Category Archives: Parent Stuff

Parenting Children with Differences: My Journey

 

When you have a child who doesn’t fit in the so-called typical box, who walks to their own beat (or jumps or skips), or who just sees the world in these constant, vibrant and shining colors… your life as a parent becomes forever altered. Changed. It needs to be. Because these children, for whatever their unique reasons and differences, can’t be treated as a normal, neurotypical child.

That means us, as parents, have to change.

We need to switch around our expectations. Expectations we have internally, from the small ones like asking them to “go get a diaper for the baby,” or simply watching them interact and play with their same-age peers (including these increasingly social, complex interactions). Then there are the expectations society and culture has placed on them, like waiting quietly and patiently in line at Target, or the expected obedience of a two-year-old to stop turning on (and off) the Jacuzzi’s bubbles. And… when the two-year-old doesn’t listen, the stranger then takes it upon themself and threatens to put them in school. Never mind the fact that this is exactly what all two-year-olds do, or that this particular boy simply can’t understand the complex words — called language — coming out of your grumpy, old mouth.

As parents, we are expected to make our children listen, to get them to comply and attend. And I don’t know about you, but both of my differently-wired children really don’t give a shit about what other adults think or feel. Or their rules. (Though they tend to listen to my guidelines about what’s safe — because I’ve gone out of my way to give them as much grace and free reign so when I do ask them something, they generally comply.)

You see, my kids don’t fit into the “normal” box that society puts children in. I mean, I won’t even go into my beliefs that our current culture isn’t exactly welcoming to the curious, inquisitive nature of kids but I will say, the simple act of telling my kids something, and expecting (with the snap of my fingers), that they’ll listen… yeah. Not so much. Not for this family.

Which means I had to shift my expectations of what my kids can do… and then must tell society and strangers, to take a flying leap when it comes to defending them, or simply, just being their voice.

Like there was this one parent at the beach who told me: “I’m sorry I yelled at your daughter, but she’s not listening when I tell her to not put her dirty feet on the blanket.”

Me (speaking straight-forward, but definitely snippy because… this lady just yelled at my kid): “She doesn’t understand you. She has a language delay.”

Other parent: “Oh. I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.”

Me (thinking, but unfortunately not quite strong enough to say): Maybe you should really go for kindness first and ask why a child isn’t listening.

As parents, we need to have the grace, the trust, and confidence in our children, and in ourselves, to let them be different.

To let them be who they are.

That also means this constant battle of standing up for them, and at times deciding silence is the better course of action (like grumpy old man at the Jacuzzi). And this, my friends, takes a tremendous amount of courage and bravery. To stand apart from all our parent-peers, to accept our children for who they are, little quirks and sometimes big quirks, and love them.

Accept them.

Stand by them.

I’m not saying this is easy, dear lord it’s not. And for some of you, who really do have children with differences, who are harder to handle, whose emotions are incredibly intense, or who fall on the spectrum or another type of genetic disorder where the simple act of sitting up, the path you walk will be much, much different than mine. You are amazing parents, each and every one of you, and my goodness are your children blessed to have you.

But even with this wide, wide range of differences, I think there are a few things I can share from what I’ve learned so far, on my journey as a parent.

The truth of the matter is, we love our children. Our hopes and dreams were different than the ones given to us, the ones that came with our children. I mean, when I was a parent I never dreamed that I’d be writing all these blog posts about having not one but two late-talkers! I never dreamed that I’d be a homeschooler or someone who followed a respectful parenting approach. I thought my kids when they hit preschool age would be going off to school, and yet, here Kate just turned five and she would be going to kindergarten.

Going. To. Kindergarten.

Wow, is the thought a bit mind-numbing for me. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with anyone sends their kids to kindergarten, in fact, I’m very much in the minority on this one. But let me say this, Kate literally just turned five, so she, developmentally, is a whole lot younger than her other would-be classmates. But, here’s the kicker: her language is at the level of a three-and-a-half-year-old.

Think about that. Put yourself in her shoes. Going to kindergarten, already as one of the youngest kids there, and your language is still only at a three-year-old. And maybe you also have this type of personality where you need to be precise and accurate or you get extreme anxiety… and now here’s this teacher asking you to do something, like sit down or get out your scissors for some verbally, instructed directions on some art project. Can you imagine what that would be like?? And then not having the one person, your constant, your voice, there to help you interpret what your needs are or even what the heck you’re trying to say??

I’m not worried about the social and play aspect of kindergarten. Boy, let me tell you, this kid has got that part down. But the rest? It terrifies me to even think of Kate being in that situation. She’s not, though, because of me, because of Sean. Because she has a family who understands her and her particular needs.

Remember, what works for your child won’t work for her, and what works for Kate is not going to work for Eric or for your child with their own unique needs.

It’s all about the children, them and their specific needs.

But you know, it’s about us too.

The parents.

It’s about us as we face those hard, frightening, and dark moments. Our reality is that we don’t have neurotypical kids, kids who talked on time, who have great social eye contact and socially engage right on schedule. As parents, our reality is very, very different from the rest who have the “normal” kids. And I don’t know about you, but my early experience, especially with the medical professionals and early intervention, was, unfortunately, very focused on the fear, very focused on… “oh it’s so bad, your child’s not doing this or this or this.” It’s like, in their minds, you can have one kind of kid, the good and the “normal,” or the other, where they see your child as DOOMED.

I wish I was exaggerating.

And yet, it was because of those moments that gave me the strength to stand where I do now. To face those fears, the worry, that total blackness that can easily consume you if you let it… and choose instead to believe in your child.

To believe in them, for who they are.

And then, to stand there and tell the doubters, friends or family or certainly professionals, that they’re wrong. You see what you see, as a parent, and you know in your heart that you’re right.

And you stand by that because you simply know.

I write this now completely from a place of peace and of confidence in myself. My journey, as a parent, has been no less miraculous than Kate’s. From where I started, walking out of Early Intervention in complete tears, knowing that they were dead-wrong about my child, that they didn’t see the child I knew in my heart, the child I saw at home every day, that’s not who they saw. They saw instead a child who was willful, who was introverted, who wouldn’t listen… and who couldn’t understand them.

Not at all any fault of her own, Kate simply didn’t understand the words they were speaking. Not to mention the lady doing the testing was someone giving off all kinds of ‘I hate kid’ vibes and you better believe my emotionally sensitive child picked up on that.

I was terrified.

I didn’t know what to do, what options there were for me. All I knew was I needed to support, but not how or why or even what it was exactly that Kate needed.

All I had was her, and what I knew in my heart.

If you met Kate today, you never would imagine that the words “autism” were almost threatened around her. Never. Today, it would never cross your mind. And if you closed your eyes and simply heard her talk, right now, without even seeing her, you would think she was just a young child. Which is pretty typical of a language-delayed child… but one who’s completely happy, completely vibrant with life and joy.

And that success, that joy and happiness, that’s because of me, because of her dad, because we chose to walk a different path… her path. It was our believing in her that got us to the point. Our willingness to step outside the box, with her, and give her the help that she specifically needed.

And was I confident starting out? Was I sure and comfortable when we quit speech therapy and went to a consulting approach, where I was the one being coached?

Hell no.

I was super tentative, unsure, questioning everything I was doing. Sometimes I talked too much (not good when you have a receptively delayed child), or I’d talk with a question at the end… think of the up-turning of your voice to make it sound like a question or a query. Again, not good when you’re working with language delayed kids. The more questions you ask, the more they feel like they’re on the spot and they shut down.

I had a lot of learning to do. I had a lot of growing to do.

And yet… this is where I stand. At this point where our speech professional asked for permission to use my recent videos as a fantastic example to other parents with nonverbal kids.

Me.

Me, who started out so unsure and tentative, who was terrified of screwing up my kids. And yet, during our last consult call, our speech professional continually told me how wonderful I was working with them, especially with Eric, that we’ve created this fun, back-and-forth play and how incredibly patient I am with him.

Let me give you an example…

Eric’s playing on a blanket and I’m playing a tickle game with him. Eric loves the tickle game. I tickle, he laughs, and then I stop. And wait. I wait for thirty seconds. He’s looking around, at the ceiling, and then he comes back to me. He looks right at me and makes his “mhmm” sounds (which means “more”) or even takes my hands and pulls them to his stomach. And I immediately respond with more tickles.

Did you catch that?

I waited, patiently, for 30 seconds for him to respond. I trusted that he would come back to me, and he did. Because he loves this type of play.

What I just described is the essential foundation before any kind of language can happen. The enjoyment shared between us, that Eric is engaging and asking me to keep playing, the looking at me, the sounds he used for “more.”

If you didn’t know what you were looking for, you’d completely skip over the significance of that moment.

And you know, when I started, I didn’t know. But I learned. I learned and kept learning, and more than anything, I continued to be tuned in to what my kids needed, to who they are. I almost laughed when our speech professional complimented me on the video because a whole bunch of times I forgot it was even on.

I got lost in the play and the joy of my kids.

I was playing with them. That’s all.

Everything I’d learned has become so natural, so incorporated into our family and our life, I don’t even think about it. I can tell you too, the family members who spend the most time with my kids? They do it too, and they don’t even realize it.

They don’t realize they’re recasting or modeling.

They just do it.

Naturally.

I mean, as Kate moves more into complex language, I’m thinking best how to model language and recast to best help her, but all the rest? It’s natural at this point, it’s like breathing.

Again, I didn’t start this way. In fact, I didn’t know there were other options and explanations for children who are different, who didn’t just fit into the autism box that was being pushed on us. I had no idea there were actual language disorders when we started this journey, and for that matter, our first pediatrician didn’t know either (and when I mentioned it to her she completely discounted me — so I found ourselves another one).

And I say all this, that I’m in this amazing place of peace, and I don’t have answers yet for Eric. He’s still too young to know anything for sure… but I don’t need to know. Why? Because he’s showing me everything that matters… everything I described in his reaction to me, his engagement in play, in wanting to play… that’s what I need.

For right now, on this stage in his journey, that’s everything I need.

Eric is moving at his own pace, in his own way, and I can see that. I can see his progress and it’s been amazing — for him. I don’t need a specialist to look at him because I know, in my heart, they will only see the child they want to see. They won’t see him. They won’t know and understand the significance of Eric engaging with my mom in play, or his favorite, ten-year-old mother’s helper. They won’t know about this amazing moment where he completely engaged in a continuous play with this other mom while camping… playing peek-a-boo, hiding and seeking, asking her to pick him up (by holding up his hands) and then going limp because he wanted her to spin him. All that, without a single word. And this mom understood his cues completely. And he was looking right at her, smiling and laughing, completely engaging.

Those moments, just like that, are the little pieces we need to get to language. Little stepping stones, if you will, but not something you can see in a 30 minute consult. Or even an hour or two hours.

There are great professionals out there, people who understand where I’m coming from, the problem is you’ve got to wade through a lot of bad ones to find the good ones, and frankly, I just can’t have that in my life. I can’t internalize their thoughts and emotions (that is, unfortunately, the way I’m programmed).

What Eric needs, is me, to believe in him. To be focused and engaged and open. Because this kid can sense all that negativity. He knows darn well when I’ve got all that swirling around inside me and oh boy does he shut down fast… and then he has an even harder time dealing with his emotions.

And my speech professional totally understands. She agrees with me, agrees with my decision that’s best for Eric.

But even with her I had to stand up for Eric last time we talked. I had to explain what she didn’t see in the videos… that no, he doesn’t orientate to objects more than people, that it was my fault because of the videos I’d chosen to send her. And you know what, during our latest conversation? She didn’t bring it up one time. Didn’t even mention it. Not once. Instead, she told me how much happier he seemed, this content little boy. He wasn’t agitated like he was in the past.

I told her Eric had been growing, that he’d hit his middle-twos and had this just amazing amount of frustration because he couldn’t communicate (along with his darn stubbornness to not actually be clear with what he wanted in the first place). This was very different than what we experienced with Kate. For her, it was like a puzzle to figure out how to communicate what she wanted. With Eric, as his awareness of the world expanded, he would just go from zero to sixty in the frustration factor. And it’s getting better. Little tiny steps for sure, but the more I focus on our little successes, the more content I feel with where we are… right at this moment.

I am a very, very long way from this journey being over.

With Kate, we’re looking at continuing to help and support her as she moves into more complex parts of grammar, at reading and education (for us, in a child-led way). With Eric we’re just continuing to move forward with where he’s at, encouraging play that needs our involvement in order to be fun. To help him trust in the sounds and the words that will eventually come.

But the truth is, I know who he is and I trust in that, I trust that he’ll keep guiding me, pointing me in the direction that he needs me to go… regardless of where we’ll end up.

And that’s what I like to remember most of all:

There’s a reason these children were given to me.

They came to me, and no one else, because I was the person most equipped and able to help them, to understand and empathize with them. Me. What a gift I was given, and the more I’ve shifted my thinking to this, the more I’ve grown and learned as a parent, and also as a human being.

Kate opened up my world to being different, to raising a child who sits on top of her own box, who walks a different path and is still completely beautiful, completely her own person. And because of her, she opened the door to be the parent that Eric needs me to be.

