Tag Archives: homeschooling

Downtime

 

 

These days it’s crazy easy to pack our schedules. To fit in two and three outings a day, an art class or two, and heck, why not stop at the park with friends because, you know, it’s a good chance to get energy out (for our endlessly moving kids) and what’s a few three or four hours of fun before bedtime?

And it’s not just a packed physical schedule either, but mental ones as well. Like for me, every moment of free-thought time and filling it with audiobooks or podcasts (a favorite pastime for me while driving) or if I’m desperate for a TV show and story, propping up my laptop on the counter during the ridiculously, time-consuming process of cutting veggies and washing, I swear, the endless supply of dirty dishes (to the point where I had no idea we actually had that many dishes!).

Well, turns out, all those events and outings, and stuff my brain’s chewing on, that’s kinda a lot. And it really starts to add up.

Not that there’s anything wrong if that works for you and your family. But what I’m learning is that time at home is critical, especially for my family.

We’re a bunch of introverts.

If I schedule both weekend days with socializing everyone is getting ready to have their own personal meltdowns and not just the two-year-old (he just gets the distinct advantage of it being, mostly acceptable, to stomp and cry and scream). So, I already look at my schedule with more awareness than most folks. Yes, I could have swimming with friends the same day as we have a play date at another’s house… except I’m gonna be exhausted, and yes, my kids will be having fun (but exhausted, and hence, cranky)… but then I still need to handle those pesky details like bedtime and teeth brushing, and of yes, you kids do need to get fed three times (or more) a day.

Then, of course, there’s my goal of being a patient and empathetic parent with my kids. They’re constantly moving in and out of their own BIG emotions throughout the day. If I’m barely hanging on by a thread, it’s a good chance I’m probably gonna lose it and yell (and then immediately regret it).

And yet, even with my awareness, I still make mistakes.

Or maybe not mistakes. Really, they’re just choices.

Sometimes I am quite aware of what I’m walking into and what situation I’m setting myself and the kids up for, while other times it’s a straight-up opps! And then other times, I still push us a bit more.

Maybe it’s a once in awhile thing, like visiting dear friends up in Montrose one day and the next have my three-hour hair appointment, which while wonderful and desperately needed (I got some super cute pink highlights, by the way), it also meant I was socializing for three-hours and I’m now freakin’ exhausted. Oh, and it’s not like I can go home and kick up my feet. Nope. I’m full aware that I’m on kid-duty because poor Sean has dealt with a distraught Eric because his mommy abandoned him in his complete and total, utmost need. Meaning: I left him… at home… alone… with daddy. a complete and total toddler tragedy, yes? Anyway, soon as I walked in the door I told Sean to check out and take a nap. He needed it.

But the point here, is we need downtime. Your family will certainly have different mileage than mine, all four introverts that we are, and for us, we need that downtime with a capital N!

Every week I almost feel like some kind of battle-planner, marking in the large events, from going to Disneyland or the Aquarium or driving through downtown LA to visit my parents or friends. The next day needs to be like nothing. Maybe we can handle a short afternoon stint, like swimming and invite some few friends over (certainly something physical for the two-year-old). Or, maybe not. And really, if I want to do stuff like playing board games or reading or art with my kids, especially Kate, well, when’s that actually going to happen if we’re always on the go? If we’re always up and about?

Plus, I still got those damn dishes to do.

And the endless snacks for all these outings to get prepared, along with the backpack and Eric’s necessary change-of-clothes (I bring several). Then there’s me, doing this crazy (or, it feels crazy at times) gig of trying to run my own writing and publishing businesses, and I’ve got to get those things in the schedule too.

Turns out, there’s only so many hours in the day. Even more important, there’s only so much brain computing power this mommy-me has.

By the end of the day, I’m shot. Just, done. Brain’s working on its low emergency mode and to do anything creative at all? Or heck, even read a book? Wow. Sometimes that’s a feat! And do some giant mental exercise of playing a board game (and against Sean no less)? Yeah. Not happening.

So… downtime.

It’s critical. Probably more so for my family than yours, but I think we when we find ourselves on the go so much, visiting with all these wonderful, exciting people in our lives and all the opportunities we’re continually faced with, all the choices we have… and I think we actually start missing out.

On the little things.

Like cuddling on the couch with me on my laptop getting in this blog post, somehow managing to type with Eric sprawled on my lap watching Wall-E and Kate, pressed against my side, asking for my help as she does the puzzles in, “My Monster Can Read” app. Or when Kate sets up her board game, Unicorn Glitterluck from HABA and says to me, “Mommy play? Come here, Mommy, play.”

I need to be able to close my laptop, with no worries or stress — what I was working on can get done later (because I’ve scheduled downtime into our week meaning I can get it done later), and then, just play with her. Then play again because she had such a great time, and now Daddy’s up so we can all play together!

We’re starting to move into art because Kate’s interest in this area is growing, and this is part of the self-directed, homeschooling journey we’ve chosen for our family, to follow their interests… so I certainly can’t ignore her when she’s giving me this big ol’ hints in bright pink My Little Pony drawings, now can I? Or when Kate starts writing out numbers as her auntie rolls a bunch of dice for her Dungeons and Dragon character (hmm… I guess we’re gonna start those game sessions early so Kate can join in too!).

And it’s not just about Kate or Eric either.

It’s me too.

When my brain is stressed, trying to gauge the timing of everything, the endless little lists that need to be complete before I can walk out the door with my kids (teeth? clothes? shoes? hair brushed… well, no one will notice and we’re seriously running late). It’s overwhelming. So overwhelming that I can’t possible be creative at that moment.

And that’s what I need to start protecting, as well as making time for.

Being creative.

Or more to the point, daydreaming.

I used to be so good at this day. Boring day at school? Boring office job? Oh man, I had the coolest, craziest adventures going on in my head. But it also helped me fall into the stories I was writing… thinking about the characters… hearing their distinct and personal voices.

I know darn well that I need this quiet. If I want even a shot to tell a story I need to give myself the quiet time to simply let my creative voice come out and play. I need to turn off the podcast, because while informative and fun, I need to be bored. Bored enough to start hearing and seeing the story come to life.

And I’m really, really bad at this part.

I mean, there’s so much I want to do and so very little time I actually have, and this whole daydreaming thing? Oh, it’s so easy to put it off as “less important.”

Big ol’ sigh right here.

