A mothers guilt

I have said those words to myself a thousand times, but typing those words out for all the world to see…(deep breath)..it stings a little…

A mothers guilt…this mothers guilt.

I can speak as a mom, and I by no means am trying to say ALL moms feel this way, or are this way, but I hope there are others who understand.

We have to make decisions that will affect our children’s lives. It will affect who they become, and there’s always going to be those stories they tell people about their memories of things, good, bad and in-between. I have stories about my mother. My mom lost her mother at a very young age, so she didn’t get the privilege (I mean that) to complain to her mom about how her own kids (one of which is me 🙂 ) were driving her crazy. Or ask her mom “how did you do it mom!” or to say what I have said a gazillion times to my mom “I’m so sorry for what I put you through”. Mostly I apologize for being a self centered, lazy teenager. And my mom smiles and says “you don’t have to apologize to me”. Yes I do. That’s how I show my mom how differently I see things now as a mother compared to how I saw them as that bratty teenager. And they are not just words to me, I truly mean it from the bottom of my heart. I’m sure my mom doesn’t want my apology because, well, because she’s mom. Mom’s understand their kids will make mistakes, lots of them in fact. Moms hope they can help avoid some obvious mistakes, but I’m learning sometimes us moms must sit back and let the rocks tumble. But when things go wrong and it hurts our kids we moms are always so hard on ourselves, that wonderful “mothers guilt”.

This is going to sound crazy, but I really got lucky with my girls. I was 18 when I got pregnant. I didn’t even know how to take care of myself let alone a baby or two!  Which meant I didn’t eat right, I didn’t sleep enough, or I slept to much, I skipped my prenatal vitamins a lot (they made me nauseous) I stressed myself to tears daily. I was unhappy. I was 18, unmarried, and my boyfriend of 3 years broke up with me after I got pregnant. I had to drop out of college, lost my scholarship. I lost my job because I got put on bed rest. I already felt the mothers guilt. I felt bad for bringing my kids into a single parent home, with no dad in the picture (at the time) and I had no money to take care of them. The depression I felt was actually my mothers guilt I’m sure.

As a kid I dreamed of a fancy future, a high paying career, I was going to be someone important! I always remember picturing myself in a loft downtown with an area for my art with paint brushes and a work in project sitting on an easel. Anyway, being an 18 year old unemployed single pregnant teen was the farthest thing from my dream. My dad was dying of cancer, my mom was in her midlife crisis and my best friend dumped me. I was a depressed wreck. But a miracle happened, well 2. I gave birth to two beautiful and healthy baby girls who brightened my world beyond my imagination. They had a few minor health issues as babies, but overall they were very healthy babies! By 6 months they slept through the night. They weren’t picky eaters, I just had to cut up the meat and hide it in mashed potatoes. They were full of smiles and giggles and they shined everywhere we went. I eventually got back to college. I didn’t think I could love anything or anyone as much I loved those girls! I was lonely sure, but I didn’t really picture myself with anyone. I accepted it was me and them girls forever. So I spoiled them, dressed them alike, gave lots of hugs and kisses, did their hair every day in pig tails, I enjoyed them because as far as I was concerned they would be my only children. Then life threw me a curve ball, well a lot of curve balls and with each of those came more guilt.

I met a guy, looking back I’m honestly mad at my mother for encouraging it. But she was just happy to see me happy again and the idea of me not having to raise my girls alone was nice. What a fool I was. I can’t express how much guilt I have locked away over this one, but it is what it is. Lessons were learned. I became a much stronger person from it all. And in 2002 I gave birth to a bouncing baby boy. It was a very, very, very difficult and long delivery. I was in labor for over 27 hours and actively pushed for nearly seven hours, mind you this after having my twins by c-section. My son was 9 pounds and he couldn’t get out. I have guilt over picking that quack doctor.

From day one Ryan had health issues. He didn’t sleep, he was always hungry but like the girl from the exorcist, he threw everything up. It was awful. Jaundice, fevers, ear infections, acid reflux (I never knew a baby could have that!) eczema, sick all the time he was. The guilt over his birth still eats at me. I was again going through another pregnancy alone but this time also raising twin four year olds. The last thing I wanted was to be raising 3 kids by two different fathers alone, going through a divorce. What a catch I made my myself! At least I had a job this time. (there’s my sarcasm) Do I need to explain where the mothers guilt fits in this part of the story? God I hope not!

