If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve probably clued in that I’m not sleeping much these days (read: At ALL). And yet… life doesn’t stop because my day, technically, started at 3:30 in the morning. The laundry still needs to get done. Food chopped, prepared, and cooked because we all know feeding our kids (and ourselves) real food is key to being healthy and just plain feeling good. Oh, and let’s not forget the endless wave of dishes.
You know, all that normal stuff that comes from living with kids.
So too comes the normal stuff when potty training a two-year-old… I’ll just let your imagination fill you in on that one.
But on top of all that parenting stuff, all the normal pieces that come with having kids, if you’re like me and have got a late-talker (or two), you’ve got even more on your plate. You might be organizing and driving them to speech therapy appointments, or maybe you’ve decided to just take on the speech work and play yourself because it’s what works for your family.
That’s right. You. The person who both kids aren’t letting sleep.
And yet, moments when Eric does actually take a nap, instead of sitting down and playing My Little Ponies with Kate, a game that, if it were up to her, would go on for hours, I’m pulling out a book. Or playing video games. Or working on a online writing workshop.
I’m choosing, in those quiet moments, to focus on my own self-care. To fill my own cup so I can get through the rest of the day, evening, and chances are, probably well into the next day (or two) before I get another peaceful moment of downtime.
I’m choosing to take care of me.
And I’m feeling pretty darn guilty about it.
Correction: I’m feeling imperfect. Because there is so much more I can and should be doing.
I should be focusing more on Kate when I have those quiet moments. Playing with her and connecting, doing the one-on-one time our speech pathologist wants us to do, activities that are ones of my choosing rather than Kate’s.
Wow. Such a loaded statement for me — and a lot of negativity hiding behind some reasonable sounding words.
Absolutely I should be having one-on-one time with Kate, but not for speech therapy work. Instead, they should be so we can connect. The more we connect the easier the rest of our day goes. Her cup is filled. She’s feeling my love, so when I do ask things of her, she’s more willing to listen and follow along. So yes, that is important.
But… she also needs me to not be a raging banshee and these days, that’s getting really really hard. Massive sleep deprivation with maybe a teensy little end in sight (maybe?). Also, a little boy who only wants mommy and will scream, nonstop, until his needs are met by me (this includes all hours of the day). And here I am, working as hard as I can to keep my steam from flooding out my ears, to remain compassionate and empathetic. To not immediately jump into fight or flight mode but to stay present and connected.
To do all that, that means I need to take care of me.
Just like the flight attendants tell me every time I board a plane: I need to put my own mask on first.
And yet… it’s still hard.
See, I’ve got this little voice in my head and it’s constantly whispering and nattering, pointing out all the things I’m not doing and how things would be so much better if I were. I’ve got a list of activities and goals our speech pathologist wants me to work on with both kids and yet here I am, barely getting through the day as it is. Even when I told her what we were going through (potty training and zero sleeping) her reply was for me to get help.
And the comment just made me madder.
Are you kidding? Seriously?? Going through the system, whether school or insurance, to get my kids seen by a possibly halfway-decent speech therapist who understands the difference between a speech disorder and a language disorder and how to help her. And we won’t even talk about the emotional fallout that me and the kids would go through as I fight for them, fight for others to understand who they are and their unique differences? All for the effort of getting in actual, routine speech work time?
That math there, not to mention the time while at a facility and driving there, certainly not the emotional piece, is worth it.
How about I trust, to try and do my best at home, and trust in my kids? That they understand what I’m going through and that I still love them?
That the little bits we get in… like with Eric at the park, snuggling on my lap. How I started kiss-tickling him and he started laughing. I would stop and he would look at me, right in my eyes as if to say: I want more!! To which I said, “more,” and kept on going.
Until I stopped and waited for him to look at me again.
Do you know what that was?
That was living. Living a life, connecting with my son, while at the same time practicing the speech techniques I’d learned from our speech pathologist. Is it not better to have these little tiny moments, dozens and dozens throughout the day, compared to some arbitrary time that goes for another arbitrary amount of time?
In a way, it’s silly (for me, personally). Because except for a brief period, I was never strict with the routine speech time with Kate. It just… it just fell away from our day because it felt too much like work. And what I wanted to do with her, instead, was play.