Which is about when I get stuck on a story. The words flowing out my fingers ground to a halt. I mean, sure I can keep typing, and with every darn word it just feels wrong. Like the story is starting to spiral in some direction that I can’t see, or even where it needs to go.

That’s one of my first clues that I’m missing something. That I lost the story or the character did something that they wouldn’t have done. Or I didn’t jump to the right place in time.

All I’ve got is this feeling, this creative gut-thing and it’s little (quiet) red-flashing light.

If I’m to busy, if my brain is overwhelmed and overworked, I practically miss it. Then I have to go and cut about 7,000 words of the new novel and redraft cause I was kinda missing the real important character emotion in there, or, at least the one that this particular story needed.

But, I’m learning.

Really, I am.

It’s taken a lot, of trying and trying again. And I’m constantly looking back at my weeks and days, looking at everything I’d like to accomplish and just what I and the kids can realistically do. Also too, that I need to be flexible. Sure, I’ve got some staples, like every Friday I host a Nature Day outing that’s open to all ages of homeschoolers, and while I used to never miss, I’m feeling the need to be flexible again. To go to Disneyland with Grandma or some friends (especially when it’s a hit-or-miss with people showing up). But that means I can’t stick in a whole lot in those mornings (or expect to do a whole bunch when we get home). I usually get in my fiction writing for that day and that’s it. So, Thursday can’t be over packed with outings or visits, or as I’ve learned, even short Disneyland trips (we tend to not want to move much the day after).

I just got a new scheduler that allows me to pencil in the week’s activities and goals. It gives me space to write and I can flow through the week, even write in times for when something needs to start and can it, really, fit in? That’s helping. It helps too to see across the top what my goals are cause if I fill out the whole box chances are, I’m not exactly being realistic.

Like I need to start getting videos of Kate and Eric to send to our speech pathologist. I’ve got a 2-week block to get it done, and it’s important. It also takes a lot of time. I can plan for that now. I can go with the flow if one day it doesn’t go well (or the actual video got messed up).

But I think the biggest part is really looking at yourself, at your family, and being aware. Temperaments, energy levels, driving time and do you honestly have enough time to make dinner from scratch and get everyone to bed before the sun actually rises and you’ve got to start the process all over again? And how about your own daily movements, hmm? Do you have time during the week to get in your hour-plus yoga session or go rock climbing?

I think this goes double for us homeschoolers.

I mean, there’s so much we can do! There’s so many opportunities, places to visit, classes to take, and why not jump into as many as we possible can?!

Well, you can.

And then it will either work for you and your family, or it won’t.

Or you’ll find yourself craving some of that quiet at home. Of maybe just taking the afternoon to bake some cookies, letting your two-year-old playing in the flour, measuring out cups to his heart’s content (and knowing full-well that’s not going in the batter if you actually plan on making, you know, actual yummy tasting cookies). Or perhaps cracking open some books, sitting and reading and seeing if your kids come wandering over because they want to cuddle and be read to.

If we’re constantly on the go, constantly moving, how can we allow for these quiet times when the real magic can happen? The real special connection when it’s just you and your kids.

Or, for me as well, me and my creative voice?

We each need some amount of the quiet, of this downtime, and it’s really, really hard to see it for how valuable and how precious it is. And it’s hard to look at the schedule and start saying “no.” Start crossing off visits or memberships (because then you feel this need and responsibility to use it).

Allow yourself, and your family the quiet, and then just wait and see what kind of magic happens.

Because really, it’s something truly special.

Like noticing that Kate had drawn butterfly and rainbow marks from Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash (if you don’t know, they’re My Little Pony characters). At that moment, I had no idea how well Kate knew them, even picking out the exact colors from the chalk to match the character’s colors (and without looking to double-check). And yet, when I stopped moving, when I gave us all this moment of quiet, I got another glimpse into her amazing little mind.

This, right here, is why we homeschool. This, right here, is why I’ve chosen to be a parent — and this particular kind of parent.

And I’m so glad to have paused long enough to see and experience this joy with her. (And then she asked me to take a picture and send it to Daddy, which, we did.)

So, think about your busy, busy days and remember to sometimes pause and see just how many rainbows and butterflies your young one is dreaming up.

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

Responsibility: The Heavy Mantle of Parenthood

 

Some people would call me crazy (I’m sure some people think it). And at times, I might fall a bit into that crazy side… or at least, just crazy for the amount of stuff I’m putting onto my already-full plate.

Here I am, choosing to be the primary speech partner for my kids, with very little outside support, and I’ve chosen to homeschool. Not only that, we’ve chosen to homeschool in a way that’s very different from Sean and my own school-focused upbringing. Oh, and top of that, I’m still trying to do this writer-publisher thing.

Pretty darn full plate, and one that’s ripe full of self-doubt and critiques and that age-old question all parents ask themselves:

Oh my God! Am I screwing up my kids??

And if you’ve never asked yourself that question I say buck up and be honest. We all of moments of self-doubt because of how deeply we care for and love our kids. We want to do our best by them. And because of that, there comes the self doubt creeping in…

Have I not played with them enough today? Have we not had enough connection time? Not enough time playing outdoors, visiting friends, learning new skills through living? Should we be scheduling more play-dates? Should I be sitting down and working more on sight-words more instead of spending hours at the park with friends or swimming? Should I, should I, should I….

It never stops.

There’s always something more we could be doing. There’s always a “better” way to have responded in an intense moment (like how Eric freaked out when I wouldn’t let him buy ALL the giant balls at Target).

This parenting thing, it’s a heavy mantle. It’s important. It’s weighty. Every day we make thousands of decisions that affect their wellbeing, and at the same time, not a single decision will make or break their growth or learning. We lose our way at times, we yell, we get frustrated because we’re tired and our own resources are low. We make mistakes, and our children still love us. They still forgive us. And the next day, or the next moment, even, we get to try again.

And again, and again.

Lately I’ve been struggling with my own doubts and slowly working my way through them. This wasn’t the first time and certainly won’t be the last (I’m only four and half years into this parenting gig, after all).

You see, since we’re choosing a way of learning that’s child-led, that’s about following their interests and passions, where as me, the parent, becomes more of a facilitator as opposed to a straight-up “teacher.” It’s different than what the rest of our society has seen and I get looks and comments all the time for letting my kids be kids, for playing in puddles (and any bit of water my two-year-old can get his feet into). I see and feel their judgment, the same way I see and feel judgment when Kate talks — she sounds nothing like the 4 1/2 year old she is but someone much younger.