Fast forward through a lot of crappy choices that came with more of..you guessed it… mothers guilt.

Let’s see, I have no idea where to start on this part… Hmm.. okay, 2004 was the first time I took Ryan in for outside help. Ryan was always so much more work than my girls were. I’m sure I’m exaggerating but I honestly remember the girls always being so easy. You said “no, don’t touch that” they didn’t touch it. Shocking I know! I mean, they’d give me a poutty face, immediately followed by a big smile and a “shake that booty..uh uh..shake that booty baby” such easy kids. Ryan is a tester, a button pusher, he likes to test the limits and push buttons. He’s honery! Anyways, 2004 fast forward through alot of mis-diagnoses, therapy, behavior modification, medical tests and hospitalizations…and the overwhelming guilt that comes with all that… Ryan actually has Epilepsy, and ADHD. He’s a great kid though. He’s funny, charming, peculiar, artistic, loving, smart, jokester, thoughtful. But he’s had a rough road, course thank god he had me and his sisters because it takes a whole lot of love to get a person through what he was.

And the guilt over all the stuff I fast forwarded through? Well there’s just so much to explain, to sum it up, I learned how to be my child’s advocate. I learned how to navigate my way through the system. The medical, the insurance, the doctors, the school, IEP’s, I became obsessed with it all. Why? My guilt. It’s silly really. Most people don’t know about this stuff, we trust the doctors and the schools to do right by us and our kids. BUT I learned a very important lesson. We must educate ourselves too, moms (and dads if they are involved) are the most important person to stand and fight for our kids.

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A calm after the storm

The Storm Hit and stuck around for a bit

To sum things up, my family has been hit hard. The storm came and just stayed. It kept turning and moving and spinning. On numerous occasions I found myself dizzy from the whirlwind. Physically exhausted, mentally burnt, and wondering when it would stop hitting us with new blows. Just let up already! Hadn’t we survived enough storms?

Learning to find the Light

I’m learning to find peace and light in whatever little things I can. It’s to hard when I focus on the negative things. It’s scary and quite frankly there’s too damn many of them to think about. So I’m trying to focus on the things I’m thankful for. This doesn’t come naturally for me, I have to work at it. But I am starting to see the gifts and stay focused on them because it makes me feel better.

It’s Okay

For some reason things are okay. I say this shocked because I had “checked out” for a while. I didn’t focus on the parenting plans or behavior strategy’s. I didn’t even think about all the appointments I needed to make and all the things I needed to get done, doctors to follow-up with for my son. I just didn’t care, it was not in me. While my body got some much-needed rest, I cut myself off from the world. My kids saw that even Supermom runs out of juice. I didn’t harp on them about vacuuming, or doing their dishes. I didn’t notice if the litter box was getting scooped. I didn’t say a word when my son repeatedly left his dirty clothes on the bathroom floor, right next to the clothes bin. I stopped pointing out that someone left the shower curtain open instead of pulling it straight to make the bathroom look tidy. I didn’t get up before the sun to feed the pets and start laundry and frantically run around the house before I had to leave for work. I didn’t have my usual “to do” list to remind me “don’t forget to do this today!”.  I stopped shaving my legs, I didn’t bother with painting my toes, I can’t believe how many gray hairs I really have when I don’t color my hair. I just pretty much stopped everything. My body caved under all the pressure and I physically had nothing left to give.

I felt guilty about it. I know my kids hated watching me fall down and unable to get back up. I was SUPERMOM with super powers controlling our world, not anymore. I hated knowing they had to see it, day in and day out watching me in my self-pity. We all only told a select few at first, I was embarrassed that I was now “unemployed” and without a plan. But once I got past worrying about all of it, I realized something. Something I needed to know all this time. The world didn’t fall apart. Everything was still okay!

My kids picked up the slack. Sure they all took advantage of not having to follow the rigid schedule of chores. They enjoyed mom not complaining about who did or didn’t do whatever. Who can blame them! But you know what? They knew what things were most important and what things could sit and wait. The pets got fed, but I didn’t do it! Every now and then a load of laundry was done, magically. The house was picked up, we all got fed, and somehow it didn’t matter that I wasn’t controlling it anymore. That’s when I started to breathe.

