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The Reason We Have Rules

6 Jan

Years ago, a wise person once said that dreading the teen years was setting yourself up for failure. If you expect to have a rough go at it, you will. I took the advice to heart & decided the teen years were nothing to be scared of, they’re a stage like any other. Some stages are more difficult – I’m looking at you age 3, and others are delightful.

E~’s middle school years had some bumps. There were times I was worried we were raising a sociopath or that he would never be gainfully employed and have to live in the basement. More than once he needed the threat of me coming to school to sit with him in class to make sure he wrote down the day’s assignment before doing it himself. Maybe it’s hindsight, but I don’t recall those years being too stressful. I’m sure some of my walking partners from those years might disagree with my recollections 😉

G~’s middle school years have not been so smooth. I don’t know how a kid can go from being so loving, kind, organized, & thoughtful to the monster he is now. G~ has an interesting relationship with truth – he subscribes more to Stephen Colbert’s Truthiness than actual Truth. He has attitude & plenty of sass to go along with it. He is above the things of mere mortals – bedtimes, courtesy, rules, and other niceties. It’s exhausting trying to parent this tire fire. I go to bed most nights wondering what challenge he will present us in the morning.

I know, it’s all part of the process. His brain has shut down for remodeling. His new brain will have some great features like impulse control, empathy, rational thoughts, & an improved decision making center. We just have to survive the remodel.

Our current survival method is to hunker down & refine our parenting skills. Sneak the iPod into your room at night? BUSTED – no electronics EVER! Lie about practicing music at school so you don’t have to practice at home? BUSTED – double practice time! Constantly pester your siblings? BUSTED – Lecture about the importance of sibling relationships delivered. Sure he’s tuned it out & I’m foaming at the mouth & rocking in a fetal position but what else can you do?

Seriously, what else can we do? I’m open to suggestions.

This parenting gig isn’t easy and anyone who tells you it is is lying, probably has adult children who are gainfully employed & live independently, & need to pick a better moment to deliver their “you’ll survive this too” pat on the head.

If you’re also in this middle school swamp, you’ll find me over in the corner, sucking on a wine bottle. We’ll get through this together!

K~

 

The War That Is This Blog Post

18 May

Books have power. This is no secret. The school librarian put a book in T~’s hands this spring and if ever there was a book that needed to be read at that moment, it was The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.

It’s a story that’s been told a thousand times a thousand different ways & yet this time, this telling, cracked open a window for T~. That crack, and a little mental maturity, has caused monumental shifts for T~ & for those of us that live with her.

A brief description of the story: Ada is told her whole life she is one thing & through a series of events, she realizes she is not who she thought she was.

The shift in Ada’s thinking. The shift in her perspective. It is all beautifully told in the story. What else is told is the cost of that shift. It is huge. All her life she wanted one thing to be true. But it wasn’t. That caused monumental hurt & uncertainty. The shift changed everything.

T~ & I read the book at the same time (she started it, went to bed. I took it, started & finished it before falling asleep. She finished it the next day). I’m so thankful we did because we had some wonderful conversations. For the first time, T~ found a book where the mixed up emotions she feels were put into words. She could relate to Ada’s confusion. Ada knew things were good but they still made her anxious, fearful, & unsettled.

T~ feels like that. Days J~ & I love, Referralversary or Za Ding Day are days of conflicted emotions for T~. She wants to please us by being happy, but she does not see these days through the same lens. When J~ & I think of Referralversary, we see what we have gained. T~ sees what she lost. I cannot change her perspective. It is hers as much as mine is mine. She cannot put on my glasses and see what I see anymore than I can wear her glasses and see what she sees.

A long time ago I read a blog post about how parenting is grinding the lenses through which our children view the world. I loved the analogy. We help shape how our children experience life. With my boys we started from the very beginning.

Hungry? Mom will feed you.

Lens grind.

Tired? Dad will rock you to sleep.

Lens grind.

All those grindings shape the lens so my boys saw safety, comfort, & love.