Lots of judgment.

Lots of negative feelings that I’m doing my best to shield my learning, thriving, growing kids from.

My kids may not know what the rest of the world thinks, but I do, and sometimes it’s just hard to keep that same self-doubt from leeching into my own thoughts.

Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes I’m not.

Like right now, I’m struggling to walk this bridge, of helping Kate with her language growth, but at the same time, not pushing something she’s not reading for.

Like reading (or, at least, sight words).

You see, Kate’s reading, to some unknown degree, on her own. She knows words and has the comprehension of what they are. But how many words she knows, what they are, I haven’t a clue. And because she’s a visual learner and because language itself can be very abstract (just look at how many abstract words are in this sentence alone — they aren’t things you can stick a picture next that makes sense for the visual learner). Reading will help accelerate Kate’s language and speech.

Except… I also am aware of how important play is, especially for a kid who’s only four years old. I’m also aware and mindful that if she’s not ready to do something, I can’t and won’t force her.

Of course as a parent, I want to help Kate.

I want to help her acquire her language skills, to trust in the words. But at the same time, right now I want our focus to be on play and learning through play (something that our society, in my opinion, doesn’t put nearly enough emphasis on — regardless how old you are).

And, because of Kate’s temperament, I can’t push her.

If I do, she’s shuts down (just imagine a cute little girl even you the mental finger). I can’t force her to do something she’s not ready for, and frankly, as a parent, I don’t want to.

So. Here I am, walking this bridge of many, many worlds (at least it feels like). Trying to help my child, being her advocate and her voice because she doesn’t have one of her own yet (or, it’s a still a small, developing one). And I’m pushing up against professionals who want something that I don’t feel comfortable with yet (which is: working on reading).

Or maybe, it’s more the way this professional is pushing me.

This professional wants a more school-structured environment. She wants me to have structured time where Kate does something that I want her to do, so we can gear her for things like learning and lessons (even if we’re not doing them at this point). She wants me to whip out this board and write a word down, carrying it in my purse for crying out loud, so I can write some word when we’re out and about.

I’m sorry. I’m just trying to find my grocery list, trying to make sure my toddler has support and empathy when he can’t buy all the giant balls, and making sure I buy the correct Blu-Ray and not the 3D version (and yes, I need to go return that stupid thing today with my two kids in tow). My life can be a little intense at times. Heck, I’ve got a two-year-old and I swear everything is either super sweet or super intense. There is no middle ground.

And as far as the time when we sit and do something Kate’s not interested in… that goes against what our beliefs are in regards to children and learning. I mean, you, dear reader, you can believe what you like. I’ve got zero issues with that. You and I might have some crossover, or we might have none. Every person, every family is different and I think that’s wonderful.

For us, for me, I’m not comfortable with forcing Kate to do anything like this (especially considering her temperament). And when it comes time to learning, we’ve chosen this more whole-life learning approach where things like reading are simply part of our life, from reading books together (which Kate is slowly allowing me to do), to her playing video games (which has been a wealth of reading already for her), and even Kids YouTube, which she loves.

So, I know the reading and learning is happening and I love it, and I trust in it.

But at the same, I want to support her language growth, but in a way that’s natural and playful and really just fits with who we are as a family.

The only “forced” time I have is when I ask Kate to play a board game. And she loves it. She’s intrinsically motivated because she sees her daddy and me play board games all the time. And she loves the connection time. Besides, board games have been great because while I’m not “forcing” her to play, I am “enforcing” the rules (with some latitude of course). Meaning: this is how the game plays, and no, you can’t just flip over the dice because you didn’t like the outcome. It’s been great for her learning. We’re doing counting and colors in a way that’s natural and playful, and something we both enjoy.

I’m struggling with the reading part, and I have an appointment coming up with our professional (who I know will be pushing the reading and learning part on me again). So, I asked for help from the community around me, both from our homeschool group and other parents of late-talkers (who also homeschool).

And I got help.

I really, really did.

I’m absolutely blessed by this incredible wealth of knowledge from my local homeschool community, parents who have children grown and reading, who also followed this same learning-style approach that we are following.

I think the hardest part of walking this different path, of being my kids’ primary speech partner and also homeschooling (and following the child’s lead when it comes to learning), is the professionals. Sometimes, because of my own upbringing, I get a lot of anxiety. I feel pressure because they don’t necessarily believe in our choices as parents. And it’s hard shedding my thirty-five years of being trained that professionals know best. They know what’s right and what’s wrong and what could I know? I’m only a mother.

That’s right. I’m only a mother.

The mom of Kate and Eric. No one else is. No one else is around them, 24 hours a day like I am. No one can understand Kate’s words and what she’s saying better than me.

I am the expert on my kids.

It’s hard to keep strong in that belief sometimes. Sometimes this mantle of parenthood feels really, really heavy. And scary. Because I want what’s best. I may be wrong at times, I may make mistakes, but I’m listening to myself. I’m listening to my kids.

I’m trying my best to follow what feels right for us.

And as one mom reminded me, do I regret those moments where I’ve put my foot down and stood up for my child?

The answer is simple: no.

I’ve never regretted it… but I have regretted those times when I didn’t go with my mommy gut, when I didn’t go with what felt right.

So, do I have an answer yet for Kate and reading, to help her with the sight words in a fun and playful way?

Not really.

At least, not yet.

When I asked for help and support from the community around me I got lots of suggestions. So many that my introvert brain needs a good while to process through each of them, to really delve deep and see what possibilities these suggestions could bring. Would they work, or wouldn’t they? And for our family?

And that’s partly the answer right there. I don’t know yet because we haven’t tried.

Kate hasn’t tried.

And I think that’s ultimately what this journey will look like. First off, trusting we have words and learning in our every day life, which I do believe in. And then, finding ways that help promote this learning, ways that simply fit right into our natural way of living that’s fun, that we both want to participate in.

That’s the key and really, it’s going to be trial and error.

But the great thing is I do have so many options and there are many who are willing to help me out as we figure out this funky bridge I need to walk, trusting in the learning, and helping it along. But even better than that, I’m not feeling as scared.

And really, that’s what this is all about: fear.

