That moment when past, present and future collide. If you’ve experienced it before, than you may already have an image in your head. If not- let me share mine with you and maybe it will inspire recollection of one of your own magical moments such as this.
At first glance you might just see a sweet image of two hands together. One big, one small. But for me, This picture was taken because I simply could not let the significance of the moment pass by without capturing it and assuring that it could somehow be frozen in time.
For instance in this moment I felt every emotion possible. But of all the emotions there are, It started with frustration.
As usual, I was awoken by my youngest child in a rough and demanding type of a way. He- coming off of a wonderful night’s sleep in a big bed with the comfort of his mom by his side, me- coming off of another interrupted night’s sleep due to a small yet strong child pushing me towards the edge of the bed after being kicked multiple times during the night.
Why do I endure this you might wonder?
Because he’s my baby. My 3rd child. The one who broke me of all sleep training/parenting strategies and inevitably lead me into an unexpected attachment style parenting situation.
At first I thought my lack of motivation towards sleep training with Jackson was due to him being the said “3rd child.”
But when he obtained a conductive hearing loss at the age of 1 that was actually an undetected Bilateral SNHL caused by a genetic syndrome, I believe the Co-sleeping and attachment parenting was actually the result of an unspoken connection that developed between the two of us. One that I didn’t know was happening, but I believe he knew that we would both need.
But back to waking up that morning. Jackson usually shakes me with more energy than someone who just achieved R.E.M should receive and the volume of his voice is typically louder than usual as he has not put on his cochlear implants yet. Sometimes I respond similar to that of a teenager with a “5 more minutes!” Sometimes I just can’t help but smile (after I finally “come-to”) because he has a way of looking at you as if you are the most amazing person in the world.
Sometimes he is ready to get up and get going. Other times he actually wants to talk and snuggle a bit more. This particular morning he found his hand in mine and he said, “Look mom! My hand is almost as big as yours! It’s getting bigger! Soon it will be as big as yours and then I can be your husband!”
I immediately began to laugh and then he laughed and it was a moment full of giggling and tickling. Then he was off and ready to start his day and as soon as I got up to begin mine, I just couldn’t stop thinking about what he said.
Precious Moments like this one always send me on a trip down memory lane.
I started to recall some hard and wonderful moments from the previous years.
I remember that checkup when the pediatrician asked me with concern in her voice, “does he have any words yet?”
I remember when he only had 30 words and then he got hearing aids and within the span of a few months he was up to 300. It didn’t matter that the typical 3 year old had ____ many words, to us his development was monumental.
I remember when I was told that he qualified under the deaf and blind category for benefits and it deepened the reality that his syndrome will inevitably lead to vision loss.
So hearing my 7 year old son speak in complete sentences with thoughts regarding his growth, and his future…
Takes my breath away.
Sometimes our present becomes priceless because of our past. And sometimes our future becomes full of hope because of how our past turned into a present that we never thought possible.
As we embark upon each New Year, we reflect on what has passed and we take stock of our present. And with these reflections we consider what we hope for.
For some, this is an annual experience, complete with new a planner, or journal, goal-setting worksheets and a fresh “one-word” for the year.
For others these practices are rejected and avoided at all costs. Maybe because it is cliche and all too often filled with fleeting promises that will be forgotten after the buzz of the new year fades. Or maybe because new years hopes had been established in years prior only to be met with disappointment and heartache.
Regardless of your theory or opinion, I think it is important to take a moment to think of where you have been, and where you are now. If those reflections are painful, maybe it is necessary to do so with the support of a loved one or a counselor. In doing so, my prayer for you would be that your tomorrow finds hope possible.
If you find that you connect with myself and my life stories, I pray that your reflections remind you of how far you have come, and how faithful God has been. He has seen you and I through the deserts and the valleys, met us on the mountaintops and at times even parted the seas.
I pray that you see your worth and the impact your life has on those around you. And that you give yourself permission to establish hopes for your new year and trust that the Lord is always at work in your life. And most of all- “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4
– A continuation of “Because every mama needs someone who gets “it” and someone who wants to.”
There is nothing like those moments when you are talking with a friend and you share a struggle that you and your child are having and she says,
“Oh girl- SAME!!!”
Friend who gets “it.”
And then to make it even better, she either tells you a story about her child that is literally identical to yours, OR when you describe how you feel, what you’ve tried, or what else they (your special needs child) has done, she basically completes your sentences.
I have a friend who has been completing my sentences since I was pregnant with my first.
See, coincidentally we have literally been walking the same path. Our first born children were born within weeks of one another. They are both girls. Our following 2 children, both boys and spanning the same ages. We both had husbands in ministry, went from working to stay-at-home moms, lived in one of the most expensive suburbs of DC on a one-income salary and then moved away from Northern Virginia for our husband’s jobs.
Every time we catch up on the phone we pick up where we left off, as if we had seen each other yesterday.
So when we both started to recognize some neuro-divergent behaviors in our children, it almost made sense.
Because life with neuro-divergent children does everything but make sense.
But there is something so comforting about sharing what your life is like with another, and it totally makes sense to them.
It makes sense to them when you say,
“It feels like we just can’t leave the house.”
“Other moms just look at me like we’re crazy.”
“I just don’t have capacity for anything else.”
Friend who gets “it.”
The need for connection and a desire to be understood is a natural desire. One that is so imperative for the health of anyone raising children in this world.
When they say it takes a village, it’s not just because we all need an extra hand (especially if the kids outnumber the adults) but because every mom needs a little reassurance!
For me, being able to connect with a mom who can personally relate to having a high needs child and all that it encompasses is so very necessary.
She understands when I talk about how hard it is to be in a community group at church because of the needs of our kids.
She understands when I share about how I wish our family could just feel “functional” for one day.
She understands when I say, I have no margin for anything else.
This kind of connection is so important for the mental health of moms, especially moms of children with high needs. This kind of connection provides validation, affirmation, encouragement and hope.
Every mother’s life holds differences and similarities to the next and I think it’s extremely valuable to have a life that is enriched by the perspectives and methods of both.
If you feel alone in your motherhood journey, I hope you won’t stay there.
Pray for the Lord to place that mama in your life that HE knows you need. He will provide. And do some digging.
When we came back from living overseas, we did not return to the home that we we left in Florida, we went instead to NY in an effort to live near family because I was coming to the realization that for me- having 3 young children, 2 of them with special needs, was going to require a village.
So when that attempt did not work out and we ended up moving back to Florida, I’ll never forget the advice I was given from a counselor who knew all that we had been through and all that was to come. He said, “Leave no stone unturned in an effort to find the help that you need for your family to thrive.”
That advice dove deep into my heart and mind and has been the energy that has provided me with perseverance when I have grown tired and weary in the face of opposition.
In this special needs life, there is great opposition. Some ignorant and some intentional. I have had to battle and advocate and be “the squeaky wheel that gets the oil” more times than I have felt comfortable. I have battled my own thoughts and the disagreement and disapproval of others. I have fought for 504’s, IEP’s, accommodations, explanations, appealed denied insurance claims, argued for the approval of services, jumped through hoops and over red tape all without an official job title even though more days than not it has felt like a full-time job.
