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Anxiety, Mental Health, Parent Support

Sometimes it has to get worse before it gets better.

I have searched and searched and to the best of my knowledge “Quirky” is not in the mental health diagnostic manual. So I would very much like social workers, psychologists, pediatricians, psychiatrists, teachers, priests or even the garbage man to stop telling me, “Don’t worry he is fine, he is just ‘QUIRKY”. I swear I was going to rip off their lips so they could never speak again.

My mother’s intuition runs deep, and often I question it because field experts, (okay maybe the garbage man, wasn’t considered a field expert, but the rest of them were in my mind), would provide information that while technically correct, just didn’t “feel” like it was spot on for my kid.

My “gut” was only capable of telling me something was off, it didn’t allow me to know what the “off” was. Very early on in the game of parenting our pediatrician shared the one thing he learned very early in his 50 year plus practice. Listen to a mother, she knows her child.

He explained “Most often I can diagnosis solely upon what a mother reports, I then do a physical exam to confirm what I am thinking. He said, “never doubt your mothers intuition, more often than not will be right.” Thank you Dr. Kolsky, words to live by, and they probably saved our sons life.

My son was a c-section baby because he was breech, in retrospect I should have known the future was going to be dicey, he obviously wasn’t ready to meet the world and literally put his feet out to stop it. Despite his in-utero gymnastics, he was born healthy, and general was a very easy baby, this kid was totally playing me, I now know.

The mother’s intuition kicked in when he was a toddler. He went through the terrible 2’s, but he was an overachiever at it. I always felt his responses were disproportional to the event, but then again everyone told me, he is a boy, he is toddler, relax, he is normal.

Yes, he was “normal”. He couldn’t be in a bathroom when you flushed the toilet, it was too loud. I know we had the “good toilets” the ones where you could flush golf balls down and all would be okay, but seriously it wasn’t that loud. He hated tags in his clothes and god forbid you try to alter a routine he went ape shit. If we said we were going to the playground he had to go, it didn’t matter that it was the middle of a hail storm. Flexible this kids was NOT. Motherhood wasn’t feeling so great to me. Where were those cute kids on the Toys R Us commercials, they were always happy.

He was strong willed, brilliant, and impulsive. I learned very quickly that if I didn’t have an eye on him at all times, it wasn’t going end well. I realized this during a routine visit to the CVS to pick up a prescription, for his then 6 week old brother, whom I was lugging around in that car seat carrier that felt like it weighed 200 pounds.

As you may know the pharmacy is always at the back of the store. So as I am picking up my prescription, he starts to move slowly to toward the entrance door. I told him, no stay with mommy. I am not kidding when I say he stopped, looked me dead in the eye, smirked, and ran like a bat out of hell toward the front door. My eyes became huge, and big ole post pregnancy c-section mom, dragging the car seat carrier, screaming, “Stop him”, at the top of my lungs while trying to catch up with him. He passed no less than three people who did nothing but watch him run, and then me plod after him. Do you know that little bugger made it out the front door, and as soon as his passed the sliding doors, he stopped and looked at me and smiled. Yeah he smiled alright, as I dragged him by the arm back to the pharmacy, and wondered what I did to deserve this.

Oh, it is funny I know, but repeat scenarios like this every day and it was exhausting, and not very funny. Not a week passed where my phone didn’t light up with the schools phone number. I will honestly tell you, I would stare at the number, and take a deep breath, and then put on the unconcerned mom voice for whoever was calling me; you pick, the nurse, the teacher, the principal, hey even the gym teacher got in on it. This kid living on the red in the light signal behavior charts.

If I felt like total crap, I could only imagine what he was feeling being in the direct path of all these people. By second grade he had developed a reputation as the difficult child. He would never get into real trouble but “quirky” trouble. He couldn’t sit still, he couldn’t keep his mouth shut, he didn’t like to follow directions, especially if they didn’t make sense, in retrospect I see, he was me as a child.

The straw that broke the camels back involved chess of all things. Yes, chess the board game. We enrolled him in an after school chess class because he liked it and apparently was quite good at it. Unfortunately the rule was, you had to sit while you played, he couldn’t or wouldn’t. He liked to stand and watch others after he had his turn. He came home one day and announced he had been thrown out of chess, and he was to never ever ever come back.

Oh, my little drama queen. I told him of course Mr. X didn’t say that, I am sure he said something else. What 7 year old can get a story right, right? Ready for this, he didn’t. I called the chess teacher who confirmed almost verbatim what my child had reported. He said he can’t follow the rules and he is the most difficult child he has ever had, he is not permitted to return, nor enroll in any class he would teach again. OMG, talk about weighing a mother down, if I had a fainting couch I would have landed right on it. Okay, when your kid gets tossed from chess class, and that is the response, we are way, way beyond quirky. Something is wrong.

Solution oriented mom kicked into gear. I was going to find out what was going to get to the bottom of this. Unfortunately, I almost destroyed our relationship in the process. We had him evaluated, and I was convinced he was, pick any of the diagnosis’s that were popular then; ASD, OCD, Aspergers, Autism, if Leprosy was one of them I would have thought he had that as well. I didn’t care what the diagnosis was, just tell me what it is so we can start to work on helping him and us. I believe not having a diagnosis is way harder than dealing with a difficult diagnosis.

His evaluation cleared him of every, including Leprosy. The result was a kid with an extremley High IQ, with a processing issue and Adhd. I was like, winner winner chicken dinner- my kid wasn’t stupid and we had a diagnosis. I was a mom on top of the world, waiving my hands in the air, saying oh yeah, oh yeah.

