Parenting is HARD

Recently a friend posted the statement, “Parenting is HARD.”  Why yes, lady, yes it is.  Our children are all different and they each present their own sets of challenges and let’s face it there is no one book or manual or set of advice that applies to every child or that works for every parent.  For every parent that thinks to themselves, “this stuff is hard” and doubts their abilities I want to take a moment to applaud you because if you are taking the time to question your abilities, you are probably doing something right.

I’ve recently been bombarded with all sorts of parenting information and I thought I’d share some of the most helpful of the hints I’ve discovered.

You cannot give from an empty cup
As a parent, you should never feel guilty about taking care of yourself.  I myself have learned the hard way that one person can NOT do it all.  There are times that you need to take a break from parenting to make sure you are taking care of yourself.

What your children want most from you is your time
One of the commonly reoccurring themes that I hear on podcasts and read in parenting advice is that what your children want most from you is your time.  In a recent podcast from Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk entitled Dealing with the Difficult Child the speaker Dr. Tim Clinton referenced a study done by psychologist Russell Barkley.  If you spend 20 minutes a day with your child in command free time (aka in layman’s terms PLAY) you will notice a difference if your child’s overall defiance.  Imagine that… 20 minutes a day playing with your child, crawling into their world spending time with them doing something they want to do.

Have Family Dinner
Studies have shown that the more you have dinner with your child, the more healthy the outcome for the child.  In my house, we have both Breakfast and Dinner together because let’s face it, there is truth to that saying “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” and also because I want to try to engrain the importance of family in my child.

Communication is Key and Practice, Practice, Practice
Let’s face it, parenting is a skill and if you want to get better at any kind of skill you must practice. Adele Fabor says on a podcast from The Psych Files “The foundation to communicating with your child is to acknowledge feelings.  Acknowledge your feeling, acknowledge their feelings and be respectful of those feelings.”  Sometimes this is easier said than done, but any skill must be practiced.  We must practice empathy and patience with our children and with ourselves every day.

Always Choose Love
The best thing we can do for ourselves and our children is to always choose love, in every situation.  Let’s bring back happiness and laughter into our families.  Let us choose daily kindness and empathy.  Let’s show our children that we love them and our fellow people and teach them to love themselves and others.  Let us always choose love no matter what difficulties might try to throw us off balance.  A positive mindset plays a key role in a happy lifestyle.

 

 

 

 

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You Know You’re an SPD Parent When

People like to give you parenting advice about how you aren’t strict enough with your child and need to try spanking, timeouts, charts and numerous other things to get your kid back in line while you think to yourself, “Yea buddy, I wish those things worked with my child.”

When all your friends ask you where that “cool park” is you posted on facebook because knowing where every park is within a 10-mile radius of your home is mandatory knowledge.

You own at least one pair of noise canceling ear muffs and not because you go to the gun range, but because you never know what noise you will need to cancel out to avoid a meltdown.

You keep buying socks because there never seem to be any in the sock drawer and when you look for the three dozen pairs you know you own you can only find one sock at a time, you know in places like the kitchen, the car, outside, in the dogs bed, under the couch. . . everywhere, except, on the little feet they were bought for.

You know where all the indoor kid’s gyms, playgrounds, and bouncy places are and what the best times to go to avoid the crowds.

Other parents think you forgot your child’s jacket when in reality you have in the car: a long sleeve flannel shirt, a sweatshirt and two types of jackets because you were hoping your child might cooperate and put one on at some point.

You own at least two trampolines and/or swings (because you need at least one inside and one outside), three types of bikes, the spinny rocky thing you saw another SPD parent post on your FB group and you made your husband make a mini ninja warrior obstacle training course in the back yard because you are trying to retain a little bit of sanity.

You are never on time, not because you don’t try but because you child takes their shoes and socks off five times before you make it out the door and you have to chase them around the house 8 times to catch them to put on the shoes and socks, again.

You talk about something your child does to another parent and they say “oh that’s normal, my kid does that” and you scream in your head,”You don’t even know, YOU DONT EVEN KNOW!” while you grimace a smile and nod.

