Friday, November 30, 2012

Thanks, Bitchy-Comment Leaver, for the Reminder

Every now and then, I'm reminded of just how important it is to keep speaking out about children's mental health, even if it's just to friends and family.

This morning I found a bitchy comment on one of my posts, which is a first for me. I'd love to share it with you, but I deleted it by accident. I swear it was an accident! I was so flustered as the first words assaulted my eyes that I accidentally deleted it instead of opening it. Trust me, it would have been way more fun to have left it there and let you guys go to town!

In a nutshell, RochelleL (yes, she left her name) slammed me as a negligent mother who is "pleased" with herself for having "helped create a tiny terror," a kid who has "trained mommy." The reason Bear is repeating grade 1 is all my fault because, after all, what kind of mother would allow her child to miss 60+ days of school. Gee, thanks for pointing that out, RochelleL. It isn't as if I wrote an entire post to that exact subject (read Forever in Grade 1?).

It was obvious from some of RochelleL's references that she had read at least a few of my posts, and yet this was the picture of me that she had been left with. At first I was really angry, with all kinds of nasty names going through my head. Then I was hurt. How could someone come to that kind conclusion about me? Then I didn't care. I see stupid comments on other people's blogs all the time, so I guess it was just my turn. Then I giggled. If that's what she thinks about me from reading about us, what would she think if she saw us during one of Bear's public meltdowns? Can you imagine the look on her face? Priceless!

And then I was inspired. People like Rochelle are the reason why we need to keep talking and educating about children's mental illness. I'm beyond caring what Rochelle thinks about me, but I'll be damned if I'm going to let people judge my son.

For the record, TheODDDad and I frequently receive compliments from complete strangers on just how polite our "tiny terror" is in public. He says please and thank you and even says excuse me when he's walking past someone. My beautiful boy, despite his many challenges, knows how to treat people with respect. And that, Rochelle, is more than I can say about you. He has a mental illness. What's your excuse?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Love those Questions

Bear seems to have hit a stage where he's asking a lot of questions. He's always been inquisitive, but now his questions are becoming more mature.

Case in point: There's a dwarf (yes, that is the correct terminology in 2012) who works at our local grocery store. As might be expected of a 7-year-old boy, Bear is intrigued by him. This became rather embarrassing when we'd go to the grocery store because Bear's head would swivel and he'd start to giggle every time he saw him. Despite my best efforts to explain that God creates everyone differently -- some blond, some brunette, some short, some tall -- I still ended up fielding comments like "Did you see him? He's funny!"

Then came the other day, when Bear casually walked by this gentleman with little more than a glance his way.

"YES!!!" I thought to myself as we continued down the aisle. Maybe we had moved on to something more interesting. Wouldn't that be nice?

Then it came.

"Mom..." he started with that tone of voice I know so well, the one that means there's a question coming. I groaned inwardly, figuring something highly insensitive was about to voiced.

" does he reach things?" he asked seriously, looking around the store at shelves towering above us.

You could see the wheels turning in his sweet little head, and my heart swelled with pride at his very mature and logical question.

"Good question, Bear," I said. "I guess he uses a ladder just like we do when we can't reach something." Bear nodded thoughtfully and then took off in the direction of the toy section, his curiosity satisfied for the moment. 

Then there are times like the other day, when I'm reminded just how young he is.

"Mom..." he began as he stared out the window at the crescent moon.

"...if you were on the moon, how would you stay on?" he asked with all the seriousness of a little boy with an incredible imagination. "You'd slide right off, and then how would you get back on?"

Oh, little Bear...I love how your mind works.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I Hate McDonald's Playland

I had an hour with my thoughts yesterday afternoon as I drove Bear to his therapy appointment. Technically, I wasn't alone, but Bear was wrapped up in his movie, so I had time to think. In my mind, I wrote a great blog. I had it all worked out -- what I would write and how I would write it. (You look surprised. What, did you think the blog fairy appears and writes them for me?)

Then yesterday afternoon happened, and suddenly I had a whole new blog to share with you. Out with the old, in with the new.

For whatever reason, Bear was just wild yesterday. I knew it before we arrived at therapy and it was pretty obvious when we were there. Despite this, I caved to his whining and took him to McDonald's after our session. We always do something special after therapy, despite the fact that he loves going there. Why am I rewarding him for doing something he already enjoys doing? No clue, but at least we get to spend some one-on-one time together. Normally we go somewhere and play checkers, but yesterday he was dying for McDonald's playland.

No problem, I thought. He'd play for a while, burn off some energy, and all would be hunky-dory. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! (For the record, yes, that is maniacal laughter.) When it came time to leave, Bear went into complete ODD mode, which is something we haven't seen in a while. Despite my reasoning, threatening, and pleading, Bear remained in the play structure, knowing full well I couldn't get him in there. Of course, that isn't enough for a child with ODD. His refusal to comply with my reasoning/threatening/pleading was punctuated by name calling that reverberated around the room and by faces made at me through the plexiglass windows of the structure. Someone asked me how old he was, probably figuring I'd say 4 or 5. Her face dropped when I said 7, so I had to launch into the whole ADHD/ODD/mental health explanation.

