Category Archives: Parenting

Apples and Family Trees

It’s one of those mornings. I hadn’t even had my first cup of coffee. I wasn’t even out of bed. My husband dumped linoleum samples on my pillow for my review as he was leaving for work. As I was reviewing the samples while I was still groggy under my covers, my youngest pops in without knocking.

“Here you go. Sign these forms. I need them for band.”

Dealing with her and her Aspergers syndrome has always been a challenge. The connections she makes in her brain between ideas are crystal clear to her but the rest of us sometimes feel like we’re wallowing in quicksand while gazing at the world through molasses prisms.

But sometimes, if we think fast, we can get her to give us a rope to get out or spray those prisms with glass cleaner; the questions we ask and the answers she gives make it easier to look through her eyes. And the social connections she doesn’t get are just as challenging.

“Good morning, daughter of mine. Did you sleep well?”

“Yes, mom. Could you just sign the forms?”

“You do understand I’m telling you you have to be a little more human before demanding something from me, right? And knocking would be good too.”

She sighs and looks away, her equivalent of rolling her eyes. Then, as I review the forms, she started talking about her blog.

As a writer, I was pleased and irritated. I love that she has this body of work out there that’s hers. Yet I hate that she’s never trusted me to share it with me.

Secretly, I think she’s afraid I’ll get out the modern equivalent of the red pen to bleed profusely over her work. Or maybe she’s afraid she’ll be grounded for life for something she’s written, whether it’s the storyline or mode of expression. And yet, I need as her momma to see it.

After all, words and stories and poems are a kind of child, and I want to know my grandbabies. And I want those babies liked, loved, and wowed as much as possible; I don’t want them sitting there ignored, neglected, and unappreciated. 🙂

“Yeah, think you could share it with me? I don’t even know how to find it.”

“I’m not sure. It’s just stories, fiction stories. It’s kind of dark and deals with abuse. I don’t think you need to see it.”

My heart stopped. My brain panics. I’m not doing anything wrong, but I know what happened to writers in the past — burned at the stake, stoned with real stones, jailed for years in danky and musty rat traps, locked in mental institutions. And I’m thinking they get much the same today–stoned on psych drugs, limited financial mobility, visits from Children and Youth.

“You know you have to be careful, right? You write the wrong thing, and they could take the house and you and everything.”

I’m crossing my fingers that she gets the facetious hyperbole, knowing full well she’s quite literal and I could be triggering a massive meltdown.

“Okay, I will let you read it. But not yet. And I’ll delete anything that’s bad.”

My heart stopped. We love freedom in our house, especially freedom of speech and freedom of the press; nothing, nothing, nothing in heaven or on earth should ever touch that freedom. Being a responsible adult means knowing how and when to apply that freedom, but it’s still freedom.

“Oh, I know you. Nothing you’ve written could be that dark. But we won’t delete anything, we’ll just revise it. Okay.”

The signed forms disappeared, and she dematerialized from my presence with the unique rhythm of foot fall that can only come from a rapidly growing teen still not comfortable in her own skin.

All my daughters are my daughters. They are becoming what our Heavenly Father designed them to be–unique, special, different. One loves animals, one loves babies, and this one loves words. They’ve all fallen off the family tree in the same old patterns. But this one, she’s gonna rock her little corner of the world. And I have only one response, based loosely on Psalm 17:8 (NIV, The Voice, Amplified):

Jesus, keep my little baby girl as the apple of your eye. Guard her, watch her, protect her. Hide her in the shadow of your wings. Give her tender heart a shelter in the cool breeze of your Holy Spirit.

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Welcome Back

Sitting at dinner tonight,
A bashful spark of light
Poured joy into my life.

You laughed politely,
Smiling and joking,
Not seeing the sparks in man-child eyes.

With innocence and wonder,
I saw my little girl,
And I saw the woman.

I felt pride, and  I felt fear.
The future filled the present.
Hope and faith stood firm.

Mother’s Day 2016

This is one of those days where typically we think about our mothers. We review their achievements in our lives and consider what impact their presence or absence has on who we are as humans. If living, they may get the blessing of a gift or meal or some other token of appreciation.

Not me. I’ve often commented how I’m unique.

Me… I’m looking at the measuring stick in Proverbs 31 and critiquing my own parenting skills. As usual, I never quite make the grade.

Why? Let’s see it in a few versions…

She speaks wisely, teaching with gracious love.
(International Standard)

She opens her mouth with wisdom. Faithful instruction is on her tongue.
(World English Bible)

When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.
(New Living Translation)

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
(New Revised Standard Catholic Version)

When she opens her mouth, she speaks wisely; on her tongue is loving instruction.
(Complete Jewish)

She speaks wise words. And she teaches others to be kind. (International Children’s)

Okay, so they all pretty much agree on the first criterion: everything I say has to be wise. I’ve been falling short there lately, unless you count sarcasm.