You have a reserve of patience larger than Mother Theresa’s.

*Sensory Processing Disorder is when the body does not correctly take in and process sensory information from our seven senses.  People with this disorder are often overwhelmed or underwhelmed by stimuli from their environment and have trouble reacting as our society would deem “in an appropriate manner.”  Sensory Processing Disorder is not well known to teachers and pediatricians, and that needs to change so the children with this disorder can get the help need.  Read more about my SPD story here:SPD.

 

What Now?

Ok, so now I understand why my child has been having so much trouble in school. Sensory Processing Disorder.  So what now?

In my case, I lucked out.  After asking literally everyone I came in contact with about in home daycare I found a woman, who is turning out to be a Godsend.  She only cares for 5 kids at the most and she has previous teaching experience and has worked with autistic children.  While my son isn’t autistic, most autistic children suffer from some types of Sensory Processing Problems so she’s dealt with some of the behaviors my son exhibits. After the first week, I was so thankful to have found her.  She reports my son is mostly well behaved, “a good boy”. Music to my ears considering all his previous caretakers would just report the “crazy” behaviors he exhibited that I wasn’t sure what I could do about and that he didn’t exhibit at home because there aren’t massive amounts of children running around our house.

I’m looking into Early Childhood Intervention programs through my school district, but honestly, the thought of having to send him back to school after the experiences I’ve had is absolutely terrifying.  I don’t want to even think about it right now, I just want to revel in the fact that he is currently happy in the place that he is at and I can put the thought of school on the back burner for a little while.

We go to Occupational Therapy.  In Occupational Therapy we can work on both my son’s sensory seeking and sensory avoidant behaviors.  We can also work together to build a sensory diet for my son to help fulfill his sensory seeking and avoidant behaviors at home and hopefully improve his behavior, emotions, and social interactions.

Knowing that my son’s behavior is not defiant and is mostly linked to a Sensory Processing Disorder has helped me tremendously.  I am able to be more patient.  I am able to better identify triggers to avoid meltdowns, to stop meltdowns before they start or to talk him through a meltdown better than I previously could.  This is not the end of the road for us, it will be a long and perilous journey moving forward, but I am armed with knowledge and I will continue to build my armory with useful tools to help us navigate through our Sensory Processing Disorder adventure.

Let me share some of my Sensory Processing Disorder Toolbox with you.

Books:
Raising a Sensory Smart Child

The Out of Sync Child

The Explosive Child

The Highly Sensitive Child

Websites:

Leading Edge Parenting

Child Mind Institute

The Inspired Treehouse

Growing Hands-On Kids

Sensory Smart Parent

Sensory Processing Disorder Parent Support

Other SPD Parents-  I cannot thank the other parents and mothers I have talked to enough for calming me down, encouraging me and opening my eyes to the beauty of having a Sensory Processing Disorder Child.

Online Groups- Because when you’re about to lose your mind at 2 am, there is always someone else up to chat.

This is Part Five in the SPD Series
Read Post One Here: The Day My World Came Crashing Down
Post Two Here: Trying to Move Forward and Getting No Traction
Post Three Here: A Spark of Hope
Post Four Here: Okay, So What is Sensory Processing Disorder

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Kids Clothes Don’t have to Cost a Fortune

I don’t know about you but I don’t like spending a boat load of money on clothes.  I used to work in promotional products and if you knew how much profit they make selling you a $20 t-shirt with a snazzy logo you would rarely buy one again (unless it’s to support an awesome cause).

Also, my child grows like a weed.  We bought him a pair of cowboy boots in October to go with his Cowboy Halloween costume and by November he had outgrown them.  I bought my son a handful of pants for the winter a few months back because I thought it might be cold, but our Texas winter only lasted a couple of days before the weather warmed back up making long pants unbearable.  I went to his drawer to grab him some shorts only to discover that most of them were not going to fit and his swim trunks for his swim lessons were getting a little snug.  I knew I would be having to make a shopping trip for him.

