Mental Health, Parent Coaching, Parent Mentoring, Parent Support

I turned into a sloth…

For the past two weeks I have been in a full blown sloth mode. My days of getting up naturally at 6am, hopping in the shower, and starting my list of tasks was abandoned. The other members of my family saw no need or urgency to accomplish anything within a time line, either for the day or week; and in reality, why should they have.

However, for me to not have a daily schedule or purpose results in me having zero motivation to do anything, and as a result everything started to look grey and dull. Definitely not the way I am used to seeing the world. My world is generally filled with joy and happiness and an occasional rainbow shooting out someones a**. My husband calls me a freakin’ Pollyanna, because I can see goodness in almost anything. I can be annoyingly optimistic.

  • My kid is struggling- “We will get through it”
  • My husband lost his job- “We will be okay”
  • Unemployment reviewing a claim- “It will all work out for the best”
  • Waiting for someone to respond to me- “I am sure there must be a valid reason”

That is until two weeks ago. After several months of this living with non-urgency crew (husband and two teens) I gave up my strongly maintained and structured schedule, and adopted the it will eventually get done attitude. This is great for a vacation, but not good for everyday life. I found my self lounging in my pajamas until noon watching the television or doing something inane like playing games on my ipad, or watching crazy people on TikTok.

I didn’t see any urgency in doing laundry, nor yard work, or anything else, as it would all get done eventually, right? Well, because of my new “attitude” the last two weeks have been the blahest of the last three months.

I need a schedule. I need a purpose. I need structure. I need to be doing something to push me forward. I now have a better understanding of how hard it is for our teens to have a sense of urgency about anything, when to them there is no immediate purpose. Why get up at 8am if there is no where to go or to be. The level of what appeared to be laziness, but I think was really apathy, eventually wore me down and I joined them.

Just this week I voiced to some friends that I have been the least productive person in the last two weeks, I felt like a slow moving no motivated sloth. Only after repeating it a few times did I realize that I had to snap out of it, and get myself back into a routine. While my family could live without urgency or a schedule, I just couldn’t.

So this week was a new start. Back to getting up early, making a To Do list and getting stuff done like the timeliness mattered. I realized, it does matter. It matters to me. I am not good being a slow moving sloth. So I have to say I feel like my old self again. I have purpose, even if that purpose is getting stuff done around the house, based upon my own personal timetable.

My mood is better, I feel human again and I feel like I have a purpose. I am back to being the me I like.

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.

Mental Health, Parent Support

“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

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, Mental Health, Parent Support

Good things happen when we make relationships a top priority.

Last night I was attending a Taco Tuesday women’s get together in my neighborhood. It was a night filled with good food, games, laughter, and some pretty amazing women.

My history with women wasn’t always pleasant. I found women to be catty, and backstabbing, and often out for their own good. Now I am not saying this is how all women are, it just seemed to be my experiences.

As I aged, I became wiser, less rigid and judgmental, and I also became more confident and a better judge of people. I found myself choosing to surround myself with some pretty fantastic women. Back when I lived in New Jersey I found a small group women with whom I bonded with on a spiritual retreat. We all clicked and to this day, despite the fact I moved across the country, I continue to feel as close to them as if I continued to live next door. We often referred to each other’s as “Sista’s” and yes that is how we spelled it. I am not 100% sure why, but I think that may have started because we performed a skit to the movie Sister Act and dressed up as Nuns or it could have been as “Sisters in Christ”. Go with whatever makes you feel more comfortable.

So I moved to Utah, never thinking that I would find a group like that again. I was going to be open to new friendships, but honestly how likely would it have been for me to find that twice in my life.

Well I am overjoyed to say that I found a group of great women in Utah. How does this happen, am I so fabulous that people are dying to be my friend? Nope, not even close. I have figured out it has to do with a few simple things.

  • The First: The desire to be part of a group.
  • The Second: Give 100% and be vulnerable
  • The Third: Give much more than you take from the relationship.

Back to Taco Tuesday. One of the organizers of this event got up in front of about 35 women and explained with tears in her eyes why gatherings with women were so important to her.

She has a great husband and kids, but there is something about the power of women that is necessary for her. She also explained that sometimes the connection is not meant for you, but for you to pass along to someone in the future. She often jokes that the reason I ended up as her neighbor was because she needed me, little did she know how much I needed her.

Last night I had the pleasure of enjoying my taco salad at a table where a teenage girl, about the age of 15 or 16 sat.

I laughed about how my anxiety was trying to convince me to bail on Taco Tuesday because I didn’t want to go in alone. I asked a friend for help and she offered to pick me up. And while some people might think my anxiety over such a simple thing is stupid and I should just get over it, it doesn’t work that way. I acknowledged my anxiety, I addressed it, and I worked through it with the help of others.