  • Please tell me again how dumping five scoops is really good for the fish. And don’t give me any lines about the nitrogen cycle and growing soy… soy?
  • You can’t have such an unwise thought as putting the dog in the basket with socks is better for his joints. Especially clean socks… when you didn’t bathe him for three weeks…
  • Did you seriously think I wouldn’t notice you didn’t have vegetables in that casserole?!? I might be exhausted, but I’m not blind and I didn’t lose my tongue. And I don’t believe the oven gnome cast a spell to send them to visit another dimension.
  • Wait… let me guess. A good fairy is going to come and finish that assignment for you and upload to GoogleDocs. And then your grades will all be perfect.
  • Yes, please keep laughing at all the wrong times. *note this is the fifth correction at a non-faith-based public gathering* You will win so many friends and influence so many people to help you.

With just a week’s worth of failures of the first part, do I even need to go into the second part? Why, yes, yes, I do. I’m not feeling like a big enough failure.

The second part is about teaching or instructing. While I make numerous attempts, it doesn’t mean the attempts get noticed.

And then there’s the what am I to teach or give instruction about? Kindness, faithfulness, gracious love… The first set of bullets shows that I don’t live kindness or gracious love. The repetitive nature of my efforts could be argued to be faithfulness in action, or it could be unwise nagging (my kids will vote for nagging).

The problem is the standard society sets for me and the standard I set for myself. Society pretty much expects me to earn the paycheck, do the house, and make sure all my kids are model citizens. And then in a warped part of my mind, I have the words of Christ in Matthew 5:48 to remind me of my goal: So you must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (ICB)

The reality is I can’t, and I will break myself if I try. We all sin. We all fall far short of the goal. In those moments when my failures scream at me the loudest, when I am most anxious about my job performance as a mother, I must remember the words of Isaiah 26:3: You, Lord, give true peace. You give peace to those who depend on you. You give peace to those who trust you. (ICB)

Jesus, help me depend on You as my children depend on me. Let me find trust for You in this dependence. As I trust You, give me peace, true peace. 

Growing Up, Ninefold Challenge Week 2 Catch Up

Author’s Note: Go visit Ninefold Dragon’s blog for a good ninefold explanation. (Yeah, I am changing words on the fly as syllables don’t add up. 🙂 )

Voices raise, doors slam, silence ensues.
Babe turned woman-child fights without clues.
Stomp, stomp, sigh… stomp, stomp, sigh… start the waltz.

I’ve lost my precious giggly baby.
A joy turns to loss, turns to sadness.
Anger and frustration reign supreme.

Sensing sadness for the girl that was,
Broken boundaries cause searing pain.
She holds soul responsibility.

 

A New Attitude

Author’s Note: About four years ago, I had a Facebook connection who wanted to collect essays about the lessons parents of special needs kids had learned through parenting their kids. I agreed to participate. However, I’ve not heard anything more about the status of this piece. To date, I have not signed any releases relinquishing copyrights, nor have I seen any copies of the published collection. I am making the assumption that therefore nothing has happened with the essay. However, just in case, I am going to include some of my comments in response to what I had written oh so long ago it seems; this should make it a different enough piece I hope.

*********************************************************

A long time ago, if anyone had told me that I would not be focused on my career (let me qualify: I do care about my career, but I am not the 80s image of the career woman) and that I would pour myself into three kids with “special needs,” (my youngest has Aspergers, and my twins have a host of neurological impairments resulting in multiple learning disabilities), I would have laughed. (Special needs is a broad category that encompasses the obvious disabilities like Downs syndrome and cerebral palsy as well as your more hidden issues like autism spectrum and ADHD and intellectual development disorders.)

Time and circumstances change you. The first roller coaster was preemie twins. I learned to trust God more and more. This was the first act of forgiveness. My original ob-gyn refused an early ultra-sound, so we didn’t know I was carrying twins or that they had twin-to-twin transfusion or that they would spend the first two months in a NICU. I had to forgive him, not because I wanted to, but because I didn’t want the anger to cloud my judgment where my twins were concerned.

Over time for the twins, there were all the specialists who kept telling me the twins would catch up eventually. Therapies were added and subtracted on a yearly basis, all with the comments that they were progressing. They did hit a brick wall intellectually, emotionally, and physically. When the psychologist who saw them at 12 asked me what I was expecting and why I seemed disheartened by the results, I wanted to scream.

“You and your kind lied to me. You all lied to me. You gave me false hope. You kept telling me they were progressing. The only thing that is crueler than not knowing is false hope. I like to look things in the face, know them for what they are, and deal with what is. You stole that from me.”

Instead, I took a deep breath. I forgave them all—the pediatrician, the developmental pediatrician, the school professionals, the original ob-gyn (after all, if he were on the ball, we could have done something)—again, I did not want my judgment clouded as I faced the possibility they would not live alone and would need a sheltered environment, which may not exist because they are just shy of most criteria for that kind of help. (Actually, they are doing well. They do learn, just at a slower rate and with different techniques. We are looking at a host of post-secondary options. The future is much brighter on this facet of the truth diamond.)

