The Rules (or Lack Thereof )

As I was cleaning up after dinner, I looked out from my position at the sink to see all three of the men in my life on separate devices.  Dad at the table on his iPad, Pea on the couch on my iPhone and Little Bear at the computer watching Blue’s Clues.  I thought it was pretty cute.  I kept washing dishes.

Occasionally, I think about how I’m mostly the worst mom ever.  No, that’s not true…I think about how I would be labeled as the worst mom ever if anyone ever found out that I kinda don’t care about all the things.  I don’t have a lot of hard and fast rules here, aside from the obvious.  I’m all about everyone being GOOD PEOPLE…respectful, loving, kind.  There are rules about hitting, foul language, being online without a parent (NO), respecting our elders, not using a Sharpie if you are under 35 – the basics.  But I don’t have screen time rules or snack rules or play rules.  I might just look up at 2:30 one afternoon and shout, “Let’s go outside!” if I feel like the screens have been going for too long.  (But not now.  It’s 4,876 degrees outside, for the love of all that is holy.)  If it’s 4:30 and I’m waaaaay behind on dinner (like maybe always-ish), I’ll let them dig into the fruit snacks or Goldfish.  If Pea wants to run a strip of masking tape down the middle of the entire staircase and place HUGE neon green traffic cones on the landing with signs directing which way is up and which way is down, I might let him.  Or I did let him and I just tripped over a cone while putting up laundry.  But I digress.

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Guests love this.

I have a feeling that this way of thinking stems from having my oldest child born with a serious anxiety disorder.  Things in our house don’t look exactly like they might elsewhere. I can’t even be sure on that one, honestly.  I’ve never known a different way!  But I do know that things taken for granted by other folks are high stress moments in our house.  When Pea was little bitty, he stopped being able to get a haircut at all.  AT. ALL.  The worst moments were when I would offer him a present in exchange for going inside a salon.  He wanted a toy so badly, but he couldn’t turn off his anxiety in order to get one.  I will never forget that day…he was four years old and crouched in the very back of the SUV, shaking and crying and begging me not to leave the parking lot because he was still trying to get out.  We sat there for almost two hours while he tried.  It never happened.  (and you can bet your bottom dollar that I bought him a toy, anyway.)  I bought all the tools to cut hair and watched YouTube videos on how to do it.  Pea looked very strange for quite some time there.  (Never ask me to cut your hair.)  We worked so hard to get him back in a salon that by the time he did it, I think I bought him his own island.  Or everything at Staples.  SOMETHING GOOD.  We kept it up – he gets little rewards every single time he makes it inside to get his hair cut.  To this day.  Usually just a new pack of pencils or a new lanyard (we can talk about Pea’s choice in toys later), but always a little something.  It’s our thing.  He had to drop out of an entire season of T-ball when he was 4 because he couldn’t get out of the car at the new field.  We tried for 3 weeks in a row.  The last straw was that last week when I was snack mom.  I had to drop the snacks off to my friend and head home with Pea.  He got sick in the car that day.  He was beside himself.  He wanted to do all of these things, but couldn’t.  I have a hard rule that I don’t spend more than $150 on a new sport/event/thing because you never know if he’ll be able to actually do it and we often lose the money.  But we think it’s VERY important that he TRY if he wants to.  We always want him to try.  So we got this awesome team of doctors and therapists and we started working on it and he fights like a warrior all the time.  He started taking medicine that helped him finally get out of the car.  He goes to therapy to learn and practice all the tricks to help him not get under his desk at school when a substitute walks in the door.  The world looks very different through his eyes and it’s the minutiae that gets us.  The decor in a restaurant, the resting face of a new therapist, the feeling of a pair of socks, the smell of the cafeteria, waking up late, switching to long sleeves, accidentally laying eyes on the little flyer with the impoverished child from the Feed the Children campaign, hearing a classmate get reprimanded, the sound of the gym at school, the loud music that floated through the walls when he tried to come to MY gym, riding in someone else’s car, the red lights and which lane I’m in and when I should turn…the list goes on and on and ON.  I suppose that when you never know exactly what is going to go wrong – you stop worrying about things like official screen time limits and  snacks before dinner.  I don’t fault ANYONE for having these rules – don’t get me wrong!  I sometimes wish we lived a “normal” life (as if there is a such thing) where I worried more about how many episodes of Stampy he was watching and less about how I’m going to convince him that it’s okay to walk upstairs without an adult.

But seriously…those fruit snacks are TOTALLY organic and I’m pretty sure they don’t have that red dye.  It’s not like I’m a hooligan or 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.

The Professionals

The sun hadn’t cleared the horizon this morning when my Fitbit buzzed my wrist to wake me up.  (Sidebar:  If you don’t have a Fitbit, this feature alone is worth it.  I’m far less likely to murder someone with a flying alarm clock when it’s my bracelet that offends me)  I was already awake because A) Little Bear is the worst sleeper ever and B) HOSPITAL DAY!!!  I was a ball of nerves when I went in to wake Pea up.  Would he be able to do this?  Would he be too frightened to speak?  WOULD IT HELP?  The answers to these questions would finally be answered and I was both excited and flipping the freak out.

