Tag Archives: parenting

Maternal Exhaustion

I’m tired. I mean what they call bone tired. I can feel the depletion in every cell in my body. I’m just tired.

I’ve been so tired for so long that I started to think it was permanent. I thought well this is it, old age is here! My mother told me this would happen, that I wouldn’t always have the boundless energy of youth. I didn’t believe her. I don’t know why I didn’t believe her, she has never lied to me and I know I’m not immortal but ah, the hubris of youth! I believed I was invincible. Turns out, I’m not.

My oldest son was in a horrible car wreck on October 3, 2015. As I sit here writing this, it is January 10, 2017. That’s 15 months, well over a year. Doesn’t seem like I should still be recovering from that. I don’t know why, he is. But I wasn’t physically hurt. Just emotionally.

Then I finally realized that his accident wasn’t just a thing that happened then it was over. The repercussions go on and on like ripples in the water when you send a stone skipping out. His wreck happened and life as we both knew it just stopped. Everything that came before is part of a different life. We live this one now.

First there were the months in the hospital and rehab. I would leave the hospital around nine or ten at night, make the hour drive home to spend a few minutes with my other children, dropped exhausted into bed only to jerk away long before I had gotten eight hours in. Unable to return to sleep, I would just get up and head back to the hospital, long before my other children were out of bed.

At one point, my youngest child, four at the time, handed me a drawing she made, pointed to the scribbles under the picture and said, “That means I miss you.” I know to her it seemed I had disappeared from her life.

I wasn’t eating. I lost ten pounds in two months. No matter how hungry I was on the drive there, once inside the hospital, I had no appetite at all. None of that touches the emotional toil it takes to watch your child suffer and be helpless to do anything about it. Dealing with his emotions on top of everything else wasn’t easy either. He was devastated, of course. What 24 year old wants to hear that they will never walk again? In those first few weeks, we didn’t even know if he’d ever be able to even sit up, much less stand or walk.

Then he was discharged and went home with his father and grandmother and I thought I would catch up on some sleep. Wrong. Back to work after two months, I was way underwater, completely swamped. Then there was the driving. He was four hours away from me, almost six during the time he spent at a second phase of rehab in Houston. I would often make that round trip in a day so I could attend doctors appointments and therapy sessions, to see his progress and evaluate needs for myself and help make decisions.

Then he came to spend the summer here. I continued to work 40 hours a week while getting him to physical therapy three times a week as well as mental health counseling. I had help; I’m not saying no one else ever pitched in. But I did most of it. He also had to make the trip all the way back to Bryan to finish his assessments with the neuropsychologist. Who even knew that was a thing before all this?

The physical toil it took wasn’t even the worst part. The emotional one was. We have had a contentious relationship since about the time he hit puberty. I kept thinking it was a phase and waiting for it to pass. The brain injury did nothing to improve the hostility and anger. Situational depression on top of a brain injury that is known to cause anger outburst on top of the issues that were already there. It was hard.

He went back to stay with his grandmother in September and on October 5, 2016, two days after the anniversary of his wreck, his father passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. I went down for the funeral. I grieved. It doesn’t matter that he was my ex. The point is, he was also my husband once and we shared much of my young adult life together, and a child. But my grief is nothing compared to his mothers or his brothers or his son. Our son.

All of these hits just kept coming and in October I got the worse case of bronchitis I have ever had in my life. It started before Halloween. I had to get treatment for it, the second time, just before Christmas. It’s now after New Years and I still have the lingering cough. I never stopped working a full time job, I never stopped doing activities with the younger kids. The doctor assured me that I wasn’t contagious so there was no reason to take time off or stop going to activities. Even though the worst symptom was a deep, awful fatigue that I could not overcome, I went on. During the middle of this, I planned, shopped for and cooked Thanksgiving dinner for our entire extended family.

I’m not saying any of this for sympathy or to complain but because, shockingly, I had to sit and type all this out before I realized why I’ve been so tired. During my protracted illness, my brain was so fuzzy, I really couldn’t figure out why I was tired all the time. I have just now realized that the last 15 months have just been one thing cascading into another in a never ending flood.