Sandwiched in there was the birth of my daughter with Aspergers. (Yes, in the US, this diagnosis no longer exists, but we won’t go on that soapbox.) Like my twins, she was slow with her development, but just a hair faster than her sisters. We got her all the therapies, which again were added and subtracted with the same comments. An educational psychologist working with her sisters’ developmental pediatrician asked me if I thought she had autism. I told him firmly no. Actually, I was thinking: Hell, no. She wants to be with people. She talks. She doesn’t run from people. She’s fine.

That moment haunted me for a few years, as my siblings tried to tell me autism knowledge had changed and she could be autistic. After some parents of autistic children picked my child out of all the children, I surrendered and had her evaluated.

She has Aspergers. The trichotillomania (hair twisting and breaking…and in her case eating) (This is now conquered through appropriate therapies!  YAY! 😀 ), the constant talk on particular subjects to the exclusion of all else, the incessant humming—all were stims or expressions of emotional turmoil that she did not have words for or could not recognize.

Also sandwiched in there was a divorce early on for various kinds of abuse. (God is good all the time; He is moving in my ex’s life, and my ex is wrestling to become a better person than he would have been had we stayed together. Did I just write that?!?) The struggle to admit everyone who told me not to marry combined with the shame and guilt of knowing what I had put my kids through drove me to my knees, figuratively and literally. My pride and heart were broken. I had to do a lot of soul searching and therapy to figure out where I was broken and get fixed. At first, it was for my kids, but as I started to feel human again, it changed and was for me.

The hardest one…to forgive me. I have not been able to do this. I struggle with seeing all my bad decisions (like leaving chemistry as a career, marrying their dad, thinking I knew better than professionals) having consequences on my children and family. It’s like a wound that gets opened daily. It never heals. Yet, if I am to be healthy in mind, body, soul, and heart, it MUST be done. How to do it?

For me, the first step was letting go of my dreams and my vision for my children. They would never go to college. (Well, that may be changing.) They would never have a good job, a big house, and a large salary. (Yes, I bought the American nightmare for a while.) And that is focusing on the negatives.

The second step was to look with the proverbial rose-colored glasses, to see so much more clearly the matters of the heart that affect eternity (Actually, it’s more looking with mercy glasses or my Father’s eyes.). My children, for all their issues, have a love for God and His people that is unshakeable. Despite a nasty custody battle, they are accepting my encouragement to respect their father and his family, and they are praying for true conversion and peace in his and his family’s hearts. (And God is answering them.)

Their faith can move mountains. My oldest daughter prayed my mother’s migraine away one day a few years ago. The only type of headache my mother has had since then has been sinus, amazing because my mother’s migraines were legendary. As kids, if the door was locked to her room and the house was dark, we knew to entertain ourselves quietly and stay away until she felt better. My youngest asked St. Joseph’s intercession with his foster son Jesus for a step dad; less than two years later, I am happily married to a good, decent Christian man (not to say we don’t have our moments).

They have strength I don’t understand. At the end of my rope on a particularly bad day when I was sandwiched between an Aspergers-related meltdown and my older twin’s self-loathing and hatred session filled with tears, my younger twin (technically, middle child) asked me which of her sisters she could help. I sent her to my youngest daughter with instructions on deep breathing and constant, rhythmic back rubbing. My middle daughter made me want to weep. Emotionally under 10, she stepped to the plate when I needed someone most and gave me courage and energy to deal with the older twin.

These two steps began the journey of a lifetime. I am working on forgiving myself. I am so glad for some of my Protestant friends. They have taught me forgiveness is not a feeling. It is a choice. You must revisit it daily, and sometimes every second. I am a much different person because I let go of what I wanted and started looking at what really matters. Forgiveness—not just for others, but also for me—is part of that package. Yes, I have bad days where I don’t get the balancing act right. But I just go back to the first lesson in forgiveness, especially for me.

Through forgiveness, I have learned so much more. First and foremost, I’ve stopped assuming and using my assumptions to form judgments on other people’s behaviors and actions. I’ve started thinking outside the lines to learn that motives may be different than what are perceived. From dropping judgment, I learned both mercy and humility:

  • Mercy because we never know what another is truly thinking and because appearances can deceive
  • Humility because you never know if a person is having a rough life with circumstances far worse than your own

Finally, I learned to love another person for who they are, not what they can do for me. The work-a-day, career woman lifestyle left me hard and jaded inside. Having three kids who would probably never contribute more to society than a smile and a good attitude makes you see things differently. If you’ve been there and someone else hasn’t, the other person will never be able to fully understand the metamorphosis that goes on inside of you. I often take hope from the statement, made by a parent on one of the numerous Facebook support groups I participate in (sorry, don’t remember the person’s name), that my children may never cure cancer or the common cold or win the Noble Peace Prize, but someday, their smiles or spontaneous hugs just might stop that individual who would do those things from committing suicide (if I can buffer them from the bullies trying to create the same fate for my kids).

A final thought—are children part of the equation? Must you have children to learn these lessons? In my case, only having other humans relying on me for their protection and well being was what taught me these lessons. I truly believe without my children I would not have learned what I have learned and my emotional and spiritual life would be quite poor.

Parenting like forgiveness is a process—give it time.