But the real truth is that I didn’t get to this place overnight. It took a lot of work, a lot growing, and a heck of a lot of trust on my part. But I am here; I am in this place of peace and confidence.

And you know something? I’m really, really looking forward to seeing the path Eric takes me on next. It will be different, but it will be all his.

I can’t wait to see what our journey, together, will look like.

Learn by Living

 

 

With everything I’ve got going, life is a bit crazy at times. Raising two young kids (late-talkers to boot), homeschooling, not to mention my own writing and publishing business, which I’m slowly resurrecting after surviving two years of my cute little boy’s existence. I also recently hosted Kate’s fifth birthday party, an event that wasn’t complete without a lost Elsa balloon and the said cute, little boy burning his fingers on the grill. My kids had lots of emotions that day, and because they did, that meant I did. But hey, that homemade cake was really good… even if I didn’t actually get a piece, and enjoy it, until we got home.

Life there’s a bit overwhelming, right?

And sure it’s not all crazy times. In fact, I have some pretty amazing moments and days with my kids, when I’m just so connected and in tune with them, but no question about it: I’ve got my hands full.

Which is why it makes perfect sense that here I am, now starting a monthly camping group. A small, intimate (and hopefully) close group of homeschooling families. People who simply fit together, who my kids will look to as their family-in-nature, exploring different State and National Parks, going on adventures and seeing where it takes us —

And… you’re probably shaking your heads at me, thinking I’m straight-up nuts. Crazy, even.

Possibly. Probably.

(Sean certainly thinks so.)

But to me, it makes perfect sense, a perfect fit really for this next stage of our journey.

At least for me.

I’ll back up a couple decades here to where this desire, for me, actually started. When I was younger… from like 7 (I think?) to 13, this was what our family did. Every summer we would be gone for a month or two at a time, camping and visiting every National Park we could fit in between the dog trials my parents were part of. I can’t even begin to tell you the number of places we’ve been, the different little museums we checked out during those years, but what I can tell you is that it gave me such a deep, profound love for nature. Something that is so engrained that it’s simply part of my core, of who I am.

But it’s also more than that…

It’s some of my absolute best memories with my family. It’s the time when I felt closest to them, and not even the big “events” like when we went to Disney World with relatives. In fact, it was more those little moments, those snippets of memories that are the most precious to me. Like when we’d drive out of Los Angeles in the middle of the night and head to Las Vegas. I have no idea why that direction always seemed to be our first destination of choice, camping at the RV lot in Circus Circus, but it was — and I loved it. Loved driving at one or two o’clock in the morning. The roads completely empty of cars and that desert… just so darn black. Not a single light in sight (for a bit anyway, and then they got really cool and really colorful). But that empty stretch of road, that blackness, was my favorite. It’s when I got to sit in the front seat and listen to all the Classic Rock tapes my parents had, from the Beach Boys to The Who, and I would just sing and sing and sing.

It was great.

Great connection, great fun, and also, a whole lot more. You see, as a parent and when we first started looking into homeschooling, those experiences gave me the insight I needed to feel confident and comfortable in our decision, not just to homeschool but to unschool (also called self-directed learning). When we, as a family, decided where we would go together. What would interest us most?

Like that Quake Lake up in Montana, just outside of Yellowstone, where a mountain literally slid off its top during an earthquake and created this lake. You can see the tops of pine trees sticking out of the water, like silent sentinels guarding a place where people died and homes were swept away, where now ospreys make their nests and leap into the air. It was eerie, with a a kind of stillness I’ve only felt a few times since.

But… I remember that place.

I haven’t been back since I was a child, but I remembered all those images, remembered the feel of the place. It left an impression on me, one I carry with me now, even as an adult.

Looking back on my childhood, I asked myself, what do I remember? What did I learn? And almost just as important, when did I learn it? Was it during school? Or heck, can I remember learning anything in school (we’re talking specifics here)?

And in contrast, what did I carry with me into adulthood?

For me, those answers were party obvious.

As a writer, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to explore and play with these places, the experiences that touched me most. I’ve written magazine articles for Women in the Outdoors, Jakes Magazine, and Montana Outdoors. I wrote about trekking on the Matanuska Glacier in Alaska, complete with ski poles and crampons as a teenager (and with all the emotions that went with being a teen). We hiked by ice climbers and looked down these brilliant, aqua-blue crevasses and the melting water literally falling down under our feet and into the ice. And yes, it was also cold and my feet really did hurt, but it was amazing.

Besides, how many other kids got to say they hiked a glacier? (I thought I was pretty darn cool, by the way.)

I also have a deep love for mountain goats, of all animals. You probably have never heard of them before, and yet, they’re my favorite. Why? Because I remember, in Glacier National Park, Montana, looking up at one of those black, craggy mountains with binoculars, trying to find this speck of white that my dad had claimed he’d seen (I never saw the mountain goat myself). But all the pictures I saw while we were there?

I thought they were beautiful. Majestic.

It was a love that again, I carried into adulthood. An interest that pushed me to write what became a lead article for Montana Outdoors (along with a few others) and ended up making me a good amount of money, actually.

And it was because of that love, the unique place that was Glacier National Park, which pushed me to try our first family vacation there. The result was a definite mix, especially the whole not-sleeping-for-a-month (Eric had decided the vacation was a great time to start teething). But I got to see my mountain goats, holding my six-month old boy, and yes, I cried.

It was that beautiful a moment, that touching for me. I can’t wait to go back.

We also stayed two days in Butte, Montana so I could sneak in some research in between the needs of my kids. Butte, you’re asking? Never heard of it. I hadn’t either until some family vacations took us through there and again, a place left an impression on me. This one wasn’t as obvious as the mountain sliding into a lake, but no less powerful. I have an entire historical mystery series set there, as well as a whole new fantasy world. Also, Eric got to hang with me (literally, he was in the baby carrier) while I got a personal tour of the Dumas Brothel Museum.

All of this stayed with me. Something I saw or experienced as a child, something I learned by living.

This was why our decision to homeschool came so easily to us, especially in regards to self-directed learning. All I had to do was look at my life, at what I remembered growing up, and the answer was there.

Just sitting there, waiting. All I had to do was trust in it, trust in my children to learn, just as my parents had trusted in me.

Also, just like I’ve been waiting so anxiously for when the moment was right, when I could start this journey of exploring and camping with my kids. When they got big enough so I could, you know, actually enjoy parts of the trip and not just be in work-mode the whole time.

The camping group I’m putting together is small. There have been opportunities to join some other large group camping events, but that didn’t work for me and my family (for me it’s a mess of anxiety with all those people I don’t know). But a small group? A chance to really connect, to form some deeper friendships? That I can totally do. Especially when you get together the right group of people, people whose energies really compliment each other, especially those who share this deep love of nature, who believe a childhood in nature is essential.

I’m really, really excited.

And I’m excited for my kids. In my heart, I know this will be an even better opportunity for Eric. For late-talkers, one common thread is when they go to new places, have new experiences, you’ll hear new words start coming. It’s not a guaranteed thing, but what can happen, when they’re ready, is the experience itself becomes this little shock to the system. Or maybe a little rocking motion to get things going. Something new and exciting and super fun and the words just kinda pour out without them being able to contain it.

Again, my intuition is telling me this will be good for Eric.

Also when we’re camping he can simply run and be himself, to pee on rocks and trees. I mean really, nature is a place where our rules, ones we’ve laid down as adults, simply don’t apply. And for strong-willed little explorers, with their own (very opinionated) little minds, this is a good thing. A good experience for them.

So yes, this camping group is an added load to what I’m already carrying, but for me, it’s worth it. Worth it to finally be at this place, to share this experience with my children. One I’ve looked forward to since before they were born. And I hope I can give them the chance to build their own memories, follow their own path, and have it not be regulated to only those summer months when school is out.

They can do it every day, as often and as long as they like. And not only that, but building a community of friends and family around them, kids of so many ages, to share and grow up with, to follow their lead and learn through living.

Wow. What an opportunity. One I’m so jealous of, but just can’t wait to get started… and see where this next adventure takes us.

The Social Piece of Language: My Journey with Late-Talkers

As a parent of a late-talker, we wait on pins and needles for our children to start talking. For their words to blossom and expand, to open their mouths, to let the sounds come out, to simply trust in those words, in this very complex thing called language.

I hear this all the time from new parents on this journey, or for parents who are still waiting for their child to talk, especially as children turn three or four or five, and those parents might still be waiting… that feeling of, sometimes, desperation that comes with this simple, yet scary question:

“When will my child start talking?”

So much of our focus goes into that time, that moment. So much of our energy and worry and hope, as parents and professionals, is all focused on that one moment, if you will.

For us, for Kate, that moment wasn’t until she turned four. Her first functional word (“no”) wasn’t until she was 37 months and after that she had only a handful of words by the time she turned four (“baby” and “daddy” were two of the big ones). But she got there, she hit that “talking” milestone, the moment where she decided to open her mouth and try to talk, even as uncomfortable as it was that her words weren’t perfect. Not long after she hit her first language burst and we were off to the word-races.

You’d think that would be the end of the story. You’d think that, “Hey! She’s talking now, it’s all good, right?”

Well… no. You’d be wrong.

You see, the journey doesn’t end when the words start coming. In fact, it’s really just the start of the journey and this part here, what happens after the language burst, it’s not something I’ve heard a whole lot about. I’d really like to share this next stage in the journey for other parents out there, and for parents too who might be so focused on ‘when the words come’ that they might be disappointed when they see that the journey’s not over yet.

And hey, maybe what I’ve experienced won’t be the same for you and your child (that’s certainly not a bet I’m willing to take). Maybe your child will just start picking words up and language and will fall back into the crowd with her same-age peers and be caught up in no time.

Or, maybe not.

If not, you’re not alone. There are other families out there navigating this different world when your child doesn’t fit into any one box… or if your child decides to say, “the hell with boxes…”

And they just sit on top of that damn box.

Your child might be autistic, and there’s such a range in that spectrum alone that your journey will look different from ours. Or maybe your child was just slightly delayed with the language, or maybe they’re even like Kate who has both a receptive and expressive language disorder. Regardless, you’ll have your family on your side, your professionals backing you up as you go (professionals you trust and that fits your family and your child’s needs, of course).

This is just me, sharing what Kate’s process has looked like as she moved from “just talking” into that other really complex part of language…

The social piece of language.

Kate is turning five next week and her language is about where a normal three and a half year-old is at. Which is just super awesome. She’s making leaps and bounds with language, starting to work on her grammar, adding it in naturally as her sentences have moved into three and four words at a time. She is communicating with so many people, different moms and dads, kids her age, younger, and older. She’s my little social butterfly and just today, after I told her we were meeting new friends at a park, she goes right up to this new mom, who she’s never met before, and holds out to show her Twilight Sparkle from My Little Ponies (I imagine Kate said something like, “Rarity,” which is her word for all of the ponies). Then she’s off and playing with this new girl, saying, “Hi” and waving and running after her.

It’s a beautiful thing, one I never get tired of seeing. It has lost sparkle yet, and I don’t think it will any time soon. I feel such pride and awe when I watch her interact and play. Holy shit have we come far. Holy shit have we all worked hard (and played!) to get to this point.

She has worked hard.

But at the same time, amidst all this progress, there’s a shift occurring with language, with this age range of children.

We are a homeschooling family, which at this point, with how old my kids are, means we just play. We play a lot. We go to the park, we’re out in danger, we’re swimming.

We’re constantly inviting friends over and having one-on-one play dates with other families. Those other kids are simply fantastic with Kate. They know her language is delayed, that she’s still learning to talk, and they have a tremendous amount of patience for her (this, though, would not have been possible if not for the awesome parents involved, who have talked with their own kids to help them understand).

Kate is also a bit towards the younger end of our particular age group, which ranges from late four to seven years of age. Most often, if there are little ones around (like Eric’s age of two or younger), they’re a sibling of an older child.

Okay, you’re thinking, big deal.

Well, actually, believe it or not, it is a big deal.

There’s a developmental shift that starts happening, especially in that five and six years of age. Not that I’m an expert, this is straight-up just from antecedes and what I’ve personally seen, but there is a social change that happens.

The social play, the language, gets more complex (certainly for girls; I’ll throw that little caveat in there: what I’m talking about here is mostly for girls). They want to play house or salon. They want more rules. They want their fellow play-mates to do certain things and they expect those playmates to also suggest ideas of their own. There’s not as much patience for someone to respond to a phrase or request. It’s like, they expect this almost rapid, instantaneous response.

This is something that my child, with a receptive and expressive delay, can’t keep up with.

And also, there may not be a whole lot of kindness and grace in these five and six year olds, as they wait for the other child, who is thinking through what they heard, trying to form a response, or, if they even understood. Again, it feels like a developmental stage, especially compared to a child who is 9 or 10, like the mother’s helper I have coming over to who play with my kids, and she has an incredible amount of patience.