Now how do we fix this shit? So much easier said than done. Over the course of the next six years, we tried counseling, executive function coaching, processing coaching, parent training (oh that one wasn’t pretty at the time, lets just say I wasn’t very open to that one), mentors, yelling, screaming, punishing, acting like the police, threatening, and being everything but empathetic, compassionate or understanding. We tried every drug made for adhd, he would be a little better but never as good and I thought he deserved to be.

The next two years from 13 to 14 were wrought with oppositional defiance, destruction to walls and doors, verbal abuse, terrible family relationships, siblings hating each other, spouses hanging on for dear life, and me just wanting to run away. We tried to avoid family gatherings, it was too hard. Family members judged us to be horrid parents. We were constantly asked, why doesn’t he want to socialize with everyone else? Why is he doing this? Why is he doing that?

It became emotionally exhausting and hurtful and we started to retreat. The anticipation of the holidays and being subjected to the inquisition was overwhelming and depressing. I preferred my messed up little life to stay in the secret confines of my dysfunctional home. To say we were all at a point of not communicating would have been an understatement, we were living like people in a boarding house with a common kitchen. There was no talking, laughing, nothing, only venomous words between whomever was bold or stupid enough to speak out loud. In mere seconds we all turned to vultures attacking the speaker.

The unofficial motto of my family became, “Keep the Peace with him at all costs.” We walked on eggshells 24/7. This sucked, and the reality was, we weren’t even at rock bottom yet.

Anxiety, Mental Health, Parent Support, Teenagers

The positive of Covid-19. Are you experiencing it too?

We are in what I hope is the downward trend of this pandemic. Included in the numbers of infected, hospitalized, and dead, are family members of people I love and care about.

Covid-19 has brought many things to all of us; stress, anxiety,uncertain financial status, and massive unemployment. Undeniably this is all awful and people are scared.

However what we never hear about on the news broadcasts are the positive things that have occurred in families, and we aren’t talking about it because we feel guilty that something good is happening to us in the midst of all the uncertainty and sadness.

Covid-19 brought back a simplicity to our lives that many people were desperate for, and yet they had no idea they needed it so badly.

I haven’t been this calm, relaxed, or fulfilled in what seems like forever. You see my life went from what felt like driving a car at 70 mph to a screeching halt of a leisurely Sunday drive in about a minute.

At first it is weird, but now I like it. I am not stressed out that my kids will be brain dead from too many video games; as even they have became bored with them.

Lack of ability to socialize in groups has taught my children the pleasure and serenity of taking a walk, shooting hoops, and even laughing. It has taught my sons that while friends are important, you will always have your brother, and in quarantine that is really important.

We have had more meals as a family this month than we probably had in the last 2 years. A opportunity to connect and relax and laugh together.

My kids are relaxed as well. They don’t seem as stressed as when school is open in its traditional setting. While I am certain they aren’t learning as much as they would in a brick and mortar school, they are learning life skills that have fallen by the wayside because it was just easier to do it myself. Because parenting and teaching takes time and patients, of which many of us had little of driving at 70 mph.

The sunday drive has my kids very interested in what I am making for lunch and dinner because there aren’t many other options. They have even began to do some cooking themselves. And have even started to taste the food they are eating instead of just trying to inhale to get back to whatever they were doing.

I have had the opportunity to model doing hard stuff for my kids, and asked for their help. Yes, one mother and one 16 year old boy can carry a full size refrigerator and oven into the basement. Yes, one mother and one 14 year old boy can assemble 90% of a basketball system themselves. I have had them drilling and sawing, using wheelbarrow, and hedge clippers. I have been organically teach my kids how to make things as they embarked on building garden boxes so we can start our first garden.

They have learned the difference between needs and wants. Needs have us leaving the house, (toilet paper and groceries) and wants have us sticking home.

Tiktok isn’t as interesting to them right now because nobody is really doing anything, it is mostly exercising and dancing up steps. Since no one is out and about my teens are not suffering from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).

Basically, Covid has forced us to figure out what is important and what’s not. I now know I have enough time in my day for all the important things, and enough energy left over to be the best mom, wife, and friend I can be. If I start piling on all those other things that used to suck up my time and stress me out, I will fail to be the person I desire to be. I only have so much time and energy in one day, and despite my thoughts of being Wonder Woman, I now know I am not.

So Covid-19, you nasty horrible virus, I never would have thought that you were going to teach me anything, and yet I am humbled enough to say you have.

I desperately want the spreading of sickness and death to stop, however I am equally desperate to not lose this feeling of connection, peace, and joy that I have found in a much more simplistic life for my family.

Stay safe.

Anxiety, Parent Support, Teenagers

I know why animals eat their young?

So just like many of you we have been in close quarters these last few weeks and I would say the first 10 days were probably the most difficult as we all tried to find our places.

I went from a parent who allowed my child to act responsibly and independently to a mother who felt compelled to micro-manage all activities including school work, personal hygiene, and meal times.

I officially started the cycle with my behavior change, and in turn my children retaliated with attitude. You all know what I am talking about. And this probably would have continued had we not just a week prior engaged the services of a youth mentor for our son. Little did I know how valuable this was going to be as we headed into the uncharted territory of Covid-19 shut down.

The voice of reason came in the form of extremely knowledgeable, articulate man whom at first glance looked more like a skateboarder/snowboarder dude as he sported long hair and some facial stubble. Clearly he was way too cool for me, but he would be perfect for my skateboarder/snowboarder son.

Christian, mentors young men in the Salt Lake Valley area, and upon our initial meeting he greeted me with a warm smile and projected a sense of energy and optimism that I felt I let wither away in the last few months.

What I wanted to know very simple. How he was going to help?

Christian’s plan was on target with what we were looking for, for our son. We wanted to provide to our son, a person to trust, someone other than us, his parents to confide in, someone to help him tackle some tasks that were overwhelming him, and help him create a vision for his next steps; employment, or additional education beyond high school or both.

