You Have Problems

My daughter had a friend over last week. They were playing in her room when I heard the friend say, “You have problems.” My daughter responded with an amused, “No, I don’t.” and continued to play. The friend repeated it a few more times. “You have problems.”

“No, I don’t have problems.”

“Yes you do have problems. My mom told me you have problems.”

I was sitting in the living room listening to this exchange with my gut slowly shriveling up inside me with hurt and dread and guilt. What do you say in that kind of situation? I called the friend into the living room and politely asked her to stop saying that to my daughter and that if she continued to say it, I would send her home. The friend meekly complied. For about 2 minutes. Then I heard some furious whispering and my daughter burst out of her room crying, ran down the hall and out the door. I ran after her, worried and upset for her. She told me she didn’t want to play with her friend anymore because she was being mean. I wasn’t sure what to say to her, so I thought about what I would do if someone was being mean to me in my own house.

“If your friend continues to be mean and you don’t want to play with her anymore, you can ask her to go home. You don’t have to play with friends who are mean to you.” I wasn’t sure if she’d do it. My daughter’s self-esteem is low and she is so social and loving that she puts up with a lot from other kids for the chance to play with them.

I sat back down in the living room. Playing commenced. About 2 minutes went by when the friend whispered something else and my daughter said, in a clear and loud voice, “You’re being mean and I want you to go home.”

The friend left the house crying and I called her mom to let her know she was walking home (a few houses down) and why she was crying. I can describe the conversation with one word: awkward. When I hung up with the mom, I was still upset. Not at the friend, or even at the mom who told her daughter that my kid had problems, but just generally upset that this was probably just the tip of the iceberg to come. Being hurt by your friends sucks. Watching your child get hurt by her friends sucks about a thousand times more.

That night while I was making dinner, my daughter sat down at the table and asked me if she had problems.

“Do you think you have problems?” I countered.

“No.”

“Then you don’t have any problems.” And I meant it. Because, who doesn’t have problems? If you feel good about yourself and you are functioning well in society, you’re doing just fine. And if anyone tells you otherwise, just tell them to go home.

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On Being Strong

The newest trend I’ve noticed on Facebook is the gratitude challenge. A friend challenges you to name three things you are grateful for for seven days. I haven’t been challenged yet, but I was thinking about it when I was driving home from a friend’s house the other day.

I’m grateful for my strength. Not just my emotional strength which I’ve discovered I have in spades, but my physical strength as well. I’ve never really appreciated that fact before because it made me feel unfeminine. Tall and stocky with the broad shoulders, I’ve always felt a little manly. (Thank God for breasts!)

Lately, I’m happy that I’m strong. It’s freeing, in a way, to know that I don’t need to rely on anyone but myself to get things done. I’m completely independent. I don’t need to wait around until I can ask someone to do something. I can get things done and spend the rest of the time just enjoying being with my friends and loved ones.

This thought came upon me after driving by a hutch on the side of a really backwoods road with a big “Free” sign on it. It was a really nice piece of furniture, solid wood, and I thought, “That would look really great in a garden shed as a potting surface and storage unit.” I pulled into the bottom of the long dirt driveway, lowered half of the backseat while my son was asking me why we were stopping. In the pouring rain (did I mention it was raining?) I pushed and pulled and lifted that sucker up and into the back of my small SUV. I didn’t have any bungee cord or rope, and since the end of the hutch was sticking out of the hatch, I pulled the auxillary cord for my iPod out of my glovebox and used that to tie my hatch door down. We were back on the road less than five minutes later.

Just give me a chambray shirt and a bandana and I'll show you how to move some furniture, baby!

Just give me a chambray shirt and a bandana and I’ll show you how to move some furniture, baby!

When I pulled into my garage, (and after I got over feeling weird for taking something off the road) I was pretty darn proud of myself. I saw something I wanted and I was able to get it all by myself. As I gloated, I unloaded it, moved it to a safe place, untied the auxillary cord completely and I pulled the hatch closed….

BAM! I smashed the corner of the door into my skull. As I staggered back against the garage wall and clutched my head, I thought, “Well damn, I guess that’s what I get for being so smug.” I would have laughed if the pain in my head wasn’t so horrible. I spent the next half hour on the couch with an ice pack on my head while my son danced around the living room begging me to make chocolate chip cookies.