So after I finished telling my little story about how anxiety almost kept me from doing something I wanted to do, this young girl openly shared that she too suffered from anxiety and a few other things that always seem to hitch a ride on the anxiety train.

I gave her my full attention as I listened to her share what was going on with her life. As like many people with anxiety, we shared some of the same struggles; Adhd, anxiety, the inability to shut off our wandering minds, we wondered if everyone worried about stuff as much as we did, we used humor as a coping mechanism, and the list went on and on.

I shared some of my experiences as a teen, and the expression on her face was one of relief. She told me that while she could explain things to people she hadn’t found someone who truly understood it. We both described the inability to sleep at night because our minds raced, either anticipating the next day or re-living the one we just had, and the constant self doubt that plagued us.

All I kept thinking was, what would have happened had this dynamic young lady chose not share? She wouldn’t have learned that there are other people who understand what she is going through. Being a teenager is hard enough in this world without adding on diagnosis’. I didn’t solve her problems, because I can’t, however I did provide her with some comfort that it doesn’t always have to be this way. I also shared some tips and resources that I have gathered over the years.

We talked about sleep quite a bit, as it is so vital to being able to function, and it effects so many people, not just those with anxiety. I even shared my sleep routine, which to some might be weird, but includes; a sleep mask, a very cold room, some meditation, a scheduled sleep time and the mother of all things, a very expensive, but amazing weighted blanket.

I told her how impressed I was with her ability to be vulnerable and share with me, a virtual stranger. I shared that I only learned about my anxiety a few years ago. Had I chosen to share my feelings with people in my youth, things might have looked different for me. But you know what they say, “If it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger.”

I was impressed with her ability to recognize it at a young age, and her desire to deal with it and ask for help. I was thrilled to see that she trusted her mom enough to share and confide in her, she has an ally in this journey.

Her mom made a conscious choice to listen and hear what her daughter was telling her. She didn’t dismiss it, she didn’t attribute it to hormones, she didn’t push her away and tell her to get over it, she didn’t think her younger kids needed her more. She listened and was ready to provide help.

Sometimes our kids just need us to listen and focus as much on what they are saying, as what they are not saying. As parent’s we have the tendency to focus on the parts that will set them up for the future, like school, staying out of trouble, sports, etc. Sometimes a parent needs to put all that stuff aside and focus on the core of the child. It is hard, very hard. I was the parent who was more concerned with grades, and appearances than I ever should have been. I got lucky, in that I learned our relationship trumps all else. Because I want my kid to trust me as much as this girl trusted her mom. For us, we are still working toward it, but it was very nice to see how it can be, it gave me the resolve not to give up.

People often suggest, actually they don’t suggest it, they say it outright; that I talk to much, or share to much, or I am just too much. Yeah, they are probably right most of the time, but not last night.

I make the choice to share, because I never know who I might help by sharing the story of my struggle, it might be directly for them, or it might be for them to share with someone they know at a later date. My simple hope in sharing is; maybe there is just one person out there who may have the chance to avoid the struggles I have had. So yeah, I am a blabber mouth, but I like me this way.

Later that evening, I hoofed a 25 pound pink weighted blanket around the corner and knocked on their door. I handed it to her and said, “Try it out for a few days and let me know what you think?

I slept great last night, because I was under my own weighted blanket. I wonder how she did? It’s pretty amazing that by sharing stories and feelings, your own weights can be lifted.

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Anxiety, Mental Health, Parent Support

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I share my stories of trying to raise teenage boys without losing my mind. No parent should ever feel alone. I am honest, raw, vulnerable and often humorous as I wade through what is my life.

Anxiety, Mental Health, Parent Support

When to ask for help, when dealing with teenagers?

Asking for help is not an easy thing for me to do, but I have learned it is a necessity for me to survive parenting.My social media footprint may lead some to believe that I may handle everything with calm and logic, unfortunately this is not always the case, and every so often there are times I struggle and have moments that render me useless and require me to reach out for help.    

The last few days have been very needy days for me.  It seems like I can hold my shit together only so long before I crack.  My definition of cracking means I retreat to my bathroom; I get in the shower where I can have a cathartic cry that includes ugly, loud, snotty sobbing. 

I adopted the bathroom as my “go to place” years ago as it has the essentials for a good stay.  I have water to stay hydrated, the toilet for when you have to go, and the shower which I can turn on to drown out any primal noises that erupt from deep within my core; or I can choose to get into the shower and let the water wash away whatever caused my melt down.

Yesterday I retreated to the bathroom.  Thus doing what I am constantly telling the kids not to do, took the longest shower and used up all the water.  At times I stood in silence, other times I just wept covering my face with my hands in disbelief that I am feeling this way.  I got my prune skinned body out of the shower, dressed and hopped right back into bed.  I decided I was going to spend the day there, maybe just feeling sorry for myself, I don’t know, I didn’t have a plan. 