But I have not done it without the support of other incredible women. From friends, to moms, to other “special needs mama’s,” to therapists, to doctors, psychologists and counselors. And above all, the Lord. He who made me in my mother’s womb, and made my children in mine. He who knows all of my days past and present, and the number of hairs on my head. He who has never forsaken me, loves me unconditionally, and teaches me how to do the same for my children.
So Mama- leave no stone unturned, find your people, and look up to the Lord- he sees you and hears you.
Every day after I dropped my daughter off at pre-K, I would let my (then) 3-year old son run around the play area as I sat down exhausted from the “getting-3-kids-in-the-car for school drop-off gauntlet.”
As soon as I sat down and took a deep breath, I would find myself back on my feet, racing to prevent my son from the mishap that was about to ensue. And once the situation was intercepted and diffused, I would run back to the fussing baby I left in the stroller.
I recall thinking, why do I ever leave the house?
I watched as other moms sat, chatted and enjoyed adult time while their children played. It was so easy to assume. To watch them and think, why can’t I have it so easy?
Let me stop here.
Because despite my struggles, and despite what I know now about the needs of my boys, I know for a fact that NO mom has it easy.
All of us moms struggle and thrive, weep and rejoice. There is SO much about the experiences of motherhood that are universal.
But for sake of sharing this personal anecdote, I wrestled thoughts like that at that time. Because at that time- I was drowning.
I had 3 children- 5, 3 and a baby. In order for me to make it from the car into the building where my daughter’s pre-k class was, I had to use the side-by-side double stroller for the boys. I would force it through several doors that I fully believe widened supernaturally in a “Harry Potter” kind of way upon my passing through. I could feel some of the other moms watch me struggle and wonder why I was insistent on using this stroller. I tired of the “are you sure that’s gonna fit?” comments.
Trust me, I had tried the other option. But they all ended with the 3-year old escaping to the point of getting lost OR a full-out wrestling match between us, as I struggled to keep him by my side. Did I mention there was a baby in tow? And a 5-year old who needed my attention as she worked through all the feelings that going to school for the first time brings.
So yea. I used the double stroller, and I learned to not care.
It wasn’t just the transitions that required reinforcements. There were so many instances; on playgrounds, during playdates, being invited to another’s house for a meal, or even trying to catch up with other families before or after church where it was clearly evident that my child’s behavior was not approved of, and definitely misunderstood.
During the year that my 3-year old turned 4, I battled the urge to take him for an evaluation. I daily wrestled between thoughts that maybe there was something else contributing to his behaviors, or maybe it was just me. Maybe I was the problem. Maybe I wasn’t firm enough, consistent enough or tolerant enough.
That year was rough.
But it was also the year that the Lord gave me one of the greatest blessings I would ever have. At the time, I didn’t know it, but I felt it.
She was the mother of another girl that was going to the same pre-school. In fact, she was the one who told me about the pre-school. Her husband worked for the organization that we had moved from Virginia to be a part of and they were the ones that welcomed my husband, our two-children and my 8-month pregnant self to the area just a year prior.
The way they welcomed us was unlike anything I have ever experienced. It wasn’t just the way the way they stocked our fridge and were waiting to greet us at 10PM the night we pulled in with the moving truck, or the way they immediately connected us to a church and a community, it was the way they embraced us as if they had always known and cared for us.
I felt it this one particular day after we dropped our daughters off at pre-k and we met up in the empty church hall to let our boys play. As we started to attempt a conversation, my 3-year old started to fall into his typical patterns of “play” which meant intervention was necessary and conversation an illusion and I just couldn’t hold back the tears.
I was exhausted. Tired of trying and failing. Tired of trying not to worry about what other people thought. Tired of wrestling between thoughts of whether or not there was something wrong with him or something wrong with me.
She looked at me and simply asked, “Oh no, are you ok?”
Upon that, I could feel my body kind of surrender. I stopped wrestling my son to stay still, I allowed myself to kneel on the ground and exhaled some tears. I felt safe sharing with her my fears and concerns. I shared with her how I truly felt, and how much I had been wrestling with the idea of talking to someone about my anxiety as well as my son’s behaviors. I verbally processed with her how I didn’t know what to do first, but I knew I couldn’t just keep going on the way we were.
She not only listened, but without any suggestions, any correction, or the condemnation that can often accompany well-meaning advice, she provided affirmation, love and encouragement. She let me know that she could hear and see my anguish. But most of all, I felt like she let me know that she could see a mom who loves her kids and is just trying to do what’s best, and struggling to figure out what that might be.
Isn’t that amazing?
What’s even more amazing is that she has never stopped. That was over 6 years ago.
In the beginning, there was still so much unknown, still so much to learn. Over the course of our friendship my middle son received an additional diagnosis each year. He started with sensory processing disorder at age 4 and now at age 9 we have identified ADHD, Anxiety, ODD and Autism Spectrum Disorder.
My youngest son also was initially diagnosed with a speech delay, that after over a year of intervention changed into a concern for hearing loss. She was there with me in the hospital as he was put to sleep and I awaited the results. She sat with me as I processed that he had hearing loss in both ears and was going to need hearing aids. She navigated the darkness as we awaited the genetic testing results and then the reality of what was the cause- Usher’s Syndrome.
She’s been through 2 cochlear implant surgeries with us, she endures the noise volume in our house that is often off the charts and she never gives up trying to stay connected and get together even though we are limited in availability because of commuting to school and therapies. And she also tells me that I am doing a great job as a mom, usually at the exact moment I need to hear it.
I share this specific detail, because when you meet someone, when you find a friend, you connect based on what you know about them and how you feel around them. She did not know then, all that was to come.
She also has 3 children, similar ages to mine and that means her children have walked through the unknown with us as well. Which means her children have often experienced the struggle too.
I still to this day am amazed at how she continues to balance the parental obligation to protect and aid your own children when they experience negative behaviors from another child, maintain boundaries, and at the same time when needed offer grace, wisdom and correction in love! She has become a parent figure in the lives of my children that they not only can trust, but can rely on for a model of what grace and authority looks like. And she has lovingly educated her children on diversity, special needs and various disabilities.
I won’t forget to mention that her life has not been without challenge! She has walked her own journey of difficult pregnancies, early deliveries, navigating unexpected and unpredictable health needs for her children all while homeschooling and juggling the multitude of needs that motherhood in general brings. She has taught me so much. She is a warrior.
I don’t know how she does it, but she inspires me.
She inspires me to be a better friend.
At one point in my life I thought my friendships would be only with other parents of children with special needs. Which would be OK if that was the case. I thought that playdates would only be possible with other families who knew the social and behavioral struggles that we navigate every minute.
But her family has blessed our family so much with the opportunity to learn and grow and somewhat “practice” all they are learning in therapy about appropriate social behaviors, emotional regulation and self-control. Which I fully believe is the blessing of playtime for all parents and children, regardless of their needs! But there is something so special about our time together, because every time we are, for a moment, I feel like I am just a mom, and they are just kids. The “extra” realities or challenges we face or will face seem to fade away.
It can be very easy to only see life through one lens when you have children with extra needs because there is not an aspect of life that disability doesn’t touch. This can often create a barrier for myself and others from connecting.