I went to my favorite kid’s resale store during my lunch break the next day and I scored.  I found 10 pairs of shorts, 2 pairs of swim trunks and 4 shirts for right around $50.  That’s less than $3.50 per item average and I got him practically a wardrobe of clothes that should last well into summer as long as he doesn’t grow too much more… Two of the shorts still had tags on them, I always find superhero wear and all the clothes still have a lot of wear in them.  I have to say I’ve found some of the most awesome shirts at the thrift stores, All the SuperHero’s, Disney’s Cars, Monster Trucks, Dinosaurs, Curious George and Dr. Seuss.  I don’t think I ever would have found those last two anywhere else, and definitely not at less than $5 a piece.  I have a rule that I won’t spend more than $5 on an item of clothing for my child unless it’s a specialty piece like a jacket or shoes.  Unfortunately, the weather just took a turn back to cold, but thanks to my $50 fall wardrobe purchase he has plenty of warm pants.

If you’ve never been thrift shopping I encourage you to give it a try, and not just for the kiddo’s.  I am currently wearing a pair of Express Jeans I scored in a thrift shop two years ago for $20 because I refuse to spend more than $20 on a pair of jeans.  Sometimes it can be frustrating because you find something you love in the wrong size and they don’t have the correct size, but sometimes it’s awesome and you find exactly what you’re looking for. There are so many brands all in one place, you don’t have to wait and shop the sales and you won’t find something you absolutely love, look at the price tag and have to hang it back up.

A Spark of Hope

I tried a third school, a church school, with no better luck.  He continued to have problems, I kept getting phone calls, I kept having to leave work to come get him.  He lasted three days before I decided I couldn’t leave him in that place.  I watched the “teachers” putting some children down for a nap and how they were interacting with the kids appalled me.  I knew I wouldn’t bring him back to that place.  There had to be another option, my sister had used an in home daycare with my niece, but they lived across town.  I had a flash of asking to move in with her so we could use it also but I knew it was unrealistic.

I started looking for in-home daycare’s with fewer children and therefore less sensory overload.  I literally started asking every person that I knew, in hopes I would find a lead.  I interviewed a nanny and was prepared to pay more money than I could really afford, but in the end, she wanted even more money than I could pay.  I found a lady willing to watch him, I wasn’t totally comfortable with her but I felt like I had my back against the wall.  I was having to leave work too often and I didn’t want to get fired and I could keep looking for someone better.

While I continued hunting for somewhere to leave my child that I liked I also reached out to a mother in my Mom’s group.  She is a Physical Therapist and I turned to her for advice since I thought his behavior was sensory related.  She said I could bring him in for a free unofficial evaluation.

I met with her on a Friday and told her Nate’s story.  How he was a head banger when he was a baby.  How he crawled at 4 months and walked at 9 months.  How he was always go- go-go.  How he chewed his shirts and pulled off little pieces of his diapers when he was in diapers.  how he would spit out a mouthful of food if I happened to miss that there was a tomato or onion mixed in.  How he wouldn’t try new foods.  how he only wanted to wear “comfy pants.” How he would literally have a meltdown if I didn’t dry my hands after washing the dishes if I turned to help him and touched him with wet hands.  How he never wanted to sleep even when you cold tell he was exhausted, even when he had been a baby.  How he struggled severely at school.  How he struggled with transitions.. . . I went on and on.

She listed to all I had to say and she told me, “Oh yes, He has Sensory Processing Disorder.”

I was relieved to have an answer.  I felt hope.  I had a diagnosis.

Now, what the fuck is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Finally, a step forward on a very long, very hard and tearful journey towards helping my child.

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This is the Third Post in SPD Series.
Read Post One Here: The Day My World Came Crashing Down
Read Post Two Here: Trying to Move Forward and Getting No Traction

Trying to Move Forward and Getting No Traction

I frantically searched for a new school to place my child in.  I found a Montessori school with a huge outdoor space and a low child to student ratio.  It looked like it could be a nice place so I decided we would give it a try.  I thought 17 students for 1 teacher was way too many so I specifically sought out a place with a lower student to teacher ratio.

