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“I’m Tired of You” – Parenting in the Time of Corona

I read a blog post yesterday from a blogger that I have followed since Hallee the Homemaker was brand-new. So, about twelve years. This article completely gave me pause and I have been mulling over what a read for the last twenty-four hours and really feel like I need to address it. The gist of it was, in the face of Corona parenting, she was sitting at dinner with her family and looked at everyone and said, “I’m tired of you.” And then she followed that up with the fact that that phrase, “I’m tired of you,” is not in any parenting book, but it should be.

Y’all, no.

It’s possible that I’m coming at this with the perspective of someone who already has a grown child. My oldest is twenty-three, and she is grown and gone. And I miss her. On a good month, I see her twice. On a normal month, I see her once. And I love spending time with her, I love talking to her, I love interacting with her via text messages and Instagram and the ways that we interact as mother and daughter. But the fact is, there is a hole in our family because she’s not here anymore. Gregg and I had a job to do with her. We were to raise a wise, independent, functional adult who loves Jesus and obeys God. And we did that. We did it really well. But it doesn’t change the fact that that seat next to me at dinner time is empty.

I understand that perspective is unique to some people in regards to this concept.

Nevertheless.

I have a family because I want those people in my life. I married Gregg because I love him and respect him and want to live and do life with him. We made a family together and we love and cherish our children. We discipline them, mold them, love them, pray for them, pray with them, teach them — and that’s our job. There’s nothing about that job that’s easy. But, there’s nothing more rewarding than the end of the day as I think back to the day about what we learned and what we talked about and what I was able to teach our children. There is truly nothing more rewarding.

Like everyone else, our family has been home since mid-March. Unlike a lot of families, my husband’s job is something that can be done remotely. Because he is high risk, he has been home since February. We still don’t go to church . We don’t go to Bible study. We still don’t have play dates. Because Gregg is high risk. It is our family…all the time.

We are together two meals a day, sitting across from the table with each other. We come together we go apart. We come together we go apart. The boys have bedrooms that they go to and we have a large living room that they come back into. Gregg and I have offices that we go to and we have a large living room that we come back into. We watch movies, we play games, we talk to each other, we laugh with each other, and we are together most of the time.

And I don’t feel like I am tired of my family. I don’t feel like I need to break away from them. If I need a moment, I can go outside or go take a bath or something. And no one will bother me.

My point is, those words are not helping any parent. The perpetuation that that is a normal thought is not a healthy thing to put out to the world.

The concept that it’s not in any parenting handbook but it should be.

No!

No, it shouldn’t be. If that’s how you’re feeling, then there is something deficient in your mind, your heart, or in your parenting. And that is something that should be a very sincere and serious focus of reflection and prayer. Why am I feeling this way? What is deficient? How can I fix it? Here is a great resource where you can start exploring: https://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/

It’s not something for which we should strive, this normality of feeling like I’m tired of my family.

Also, to say that to your children in this terrifying, unprecedented time, when NOTHING in their lives are normal and they don’t even know how to process the news they hear or the conversations adults have in their presence… ya’ll, just NO.

Again, like I said, maybe I’m coming from a perspective of someone who already has a child out of the house and so I know what it feels like once they’re gone. Or maybe I am the one unique.

How do you feel about it?

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Monday Morning Chat 3/5/18 – My Identity in Christ

Hello! Welcome to Monday morning coffee and chat!

I really appreciate all of the questions that I get from my readers. Today I’m talking to you about my identity in Christ and how I can use this new discovery I’ve made and let it help me parent my children.

I hope you learn more about me through my response:

 

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The Mama Bear Had to Rise Up – Parenting and Autism and Big Bullies

It’s hard sometimes, to know what to do and when to intervene. Scott is 11-1/2. Most 11-1/2-year-olds can fight their own battles, know how to stand up for themselves, or how to extract their way out of a situation.

Scott doesn’t. He shuts down. Emotionally, spiritually, physically shuts down.

Most 11-1/2-year-old boys don’t need their little brothers to stand up for them. But, Scott does. His brother, Jeb, is 9 and his defender and protector.  He understands, even at 9, that sometimes he needs to be the one to step in and take charge of a situation that Scott is in. He also understands that as they get older, that will remain his responsibility. Because Scott has autism and the social nuances of life are a total mystery to him. It’s not something we’re going to be able to teach him. It’s something he’s going to have to navigate on his own — well, not on his own. With his brother by his side.

The other night, we were at a party at a friend’s house. There were about 15 kids present, including our own. They were all playing upstairs in the kids’ area. At some point later in the night, I could hear Jeb’s voice – very distraught – but I couldn’t hear his words.