Afraid of being wrong, afraid of doing something that deters my child’s growth and learning. That’s where the self-doubt and critique and judgment comes in. And this time, at this moment, it doesn’t have so strong a hold over me. Sure it’ll be back. I might even feel it after I get off the call with the professional who believes there’s only one way of learning, while I believe in another. But not right now. Right now I’m feeling more settled, in a place of peace and trust.

Because I’m not alone.

Because I’m not afraid to learn, to take suggestions from others (including our professional). And then, to try and try again.

Because, everything I’m doing, is out of love. And you really, really can’t go wrong when you’re coming from a place of complete joy and love. And honestly, that’s what Kate has taught me, every day I hear her speak and her beautifully unique voice.

Trust in yourself.

Trust in your children.

Trust in love.

Restart the Writing (After a Parenting Life Role)

 

So, I’ve got to say, I’m getting to be pretty good about this restarting thing. Ever since Kate was born back in August, 2012, I’ve had to put the writing on hold for many, many different reasons over the years and it’s pretty much been for family reasons. The birth of our first kid, our first of many sleepless nights to teething, to toddlerhood and potty training.

Then, along came Eric (and boy, when you bring another kid into the mix life really gets interesting).

We had even more sleepless nights and discovered that Kate was a late-talker. There was a good chunk of time, of several months really, where I was living in a pretty dark, mentally, scary place. I had a lot of fear and uncertainty during that time, and ironically (or not so ironic if you, yourself, are a writer), but it was writing about that experience, first in fiction and then later in these blog posts, that helped ease away those fears and find the true joy in one, important fact:

She’s my daughter.

Wholly and completely, mine.

Words, or no words.

We got through it. Not only did we get through it we’re a closer, more connected family because of it. The trust that we needed in Kate, for her to be who she was and to find her words when she, and she alone, was ready, was huge. Huge. And probably one of the greatest gift she taught us.

Through it all, I would pick up the writing and then put it down again, as parenthood demanded. Well, I’d thought I’d gotten through all the really big hurdles of parenting small kids.

Turns out, I was wrong.

No surprise, really. Parenting is all about the twists and curves that you didn’t see coming. Not to mention I’ve got not one but two late-talkers, both who I’m their speech-play partners. Well, at least I skipped the scary, dark-part this second time around.

What I didn’t get to skip was the crazy, busyness of the holidays (and for our family, throw in a ton of birthdays and anniversary celebration), and then the bigger issue was one I really, really couldn’t control:

Not sleeping.

Like, barely at all. (Which, you all who read my blog know about).

Most of my days were me just trying to survive, and trying not to lose my temper, to not get frustrated with my kids for being a two-year-old and a four-year-old.

It wasn’t easy.

Especially when I couldn’t do the one thing that gave me more energy and more self-care than anything else:

Writing.

Pretty much at the brink of me going crazy, we had to make some changes. So, we did. We put the kids in the same room (which apparently they just love) and Sean takes the first shift with Eric (meaning if he gets up Sean puts him back to bed and not me). I get the second shift and start my day when Eric decides it’s time.

And you know what?

It’s working.

While our sleep (and therefore Eric’s) aren’t perfect, the change has made a huge difference. I’m getting around six hours of solid sleep before Eric needs help, so I’m no longer this raving banshee I’d been for four months straight.

Now though, it’s time to get back to the writing and that in of itself has it’s own hurdles.

I mean, you’d think I’d be an old hack at this. That I could just sit on down and let the words flow and then bam, here’s this super-cool story on the page and then sending it off to magazines, right?

Yeah. Not so much.

I’ve done this a half-dozen times (or dozen, really) since Kate was born. I do know, without a doubt, that I can do this. That’s not the issue.

The real issue is fear.

Fear to start writing again. That what I write will just be this awful, uncomprehending mess (which my brain still feels like most of the time).

Fear that I won’t do whatever story I write any justice because all of my series characters and world-based series… well, they’re just to important and I’m just gonna mess them up so why bother trying?

And writing a novel?

Dear God, I can just feel my inner creative voice shrivel up at that thought. Never mind that I’ve already written several, so I know I can do it. The issue is really one of focus, and again, parenthood. I mean, there’s just no way I can stay focused enough to fall into a world and characters, and flat-out, just a story, long enough to actually write a novel.

Translation: life being a parent couldn’t possibly leave me alone long enough to start and finish one of these damn things.

Each one of these issues are fear-based, plan and simple, put there by my critical brain to stop me from writing. To take the easy way out, to not put myself out there, to not set myself up for failure, to simply just not try.

And yet… I know how to combat this.

I’ve done it, time and again. (Too bad I just couldn’t skip over this fear stuff and get to writing, huh?)

Well, this time, like all the others, I’m not gonna let it stick. Screw my fears and insecurities. I’m going to try, and then I’m going to try again. One story may not work, I may need to redraft along the way, tossing out perfectly fine words because it just doesn’t fit the story. (Stories that I’m slowly teasing out of my subconscious, creative voice.)

You see, I know how to do this restart.

I know the tricks, I know what works for me, I know how to succeed. So I’m just going to jump, with both feet in, and see where (and how) I land.

If, at all.

I know, without a doubt, the greatest power I could give my writing is two-fold:

First, as Dean Wesley Smith likes to say, “Dare to be Bad.

I can do that. I shrug off all those negative words from my critical voice. So what if a story doesn’t make sense? So what if they all feel (to me) like this rambling mess as I slowly figure out what the story I’m writing even is?

The point is I’m writing. Period.

Some readers may like it, some may love it, or maybe it will never get touched at all because I still haven’t gotten around to the publishing part of my business, but hey, baby steps here.

The second is much easier: write every day.

That’s it.

Write something. Five minutes, five sentences, whatever, just write. (Fiction only, though; these blogs don’t count.) I discovered last year that a writing streak is the single most powerful motivator in my arsenal for writing. I could manage the sick days. I could manage the days where I’d barely slept at all because that five minutes was a goal I could hit.

My ultimate goal is writing an hour per day.

I know I can’t hit that every single day, but I can try. (In truth, when I wrote out my goals list for 2017, I had scheduled this hour for only five days a week, instead of seven.) And even if I don’t hit it, even if I “fail” to write for an hour, I will still have succeeded because I will have written.