The stage that Kate is in right now, for language, is mimicking and repeating. She repeats everything. Seriously. And it’s fantastic! I mean, that’s a huge part of learning language: practicing the words and phrases you hear. Kate does this with me, Grandma, other adults, and other kids.

But sometimes that’s not always understood, and sometimes, it can seem hurtful.

We had a friend over at our pool and this girl told me, “Kate’s copying me.”

Well, yes, yes she was. That’s what she does. I explained that Kate was learning language and that’s why she was repeating after her. I told her that Kate repeats after me all the time. But it wasn’t enough to ease this girl’s worries and I didn’t realize until later why: where she was at, developmentally, was a completely different stage than Kate.

When other six and seven year olds repeat you, when they copy what you’re doing, it’s because they’re being mean.

My jaw dropped on that one.

Of course! How could I have forgotten?? (Well… it’s been a really long time since I was seven, that’s why.)

But knowing this now, having this information, it will help me respond in the future. How to reach out to other kids, who might think that Kate’s being mean (because again, she’s five and not the three and half she’s at with language).

Again, this is not to pick on or point out that the other kids are just mean at this age and to run for the hills and avoid play-dates until the kids magically start being kind again (there’s nothing magic about parenting, let me tell you). Yet knowing and understanding where the other kids are at, developmentally, this has helped me to respond better. The more knowledge I have, the better I’m able to help guide Kate — because even though she’s talking, guys, guess what? She still needs my help. She still needs me to step in, to guide her in what’s being asked, or to hug her while she’s upset because she needs to share her “house” with other kids (in this instance, the house was part of the playground structure).

For the record, Kate’s at the stage of ‘why the hell do I need to share???’ So even though she’s only talking at a three and a half year-old level, she still has the developmental feelings of a five year-old! Good times, let me tell you.

I’ve noticed too, with the older kids, and kids her age, they may not have as much fun when they play with Kate. If we have someone come over, especially to the house where there’s toys, they lose interest in the kind of play Kate wants to do. Her play is still at the simple stages, especially with dolls or playing with her Calico Critters or My Little Ponies. Pretending that a critter gets hurt and needs a “doctor.” Or purposefully falling down and saying, “he died.”

It’s simple play still, and pretty darn boring for the other kid (or, to be honest, me as the parent).

I mean, it’s totally fine if Kate busts out the WiiU and starts playing Splatoon or Yoshi or Mario Kart. In those moments she’s generally the one with the more knowledge and shows the other kids what to do.

But when it comes to language, to the social side of it, the kids her age are moving into much, much more complex areas, into deeper waters, and she’s still just having fun running around in the shallow end.

Which, by the way, is totally fine.

It’s just means that, as a parent, I’ve needed to adjust. I’ve shifted my approach, to friends and playmates, for her. It’s changed because she, and the other kids, have changed.

We still meet and see these older kids, but we’re often swimming or at the park or playing at our favorite creek, areas where the focus is on the physical play and not the in-depth social side.

In fact, I saw this happen just recently with an older girl, who just turned seven. Incredibly sweet, super excited to meet and play with Kate, but after a little while I could tell she wasn’t enjoying the play with Kate as much because of that communication barrier. But when the play turned to the physical, fun kind of play, the mood shifted entirely.

Part of that was giving the girls time, to meet each other halfway (it was either that or be bored), but the other part was my stepping in and engaging in play… and ironically, play that was focused on Eric.

One thing I’m still working on as parent is to let go the ‘parent side’ and just play with my kids. I can’t tell you why, but play can be a hard, hard shift for me to make. Thankfully, my little Eric responds best to this kind of play, silly fun and simply play, and guess what?

The second I start going with Eric, Kate is rushing on over.

I started a game on a little swinging bridge at the play structure, where I pretended to catch Eric’s toes. Well, about two minutes of that, of his silly laughter and my funny words, and there’s Kate.

Another minute later? Yep, the seven-year-old is asking to play too.

We all had a blast. Seriously, I had so much fun, just letting go and playing and being silly (you’d think I’d remember so the next time it wouldn’t be such a big effort to shake that being-a-mom-thing). And when Eric tired of that game, I watched this physical play, for Kate and this other girl, continue. It involved another little brother and then yet another child.

Play is infectious.

And seriously, get an adult actually playing? The kids come running to join in.

And if we do see kids her age, I might invite only one or two families along. If it’s two families, I often make sure there’s a younger child there so when the older ones go off and bond and play, there’s someone who Kate can still interact with. Or I just invite one family with one older child. It sounds simple, but it makes the world of difference for the kids involved. It helps them connect, all on their own, and find a way to interact so everyone has fun.

Another change I’ve seen in Kate is her absolute enjoyment playing with younger kids. I’ve watched as she continually chooses to not play with the kid her age (or a year older) and instead play with children who are three years old. She follows them and mimics them, they mimic her, and there’s so much laughter involved. This simple kind of play, man, she gets so much joy in it. One time I watched as her and this little boy, just two months older than Eric, made their way from rock to rock at the tide pools, how they would laugh hysterically when a wave hit them.

It was special.

So, I’m following Kate’s lead in regards to social play. And really, that’s what this whole journey has been about: following her lead.

I’m moving away from play dates with only her peers, to the younger ones. How one week, at the local creek, she followed this one mom and her 20-month-old boy around. Later this mom told me, “She’s so good with him.”

Again, special.

Our kids don’t need to be “normal.” They don’t need to fit into any one shape or size or colored box. They are, in fact, telling us what they need, what they want, if we’re aware enough to listen.

Often, as parents, we might need to shift. Shift our expectations, shift our way of doing things, especially as our kids outgrow one way and start heading in another direction. That’s what I’ve seen so far with language, at least language involving little girls. I imagine Eric’s experience will be totally different and yet, in some ways, very similar.

As the social complexity and expectations have grown, Kate is finding her place and her joy among the little ones. It’s beautiful and something I treasure dearly. To think she might have long-lasting relationships with a two-year-old, someone that might see Kate as a very special friend as they grow up.

My late-talkers are a gift and a treasure. It’s not an easy path, especially since we’re figuring things out as we go, certainly as we’re moving forward into new this new territory, but as we do I hope to reach out to other parents and say: this journey doesn’t have to be so lonely and scary and dark.

Your journey, your path, is yours and yours alone.

It’s one you and your family, your children, will make and it will be so incredibly unique and different, just as your kids are unique and different. And while many of us have worried and wondered and fretted about when our kids would start talking, it’s also still a journey, one that could be over shortly, or one that will never fully be over.

The choice we have, as parents, is the mindset we bring with us. Worry and fear, or joy and love?

I will do my best, every day, every moment, to chose joy and love. I don’t always succeed, but I’ll try, and try again. All I have to do is look at their smiling, joyful faces to see the blessings I’ve been given. And every day will be a new experience. I’ll keep learning, keep seeing where this language journey takes Kate, and then Eric. We will surround ourselves with friendships that continue to help them blossom and grow. For now, that means making a shift in our play, in the ages and groups we’re playing with, but making those shifts and changes, it’s really what parenting is all about… whether you have a normal child or one who sits on top of that box.

Finding Joyful Moments

 

Let’s be honest here: when life is hard, when parenting feels like the hardest, most thankless job on this planet, finding joy can feel like pulling teeth (or downright impossible). And yet, there’s something to be said when you take a breath, step back, and try to find some small positive nugget in an otherwise unending gauntlet, trial of a day.

Because it works.

Because suddenly, when you find that one little piece, suddenly the world doesn’t seem quite so against you (or your children plotting to single-handedly destroy you). I mean, sure your day probably still sucked, you probably still yelled and lost your cool, and there were most likely tears (from the kids and you), but that one little piece, that one glimmering, positive thought, is like a beacon.

You’re trying.

You’re doing what you can.

You are doing something in the direction you want, the kind of parent you want to be, in the way you want to be connected with your children. It’s not a whole lot, but that little glimmer is hope. And sometimes all we need is hope to keep from falling down into those dark pits of sadness and loneliness. (Hope and a few good, nonjudgmental friends who are willing listen while you pour your heart and failures out to them. These friends are essential, I’m telling you.)

Our “job” as parents, this role we’ve chosen, it’s 24 hours, 7 days.

You may have no breaks. You may have no family around to lean on. You may not have money to pay for a babysitter or a mother’s helper to give yourself a small ounce of a break or the essential connecting time with your spouse or loved one (without having to referee a knock-down, drag-out fight between kids or getting the toddler and his chocolate/sticky hands before he runs wild touching everything in your house). You may also, like me, have children who fall outside the normal, who walk to their own beat, who don’t care about society and their stupid boxes and decided to create one of their own (or hell, to just sit on top of the damn box).

This parenting role is hard.

This parenting role is also, incredibly so, joyful.

I am constantly reminding myself of this. When the day is upside down and all I want to do is crawl away and cry (you know, those kind of days), I still, somehow, try and remind myself… to find the hope, to find one little joyful moment. Even when I’m upset, when I’m at my rock-bottom lowest, I have this little voice in the back of my head reminding me: if you connect with them, you’ll feel better.

Sometimes, I’m in a position to do this. Sometimes, I still want to have a tantrum myself.

All that is good and easy to say, I know. ‘Hey! Just think happy thoughts and magically your mood will turn around you.’

Yeah. Parenting life don’t work that way, but there are a few things I’ve found that work.

Call a friend. Or text. Or whatever.

Just someone, a compassionate adult who you feel safe with to reveal the awfulness of the parenting moment you’ve just survived (or are trying to survive). Connect with an actual adult, a human being who can wipe their own butt, and let out those feelings to them. All of them.

You need to be heard. You need to be felt.

When I call Sean at work he almost always picks up (if he’s not in a meeting) because he knows I’m hitting the panic button and I need support. And often times, that little bit is all I need.

Journaling is good for this too, and so is actually writing out what your grateful for about your kids (I try to actually list what’s so frustrating, but in a positive light, a way that their temperament or actions is actually good for them). I’ll be honest, I don’t get to this nearly enough. I usually reserve journaling for those really hard times, when I can’t let go or when I’m so disappointed (in myself) or so worried/afraid. I write out what happened, throwing in every judgmental thought about myself (and my kids) that I can think of. Then, I state in facts, as if I were an observer without judgments what happened and why. I try to list what my feelings were in that moment, and the needs I had that weren’t being met (I do this the same with the kids). I then try and list what I could do differently next time. This isn’t to say next time will be perfect, but this exercise is really helpful in deconstructing the situation, helping me ‘get under the hood’ of why I reacted the way I did. It also gives me a plan for the future. Plans, though, especially with parenting (and especially when the tactic you’re taking hasn’t been hard-wired into from your own childhood) often fall apart. It’s called practice. The simple act of reflecting and thinking forward will give me the barest hint of a roadmap, but one that means if I keep on going, keep on trying, I will find success.

I’d journal more, if I could, but finding the quiet time in this house, with my little Eric getting into everything, isn’t working. I’ve decided to reserve the quiet moments for my own writing or my publishing business unless again, I’ve hit a really hard bump and I need that time for reflection.

I’ve also found that removing ourselves from the house, getting outside for some fresh air, is huge. To be honest, the house is generally the battleground that all these big emotions take place in. Which, makes sense. We all feel safest there. It’s also the place with a whole lot of rules (no, you can’t stand on the entertainment table, no we’re not having four bananas [or chocolate] for breakfast). By leaving the house, getting outside, getting movement… it satisfies a lot of our individual needs, even ones we may not be aware of. Eric might be needing more movement. Kate might be needing space from her Godzilla brother. I just need to be left alone god-damn it!

When we go on walks we automatically invite connection between us. The running ahead of me, glancing back and smiling. Or jumping in place and then looking at me to show me how darn cool that was. All of those moments, eye-blinks, really, are chances to reconnect as a family, to get us back to center after a particularly bumpy moment.

And with all seriousness, I’m the one who’s usually most resistant to reconnecting.

The kids, I swear, it’s like magic. The second the door opens and they go running down the hall barefoot, all is forgotten. All is forgiven. I’m the one still carrying the baggage. But by going on a walk, or going to the pool, it’s giving me enough space, enough time to mentally calm down. It’s enough to finally bring me back from that angry/frustrated place. And when I do, my kids, including Eric who is currently the source of much frustration, they’re waiting for me. With a smile. With complete joy and love in their face.

They’ve already forgiven me.

They’ve already moved on.

Now I just need act like a grown-up (or truthfully, like a child) and follow their lead.

Yes, I know, easier said than done. If you follow this blog you know my son is hitting right in the middle of the two’s, gets incredibly frustrated and physical (with me) when he doesn’t instantly get what he wants. He also doesn’t talk yet and that adds to his frustration. Sometimes it takes all of my control to not lose control (and some days/moments I’m way more successful than others).

But I keep trying.

I keep listening to that little voice: find the joy.

At least, I eventually do. I’m no miracle-worker over here. I’m generally overtired and overworked… and also so incredibly grateful to be home with my kids, to be helping them on their journey, one that is as different and unique as they are. Sometimes all I need is a 30 minute break of someone else stepping in and managing the toddler. Often, I don’t get that.

Those days are about surviving and doing the best I can with the resources I have.