T~’s lens was ground differently. Maybe they started out being ground the same way, but eventually, her lens took a different shape.

Hungry? There’s not enough for you.

Lens grind.

Need to be held? No time for that.

Lens grind.

T~’s perspective of the world was of insecurity, anxiety, & stress.

We are doing the long, hard, exhausting work of grinding & adding filters to T~’s lens. She feels her trauma & losses deeply.  So we adapt and parent differently. We parent by book and by touch. We sense shifts & adapt as quickly as we can. We bring in experts who help us navigate the troubled waters & help us steer clear of other stormy paths. Some days we get it right. Others we get wrong. Some days we think we might survive her childhood. Other days we hope she’ll finish high school without becoming pregnant.

Good thing there’s grace!

And psychiatrists.

*insert funny segue*

To sum up.

Read The War That Saved My Life.

If you’re in the trauma/loss parenting trenches, we’re right there with you!

But you should really take some time and read The War That Saved My Life & then we can discuss 🙂

K~

 

 

Being Honest About G~

30 Oct

I think that’s enough time for E~ to be the star of the blog. Let’s move on.

For the longest time G~ was my easy kid. He was cute. He was happy. He was curious. He was helpful. He was a happy-go-lucky kind of kid.

G~ had a rough year in 2nd grade. He had a teacher who didn’t ‘get’ him & frankly, didn’t like him. He was noisy. He was chatty. He was constantly moving. He couldn’t finish saying a simple thought in under 10 minutes. All things we knew, but they were all things that made G~unique. The teacher hinted pretty heavily that we should be doing something about all this.

I bet you know where this is going though. We were heading towards another ADD diagnosis. This time we were getting the H too. I had no confidence in his 2nd grade teacher so we waited. One day, I was in his 3rd grade class & I was able to kind of disappear & really watch G~ in action. His teacher, whom I really liked & trusted, handled him very kindly, but it was plain to see – some intervention was needed. Off to the doctor we go. The first meds we tried seemed to really help. G~’s personality was still intact but he was a little less squirrely & lot less explosive.

That was the other thing we had started noticing. I had thought it was stress due to school (G~ was a pretty good read of people & was enjoying 2nd grade about as much as his teacher was enjoying him) but the new year did nothing to help. Simple things would set him off. A change in seating arrangements at the dinner table. Bedtime. Chores. Having to come in for supper. Piano practice. All things he used to do with minimal argument now meant huge battles.

The stomping & the screaming & the tears. Being around G~ was exhausting. And we were all feeling it. E~ was an easy target for G~’s fits. G~ wouldn’t get his way with E~ so he’s ramp up & pretty soon, E~ would give in in hopes of restoring the peace. And we were playing right into G~’s demands. We would chastise E~ for not sharing or for always insisting they play his way & would often make E~ give in. Mostly because E~ isn’t great with sharing his electronics & he does generally run things when they are playing together. It was an easy leap to make & G~ knew just how to play it.

Things with T~ are harder. They have always been harder. G~ & T~ are like oil & water. Fire & ice. If they are together, expect conflict. It’s always been this way & it pains me. I see the closeness of E~ & G~ & of E~ & T~ & I ache for G~ because he wants that with T~. T~ is a control freak & master manipulator. G~ is a softy & oft overlooked middle child. I think G~ looks at T~ & thinks he should be the leader when they are together & T~ won’t be led by anyone. Or maybe it’s because E~ was very aware of T~’s adoption & was excited about every step along the way & was overjoyed when she came home. Whereas G~ was 3 & all he knew was that his parents disappeared for almost a month & came back with this screaming baby & all of a sudden his best friend was enamored with this baby & would rather be with her than with him. A situation ripe for resentment. Or at least that’s part of my armchair psychoanalysis.

Whatever is going on, it’s rough. And I don’t know how to fix it. And feeling helpless is awful.