The moral of this story? I’m grateful for my strength, for people who give away nice furniture and the fact that I didn’t give myself brain damage while being distracted by my own awesomeness.

Is there anything about yourself that you’re grateful for?

Playing Nice

The kids were playing and my daughter walks into the living room.

“Mom, I want you to play with us.”

“Okay. What are we playing?”

“Well, I want you to be the White Witch. She’s a good witch so you’ll have to pretend to be nice.”

“….”

"What the what?"

“What the what?”

The Ride is Over

rollercoasters in cities venice frozen over nois7 surreal photos images manipulations RThe roller coaster goes up. And then it comes down.

I hit my emotional limit last month dealing with my child’s mental health issues. Five weeks later and I feel like I’m sitting on the bench watching the rides from a distance. With a correct diagnosis, we have received more help and support from the “system” than I even knew existed. We started a mood stabilizer that has changed the lives of everyone in my house. We are receiving In Home Support from 2 Master’s Level LCSWs who call themselves Behavior Health Professionals, or BHPs, 10 hours per week.

I have a Case Manager who has been educating me on all of the programs and resources available to our family. She does all the research and paperwork and we are reaping the benefits. My daughter got a scholarship to take Therapeutic Horseback Riding lessons at a local farm. We are looking into other social activities for her as well. Although, I must say, one activity at a time is all we’re taking on at the moment.

On one hand, I have been super busy implementing all the treatment plans we have been given, juggling appointments and blocks of time the BHPs are here. We still have day camp, trips to the beach, trips to the lake, bike riding, hiking, and spending time with friends. (My kids, not me, unfortunately.) On the other hand, my life hasn’t been this calm in a long time. I’ll take calm and busy any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

The biggest miracle that has occurred from all this? My daughter is SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT!!!! Ever since we started the mood stabilizer, everyone in the house is getting continuous sleep at night. It may not sound like much when compared to the other improvements in behavior and mood, but let me tell you, I am a better person and a better parent after 5 weeks of being able to sleep through the night. This is the first time in six and a half years that I have felt rested.

Only three more weeks until school starts! This mama, as calm as she is, is really ready for the fall.

Mommy’s Little Boo-Boo

I just deleted my last post. My husband was pretty upset with me for posting my daughter’s personal business on my blog. So, even though I can’t take it back, I deleted it and hope that my little boo-boo doesn’t come back to bite me in the butt.

My argument for writing the blog was twofold. One, I’m writing a blog about my life and that life, as a stay at home mom, is completely consumed with my child’s issues right now. I was at my emotional limit. I needed to vent. Two, I grew up thinking that mental illness was something shameful that should be kept a secret. And that didn’t feel good. I don’t want my kids to ever feel shame for things that are beyond their control. I’m done with secrets. I want them to be able to be open about themselves, to be vulnerable in a way I never could be, and accept that they are okay just the way they are. No matter what anyone else thinks of them.

My husband’s argument was that it should be our daughter’s decision to share her personal business with the world. I hadn’t thought about it from that angle before I had written and published my blog post and I felt pretty guilty about sharing something she may want to keep to herself. So I’m going to ask, for those of you who know my family personally, to keep the info I shared to yourselves. I hoping, when she’s old enough to understand, that she will share it and be supported by her friends and family.

I’m not sure how I’m going to continue this blog without really discussing what’s going on in my life, but we’ll see!

Remember Veruca Salt?

I’m not talking about the band, either. The all time classic movie from my childhood is Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. If you are anywhere near my age, or if you have just seen the original movie (I won’t even comment on the creepiness of the Johnny Depp remake), you will remember Veruca Salt.

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Oh yeah. There she is as we best remember her – demanding something that she wants. Of all the children’s characters in that movie, Veruca Salt stands out. Why? Because she has personality. Yes, she’s a spoiled brat. Yes, she is pretty unlikable and we feel sorry for her father in the movie, being saddled with such a termagant for a kid. But maybe Veruca is misunderstood. She’s a little girl begging for attention from her parents, who are too busy for her and instead indulge her every whim so that they don’t have to deal with any confrontation.

Look at that sweet face. All she wanted was a golden egg! Geez!