I still constantly apply for jobs, but I can even do it from my phone now. These smart-phones are amazing, just miniature computers in the palm of my hand! Instead of sitting at the computer, I played fetch with the dog. I watched a lot of junk TV with the kids. I even read a little bit. I looked at every option and decided I’m going back to college. I’m already registered. And guess what, I’m not even sure exactly what degree I want and it’s still okay! See, I’m a planner. I have to know everything in advance, schedule for it, arrange all the details. I’m learning I don’t need to do that anymore because things still work out. Even when the plan changes, it all works out.

Now when I decided to bring some structure back it wasn’t an easy task. My son is a very stubborn boy. We played “bull” for quite a few days trying to see which one of us was going to outlast the other. It was not fun and I wasn’t sure I had it in me anymore. At one point I was ready to throw in the towel and I got a call from a great lady who sat on the phone with me, reminding me how I did it before and telling me it was okay I got off track. That’s life! It was the perfect motivator and rejuvenated me, and then I realized he was throwing in the towel instead. I didn’t go back to all of the lessons and strategy’s we recently learned. I did take pieces of them though and found a way to make it work. Eventually he stopped fighting me. The power of a cable TV is pretty darn strong. I learned that’s the key, at least for my son. I don’t sit next to him constantly redirecting him to clean his room. He just didn’t get the TV until he did what I asked him to do. Slowly I realized his fights weren’t such terrible battles anymore. He was learning it was better to just get it over with and do what mom asked. I wince at typing this for fear that I may ruin the progress. (Knock on wood Heather, quickly before it’s too late!)

Today I made my dear son pick up the mess in the living room. It was his after all. I keep the remote until he finishes the job. He needed to clear his dirty dishes, pick up the wrappers and re-organize the stack of DVD’s he took out. When he asked me nicely for the remote I just calmly reminded him “Sure, once you finish picking up the living room”. There is no caving in from me, at least not today. I checked the room before I gave him the remote. Something I always needed to do before, but was too exhausted from work to follow through with. Now he doesn’t waste my time with 10 trips of me checking to see he had not done anything yet. I just calmly ask “Did you get the dishes yet? And the trash? And those DVD’s got put back in the proper cases right?” That last one took him a little while. He just kept whining and pouting how hard it is and why should it matter if they are in the right cases if they’re just his movies anyway? I just simply answered the question, calmly stating “because I said so” at the end. Eventually, after about an hour, maybe two, he finally did all the steps, properly. And he was proud of himself. (and I am proud of us both!)

I write this detailed reminder not for other parents who may read this and need the tips. I write it to remind ME why it’s working now. I’m not frantically pacing the house to get all the chores done and stressing about all those papers I still need to get done at the office. I’m not stressed out because I still haven’t had the time or energy to organize the closet. My mind isn’t racing with 30 things I need to make sure gets done at work because I’m doing 3 people’s work while they get to relax watching YouTube, frustrated at the lack of concern the owner has about his own company. I’m not angry anymore about the lack of involvement and interest he had. I’m not stewing over the fact that the owner is an unreasonable and unappreciative jerk blowing me off every time I discuss logical and necessary changes to be addressed. Sigh…I was overworked, unappreciated and undervalued which contributed to a toxic work environment, I’m not dealing with that anymore. I’m not thinking which step of the new behavior strategy I forgot to follow through with either. I’m not stressing. I’m breathing. I’m calm.

I’m still in a storm, but I’m okay, me and the kids. I understand the term “calm after the storm” and I have faith that it’s all going to work out. I just hope I’m right.

Life Lesson #33012

Life Lesson #32912

Sometimes we need to be selfish and do something nice for ourselves. Let go of the guilt from doing it too!

Life Lesson #32812

Frame every so-called disaster with these words….

“In five years, will this matter?”

Your a good mom

I hear this alot…not from my kids. Okay, sometimes from my kids, but more from other people. I know I’m a good mom (I think I am at least) but it is nice to hear it. Even as an adult I want to be praised!