I worked up the nerve and I sent out two texts;  to people that I trust with my entire being. The first one, couldn’t have been simpler it read…  “R U free?  I need to talk” and the other “Can you find some free time in the next day or so to talk with me?

I then got under the covers and turned on the television.  I have to say right after I hit send on both of those texts my first instinct was to somehow suck them back onto my phone.  I DO NOT, and yes that is capital letters, like to ask for help or want people to see me as “less than” capable.  I am the strong one, I listen and help others, and I am not the one who needs help.   Thank God, I am not enough of a moron to actually listen to myself, as I needed the backup of those two people in my life yesterday.  No, I was not suicidal or anything I just hit the wall of stuff I could handle.   

I snuggled down, pulled the covers up to my chin and started to watch the Chicago Fire, Med, and PD trilogy I had on my DVR.  I vacillated between watching tv and cat napping until both people reached out to me with back to back telephone calls.

My reaction to hearing each of the voices across the line was to burst into tears.  Did you ever have that happen, you think you are okay and then someone just says your name and you lose it?

Both conversations where short, but powerful and it helped me get out of my funk and move forward.  Both are parents who understand raising teens is hard, and both were profound. 

The first was a simple statement that clicked for me, “You are doing okay, stay the course”  I needed validation in my right to feel this way, and that I was doing the right thing. 

The second person said, “I am here, let it out, I will listen.  You are always helping everyone else, I am here for you.” 

Even as I type these words my eyes get a little wet, as I am so thankful that I have finally allowed myself to share my feelings without worry, because if I didn’t I would be losing the opportunity to have the one thing I needed the most for myself, which is the support of others.

I spent the remainder of the day in bed until my husband came home from work, at which time I felt like myself again.  I told him about my conversations and how I spent the day in bed.  His response; “That’s good I am glad you took care of yourself.”  His words were the tri-fecta of awesomeness for me yesterday.

Today I am back to feeling like myself, and I know it is only because I allowed myself to experience the vulnerability of needing people, asking for help, and showing myself some compassion.  Today, I am feeling like one lucky duck. I hope you are as well.

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

These Holidays are killing me.

The holidays are supposed to evoke feelings of warmth, comfort, joy and happiness. For my family Christmas has always been steeped in tradition. We would do the same thing year after year and I often recall it as memorable and wonderful and everything I could have imagined as a kid.

When I had children I wanted the same amazing Christmas experience for them, and in my mind that meant continuing to do the same as I had done in my childhood. Logic told me if I followed the same activities I could expect the same outcome, makes sense right? Each year I did just that and didn’t get the outcome I was expecting from my children, yet I continued on the same path year after year. I had officially moved from logic to the insanity definition-continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different outcome. Yup that was me, year after year.

Last week, in the midst of all the Christmas celebrations going on, I attended an RTC graduation for one of my sons friends. I sat and glowed at the progress this one young man in particular had made. He held a special place in my heart from the first day I met him, he reminded me of me when I was young. And after the ceremony was over his Dad and I had an opportunity to catch up and look at what the last year had brought to our families and us as individuals.

And very much like Christmas traditions I just mentioned, we discussed the traditions of raising children. Basically as parents we learned to parent from our parents, and so on and so on. For generations following the template that preceded us, and it really seemed to work. And with that, we always wanted more for our children than we had. Our reward for parenting was to see our children live better lives than we did.

However after the long journey both of our families have been on, we both acknowledged that the current bracket of teens aren’t following the “tradition” the way we expected them to.

You see as parents, we didn’t know any other way, I often joke that the parent manual I was given wasn’t updated for my kids generation. We knew that our way was the right way. Our thinking was the correct thinking, and we were going to instill that in our offspring, and often it worked. Well sometimes it doesn’t, but damn that, I was going to follow my traditions. But then I realized I have now waded into the insanity waters.

As our discussion continued we both realized that our families did great jobs, and we were just trying to honor them in following the same path. However what we didn’t take into consideration is that our standards, ideas, and rules, were based on a different societal norms, and most importantly on our possibly flawed thinking that: 1. Our way was the only way 2. It was the right way and 3. Kids today are the same as kids of yesteryear. Yeah, I don’t think so.

It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact I was wrong. As shifting my mindset felt very much to me like I was abandoning not only my ideals but my family traditions. Simply said, sticking to “traditions” are amazing and wonderful, but as Kenny Rodgers would say, you need to “Know when to fold them”.