I ran up the stairs and into the room and found Jeb in between two big (I mean, seriously big) preteens and Scott, telling them to leave Scott alone. Only, Jeb is small and these boys were big and they were just reaching around him, picking at Scott (I think poking him with a wooden knife) as if Jeb wasn’t even there.

Imagine the concept of “poking the bear”. I could totally see these kids doing this to a caged animal at the zoo with a stick.

Scott had his back to them. His hands were fisted and his eyes were closed and he was so tense that he was probably sore the next morning. I immediately ascertained the situation and firmly told the boys to stop.

They didn’t stop at first.

I know! What?

What kid doesn’t stop when an adult catches them in bad behavior? And, I’ll tell you something — I’m not nice. Or sweet. In this situation, I was downright mean. So, there’s no reason they didn’t stop.

Back to the zoo scenario — mama bear suddenly took charge.

I stepped between them. I am not a small woman. So, I bowed up and stepped between them and told them to find somewhere else to be. The leader of the kids hesitated – I don’t know what he thought the outcome could possibly be that didn’t end with him in tears, but after I repeated myself, he eventually backed down and left the room.

I sent Jeb downstairs to start making sure that we were in a position to leave, to find our neighbor’s son who had come with us, and to get everything together he’d brought with him.

Scott was done. D-O-N-E. I touched him and he jerked away and whispered, “No.” I tried to talk to him and he just said, “No.” I asked him if I could do anything to help him, and all he could do was say, over and over again, “No.”

Finally, I said, “We’re going home now. Let’s leave this place.”

That was what pulled him out of the internalized meltdown that had him in a spiral. I took him downstairs and he waited on the stairs to the front door (the house was split level, so the front door was at the bottom of the stairs), sitting on a step in the middle, covering his ears with his hands and just waited, giving me a chance to find Gregg and Jeb and say our goodbyes.

I found the mom of the kid and told her what happened, but she was honestly unconcerned. I truly think she didn’t understand the level of wrong her kid had just perpetrated. Because, most 11-1/2-year-old can handle that situation and it won’t have a detrimental affect on the rest of their day or night or week or life. Unfortunately, that isn’t our situation. She didn’t even react when I told her how he didn’t listen to me at first. But, maybe the issue is that she was about 6 inches shorter than the oldest son and he’s obviously a bully. Anyway, at least I told her.

Jeb and I went outside to make sure his glasses were in our van and not lost inside  somewhere , and on our way back inside, I caught the biggest of the two kids sneaking down the stairs, holding the wooden knife thing , about to poke Scott from behind.

I rushed up the stairs, got in his face, and told him, “Find somewhere away from me. Right now.”

“Fine,” he said, but didn’t move.

What did he think I’d do? Trust him to comply and continue about my business?

I went up another step and now I had to bend to stay face-to-face with him.  “I said, find another place to be. Now.”

He turned around and I didn’t see him the rest of the night.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?

How was this something a kid would even think to do?

It’s agonizing to think that Jeb is sad because he couldn’t stop them. It’s infuriating to think what might have happened if Jeb hadn’t been there. And it’s scary to think about the next time something like that happens, and the next time, and the next time.

Helicopter-parenting isn’t going to make it easier for Scott. He has to learn how to navigate that, he has to learn coping skills.

Jeb has to know he can step up and get between Scott and two big kids and not be afraid of them – even when he’s not sure if we’re going to be there to help them.

But that doesn’t make it easier to experience. It doesn’t take the hurt away or the clenching of my heart when I think back to the image of Scott so tense and shut down, and Jeb so brave and ineffective.

This world…UGH

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Monday Morning Chat – Boys Have No School Episode 1

Hello! Welcome to Monday morning coffee and chat!

I really appreciate all of the questions that I get from my readers. Today I’m joined by my boys and we’re answering reader questions about life and autism.

Thank you for your questions for them. They had a great time answering:

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Autism: Boys of Summer

Our son Johnathan has been desperate to join a baseball team. We promised him when he turned 8 that he could start playing baseball. So as February turn into March, I started looking through school papers more carefully to make sure that I didn’t miss the notice for baseball sign ups.

When we got the announcement a couple weeks ago, we were thrilled to see that this league has a special needs baseball team. Scott cannot bounce a rubber ball and catch it. He also can’t throw one in the air and catch that. These are physical limitations that have to do with the wiring in his brain – things is occupational therapist knows about and works with. (Though, she did tell us that he’s spot-on with a spitball, and we’re waiting for him to get old enough to possibly join a shooting team, because she said she’s never seen any kid with his accuracy before. Spit balls — who knew occupational therapy could be so fun.)