I’m sitting in the hospital with my son for his 4th video EEG. I remember the first time he had one and how I didn’t expect anything to come from it. The second one I wasn’t sure exactly what the doctors would find. I thought either it would confirm the epilepsy diagnoses or say he wasn’t even having seizures at all. The 3rd one I couldn’t believe how badly I wanted him to have a seizure! We were there for 5 days waiting for one. We loaded him with sugar and pop and made him stay up late, woke him up early, anything to bring one on. I even cranked up the heat to sweat one out of him! (he gets them when he overheats) I was completely and utterly exhausted.

One night me and my girls played a game to encourage Ryan to hyperventilate for the doctor, which means make him breathe fast. So the game was dare or dare, because Ryan hates the truth part of truth or dare so he said only the dare part. So me and his (amazing) sisters would allow Ryan to dare us to do silly embarrassing things in trade for 10 fast breaths. Each dare was more humiliating than the last one and we would increase the breaths. “If I do that you better give me 15 breaths!” I had to sing and dance “walk like an Egyptian” mind you our room had glass walls so all the floor could see(the one time I appreciated the staff not paying attention). One of my girls had to let Ryan give her a wet willy holding his finger in her ear for 5 seconds (bless your heart Ashley). Breanna’s turn came and Ryan wanted to give her a wet willy for 10 seconds and Breanna absolutely refused! “no way! You probably haven’t brushed your teeth” and right as she said that word Ryan swiped his finger across her tongue. The finger that sat in Ashley’s ear for 5 seconds(I think he even picked his nose…gross I know)! LOL! We couldn’t stop laughing, Breanna couldn’t wipe her tongue off hard enough! We even talked a nurse into dancing like a chicken for 20 breaths! That was the best time during that whole 5 days, we laughed so hard!  This mom doesn’t enjoy her baby (he’s 10 I know…but my kids are all still my babies)staying in a hospital. I just wanted the test to be done but also giving the doctors the results they needed.

This is the 4th EEG, we’re hoping for a 24 hour stay, but it could go 48 hours. I pray for 24 hours. My doggies at home will be going crazy tonight since I’m not there, one night is enough. Don’t make them suffer for 2 nights!  Anyway back to my title…

I am told by a lot of people that I’m a good mom. I hear many things, usually encouraging. But my first thought is usually “well what is the other option?” Because the way I see it, there’s no choice for me. He needs me here! I am the only parent he has! The only person he can count on, to never break their promise to him! I need to support him and he needs these tests, he has Epilepsy for crying out loud! This is what a mother does! You sacrifice and suffer for your kids! That’s what the title mom means! I know this is the last thing he wants to do, I need to be here! But the truth is, not all moms think the same. Not all moms can do this. I didn’t think I’d be this mom. I honestly never imagined having a child with health issues. You dream of your baby being perfect, counting 10 fingers and 10 toes. I would have never imagined I’d be this strong. But that’s what being a mom is. There are so many parts to make us good parents. We weren’t born with them, we learn them as we go. The struggles create strength. Pain creates appreciation. All of the steps we’ve gone through had a purpose, a lesson for us. It’s up to us to grab them and learn from them. Let the lessons make us better people, better parents.

I am a good mom.

A look into the future

So I seriously am cutting and pasting pieces of emails I have sent out because as I typed it I thought “oh that sounds good for my blog” but by the time I get home from work, do my chores, laundry, dinner, visit with my kids (half asleep might I add) I am just too exhausted to think let alone write!

Chatting with a friend today I was discussing a current topic, an issue with my son and school. I couldn’t help but feel my son has been dealt such a hard hand. I know I’m being the best mom to him, but he deserves better than all the crap he’s been given (medical issues and a terrible sperm donor/father with its own set of issues). All the issues combined make his life more complicated and difficult. More than a little boy should have to process… This morning when I was waking him up, I was combing my fingers thru his thick dark hair and all I could think to myself is I pray to god all these struggles he’s going thru are to help him become an amazing person who will do great in the world in some way. That would be the purpose for all that he’s gone through. To make his adult journey easier using this turmoil to help others because he can relate. By being able to relate to others he can open doors with people because they know he’s been there. Will he be a counselor at Boystown? Or a police officer? Or maybe a worker to help children in domestic violence situations? God knows they’ve all been through so much, they can use it as lessons to help others.

