Good Parenting ISN’T Easy

The other day at my 60 something appointment since February I got two comments, in regards to our big family, ones that I get too often.

“It must be hard.” and “You seem so calm.”

First of all, parenting brings the best out in a person but it can bring out the worst as well. My husband and I are no more “special” than the next parent. And trust me we have been pushed to our limits more than our fair share on this parenting journey. So if you think I am calm…thank you. But really you are looking at the work God has done in me or you just caught me at the right moment.

Second, of course, it is not easy. Good parenting is never easy. Raising a child into a functioning, civilized, caring human being, one who knows they are capable of reaching their potential takes work. That is raising them from day one, with your DNA. Throw in someone else’s’ DNA and all that goes into raising kids from foster care and no it is not easy.

Today I see things in a different light. I used to take so much for granted when I only parented our bio kids. Sometimes it takes a broken mirror to show you just how important the little things you did really are. So many of the little moments, just talking about the everyday things like “Oh, look at that bird,” all of the small touches, the little everyday connections, if missing can really affect a child. Not to mention when bad stuff happens.

My husband and I truly feel no different than the next good parent trying their hardest. We have no special super powers (though I wish we did, they’d sure come in handy). We haven’t taken any over the top intense training to prepare us for this. A lot of it has been off the cuff parenting, a LOT of praying and yes, a lot of failing.

Moms and dads, don’t let the media or those around you pressure you into feeling like you are not a good parent. None of us are great…well okay there are those among us. None of our lives are Pinterest perfect. (At least no one I know.) We all make mistakes, we all yell at times, we all lose it and you know what…that’s okay. We are showing our kids that it’s okay to be human, to be less than perfect. It’s okay it mess up. They get to see how we handle failure, how we handle a stressful situation, a major plot twist in life. To me, that is what real parents do. If you don’t have laminated ABC’s on your walls…it’s okay. Your kids don’t care. They want your time and attention. They want to be bored and discover things on their own. They need to fall and figure out how to get up on their own.

Parenting isn’t for sissies for sure, but I really haven’t met too many of those, so you are more than likely going to be just fine as a parent. So pull up your big girl/boy panties and stand your ground, spend time with your kids, make the hard decisions (I have said this more than once, “I want you to be safe more than I want you to be happy.) Make your kids do chores, teach them to forgive, show them how to notice and accept others around them. Give them new experiences in and out of their comfort zones. Let them cry, let them feel pain, let them know the depths of messing up and being forgiven. Show them grace, give them order, hold them accountable.

Parenting is hard. Parenting sometimes sucks. But parenting is also very worth it.

 

 

 

ADHD + PTSD

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This sums up what living with and living with a child or two with ADHD looks like.

Peaceful? Not exactly. More like so exhausting you end up crashing on the floor. God knows I have left my heavily exhausted body imprinted on the floor many times. (Thank God for vacuums. They take away the evidence in seconds.)

Before our ninos came into our lives, and even awhile afterward, Hubby and I held onto the notion that ADHD was more of a lack of good parenting than organic, something “real”. Yes, they were hyper. Yes, they were impulsive, very impulsive. Yes, they were forgetful. Yes, they were…but we chalked it up to the neglect and trauma they had suffered through. It wasn’t until our 9-year-old (7 at the time) REALLY struggled in every area in school and our 13-year-old (11 at the time) had way too many signs that we had them tested. We had them tested for a number of things. Both came back with ADHD. Now our 13-year-old is NOT hyper at all. He is the quiet, mellow one in the bunch, but boy was he fidgety. He also had these “ticks” (before meds).

Fast forward to the present. After trying various different natural remedies, diet changes, and behavioral management techniques without seeing the change we needed we made the decision to put both boys on medicine for ADHD/PTSD. He started out being treated for symptoms of PTSD, without results. So we tried the ADHD route. This seemed to work great. Now he will tell you he can’t feel or tell if the medicine makes any difference. At all! More on this in a minute. Mr. Bubblewrap started out with ADHD meds with great results. He still forgets, is still impulsive, still pretty active, but it is now much more manageable. We ended up having to put him on PTSD meds as well. We call these his emo pills.

We are still doing behavior management and try natural remedies. These we would more than likely be doing with or without ADHD present in our lives. Our hope and goal is to eventually do away with the meds all together, especially for the PTSD. For now, this is where we are.

For now, we still remind, we still say focus a lot. We have also added a 20 min quiet time for Mr. Bubblewrap after school. This is not a punishment but a measure of prevention. He can have this alone time, quiet time to regroup, gather his thoughts, etc. before joining the family. It has really helped him make that transition from school to home life. He has even started setting the timer and putting himself in quiet time without being told. If you are familiar with kids with ADHD then you know this is huge. We also have him nap on weekends. He doesn’t have to sleep just have quiet time.

