Tag Archives: toddler

Surviving Uncertainty: My Journey with Late-Talkers

 

It feels like, for the first time in about four years, I’m breathing again. Or, more accurately, like I’ve taken this big, deep breath and finally, after such a long time, am letting it out again.

I never expected our parenting path to turn out the way it has. I never expected to be homeschoolers, or more accurately, to be self-directed learners. I never expected to follow a respectful parenting approach.

I certainly never expected to have not just one, but two late-talkers.

In fact, when Sean and I decided to have a family, we’d always expected our journey, our kids, to follow the typical path. I mean, with all the statistics, why would we ever assume differently? I also assumed that I would hear my kids’ first words when they were twelve months old, like everyone else.

Life, however, had a different idea in store for us.

Or more specifically, our kids did.

I fully believe Kate, and then Eric, were given to us for a reason. Sean, and especially me, are the absolute best parents to help our children, to guide them, and even more importantly, to trust in them.

And wow has this been a journey.

Of learning to step away from the mainstream Way Of Doings Things. Of accepting our path and learning to trust not just in my kids, but in myself. That I am the best speech partner for our kids. That I am their best voice, their best advocate. No one else. No other medical professional or teacher, but… me.

Me.

As I have always said, your path, your journey as parents won’t look the same as mine. What has worked for me won’t work for you (or maybe with just a few tweaks it’ll work just fine). Your family, your kids, are different than mine. Your kids face different challenges than mine, whether it’s behavior, or whether your children have different challenges and different special needs, and all the variations and colors in between.

Life is never a one-size-fits all. There is no one right box that we all fit in, all nice and neat and with a big ol’ smile on our face.

For me, for my kids, our journey has been about two things: trust and patience. Trusting that my kids really and truly know their own minds, that they know their process for growing and learning. And then patience… that I will give them the time they need to develop and grow. That I will be patient and trust in their process. My two children, who are very much introverts, but who are still different with their own unique quirks.

How Kate won’t come sit at a table full of adults, especially when their attention shifts back to her (and she’ll go and runaway again; how dare you focus and draw attention to her!). While there’s Eric, who happily sits on my lap and eats up all the bacon and sliced cantaloupe. He couldn’t careless that you were looking at him. He just ignores you, happy to simply eat his food.

Two kids, two introverts, and yet in many ways, completely different.

They have taught me so much.

Taught me to focus and learn all the language that comes without speaking. My nonverbal communication with them, all their cues, their context and behaviors, it’s off the charts with how in tune I am with them. That’s what they needed me to be; that’s the role I needed to fill. To be their translator in a world that was speaking a foreign language, even though it was the only language Sean and I and the rest of the family spoke.

And yet even as confident as I am, of having gone down this road, of believing and waiting for Kate to talk, four years of patience, it still wasn’t easy.

I still wasn’t without my fears and doubts.

Heck, just last week I was in complete anxiety about bringing Eric to the doctor after a cold lasted a little too long (I wanted to make sure his ears were clear). But why all this anxiety? Why was I almost in tears at the thought?

Because I didn’t know if the pediatrician would grill me on Eric’s progress. I didn’t know if he would listen about our experience, about Eric’s progress, about the leaps and bounds Eric has made these past few months.

Or, if he’d just see Eric in comparison to all the other kids and push services on us that I knew, without a doubt, would do more harm than good. For us, anyway. (Why do I know this? Because I know my kids. I know what our experiences with Kate were like and no one way in hell would I put Eric anywhere near that. Certainly not with the cost being so high. Again, just my experience for my family, and very specifically, what was best for Eric and who he is.)

Regardless, I would have stood my ground if the doctor pushed. I would be Eric’s voice. And thankfully, it never came to that. It wasn’t needed. The nurse just checked his ears, listened to him breath, and all was fine.

My anxiety, my fears had been for nothing.

At least I recognized why I felt so much anxiety. It’s an area that I need to keep working on, to keep reflecting on and healing because I am walking a different path from the mainstream, and I’d really, really like to not use so much damn energy whenever I need to stand my ground like this, to be different and walk this different path. But, that’s my self-work and part of my journey. Something I’d probably have just swept under a rug and shrugged away if I hadn’t become a parent, if I hadn’t had these two amazing, unique children who are continuously challenging me to be better… stronger.

And they have.