It has only been a few weeks and I can already see the sense of relief that has come over my son, and very unexpectedly the same has occurred for me.

I didn’t expect to learn anything from this process other than my son will listen to anyone but me. And even that isn’t correct. My son does hear and even listens to my words. But those words are really hard to hear through the noise of demands and micro-managing.

What is the moral here? Not really sure there is one other than to say, I have benefited from my son having a mentor. It takes some of the stress and panic off of me, and it allows me to be the person and parent I like being. One who is back to allowing my child the room to be independent and make mistakes, with a little safety net that isn’t mom or dad.

So I no longer identify with the need to consume my young, and instead I am extremely content to let my children continue to live and learn and flourish.

Mentorship is an amazing concept that I never considered for my child, even though I have had personal experiences with it. I guess I felt is was a cop-out, as in letting someone else deal with the issues. But that was a false premise on my part. Mentorship for my son has brought a different perspective, that of an adult that is not his parent, and in turn very unexpectedly it has made me a better parent.

Like many things, resources are often limited by location. Utah is the hotbed of mental health resources and mentorship models. I am very blessed that I live in an area where it wasn’t difficult to find what I needed.

But if it doesn’t look that way where you live, don’t give up. Continue to search your area for your Christian or a company similar to his Youth Mentors SLC.

Stay safe. And if you enjoyed this post I ask that you please share it with friends.

Anxiety, Mental Health, Parent Support

I am a frustrated parent!!!!

Have you ever been so frustrated and beaten down by parenting that there were days that you regretted the decision to have children?

How about this one? You wish they would run away and not come back; or the low of all lows- wondering if it was possible to get into a minor car wreck without major injuries, but it would keep you in the hospital a few weeks so you could have some peace- however you quickly rule this one out because your self-preservation tactic is too great, and you can only imagine what state the house would be in when you get out.

Laugh as you may, ALL of these thoughts crossed my mind when our family was in the height of crisis with our teenager.  You know you are in parenting hell when you think a few weeks in the hospital might be better than dealing with your child. 

Almost two years have passed since that unstable time and I have to say, while I can clearly recall when and where I had those thoughts, I can’t summon up the feelings of despondency I felt at that time that would make me think that way.  I have come a long way, done a lot of hard work and now feel like my children are getting a much better version of me.

I recently shared with someone the moment that I realized why so much has gone wrong in our relationship of mother and child. One night, during his stay in wilderness I couldn’t get him out of my mind and sleep eluded me. I though writing a letter to him might help me. I sat down to write around 4:30 am, needless to say five hours later I got out of my seat and was holding an 11 page single spaced document, which I named the Mom Manifesto, as to call anything eleven pages long as a letter seemed ridiculous.   It was in this stream of conscious writing to my son that I came to find my truth. 

That letter was the true catalyst of the massive shift that was about to occur in our relationship.  It was the start of our healing, and I am pretty damn proud of myself for having the courage to actually send it to him; I am even more proud that my son read it, accepted it, appreciated it and was willing to restart the rebuilding of our relationship.   I now like the mother that I have become, and I am well aware that the work must continue every day. 

Excerpts from my Mom Manifesto

“I realize now that what you needed from was so very simple, and well within my ability to provide it to you. You just needed my unconditional love and acceptance, 100% of the time. You needed it on the days you did your homework with speed and accuracy, and you needed it on the days you refused to do it as well. You needed it on the days we cuddled in my bed as much as the days you struggled with friends, and the list can go on….”

“I needed to see beyond myself, and to give you a sense of security that a parent should provide. To some degree I was really more worried about myself than you. I somehow connected if I did everything right, you would turn out “right” and in turn I would be a successful parent.  I put conditions on my love. I doled out my acceptance and love to you as a reward when you met my expectations of success. That wasn’t fair to you or to me. That was wrong for me to expect you to validate my parenting. The times you couldn’t meet my expectations, I blamed you for what I considered to be my failure as a parent. I know that I did you wrong with that, and I am sorry that I chose to put that burden on you.”

“Yes, you were right every time you accused me of being afraid. I always got annoyed with you when you said that, and I never knew why, and now I do. I feared you doing something that would reflect poorly on me as a parent, and then I wouldn’t be a successful parent. I am going to try to pack that fear away, and allow you to fail or make mistakes, they will be yours to own. You will make mistakes, let’s hope they aren’t huge and life altering, but either way they will be yours to own, not mine. I can finally release myself of the fear. This does not mean free reign, as you are still the child, and I am still the parent, but it does open many more opportunities and doors for us. For this new knowledge and understanding of myself has set me free, and while I am sad that it has come to this with us, I truly believe that by me sharing my story with you, it is an important part of my healing as a person, mother, and wife. It has been a long time since I have felt this at peace. My hope for you is that you can find some peace for yourself as well.”

“I became consumed with being a successful parent, instead of just being the parent you needed. For many years of your life I convinced myself that some of the things I was choosing to do where for you, but in reality they were about me being a “successful” parent. I made my need to succeed the focus and not your emotional needs.”

“Instead of me learning to accept the unique and good person you are, I tried to change you to meet my expectations. My actions, I suspect resulted in you feeling that you disappointed me, that I was ashamed of you, that you were a lesser person, and that you weren’t loved by me. While I may have never actually said those things, I am sure my actions silently sent those messages to you. So this is where the cycle began. I made you feel bad, you acted out, I got mad, you felt worse, you act out more, I got madder and it goes on that way for years, until it breaks. It finally broke for both of us this year, and I am really glad it did, we needed to fix it.”

Anxiety, Mental Health, Parent Support

The Smartphone, the Teenager, and the Parent = a nightmare.

