Monday, November 23, 2015

Our First Day of Thanksgiving "Break"

So, for all of you who have children at home this can understand my play on words in the title of today's post. To say that we are on Thanksgiving 'Break' is to suggest that there is something relaxing about having your school-aged children home all day. Now, I will say, it was nice to not have to roll out of bed at 630am this morning to drive my son to the bus stop but I actually look forward to those mornings because it's 10 minutes that I get to myself while he is busy putting his shoes on and fussing with his jacket. I get to sip my cup of coffee, let the steam reach up to my face and slowly read my devotional to get me armed and ready for the day ahead.

Today, my youngest woke up at 630am. This is much earlier than her normal 730/745/8am wake up routine. My middle child rolled out of (my) bed around 7am only after she peed all over it. And my oldest woke up about 10 minutes after that. We ate breakfast, I chugged coffee and we piled into the car and headed to the gym. It's the only place I can think of where I get an hour to myself to work out while they play with other kids their age.

So, our 'break' is going okay. My son has some behavioral challenges so it's been a bit of a trying day for me. I am used to the dynamics of only his sisters and  myself during the day while he's at school so we are readjusting to having him back home for this week. Some of the things I have found myself saying today:

"I will wash your mouth out with soap if you don't go outside and play."
"I don't care if there's a spider out there. Go play."
"Get off the deck and go play or you're grounded."
"Stop being loud and go swing."

Now, come on, you know I'm smarter than this. I've been through years of therapy with my son for his behavioral stuff and I know that these typical discipline techniques don't work and won't work on a child who has ADHD, ODD, SPD and anxiety. So why do I say them? Because I'm frustrated. I'm tired and I just want him to listen like my other two kids do. I know some of you will get this. I know many of you will know exactly what I am talking about. When you have a child who has special needs - the same rules do not apply. One size does not fit all and sitting still is unheard of. So, now that I've had some time to pull myself together and put on my mommy-armor, I will share with you how you can turn this Thanksgiving "Break" into a real "Break".

1. Have low expectations. Strive to do one thing today. That's it. If you make it to two things - great. Keep things simple in your home.

2. Have an arsenal of sensory-type activities ready. I knew this week was coming so I stocked up on playdough, construction paper, markers, crayons and stickers. This stuff keeps my son busy for long periods of time and he enjoys doing them. It's a win-win.

3. Again, I knew this week was coming so I went to the store and purchased extra gum, tic tacs and Jolly Ranchers. Sucking on a piece of candy or chewing a piece of gum helps children focus and stop stimming (self-stimulation).

4. Tell your child the plan for the day. I think everyone knows this tool by now but if you don't, that's okay. Kids like routine. It makes them feel safe. Especially kids with special needs. Tell your child what you're doing for the day so he knows what to expect. Be sure to explain that plans change sometimes so that he's set up for success should something fall through at the last minute.

5. Think before you speak. It's easy to get overwhelmed in the moment. There's so many things that go on in a day and there's only one you. Go from overwhelmed to in control by thinking about what you'll say before you say it.

You've got this, mom! Rock this Thanksgiving "Break" and enjoy all of your children this holiday season.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

When the Dust Settles

This is a hard post for me to write. But, I think I'll find freedom in sharing it with you. My life is good. Really good. I have three amazing kids and a husband who loves me more than I'll ever know. We live in a beautiful home in a nice neighborhood and are all happy and healthy. I'm in my seventh year of being a stay-at-home mom and have settled in nicely to my role. But, there is something I struggle with day in and day words.

Sometimes, when my son is having an especially hard day and he can't quite help himself with all of the stimming he's got going on - I find myself short, rude and impatient. I say things before thinking. I give him weird looks without realizing the effect they will have on him. I yell when I should be taking a "time out" for myself to collect my thoughts. It's not until the dust settles that I realize just how awful I've been. Often, it's too late. My apologies are accepted and we've both gone on to other tasks but I can see it on his face. I can see the scars I've left and am still making all over his sweet soul.

I spend the rest of the day beating myself up about the way I've just behaved and beg for mercy that he'll give me another chance to be the right kind of mom. I pour myself into parenting books and cater to his every need in the hopes that I will change my ways the next time. I talk to him all the time about bullies at school but inside I'm thinking, "I'm the real bully."

Not all days are like this. We have really good days, mediocre days and terrible days. It's only on the unbearable days that I let my words flow out of me like poison. Why is it so hard to be a parent to a child with special needs? Because not every day is the same. What worked today won't work tomorrow. Because I want my child to be happy and to not have to have special circumstances that call for stress balls, rice buckets or medication. I want him to be free of worry and doubt. I want him to relish in the innocence that is childhood.

So when I see one of his friends being mean to him after I've just yelled at him - it's all I can do not to curl up into a ball and just roll away. I have to make this life a better place for him I think. And so, I tell myself that I will do better tomorrow and I do.

I promised to keep this website real, and to share the things that have worked for here are a few tips that have helped.

1. Take a breath. A big one.
2. Tell yourself he's only 6 (or 4 or 5 or whatever age your child is)
3. Pre-plan what you're going to say. Meaning - if you think your interaction could go south - think about what you'll say or won't say to avoid mean words spewing out.
4. Take a time out for yourself. Tell your child you need a minute and you'll be right back. (Obviously, only leave your child alone if they are old enough).
5. Keep reciting the good things about your child in your head. This will help you stay positive.
6. Give yourself grace. No really. Do it. This is something I have to continually work on. I can say it but I don't always do it. Parenting a child with special needs is so hard. Harder than anyone will ever (truly) tell you. You're doing the best you can. Today is done. Tomorrow is a new day.

Thanks for letting me be real.