He’s 10. Kids his age have been playing ball since they were 5 or younger. We fully planned to put Scott on the special needs team.

Yesterday, we packed up the boys up to go sign up for baseball. On the way there, Gregg told me that he felt like we should let Scott sign up for a regular team. His reasoning was that he doesn’t want to apply limits that may not be necessary to apply. He said he would rather give him an opportunity to play a regular team and if he fails, move him to the special needs team.

I’ll admit that I was uneasy about that, because beyond his physical limitations with ball catching, Scott has never played team sports, and struggles with more than two-step directions.

At the community center, I filled out the paperwork and just hesitated over registering Scott for the older team. It didn’t feel right. So, we asked the coach if Scott could play on the younger team with his brother.

The coach explained that league rules allowed for younger kids to play up, but not older kids to play down. That’s understandable. You could stack a team with young Babe Ruths in order to sweep the series — I get that. Disappointed, I said that Scott had autism and had never played before. The coach immediately assured us that an autism diagnosis would probably allow for him to play down and stay on a team with his younger brother — provided we had an official medical diagnosis. He would take it to the coaches council and seek special permission, but he’s never seen it denied for autism.

We’re elated. This is a great compromise. We still have the power to move Scott to the special needs team, but we’re being given an opportunity to let him try to participate without applying any limits to his abilities — because while he can’t bounce a rubber ball and catch it, we don’t know what he can do with a bat gripped in his hands or a glove giving him a larger surface area in which to catch the ball.

We have about a month before any true practice begins. The weather is nice here in Kentucky, as winter is giving way to spring. I know that Gregg and the boys will be outside as often as possible, toning muscles and building hand-eye coordination as the two prepare to start playing baseball for the first time.

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Autism: Parenting “Failures” and Celebrating Milestones

I remember when our nineteen-year-old daughter, Kaylee, was starting Kindergarten, and we worked tirelessly to teach her to tie her shoes before school started. She aced the skill in no time and went to her first day of school with shiny pink and silver tennis shoes tied by her own hands.

Johnathan, our eight-year-old, mastered the skill at four. As with most things he learned early, he watched and observed and took in while we taught his brother, Scott, and then would come up beside us and just do whatever we were teaching his brother, who is two years his senior.

Scott, though, just couldn’t do it. We tried and tried to teach him until he was frustrated and we were frustrated. After months, we just quit trying. We didn’t see the point in frustrating him and frustrating us over something that he simply, for some reason, could not do.

tae-kwon-doWhen Scott started Tae Kwon Do, we were able to teach him how to tie the first part of his belt, but not the second part (the one that forms the knot). That was probably the most frustrating, because it is the same motions. There wasn’t even a logical reason he couldn’t do it. Even at 10-years-old, he brings me his belt to tie onto him.

Sweatpants that tie at the waist have to be tied loose enough that he can pull them down to use the bathroom at school, but tight enough to keep from falling down on their own.

And — we buy Velcro shoes or Crocs. Period. If they can’t be slipped on or fastened with hooks and loops, we didn’t buy them for him.

I’ll be honest and tell you that this is an area I actually felt like I’d failed in. The older he got and the longer he went without being able to tie, the more I wonder if not forcing the issue would hurt him in the long run.

As with so many “symptoms” of autism spectrum disorder, when we were filling out all the forms and questionnaires in seeking the “official” diagnosis, we were amazed when we came across a section about tying shoes and tying knots. Suddenly, the fact that he couldn’t tie his shoes made sense. Obviously, it’s part of the spectrum like his sleep issues and his wandering away issues. We hadn’t done anything wrong! We hadn’t perpetuated a situation by continually trying to the point of frustration! It must be a developmental thing within the spectrum.

I cannot explain to you the relief we feel as parents as we have constantly received affirmation of symptoms that explain areas where we felt like we failed as parents. Our 10-year-old brilliant child couldn’t tie his shoes, and we quit trying to teach him. We’d added another check next to the failure box.

But once you understand that it isn’t you – your parenting – that it’s his brain and his development, it’s like this box of power is opened up. Okay! It’s autism! It’s a multiple step process for a brain that can only process single steps! How, then, do we come at it in a different angle so that he can learn how to do this in a way that makes sense to him?

For the tying of shoes, it meant turning to his occupational therapist — someone trained to teach children on the spectrum how to tie shoes. And, you know what? It took her about six weeks to teach him. SIX WEEKS.

That little check next to failure just got completely erased.

Here is our boy tying a shoe by himself for the first time, at 10 1/2 years old. Celebrate with us. This is a pretty big deal in our family.

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