 

You’re thinking, What’s the point of all this, Tamara? The point, my dears, is that we remember Veruca because of her distinct personality. Actually, she’s my favorite character in the movie because she completely cracks me up. That girl knows how to get what she wants.

I keep this thought in my head when I’m dealing with the little quirks of my own children’s personalities. This morning, I dropped my son off for his last day of nursery school. He was wearing his favorite Spiderman t-shirt and matching shorts. He was also wearing his Spiderman winter cap and red gloves. He refused to take them off before we left because he said that wearing them makes him Spiderman. So Spiderman/Chase went to school in a winter hat and gloves because I figure, hey, that’s just his personality. Who cares if it looks a little ridiculous; it’s pretty cute if you ask me.

And when my daughter wears her bathing suit to school under her clothes and removes said clothes on the bus in the morning? Okay, okay, I think. It’s just a Veruca Salt. She’s just being who she is, my quirky little firecracker who thinks she looks pretty in her bathing suit.

I grew up with a strong personality. I, too, know how to get what I want. So when my kids are testing my limits with all those personality quirks that make them who they are, I tell myself that they’ll turn out all right. Because I was quirky too and look how great I turned out.

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An Introvert’s Guide to Parenting

Hi, my name is Tamara and I’m an introvert. One of the many, many things that I didn’t know about parenting when I was newly wedded and dreaming of babies is that your entire social sphere is altered irreparably by the appearance of a mini-you.

When you become a parent:

Strangers Will Feel Urged to Talk to You. It’s like some invisible door has been opened and people feel comfortable stepping on through to chat. If you are outside of the house and are toting a kid (or two), people feel some sort of common bond with you. Which means they will strike up a conversation. Anywhere you go. You’re standing in the grocery store staring at the wall of spaghetti sauces and trying to decide which one you want while simultaneously remembering something stupid you said 15 years ago and (on the other side of your brain) trying to debunk Sartre’s Existentialist Philosophy. A stranger will roll on up into your peripheral vision and smile and make some benign comment about your kids. Or about children in general. Or (my favorite) ask you a stupid question. Like, “Oh my God, they are so cute! Are they twins?” when, really, your kids are different genders and 2 years apart in age.

This stranger-speaking phenomenon will begin the moment you are obviously pregnant. During your pregnancy, the stranger speaking to you may also touch you. You will, most assuredly, hear at least one terrifying birth/parenting story that will haunt you for the next three months.

bad-idea-stranger

Kids will invite your kids to birthday parties. Hello personal nightmare. No matter the venue, it’s loud, it’s crowded, it’s overwhelmingly visually stimulating and you will need to try to keep track of where your child is at all moments while mingling with complete strangers. These parties can last for hours. And you can’t leave whenever you want because a) they haven’t sung Happy Birthday yet, b) you don’t want to offend the parents of your kid’s friend or c) you’re parked in and would have to ask 5+ strangers to move their cars. Did I mention that it’s loud? And crowded?

You have to go places you would never had visited before. There are baby clothes stores, baby furniture stores, photography studios, school functions, school field trips, your neighbors’ houses, ER visits, pediatricians, pediatric eye doctors, any number of specialists if your pediatrician thinks something is wrong with your child’s development. You will visit water parks, amusement parks, local parks and playgrounds packed with other parents who will want to chat because they haven’t spoken to another adult all day long. You will, at least once, set foot in a kid-centric restaurant/playland for birthday parties. See above.

Eventually, your kids will want to leave the house. This will bother you since you can’t think of anything more fun than hanging out at home. In elastic waistband pants. Your kids, on the other hand, will be able to think of numerous places outside of the house and yard that they would like you to take them. See above.

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You will dread drop-off/pick-up and/or the wait at the bus stop. The drive-by drop-off is always preferred by the introvert, but sometimes that’s not an option. You will be mingling with the other parents while you drop off and pick up. You will have to stand at the bus stop with a group of other parents from your neighborhood and make *shudder* small talk. (This introvert will say that once you get to know the parents, this won’t bother you anymore. You will look forward to chatting with the one or two parents that you know.)

You will have to do all these things without letting your kids know they bother you, because you don’t want to inadvertently teach them to be uncomfortable in the same circumstances.

Can my other introverted parents out there think of anything I missed?