I discovered at some point on our journey that honesty and transparency are necessary for me to care for my family well and for myself.
For a while I felt very uncomfortable using the term “special needs.” Especially in the early years when the most common response from others when I tried to explain that there was more to my child’s behavior than meets the eye was, “Oh, he’s just a boy,” OR “He just needs more discipline.”
It honestly took several factors for me to feel confident to use the term, almost as if I needed an acceptance letter into the special needs community.
When your child’s disabilities are not as visibly obvious as others- parents, schools, teachers, and even insurance companies can make it feel like we live in a world where we are either “too special needs” or “not special needs enough.”
It wasn’t until after connecting with other parents who had children with similar needs, and speaking with counselors, and therapists, reading books, and attending conferences that I started to realize using the description “special needs,” or “extra needs,” or even “child with more” was perfectly accurate to use.
When my husband and I took inventory over how much of our budget and schedule, energy and emotions and unfortunately our conversations revolve around therapy, medicine and doctor appointments, we began to feel affirmed in accepting that our lives were greatly impacted by the needs of our children.
That being said, I know for a fact that special needs or not, it is hard to find a loving mom or dad who doesn’t find themselves overwhelmed by or just constantly trying to balance all those things mentioned above. Every parent who loves their child is carrying a lot and deserves someone who can come alongside them and say, “I see you, and you are doing amazing.”
I never want another mom to feel unable to share their struggles with me. It is motherhood that unites us, and IT SHOULD!
They say it takes a village to raise a child and that is because child and parent alike need the support of others.
Every mama needs someone who gets “it.” Someone who can practically finish their sentences when sharing their heartaches and hopes. And every mama needs someone who wants to. Someone who is willing to meet you where you are, ask questions and learn how life is different for you as well as how you can relate!
While some of our experiences in motherhood differ, my beloved friend has always held a posture of someone who genuinely wanted to know what life as a mother of children with special needs was like, how I was handling it and how she could support me. And I can honestly say that her friendship is priceless.
I can’t wait to share more personal stories and thoughts in my next blog about how important it is to have a friend who has also walked your road before AND/OR is walking it at the same time as you! Stay tuned as I share how valuable it is to be close with other moms who have children “with more” like yours!
Have you ever hesitated to share what you are struggling with to a friend because this statement rings in your head, “stop complaining, there are others who have it a lot worse?”
If so, I hope you know that yes, there are varying degrees of struggle out in the world, but that does not mean that your struggle is not real or does not matter.
When I first started to suspect that my child had special needs or was “more”, I shoved it down deep in my chest. I read books about discipline. I tried harder.
Maybe it was fear, or shame, or maybe it was some of those common statements so readily offered. You know the ones,
“He’s just a boy.”
“He’ll grow out of it.”
“You need to discipline your child more.”
“You need to be more consistent.”
Now, when I think back about what life was like when this particular son of mine was almost 3, I remember having a baby and a pre-schooler as well, but it took ALL OF ME to contain him.
I did not want to jump to diagnosis, but I knew that I needed help.
Growing up, I learned about special needs early. My mom was an Occupational Therapist. I have fond memories of stopping by her workplace as she had to drop something off, or pick something up. While she attended to her task, I would take in the environment around me.
On one hand it was one of the coolest places I had ever been. I couldn’t stop staring at all of the toys and equipment. I just wanted to play on everything-especially the swing!
But on the other hand, I often got introduced to kids who required a wheelchair, kids who could not talk, and kids who made lots of unfamiliar noises. Sometimes I felt scared about the unknown I was witnessing. Other times I felt sad. But often I felt amazed. The love and care that the therapists provided them, and the joy that the children expressed in their own special ways was incredible.
I feel grateful to have grown up witnessing this world of amazing people. The exposure to the reality of people living with special needs impacted me in so many ways.
This reality taught me at an early age to have perspective. To be mindful of the way I view things. Sometimes that means being grateful for what I have, when my flesh wants to complain. Sometimes that means, taking a step back to gain a better perspective, to see the big picture and to avoid rash or quick judgements.
But it also taught me that it is possible to be grateful and grieve.
It is possible, to know that there are worse things, but to still worry.
It is true that pain is relative.
Just because someone’s struggle looks different than yours, does not mean that yours isn’t real.
I understand that not all may agree with my way of thinking. But for me, if I had swallowed my concern, tried harder to be better and just kept focusing on the positive, I would have not served my child well.
Let’s be real. There is being positive and hopeful, and then there is “toxic positivity.”
For me, in order to care for my son well, I needed to swallow my pride. Some might think swallowing my pride would have looked like me ignoring the temptation to default to blaming my child’s behavior on a diagnosis and simply “manning up” and being more militant. I believed swallowing my pride truly was me accepting that no matter how hard I tried, I was not going to be able to manage this struggle alone.
Through humility, I was able to walk from awareness that my child might be “more,” towards acceptance and now into advocacy.
Our journey navigating have a child (2 in fact) with special needs started about 5-6 years ago. For those curious what it looked like practically, when he was 4 we reached out to Early Steps and found an OT that specialized in sensory integration therapy. We learned all about sensory processing disorder and we were encouraged to have a continued level of awareness if his needs were to shift or change for the better or worse. And they did.
Around age 6 he was diagnosed with ADHD and we found that it was time to navigate the use of medication to support his struggles and needs. A couple years later, after prayer and discernment, we felt it best to seek out a Neuropsychologist so that we could receive a more thorough evaluation in hopes of truly identifying what might be “driving his ship.” It was then that he was diagnosed with High functioning Autism.
Each year we have experienced intense heartache as well as intense celebration as we have watched him grow and learn, and make mistakes and make progress.
Just like him, we as parents are growing and learning and making mistakes and making progress.
We may have entered into the world of “labels” that so many fear. And I understand that.
But the only real label that we have in our house, is being “A child of God.”
That is the true identity that each of us holds and clings to.
The other labels have provided me with clarity and direction. They have blessed us by connecting us with the most amazing therapists and other parents walking similar journeys. All because of being aware of a great need that I could not fill on my own, accepting and embracing that reality and now being so much stronger for it that I can advocate well for my child.
So if you happen to feel like you need to keep your struggles to yourself, like you need to stuff them down or remember that others have it worse…. Don’t.
Remember, it IS possible to be grateful and grieve. I do it every day.
I grieve that I am a sinner. And that no matter how hard I try, I probably will continue to sin on this side of heaven. It’s not an excuse to sin, but it is a reality that without the help of the Holy Spirit, my flesh WILL fail. Yet at the same time I am SO grateful that because of what Jesus did on the cross, I am forgiven and made new and will get to experience an eternity in Heaven one day!
It is the awareness of my sin, and acceptance that lead me to MY ultimate advocate.
HE who-by the way, will NEVER judge you when you share your struggles with HIM. He will NEVER tell you try harder or to remember how good you have it. But HIS love will wash over you in such a way that you can’t help but be grateful, even in heartache.
Stay tuned for my next blog, I can’t wait to share about how every Mama needs someone who gets “it” and someone who “wants to.” Because every mama, regardless of if they have a child with special needs, is STILL A MAMA. Our struggles do not separate us. They draw us near to one another. And we all have a story to tell and hope to give.