I try to be honest with myself, and kind. Kindness because I’m not perfect, because I am tired and I am overwhelmed. And after I take those deep breaths or go outside and get some much needed movement in…

I see the absolute joy in Eric’s face. His complete love for me and his love of swimming and he wants to share that.

With me.

And I get to see his growth, his expanding awareness of the world, how he’ll jump on the couch and look at each adult in turn to make sure they saw just how awesome what he did was. Or his growing understanding (or maybe even just willingness) when we ask him to do something. Or how he’s finally got this potty training thing down.

Or Kate, who’s making leaps and bounds with language. How she’s answering simple questions now and how she will go to Eric when he’s upset, kneel down and rub his back saying, “It’s okay, Eric. It’s okay.”

Little moments of joy… little moments of success… even when we’re in the middle of some seriously hard times. Because, and I know it’s hard to remember in the moment, the times won’t always be bad. In fact, the very next moment can be an amazing one!

Parenting is all about the fluctuations, the movement. It’s a straight-up rollercoaster and it’s hard, especially when there’s only two adults doing everything… bringing home the bacon, actually cooking the bacon, the required house-cleaning, laundry, and never-ending dishes. And, let’s not forget the actual act of parenting. You know, teaching and guiding our young ones to be kind, caring individuals. Talk about a tall order here!

And as is often reminded to me, it’s when we make mistakes that we have the opportunity to learn the most. A mistake today, an unkind word or reaction today, means tomorrow you can do better. You can learn, about your kids, yourself, and then find a new way, a new path, for tomorrow.

Give yourself a bit of grace, my dear parent.

We are doing our best, every day, every moment.

Often times, all we need are those little moments, a little bit of space and quiet, to calm down and meet our children in that place of love, and forgiveness. Because really, they’re already there waiting for us. All we have to do is let go of our own feelings, all that frustration, anger, worry, and meet them with loving, open arms.

They always come running because they love us, for exactly who we are, as imperfect as we are.

Talk about a true gift.

The Hidden Toll of Parenting

Our bodies, as human beings, are crazy resilient. I mean, really. They can put up with a lot …. months (or years) of poor sleep, eating McDonalds Chicken McNuggets by the pound (me, in my youth, anyway), the constant stress pouring in from every which way possible, from family, work, heck, even getting on the freeway and driving to Grandma’s. And yet, at some point, our bodies slam the breaks on and says, “Enough is a enough, dude.”

Let’s go ahead a little one or two to that mix and see what happens. You know, children. Especially young children who you can’t reason with (or beg), who have their own very clear needs and who really, really couldn’t give a shit about yours (like sleeping).

And while we’re at this, let’s up the ante some and add a special needs element just for fun.

Parenting is not for the faint of heart.

It is the most beautiful, rewarding journey I’ve ever been on — and it’s also the one that’s tested me beyond what I thought was physically and mentally possible.

And, I’m far, far from being out of the woods.

I realize my recent posts have this kind of desperate tinge to them, but what can I say? This is the life I’m living. It will get better, it will get easier, but right now, right at this very moment? It’s hard.

Hard.

And there are days when I feel so completely alone, trapped by the needs (re: demands) of my two-year-old, and I’m doing all I can to simply keep breathing (and somehow still being the parent I want to be). Eric is literally smack-dab in the hardest part of his young years. He has the usual ‘can’t-wait-even-a-second’ when he wants something, which then usually results in a crying, screaming meltdown, with hands (and sometimes feet) flying and doing his best to smack me.

Why? Because he knows I don’t like it.

Now, I’ll be honest: it’s getting better. Sometimes he’s a foot from me with both hands going and he’s aware that while he wants to hit me he’s not supposed to.

Why am I mentioning this?

Because every little positive step forward counts, and when you’re right in the thick of things when all you can see of the forest are the pine needles sticking into your eyes, you’ve got to hold onto the positive things. Just like the potty training bit, which is finally, finally coming together. We’re almost there. Not that we’re “done” (done in my mind is when I almost never have to think about it), but Eric’s initiating on his own, and he’s communicating with us when we’re out of the house and he needs the potty.

That’s huge.

Huge.

Especially from a child who’s been completely reluctant to use any form of communication… unless he darn well feels like it. Ah, the stubbornness of kids. (And the intense, you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me stubbornness of late-talkers. )

And while I have some positive moments throughout my day, some little successes whether it’s the potty or Eric engaging in play with Kate or me, it doesn’t take away from how crazy hard life is right now.

For Eric, all his feelings, his intense toddler emotions, it’s compounded by a ton of frustration because he has no functional words yet. He doesn’t even have the word “no.” And Eric’s not taking this mid, two-year-old stage with grace the way Kate did. She saw the communication piece as this great giant puzzle… “Hmm, how can I tell Mom that I want to watch a Tinker Bell movie even though it comes from the strange red Netflix button?”

And yes, she’d figure it out. That was in her personality.

Eric? Not so much.

Like, really, really not so much.

If Eric wants to have four bananas for breakfast and I’m in the middle of saying, “No,” (with good reason, I might add) and there he goes. His switch has flipped and I’ve got to stop what I’m doing (usually in the midst of making an actual breakfast) and help him through those emotions. This means being present and calm (ok, I try really hard to stay calm but flailing hands certainly has an effect on my inner cool), sooth him with understanding (and hopefully words he can understand)… and just ride it out.

I have to support him.

I can’t get mad or leave the room. Or yell. Or let my own inner frustration (re: tantrum) out.

Time outs don’t work for us (even if they’re actually for me and I shut myself in the bathroom). Now, this might work on some kids. Not Eric. He gets even madder and goes right for that thing he knows he’s not supposed to do. Like bang the gate surrounding the very expensive electronics. Or climb into the toilet.

You know, toddler things.

Your family is gonna have different mileage here and oh boy, do these two-year-old years vary. Your family is gonna have different needs. Heck I’ve got two kids and they handled this stage completely differently. Kate ran off and cried in her crying castle. Eric wants to hit me.

Throw in any kind of special needs, from late-talking and sensory, to those of you parents with even greater challenges (who have my utmost respect and awe for), and these years are just tough. Tough. And as I’m slowly (sadly) realizing, there’s not some magic technique or spoonful of sugar that’s gonna make these moments go away (or any easier). It’s part of their development and us poor parents, we got to do our best and help the frustrated kids through the ginormous disappointments in life.

Like not eating as many bananas as you damn well want.

And sleep?

Oh, dear lord, do I miss sleep. Even right now, on a good sleep schedule (for us), I’m looking at only 3-5 hours of solid, consecutive sleep. The rest of my morning is dealing with Eric waking up every 3 hours. If I’m lucky, he goes to bed immediately. If not I’m up for an hour, comforting him, helping his body settled back down.

You’re probably wondering why the heck I’m bringing all these challenges up, why I’m listing out each reason why life is so freakin’ hard life is right now.

I just had a blood test confirm what I already knew: the sleep deprivation and stress has taken its toll.

I mean, I knew this was most likely the case but I didn’t really know. I do now.

My blood work is wonderful. Really. Green all across the board from cholesterol to Vitamin D. Except, I have inflammation. Inflammation that is directly related to sleep and stress.

Well, shit.

Now, I’ve suspected this for awhile now. Parenting my two young kids has taken a toll on my body. But the question remains (and it’s a big one): what the heck can I do about it??

I mean, it’s not like I can just decrease my stress by handing my son off to daycare (if you haven’t been following my blog, just know this would not be a good move for Eric).

Also, since March I cut out almost all sugar. I had to. All the broken sleep, when we went through that terrible patch for six months, I needed to stop the sweets and give my body a chance to heal (it did, and still is). My poor metabolism was shot and I was putting on a few pounds. Not a lot but enough that the negative self-talk in my head was adding more stress, not to mention feeling bloated and icky all the time.

Again, I focused on what I could do: not eating the sugar and focusing on sleep. Not that I can control how often my kids wake up at night, but how much caffeine and alcohol I was drinking, how long before bed, even making the bedroom more sleep friendly. I even added an scented candle, nature music, and an acupressure mat to my bedtime routine.

It’s helped.

But the question is, what do I do now?

I mean, the blood test confirmed I’ve got some inflammation issues and the sleep guide the Dietitian sent me is all great… except I’m already doing it. And it’s not like I want to be waking up 2-3 times a night. It’s not my choice. It’s my kids’ choice. You know, those little individuals who I have zero control over.

And I think that’s what’s so frustrating about this. I have all these wonderful recommendations to help with the inflammation, but it feels like half of them simply don’t apply to me. Because I’m a parent. Because the reasons for the sleep, for the stress, are because I’m a parent.

And a parent of a very frustrated, right-in-the-middle of being a two-year-old… you know, exactly what he’s supposed to be doing at this developmental stage.

I know darn well the best medicine for us is time. Eric needs time to grow and mature, to settle in with his language, with his sleep. I know in my heart that’s what he needs except… what about me in the mean time? How much of myself, my own health, is getting sacrificed in the process?

How can I focus on my own self-care, on healing my own body, when the cause is my children?

The answer is no. The answer is also yes.

I mean, there are some things I can do, small minor tweaks to help myself out as much as possible, but the source of the stress and the sleep deprivation, well, that ain’t goin’ away (probably not even when they’re grown up with families of their own).

And sure I’ve got the stress of Eric’s frustrations, the instant explosions he’s having these days, but I haven’t even touched on the anxiety I feel about an upcoming video consult with our speech therapist. I mean, here I am, Ms. Confident when it comes to this late-talking journey, and I’m still scared. Scared that she won’t see the progress that Eric has made, which has been huge for him. Yes, he’s behind. Yes, he’s not where other boys are at, but oh my gosh, we’re making progress. We’re making these huge stride forwards, even if on the outside they only look like little itty-bitty steps.

The point is they’re there.

All of them.

All the visual referencing, how Eric will engage with people he trusts and likes in some kind of play, or will show off to his aunt and uncle as he falls splat-face-first on the couch.

But I’m still scared that our speech professional will just come back and put more worries or doubts in my mind. I don’t need those doubts. They’re not gonna help me. Not now. Not when I know we are already doing everything that Eric needs, and honestly, everything he’ll accept. (Strange speech therapist, who he doesn’t know, trying to play with him? Prompt him when it comes to play? Oh hell no.)

All that above?

That’s stress.

It’s a hidden kind of stress, something that most people who look at me will never see. I generally don’t talk about Eric and his journey because again, I can’t have your doubts or judgments in me. I simply can’t. I’m already treading water here, doing my best to support my kids in the ways that I know they need.

Which again… all this… it’s taking a toll on my body.

And truthfully, there’s not a whole lot left I can do to make it better. I’ve been focused on thinking creatively, of thinking outside the box, but the challenges of my particular family means I can’t just drop them off with a baby-sitter or a co-op or a daycare. Maybe in a few years, sure, but not now.

I know I’m not there yet, and while there are things I can’t simply make go away (fear of the upcoming video consult), there are other things I can do.

Like my self-care. Like making sure that every day, I leave the house for at least 30 minutes. Thirty minutes of just me, my thoughts, and no kids. I need that. I need a chance to breathe. I mean, really truly breathe… without every exhale wondering what the heck the two-year-old is banging into now. I’ve already talked with Sean about this. I understand it’s hard for him when Eric’s screaming because Mommy is leaving without him, but I need this more.

I need time with no kids.

I’ll grab my laptop, a book, a journal. Maybe I’ll do some writing, maybe I’ll just sit outside, and again, just breathe.

I’m also setting up times when a mother’s helper can come over and play with both kids. This isn’t going to give me any alone time, but it will take some pressure off. Maybe I can cut up veggies for dinner then or write an email the requires my whole brain actually paying attention. Or hide out in the bedroom and work on my publishing business.

I guess what I’m saying, is I’m asking for help. Mostly from family at this point, but I’m asking. And, I’m prioritizing my time. When Grandma comes over for a visit, instead of doing the dishes or working on food, I’m going to leave the house. Again, time for me and me only.

That’s so not an easy thing for me to do, but I’m gonna do it.

Small, little shifts.

I went out to breakfast with a dear friend and I left feeling amazing. Like I was filled with this wonderful energy. I’ll do that more too. Just getting away and connecting with someone who I know will make me feel good.

I’m going to surround myself with the right kind of people. People who add to my energy and happiness rather than take away from it.

Again, small little shifts.

This stress of parenting, especially right now, it’s real. And I’m right in the thick of it.

I know too, I’m not alone. I’m not alone in feeling trapped, frustrated, at times, even depressed. And those of you who have kids who walk to a different beat? You’re not alone in all those feelings either.

And I’m here to say: I get it.

I mean, I can’t get exactly what you’re going through, but I empathize with you. And I applaud you. Truly. With all my heart. It takes a courageous person to embrace being different, whether you have a special needs child, you homeschool, or you’ve chosen a different way of parenting than the norm.

At times parenting is a real lonely journey and we have no choice but to keep moving forward, keep doing our best. It’s hard and it takes a physical toll. It does. And it takes a mental and an emotional one, so let’s all recognize that together. Let’s all recognize that the journey is wonderful, and it’s all really hard and draining, especially as every day we try our best.