Smartphones were meant to help us, so why as a parent do they cause so many issues between me and my kids?

According to my children I must be stupid; not that they have said this directly, but they must be thinking it and I have come to this conclusion based upon the following event surrounding, shocking I know, the smartphone.

We are 15 days into the new year and my son thinks that by complaining, slamming doors, taking up permanent residence on the couch, and outright refusing requests to complete simple tasks like bathing that I am going to break down and return his cell phone to him, which he lost the privilege of 10 days ago. As I watch the behavior our exchange plays out like this:

Me: “You do know that I am your mother right?   Son: “Yeah”

Me:  “Now, do you really think all of this behavior is going to make me give you your phone back?”   Son:  “No”

Me:  “Has you acting like this ever resulted in you getting what you wanted from me?”  Son:  “No”

Me:  “So what makes you think it would work now?”   Son: “I don’t know, okay?”  (said with a sneer and malice”)

Me:  “So, why do you continue to do it?”   Son:  “Because I am angry and it makes me feel better.”

Me:  “Well, it doesn’t make me feel better, and honestly it only pisses me off more, and it makes me not want to give you anything you want, and even take your cell phone and smash it on the floor.”   Son:  Blank stare of horror, and the face of decision, does he say something snarky back or not or walk away??????

Now this scenario doesn’t play out too often in my house as I try not to be the person who wants or has to take stuff away, not because I don’t think it works, but because that is what I did all the time before the newer, better, more control version of me arrived. However, it doesn’t mean that I won’t go there if I need to.

I love technology, it is what gets my word out to all of you, but I do think that the smartphone has posed its own issues mostly in the fact that it is portable and has become a fixture on our bodies as much as a hand or foot. I make no bones that I was convinced that technology would make us all stupid, I now know this not to be true. I do however believe that constant access to Youtube, Memes, Snapchat, (aka Snapcrap in my home) diminishes relationships, and will cause all people to isolate. It is not unusual to have either son come home from school and retreat immediately into their bedrooms with their phones and not see them again until dinner.

Asking anything of my children once never results in action, it must be numerous times because they are so engaged and distracted by the phone. It is almost like they are afraid to put it down, because they might miss something, because in the 15 minutes they aren’t on it, some rapper might have died of “natural causes”; some new brand is “dropping” some outrageously priced blue T-shirt, or some jerk on Youtube is blowing bubbles out his ass and it is an absolute immediate must see. I also know that the content they are watching is suitable for all family members as they are desperate to allow me to look over their shoulders and see what they are doing.

With all that in mind, I have been convinced to understand that this is how kids communicate with each other today. However, when I attempt to have numerous conversations with my child expressing my concerns about time spent on the cell phone texting, snapping, viewing, and insta-ing and the isolation it is causing, I get deep sighs and groans. I have gone as far to say, I want you to think about what you can do to reduce use so I do not have to step in. I want my boys to be able to problem solve this situation, I want to give them the tools-but guess what, it hasn’t worked.

So in my last attempt to have a conversation about this, sitting at the dinner table with my son, the cell phone a mere 6 inches from both our hands, I start the conversation and casually pick up the phone to put it out of his arms reach. Can you say, Hello crazy, crazy kid? He reacted by him coming half way out of the seat, raised voice telling me not to touch his phone.

At that instant all was thinking, “Are you shitting me? You are 14, you don’t own anything. Actually, I think I own you.” But instead I calmly state, “the reaction that you just exhibited is why we are having this conversation, and right now the only thing I am going to do is take this phone and put it away, you need a detox”. Needless to say that did not go well, there were some F-bombs dropped, some doors slammed, and if I had told him to breath deeply, he would have held his breath and passed out just to defy me. My last statement on the issue was, “In seven days we will talk about the phone, it doesn’t mean you are getting it back, but we will talk about it.”

Day one and two were horrible. Nasty, nasty, nasty he was. My husband wanted to know if I could withstand it. Very much like what I said to my son, I said to my husband, “You do realize who you are married to right?”

Day three through six were much better. He watched a lot of tv, but at least it was in the common area of the house, he talked to us, and was more engaging. I was thinking this is great, I am awesome, I got this. Yeah no, then there was day seven.

Day seven started with a nasty, “Well are you going to give me back my phone or not.” and then the next exchange began:

Me:  “Now do you think that is the best tone to use with me when you want something from me?”   Son:  “Yeah, what is the problem, you said I could have my phone”

Me: “No, I said in a week we would talk about you getting your phone back.”   Son: “No, you said I could have it back.”  (nasty, angry kid has surfaced again)

Me: “No, I said we will talk about this, and it doesn’t appear that you are ready to talk calmly so we will revisit this in two days.”   Son:  apparently learned something from the first exchange and kept his mouth shut and walked away.  

I have formulated a cleansing and reintroduction plan for the phone, checked it with my husband, and another adult to ensure I wasn’t being completely unreasonable, and was ready to present in two days.

In one day he shows back up in my bedroom to ask very nicely if he could have his phone back today. I asked if he was ready to listen, he believed he was: I then proceed to present the first level of negotiations starting with this statement: ” I suggest that you contain yourself and do not react to anything that I am going to say, no disgust or horror, we will calmly talk about it when I am done reading this: (he remained silent but I could see him trying to hold in the anticipatory rage.)

  • Overall Daily Limits: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday 2 hours; Friday and Saturday 3 hours.
  • Snapchat Daily Limits: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday 1 hour; Friday and Saturday 2 hours
  • TikTok Daily Limits: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday 1 hour; Friday and Saturday 2 hours
  • Games- may keep one game on his phone- all others removed.