After my son had to move back in with his grandmother, I spent months drowning in guilt and self doubt. Beating myself up emotionally for not being able to help him, for not being able to fix everything for him. Is it really any wonder I succumbed to a physical illness? I was beat down, physically and emotionally.

Then I plunged headlong into the holidays. I’m not kidding, I asked for time off in December back in October. Yes, I had to plan and schedule my down time to try and recover from the worst physical ailment I’ve had in years and I had to schedule it two months out. Not because my supervisor wouldn’t have been understanding and given the time off, she would have. But because I have obligations and responsibilities that I didn’t feel like I could just set down.

From Christmas day through New Year’s Day I did literally nothing. I didn’t leave the house; we cancelled play dates and field trips. I didn’t read to the kids, I didn’t go to the grocery store or run a single errand and I didn’t do work during my off time (much).

Yeah, ok, I worked a little. But I have a care giving type of job. My clients depend on me; their lives don’t stop just because I’m off work. Caregiver burn out? You’d think so. But I feel like what I’ve been through with my son has given me a deeper understanding of what the families I work with are going through. What it really feels like to be a special needs parent. What it feels like to grieve the loss of the life you thought your child would have.

His dreams of becoming a firefighter are over.

And I am by no means comparing my struggles to his. I’m not the one in a wheelchair. I’m not the one having to come to terms with living with a spinal cord injury.

But still, I’m tired.

In My Dreams I Walk

“In my dreams, I walk.” He tells me.