I had this miraculous moment the other day. That moment when everything you have been working on and everything your children have been working on collides into one beautiful, epic and effective conversation. It was an out of body experience to say the least. I felt like I was watching this interaction take place from above and I was witnessing all the parenting tools I have learned being utilized AND executed successfully. To make it even sweeter- it was all falling on receptive ears!
Not only was I witnessing this miracle, there were witnesses present!
In that moment, I could feel it in my entire being that I was actually doing something right. And afterward, I received one of the best compliments I’ve ever had! This most wonderful witness encouraged me that I had done a wonderful job handling my children in the midst of some unruly behaviors. And then she said, “It was as if you knew all the right things to say!”
I could not believe my ears and laughed in disbelief and shock. I was also close to crying in gratitude for it’s not every (or any) day in motherhood that someone witnesses you getting it right, AND lets you know! So many emotions all at once! I quickly confessed that I could not take credit, but the years of intervention and therapy that my children and I have experienced for their various needs were to thank. But then again, I have always struggled to take any credit.
Don’t get me wrong- I want the credit! But I often struggle with feeling undeserving of praise, or even doubtful of it, as if it happened by accident or something. Simultaneously, I also believe that anything good that comes from me is because of Jesus! But like most human beings, I can’t help but hope that I am doing something right and if I am, someone will let me know!
Have you ever tangibly felt yourself trying SO hard to get it right? Trying so hard to get better? Maybe it was piano lessons or a sport when you were younger. Maybe it was cooking meals for your family, or sticking to a budget? Maybe it was not getting so angry, or having more patience?
How about your children? Have you ever watched them experience that moment of success! That monumental moment of potty training, or eating with silverware? Cleaning their room or writing their name? I’m sure the list of things that we ourselves and our children have worked at are endless. Some progress is easier to notice, and easier to celebrate. Some progress is less obvious because the number of fails overshadows any small glimmer of growth.
Early on when my son received his first of multiple diagnoses, the Dr. gave me this advice, “Catch him doing good.”
She knew that catching him making mistakes or wrong choices would be all too easy. She knew that the attention I’d have to give towards correction would dominate. She knew that as hard as he would have to work in areas such as speaking kindly, having patience and self-control, I would have to work at catching him when he did.
Depending on your personality, you may need to work on catching yourself doing well too! I would argue that the intrinsic motivation that results from experiencing yourself doing something well is way more powerful than the extrinsic motivation that comes from fear of making a mistake.
I can see it in my child’s eyes, they sparkle when I shout, “That was so great! I loved the way you used your words and asked for help!” Just as I am sure my eyes sparkled upon receiving the compliment from this sweet woman regarding my handling of some difficult behaviors.
One week later, in the same location, and with the same friends, those difficult behaviors were not received with the same patience, grace and effective communication. Instead I felt myself exhaling, “Guys, please just stop.”
I am not completely sure why I felt so different this time. So unable to respond with the same tools. Maybe it was less sleep, or the weight of other worries and to-do lists occupying my mental space, but I just couldn’t shift into that same mode of parenting that felt like such a major milestone the week prior.
And that is OK. Because even though I did not have a repeat of that same stellar performance, I remembered it.
I REMEMBERED it even in the midst of my impatient response to my children.
It came up in my brain simultaneously as I was about to lose my cool.
It became a new reference point for what I am capable of.
And instead of giving way to my less than ideal parenting, I recovered quickly and began moving once again in the direction of parenting the way that I had the week before.
It is the same with our children. When they take 5 steps forward and make it from mommy’s arms to daddy’s, and then the next time they fall after 3 steps, that is OK. And so it should also be OK when they show incredible self-control one day, and the next day, maybe not as much.
Personally, I had noticed that if my child had multiple successes in an area that he had been working on like keeping his hands to himself, but then reverted back to hitting his brother despite the progress he had been making, my heart would sink to the lie that he would never truly grow in this area. It was almost as if the behavioral “high” made the following behavioral “low” even lower. But it is easier for our minds and bodies to remember the negative than it is the positive. We have to work at mindfulness to retain every ounce of a positive experience. And if we do this, we can nurture the brain to remember our successes so much more and as a result develop a greater chance at repeating them!
Imagine that kind of impact in a child’s brain. For every time they are losing self-control, a memory of when they displayed self-control and were utterly praised for it would race to the surface as if to say to their “down-stairs brain”- “You got this! I saw you do it before! You felt it too, you can do it again!” Imagine getting to see their eyes sparkle more and more!
I am so grateful that this woman “caught” me doing something good. It inspired me to pay more attention. I want to catch my children doing good as often as possible, and celebrate it! I want to catch myself doing well and let myself feel good about it!
I want to spend less time soaking in their mistakes or my own, and more time embracing all that we are capable of. I think it is when we focus on these things that we truly create space for ourselves and others to continue to surprise us!
I never thought I would get to a place where I kind ofdon’t want summer to end.
It felt like yesterday when we were rushing to make sure that the majority of the summer weeks were accounted for because if we didn’t……..
At the time, back in May, my chest got tight just thinking about the potential unplanned weeks ahead. The Fear of the combination of boredom + siblings + FLORIDA HEAT BEING/STUCK INSIDE would practically raise my blood pressure! Even though this was only my 2nd summer anticipating the “school is out of session” dread, memories from last summer’s cabin-fever days are literally burned into my brain.
For most mom’s I imagine the song, “School’s out for the summer” has more of the “Jaws” theme song ring to it versus the celebratory appeal it has for the kids. I confess, I have not totally experienced the full weight of the “school’s out” feeling. Yes, we have homeschooled in past years, but to be honest the majority of school days were always so interrupted that I’m not sure I have ever really had that so-called “liberating” feeling of having all of my children in school at the same time. At least not for a full day.
For the past couple years, school days have always been brief or interrupted. Our youngest only had school for 5 hours a day, and our middle child often required a mid-day pick-up or need for mama’s intervention. Not to mention half of the week, the school days always felt cut short due to a doctor’s appointment or therapy session. Nevertheless, what I assumed was going to be a summer heavy-laden with the weight of having no break from the kids, turned into one where I rather realized the absence of the heavy weight of commuting to school and appointments.
In the beginning of the summer, several attempts were made to stay consistent with my son’s therapy schedules. But sickness and travel put us in a place of going over a month without services! For those who are familiar with the significance of a consistent therapy schedule for a special needs child, forgive me- it was not neglect that we went this long! I found myself in a panic on week 3. I could tell that we were both going through withdrawal as he could not self-regulate for the life of him and I started to shut down too.
But something happened in that 4th week.
I stopped thinking about what he was missing.
I stopped worrying so much.
I started using what I knew, exercising the ways I knew to support him instead of focusing on what was lacking.
The absence of therapeutic intervention began to lose its intensity. My muscle memory kicked in and we managed. I mean, this wasn’t our first rodeo without regular therapy. A little over two years ago, we basically had gone a collective 18 months without therapy during our 9-month stint overseas, plus 9-month temporary move to NY. Not that I recommend it, AT ALL! I have tried to block some of those days during that 18 months out of my memory!