I eventually walked away from the structure and hid myself by the door, where Bear couldn't see me. As soon as I disengaged, he snapped out of it. Now came the remorse and the panic, and he came flying around the corner with tears streaming down his face. Just as I would a toddler, I wiped the tears, gave him a snuggle, put on his shoes, helped him into his jacket and mitts, and we walked out of there hand-in-hand, chit-chatting away.

I'd love to say that was the last of that particular behaviour, but that would be a lie. The name calling came and went all the way home, as did the tears. I even had to pull off the road at one point to comfort him. It continued at Stitch's daycare where, despite knowing better, he ran around the parking lot, dodging cars. With Stitch in my arms, there wasn't a whole lot I could do except holler at him, which only egged him on. Home saw me carrying him into the house, with his arms and legs wrapped around me, as he sobbed on my shoulder.

I have no idea what the problem was yesterday, but I do know this -- it was bigger than him.

I know something else, too. We won't be going to McDonald's when Bear's having a bad day ever again. Mommy learned her lesson the hard way.

Monday, November 5, 2012

My Son, the ETL Kid

I will never, ever, ever forget the day my gynecologist informed us that we would most likely never have children of our own and that we should start considering other options. Until then, nobody had ever said the dreaded word: infertility. But let's face it, when you're in your early 30s and you've been trying for more than two years to get pregnant, you pretty much jump to that conclusion yourself.

I remember sitting there, talking to the doctor so very calmly. We discussed IVF and why it wasn't a good fit for us. We discussed further surgery and how it wouldn't likely improve our odds of getting pregnant. We discussed adoption and how that was probably our best bet. And through all this I felt TheODDDad's eyes on me, although I couldn't figure out why.

I remember smiling and thanking the doctor for all her advice on our way out. I remember holding hands with TheODDDad as we walked back to the car. I remember him opening the car door for me and helping me in. I remember laughing to myself at how gentle he was being with me despite how strong I obviously was. And I remember falling to pieces in the time it took for him to walk around the car and get in the driver's seat.

The doctor had confirmed what I had figured out a long time before -- that children were not in my future (or so I thought at the time). That I would never know the feeling of lying in bed with TheODDDad's hand on my stomach, feeling our little one move. That I would never have a child with TheODDDad's eyes or smile. And I was devastated.

Once the tears subsided, self-preservation kicked in. I'm a researcher and a writer, so I knew exactly what I needed to help me through: a book. At the book store I perused the shelves, which only served to make me angrier. It seemed that every book was a "how to" book that offered false hope to desperate women -- how to eat your way to pregnancy, how to exercise your way to pregnancy, how to meditate your way to pregnancy, how to relax your way to pregnancy. And then I found it, the book that would become my lifeline. This book validated everything I was feeling and everything I was going through. It helped me deal with my emotions and gave me tips on talking to friends and family members about what I was going through. It was written by someone who had been through this herself, and it made me realize that I wasn't alone in what I was feeling. And that is what gave me hope. Not hope that I would get pregnant, but hope that I could get through this. That I would be OK.

One of the lessons I took away from my experiences with infertility is that there is no more powerful feeling than knowing you're not alone in what you're going through. There is also no feeling so alienating as believing yourself not only to be alone in what you're going through but to be responsible for it. As parents of children with mental health issues, that's very often a place where we find ourselves, especially as we begin the journey to understanding our children. We feel alone, trapped, judged, and to blame. And those aren't good feelings.

Recently I was asked to review a book called Easy to Love but Hard to Raise. If you've noticed, I don't review products or take part in give-aways. Not normally, at any rate. But Adrienne Ehlert Bashista and Kay Marner are both writers, bloggers, and mothers like I was interested in reading their book. That, and I got the book for free.

What I discovered was a book full of stories from parents like me. Real parents. Real stories. Real children. Real laughter. Real tears. Real love. It's not a book that offers false hope to desperate parents -- how to feed your children to "cure" them, how to discipline your children to "cure" them, how to play with your children to "cure" them, how to work with your children to "cure" them. Rather, it's a book that validates everything I've been through and everything I see coming towards me (duck!). That tells me that I'm not alone in this. That tells me that I'm going to be OK. That we're going to be OK.

And a book like that can be a lifeline.

If you'd like your own copy of Easy to Love but Hard to Raise, leave me a comment sharing one thing that makes your child easy to love and one thing that makes them hard to raise. The winner will be drawn at random. The contest closes on November 16th. If you can't be bothered to do that, head on over to Amazon to order your own copy.

[Note: Other than the free book, which I had planned on purchasing anyway, I was in no way compensated for this blog. All opinions are my own. It takes a hell of a lot more than a $13 book to buy me, but go ahead and try.]