For this color coordinated closet organized mama, kids with such forgetful, disorganized behaviors have been hard. This level of unorganized lives doesn’t make sense to me. However, I too am learning, am adjusting, and doing what I can to help our kids. While ADHD type of behavior can be caused by the lack of good parenting, I am much less judgmental and have come to grips that for now the kids, heck, we need that extra help the medicine provides us.

An Epiphany

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I have been working on a post about how we do chores. It is written and finished, BUT it is so very long. So while I am figuring out how to shorten it I want to share this something with you all.

We have pulled a Donald Trump and fired our 9-year-old. For the sake of the emotional well-being of our home, we fired him from the dishes. You see while he is very capable of doing them he gets so deregulated that he really isn’t capable of doing them. While he did just great last year, this year is a completely different story.

99% of the time when it is his turn to do the dishes he gets so emotional that it isn’t worth it. He gets upset, mom gets upset, dad gets upset, etc. The older kids had no problem taking over his slot.

No regulating tricks have work, no strategies have worked, no “just suck it up and do the dishes” have worked. So for now, maybe for awhile, he isn’t doing the dishes.

The epiphany…physical or even cognitive capability isn’t what we need to measure. The ability to be emotionally capable is.

Mama Broke

So, a couple of weeks ago, I snapped. I blew up. Let me set the stage.

I woke from a fitful afternoon nap to find Hubby, Nana, and Mr. Bubblewrap at the kitchen counter. Hubby casually said something to Mr. Bubblewrap about putting away the camera. That is when I half woke up. Woke up in a fit of such frustration that I lost it. I didn’t throw things or hit anyone. But my words…ouch! I really wish I could take them back. But like toothpaste, once it is out you can’t put it back in.

You see, our eldest daughter just gave me the camera (this is not a point and shoot camera either) the night before. I had set it on the far end of the counter to check it out myself and then put away when I got a minute. BUT my trigger got tripped. Ever since our ninos came they have been learning personal space. They knew no boundaries. Everything was fair game. I have even had feminine needs pulled out of my purse by one of the children. Mr. Bubblewrap is also nine and is not the most gentle of persons when handling items.

My tolerance levels had been building and building, or should I say filling and filling. I do NOT like to micromanage at all. It stresses me out more than most things. For me, trying to find a way to raise kids with as little micromanaging as possible has been a task ever since I became a mom. Getting kids from foster care amplifies that need to micromanage, to teach, to get them caught up. It seems at times it is teaching, redirecting, disciplining, more redirecting, etc. non-stop. This was one of those seasons. And something had to give. Unfortunately, it was me that broke. Broke in a wrong way.

One of the main sources of micromanaging had become the chores. For our ninos, chores were something they were not raised with. (That could be a whole other post.) I was constantly reminding them to do their chores, asking them if they did this or that. Each time met with an eye roll at best. Then there’s checking to make sure the job was done right. Times that by at least three kids and it gets taxing.

After cooling off and asking for forgiveness, especially with Hubby, Hubby and I had a private meeting in our bathroom. I tell you our bathroom has been a sanctuary for me, a place for meetings, etc. It is really a great place. LOL! Anyway, we came up with a new chore system. It goes along with our “tic mark” system. More on these systems in a later post.

So far the new system has helped. We also had a family meeting to lay out some more guidelines and remind the kids of some we already had in place. I also, besides praying, opened up to a sister in church about my outbursts. We briefly talked and it helped just to be open with someone, another mom, who knew me and could understand.

As always, when I replay the situations in my head I react better. In this case, I could’ve/probably should’ve done this: Upon hearing and seeing son with the camera kindly taken it from him and told him in a calm voice, “You know I feel really disrespected, violated (whatever adjective fit) right now. But for the sack of our relationship, I am going to choose to let this one go.” Then walk away with my camera in hand. Then in private talk to Hubby about how the whole thing affected me.

Whether or not that would’ve worked I don’t know, but I would’ve felt better about myself.

 

Dear Birth Mom

Dear birth mom to my son,

Yesterday our, your, my son became a teenager.

Yesterday I wondered if you were thinking about him at all, wondering how he’s turning out.

Our, my son is turning out to be one great young man. He opens doors for others now, helps out, is polite and a hard worker. He is one of the funniest, most real kids I know. He and I have some of the most straight-forward conversations, deep and lighthearted at the same time.

He has overcome many obstacles in these past couple of years. His grades and academic confidence have gone up. He works hard to achieve the grades he gets. He makes friends easy. Has begun to make wise decisions concerning his choices. He is not afraid to stand up for what he believes and is who is his.