The simple, raw grief in that statement shatters my heart.

~~~~~~~~~~

It is several weeks after the accident; I am in my bed drifting off to sleep. In that twilight world halfway between sleep and wakefulness I can hear the sound of the tires of the road, I can feel the rhythmic, swaying movement of a car. My eyes close against my will, sleep heavy and demanding. I’m so tired, so very, very tired. The part of my brain that is telling me I have to stay awake is no match for the part that knows how badly I need rest. No match for that comforting, rhythmic rocking of a moving vehicle. Just for a moment, it’s ok, I tell myself. Sleep pulls me under deeper and deeper.

Suddenly there is a loud crash, my entire world spins as I’m rudely jerked from sleep by the terrifying sensation of the car rolling over and over.

I sit upright in my bed, heart pounding in my chest and tears rolling down my face as I realize I have come as close as possible to experiencing what my son endured, without actually falling asleep at the wheel and wrecking.

Helicopter VS. Free Range Parenting

Today I realized that I trust my almost 14 and 12 year old with their siblings. Let me be more specific, as I was getting ready to take a quick shower, they wanted to go outside to play. I was ok with the older kids keeping an eye on their siblings, 9 and 5 for the ten minutes it would take me to shower. A year ago I wouldn’t have been and that got me thinking.

It got me thinking about how everyone has an opinion, how if I were to post it on face book, I would most likely get criticism from both sides. There would be those who say well come on! You should have given them a longer leash years ago, this helicopter parenting will cripple their emotional development. How will they grow into competent adults if you can’t leave them alone for 10 minutes in your own yard?

Then the other side, OMG, do you know what can happen in ten minutes? What if they ran into the road? What if a kidnapper came by? Anything can happen at any moment!

The thing is, they have a point. Both sides have valid arguments. Yes, children need to learn independence and self reliance as well as responsibility. And yes, any random thing can happen at any given time. So how do parents balance this? They seem to be two competing issues.

There is no simple, one size fits all answer. The best any parent can do is know their kids, know their environment and make the best choice possible for their family. We live in the county, down a private road. The odds of a stranger hanging around waiting to nab a child are just about nil. Traffic is also very, very light. And we have a fence around the yard. If we lived near a busy intersection, my decision may have been different.

Parents also have to know their child. Every child is different; one might be uber responsible at 10 while another is unreliable at 16. Don’t give me the “it’s the way they are raised” because anyone who has raised more than one can tell you that you can do the exact same thing with your kids and have them turn out wildly different. Because they have individual personalities. In fact, I would go as far as to say that you should NOT raise all your children exactly the same because what works for one does not work for the next. But that’s a subject for another post entirely.

The point is, you can’t judge another parent by your standard because you don’t know their kids and their situation. Not intimately. You may think your neighbor is a neglectful parent because their kids walk unattended to the park or you may think your sister is damaging her kids beyond repair with her helicopter parenting style. The truth is, you don’t know those kids the way the parents do. So you can’t judge. The best you can do is to know your own kids and make the best decisions possible for them.

Gorilla shot to save child, internet loses it’s mind

It’s a tragedy that the gorilla was shot and killed when zoo employees had to rescue the boy who fell in. I’ve seen the media rush to judge this mom and even the four year old child. But every eye witness account says she was RIGHT there and that it happened so fast no one could stop him though several people tried. One day I was walking through a parking lot with a baby carrier holding two small childrens hands. Specifically terrified of the traffic in this busy parking lot. The wind blew the blanket off the baby. His brother YANKED his hand free and darted back to get it before I had time to react. Had a car been coming, he would have been dead and I would have been labeled a bad parent. It made me realize that most people don’t realize what can happen in a single instant even when you’re right there and paying attention! I hate that this happened too but maybe we should be asking why a child was able to get through these “barriers” so quickly that a crowd of people standing right there couldn’t stop him. It was a terrible, awful tragedy but stop attacking this mother, just stop.

Social Media and the Mommy Wars

I use to think that the “mommy wars” were either something made up by the media or something that had long since been laid to rest. After all, I had never encountered it.

I was 22 years old when I had my first baby and judging by the reactions of friends, family and the cashier at the grocery store, I was doing it all wrong. (When did it become socially acceptable for total strangers to get a vote on how you raise your child anyway?). I picked him up when he cried, so obviously he would be spoiled rotten with inadequate lung development. I didn’t spank him, so obviously he was heading for prison. He slept in the bed with us, so obviously we were heading for a divorce. Well, we did end up divorced, but that certainly wasn’t a causal factor! My current husband and I have raised and co-slept with four children, all healthy and well adjusted and our nearly 13 year old marriage is doing just fine thankyouverymuch!

There have always been and will always be difference of opinions on how to raise children, differences in backgrounds, culture and experiences that play into these decisions.  And parenting trends cycle around, by the way. I raise my children more like my grandmother did than my mother did. Part of that is the natural tendency to rebel and do things differently from our parents I’m sure. But just try telling someone hell bent on converting you and showing you the error of your parenting ways that they are involved in a “parenting trend”. That should get some heads to explode.

Look, I have very good reasons for the decisions that I make and I’m sure you do too. Maybe we match up on some ideas, maybe not so much on others. Here’s the thing, are you ready for this? THAT’S OK!!  Yes, it is! People are different, children are different. Even children with the exact same parents growing up in the exact same environment are different. And that’s OK too. It’s why what I do at my house might not look like what you do at your house. It doesn’t make one of us right and one of us wrong, it just makes us different.