But when we returned to Florida after our summer travel and there were no signs of sickness preventing us from getting back on the therapy schedule, we got that first week of appointments set on the calendar.
But to my surprise, I had a great deal of mixed emotions.
I was so excited to get him back to the supports that he needed. And honestly, I was so excited to have that support for myself too! I look forward to those post-session debriefs because I get to ask questions to someone who can finish my thought, knows exactly what I am talking about and can provide me with the tools to better support my kids! That and we just have the best support team for our kids!
But after spending over a month without any appointments on the calendar, when it was “back to the grind” time, I had almost completely forgotten about the commute and all that goes into getting to an appointment!
I had forgotten about the challenge of trying to schedule appointments, that mostly likely would need to be rescheduled. By no fault of anyone either, it just is what it is. And returning to the juggling act with my spouse as we lay out our calendars and discuss who is taking which child, to which therapy and for what hours of the day was not missed either. I had greatly enjoyed the break from insurance company claims and followups as well as wrestling my kids into the car for that 40 minute drive there and back!
I think I also enjoyed the rest from reality and all of the explanations.
Getting ready for school means getting ready for the reality that we have 2 children with IEP’s, which can require a lot of explanation. That our daughter now has BOTH younger brothers attending her school, and she is already anxious about needing to explain their behaviors to all of her friends. (But what big sister doesn’t stress over that!) That the phone calls and emails home will start again, and explanations due for behavioral incidents are inevitably on the horizon.
School starting up again brings about the reality that we took on a pretty hefty commute for private school because an alternative environment was considerably necessary. It brings about the reality that with that commute and the various therapy appointments, and potential extracurriculars, I will be in the car A LOT.
I share all of this because no matter how many times I have learned it before- I relearned this valuable lesson once again- “the grass is never greener on the other side.”
And even though I write from a perspective of special needs parenting, I know so many of my thoughts and struggles are not isolated to this arena, but are relative to parents in general. Some of us may spend more collective hours of the day with our kids because they are still too young for school yet, or they may homeschool. Some of us spend more collective hours in the car with our kids because of school commutes, or extra curricular activities. Regardless, we all LOVE our kids but we all can get weary and tired of being needed. We all love spending quality time with our families, yet we all need a break from time to time.
One other way I love that parents can relate to one another despite their family dynamic, is that as parents we are always adjusting. We continue to adjust our expectations based on their age and stage. We continue to adjust our priorities to what is best for our people as a whole. And we continue to adjust our outlook based on what life teaches us.
For me, I have adjusted my outlook on “summer break.” Through a change in routine and being removed from the typical and expected, I gained space to see outside of my assumptions.
I assumed that summer was going to be hard. We are a lively family of 5. The noise decibel in our house is way higher than healthy. Everyone is spirited, opinionated and willing to stand up for themself, (which I know will pay off one day.) Many of us, (possibly even myself-haha) are a work in progress when it comes to emotional regulation. But you know what? When people ask us, “How was your summer break?” I love (and am somewhat shocked) that my answer will be- “It was so great!”
We may have driven each other nuts on occasion, but we also made some incredible family memories! We may have battled boredom some days, but I got to witness my three kids play together voluntarily! As they ran through the house living out a story of imagined characters in an imaginary world, my heart lept thinking about how no matter what friendship troubles they might have had or will have, they ALWAYS have each other.
And I am grateful for how the summer provided space outside of the routine and mental space too. Room for me to consider how much my children have grown. And myself too.
Space to realize I shouldn’t be too quick to assume that last years troubles will be on repeat.
The grass is green on BOTH sides, it just takes cultivating.
It is a new school year.
New teachers, new backpacks, and maybe even some new friends!
Even our therapy locations have all changed, and maybe even our therapy needs?
And the best NEW of all…. I heard there’s an express lane on our route to school.
It is a phrase that is often delivered by well-meaning friends, family members and doctors. Delivered to you with the best of intentions. And it is often offered to you by the very people who know how hard it actually is! So why does this phrase often incite frustration and cynicism inside the sweet mamas receiving these words instead of the support and comfort they were intended to deliver?
It might be because she is sleep deprived to a level comparable to torture. Her brain is functioning at subpar levels and now focus, logic and emotional processing are extremely impaired.
It might be because she has tried to “sleep when baby sleeps”- but baby doesn’t sleep. Or, as soon as baby falls asleep and she puts him down, he wakes back up. She finds herself broken down once more by how close she was to rest and is convinced that she may never sleep again.
Maybe she has more than one child, and when the baby rests she is making sure to give her toddler one-on one time. Maybe she is postpartum and her hormones are all over the place. Maybe she promised that she would breastfeed and is determined not to give up, but the fight for success in this area is suffocating her physically and emotionally.
What if she just went back to work and it is taking all of her to perform her job well, and return home with enough energy to care for her kiddos, make dinner, try to keep up the house and still connect with her husband?
What if motherhood is so much harder than she thought? What if she is not the mother she thought she would be? What if her children’s needs are much more than she imagined? What if all of her hopes and ideals about motherhood have been challenged beyond repair?
Now imagine you see her, and you can tell she is weary, tired and emotional. And you put your hand on her shoulder in response to her venting and say, “Don’t forget to take care of yourself, mama.”
Even the most well-meaning comments can feel like punches in the stomach when your physical and emotional state is under water.
I have felt this “punch in the stomach” more times that I can share. I have been in a place where hope felt painfully impossible to even think about.
Knowing all too well how this feels, I have found myself wondering lately, “How did you end up becoming someone who says this to other moms? As I share with others about the nutrition and fitness program that I am a coach and client for, I have wrestled with this message of self-care to the mamas out there, when I know how it feels to be in the trenches.
I recently put together a montage of photos of my 3 children and I from the past 10 years. The photos spanned from pregnancy to birth to toddlerhood including both painful and precious moments we experienced. The message that I shared over this collection was meant to acknowledge how powerful motherhood really is. It holds power in the weight of its most miraculous and most painful experiences and memories. Motherhood holds power in the dichotomy that most of us could not wait for this season of life, yet once in it, we realize it is SO MUCH MORE than we could have ever imagined in both incredible and exasperating ways. It holds power in the ways that it has involved, impacted, and changed our minds and bodies. So much power that the thought of taking care of yourself when you have such a great responsibility to take care of others seems not only impossible, but even, dare I say- irrelevant.
Yet, even after acknowledging all that, how is it that I have found myself on the other side of the motherhood “fence,” encouraging other moms to NOT forget themself in the process.
Have I stumbled upon the “secret” to self-care? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Do I have it all figured out? HECK NO. Is my life easier now and without struggle? As Pete the Cat would say, “Goodness No.”
But just like the meaning behind the former name of my blog, “Yesterday’s Kurta,” every yesterday has a story to tell.
While living in India, every Kurta I wore had a major story to tell. A story of hardship and discovery. So just like every yesterday has a story to tell, every person has a yesterday- A unique experience that could provide encouragement and connection to others who might be journeying through something similar. Each person is also in a different season of life. This means that they’ve already traversed through your current life season. Even more, one thing we all have in common even if our experiences or seasons of life vary, is that loneliness and discouragement are always beckoning on our doorstep. Always “prowling around like a lion waiting for someone to devour.”