At this point, he hadn’t said a word, and I am thinking, I got this, I so got this, I am out of the woods; obviously the thoughts of an overconfident parent. It was the last item that got him, and he flew into a rage, and all I heard was this: “This is so stupid, I can’t believe it”, blah,blah, blah. My response: “We are done. Clearly you are not ready to have this conversation. We will talk about this another day. You may leave my room, and don’t slam the door.” He left and slammed the door.

I know you wonder what that last item was, seriously what could be worse to a teenager than having a two hour daily limit, right? Well apparently having certain times during the day to access the phone can:

Daily schedule you will be permitted to use your phone: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday- 7am to 8am, 3pm to 5pm, and 7pm to 9pm. Friday up to 11pm instead of 9pm and Saturday all day up to 11pm and Sunday all day up until 9pm.

Day 10- the child approached me and asks if he can have his phone back again. My response is, “Are you ready to talk like a human being?” He says yes, but I am not sure., but I proceed by repeating all I had said before, and added in the daily schedule, along with the fact that I installed an app on his phone that will shut the phone down at non-scheduled times, and the phone will also shut down when the limits are met. The only exception is the ability to call or text his father or I.

Deep breath as I look into the eyes of the totally dissatisfied teen, trying to kill me with his stare. His response: “I thought we were over the app thing?” My response: “I did too, but obviously you haven’t mastered it. “

Stalemate, no words are being said, and then it happens, a smirk and smile and the simple words, “Okay I agree, can I have my phone back now?” I smile and smirk and say, “You can have it back tomorrow morning, oh and by the way, if you screw around with the phone or try to remove the app, I will suspend the phone with Verizon and you will be carrying around a brick. Are we good?”

He was given the phone back this morning; and between 7am and 8am he burned 36 minutes of his daily one hour allotment of Snapchat letting the troops know he was back online.

Parenting sucks at times. It is exhausting. It would be so much easier for me to just let him have the freakin phone and do whatever he wants. Don’t these kids realize that, my parents job was to ruin my life and in turn I get to ruin my kids lives, and they will get to pass it along. It is the cycle of parenting. His final words to me were: “I still don’t see why this is such a big deal for you, I get really good grades”.

I in turn responded: You are correct in that in the past that is all I would have cared about, you getting good grades. However, I now know better that grades aren’t everything, they are only a part of you and I want you to be a sociable, engaged young man, and I care about ALL of you, not just your grades. No backtalk on that one, just a head nod.

Right now, feeling pretty good about my ability to hold my ground and not becoming a crazy person in the process. I am not going to lie, I just got an alert he burned the 2 hours by just constantly trying to access things on the phone and I am dreading how he is going to come through the door and the enormous attitude that will come with it. I suspect that there will be some crying, whining and begging, and I still really have no idea how he will react. 🙂

Anxiety, Parent Support

The Smartphone, the Teenager, and the Parent = nightmares.

Smartphones were meant to help us, so why as a parent do they cause so many issues between me and my kids?

According to my children I must be stupid; not that they have said this directly, but they must be thinking it and I have come to this conclusion based upon the following event surrounding, shocking I know, the smartphone.

We are 15 days into the new year and my son thinks that by complaining, slamming doors, taking up permanent residence on the couch, and outright refusing requests to complete simple tasks like bathing that I am going to break down and return his cell phone to him, which he lost the privilege of 10 days ago. As I watch the behavior our exchange plays out like this:

Me: “You do know that I am your mother right?   Son: “Yeah”

Me:  “Now, do you really think all of this behavior is going to make me give you your phone back?”   Son:  “No”

Me:  “Has you acting like this ever resulted in you getting what you wanted from me?”  Son:  “No”

Me:  “So what makes you think it would work now?”   Son: “I don’t know, okay?”  (said with a sneer and malice”)

Me:  “So, why do you continue to do it?”   Son:  “Because I am angry and it makes me feel better.”

Me:  “Well, it doesn’t make me feel better, and honestly it only pisses me off more, and it makes me not want to give you anything you want, and even take your cell phone and smash it on the floor.”   Son:  Blank stare of horror, and the face of decision, does he say something snarky back or not or walk away??????

Now this scenario doesn’t play out too often in my house as I try not to be the person who wants or has to take stuff away, not because I don’t think it works, but because that is what I did all the time before the newer, better, more control version of me arrived. However, it doesn’t mean that I won’t go there if I need to.

I love technology, it is what gets my word out to all of you, but I do think that the smartphone has posed its own issues mostly in the fact that it is portable and has become a fixture on our bodies as much as a hand or foot. I make no bones that I was convinced that technology would make us all stupid, I now know this not to be true. I do however believe that constant access to Youtube, Memes, Snapchat, (aka Snapcrap in my home) diminishes relationships, and will cause all people to isolate. It is not unusual to have either son come home from school and retreat immediately into their bedrooms with their phones and not see them again until dinner.

Asking anything of my children once never results in action, it must be numerous times because they are so engaged and distracted by the phone. It is almost like they are afraid to put it down, because they might miss something, because in the 15 minutes they aren’t on it, some rapper might have died of “natural causes”; some new brand is “dropping” some outrageously priced blue T-shirt, or some jerk on Youtube is blowing bubbles out his ass and it is an absolute immediate must see. I also know that the content they are watching is suitable for all family members as they are desperate to allow me to look over their shoulders and see what they are doing.

With all that in mind, I have been convinced to understand that this is how kids communicate with each other today. However, when I attempt to have numerous conversations with my child expressing my concerns about time spent on the cell phone texting, snapping, viewing, and insta-ing and the isolation it is causing, I get deep sighs and groans. I have gone as far to say, I want you to think about what you can do to reduce use so I do not have to step in. I want my boys to be able to problem solve this situation, I want to give them the tools-but guess what, it hasn’t worked.