He is starting to really see that he is much smarter than anyone has ever told him he was. Starting believe he can achieve many more things. He is stepping out of comfort zone and trying new things.

Our, my son has been giving wise advice to his younger brother. Seeing the same behaviors in him that he has overcome. He is compassionate and caring with the youngest in the house.

Though he may be quiet, he sure knows how to tell a good joke. When he gives a compliment take it because he sincerely means it.

Dear mom to my son, do you miss him or wonder how he is? Did you feel a twinge of loss yesterday in your heart? Dear mom, he his loved. He is cared for. He is growing into a fine and decent young man.

Thank you for relinquishing your rights so that I could be his mom.

Signed,

Our son’s mom

The Road Ahead pt.1

As the clouds cover the mountains in our back, backyard an off and on mist like drizzle dampens the thirsty ground, I actually share a Facebook a two-year-old memory on my page:

“So, today is THE big day that we get our kids. I woke up feeling a little off (okay more than a little). I couldn’t put my finger on it until my dad texts me and asked if the labor pains have started. THAT’S it!! Mental labor pains, emotional labor pains. Yes, I am totally feeling the labor pains. I am not going to lie, taking on four kids is pretty huge. I try not to think of what God has asked us to do very often, as the responsibility can seem too much. I just take one day at a time with a big goal in mind. I am much more excited than scared, but so much has gone into this time, into getting kids, these kids, so many “what if’s” that we have heard for two plus years. Life is never going to be the same for us…but then again it wasn’t from the day we met them. Thank you all for your support and help and prayers through this all. You honestly don’t know how it strengthens me. Okay, I need to get off and finish getting ready we have a lot of road time ahead of us.”

When we went to a CYFD sponsored adoption event hours away, we had no idea the outcome. No idea if we find “the” kid or kids. No idea if our adoption journey would continue on the three-year long road for finding our child/children or if God’s GPS would lead us on a completely different path. All we knew was there were some kids a few social workers had for us to meet. We knew their names and ages, and some workers provided a bit more information. As the event went along we met most of the kids on our “list” and none seemed to click. I kept asking about the sib group of four we were told about. Half way through I had to use the porta- potty and literally ran into and a 10-year-old boy who would soon be our son. He was coming out of the porta-potty as I walked passed. I quickly scooped out the other kids that were nearby, four of them, who look to be about the ages we were told.  As I answered nature’s call I listened to see if any names were spoken by the group washing their hands at the portable washing station. None. As soon as I was done I headed over to the station myself. Again, trying to check out the kids without looking like a stalker, also trying to still my heart at the little one on the stroller reaching his hands out to me. With clean, dry hands I made my way to the only adult in the group. I introduced myself to her. Ms. L replied; “You are the one!” and we proceeded to make quick small talk and she introduced me to the shy, apprehensive sib group standing before me.

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(Us at the adoption event in our red bandanas.)

Now, there are no words to really explain how you feel when you meet kids who could one day be yours. You want to take them all into your arms at once and run away with them. At the same time, you want to walk into this as if you had to choose between door number one or door number two. Door number one being the “Let’s walk away now and wait for an easier road.” Or door number two: “What the heck are we doing? What the heck are we waiting for? What the heck are we doing?” no turning back door. I had so many questions. I wanted the event to stop so we could just talk to the kids, to their worker and really get to know them. And boy, oh boy, could I just squeeze the little chubster in the stroller.

I hurried to find Hubby and our eldest son so they could meet Ms. L and the kids too. I’d like to say we played it cool, and not seemed too eager, like many of the other parents looking for their child. But part of it is a bit blurred. I know we milled around with Ms. L and the sib group for a bit. At one point I mentioned that when Little Man in the stroller held out his arms to me, I wanted to grab him right up. To which Ms. L replied in her (sorry for any racial tones here) stereotypical welcoming African American woman voice, with her all-encompassing personality, “Go right ahead.” “Really?!?” I took that happy boy right into my arms and was he heavy!

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(Do you see the lady in the jean skirt and white tank top? That’s me next to our eldest son. The little feet right in front of me belong to our soon to be youngest son.)

Again, much of that day was a blur, so many thoughts, so many emotions are involved in one of these events. I do remember the turning point was at lunch. When Ms. L let us eat with the kids. I quickly looked up ahead at what was being served, told the kids and got their orders. It was hot, it was dry and like I said it was a bag of mixed emotions for the waiting parents and waiting kids. So small talk didn’t always come easy. While we sat at our table eating, some picking at hot dogs and burgers we tried to ask the most neutral questions as possible, trying to find out as much as possible in so short a time.