We tiptoed downstairs together – as to not wake up the baby that only sleeps when I have to be awake – and it felt like a school day.   I packed a lunch, got everyone dressed and we hit the road nice and early to avoid the nightmare that is driving into the city.  Daddy took the day off to stay with the offensively sleeping Little Bear.  We talked the whole way and Pea was excited and nervous in a good way.  Do you know how sick a little boy has to be in order to be excited to go to the hospital?  Yeah, there’s that.  The drive was uneventful and we even managed to stop at Starbucks for breakfast, where Pea agreed to try an English Muffin and actually liked it.  It’s the little things, folks.

Once we arrived to check in, the paperwork started and the wait time was just long enough to give the thoughts time to run around Pea’s head.  He started to clutch my arms and try to crawl inside my skin.  He ducked his head into my chest and began mumbling into my shirt about how scared he was and how his stomach hurt.  And I had the feeling I always have – FIX THIS.  MAKE IT BETTER.  LOVE THIS AWAY.  I’m never able to actually do those things, which doesn’t get easier – no matter how many years have ticked by.  And that’s not just an anxiety mom thing.  It’s an ALL MOM THING.

By the time Pea’s name was called, he was in full on panic mode.  We were lead to a conference room where Pea was given some legos and a smile by what turned out to be an AMAZING nurse.  The paperwork and chats about history got underway.  There was a LOT to talk about and record.  I kept wondering why Pea needed to be here for this part – shouldn’t we get him started first?  It’s so stark and boring in here.  But we kept going.  As it turns out, there was method to their madness.  There were two nurses with us at this point and they would intermittently address Pea in some way, to which he literally could not speak or respond.  But the nurses just merrily kept on as if he had.  They would chuckle to each other about the joke he didn’t respond to or the question he didn’t answer.  And slowly – ever soooooo slowly – he started to relax.  At first it was just a hint of a smile before he ducked his head.  Then a few whispered answers that were so faint, I couldn’t make them out from beside him.  Then they got a little louder.  At no point did the nurses make a big deal or acknowledge that he was opening up.  They stayed the steady course.  I kept doing my part, answering questions and putting my signature on 10,748 documents.  Inside, my heart was swelling.  These women KNEW.  THEY KNOW MY PEA.  I don’t have to explain how to help him.  THEY KNOW.  At one point, I felt tears threatening and I NEVER EVER CRY in front of Pea.  Not because I was sad, but because the relief was like a tidal wave.  This was the first time in our lives that I was with a team of people who knew even better than I did.  I wanted to launch across the table and hug them and say, “THANK YOU FOR HELPING ME.  THANK YOU FOR UNDERSTANDING US.”  Help is a powerful thing.  Taking a burden from someone, even if it’s just for a moment, can change a life.

The brilliant tricks continued and before I knew it, Pea had been taken back without me with absolutely no hysterics.  I was in awe of these people.  It was very hard not to ask them to move into our house.  😉  After all of my paperwork and doctor consults were over, I walked outside alone and sat in the shade for awhile.  It wasn’t incredibly hot yet – still just 10:45am.  I needed to breathe for a minute and feel the breeze on my face.  I needed to close my eyes and let the sensation of relief wash over me.  These wonderful people took my load today and carried it themselves.  I felt it in my soul.  And it was good.

When I picked up Pea, the reports were glowing.  He had used his words all day.  He participated in everything they did.  He only got truly upset and overwhelmed twice and both times, he was able to tell the therapist exactly what was bothering him and why.  This is unheard of for Pea when it comes to strangers.  I quickly learned that these folks would never be strangers to him.  They speak his language.  He knew instinctively and immediately that they were his people.  The drive home was positively blissful.  He perched in his booster in the backseat and twitched and bounced gleefully as he told me about each and every staff member and all the cool things they said.  He kicked his skinny little legs against the seat in anticipation of what would happen tomorrow.  He gave me unlimited gap toothed grins as he shared what one of the other kids joked about at lunch.  They made him peaceful.  And they gave me hope.

Pea went back to being Pea when we got home.  He cried and clutched me when I tried to go to the gym.  He got angry with himself for needing to be corrected about something and ran out the front door to hide in the bushes and cry.  I don’t know how much this program is going to help him.  We will just have to ride it out and see.  But I know that if anyone can help, these people are the ones that will do it.  And I’ll take just about anything at this point.  Today was enough to lighten my load.  For that, we are blessed.

I know there are probably parents reading this who have been on the fence about seeking medical help.  You have a child that is coping with his issues, at least a little bit.  Maybe you think that you are managing pretty well on your own and the problems aren’t severe enough.  (This is a typical mom move.  “Oh, I’ve got this.  I don’t need help”)  Some of you may be loathe to give the issues a name.  I know that seeking a diagnosis, especially one involving mental illness, can be daunting.  Sometimes it’s easier to tell yourself it’s not that bad.  “We’ve got this under control.”  Please let me speak to your heart.  Share your burden.  Seek out a therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist.  Let someone help.  You will likely hear me say something like this a million times on this blog.:

If your child had diabetes – or you thought he might have it, you would take him to the doctor and get it checked.   Of course, you would.   This is no different.

There are amazing people out there that can help.  Really. Amazing. People.  Don’t feel guilty seeking them out.  We all need a team.  Teams are awesome, my friends.