So in my last attempt to have a conversation about this, sitting at the dinner table with my son, the cell phone a mere 6 inches from both our hands, I start the conversation and casually pick up the phone to put it out of his arms reach. Can you say, Hello crazy, crazy kid? He reacted by him coming half way out of the seat, raised voice telling me not to touch his phone.

At that instant all was thinking, “Are you shitting me? You are 14, you don’t own anything. Actually, I think I own you.” But instead I calmly state, “the reaction that you just exhibited is why we are having this conversation, and right now the only thing I am going to do is take this phone and put it away, you need a detox”. Needless to say that did not go well, there were some F-bombs dropped, some doors slammed, and if I had told him to breath deeply, he would have held his breath and passed out just to defy me. My last statement on the issue was, “In seven days we will talk about the phone, it doesn’t mean you are getting it back, but we will talk about it.”

Day one and two were horrible. Nasty, nasty, nasty he was. My husband wanted to know if I could withstand it. Very much like what I said to my son, I said to my husband, “You do realize who you are married to right?”

Day three through six were much better. He watched a lot of tv, but at least it was in the common area of the house, he talked to us, and was more engaging. I was thinking this is great, I am awesome, I got this. Yeah no, then there was day seven.

Day seven started with a nasty, “Well are you going to give me back my phone or not.” and then the next exchange began:

Me:  “Now do you think that is the best tone to use with me when you want something from me?”   Son:  “Yeah, what is the problem, you said I could have my phone”

Me: “No, I said in a week we would talk about you getting your phone back.”   Son: “No, you said I could have it back.”  (nasty, angry kid has surfaced again)

Me: “No, I said we will talk about this, and it doesn’t appear that you are ready to talk calmly so we will revisit this in two days.”   Son:  apparently learned something from the first exchange and kept his mouth shut and walked away.  

I have formulated a cleansing and reintroduction plan for the phone, checked it with my husband, and another adult to ensure I wasn’t being completely unreasonable, and was ready to present in two days.

In one day he shows back up in my bedroom to ask very nicely if he could have his phone back today. I asked if he was ready to listen, he believed he was: I then proceed to present the first level of negotiations starting with this statement: ” I suggest that you contain yourself and do not react to anything that I am going to say, no disgust or horror, we will calmly talk about it when I am done reading this: (he remained silent but I could see him trying to hold in the anticipatory rage.)

  • Overall Daily Limits: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday 2 hours; Friday and Saturday 3 hours.
  • Snapchat Daily Limits: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday 1 hour; Friday and Saturday 2 hours
  • TikTok Daily Limits: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday 1 hour; Friday and Saturday 2 hours
  • Games- may keep one game on his phone- all others removed.

At this point, he hadn’t said a word, and I am thinking, I got this, I so got this, I am out of the woods; obviously the thoughts of an overconfident parent. It was the last item that got him, and he flew into a rage, and all I heard was this: “This is so stupid, I can’t believe it”, blah,blah, blah. My response: “We are done. Clearly you are not ready to have this conversation. We will talk about this another day. You may leave my room, and don’t slam the door.” He left and slammed the door.

I know you wonder what that last item was, seriously what could be worse to a teenager than having a two hour daily limit, right? Well apparently having certain times during the day to access the phone can:

Daily schedule you will be permitted to use your phone: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday- 7am to 8am, 3pm to 5pm, and 7pm to 9pm. Friday up to 11pm instead of 9pm and Saturday all day up to 11pm and Sunday all day up until 9pm.

Day 10- the child approached me and asks if he can have his phone back again. My response is, “Are you ready to talk like a human being?” He says yes, but I am not sure., but I proceed by repeating all I had said before, and added in the daily schedule, along with the fact that I installed an app on his phone that will shut the phone down at non-scheduled times, and the phone will also shut down when the limits are met. The only exception is the ability to call or text his father or I.

Deep breath as I look into the eyes of the totally dissatisfied teen, trying to kill me with his stare. His response: “I thought we were over the app thing?” My response: “I did too, but obviously you haven’t mastered it. “

Stalemate, no words are being said, and then it happens, a smirk and smile and the simple words, “Okay I agree, can I have my phone back now?” I smile and smirk and say, “You can have it back tomorrow morning, oh and by the way, if you screw around with the phone or try to remove the app, I will suspend the phone with Verizon and you will be carrying around a brick. Are we good?”

He was given the phone back this morning; and between 7am and 8am he burned 36 minutes of his daily one hour allotment of Snapchat letting the troops know he was back online.

Parenting sucks at times. It is exhausting. It would be so much easier for me to just let him have the freakin phone and do whatever he wants. Don’t these kids realize that, my parents job was to ruin my life and in turn I get to ruin my kids lives, and they will get to pass it along. It is the cycle of parenting. His final words to me were: “I still don’t see why this is such a big deal for you, I get really good grades”.

I in turn responded: You are correct in that in the past that is all I would have cared about, you getting good grades. However, I now know better that grades aren’t everything, they are only a part of you and I want you to be a sociable, engaged young man, and I care about ALL of you, not just your grades. No backtalk on that one, just a head nod.

Right now, feeling pretty good about my ability to hold my ground and not becoming a crazy person in the process. I am not going to lie, I just got an alert he burned the 2 hours by just constantly trying to access things on the phone and I am dreading how he is going to come through the door and the enormous attitude that will come with it. I suspect that there will be some crying, whining and begging, and I still really have no idea how he will react. 🙂

Anxiety, Mental Health, Parent Child relationships, Parent Support

The diagnostic code for Adhd is F90.9.