The other part of this, one that I’m not so great at because there’s just so much I want to do, so much I want to listen to or watch or read even for the moments of quiet I get from the kids… is quiet time for myself. Quieting my mind. Stop thinking about my to-do list or what needs to happen before we can possibly leave for park day or Disneyland or adventures out in nature.

The quiet time where I let my subconscious peak out and think about stories… about characters… about worlds. Stepping back and thinking, what if

For me, this is hard.

If I’m doing dishes or cutting vegetables I might prop up my laptop on the counter and watch NCIS or turn on my phone and listen to one of the many podcasts I follow. Those are all important to me, they fill my need for stories (watching TV shows) or learning (listening to podcasts), but I’ve just got to make the quiet in my mind a priority.

When I do, the act of writing itself is much, much easier because my subconscious has already tapped into my stories. At that point it’s just a matter of quiet time alone, just me and my laptop, to put those stories onto the page, word by word. Instead of struggling to find my way to the stories, to leave parenthood and all its worries and the constant needs behind, I can simply step from one to the other. Like changing coats or putting on a different pair of pants. It makes the writing process easier, and truthfully, more enjoyable, even.

I have a long ways to go towards my yearly goals, but I’m not going to worry about them. The only goal I have, right now, on this day, is to restart my writing.

I’ve done it before, and most likely in the future, I’ll need to do it again. That’s just part of parenthood. It’s how us parent-writers make it work.

And you’ll notice, I always put the “parent” part first.

My first and primarily responsibility is being a parent. My kids won’t be this young forever. Eric won’t always be a nightmare when it comes to sleeping (which, as I said, is finally getting better — ya to the kids sharing a room!!). And as I’ve said in previous posts, I won’t be shipping my kids off to school when they finally hit school age. I’ll be homeschooling, following their leads and their interests, so really, I’ve got to find a way to make the two work: parenting and writing.

Every day, every month, what this process looks like will be different.

For the past few months it meant putting the writing on hold as we dealt with potty training and sleeping and the final bits of teething (woohoo!!).

Now though, I’m ready to get started again and that means conquering my fears. To let my creative voice come out, play, and simply tell stories.

Good or bad, all I need to do is sit, write, and tell stories.

That I can do… even if I’m still cleaning up poop off the floor or the constant vacuum-fight between me and ants because toddlers are notoriously bad at keeping food in their mouths.

I can still write, though.

One day at a time, one word at a time.

 

I wrote this blog post two weeks ago, and just let out everything I was feeling, everything I was struggling with. I’m happy to say that for two weeks straight, I haven’t missed a day writing.

I finished one short story and started another.

Some days are crazy, like me writing a 1,000 words in just under an hour. Other days were only five minutes or eight. But I get the writing in.

I’m also tuning in more to my creative voice. The quiet time to let the stories and characters come to me. This, turns out, is the bigger struggle. It’s hard to put life (and all its distractions and needs and worries) on hold long enough to think about story, to get in touch with my characters, to figure out where the writing is going next…

But somehow I do.

Each and every time.

The Dreaded Question… Socialization: My Journey with a Late-Talker

13775743_1753514898257545_7287109526976816484_n

The idea for this blog post first tickled me after I posted pictures from Kate’s 4th birthday party to a group of parents of late-talkers. I was surprised at the many comments I got… about Kate’s smile and how wonderful and happy she was playing with the other kids. As if… there was this mix of joy and shock that yes, this is possible for our kids.

The play with others.

In a way, it surprised me because Kate’s running and playing, her easily moving into this physical play of the park, that’s normal for me now. I sometimes forget to see that joy and wonder, of how far we’ve come and that this, this is where we are now. Our new normal.

But it wasn’t where we started.

And, if I’m really honest with myself (and I’m doing my best here), this very question, this concern, was on my mind from the very beginning.

What about socialization?

What about play and interacting with other kids when you don’t have words?

Okay. So maybe this wasn’t my first concern, at least not at the beginning because, up until around age 3, kids don’t need to be social. Not really. Actually, they’re actually pretty self-centered with their toys and food, and truthfully, their whole world is all about them! And that’s just the developmental phases they go through (I’m very, very much paraphrasing here my understanding from all the many books I’ve read). My point being, yes, get them out and playing around kids, and they might play with them. Or they might just sit down in the sand and play next to the other kids in the sand.

That parallel play is huge. It’s one of those super, itsy-bitsy steps to acquiring language, and it’s something that most other parents aren’t even aware of (or how important that side-by-side play is).

But then… something happens.

A shift, really.

At some point, I think when your kid hits three… when other kids start to look at your silent (or babbling) late-talker differently. They expect them to understand. They expect to get a response.

Suddenly, the park play of running up and down the slide, chasing back and forth, grows more complicated. There’s rules and ideas. They talk to your late-talker like they do with any other kid. And your late-talker…

Doesn’t understand.

Or if they do, they can’t respond.

It’s heart-breaking and scary to watch. You see those other, well-meaning kids, get frustrated or impatient or indifferent. They might not say something kind, or maybe they shrug and walk away.

In your heart, you know everything is fine with your child (well… if not fine it’s a progression that you know is right for your particular child… he or she will talk… when they’re good and ready). But still, you stand there, at a loss of what to do. Do you intervene? Do you become the voice for your child? Is this becoming a helicopter parent?

Or do you stand back and let kids figure it out?

Except… your child is only three or four or five and most kids haven’t learned (certainly not mastered) the tools to handle conflict well. So they do need some amount of guidance.

Oh. And your kid also can’t talk.

Not to mention all the advice everyone imparts on you on what you should do for your late-talking child, such as constantly talking to them about everything and doing it nonstop. (Seriously people? Are you telling me that when others do that to you, as a grown adult, that you don’t tune them out??) Or how about getting your kids around others their same age as that’s a great way to learn. Well… I’m not going to say no here. Again, I’m no expert, I’m just a parent. And sure there are kids who learn language better this way, every kid is different after all, but what I can tell you is what I’ve seen firsthand (and what my common sense has put together). The hardest time for Kate has been with kids her age or close to it.

And why’s that?

Because they don’t have the patience for her.

Which… makes sense. There still little kids themselves! They certainly don’t have the patience to sit there and wait while Kate figures out how to explain what she wants, with nonverbal cues. Or the patience while Kate puts together their words in her head, like a little puzzle, and figures out what they’re saying, so then she can react with her own response.

Oh. And let’s not forget another important fact here…

Kids around her age are still learning to talk themselves!