It’s really been with the advent of Facebook and other social media that I’ve noticed, not just an increase, but an escalation in the so called mommy wars. Sitting behind a keyboard anonymously attacking and judging strangers is much easier than looking a friend, neighbor or sister in the eye and telling her that her kids are stupid and going to grow up to flip burgers, that’s she’s a horrible parent who should have her children taken away from her or that people like her should just die. Seem extreme? Yes, I agree and yet I’ve witnessed every one of these attacks online. No one would say that to someone in real life, no one. Especially not to someone they know and love, or at least like and respect.

It’s much harder to paint that mom that breastfeeds past the age of two, home-schools or doesn’t vaccinate her children as a ignorant, slobbering, red neck, sociopath when you’ve sat next to her in PTA meetings, had play dates with her perfectly well behaved and socialized children and watched her bring casseroles to a sick neighbor, take in that stray dog and run to the aid of other people’s children on the neighborhood playground. You might not understand why she makes some of the choices she does, but you accept that you are different and move on because you like her. Much easier to assume the stranger online who does those same things (and that you know nothing else about) is some kind of selfish monster who lives her life just to piss you off.

I guess the hardest part for me is understanding the seething hatred that seems to emanate so easily and quickly from other people over the simplest differences. Why does it matter if your sister in laws children attend public, private or home-school? How does that affect you in any way? I have a theory. I’ve come to the conclusion, based on my experiences and people I’ve interacted with, that those who are most angry and hostile over other peoples choices are the ones who are least secure in their own. Deep down they question their choices and instead of admitting that, they lash out. They have a pathological need to make anyone who makes different choices “wrong” in order to prove themselves “right” by comparison. The reality is, there is not right or wrong (as long as abuse isn’t involved). There’s just different.

I’m perfectly secure in my choices and it does not anger me nor threaten me in anyway for my friends and family members to make choices that are different than my own. I have friends who home school and friends who public school, they all love their children. I have friends who co-sleep and those who don’t, none of them are monsters who don’t care about their children. We need to not focus on the things that divide us, but the things that unite us and we need to support each other. If we can’t agree, it’s OK to disagree and failing that, it’s OK to delete negative people from your Facebook feed!

Bed Sharing, Why Can’t Frozen Sheets Come in King Size?

Here’s something you never consider when navigating all the myriad and complex parenting decision you must make on a daily basis. We have made many parenting choices that fall outside the mainstream. Two of them, in combination, have served to deprive my kids of cute bed sheets. No, really!

First, we have more than the expected 2.3 kids. We are a large family and that was on purpose. Yes, we know what causes that and we planned it that way! Second, we believe in sleep sharing. Over the years that has taken many forms. My first child was 11 years old before he got a sibling. As an infant he slept with me in the adult bed and as an older child he came in and out of the bed as he desired. Bedroom doors were always left open at night.

Then came child number two, but her older brother was pretty much sleeping on his own by then, no problem. Child three showed up while child two was still in the family bed. By child four we knew something had to change! For many months, my poor husband would end up kicked out of the bed by wiggly children and move to his recliner in the living room. Not ideal. By the time number five arrived we had gotten creative. Two queen sized beds shoved side by side worked to accommodate everyone nicely and we did this for several years.

As they have gotten older, they don’t always want to sleep with mom and dad, but still don’t want to sleep alone. Even the 17 year old says it’s harder to fall asleep and she doesn’t sleep as well when the 11 year old isn’t in the room with her. They have a loft bed that no one uses, they sleep together in the queen bed under the loft.

My nine year old sprawls out and likes the bed to himself, but only if it’s the full sized bed that has been moved into his brothers room so he is still near others. The bunk beds in his room sit unused. In the seven year old’s room are the full sized bed used by his brother and the queen sized bed he sleeps in with his two year old sister (and most nights me as well). The two year old doesn’t even have her own bed. We know it won’t get used yet. We have time. We have never used a crib and by number three stopped putting one up.

I know not everyone agrees with sleep sharing but there is ample research to support it as a healthy habit that builds emotionally well adjusted children. Regardless, it works for us. My only complaint is that in our quest for comfortable sleep that accommodates multiple people, all of my children have large, adult sized beds. Which is fine, except when they want Dora or Thomas sheets for their beds. They just don’t make those cute kid sheets in larger sizes. Trust me, I’ve looked!

Don’t get me wrong, the loft bed has Dora and the bunk beds have Mario and How to Train Your Dragon, respectively. But the beds they actually sleep in? Not so much. It’s not a big deal, just another reminder that we function outside the expected, outside the mainstream. Because apparently not one marketeer anywhere ever thought, Hey, we should totally make some king sized Frozen sheets! Because I gotta tell you, I would totally buy those!

Good books for Toddlers and Preschoolers: Review for Go Away, Big Green Monster!

Great book for empowering children to cope with their fears

My pick of the day is “Go Away, Big Green Monster!” by Ed Emberley. This book delights toddlers and preschoolers alike with It’s rich colors and unique style. It is a fabulously empowering experience that teaches children that they have power over their fears. It’s also great for teaching colors and body parts as it uses repetition to reinforce those concepts. It’s sure to get a giggle and a “read it again!” from the two year old set. With a creative use of colors and cutouts, this book will quickly become a favorite!  Those giggles at the end are the child’s delight in discovering they have the power to direct their monsters to go away and stay away.