No where have I found one yet for “Quirky”. Stop telling me my kid is quirky. If one more person including, social workers, psychologists, pediatricians, psychiatrists, teachers, priests or even the garbage man told me, “Don’t worry he is fine, he is just ‘QUIRKY” I swear I was going to rip off their lips so they could never speak again.

A mother’s intuition runs deep, and often we question it because field experts, (okay maybe the garbage man, wasn’t considered a field expert, but the rest of them were in my mind), would provide information that while technically correct, just didn’t “feel” like it was spot on for our kids.

My “gut” was only capable of telling me something was off, it didn’t allow me to know what the “off” was. Very early on in the game of parenting our pediatrician shared the one thing he learned very early in his 50 year plus practice. Listen to a mother, she knows her child.

He explained “Most often I can diagnosis solely upon what a mother reports, I then do a physical exam to confirm what I am thinking. He said, “never doubt your mothers intuition, more often than not will be right.” Thank you Doc, words to live by, and they probably saved our sons life.

My son was a c-section baby because he was breech, in retrospect I should have known the future was going to be dicey, he obviously wasn’t ready to meet the world and literally put his feet out to stop it. Despite his in-utero gymnastics, he was born healthy, and general was a very easy baby, this kid was totally playing me, I now know.

The mother’s intuition kicked in when he was a toddler. He went through the terrible 2’s, but he was an overachiever at it. I always felt his responses were disproportional to the event, but then again everyone told me, he is a boy, he is toddler, relax, he is normal.

Yes, he was “normal”. He couldn’t be in a bathroom when you flushed the toilet, it was too loud. I know we had the “good toilets” the ones where you could flush golf balls down and all would be okay, but seriously it wasn’t that loud. He hated tags in his clothes and god forbid you try to alter a routine he went ape shit. If we said we were going to the playground he had to go, it didn’t matter that it was the middle of a hail storm. Flexible this kids was NOT. Motherhood wasn’t feeling so great to me. Where were those cute kids on the Toys R. Us commercials, they were always happy.

He was strong willed, brilliant, and impulsive. I learned very quickly if you didn’t have an eye on him at all times, it wasn’t going end well. I realized this during a routine visit to the CVS to pick up a prescription, for his then 6 week old brother, whom I was lugging around in that car seat carrier that felt like it weighed 200 pounds.

As you may know the pharmacy is always at the back of the store. So as I am picking up my prescription, he starts to move slowly to toward the entrance door. I told him, no stay with mommy. I am not kidding when I say he stopped, looked me dead in the eye, smirked, and ran like a bat out of hell toward the front door. My eyes became huge, and big ole post pregnancy c-section mom, dragging the car seat carrier, screaming, Stop him, at the top of my lungs while trying to catch up with him. He passed no less than three people who did nothing but watch him run, and then me plod after him. Do you know that little bugger made it out the front door, and as soon as his passed the sliding doors, he stopped and looked at me and smiled. Yeah he smiled alright, as I dragged him by the arm back to the pharmacy, and wondered what I did to deserve this.

Oh, it is funny I know, but repeat scenarios like every day and it was exhausting, and not very funny. Not a week passed where my phone didn’t light up with the schools phone number. I will honestly tell you, I would stare at the number, and take a deep breath, and then put on the unconcerned mom voice for whoever was calling me; you pick, the nurse, the teacher, the principal, hey even the gym teacher got in on it. This kid living on the red in the light signal behavior charts.

If I felt like total crap, I could only imagine what he was feeling being in the direct path of all these people. By second grade he had developed a reputation as the difficult child. He would never get into real trouble but “quirky” trouble. He couldn’t sit still, he couldn’t keep his mouth shut, he didn’t like to follow directions, especially if they didn’t make sense, in retrospect I see, he was me as a child.

The straw that broke the camels back involved chess of all things. Yes, chess the board game. We enrolled him in an after school chess class because he liked it and apparently was quite good at it. Unfortunately the rule was, you had to sit while you played, he couldn’t or wouldn’t. He liked to stand and watch others after he had his turn. He came home one day and announced he had been thrown out of chess, and he was to never ever ever come back.

Oh, my little drama queen. I told him of course Mr. X didn’t say that, I am sure he said something else. What 7 year old can get a story right, right? Ready for this, he didn’t. I called the chess teacher who confirmed almost verbatim what my child had reported. He said he can’t follow the rules and he is the most difficult child he has ever had, he is not permitted to return, nor enroll in any class he would teach again. OMG, talk about weighing a mother down, if I had a fainting couch I would have landed right on it. Okay, when your kid gets tossed from chess class, and that is the response, we are way, way beyond quirky. Something is wrong.

Solution oriented mom kicked into gear. I was going to find out what was going on no matter who it killed, and by God, I almost did, that is, I almost destroyed my son and our relationship in the process. Ultimately we had him evaluated, and I was convinced he was, pick any of the diagnosis’s that were popular then; ASD, OCD, Aspergers, Autism, if leoprosy was one of them I would have thought he had that as well. I didn’t care what the diagnosis was, just tell me what it is so we can start to work on helping him and us. I believe not having a diagnosis is way harder than dealing with a difficult diagnosis.

His evaluation cleared him of every, including leprosy. The psychologist said, well I have some good news and bad news, which do you want first? Duh, good news please, I never get that, give it to me and let me savor it for a moment before you whack me on the head with a mallet, I was thinking.

Good news was he had a very high IQ, and bad news was he also had Adhd. I was like, winner winner chicken dinner- my kid wasn’t stupid and we had a diagnosis. I was a mom on top of the world, waiving my hands in the air, saying oh yeah, oh yeah. Now how do we fix this shit?