Reflecting on our yesterday’s often provides us with the ability to offer others relevant wisdom and comfort. And when reflecting with an attitude of thanksgiving, we can see just how far we’ve come. Sometimes the ability to tell someone I know what you’re going through, you’re not alone, and I will help you go through it can be priceless.
When I am facing a challenge, or helping others I am often reminded of the book, “Going on a bear hunt.” With every obstacle the family experiences on their journey to find a bear, the chorus that repeats is,
Every person has a forest or a snow storm or pile of muck that they couldn’t go over or under, but had to go through.
For me, one of my “forests” was when my second child had horrible colic for the first 6-9 months of his life. I think back to that time and recall so many tears, so many books rummaged through for help, so many walks by myself because I needed a break from the crying (that despite all of my efforts) I could not relieve. So much gripe water, and trial and error with formula that always ended in projectile vomiting. Then I spent 8 weeks dairy-free to breastfeed because that was the only option. My sweet poor babe was on both C-omeprazole and Zantac to relieve some of the pain of acid reflux. The pediatric GI somberly informed me that the small sphincter at the base of his esophagus just needed more time to develop and time was one thing I had no control over. I remember thinking during his pregnancy (which was very painful with constant braxton hicks starting at 24 weeks) that maybe he would be an easy baby. Wishful thinking.
As hard as it was, his pregnancy toughened me up a bit and prepped me for his colic. And now that I think of it, his colic may have strengthened me for his childhood. Over his 8 young years of life we have been managing Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD, Anxiety and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Navigating all these challenges potentially built in me a stronger base that would ultimately prepare me for my third child, who I did not know was going to have Usher’s Syndrome which comes with its’ own set of unique challenges. The needs of my children have broken me down in so many ways, but the ways that I have been rebuilt are priceless. Every single struggle has sent me running to Jesus. And with HIM and all that this life has allowed, I am much stronger than I ever was or ever thought I could be. My mind likes to tell me lies about who I am and what I am capable of, all based on how hard things have been and my feelings in those moments. But Jesus gives me strength unimaginable. He give me strength to consider hope, when everything around me tells me otherwise.
So back to the beginning. How am I able to offer those (sometimes irritating) words to other mamas out there now?
Maybe I have simply arrived in a new season of life. Maybe I have more room to breathe to consider taking better care of myself. Maybe I am less sleep deprived, maybe my kids are in school, maybe I have help.
Or maybe, just maybe, I couldn’t stand NOT taking care of myself anymore.
I started to look around and realized that the waves were never going to stop coming. The obstacles on my “bear hunt” were endless. I had and continue to have legit reasons to explain my lack of margin in my life for self-care. But I tired of them. I tired of the hamster wheel of struggle, of treading water and receiving a life raft just moments shy of what felt like drowning.
So maybe you too feel a weight on your back when someone tells you to take care of yourself.
Maybe it’s because you’ve tried before and “failed.” You’ve seen others succeed when you couldn’t and it hurts like shame.
You see no light at the end of the tunnel and no possibility for hope. The obstacles are too great.
I want to enter into that space with you and say, I know. The weight of what you are feeling is real. It really is all TOO much. There really IS no margin. And having a hope for something better often feels like a trick.
But the alternative to hope, is bitterness and resentment. The alternative to trying is being stuck. The alternative to asking for help is relying completely on yourself, burning out and falling prey to isolation, cynicism and becoming someone you swore you would never become.
Sometimes it takes one simple moment of humility, acknowledging you need help to take care of yourself. One simple prayer asking Jesus to show you how. One simple decision to break the pattern of giving up, and begin the habit of taking one baby step at a time towards healthier choices. As mamas we know all too well what “baby steps” look like. If those sweet toddlers keep getting back up, so can we.
Sometimes you catch words coming out of your mouth that you truly never could have guessed would pass your lips. For example, “You can’t have your ice cream until you finish your McDonald’s.” Or, “You will go to the beach and you WILL have fun!” Unfortunately, those sentences were delivered more than once while we were living in India and traveling through Indonesia. Getting the kids to eat Indian food at first was quite the struggle. So when we would find a familiar food item or restaurant, out of exhaustion and in need of a minute of life without constant battle (Parents of young kids- I know you feel me,) we would give them what we assumed was EXACTLY what they would want, only to find that there was STILL something off. Like, the cheese was different on the pizza, and there was no McDonald’s cheeseburger, only chicken.
When we left India for a forced 3-month exit, we assumed travel was the best option versus returning to the US. After a month in Thailand, where we had spent most of the time swimming in a pool or at beach, by the time we brought the kids to a beach in Bali, they were “beached out.”
That sounds ridiculous, when I say it out loud. But in reflection I can understand. Going to the beach after leaving the summer season of India was like literal water to our thirsty souls. We were in desperate need of being outside, in the fresh air. So we overplayed the beach like you did when you were young and you put your favorite new song on replay. It was tempting to perceive our kids were simply being “spoiled” and “ungrateful” with their whining and resisting of fast food/ the sea and sand. But sometimes our perspective on what they would enjoy isn’t always spot on.
I recall these stories because something happened the other day that brought them back to the forefront of my mind as if it was yesterday and not almost 3 years ago.
I found myself saying something that felt almost as foreign as it was crossing my lips, simply because it was my first time saying it.
“Wow. I am so thankful for the Cochlear aqua gear.” Try saying cochlear aqua gear 5 times fast.
I’ve realized that living in a foreign country sometimes parallels the way it feels when you are simply walking through a foreign aspect of your life (like being the parent of a child with cochlear implants). The unexpected challenges catch you by surprise. Just like the things you assumed would be tasty and fun, were not- The things you thought would be an easy, just aren’t.
When the weekend comes, we are often looking for activities that our family can do that check a few boxes. Is it outside? Is it active? Is it something that all 3 kids would enjoy? Checking all 3 boxes is not easy. But when we heard about the upcoming church picnic and kids color run, I think we registered faster than we read the event details. So when we packed up our picnic lunch and I was checking to see if there was anything I forgot….BAM! “Oh wait- what about his “ears?” (Note: We call his implants his “ears.”) I messaged his audiologist and she said he could still participate but to make sure to use his “aqua gear” to protect his implants from the residual powder that was to be thrown on him while running.
The aqua gear are incredible. They allow him to wear his implants in the pool! However, they make for a very clunky, gawdy experience for him and they do not stay put with his level of activity in a pool. They frustrate him and he often chooses to remove them and simply go without sound. Sometimes this makes my heart sad. I think because it reminds me, even though they are amazing, his implants did not repair his hearing loss. Although, sometimes I think it makes me more sad than he actually is. He has just as much fun with them off sometimes! Maybe it’s because he is an excellent lip reader. Maybe I project how I feel too quickly. Once again- assuming that fast food restaurants, beach trip and color runs are sure-fire wins, when they might actually not be.