Because you know, when your little child smiles at you, you know, without a doubt, it’s totally worth it.

Yes, yes it is.

But we, as parents, we matter too.

So take the time to care for yourself. Do whatever it is you need to feel whole and healthy and alive. Maybe we can’t do a whole lot, but even doing a little bit, it matters.

Just like you.

You, dear parent, you matter too.

Parenting: A Roller-coaster Ride

There really is no question about it: parenting feels like you’re getting strapped into a rollercoaster, shoulders pressed firm and hard to that rubber-plastic chair, and then just holding on.

Sometimes, for dear life.

Sometimes, in utter and complete enjoyment.

And within all that, all those curves and loops, those corkscrews you barely saw coming, you have these wonderful moments of pause, as you catch your breath and continue to climb higher (with the telltale ‘click, click, click’ of the track), and you finally get a chance to see where you are.

How high you’ve climbed…

And how far you’re gonna fall next.

Then, you get to do it all over again.

But even that analogy doesn’t quite work because it means that us, as parents, have no control. And while there are a ton of things we can’t control such as… my dear children, can you please sleep through the night? Or, is this really the time to get chicken pox and be housebound for two weeks (or four since Eric’s probably getting it next)? When in fact, there’s actually a ton that we can control, even if it doesn’t feel like it at times (especially with the younger ones).

My little Eric still isn’t a great sleeper. It’s better, though. I mean, I’m getting a solid couple hours of sleep as opposed to six months ago when I was lucky to get 2-3 consecutive hours. I can’t control his sleeping. At all. What I can control is me. It’s my choosing to drink less coffee, eat dinner earlier, finish my wine two hours before bed. I’ve started a bedtime routine, complete with candle, nature music, and an acupressure mat. Oh, and bedtime? Yeah, I’m heading into bed, lights off, by 8:30 these days. I have to. My little guy thinks 4:30 a.m. is a perfectly acceptable time to start the day.

This new bedtime means I’ve had to cancel plans with friends, to say no to dinner dates and Moms Night Out.

Is it worth it?

Absolutely.

I’m getting a solid four hours of sleep in, and when I do wake up to take care of Eric, I’m falling asleep easier. I’m also not as angry because I’m no longer living on that edge of being crazy and desperate for sleep. I feel good, mentally, physically, and I can tell my body is finally healing from the years of massive sleep deprivation.

I’m a long way from being done with the sleep ride, some nights are still just bad, and when both kids tag-team me? Oh, dear lord, meet Zombie-Chrissy the next day. But overall, it’s creeping towards better. I’m focusing on what I’m eating, on daily movement, and overall, it’s hitting my big reason for wanting to do all this… to be a patient, calmer, person with my children (and to be honest, with myself as well).

The new changes are working. I’m not yelling as much, I’m in a better position to be present and centered during those times when even the holiest of saints would have their work cut out for them (and you know exactly those times in parenthood I’m talking about).

I decided to focus on what I could control, and then, got creative.

Not that I’m always successful on the creative part. In fact, I’m still on this rollercoaster ride when it comes to fitting in board games with Sean and and my friends. And fiction writing? I’m still figuring it out.

With the writing, what makes it challenging is because I’m facing a high-ass brick wall filled with stuff that I truly can’t control. Mainly, my son. I can only fall into my worlds, into my storytelling, my writing, when I’m away from him. Why? Well, he has some pretty strong beliefs about being separated from me and has zero issue letting the whole world know about it (so locking myself in the bedroom with ear buds in ain’t gonna cut it; my poor subconscious spends half the time shaking her little head saying, “it’s not safe to come out yet.”)

I would love to write while the kids are sleeping. Except… I’m a morning person. By the end of the day I am dead-tired exhausted. Okay, then, that means I’ve got to wake up early… you mean, earlier than 4 a.m.? And wait a minute — I can’t do that, I’m working like mad trying to recover sleep!

I know of other writers who drop their kids off with other moms and take turns with this co-op babysitting. Kate is almost ready for that, especially if she trusted the mom, but Eric? Oh hell no. Nope. Not gonna happen. A huge part has to do with language; I am literally Eric’s foreign translator in this big scary world of rules and people who can’t stop talking. The other part is just his temperament. He is very, very attached to me these days and not even his dad looks forward to those times when it requires me to leave the house. (Translation: so everyone joins me when it’s time to get my hair done.)

I’m writing this all out, sorta like thinking out loud, and I’ve realized I’ve only been focusing on the reasons why I couldn’t write or couldn’t use the same methods of writers can with their young kids. I mean, there’s no doubt about it, my language-challenged son can’t be treated the same as others his age, but I really need to start shifting my focus…

And moving it back into the realm of what I can control.

I can make the effort, physical and mental, to grab my laptop, get dressed, and head outside to write while Sean’s still home in the morning before work. An hour, or maybe just 30 minutes. Let’s say I don’t even write, but just the act of getting up and getting some actual alone time… that’s gonna go a long way to helping my subconscious feel safe again.

And I throw in that part about “you don’t have to write” because there are days when I can’t.

I mean, straight up, we’re going through the intense middle of living with a two-year-old. Eric can be very opinionated, stubborn, and has zero patience. I’m gonna make that real clear: very. And it’s not like you can even attempt to reason with the guy (again, language issue)! There was straight up one morning, I’d gotten about 3 hours of sleep, been up since 2? 3:41? There also poop involved in the bathroom sink, while I was trying to make breakfast (and hence not able to respond to Eric’s crying). It was not a good morning. I lasted as long as I could but eventually burst into the bedroom bawling my eyes out. Sean got up, watched the kids, and I locked myself in the bedroom and just played with doing some book covers.

I played. And I got a bit of myself back.

I was able to finish that day, and then the one after that.

Some days are just not easy. (Not kidding… I ended up walking out of Disneyland with a crying, screaming toddler, who was trying his best to hit me in the face, all because he couldn’t have the French fries he saw some lady carry out on a tray. Didn’t mattered that I offered him other food or to go to a place that didn’t have a line. Didn’t matter one damn bit. He was upset and the only choice I had, after being present and calm with him, was to walk the whole mile to our car.)

Then some days are totally fine and chill. Those are almost the worst because it’s so deceptive… like, you think this is what the new norm is like, the new routine, and then you start having these grand plans, gonna pull out my story and write, get back into publishing… which is about when the two-year-old decides to skip his nap.

For three days in a row.

Yep. We’re in the nap-skipping stage too (imagine me crying in sadness right here).

It’s also one thing for me to tell this to you and quite another to see it. My mother-in-law just saw the tiniest glimpse of The Eric Meltdown, and we were actually having a good day, and she was like… no, I’m not real comfortable with you and Kate going on a ride at Disneyland and leaving me with him.

Sigh.

It’ll get better, I know. Heck, every day it’s getting better.

But then some days are straight-up like that roller-coaster. I’ve been strapped in (maybe?) and I’m just holding on, trying to keep breathing and not lose my shit.

Some moments I’m successful, some moments I’m not.

I’m trying hard to forgive myself, to be patient and gentle, especially on those days when I really, really need it, to not strive for that completely unobtainable goal of perfection (you all know that doesn’t exist in parenting, right??).

I’m not perfect.

But I’m trying to be a good parent.

I’m still working on being a writer, and because I worked on those covers, it got me interested in this one series I hadn’t written in awhile, and I’m pulling out and updating the world glossary for it, and there’s this little voice inside me, my own little two-year-old, that really wants to jump out and splash in the mud naked.

One of things I can do, one thing that is in my control, is going with the moment when I feel it. Not putting it on hold, but just jumping right on in and playing.

Just, playing.

I’ve realized too, the more time I give Eric before I leave the house (or disappear into the bedroom behind the locked door), the more connection he gets from me, the joy of playing one-on-one, he’s better able to handle these short moments of separation.

So together, as parents, let’s flip the lens and look at what we can control.

What can you do to help promote your own self-care? To get the sleep you need, the food and exercise? The autonomy and creativity? For me, this is what my writing gives me. But for you… your kids, your family, your life, all of that will have a different line up then mine, especially in terms of priority. And only you (and your family) can figure that one out. I urge you to do the work, to sit down and think creative, to shift your focus and put the power, this control, back in your hands.

And also, take time to acknowledge those in your life who are trying to help out (especially when it comes to your sanity). I realized I hadn’t done this enough with Sean. We’d played a board game and everyone was having a really awesome time… except for me (mostly because of the worst combination of random elements possible). The next day, he listened to me and heard how upset I was, especially since playing the game meant I didn’t go to bed until 11:30 (it was his Father’s Day board game event). Later that day, I thanked him and told him how much I appreciated him just listening to me. I needed that support, and I needed that hour without the kids because I was at my wits end.

Thank the people in your life, thank yourself for doing everything you can, even though you’re not, and never will be perfect. And then, shift your focus. Look to what is in your control, because seriously, it just feels better to focus on the positive and what we, ourselves, have the power to change.

I may not have any control over the chicken pox, but on the bright side it’s meant I’ve had to completely free up my schedule. I can take this opportunity to connect with my kids, do painting and board games, or roughhouse on the floor, all those little things that are so easily pushed to the side when I’m focused on cooking meals or getting everyone out of the house. And another added benefit, we’re connecting with friends and getting some one-on-one play in. I hadn’t expected that, but we’ve all benefited. We’re enjoying ourselves and having fun. You know, all those moments of why we choose to be parents in the first place… those moments when the coaster clicks on up to the top of the hill and you’re looking around in breathless wonder of how really cool your life is…

Right before you plunge back down into the next parenting adventure.

The Introverted Parent

 

Society, at least from my point of view, doesn’t really give a shit about us introverts. You know, those people who get incredibly exhausted being around others, who feel completely drained when they go to big group gatherings, the kind of people whose idea of a day off (or heck, a vacation) is staying at home.

That’s me.

Actually, that’s my whole family.

Sure we spent four wonderful hours on Saturday, socializing and catching up with long-time friends and their adorable kids (in which everyone had a fantastic time), but throw in two hours of driving (thank you, downtown LA) and for the rest of the weekend, each and every one of us, were fried. Fried. From me and Sean, to Kate and Eric.

We’re introverts.

Going out and having fun means we need time to re-center ourselves, to settle in and fill up our cups. The day after a fun, socializing event, we’re in front of iPads or playing video games or reading books or coloring. Sure Eric might be sprawled across my lap (he usually is), since that little boy needs constant connection, but he’s also doing his own thing and he doesn’t want interaction. The same with Kate too. I jokingly tell Sean I’m never alone because I’ve got one kid pressed against my side, the other on my lap, each of us lost in our world but still having this connection.

We each need our own space. We all need quiet, this alone time to recharge our batteries, to refill our cup (or throw in your favorite description here).

The point, is we each need this time to refill our well of energy.

Now, you might be reading this and thinking, “So what? You’re different. You need to time at home, what’s the problem?”

Or, maybe you read all that and you’re nodding your head going, “Wow! I know exactly what you’re talking about.”

The problem is society, and pretty much anyone with an opinion on parenting. Think about it for a moment. Think about all the stuff you’re supposed “to do” to be a good parent, to help raise healthy, happy kids. Constantly engaging with your child, through play or talking. Lots of one-on-one interactions. Lots of play outside. Parks. All the feeding and care associated with such outings.

Oh, and make sure they’re having healthy, whole foods and none of that drive-thru crap. Which, of course, means the endless cutting of vegetables and bucket-loads of fruit (while at the same time praying your toddler doesn’t get into too much trouble, or if you’re living in my shoes, he doesn’t take that moment to poop on the floor because he knows darn well you aren’t watching).

There are some of us, who, for that day I just described, can’t do that.

Like really and truly, can’t.

We’re not built that way.

Some of us can’t go out to endless events, art classes, park days, and on top of that, have one-on-one play dates (or go to school, if you’re the schooling family). Oh! And let’s not forget two different outings in one day, each lasting hours each.

There are some of us who, when we stumble into our glorious home (sometimes with upset, crying kids cause they’re also are low on energy) all we want is to collapse on the couch and drink a glass of wine.

Or two.

And yet… as a parent, I’m constantly bombarded with messaging all around that I’m not doing enough — that what I’m doing isn’t good enough.

Because…

What about the book time and reading together?

What about sitting on the floor, playing one-on-one?

What about the speech play for Eric? Did we have enough physical play? Did he get outside enough to run around?

Well, what about Kate? She’s Miss Constantly-Wants-to-Socialize.

And guess what’s that means? Going out. Together. And me using energy resources to help her and guide her, while running after Eric and making sure he steers clear of the street (not kidding, park days usually clock in a good mile for me).

Oh yes, and let’s not forget the message that screen time is bad for kids. That we will damage our kids if they’re watching too much TV or playing on the iPad or whatever. Now, you can totally have your own opinions about this, I’m certainly not judging you or your family or your values, not at all. What I’m saying though is we’re all different and we all have different needs. And can we please, at least for the moment, lay off of putting all this blame and guilt on people who are just exhausted? Parents who, truly, are trying to their best??