So much easier said than done. Over the course of the next six years, we tried counseling, executive function coaching, processing coaching, parent training (oh that one wasn’t pretty at the time, lets just say I wasn’t very open to that one), mentors, yelling, screaming, punishing, acting like the police, threatening, and being everything but empathetic, compassionate or understanding. We tried every drug made for adhd, he would be a little better but never as good and I thought he deserved to be.

By this time, friends were foreign for him, everyday was a litany of complaints and stories of how everything was everyone elses fault, and he was never wrong, shall I go on? My mother intuition kept saying there is something else wrong with him, it is not just ADHD, but no one would or could help. Our psychiatrist at the time had said, He is just a quirky kid, I don’t know what else to do, we tired all the medications available, I think this is as good as it is going to get. Oh, no. You are not giving up on my kid, let me tell you. I may not know what is wrong with him, but I know something is. Over the course of the next 6 years we took him to no less than 10 mental health professionals begging for guidance. Every one of them told me he had adhd and was quirky. WTF is quirky, what the is ICD-10 for quirky, someone please tell me.

The next two years from 13 to 14 were wrought with oppositional defiance, destruction to walls and doors, verbal abuse, terrible family relationships, siblings hating each other, spouses hanging on for dear life, me just wanting to run away. We tried to avoid family gatherings, it was too hard. Family members would look at us, like we were horrible parents. We were constantly asked, why doesn’t he want to socialize with everyone else? Why is he doing this? Why is he doing that.? It became exhausting and hurtful and we started to retreat. The anticipation of the holidays and being subjected to that was overwhelming and depressing. I preferred my messed up little life to stay in the secret confines of my dysfunctional home. To say we were all at a point of not communicating would have been an understatement, we were living like people in a boarding house with a common kitchen. There was no talking, laughing, nothing, only venomous words between whomever was bold or stupid enough to speak out loud. In mere seconds we all turned to vultures attacking the speaker.

The unofficial motto of my family became, “Keep the Peace with him at all costs.” We walked on eggshells 24/7. This sucked, and the reality was, we weren’t even at rock bottom yet………

Anxiety, Mental Health, Parent Support, Residential Treatment, Wilderness Therapy

"Wilderness Therapy" does it really help anyone?

Have you even gone through such a life changing horrible event that you couldn’t imagine that there was one other soul “out there” who could possibly understand what you were feeling? Of course you have, we all have.

My “story” began when I was born and continues to this day, because clearly I am not dead. I have had many adventures and mishaps, all have shaped who I am, but the most profound moments have been wrapped up in being a mother to my sons.

I know there are tons of “blogs” by great moms, telling us how to be great moms, and even supporting us with wonderful quotes and pictures etc etc. I think that is awesome and often would look at these lifestyle parents in awe. I was jealous honestly that they were pretty and so pulled together and brilliant or any other positive words I could think of that day. That was not me by a long shot. I can describe myself a a dichotomy, outgoing but shy, bold yet easily intimated, very insecure, and desperately hating any form of change. Yup, I was a little “off kilter” I guess, but hey I am what I am.

I am the woman who when working full time, being married, and raising kids, was out of my freaking mind. I was always stressed, tired, overweight, anxiety ridden, and lots not forget to put impatient and angry put those on the list as well.

In retrospect I realize I didn’t do it well, I did it to the best of my ability that was for sure and I am not taking about the work or family individually, I am talking about balancing them together. I thought I did, I was a Rockstar at work, and because it was “easy” I continued to put my full force into it, who doesn’t want to feel successful, right? Well the one thing that I did not feel like I was good at or maybe confident, is a better word, was in my ability to be a Rockstar mom.

Thus the beginning of a very long journey that is still in progress today because I am a mom to two amazing young men, who I have never felt closer too, but it wasn’t always that way.

Life has a very funny way of altering our course doesn’t it. This is the story of the shift of the winds and the new life that was brought to me over the last two years.

My hopes in sharing are to help others not feel so alone, make you laugh, maybe sometimes cry, but always closing the computer feeling better about your circumstance than you did 5 minutes before.

So what was the big life changing event that occurred you want to know, well it was the dirty little secret of thousands of parents across the world. DRUM ROLL PLEASE: I had my at the time 14 year old son transported (aka Gooning, horrible name for great people) to a wilderness program in the woods of Georgia last year. We said very little to him that dark early morning, nothing more than you are going to Georgia to get some help. However the real dialog in my head sounded way more like this:

Surprise you little shit, these nice to men are here to escort you to the fucking woods, where you will stay until you get your head out of your ass because you are making me, and the rest of the family insane with your behavior and we have tried everything to help you and now it has come to this. I truly hope they can help you and us as a family because I don’t know what else to do, other than to stand by and hope you don’t die.

They took him at 5:30am, we were told to leave the house in-case he started screaming out an trying to negotiate with us. We picked up our sleeping other child and did what any parent in that situation would do, we got in the car and drove to a Dunkin Dounts, to feed our empty souls with coffee and donuts. Before we could get our coffee, the text came: He is fine, he did great. We are in the car on the way to the airport. We will be in touch when we board. This is it, we did it, what kind of horrible parents are we, having total strangers take our kid because we couldn’t manage him. What has our life become? We went back home and spent literally the remainder of the day in bed. My husband on one side, me on the other, and his traumatized brother in the middle. We were numb. It was May 19, 2018, the day Prince Harry and Meghan Markel got married. It was bad, we all sat in that bed for hours watching that wedding, we were so numb, we didn’t even think of changing the channel. Our new life was about to begin.

And you might ask, the significance of the title Letter to My Son. Well from that first day the only way we communicated was through letters, many many letters. These letters were profound on both our ends, opening and healing wounds that we knew existed and some we didn’t. I will share some of those with you, in hopes that somewhere someone can benefit from the journey we are on. Remember this:

“Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start” Nido Qubein