So when they’re sitting there, stringing words together, like a big sentence that never seems to stop, with more ‘the’s’ thrown in that a poor grammar checker could handle before exploding… that’s supposed to help my kid to talk?

And this advice, it comes from everyone.

And I do mean everyone.

Old lady pushing her cart of groceries behind you? Check. Mom out for a run who notices your kid doesn’t talk right? Check. Pediatrician who’s only looking at her checklist of ASD red-flags? Check.

And meanwhile, you’re scared.

Frightened, even.

And no one, not a single person with their lists and helpful advice they’d read on the internet in some study or heard from someone they know who’s also a speech therapist. And I suppose, that includes me here since I’m going to tell you about my journey with Kate.

But what I’m going for, hoping for, is to ease your mind as parents.

Yes, get yourself the best team to support your child (who’s different from mine). And that team goes from everyone to a loving spouse, grandparents, siblings, and a pediatrician who I truly hope is willing to listen to what *you* have to say and not just some checklist they’re reading off of. (You can probably guess that we ditched our first pediatrician and are looking for someone actually willing to be part of our team.) Build a team that fits for you and your family, and then… just provide opportunities for the socialization to grow.

For your child to play and have fun. With others.

I don’t see these as opportunities for my child to learn words from another, but… just the chance to play. Play in comfortable settings. Play that will allow for someone a little different than the normal child.

And that socialization we’re also so worried about?

Truly, it will happen.

Naturally.

In a natural way that will fit your child.

We are very fortunate that Kate is an easy-going child. We don’t have behavioral problems or tantrums (more than the normal, anyway), even with no language. She’s found a way to communicate and I’m in tune enough with her that this frustration, which can be quite common for late-talkers, isn’t really an issue. I say this all here as a disclaimer because regardless of what I tell you about our journey (and specifically, Kate’s) it will look different for you. This is especially true if you have a child who does have frustrations and who does have behavioral issues you’re working through. My hat is off to you parents and all I can say is keeping going at it. Keep your smile and love on and you’ll find your way, even if it’s slower or looks different than the rest of us. You are certainly not alone.

Now, when it comes to this socialization fear, I already had one leg up on the problem. Before we knew Kate was a late-talker, we’d decided to homeschool. Or I should say, I was very interested in the idea, especially looking back at my life, what I learned along the way, and where I ended up. Well, one of the first questions that jumped to my mind about homeschooling was socialization. I mean, that’s what I always heard about homeschooling. That socialization was the big, huge fear:

Don’t send your kids school? Well, you’re gonna have a socialization issue on your hands.

And what I do when I get faced with some big, unknown, scary question?

I read.

A lot.

So, I did. And in my research I realized that this… this isn’t actually an issue. I mean, it can be if you sit around in your house all day and never get outside, never get your kids around other human beings of all ages, shapes, and sizes. But if you make an effort, if get out of your little shell and try to find a community, you totally can. Kids want to interact with each. They want to play. They want to be together. And then so long as you’re there, so long as you have persistence and a willingness to put yourself out there and try, it’ll happen.

For your kids.

For you too.

But for some reason, when I first started talking with my speech pathologist and coach (she coaches me and I’m the one who works naturally with Kate throughout the day… and even night since a parent’s duties don’t stop when the clock hits 5:30), all that common sense, all that I learned about homeschooling and the natural process of being social, just went out the window. Because my fear had a good, good hold of me.

I asked our speech pathologist about socialization and about what I could do to help Kate.

She asked about the parallel play and I said, yes, Kate did that.

And then… she told me not worry. That it would happen and for some kids, normal developing ones, parallel play can naturally take a few years to develop.

“Don’t worry,” she said.

Oh, I totally didn’t listen.

I did worry.

And I did have many sad moments when kids said mean things to Kate because she couldn’t understand. How they’d exclude her from play or whisper behind her back. Call her baby.

It broke my heart.

I cried.

But I learned too. I learned how to stand up for her. To be her voice. To guide her and try to explain what another kid might want of her. As Kate’s receptive language as improved, so too has her play. How she’s able to respond faster when someone asks her something, like hold a bag or to run, but only run when someone says, “Go!”

But… how did this actually happen?

How did we go from moments of her being told, in a mean, unkind way to, “not stand there” because “we don’t want you here?”

Moving from that… to a place of joy and smiles?

IMG_1268

Again, I had to grow myself. I had to learn to be Kate’s voice. I told friends, who I felt comfortable and safe with, how I felt. They gave me the sympathy and support I needed, to know that these were my friends and they cared. That they would take steps to teach their kids about Kate and her language delay. And that helped give me the resolve to not give up.

And then, I switched my approach.

I realized, for us, that when one group of kids grew very close, they weren’t as welcoming to someone different. Someone like Kate. At least, not without some amount of parental involvement and explanation to teach.

I wasn’t comfortable with that particular group, so I tried another.

When that one started getting big again, I switched to another, all the while hoping and believing we’d find our place. And I kept working at it. Kept talking with parents and when I saw a bond developing, I made an effort to compliment and thank this mom for how kind her daughter was to Kate.

And we finally found our place in our all-age park day. This is the one where you’ve got teens there and the tweens and the ones reaching double-digits, and then a handful of younger ones like my Kate and Eric.

It was this group where I saw Kate shine.

The kids her age weren’t there in the large numbers, and that was better for her. She made friends with older kids who saw she was different and asked me questions. They were curious. They liked playing with her and she liked playing with them. Then there are times when these friends weren’t around, so she’d shadow some older boys, literally mirror what they were doing (with a fake sword) and sit down right beside them.

And they tolerated her. She wasn’t bothering them (or they would have left, or I’d have stepped in).

Because these park days were working so well for us I started my own weekly meet-up. Every Friday I welcome all ages of kids to go and explore and play in nature. It’s at different locations, though there are repeats. And by doing this we’ve met more friends and Kate is in a place where she’s comfortable. Play dates at home with toys didn’t’ work for us, certainly not with kids around her age. But running? Playing at the tide pools? Splashing?

She can do that.

In fact, she loves it.

And every week, we do it again and again. She’s now seeing these same kids from week to week. She’s seeing these moms from week to week as well. She’s no longer hesitant about going to our blanket and pulling our snacks from the bag like she first was. She’s runs right in.

Comfort and control is huge for her, and I’ve kept at it so we could get to this place.