As the event came to a close, and “our” sib group made an early exit, we were left to decide, left to talk about the road ahead, left to comment to the unknown or not. I still remember sitting on the edge of my seat trying to remain ladylike in my jean skirt while removing the enormous amount of goat heads from my brown and teal mary jane crocs. Non-stop talking was going on, while we took off our red bandanas and contemplated out future. The road home was a long one, made even longer both the weight of the decision we faced and the wait of starting the journey ahead.

Fractured Perspective

At the end of February, our little one suffered a second bone fracture. A new one! Read about the original one here.

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Long story short the preschool staff let him climb on playground equipment too soon and he fell. We are also going to see a pediatric orthopedic doctor to have our son’s  bones checked, blood work.

Having a child with a physical disability even a temporary one helps you see things in a different perspective. It gives you a much deeper appreciation for what the parent/s and caretakers of children with long term physical problems go through.

Can we talk about just the sheer number of doctors appointments involved? And the paperwork! This alone can be a part-full time exhausting job. Thank God we don’t live far at all to most of the doctors we have needed to see, but even that takes time. Getting the wheelchair in and out of the vehicle, helping your child into the said wheelchair. Finding the wheelchair accessible ramp (which is never a short cut), handicapped parking is usually taken, navigating in and out doorways (thank you every place that has automatic opening doors). Keeping your child entertained during the inevitable waits. Keeping your child calm when he is freaked out, doesn’t want to be examined, x-rayed, etc. Comforting him and apologizing to the staff afterward. Then there are the pizza (or whatever food treat you bribed him with) runs you promised if he were brave.

The diagnosis: You always hope and pray for the best, but brace for the worst. Okay, bad, bad fracture…so bad they are calling it a break. I can do this for 5-6 weeks. You learn to look at the light at the end of the tunnel. Then you get told a few weeks in that your son isn’t healing right and may need surgery. NOT what any parent wants to hear. You get a miracle, no surgery! Praise God. The weeks are over, you pushed it through. The cast comes off and your son can’t even walk without assistance for more than a couple of weeks. Just when he gets to walking fairly well, he falls…a whole new fracture in the growth plate, nonetheless. More diagnosis, more tears, screams of painful fear, more comforting, more tests. More waiting. More pushing it through. More enduring, grinning and bearing it. And yet our situation is mild to what I am sure a terminal diagnosis is like.IMG_2191

The added workload: our son is four, too small for crutches. He is dependent on us to take him to the toilet, put him up to eat, dress and undress him. Sponge baths are hard for all involved. You would think we are torturing him every time. So draining. He is really good at getting around on his own. Whether that’s scooting on his bum or in the wheelchair. His independent nature helps him in this area. His active imagination also helps him not get too bored being pretty much home bound. This boy is an outdoor kid and it hurts that he can’t go out and play. In a sense, we have gone backward. He was just getting to the point where he could pretty much dress himself and other such independent skill.

The emotional wear: It is NEVER easy when your child is hurt, really hurt. I can totally handle normal scrapes and bumps. When it goes beyond the normal you want to go into mama bear mode, build your child a safe bubble for him to live in the rest of his life. But that is not practical or wise. With the leg cast, we have bumped into walls more than once. Even though our little son hasn’t complained too much about it at all, knowing how tough and brave he is still gets to you. When he cries out while getting casted “I want to go home” ugh, it still brings tears to my eyes and heart. Knowing how much he has spent in the doctors, hospitals already since he was born saddens me. The anger you feel towards those to let it happen. The frustration you feel when people are not their nicest when you are just trying to help your baby and are at your lowest for that day. When you feel helpless. Again, I can’t imagine if it were long term or terminal.

I have found an unexpected loneliness too. No one can truly know the struggle this puts on a family, an individual unless they have gone through something similar. Not everyone wants to hear your story or even notice there is a story. Also a-not-so silent judgment at the looks we get. We already stand out because of our ethnic differences pair that with a bright orange cast. I want to loudly tell some people “It NOT my fault. I DIDN’T hurt my baby!”

The decisions: We have had to make many medical decisions for our four-year-old in these past two years. Most have been the right ones, and one, well we really had no choice and it may have caused him to talk differently. Another we are totally opting out which not everyone agrees with. As a parent, you are ALWAYS making decisions for your kids, for their short-term and long-term future. Yet the medical ones seem harder, no matter how much research you do.

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(This pretty much sums up how we all feel about the whole situation.)

To wrap this extra long post up, I know I don’t fully know the depths of the hardship having a child with greater medical needs than a two-time fractured leg, but I have a much greater understanding than I had before. I have a greater appreciation for life when these things don’t happen. Also, I have a gratefulness to our God who has strengthened us through it all. At times when I should’ve broken, God gave me the strength to rise above and keep the victory.