Likewise, being the parent of a child on the Autism spectrum, sometimes it’s just simply a Saturday that catches you by surprise. Here you are thinking you will sleep in a little (because it’s the weekend, right?) and that your family might enjoy an outing and a day off of schedules. Instead you wake up to find it’s going to be one of those “off days”- the ones that remind you your child has some extra struggles. To enhance the struggle, these “off” days always seem to come the day after a couple days that felt “normal” and “functional”…“thriving” even.
But what’s my point?
Like always, I find solace in both rejoicing and lamenting, sharing my experiences with words and hopes of affirming not just myself but anyone else who might be reading this and longing for this kind of connection.
I bet all parents can relate to this thought, that a lot of days simply just do not turn out how you thought it would.
I remember back when we were newlyweds, dreaming about what values we wanted to instill in our children. Back when people asked how many kids we wanted to have and we would answer romantically, “five.”
And now….10 years later with 3 children, I can understand why those receiving our answer of “five” held the facial expressions and the muted responses that they did.
But just as important as it is to recognize the struggle and process those emotions so we can support one another better the next time around, the “great” days and moments need to be meditated on too.
So on that note….the other night we were all sitting at the table eating dinner.
Just kidding! (Kind of.) Because to be honest, THAT sentence alone is a victory worth noting.
Because getting 2 boys with sensory issues, ADHD and Hearing Loss to sit at a table and have a functional dinner time meal is like getting a fish to NOT flop when it’s first out of water.
But lately…… we’ve not only been sitting together….. and eating…but talking too! Talking in a group conversation type style! You know the kind- where people take turns, and finish each other’s sentences, and connect!
Just lately, we have seen it. And it’s priceless.
Some days, you are taken aback, because your 6-year old cochlear implant wearer just told you in full sentences, “Will you go wait in line for me and ask for a velociraptor balloon animal- but if she can’t make that- will you get a monkey?”
I remember when he only had 30 words total that he could say.
Some days, your 8-year old, chooses to give his balloon animal to his 6-year old brother. EVEN THOUGH he obsessed and fixated on getting one, spending the majority of his time at the picnic event worrying about getting one, and almost had a full-on episode when pulled out of line…..
Some days you get to see your child grow. You get to see your child do something that was either SOO very difficult for them to do (but you know that they’ve worked hard on it in therapy) OR something you NEVER thought they’d be able to do! Because miracles DO happen, and walls DO come down and limits CAN BE surpassed.
And for the moms and dads out there who can relate- sometimes you get to encourage your own self because you have seen and felt that YOU TOO have experienced growth!
I remember the days when I worried if I would ever be able to NOT worry. I remember when my daily prayer was to not get mad or let my frustration with kids’ behaviors get the best of me. I remember when as a couple we grieved over if we would ever experience a social event where our family was functional, socially appropriate or without crisis.
I still sift through all of these thoughts, but I am anchored by experiences of success, muscle memory, thicker skin and above all else, an unshakeable faith in my Sovereign God. My God who sees all of my days, all of my weaknesses, all of my efforts, all that I carry, and all that I hold dear.
And because of that I GET to honor my son’s sacrifice of a ballon animal- even though there were a number of unfavorable behaviors that preceded….
I get to give myself a pat on the back when I chose patience and resisted the felt social expectations and judgements surrounding me and chose NOT to reprimand my kids, but instead walked them through a “do-over” so they could experience how things could have gone. So they could experience the possibilities of how life could be.
Because of God’s grace and mercy and the life experiences that HE has allowed me to endure, I understand better WHICH behaviors to place my mind and my heart on. I understand better how to handle the unexpected.
I am definitely, still flawed and dependent on Jesus and will be until Heaven. Thank God HE is with me every day until then. Because I know there will be many more moments of failed outings and wrong assumptions of what our children should think is fun and great and tasty.
But I look forward to more unexpected phrases like, “Thank God for the aqua gear.”
I was in a parent workshop listening to a speaker talk on the subject of behavioral therapy for children. I could sense that there were parents in the room, like me, who were in the thick of the struggle. But there were also parents in the room who were on the other side. The side where victory or freedom or hope lives. During the talk, I had to frequently battle the voice in my head that said, “Your situation is more complex, your child’s’ struggles will never be fixed, you will never be on the other side.” I hate that voice. I believe it to be the voice of the enemy. The “Father of lies” who wants us to remain trapped in discouragement, devoid of hope. But I have become aware of it enough to prepare myself before attending these talks. I prepare myself by praying- “Lord help me hold every thought captive to you. Help me hear what is it you have for me today.”
Sometimes when I share about the program I am a coach for and how much breakthrough I personally have experienced in the areas of strength gain and reaching health and fitness goals, I imagine a person out there on the other end, receiving my message thinking- “That’s great that it worked for her, but it will never work for me.”
I can’t tell you how many times I have felt this way in so many areas of life.
It brought me back to the days of sleep training, breast-feeding and behavior training. The days when well-meaning mothers and friends would share how their child is sleeping through the night, or how their child could listen and obey right away, or 1-2-3 magic was the key. They were not to blame, but I often felt so discouraged.
But then I remember when I read the book Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child and applying those strategies literally changed the game for getting our firstborn to sleep through the night. But I hesitated sharing about that book because even though it worked for me, I didn’t want to frustrate someone else.
Because so many times had I sat around the table with other moms listening to their success stories thinking that’s awesome… For you… But it won’t work for me.
I can even recall the days when I felt like shouting on the rooftops that prayer and turning to Jesus was the answer for those who were struggling and in pain, but I feared offending them.
How often do we see the success of others and think there has to be a reason that they were able to reach their goal, a reason that sets them apart from me, a reason that makes success more possible for them than it is for me?
How many times have we been told that we just need to try harder? How many times have we been told that we just need to believe it and speak it into existence? And how many times have we still NOT experienced victory?
If you have read my blog post “On the other side” or “Hope” I wrote it because it was a significant moment in my life when I could tangibly feel and see what it was like to be on the other side of a struggle. Seeing Jackson’s progress with speech and language development ever since he received adequate hearing has provided me with the most profound experience of recognizing and celebrating growth, change and victory. But it was not even close to a quick fix to get there.
In a lot of my blogs I talk about the blessing that suffering can bring. Trust me I do not enjoy suffering, in fact I used to avoid it at all cost. I would not make a move, make a decision, even consider taking a risk unless I knew that the probability of success was substantial. It took me 10 years to get to a place of willingness to move overseas for fear of the struggle. But I have realized that it has been the struggle, the long-suffering, the day to day battle, that has made the awareness and ability to embrace being on the other side so sweet.
We cannot predict how quickly success can be achieved for others, but we can share our struggles and our wins in hopes of bringing others closer to being on the other side of their struggle. Everyone’s struggle looks different and everyone’s victory looks different. In fact one mother may receive seven different methods for getting her child to sleep through the night before she applies it and it works. Does that mean the mothers before should not have shared?
One woman may try hundreds of diets or fitness programs before she reaches her health and fitness goals does that mean all of her previous efforts were in vain?
Which brings me to the question, is it OK to share what has worked for you? My belief- ABSOLUTELY. If someone is grieving, I’m gonna pray for them. If someone needs help with math- I will DIRECT them to someone who can (lol).
And if someone wants to improve their health and wellness, I can’t wait to share about the FASTer Way!