And not only is my worrying, my fears of not being perfect, silly because I’m clearly not doing so bad. I mean, I have walking, talking proof here that I’ve got this. Yeah, I still need support, yeah, I’m still learning with each new stage of the game, and that’s why I’m getting support from someone who truly understands my kids and late-talkers. And yet… I’m still the one who understands *my* kids the best and what I know, what I truly, truly believe is we’ve got this.
Heck, the other day, I about fell onto the floor (thankfully, I was sitting on the floor to begin with) when Kate looked at me and said a full sentence in front of her grandma.
I didn’t fully understand what she’d said, so I told her I didn’t, and asked her to say it again. She did. She trusted her words enough to repeat them, even clearer this time, and then she did it in front of another adult.
“May I have the iPad now?”
Again, just picture my jaw smacking into our play-doh crusted carpet. And you better believe, I told her yes.
For starters, did you just see that sentence??? And second, we don’t “teach” our kids manners. I mean, with our language delayed kids, we don’t tell them, to say “please” or “thank you.” Those are meaningless words to kids who rely heavily on visualization. For example, the word “apple” has a clear picture to it, right? But “please?” Not so much. So, we never bothered with manners… except… that’s not fully true. We model it in our own interactions. Constantly. When Kate tells me she went potty (by saying “poo poo”) and then we go and I help her wipe, I always say, “thank you” (I mean, she did go in the potty and then came and got me for help, which is certainly what I want so you’d better believe I’m telling her thanks!). Or when she actually does put her used bowl in the sink, I always show my gratitude (I get real tired real quick picking up 20 barely used bowls off the floor).
But the word “may?”
Wow. That one surprised the heck out of me. Tells me right there too that I’m not doing halfway bad with this manners thing because clearly she’s getting it.
And yet… here I am still facing these moments of feeling like I’m a terrible mom.
Because I’m not perfect.
The other day, Sean and I were sitting on the couch while Eric was actually napping and Kate was quietly content with the iPad. I told him that part of me felt like I’m a terrible mom because she’s on it so much these days, because I don’t use these quiet moments to be with her, to connect with her, to play a board game and teach her further things like turn taking (and like our speech pathologist wants her, to do something I want her to do rather than always her).
And then I told him, as soon as I let those feelings become words, that I’m not a terrible mom, the other half that I knew was even more true:
That I truly, truly need this quiet time.
I’m not perfect.
There will always be something more I can be doing. Something I want to be doing. You’ll notice I haven’t talked about my fiction writing or my publishing at all… even though I desperately want to get started on both, I know I can’t. At least, not until I start sleeping.
And it’s extra hard too to hear from someone else, this speech pathologist and professional we trust, someone who was a mom a long time ago and clearly remembers this stage, tell me that I should just get help.
As if it’s that easy.
Well, it’s not.
Even Sean commented, with Eric, he doesn’t want anyone else’s help. He wants me right now and he’s pretty darn vocal about it.
Now, this isn’t to say her advice was all bad. We’ve been asking for more help from the grandmas, and on days were I’ve gotten almost zero sleep, have asked the uncle and aunt for help. I even had a friend and her kids come over to play with Kate so I could rest. And I’m setting up help with our mother’s helper again.
So, we’re trying.
But… let’s also be realistic here.
When you’ve late-talkers, chances are you’ve got some pretty opinionated and stubborn little kids on your hands. Whatever you decide, how to be help or not, it’s not going to be some simple or quick fix.
And really, let’s just be honest here.
Parenting is hard work.
Parenting late-talkers is even harder.
And parenting is also about seasons. There are times when life is good and fun and maybe a tiny(?) bit easy. And then there are times like I’m living through right now when surviving the day is the goal. When getting to bedtime without losing my shit (ok… at least not too much) is considered success.
And I truly believe whatever the right answer is, it’ll be different for you than it is for me. And my answer right at this moment will be different now than it will be later or even tomorrow.
But let’s just be kinder to ourselves.
Parenting isn’t for the faint of heart, both for the amount of all-consuming love we feel, and those moments when, really, the last thing we want to be is a parent.
And you know what? Doing my best, doing what feels right, every day, every moment, and somehow… the words still came for Kate. Even being my, often times, inadequate and imperfect self, the words still came. And they’re coming even more, day after day, from asking, “Can I have chocolate now?” to “May I have the iPad now?”
We don’t need to be perfect. Our kids don’t need us to be perfect.
All they need us to do is try, and try again, every day. And to love them.
That, I think I can do, my imperfections and all.