Both this dad and I realized that the true strength and wisdom comes from recognizing that there are multiple paths to the desired outcome. I realized it doesn’t always have to be my “right” way; there are other “right” ways and being open to new “traditions” or modifying old can be the link to the closer relationship I was seeking with the people in my life.

Back to my children and Christmas. I was still on the insanity path of forcing upon my children the Christmas I had in my youth. The reality is my kids never fit into the mold of my Christmas version. I love my family and I wanted my children to feel the excitement and happiness that I recalled in Christmas’ of my youth. I loved all the people coming to my house when I was young, I thrived on the more the merrier, the loudness and chaos, every time the doorbell rang I ran to get it. Looking back I think I was also thinking that every person who came to the door had a gift for me as well.

My children were never like that. They were uncomfortable around larger groups of people, even if they were family, and they didn’t like all the activity. I will say they did like the gifts people brought, but hey what kid wouldn’t.

Christmas mornings were good and every year I would make Pillsbury biscuits to eat while we opened stockings. And then like clockwork it ended with a huge thud as I made the announcement it was time to get ready to go over my parents house. And don’t get me wrong, my kids liked my parents, but for them the traditions were too “much” and caused stress and anxiety for them and in turn caused me to be “crazy” And the cycle of the day began. They got more stressed, I got crazier, etc etc.

So each year the Christmas day war would commence around 11 am in my house in anticipation of trying to get in the car for 12:30pm. This included me explaining for the 100th time that it is Christmas and we spend Christmas with our family, and why I wanted them to look nice, blah blah blah. We would get into the car and then I would spend the entire ride in lecture mode reminding them to “be social-able” and adding in about a dozen other instructions.

By the time we got to my mother’s house we rolled out of the car with moods and attitudes that could have rivaled Scrooge. Let’s just say we didn’t hide it well and when we walked in the door the first question was often, What’s wrong? I would wave it away, feeling angry that my family just suck it up for one freakin day. My kids would then hole away in some part of the house by themselves, causing family to question, Why don’t they socialize? And every time someone said something a new wave of shame washed over me. Often by the end of the night I was exhausted by the mental mambo of shame and disgust that I had dancing in my head for the last 5 hours.

I never ever ever considered anything but Christmas at my parents house, despite it wasn’t joyful for us. I was too stuck in the tradition to even question it. And I only really thought about all the feeling associated with it last year when we chose to spend Christmas in Utah supporting our son who was in residential treatment at the time.

So instead of an extended family Christmas in New Jersey, Christmas was spent with just the four of us. We shared a room in the Hampton Inn in a small town in Utah. There were less presents, there was no tree, no decorating, no stockings, and no extended family. This was the furthest thing from any previous Christmas I had experienced. At first I was a bit sad for myself and then as the day wore on I realized it was one of the best Christmas’ my kids had ever had, and in turn it was one of my best with them as well.

Christmas had to look different, we had no choice. Ironically the only “missed” tradition were the biscuits, which funny enough was one of the easiest. The lack of being able to do certain things allowed made us explore new things; like all my men dressing in light-up Christmas pajamas, very tacky maybe, but very funny with tons of smiles. And our sons delivered us breakfast in bed from the hotel buffet.

We opened gifts and savored them so much more than in years past, as much thought had to be put into them because of the restrictions of travel, packing, and school rules. We laughed and smiled, and of course missed our family home in New Jersey. This was a practical lesson me learning and understanding in having to make choices and finding compromise in all situations, including both Christmas and parenting. Who would have thought that Christmas was going to teach me a parenting lesson? Not me for sure.

So now we are on the cusp of our second Christmas in Utah, but this year we are in our new home. I don’t feel the pressure to replicate the Christmas of my childhood, even though I can. We are creating the Christmas of my children’s childhood. The tree is up and decorated, the stockings are hung, the gifts have been bought and all of this without stress and strain.

We are choosing to celebrate in new ways. I will not even call them traditions, as who knows how we will spend it next year. This year Christmas Eve is going to be in Salt Lake City touring the grounds of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon) and looking at the light displays, followed by a nice Italian dinner. Simple yet good for us.

Christmas day plans includes Pillsbury biscuits while we open stockings, (couldn’t give up that one, as we all love it). We do not plan to leave the house, so there is a thumbs up to spending the entire Christmas day in pajamas. We are going to hang out, hopefully play some games, watch Tv, and then eat a simple dinner I cook. All are welcome, but be warned, if you plan on stopping by on Christmas we suggest that you throw on your pajamas so you don’t feel over-dressed.

Traditions are legacies that connect generations and they are beautiful. I never want to abandon the essence of them, but me it is time to review some of the assoicated activities and make sure they are serving my family well. I hope your traditions are wonderful and passed down to may generations.

So I wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, or anything else I may have missed. Enjoy your holiday, be well, and Happy New Year. May 2020 be better than you hoped.