They’ve challenged me and they’ve opened my eyes to this other world. It’s been an amazing journey, one which is far, far from being over…

And yet… as I said in the beginning of this post, I’m breathing easier. I’ve taken this huge breath and then, let it out again.

Why?

You’re probably dying to know, especially if you’ve followed our journey.

You see, Eric just met with our speech pathologist, Mary Camarata, who is one of the few people I trust with her knowledge of children with language differences. She’s truly an expert on them, and really understanding the why behind the child. Not that she’s always spot on the money (I had to stand up for Eric several months ago when the videos I sent didn’t accurately portray him). But truly, she can see their temperament and the child underneath. And temperament, believe it or not, can play a huge role in all this. Mary’s insight, at least for my family and who my kids are, gave us this light bulb moment of understanding. This, “oh” feeling you get when something just clicks together and makes sense.

And finally, Mary got to meet Eric, as he is now, an almost three-year-old.

Funny enough, Eric has been around speech professionals since he was about six months old. He was around when we had a private speech therapist and he’s been in the videos I’ve sent to Mary, about Kate, since he was about nine months. He was on track, developing just fine, until he just decided to not talk. He was focusing on other areas, like fine motor control (dear lord did he love his marble maze and could maneuver an entire handful with his chubby hands at just eighteen months, dropping one at a time into the small tube).

We initially started Eric’s journey not at all concerned and then slowly realizing that yes, it looked like Eric would be a late-talker as well.

When Mary was here to meet Kate for the first time, a year ago, it was still too early to know where Eric would fall. He was still in the range of normal, though as time passed it became clear that he’d be like his sister, too. Which is actually pretty rare (the chances of two siblings both being late-talkers is like 1 in 10, according to Mary). Even rarer still is having those two late-talkers follow a very similar development… which it appears, they are both doing. (Mary couldn’t quite confirm this yet since Eric’s a tad too young, but just based on their temperaments and the similarities, she feels confident telling us this.)

So, Kate in every way, has been training for Eric.

And oh my, was he a challenge about five months ago (I’m sure you remember those blogs I wrote—wow, was it challenging, especially the instant frustration, BIG emotions, and very limited ability to communicate).

And now? Now what do we know about him?

Well, we know that, besides Eric’s not talking, he’s a completely normal little boy.

And that right there, is why I just let out this huge, huge breath.

It’s why when, Mary packed up her stuff and drove away, I felt this huge, huge weight lifted off me.

It felt like I could breathe again.

This is the little boy that I have always seen, the little boy I’ve always known, and who I have been fighting for, tooth-and-nail, continually telling everyone to give him the time he needed to develop.

I knew in my heart, in my gut, who he was.

I knew his temperament and understood it, and I’ve pushed like crazy for others to see it as well. This is something, until recently—we’re talking just a few months ago—there were only a select few people who Eric would trust in this way… who he would look up and smile at, engage with and play. Not that he never did this before, or that he wouldn’t do it at all, but it was like, for a period of time, it felt unsafe to him. He needed to feel completely safe and that he completely trusted a person. I can only guess at this, guess at what was going through his little mind and why, but I understood that he had a different temperament in this way.

Heck, both my kids do and it’s not always been easy for others to see this or understand it.

But I stood my ground.

I kept my notes, my journal, and I shared those moments that proved who Eric really was (even if he wasn’t about to let the random stranger those moments himself). And as I said before, there was a time when Mary was concerned about Eric. To this day, it was my fault. It was the videos I’d sent to her (thinking to send ones similar that I did with Kate). The problem was, Eric and Kate were at completely different places, completely different concerns, if you will. With Eric, she wanted to see him engaging with me, sharing in the play, looking at me after something cool just happened (this is called visual referencing). Instead, I showed her videos with him engaged in a toy, like his marble maze, which he hadn’t played with in a while. He was super excited, super focused… and pretty much ignored me the whole time. It’s understandable why Mary was concerned that he might be orientating to objects more than people.

So, I had to stand up and ask her exactly what she was looking for, that she wanted to see…

Then, I went back through my journal and my memories and I shared how her assessment wasn’t correct. She felt better to hear all this, but I could tell she was still concerned (and again, I could understand that). She was also worried that here I was, doing all this by myself. No speech therapists to help out, homeschooling to-boot. But again, I stood my ground. I defended our way and our choices. I knew that early intervention would be an absolute failure for Eric, even damaging for him, and hiring a speech therapist wouldn’t work, either (at that age, the only one Eric really wanted to engage and play with, was me).