Some days, all you dream about as a mom is a minute alone. You look forward to that moment when the kids are finally asleep and you can rest your head, or kick your feet up. So when the moment arises that you are packing up for a weekend away, at a hotel, for an incredible conference/retreat/getaway, or whatever it is for you personally, why is it that anxiety sets in? I mean, I was counting down the days for this trip, and the moment it arrived, I doubted if I should go.
For me, I was headed to a Coaches’ Conference for the business I work for, The FASTer Way to Fat Loss. On the drive there I had to talk myself down from the temptation to turn back. That first night in the hotel, I had to focus on all the strategies I knew for calming my brain in order to sleep. It really wasn’t until 19 hours later when I entered into the conference room that I felt a NEW energy wash over me.
It was a foreign energy.
One that I am not used to.
Give me anxious energy, stressed energy, hostile energy, complicated energy, multi-tasking energy, young kids energy, family management energy, parent/marriage juggling energy……these types of energy you can infuse in me all day and my body “systems” will feel as if they are operating status quo.
But give me energy that is sharp-focused, full of hope, inspiration, and comraderie, like the kind I experienced this weekend…..and I was not only pumped but a little scared?!
I mean, I have been on weekends away, and women’s retreats, I have been to training conferences and the like, but I have never been to a weekend away that called upon my “person” as much as this.
What I mean to say is, attending this conference was like drawing a line in the sand and saying, “I am a coach. I want to be a better coach. I believe in myself, I believe in this program and I believe in the possibility that this opportunity brings for myself and for all those I get to serve! I knew it when I registered, and I knew it when I entered the room. The energy spoke for itself.
A foreign energy. One that scared me and challenged me with excitement at the same time.
With every passing session, from the welcome session, the breakout sessions, the session that broke me and built me up all at the same time, the energy kept rising and creating new pathways in my brain and in my body.
Every time I met someone that I had been waiting to meet, that had had impacted my life through this program and every time I met someone new that inspired and challenged me in significant ways, I felt excited and worried at the same time.
It was nearing the end of the conference, when we were asked what our main challenge was. It was then that I understood why “anxiety” had attached itself to “hope” all weekend long.
Without hesitation I answered the question during our round-table discussion and said, “I’m on a a mountaintop right now, where everything feels exciting and full of possibility, but I know that when I walk into my home, into my family dynamic…
(and I quote)….. “I am going to fold to the reality that is …”
…to the reality that is…
When I said it, I could fill the tears rise and my throat tighten. I felt ashamed and honest at the same time. Even so, I felt it important to share the reality of my heart, because I desperately wanted to walk away different. The impact that the weekend had warranted change.
But the reality at home was significant too.
At home, I had my husband and 3 children waiting for me. A husband who believes in me and watched the kiddos solo…. for me.
I had 3 children waiting for me, who were used to my sole attention being them. I had 2 boys with special needs waiting for my return because they are used to me attending to their needs, interpreting what they cannot and assisting in regulations that do not come natural to them.
I had a family back home that I loved with everything I have, but also a family that required everything that I have.
I battled the thought… how dare I? How dare I consider to try to be something else or something more?
There was an amazing woman sitting beside me, who without hesitation responded to my comment about “walking into my home and folding” and she said- “But you know what self-fulfilling prophecy is, right?”
For those who may not be sure, “A self-fulfilling prophecy is the psychological phenomenon of someone “predicting” or expecting something, and this “prediction” or expectation coming true simply because the person believes or anticipates it will and the person’s resulting behaviors align to fulfill the belief. This suggests that people’s beliefs influence their actions.” Wikipedia
When she said this, I felt it in my core.
A little backstory- I received my undergraduate degree in Psychology with a minor in Sports Coaching. I gained my Master’s degree in Exercise Science, all with the hopes of becoming a Sport Psychologist. The idea of Self-fulfilling Prophecy was something I wrote papers about. I knew what it meant.
At that moment, I could hear the voices of so many women providing practical and tangible application of the strategies I had learned over the weekend and it felt possible to continue to grow and develop even upon entering my home environment simply by creating and applying an action plan, implementing one tool at a time.
The first tool, was going to be Mindset.
My mantra, “Keep hope alive.”
I prepared my heart for the things I knew to be true, and spoke to my heart about the things that I want to be true.
I asked my husband when the best time for me to arrive home would be, because for our family, transition is difficult.
As much as I missed them all, It would not honor all my husband did parenting solo for the weekend if I returned whenever I wanted. It works best when we can prepare the kids for transitions which we can mean, new environments, or simply the addition of more people to the room.
It was actually best for everyone for me to arrive home when no one was there.
It felt weird to come home, to an empty home. But it also gave me time to reflect.
When everyone arrived, I was ready to embrace and exchange stories with each child and it was incredibly sweet.
The next day however, was incredibly hard.
The novelty of missing one another had worn off. My daughter had actually been away for the weekend on a trip with her friend. She was also returning from a mountain top experience. Her retreat was priceless. She is the older sister of 2 brothers….hard enough as that can be- she is the older sister of 2 brothers with special needs. She needed the retreat, but the re-entry was hard.
I can feel her struggle as strong as my own.
While away, I never forgot how challenging it can be, trying to provide enough attention to each child, while simultaneously trying to buffer the challenges on each sibling that hearing loss and autism can bring to a group dynamic. I never forgot, but when I felt it, I did grieve again as if it was new. Strange, how that can happen.
I even took all 3 kids solo to the Orlando Science Center with the hopes of re-engaging with them in an exciting and memorable way. Very quickly I was reminded of “The Battle of the Voices” that emerges on car rides, the Oppositional Defiant Disorder that is present whenever Dad is not, and the stress that results from impulsive behaviors that literally create separation and the fear of losing a child.
I decided to sit all 3 of my kiddos down on the carpet in the hallway and let them know that I was debating on going home. I let them know that we could not stay if they could not be respectful of others and listen to their mama. After some time we decided to head to the playground area so they could get some energy out and I could sit and collect myself.
Shortly into that time, Garrett approached me and said, “I can’t have fun if you are not.” And he rested on my lap and tried not to cry.
As much as my heart pained knowing that his heart did, I couldn’t believe how proud I was of him “feeling” for me- something that did not come easy for him.
Soon after that Dad arrived. We were able to salvage the afternoon somewhat and end the day on a good note.
That evening my husband asked me, “Where are you at?”
In our language this meant he wanted to know how I was after the weekend I had and the “Re-Entry.”
I was able to tell him that I went from a hyper-focused weekend of positivity and possibility to one of anxiety, cloudiness and fear. But one feeling that was present as well was this intense desire to keep hope alive. I knew that the life that I was creating for my family and myself was important. I knew that the weekend that I had just had was significant to our life. And I knew that it was not going to be easy, but it would be worth it- to keep hope alive and keep moving towards my goal of being someone who brings hope to others.
I have chosen to wage war on the battle between hope and despair. I have always believed that my God is sovereign and faithful and has never forsaken me where He has lead me. I have decided to remember the energy I felt this past weekend and to live in the way that I encourage my clients to live, one step at a time, one day at a time, progress over perfection, full of hope and a fiery spirit to keep trying!
I hope that here, in my writings, you can find connection and hope too!