For me, by the end of the day I’m bone-tired exhausted.

After an outing I need my kids to be quiet, to give me some peace and quiet, even if it’s just so I can get together dinner. It doesn’t matter that all I want is to call it a night and go to bed at 6:00 with the kids. But what’s hard is constantly hearing the critical voices in my head, whispering that I’m this bad parent because they spent how many hours playing games or watching movies?

Guilt. Shame.

I swear, it feels like I’m constantly fighting them. Constantly fighting this message that I’m not doing enough. How, pretty much every day, being Super Mom isn’t enough (or Super Dad, whichever parent or caregiver is at home).

On top of the usual parenting challenge course (I swear, sometimes I feel like those little dogs running through those competition-obstacle courses), I’ve decided to be the main speech partner for both of my kids as well as homeschooling them. At this point in our life, the homeschooling part is literally just playing and living life. We’ll color and paint, play some board games, but it’s really following Kate’s lead and where her interest is (like making word hide-and-seek books).

But…

It’s the one-on-one time that’s challenging.

Playing board games requires Godzilla-Eric to be napping (or Daddy around and keeping his little hands from grabbing the scissors Kate’s using for her word books). Or with Eric, the speech play means Kate needs to be engaging in her things and willingly to leave us alone for a few minutes.

Why?

Well, for the speech part, Eric needs one-on-one time. Time where I’m able to pause, give him a chance to think through what I’m doing, what my words (or actions) are asking of him. He needs time and space to do this, which for him means comfort and a feeling of safety…

And the minute I start engaging and playing with him, as I’m laughing or clapping when he puts the shape into the puzzle box, Kate comes running over because she wants to play too.

Cause, we’re having fun.

Which is all well and good except, again, Eric is a “need-my-space” kinda kid. He gets frustrated when she starts putting her grubby hands on his shape pieces. And his only mode of dealing with frustrations is, no surprise, crying and trying to hit her.

It’s not going well.

Or I should say, it’s not easy.

Kate has needs (she wants to play too!). Eric has needs (translation: leave me the heck alone; I want to play with Mom. By myself.). And then me, well, I have needs too (oh please, just give me five minutes of quiet).

For us, all of those needs are also tied to our energy. And how much we have (or often, don’t have).

Because we’re all introverts I really need to have my awareness keyed on the energy pulse of each of us… myself, the kids, Sean too. In the situation above like I just described with the puzzle box, and while this is true of all kids, it’s especially true of mine (who are both introverts and late-talkers). I need to set back and see why the heck this situation (Kate’s interference, Eric’s frustration) is happening in the first place.

Kate wants interaction and play of her own. With me.

Eric wants the same… but without Kate butting in and doing the puzzle for him.

Well, okay then.

Let’s just add that to the energy schedule as well as shopping at Costco and farmers market. Oh, yeah, and we’ve got Grandma coming over that day too.

It’s a constant juggling act and one I’m slowly starting to accept (and internalize), is going to look different compared to everyone else’s. The life choices we made (homeschooling, speech play) as well as the ones we didn’t get to choose (introverts, late-talkers), all that means our home life will look different than most of the families out there.

There are choices we need to make, like screen time or only one outing a weekend (or day), that fit us. That fit our needs.

And really, parents, we need to start accepting that for our kids to be happy and whole, we have to be happy too. We need to start taking care of ourselves, to start putting our needs in there too. Because we can’t be patient and kind, can’t be centered and present if we’re constantly on that edge of exhaustion. We’re gonna snap and yell and whatever.

Our needs matter too.

And for you introvert parents out there, who know exactly what I’m talking about, you have double-duty because society as a whole doesn’t understand us. They like the people who are constantly chatting and socializing, going out and all these grand adventures… well, that works for them and that’s fine. But it doesn’t work for us.

And it’s okay.

But all of us, truly, we need to be in tune with our kids and their energy. It’s really a juggling act, of checking in with ourselves, checking in with our kids and our spouses. Like how on the Saturday we saw our long-time friends, I made the choice to let Sean sleep in while I went to farmers market with the kids (which means I’ve got a wiggling Eric in my arms as I try to pay or stuff the food in the stroller). It’s stressful for me but I did it because I knew Sean’s needs were greater than mine… if we were to survive the day. I also did the driving (it’s also too stressful for him). But the second we got home? As soon as the kids were in bed?

Oh man I went to bed.

I checked out.

Cause that’s what I needed.

Being a parent is hard. Being an introverted parent is even more challenging. We need to monitor our energy levels and that of our kids. For those of you introverted parents with extroverted kids, those kids who thrive on all the outings and socializing, oh man do I really feel for you, and how you’ve really got to be aware of your own self-care. (Truly, you guys are amazing!)

All I’m trying to say here: is it’s okay to be different. It’s okay to be a different kind of family because all of our needs our different.

We need to care for our kids, and we need to care for ourselves.

So if you find yourself getting hit with all those messages… that you’re not doing enough… that you’re not good enough… keep in mind, a lot of those messages are geared towards an extroverted world.

And guess what?

That’s not me. Or my family.

We do what work’s for us, what makes us happy and whole, and that means we can’t be wrong.

All we can do as parents, day in and day out, is our best. To simply try… and even if that means our world and our life look different than everyone else’s.

We try.

And then the next day, we try again.

Surviving Times of Uncertainty

 

Here I am, confident in my abilities as a parent, comfortable in being my children’s speech partner, trusting in my intuitions as a mother, and yet… there are times I’m afraid. Afraid that I’m wrong, afraid that I’m missing something others see and I don’t, afraid that my intuition this time, might be wrong.

This is uncertainty.

The not-knowing.

The wait-and-see.

It’s the stage Eric is in with his language development. He’s moved passed the baby/young toddler stage where kids pretty much get a pass for not talking (as it still hits the “late” end of normal for talking) and we’ve now solidly moved into the realm of being speech delayed.

But what exactly? The cause? How much? What the heck is even going on?

Who knows. Only time will tell.

All I know, is what I see as a mom. That’s a really heavy mantle to wear, at least right at this stage. This step in Eric’s growth, this uncertainty place where he either needs more help… or… he just needs more time.

I know what I feel as a mother, and that, is more time.

But it still doesn’t mean I don’t have moments of fear. Even me, so confident and so trusting, I feel it too. And it’s hard to sometimes set it aside and let myself believe in what I’m seeing.

In what Eric is showing me.

To be at this stage where pretty much anyone else will see and declare (from their short interaction and even shorter relationship they’ve developed with him) that he needs help or services. It doesn’t matter that they’re only seeing a tiny slice of who Eric is (because that’s all Eric will allow them to see). It doesn’t matter that the child I see and I’m with 24 hours a day is showing me the little pieces that say: we’re okay.

That’s he’s okay.

That he just needs more time, love, and trust.

A huge part is Eric’s personality. He’s an introvert (like the rest of our little family), and if he doesn’t know you, or if he isn’t comfortable with you (meaning, unless you’ve actually attempted to build a relationship with him), he’s hiding behind me or putting his head on the ground. Or, he’s completely ignoring you.

He is also, however, the spitting image of his dad.

When I watch Eric, I see Sean in him. Heck, I even see his grandpa, an engineer and mechanic, someone who understands how pieces move and fit together. Someone who doesn’t need or want a lot of social interaction when he’s focused on doing his thing. Being present and around others is enough.

When Eric moves his train set, upside down with his head on the carpet, watching between his legs, I can see a focus there. Studying. Trying to understand how the pieces work. It’s not the kind of focus where the world falls away. Believe me. If I leave the room, you know, to get myself some good ol’ peace and quiet, you better believe two little legs are running after me.

And during the play itself?

Eric doesn’t want my interaction. He’s got this.

Of course, if a train goes off the rails you better believe he’s rushing right over (sometimes crying, sometimes wanting to smack me — after all we are in the middle of BIG time two-year-old emotions here). He’s handing me the train or the track, when I pause (because I know what he wants me to do, but I want him to be clearer with his nonverbal cues), he’ll look up at me or put my hand right where he wants the train piece to go.

But during the actual play with these physical toys?

He doesn’t want me there. He’s focused. He has an idea of play. He doesn’t want to look up at me with a smile, a “See? Did you see this? Wasn’t that cool?”

That part right there, is a concern of our speech professional. She’s worried that he’ll be orientating to objects more than people. The problem with her assessment is it’s limited by video. She only sees what I manage to record, and if you’ve been reading my blogs for any given amount of time, you know my kids are pretty strong willed.

When Eric has those moments, of “WOW! Did you see that?” You better believe it’s spontaneous. It happens so fast and is gone again all I have time for is to smile, laugh with him, register in my mind what I’m seeing, and then he’s moved on again.

But the point is those moments are there. All the time.

Because remember, this isn’t just about one kind of play at one given time. If Eric is constantly sharing with me while watching a movie, or playing his word game on Endless Reader? He’s constantly looking at me. Sharing. Laughing. I laugh with him and this will gone for a good 10 minutes (which is a huge chunk of time in toddler-time).

Or if we’re doing actual physical play?

Or dear Lord, there’s no issue there. At all. There are times when all I want is to actually sit down and relax, and he’s there, pulling my hand… running down the hallway, looking right at me. When we get to my bedroom he’s running into my arms. Then back again. This is a play we’ve developed, where I have my arms outstretched and he runs into them.

There’s constant sharing. There’s constant visual referencing.

This is Eric choosing to engage in the play. He’s asking me to play (and pulling me to play).

These are little things that our speech professional wasn’t able to see from the video, when she made her comment of Eric and being concerned of him orientating to objects more than people. I asked her to be specific. She told me she wanted him to engage with me more, initiating the play, this visual referencing, and after hearing all this, I was able to clarify that he did do these things.

She was very excited to hear this, but her worry still stuck in me and my heart.

I’m a mother. I can’t help but worry.

So, I started writing everything down. Keeping a journal. And the more I did, the more I focused more on this aspect, of having him be clear (with pauses between what he wanted me to do and my actual doing them), with my immediately engaging and responding if he visually shared something with me (like he does with the iPad), all my worry drained away.

Not only is he doing what our speech professional wanted, he’s doing it all the time.

Eric has a specific area that he’s not as engaging, and that’s only with physical toys. And again, it’s not like he’s playing with toys for giant chunks of time (believe me, we really wish he would cause two-year-olds… breaks… parents need breaks). But what I’ve determined, what I’m believing in, is at these moments I’m seeing his personality. I’m seeing his dad in him. I’m seeing his grandpa.

And it’s not that Eric won’t allow me to engage in play. If I do something silly when he’s playing with marbles, like dropping one down my head and laughing, then doing the same to him. He’s looking at me. He’s laughing. But then goes back to whatever plan or idea he had in his head. He shared the moment with me, and now he’s back to whatever he was doing.

I mentioned this stage was a heavy mantle because it is. Because all we have is what we know and see as parents. These moments with Eric are still to spontaneous to capture on video. He’s to uncertain and timid with people he doesn’t know. And he’s very attached to me. The idea of having a therapist come and work with him? You better believe Eric will want nothing to do with that person. I mean, we’d even talked about having a mother’s helper come over and Sean just laughed and said, “You really think he’s going to leave you alone.”

He’s dead right.

Kate loves playing with people. She loves interacting.

Eric is a different person.

And again, he’s just like his dad. (And you better believe his dad isn’t worried at all. And it’s because he sees so much of himself in Eric. He’s, rightfully so, defensive for Eric. He doesn’t want to force Eric into a box that demands we must share with others, we must not focus on areas of interest, we must socialize all the time.)

Or speech professional even admitted that she can’t recommend us getting other outside help (even though our answer is no, for many reasons, but mostly because of Eric and his personality). She can’t recommend it because she doesn’t believe it would help. She’s told me numerous times that I’m already doing everything I can to help him. And I am. I have been for months now. The other reason is she’s very worried that any help we did get would damage Eric and his progress.

Of that, I have no doubt. Zero.

What I know of this child, of everything he’s shown me, is someone who just needs time. Time and love and support.

And trust. Trust in him.

That’s a hard place to stand. It’s scary. It’s frightening. To be there, with my little mommy stick and it feels like I’m beating back the world. You don’t see the child I see because those little bits, those little hints are still knew and timid and developing.

I know because I feel it. I see it, every day.

Because Eric isn’t just the spitting image of his day, but of me too. Eric’s need to connect is very, very real. The way he’s constantly around me, touching me, heck even somehow curling into my arms in the middle of the night to sleep (without me even noticing). And it’s not just me. It’s with Sean, and with Grandma too. How he pulls their fingers, leading them to the couch, all so he can curl up next to them.

This is not the behavior of a “child orientating to objects more than people.” Oh, no, it is far, far from it. If you could see what I see, if you could see his story, the whole full breadth of it, you’d see it too.

But more than that, I’ve seen Eric’s awareness suddenly blossom in the past month. His awareness of me, of this sharing and engaging our speech professional so wanted to see. In just a few weeks, it’s like this light switch flipped in Eric’s brain and he’s suddenly looking at me all the time, and for ten or twenty seconds at a time which is huge. That’s a really long time!