Where was I? Therapy. That’s what we’re doing now. It’s slow-going. G~ is slowly learning how to recognize when he gets ‘hot’. He’s then supposed to practice techniques for calming down. His temper has gotten him his way for quite a while now, he’s really struggling with giving that up. I wish I could say I see the light with him. I don’t. He’s still resisting changing. He has days where he is calm, cool, & collected in the face of adversity like practicing the piano. Other days, he could carry on for an hour.

G~ is very dependent on the chaos coming from his siblings to distract us from him. A couple of nights ago, it was time to set the table. Of course they all drop what they are doing & come running. Or at least that’s what happens in my fake family. My real family complains & acts very put out. G~ uses that chaos & hides in a chair reading. He’s very good at going unnoticed. I think it’s a middle child thing 😉 Anyway, he got caught & spent the next hour making sure the neighbors knew he was unhappy at having to clean up the entire kitchen. It’s exhausting. Have I said that already?

G~ is a work in progress. Which means J~ & I are also a work in progress. We are very aware of transitions. You can’t spring things on G~. He needs time to process. He also needs time to wind down. Reading at bedtime is very important to him & we do our best to build that into our schedule. We are also starting to work on G~ & T~’s relationship. Currently that involves getting them to see the good things about each other. Some days, that’s a tough assignment.

As much as G~ exhausts me, he’s a wonderful kid. He has personality in spades. He is never at a loss for ideas. He tells interesting stories that almost never involve Lego’s. He is smart. He’s funny. He’s adventurous. He will still walk with me, hand-in-hand. His intensity just needs to be harnessed for good & not chore avoidance. 😉

K~

Being Honest About E~

23 Oct

We’ll go oldest to youngest.

E~ is a wonderful kid. I really enjoy him. He has a sneaky, dry sense of humor. He gets sarcasm. He’s a good friend. He’s able to show true empathy. He’s taking ownership of his faith. He’s growing & changing & it’s really neat to watch.

E~ has struggled with ADD in the past. He was on meds for a few years but they really affected his appetite. At the end of 6th grade, he went off his meds altogether. I was sick of fighting the daily battle. How could I tell him his lack of appetite was the price he had to pay for being marginally organized? The kid was 12.5 & weighed 74lbs. He was barely on the chart for weight. Going off the meds wasn’t a hard choice. He normally took a vacation from them during the summer. The school year was going to be a challenge though. Not only was he taking a notoriously difficult math class, he was starting after-school athletics. He seemed to be rising to the challenge though. He loved cross country. He wasn’t struggling too much with math. He was eating (he hit 80lbs on vacation this summer. He no longer looked like Montgomery Burns.)

And then the wheels came off the bus. We began getting emails from teachers about missing work. I was at his school & was being cornered by teachers about his tardies & his late/missing work. And then the math grades started rolling in. Let’s just say, things were not going well for E~.

We quickly went into triage mode & became the strictest, meanest parents ever. Organization became priority number one. It was no longer good enough to have finished math homework at school – it had to come home so we could check for understanding because his teacher was not (another blog post). Missing work was found or redone. Privileges were revoked. It has not been a pleasant few weeks for E~.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Only one class is still missing work. I am confident the math test at the end of the week will go better than the previous tests. He’s not losing as many papers & he’s made it to all of his classes on time for over a week.

At E~’s conferences, the resounding theme was ‘He’s a great kid. He’s nice. He’s polite. He’s smart. He knows the material (except in math. Seriously, that teacher is the one they’re talking about in articles on ‘bad teachers’). He is just incredibly disorganized. Most of his teachers were positive that he would survive the hole he was busy digging & were more than happy to help him out.

I keep hoping one of these years we won’t have to endure the cycle of “E~’s digs hole. E~ hits bottom. E~ gets help to climb out of hole. E~ becomes moderately more responsible.” Rinse. Repeat. One of these years, he’s just going to skip the hole digging.

I hope…

In the meantime, I’d love to share a few positive things about E~. He celebrated a big birthday recently. E~ is now a teenager. E~’s a really neat teenager. He even suggested recreating a baby picture.