I knew my son struggled with transitions so I warned the teachers and school personnel about it.  To say adjusting to the new school was a struggle is an understatement.  His first day was rough, but he survived. . . barely.  I got called on Tuesday to come get him because he had hit another child.  When I came to get him I was swarmed by the entire staff.  We talked about my son and his history.  I talked about how he was a head banger when he was little and how after a certain teacher had left his previous school he started to fall apart.  He struggled with transitions, and on and on.

They gave me some advice and I left feeling a little bit better.  I had known the first week was going to be a rough one.

It didn’t get any better.  The next day he continued to struggle.  He hit the teacher, he ran outside and then lost his outside privileges, he hid in the reading corner and tried to hide behind the bookshelf, he cursed.  They separated him from the other kids to calm down and he ate lunch with their behavioral specialist.  This behavior continued through the week.  He was not adjusting at all.

Then it came again… on the following Monday, this school told me that my child was too disruptive and that they thought I should look somewhere else.  They told me my child’s behavior was defiant and the fact that he couldn’t look the adults in the eye when they were trying to talk to him was atypical behavior.  They made me feel like a shitty parent with a deviant child who had behavioral issues.  I knew my child had some issues, but I didn’t believe they were behavioral.  As I slowly pulled pieces together from his experiences in school together, I began to believe my sons’ issues were sensory related.  I felt he became easily overwhelmed by all the transitions and switching of teachers and activities. I felt like he went easily into sensory overload.

In the week he had been at the school I had tried to make him a flip book of the different transitions to try to help him and I was surprised at how many there were.  Start off in the main room with all the children, move to the classroom, circle time, snack time, outside time, lunch time, nap time in a different room, snack time again, circle time again, move into the main room for pick up.  That is an awful lot of transitions for a child that doesn’t do well with transitions.  And honestly, I was just figuring out exactly what that phrase “struggles with transitions” meant.  Actually seeing how many transitions our children make at school kind of floored me, I could only imagine how all the transitions made my child feel.

I called my therapist friend.  We talked, she reassured me that most of his behavior was normal child behavior.  I recalled a conversation we had had previously about eye contact. and how we had talked about how some children don’t look at adults in the eyes because it can feel very threatening, but it’s not atypical behavior, she remembered and agreed.  Together we ruled out a diagnosis of Autism, even though using some techniques that work well with autistic children all worked well for him.  She agreed he probably fell into the category of Highly Sensitive Children and we talked about sensory overload. . . We decided a lot of his behaviors could be classified as normal, but you could definitely tell there were some issues there somewhere.  She didn’t feel like it was behavioral related, we kept coming back to sensory…I felt less like a shitty parent after our conversation, but my stress level was through the roof.  What was I going to do with my son?  I couldn’t quit my job because we need the income.

This was the second stumble of a step on a very long, very hard and tearful journey towards helping my child.

To be continued. . .

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Second Post in SPD Series
Read The First Post Here:  The Day My World Came Crashing Down

The Struggle is Real

Finding Balance is a struggle.  I often feel like when I start to find a balance in my world, the scale of life tips over and everything goes sliding to one side making such a mess I am unsure of how to sort the wreckage.

Sometimes I frantically go about trying to pick up the pieces, sorting piles, trying to gain back a semblance of what was.  And sometimes, I just stare at the jumble, ignoring it, the elephant in the room, hoping it will disappear. . . it doesn’t.

I feel some area of my life is always getting neglected.  It’s hard fulfilling these roles of Wife, Mother, Friend, Group Co-Leader, Daughter, Sibling, Employee, Animal Care-Taker, Writer, Person. . . the list some days seems never ending.

I met with one of the holistic practitioners I consult with yesterday and while she was going over my plan she said let’s get back to the basics.

What amazingly good advice, not just in that area of my life, but in all area’s.  I feel like I need to cut out the clutter and get back to basics.  The universe has been calling to me to cut down on the clutter these past few weeks and in retrospect, I can see that now. I’m glad it shouted the words aloud because sometimes it’s easier to hear the words when they are actually spoken.

Goal for the rest of the week.  Cut down on clutter.  Get back to basics.