuses to let mental illness ruin an absolutely perfect mess of a life.  And we’ll also talk about the fact that I hate the sound of chewing and can’t be bothered with putting away clean socks.  But we’ve got plenty of time for all that.