My girls and I have been talking about college and careers, what they want to be. At one time Ashley wanted to work with special needs kids, having been there for her brother gave her the desire to use that to help others. Now Breanna is thinking of becoming a teacher! I discussed with her an option just to consider. There are not many people who can work with special needs kids. It takes an extra special person. God must give those people 10 times as much patience as the normal person! And 10 times as much compassion, so they sympathize and think first how difficult it must be for those kids.

My son has been blessed with many great teachers over the years. They have worked so hard, needing to give my son extra time and attention to keep him on task. Extra patience to tolerate his constant fidgeting and interrupting (because he might forget his thought if he doesn’t say it the moment it pops in his head!). Compassion to work with him on his hard days, when he is not likeable and just grumpy. A loving and kind heart to nurture him when he’s feeling sad or scared, comfort him when he’s not feeling well. And be a motivator to get him to feel like he’s a rock star and get his work done! Let’s not forget humor because these kids need to learn it’s okay to laugh at ourselves. Honestly, there are not enough kind words to say about the staff that work with kids like my son.

He’s had more than his share of bad apples along the way. But I remind myself and Ryan those bad apples show us how extra special the good apples are. They are rare and magnificent. They see these kids in some of their worst moments, they get called terrible names, shoes thrown at them, yet they still hug those kids. They still greet them with a smile on their face, and encourage them with kind words. And remind these kids what they need to hear more than the other kids, they are still good kids. It is a hard job, and under appreciated. Those teachers should get their own day each year, like presidents day!

As I shared some stories with my daughter about my son’s typical school day and how he understood not all the teachers could handle being around him and his friends, because as he said “we’re just odd…meaning not normal”. Sad and amazing all in one that a ten year old boy sees all that. My daughter’s face was sad as she listened. And I couldn’t help but think “is this what I want her sign up for!”. Of course I am not pressuring her one way or another. She could make a difference as an english teacher, or 2nd grade general ed teacher! Both my girls are amazing and wonderful at anything they do. So I sat for a moment thinking, picturing her as a special ed teacher. Then my girls joked how cool if they both did it, and how awesome if they worked in the same school, they’d have their “twin twitch” to share through the day. That’s a look they give each other and they know what the other is thinking….my son was so excited “I want you to work in my class!”. We were all laughing and smiling, it was fun just to imagine.

No matter what career path my kids chose, I know they will do great things. I knew if they worked with special needs kids they’d have ALOT of very hard days that they couldn’t wait to clock out at the end of the day….but those moments when they got thru to those kids…those moments they made a child feel safe and happy and got a hug. Or helped them finish their math assignment, read a story with them and built the kids self esteem seeing them smile…just like being a mom, it’s those very brief moments that would make that job worth all the trouble. I can only imagine anyway.

My heart is so grateful for all the people that help my son feel comfortable with his quirks, remind him how smart he is. And ask what he wants to be when he grows up, giving him that time to imagine himself being anything! I know these people aren’t paid enough for their jobs, most people aren’t but especially them! But I hope they know, even on the worst day, they made a difference. My son tells me stories every day that amaze me! Sometimes my mouth falls open and he asks “what’s wrong mom” and I explain even on my worst work day my boss didn’t call me those names, or throw a shoe at me! And I remind him how amazing it is that those teachers and para’s have such kind hearts to be there for them and that they must really love him and his friends from ‘the odd kids class’. (we joke a lot. You have to laugh with them)

Even if my girls decide not to work with special needs kids, just the fact that they considered it with a proud smile that made me proud. I knew god had given them more than the typical person package. Extra big hearts to hold all their compassion and patience. They really are great sisters…great daughters.

I’m frozen, sitting with my fingers on the keyboard re-reading that sentence and my face is glowing with a smile. I’m laughing listening to Ashley snap at Ryan “do not lick the ice cream scooper and stick it back in the ice cream container Ryan! That is disgusting!” I’m just smiling and chuckling. And here is my son…to make this day even better, asking me what I’m doing, curious what’s so funny. Ryan is offering to make me a bowl of ice cream, that never happens!! Gotta go! This kid needs some time with me! (ok, I just think that chocolate chip ice cream looks really good!)

(To my kids…you will all do great things! No matter what path you choose….but you are still going to finish college! No if, ands, or but’s about that!)

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