We are an introverted family and it wasn’t long before I realized that large group settings wouldn’t work for Kate. Even at her party, with all the wonderful friends she had, who she knew and enjoyed, she would break off and play with three or four at a time. Small groups. She followed where her comfort led, and this whole time, I’ve been listening.

Listening to her.

What works. What doesn’t. Who she plays easily and well with, who she doesn’t.

Now, when I show her pictures of our play days, or mention the names of some of her favorite friends, she smiles. She recognizes their names and faces. She wants to see them. When we briefly saw some friends at Disneyland and they left to do their own thing, Kate was sad. She said, “no.”

She wanted to stay with them.

And when we went to a recent Nature and Play day and I watched as she sat with another girl, and helped her build a sand castle, there was an ease and comfort in their play. Her friend was patient, and when needed, I stepped in to explain. When her friend told Kate to “hold the bag so I can put rocks in it?”

Kate took the bag. Without hesitation.

She understood.

img_1820

And for those with late-talkers, especially with receptive delays, that’s huge. Her reaction, so natural, without any pause… it’s big.

But so is her smile when she sees her friends. Or she sees any kids at the tide pools like we did just this weekend, how she wanted to go up and splash them and play. Just as she did with her friends.

Comfort.

I’ve done everything I could to set the stage for her. Tried play dates at our home with different kids, different ages. Gone to different park days with our homeschool groups, and just kept trying. And while we tried, I kept working with her at home. I kept learning how to be her voice. She kept growing, maturing. And so did I. Then one day, in between all our smiles and my excitement, telling Sean what Kate said or did with one kid or another, until one day, this is the new normal I woke up to.

I’m still amazed by it. Still surprised. Still filled with such joy.

And I wanted to let the other parents out there know, parents who are new on this journey with their young children, or kids who are Kate’s age and haven’t reached this same social level as Kate:

You will get there.

So long as you keep your heart open, so long as keep listening to your child.

What worked for us won’t necessarily work for you. But if you keep at it, you will know when you’re on the road to something special. Maybe it’s a place. Maybe it’s a person with the right kind of temperament. Maybe it’s a wonderful older child who’s willing to come over and play with your late-talker.

But you’ll know it when you see it. And honestly, our kids are learning more about socialization than even we know… because they want to learn.

And, they are.

Trust me. They are.

If you’re willing to trust them. If you’re willing to listen.

img_1154

Saying No… to Those You Trust: My Journey with a Late-Talker

IMG_1152

Photo credit: Ashlie Inez

 

It’s not easy being your child’s advocate. To stand up against family or friends or medical professionals, to really get behind and tell your child: I trust you.

You, my child who doesn’t yet talk, but who smiles with such complete joy and happiness… you … I trust, you.

I will listen to you and to those smiles. I will listen when you cry and I will act on those tears. I will stand against everyone who’s not willing to believe in you, who’s not willing to understand and to get to know you.

I will do what you cannot: I will be your voice.

Yeah… that’s… that’s a pretty tall order, right?

No pressure or anything.

Not to mention, if you’re not a fan of confrontation, if it makes you uncomfortable, or, if you’re like me, you’ve shied away from conflict as much as possible your whole life… wow, is there a learning curve.

But… the good news is you can learn. One step at a time. One conversation at a time.

How, perhaps one time you didn’t interject fast enough and it wasn’t until hours (or days) later that you realize what you should have done instead. It’s this introspection, this willingness to look back and follow your feelings, what you liked, what you didn’t like, that gives you a new roadmap forward.

A wonderful friend once told me that this is a new skill and it’s going to be messy until I figure it out.

She was right.

But also, that idea that I don’t have to be perfect has made all the difference. It means that I can go out and practice and get better at it.

Better at being Kate’s voice.

I can (try) and give you some tips, some little bits that I’ve learned along our journey, but really, your path and your options will be different from ours. But regardless of what your path and your choices look like, I really wanted to say is that you’re not alone.

Not alone telling perfect strangers no. Or, even harder, our trusted core group. People who are on our side but who may not be in 100% agreement with us.

What do you do? Fall in line? Stand your ground?

The answer isn’t black or white. It’s not cut or dry. It’s different for each one of us, and different at each point in our child’s journey. Oh, and that point also moves, so, good luck hitting it!

But really, I think it starts with empathy.

Empathy for ourselves and what we’ve gone through, but also towards others. It’s taking a look at and understanding where this other person is coming from. Often, if family or friends, it’s from a place of love. For medical professionals, it’s a concern for our children.

I feel once you understand them, it helps you connect… and to get your own message and needs across. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. And sometimes the best answer truly is:

“No.”

No, to different evaluations or return visits or therapy that you know in your gut isn’t right for your child. In those cases, you call and cancel. (This is, of course, is with the caveat that every path is different for every child. Only you know what’s best for your family, and I’m all for it.)

For us, this is how it started.

We decided what early intervention offered was so far into left field for what we wanted for Kate and our family, that we said no.

“No.”

And after cancelling those appointments, I’d run into well-meaning strangers who think that therapy is some magic pill that, as soon as your kid starts showing up, they’ll start talking and will be well on their way to being ‘normal.’ Then, there are those other disbelieving, opinionated parents that make the off-handed comment of: “Oh, you’ll wish she’d shut up when she finally starts talking.”

So… how do you handle those people?

Well, your answer will be unique for you and your personality. Me, the polite, conflict-adverse person that I am, have finally figured it out. Trial and error was required, but here’s mine (and to the person with the completely rude comment):

“I’ve waited four years to hear my daughter say, ‘Mom.’ Thank you, but no. You’re wrong.”

And yet, these strangers are the easiest to tell to fuck off.

See, I’d (silly me) thought that once I cut out the people from my life who brought in their negative judgments, who couldn’t see past their own opinions to actually see Kate, I’d be totally fine. Like, I would be in the clear. Life would easy and all I had to worry about was her and her progress forward.

Yeah… no. Not so much.

I am very fortunate and blessed that our family is on our side. They’re not pushing or probing, they’re trusting us and more importantly, they’re trusting Kate. A huge part is that we’re open and honest about Kate’s progress, about what we’re doing at home, all the speech play I do throughout the day. The work that our speech pathologist does with me (she coaches me and then I work with Kate). But the other part is is that I’m continually being Kate’s advocate. I’m reminding our family of her personality, of why she does things the way she does, and that we must just be patient and go at her pace.