Was it because of my focused work with him?

Maybe.

But what I truly, truly believe, is that he was just finally ready. It’s like, he finally shed his hesitation, whatever it was that made him feel uncomfortable, to not want to look at me and engage as others his age did.

And does this translate to other people?

Well, if you’re Grandma Charlie than yes. She’s constantly on the floor and roughhousing and playing. And Eric is right there, seeking her play and her help. If you’re related to him but are just going to sit there and watch him play? Forget it. You don’t exist to him. But if you make a halfway decent effort, especially if your effort is one involving, you know, play, oh he’s noticing you.

The truth is, I’m seeing everything I need to know, everything I need to believe in, right before me.

All I have do is trust.

This word, this trust, it doesn’t mean being in denial, it doesn’t mean neglecting concerns or worry. What it means is following and believing in my heart. Of letting go of that worry, all those fears, and just living with the child I have.

Right now. Living in this moment.

I know, without a doubt, if I’m not careful, fear and worry will come roaring back in. I know because it happened before with Kate and it’s a place I do not want to go again.

Why? Because if I let it, this worry will become a monstrous black beast, eating me alive. And it’s a terrifying place to be. Going down this worry-rabbit-hole is not good for me. It’s also not good for my kids.

When I worry, when I lose myself in this fear, in something that I personally, absolutely have no control over, well, it means I can’t be present with my kids. I can’t be connected with them, can’t see the world through their eyes, to living with such joy.

The fear won’t let me.

You see, this isn’t my first rodeo with a late-talker. If I had allowed the fear to control me, if I’d believed in what all those people had said about Kate, the Early Intervention assessment-lady, the neurologist, our pediatrician at the time… if I’d believed in them who knows where that would have taken us and Kate. But it wouldn’t be to a good place.

Kate didn’t start talking until she was four.

Four.

That’s a lot of time to simply let go and trust in her. Trust that the words would be there when she was ready, supporting her in all the ways that she needed.

And now here I am with the uncertainty again… and I’m choosing to let go of it.

I felt the fear because we should allow ourselves to have these feelings. They are not wrong or bad. They are feelings and they are valid, after all.

Feel them, accept them, and then, try to let them go.

I talked with a whole bunch of my friends after I got off the phone with our speech professional. I needed support. I needed people who loved me, who trusted in me, who let me get all those emotions off my chest without judgment. And the more I talked, the more I came back to the realization that this is simply who my son is. It’s his temperament and personality.

So, I did my journaling, I did my focused work with him, I focused on the living and the joy.

I’m back to a place of acceptance. It was still scary for a little while, but that fear, and that uncertainty, it fell away day by the day.

Why?

Because of Eric.

Of my awareness of him and all the little steps, all the little clues, and the pieces that added up to this emerging little boy who I’m watching, right now…

Crawling on top of Kate, hugging her, engaging with her in play. And they’re both laughing.

At the end of the day, my children are happy.

They’re laughing, they’re smiling, they’re filled with such joy.

I’m going to choose joy over fear. I’m going to live in this world with them, help them, support them, guide them, but always, always listening.

To them.

After all, they know themselves the best and when I listen to my mother’s heart, I know it too.

All I have to do is let go, and trust.

And look, I understand this ‘trust’ is not always an easy path to follow. You could have late-talkers or children with other special needs, or maybe you’re homeschooling, or maybe your child is just a bit differently wired than the rest. Regardless of the reason, this idea of letting go and trusting in your children, well, it’s not an easy one to follow. It goes pretty much against everything we’ve been taught in our society, and it’s only “easy” if you have the right kind of support around you. Support from your spouse (or significant other). From family (oh, man is this one huge!). Support from your community or tribe. Support from your child’s medical team.

For us, for me, I’ve needed to surround myself with people who believed in our kids, in the same way Sean and I do. We’ve been upfront and honest with our family, we’ve shared what we’ve learned — both from our speech professional and what Kate and Eric themselves were telling us. I imagine if we had less support, if we had those people who only cast doubt and worry into our lives, we would have separated from them. At least for a little while. Certainly during the times of uncertainty (like where Eric is right now).

Trust is a fragile thing, at least that’s how it feels to me in this world we live in.

Living in trust is not an easy path to walk. It can’t be because this path looks so very different from the one that our schooling and society has taught us to accept. You have to be strong to even think about stepping off that road and hopping onto the yellow-brick one.

Or maybe yours looks pink with bright green stripes.

Or maybe it’s a little overgrown with these tiny little vines slipping up and over rocks, but regardless, it still is a road.

It’s your road.

And I do believe, regardless of your situation, that you know the answer… about your child, about the right path for your child (and for you). And it will look different than mine, or Kate’s, or Eric’s, and that’s okay. In fact, it should look different because your child, and your family and your life, are different from ours.

Yes, you can have support from family, friends, and professionals, but the real answer comes from that intuitive, special connection between you and your child.

I ask you to listen to it, and somehow, if you can, believe in it. Believe in what you know, as a parent. Believe in what your children, your very bright, unique, different children, are telling you.

I know. I know. It’s easy to say and crazy hard to do.

Believe me. I know.

But it’s totally, totally worth it.

Needing Space

 

For me, personally, one of the most challenging obstacles of parenthood has been space. Space where it’s just me and my thoughts. Quiet time that I use to think, reflect, and daydream.

I’m an introvert. I need this.

I also need it for my writing because this is when the ideas and those ‘what if’ questions come. It’s when characters perk up their heads, I hear their voices and their opinions, see how they move through a world I’ve recently created or one I’ve been writing in for years.

It’s this quiet, this downtime that has been, absolutely, the most difficult to achieve after choosing to be a parent. I mean, hearing a character’s quiet voice is pretty darn impossible when I’ve got a toddler, tugging on my leg and crying every 30 seconds. And then when he’s not needing help or attention, his sister is.

And some days it’s just constant.

Constant.

Now, we all go into this parenting gig knowing it’s not gonna be easy (I don’t know about you, I certainly knew it wasn’t). Of course, I just didn’t know how challenging and in what ways. Not to mention each kid has their different quirks and opinions and really, as parents, half the time it feels like we’re up a creek and the only paddle we’ve got is this tiny twig that’ll snap if you look at it wrong!

So yeah, sleepless nights? Diapers? The constant need to feed the little angles, and oh yeah, the endless amount of dishes? I got that. Not that it’s all-covered all-the-time (especially the dishes), but I pretty much knew to expect it. Sure it’s exhausting, but it’s part of the deal.

What I hadn’t expected though, at least to this degree, is my need for space. Like personal space where it’s just me and my thoughts, and when I don’t have my mom hat on.

That one came as a surprise.

Like, I always knew after I had Kate I would still be writing. There was never any doubt in my mind. I need to write. So, I knew I would.

And, I did.

But what I was missing, and am still struggling with, is the quiet. That time to let my thoughts go and stories work themselves out. To sit back and simply watch the world around me or think about some interesting story or idea question and see exactly where it takes me.

Let’s just say this quiet, contemplative time where I’m really focused on my thoughts doesn’t go over so well with two-year-olds. Especially ones going through massive separation issues. Meaning: the only breaks I consistently are when Eric’s sleeping.

Also, life with Eric right now is intense.

Intense.

I mean, at least I’m sleeping again (if I wasn’t I have no idea the level of crazy I’d be right now). But it’s hard too because Eric’s needs are so constant and so intense. He also has the patience of a typical two-year-old. Which, means zero. For Eric, this usually leads him to smacking or kicking me. When Kate was this age she’d run off crying to her safe place (we lovingly called this her “crying castle”).

So. Every kid is different. Every kid has different needs and at different times (so it seems, anyway). And everyone in our little family is feeling Eric’s intensity right now, including Sean and Kate.

Poor Kate, who watches me constantly deal with her brother and his BIG emotions and then when it’s time for her needs, I’m tapped out. Like, all I want to do is prop open my laptop and veg-out on feel-good TV shows. Kate’s needing attention from me and me, well, I’m just needing a bit of quiet for myself.

Some days it feels like none of us are getting our needs met.

I’ve been struggling with this for awhile now. It’s on my radar. I’ve been aware of it, thinking it through. I’ve done journaling, especially on my intense reactions to how Eric’s acting and then my own responses to it. And, just as important, I’m focusing on how I don’t like my reactions to his behavior. But it wasn’t until I reached out for help with a friend, Michelle Charfen (who teaches the amazing Centered Parenting classes), that I realized exactly what the issue was:

My need for space.

It was like, the moment I identified my need as an actual, tangible thing, the rest really started to make sense. Like, I had these feelings of frustration, anger, of being short-tempered, of closing off emotionally… but while I was aware of these feelings, I couldn’t actually fix or change them. I couldn’t because I hadn’t actually addressed what the problem was.

Think of it like going to the doctor for back pain and being prescribed some pain medication. That’s all fine and good, unless the pain doesn’t actually ago away.

We need to treat the actual problem and not the symptom.

Which… is what I’ve been doing, looking only at the symptom (my reactions and feelings) rather looking at the actual cause of those feelings (my unmet need).

And it’s not just this “I need space either.” My particular temperament, my empath abilities, means that as Eric’s living his HUGE frustrations I’m soaking it all in myself. And then trying really, really hard not to act on both our emotions. Phew. Once I put that into perspective it really made sense what was going on (why I hadn’t figured that out sooner, I haven’t a clue).

But really, all this has been occurring because this one simple need of mine was not being met—my need for space. It didn’t matter that I was actually getting six hours of straight sleep most nights (shocking!) because I still wasn’t in the emotional centered place that I wanted to be.

Now, though, with my new perspective I can actually move forward and start addressing the actual problem.

I need space.

And just at this time, Eric needs more of me.

He’s hit some stage in his development where his anxiety has sky-rocketed when it comes to being separated from me. It’s so bad that I can’t even leave the house without him running after me, crying and screaming down the hall, with complete and absolute abandonment tears running down his face. And it’s hard too on the person who’s caring for him when I’m not there (generally, it’s Daddy).

And I respect Eric’s need.

I also respect Sean’s frustration when Eric is so very clear that he wants nothing to do with him and will cry for the three hours that I’m gone (as what happened when I disappeared to get my hair done). And yet… I still have my own sinking ship and I’ve got to take care of myself. I’m no use to anyone if I’m underwater with zero resources for anyone else’s needs.

So… I now know the problem… but what the heck can I actually do about it?

Well, first off, there’s no way I’m gonna figure this out in one try. Or, which will most likely happen, every day and every moment will be a bit different from the next.

Come to think of it, I’ll be working through this question for a long, long while.

If you’re a parent, especially you’re one of the toddler variety, then you’re really going to understand what I mean about needing space. Like, even five minutes to myself, on the laptop, writing an email or even calling up a friend on the phone, would be a blessing. There are days when I can’t even get thirty seconds of quiet within my own head.

And that’s rough.

And tiring.

And it really, really starts to grate on any patience and calm that I’ve stored up for the day.

I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to — nor can I ever — be a perfect mom (or writer, or whatever). Not only that, I’m not alone. I can and I will ask for help. Sometimes it’ll just be for emotional support, other times it will be for ideas and strategies, thoughts on how I can get creative to finding a way to meet my need for space.

That’s what I did with Michelle, and the first thing she did was remind me of how amazing it was that I had this clarity. That I already did some of the work to even know what the heck the real issue was (rather than just me losing my cool and getting mad at the toddler). Even that little bit really helped: I knew myself, I knew I was on the right track. That’s immensely powerful.

So too was her reminding me that it’s okay if Eric feels this way, about being separated from me, and that it’s still okay to have this separation.

If I need to leave, to give myself the space to be a better person and a better mom, he’s not always going to be happy. He won’t be okay with it, certainly not at this point in his life. And, that’s okay that he feels this way. Someone else can be loving and present with him as he works through those feelings of sadness. Because as he’s doing that, I’ll be recharging and when I come back I’ll be in a much, much better place to help him.

I need to practice my own self-care.

That also means having a conversation with Sean too, telling him how much I appreciate that he’s taking on this hard hour while he’s alone with Eric, and how much I need it. Like, “you take this hard hour and I’ll take the other 23.”

It’s not going to be easy for anyone as we work through this hard time, but I can’t allow myself to feel trapped, to feel like I can never leave the house without Eric in tow, or how I can’t meet another mom for coffee so we can connect about our parenting or homeschooling styles.

And the great thing too about having this conversation is I can find what needs of Sean’s aren’t being met. I mean, I know what mine are, but what about his? He might not even know himself and I’m sure there’s something we can do, as a family, to meet some more of his own self-care needs.

After we have this conversation, we’re gonna need to start thinking creative. Maybe it’s hiring a babysitter or doing a child-swap with another mom (who’s also willing to take on the crushed-heart of Eric) or maybe asking the grandparents for more help. But there’s definitely ways for me to find my own space within the restraints unique to my family. For example, the language part means they need more support compared to other kids and their temperaments mean they need to fully trust this person to be left alone with them.

Lots of questions and thoughts to consider, and while I don’t have direct answers yet, I feel like I’m finally on the right track.