Ethan 04-06-02IMG_9238

I couldn’t convince him to wear just a diaper for the recreation, but then, you can’t have everything 😉

He also is a nice friend. For his birthday he invited 6 friends over for pizza & s’mores. E~ has nice friends, but most of them are either oldests or only’s. All the alpha males can make for a long night of arguing. I figured we could suffer through it for a couple of hours. E~ struggled with inviting one of his friends, Amos. Amos is on the autism spectrum. Amos is a nice kid but he can be a little deep – one of the conversations he started after practice was what if the Earth had no gravity but if people were their own gravity. That’s a normal conversation starter from Amos. Amos was in our cross country carpool & E~ was hoping to invite all of them to his party. But he wasn’t sure about Amos. When pressed, he said not all of his friends liked Amos. I countered that it didn’t really matter if his friends liked Amos, if E~ liked Amos, then that should be good enough for E~’s friends. E~ invited Amos. Amos was very excited, which confirmed for E~ that he had done the right thing. His party rolled around & the first guest to arrive is Moe. I was putting some things together in the kitchen & overheard Moe grilling E~ about who else was coming. Moe was not thrilled by 2 of the guests, one of which was Amos. I was so proud of E~ when he stood up to Moe & told him that if he didn’t like Amos, that was fine, but if he thought he couldn’t be nice to Amos, than Moe was welcome to leave*. Moe stayed & a good time was had by all.

One last thing. E~ really enjoyed cross country. So much so that he decided to run at the state meet even though none of his friends were running. It meant more practice & an early morning drive to Capital City, but he was excited to go. I’m so glad he did. It was a great course – very reminiscent of Princeton (for the two of you who ran for my high school, you will immediately visualize the woods & the sandy/muddy trail & the tight, tight course). The course was narrow, through the woods & up & down some great hills. It was perfect running weather too. Cloudy & cool. E~ had a great race. I’m not sure if it was his PR or not, but he looked comfortable & he had a great sprint into the chute.

IMG_0941

A leisurely race through the prairie

I am going to miss cross country. E~ is already looking forward to track.

K~

*not E~’s exact words, but you get the gist of the conversation.

Being Honest

22 Oct

I hope this surprises none of my faithful readers, but I am not perfect. I have many, many shortcomings. I could list them, but the kids will be home in a couple of hours & I hate to be on the computer when they are walking in the door.

I firmly believe I was blessed with my kids because there was something about me that they need & something about them that I need. I don’t mean that in a ‘you complete me’ way – that movie annoys me. But I certainly don’t think it’s random that my children are my children.

That being said, I fail them. Daily. But I think because I care about my parenting & I question myself means I’m not a complete failure. Lately, though it’s been hard to see the successes past the failures.

This has been a hard Fall. I don’t know if it’s because our summer was so weird or it’s their ages or the lack of a dog or any number of reasons, but the kids have gone off the rails. We are working our way back but it has not been easy. So I’m going to be honest with you about what we’ve been dealing with.

This is not our first rough spot & more than anything, I find knowing you are not alone is of monumental importance. I sometimes think there is nothing so isolating when you are in the weeds of a crisis than yourself. I like to put on a brave face & pretend everything is just fine. But inside I wish I could just be honest. Brutally honest. Parenting is hard work and when we pretend it’s not, we are doing a disservice to ourselves & to the people around us. I’m not advocating always putting it all out there, but I sincerely hope you have at least one friend who you can confide in when the wheels come off the bus. I have been amazed by the response when I share some of the struggles we’ve been facing. It’s nice to know we don’t swim up these streams alone. We have some great company.

I am not going to password protect the following posts. This is really hard for me. Some of the people who read the blog, I’d rather they didn’t. But I can’t control that. I also can’t control their reaction to the following posts. People will judge & that’s natural. It’s also petty & annoying. One of my kids is starting to develop real empathy. It’s a wonderful attribute & one I hope most of you will use when reading the next few posts.

K~