And even the person I’m working with, the speech pathologist coaching me, she’s a medical professional with extensive experience with late-talkers… and just recently, I had to tell her no as well. And that was hard.

Really, really hard.

We’d ended a recent phone call and I was upset. I didn’t feel uplifted or ready to conquer the world. For me and my personality, I really soak in other people’s emotions. I’m a straight-up empath, through-and-through. So, if you have negative emotions or judgments, I literally take that inside me and it takes a lot for me to shove it back out. This, unfortunate for my husband, requires talking.

A lot of talking.

And he… listens.

It was after that phone call with this professional, when she’d started pushing for therapy again and even school services, which she knew we were very much against… and I slowly realized this all came about because of a misunderstanding.

That’s all it was. A misunderstanding. And yet, that emotion left me filled with turmoil and confusion, and honestly, hurt.

You see, it’s hard when you have someone, a trusted member of your team, suddenly do (what it felt like) a sudden reversal. Speech therapy does not work for Kate (she actually stops talking altogether). Seeking different therapy or school services opens the door for conflict and negativity, and for me, an incredible amount of anxiety because 1. I’m the empath described about and 2. oh, boy do I not like conflict.

And all that? Oh, you better believe that Kate senses it.

And, guess what?

All that effects her talking. All that effects her trusting in her words.

I had to process all these feelings, and really, this disbelief that she would turn around on us like that. But again, it was a miscommunication and once I figured that out, once I figured out what her concern was, I was able to find a way to get back on our path.

Due to scheduling issues and also Kate, feeling the pressure of when I recorded her (where she suddenly stopped talking), I was told to hold off on the videos. I did that. Our speech pathologist forgot. And when I reminded her, her urgency had changed from not putting pressure on Kate but to actually putting eyes on her.

I get that.

I get that she wants to be dialed in, with her pulse on Kate, to watch her progress and change course if something isn’t progressing or working right. (Or if we need to see someone else, medical-wise).

I told her everything about Kate’s progress; I journal and take notes every day. But this wasn’t enough. She needed the videos.

Well, I got myself a tripod thing (that looks like a spider) for my phone and that was enough. I got a good 30 minutes of Kate babbling and saying the words she does say day-to-day, and our medical expert was incredibly happy. Everything she saw was exactly what I’d reported. But, with Kate in particular, she needed to see all the little bits, all the looks and glances at me, sharing in her joy. How she played and how her play had expanded.

My point with all this is to say it was still hard. In fact, it was incredibly hard and, honestly, hurtful. Here was someone that I fully trusted and believed in, and was turning around and suggesting to do something that I knew was wrong for Kate.

Again, I had to stand up and be her voice.

By doing that, I cleared the waters and we’re moving forward again. I was honest with my feelings and what we wanted as a family. We will not always agree with her, especially when it comes to learning and moving forward as Kate gets older (we have chosen to homeschool her and follow her pace and progress rather than getting her ‘school ready’). Again, our choice, our path for this particular child.

I’ve realized too, that I’m not alone in that position. You think you really are in the clear when you find someone on your side, that you won’t need to stand up and walk those uncomfortable waters of conflict.

Nope.

But what does happen is it gets easier. It gets easier to say how I feel and what I believe is best for Kate. It gets easier to find solutions to areas that I’m anxious and nervous about… for example, Kate needs her four-year check up. She’s hardly ever sick and we never need to see the doctor, and this will be only our second time seeing. And you know what? I’m afraid. I’m afraid of his negative opinion and judgment because he doesn’t know Kate. And, truthfully, I don’t know if he’ll care to get to know her. Our last pediatrician didn’t. All she cared about was her checklists. She didn’t care what I thought of, as a mother, and what I was seeing in Kate every day. She didn’t even take me seriously when I started talking about language disorders. All she saw was her checklist… even though she was admitting, right to my face, that Kate wasn’t actually following the checklist.

Except for the part that she wasn’t talking.

So, yeah, not so great experience with a doctor who’s known Kate since she was eight months old. I’m sure you can understand my nerves here.

But!

I have options.

A friend, who’s also a doctor, recommend that I write our new pediatrician a letter before the appointment, telling him how I feel, about Kate and how far we’ve come. Also, our speech pathologist offered to make him up a video and evaluation about Kate. This way he also has a medical opinion weighing in too.

I understand his job is to see that Kate has the best care and getting the help she needs. My job is to show him we already are and everything we’ve chosen to do is the best fit for Kate. And really what I’d like is another person on my team. Someone I can trust, someone who’s willing to do more than just read off a checklist and send us off to one evaluation or another.

I’ve already had to stand up to this doctor once and truthfully I’m terrified he’ll look at her and not see the incredible progress she’s made. Because, again, Kate is not normal and her language is not developing like a typical four-year-old. But her temperament is such that if we push her, if we force her, she will not talk.

Push her, force her, and she will not talk.

It will be years before she does. I’ve already seen this in the brief experience we had with early intervention and with the private speech therapy we did, even at our own home.

So we absolutely must respect Kate’s feelings. We must respect her need to feel in control of her words. She will not use them until she trusts them.

This is a very long journey ahead of us, but it’s one I’m not afraid of. In fact, in my deepest of hearts, I already knew this. Right now, we’re looking at her talking closer to five, and I’m okay with it. I’m completely at peace. I’ve chosen to be on this path and to follow Kate on her journey, to help her however I can.

My speech pathologist warned me that people will start to push me with Kate. That, if they’d seen her recent video, they would push. And they would be very, very wrong. She told me as well, that I would have to say no.

I didn’t tell her that I already had, including her with our prior conversation.

Regardless, though, saying “no,” is going to take practice.

And it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to take practice.

It’s going take some creative thinking to protect myself from negativity and judgment so I can continue to stay in this place of joy and love. But it’s important to listen too, to keep an open mind and hear what others have to say… but the same is true for everyone else. When they meet me. When they meet Kate. When they hear about our journey and our decision to do it together. Keep an open mind. Trust that me, as a parent, know what’s best for this particular child.

I can’t make Kate talk.

What I can do is help her, in anyway I can, to trust in her words. To have fun. To play.

And that’s what I do, every day, every moment she’s awake. And you know something? That’s when the magic happens. And when it does, oh, my, it’s truly something else.

It’s a smile that came about because I chose to trust in her… and in myself.