Because this too isn’t just about the longer-term goal. Some days I won’t get that space. That’s parenthood for you. Some days it’ll feel like I walked through fire, barefoot, and then hop-scotched back out the way I came without even a chance to breathe. Those days will need some more in-the-moments tactics to keep me grounded and emotionally connected with my kids.

Focusing on breathing always helps… unless of course I’ve got the toddler pulling on my leg and crying (or hitting said leg). I swear, try to do meditative breathing when that’s going on. Maybe we just get outside and get some fresh air. Simply move and keep moving. There’s of course calling a friend or texting when I’m at my wit’s end… though that’s hard for me to do personally. It’s just not easy to call someone up on the phone, breaking down in tears, telling them how you feel like you’re the WORST PARENT IN THE WORLD while the toddler is pulling on the arm, doing everything possible to get the phone away from you.

Or maybe I can just sit on the floor, with my hand over my chest and acknowledging my feelings, letting myself cry and that it’s okay. Okay to feel this way. Okay… to give myself a little bit of forgiveness and love.

It’s hard.

Really. This parenting thing is not easy. There are days when the world is wonderful, when my little boy is my cute cuddle-bunny resting on my lap.

And then a switch flips and he’s all-intense, all-the-time.

And through this all, here I am, still working at being a writer. And you know, every time I sit and put words to page, whether as these blog posts or in my fiction, I feel a bit of my spark come back. That shining bit of light that’s me and only me. Not just the mom me, but… me. Something that is really, really hard to do when I don’t get that space I so desperately need.

Then there are times, like the one I’m currently living, where I acknowledge that I can’t write right now. At least not fiction. It’s those times when I go to sit and it feels like work. Like, the very idea of sitting down and making up stories feels like getting my teeth pulled—

Then it’s time to put the writing down for awhile. At least until parenting-life let’s up on me.

When my creative voice feels like that, I’ve learned to listen and let go. For now. We are right in the middle of some pretty big developmental milestones for Eric, what they are, heck if I know, I can only guess what’s going on his little head, but there is something going on, some pieces of communication clicking into place. I can see it. I can feel it. So the rest of the stuff he’s got going on… intense emotions, limit testing, oh man is that sky-rocketing right now.

Oh. And for whatever reason, Eric’s got it in his head that 2:30 in the morning, is a perfectly acceptable time to start the day.

I knew parenting would be tough, but there were some surprises I hadn’t counted on. The need for space was one, so two was both of my kids being late-talkers. And yet… here I am, writing about parenting, writing, late-talking children… this was something I’d ever envisioned to write. It was never in my plan, to reach out to other parents for help, guidance, support, and yet… here I am.

And I know too that there are others out there, just as lost and sleep-deprived as me, trying our best to be good parents.

And I know that we are because every day we try, and then we try again.

Trying to be good, really, is good enough.

Living Dual Lives (The Writer. The Mom.)

 

The last time I went to an in-person, writer’s workshop was when Kate was 18 months old. She’s now four and a half, well on her way to turning five. Two years of not getting my cup filled of just being with other professional writers, the energy, the vibes and all the craziness that ensues. And the learning? The reading so much great fiction?

My God do I miss it.

Yet, as much as I miss it, I knew without a doubt that this was another year I had to bow out of the annual Anthology Workshop hosted by WMG Publishing and Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. It’d been the first Oregon coast workshop I’d signed up for since Eric was born, but I did it knowing that I very well might have to cancel. Well, turns out I did and I’m really, really glad I was honest enough with myself, and also accepting of the life I’m living right now.

Or I should say, the season of my life.

All well and good, right? But why’s it coming up now?

Well, the Anthology 2017 Workshop recently ended and I’m seeing so many of my friends posting about their victories (and misses too). How many stories they sold and to which editor, how many were a miss and some, possibly, are in that hopeful ‘maybe’ spot. This workshop in particular is a great opportunity: a chance to sell six different stories to six different editors. To see these editors fight over stories, of what was liked and what wasn’t. And the networking opportunities? Off the charts. Seriously. There’s like 40 to 50 professional-level writers that go to these things.

It makes me tingle just thinking about it.

And this year, again, I had to miss.

But what was different this time was I didn’t feel any regrets. I wasn’t saddened by, and I’ll call it here what it felt like for the past few years, like a burden to be a parent. That I had to put my dreams on hold for constant sleepless nice, constant motion and chaos (because what young kids don’t come with chaos, I ask you?).

Not this time, though, and I really wanted to celebrate that.

Instead of feeling sadness, I felt content. Happy, even. I was beyond thrilled for my friends and I didn’t have a single, wiggly thought of, “Gosh, I wish I’d been there too.”

You see, I’d taken a look at my life about eight months previously and seriously asked myself: Can you do this? Can you write six short stories in six weeks? Right in the middle of the Christmas holiday craziness (and a slew of our own families birthdays, mine included)?

And let’s not forget Eric, who would be turning two, and if you’ve got kids you know darn well what two means (and not the terrible twos, but those are there too). Nope, I’m talking teething. The two-year-terror-molars. And Eric’s sleep being as crappy as it is from like the second he was born, we could pretty much guarantee sleep would not be happening.

Turns out I was right.

On all of the above.

The one thing I need more than anything, especially when it comes to writing fiction, is a clear head. A mind free to dream and play and simply dive into stories.

That, was not my life.

Instead of feeling saddened, this year, I accepted it.

I mean, yeah, I was sad, I really, really do miss being with other writers, seeing my own craft explode upwards, let alone a chance to sell stories to anthologies. But… it was more a passing thing instead of a feeling that rocked me through my core and made me long for a time before kids.

What’s changed?

I’m not sure, honestly. Maybe I’m just maturing as a parent. Or maybe, truthfully, it’s because I’m coming out the other side of this really intense season of parenting. I’m starting to get sleep again. I’ve picked up writing fiction and I’m going strong with another writing streak.

That’s a huge success for me.

But so is this little understanding that the life I’ve chosen, even compared to other parents who have kids this age, my life, is so very different.

I used to look at other writers around my age, and as much as you’re not supposed to, I would compare myself to them. Both being at the same level, with our first few pro sales to magazines, and then watch as this other writer shot skyward with more and more sales, more books she was publishing because her career and her writing was the path she’d chosen, while there was me… who I might push hard enough to write a handful of short stories a year.

I was jealous because I knew I would be exactly where she was… if… I didn’t have kids. If I hadn’t decided to give my life to two young human beings, to nurture and care for them.

I’m not saying I felt this all the time, or for even very long, but I’d be lying if I said I never felt this at all. I did, and it was one thing that used to shake me right to my core, to make me long for the life I’d passed up on when we decided that what we wanted more than anything else, was to be parents.

This year, that feeling didn’t hit me.

Instead, it was just sort of a nod and an acceptance in our differences, in the different life paths we’d chosen. I wouldn’t give up mine in a heartbeat.

I know my writing will always be there. I know I will get back to it, bit-by-bit.

It’s not easy. Heck, it’s hard as hell, especially when my writing feedback is so few and far between. The progress I see is at a snail’s pace compared to others because that’s all I can manage with the season I’m living in.

Even among other parents, I’ve chosen a different path.

I mean, my kids don’t go to preschool so I don’t get this huge block of time to simply write. In fact, my kids won’t go to regular school at all. Instead, we’ll be life-learning with our homeschool group, going on adventures like camping trips or staying more local and just swimming at our pool or playing at the park. One day, I’ll be in a place where I can sit off from the group with my laptop and just let the words pour out (in between the usual request for snacks and such). But I’ll never have that chunk of time other parent-writers enjoy and I’m okay with it.

It won’t be easy but it is still the right path for our family.

And yes, while Sean and I did chose to be parents, one thing we didn’t chose is what that would look like.

Both Kate and Eric have language delays. With Eric, we don’t really know how much or what exactly (he’s still too young to know), and that’s brought an extra level of parenting we hadn’t planned on. When Kate was Eric’s age I was working through an incredible amount of fear. Fear at the darkness, all the doom and gloom everyone was pushing on us. I knew they were wrong, I knew they weren’t right about Kate, but they were the professionals. They were the experts.

Me?

I was just a mom.

I worked through all that, I found my way, through fiction no less, to get an incredible amount of strength and resilience I never knew I had. Or, maybe I did but I’d never before had the chance to live it. (And then I just got pissed off and well, if you read this blog regularly you know how I feel about that.)

And while we’ve come out the other end with Kate… which isn’t entirely true as she has a long, long way to go before she’s “normalizes” we at least know what the heck’s going on… but I’m now starting over with Eric.

This is a journey I’d never asked for, but one that I have, and I can say for a fact (at least at this moment), that I don’t know of any other parent-writers living this particular journey. And more than that, I’ve chosen to take on the speech work and play on my own. Not sending them off to our local school district for services or even through our insurance to get another speech pathologist to possibly “work” with them.

Nope.

Just me.

Living at home, living our life, getting guidance from someone I know and trust as an expert on these different kinds. (Experts, which I’ve learned, at least my experience, are sadly few and far between.)

So while other parent-writers can leave their kids at home while they go on off to workshops and I know without a doubt, that this will be a long, long way off for me. My kids are very attached to me, they need me around. I mean, they’re around me all the time. Me suddenly being gone? Oh man, talk about a freak-out. And truthfully, with who they are and where their language is, and they wouldn’t understand if I up and let them for a week. Not even Kate could understand that concept of me being in another state, or what days are, or when I’d return.

I’m not someone who would put them through that trauma, so, they’d just come with them. And that’s what I’m planning on. I’ll have Sean or my mother tag along, to babysit while I go and learn and network.

That’s my plan, anyway.

And right now, we’ve got a fifty-fifty shot about Eric being ready. He’s having a hard time being separated from me for an hour, so an all-day workshop, several days in a row? Yeah, well, that’ll be a problem. Maybe he’s just going through something developmentally right now and it’s causing this extra anxiety. Or maybe it’s just him. So, I’m very aware that we might not be *there* yet. It might be next year that’s my first real chance to get back to workshops. And, if I have to cancel again, I’m okay with it.

That’s just what my life is right now, the needs of my kids, which come before anything else, including me and my dreams. But even that’s not entirely true because I am still doing what I can, working towards my dreams and goals. I may not be able to attend in-person workshops and conferences, as much as I want too, but I can take online ones. Or I can crack open a book by a long-term, bestselling author and study what they’ve done. So, it’s not really a me vs. them issue, just… certain pieces of those dreams need to be shelved from the time being.

And that’s who I’ve chosen to be as a parent.

I really am walking a different path. I can look at myself, then look at another parent-writer and honestly say: their life is not mine. The choices they’ve made are not mine. And that’s perfectly fine.

Personally, I could not send my kids to any kind of preschool because of who they are, language issues, temperament, and also just my own personal beliefs are as a parent and a life learner. I just couldn’t.

We’re all different. We all make different choices. We all have different families.

And I’m okay with my little bits and snippets of success. I’m okay with sitting on the couch, Eric literally tucked besides me as he watches Toy Story 3 and here I am, typing away at this blog like a mad woman. I only have a certain amount of time before the toddlerness in him kicks in and he starts doing the usual: kicking me, tugging on pants or fingers.

I’ll take what I can get, these little moments of quiet.

Every little bit.

And somehow, over time, those little bits add up to something bigger. A finished blog post. A short story. And right now, a novel. It might take me the whole damn year to write the thing, but I am working towards it… every 30 minutes, each day, and it will add up in the end.

I’ll get there.

And along the way I’ll get little reminders of the success I am having, like this one: Allyson Longueira, of WMG Publishing, has chosen my story, “The F Factor,” to be included in Fiction River: Legacies.

It’s the only story I’ve sold to Fiction River, the last Anthology Workshop I went to before Eric came along. Kate, was who 18 months old at the time, and me, working as hard as possible, for six straight weeks and writing six stories.

This is the one I sold.

This is the one that was nearest and dearest to my heart.

It’s also the one that sparked a whole series of short stories. Ones that I haven’t published yet (see the comment about Eric above), but ones I know are inching ever closer to another professional sale. Only time, and my continued learning and writing, whenever I can, each day and each moment, will get me there.

My writing is my legacy, and so are my kids. So is this journey they’ve set me on. It’s so very, very different from anyone else’s and one I wouldn’t change for the world. I never planned on blogging about being a parent-writer, or homeschooling, or about my kids being late-talkers and all the emotions, all the ups and downs that have come with it.

And yet, this is the path I’m on. It’s one I wouldn’t give up or change, not for a second, not for the world.

One day soon, maybe this October or maybe the next one, I’ll see my fellow writers in person. Even if I have two kids in tow.

Regardless, this is my life, mine and no one else’s. No one’s will ever look like mine, and that’s how it should be. We’re all different, as writers, as parents. For me, though, this is the path I’ve chosen to walk and I know in my heart it’s the right one.

 

Because life with toddlers is a wee-bit intense, I’ve decided to post a blog every other week. This allows me to take on more online workshops, more time to study long-term, successful writers, and just as importantly, finally getting back to the publishing side of my business.