And you know what happened? The next round of videos I sent to her?

There wasn’t a single mention about orientating to objects more than people. Because it wasn’t true. It wasn’t there. (Believe me, when Eric was young I wished he could play more independently to give me a gosh, darn break.) And what also started happening with Eric… well, he was growing up.

He was feeling safe again.

He was looking up and engaging with others, bit-by-bit. First with my mom who played and roughhoused with him, then our mother’s helper who he started running about the room and showing off to.

I caught all those moments on video.

What Eric needed, more than anything else, was trust.

And time.

I made sure he got them both. It was not an easy road. In fact, it was scary at times and filled with so much worry because here I was, having to stand up to someone I trusted but who I knew wasn’t right in her assessment. But I held on… I kept believing… I kept on helping Eric in the way that he needed…

Trust, and time.

That’s what he needed.

And when Mary finally got here, when she met Eric in person after a whole year, someone he didn’t know… and Eric immediately started showing off. He was pushing me to the ground so he could fly like Superman, looking at her like crazy with this, did you see that?! expression.

All of those little bits of connection, so small, seemingly so insignificant and yet so very important for language. So important to show that yes, he does care about others, he is engaging, he is showing interest… even with someone he doesn’t know.

Mary got to see this and so much more.

She even got some measurements from him (which surprised both Sean and me—again, this a kid he walks to his own beat and we didn’t think he’d be interested in participating). Mary checked to see where his nonverbal communication was and I another surprise because it was higher than Kate’s when she was around the same age.

We didn’t do any official testing for Eric, but that’s not something Sean and I wanted or needed. Certainly not at his age. One of the absolute joys of homeschooling is we’re able to go at our kids’ pace. There’s no rush or push to get them “school ready.”

So even without that “official” diagnosis out of the way, I’m still breathing easy.

Why, you ask?

Because the whole time, Mary got to see my little boy. The boy he is and the one I’ve always known him to be. That’s all I’ve ever wanted. That’s all I expected her to see from this visit.

See him.

Understand him.

She told us, that other than his not talking, he was a completely normal little boy.

Which I’d known in my heart, this whole time. Not that I was in denial; believe me, I know my kids. And you know yours. Seriously, gut instincts of parents is pretty darn strong and I know for a fact mine is through the roof. It needed to be. My kids needed me to be this way, to connect with them, to meet their wants and needs, to help and guide them emotionally.

I know, for many of you other parents, you’re still in that weird between place of not knowing. That your kids aren’t so clear cut. Their manners and behaviors aren’t fully understand because maybe they’re still too young, they haven’t developed enough to give you a definitive answer of who they are. You have been patient and you’re trying so hard to not give in to all those worries and fear, and yet you still don’t have answers. Or maybe you do and those answers are hard to hear, harder to even see any joy down your particular path.

I want to send you nothing but love and support, regardless of where you are on the journey. Because it is a journey. It’s not over when our kids finally do start talking (as much as we might think so in the beginning). And maybe this will be a life-long journey for some.

But… that’s okay, too. It’s okay if your child doesn’t fit into our worldview of “normal.” They are who they are, which is beauty, joyful beings.

Joyful and happy. That’s what truly matters.

And again, it’s okay. Okay to not fit in a box.

Kate doesn’t. Eric doesn’t.

That doesn’t mean their boxes are misshaped. In fact, Eric’s box is a different color than Kate’s, different shape, too.

It’s his box.

And honestly, I think he’s just sitting right on top of it. Sitting and proud strong and really not caring what anyone else thinks about it either.

I’m going to celebrate that with him. With both of my kids.

They’ve taught me a lot about my own box, and you know what? Mine’s different too, and I love every inch of it, every dent and ding I’ve gotten along the way of living. Every scrap of duct-tape… even the ones that are beginning to peel.

It’s my box and these, these are my kids.

Happy and joyful and thriving in the world we’ve shaped… together. Our life, our journey, looks nothing like anyone else’s and I really don’t want it too, either. We’re forging our own paths, one that works for us, and one, each of us, is thriving on.

Maybe not always, I’m certainly not without the ups and downs of the journey, but every step along the way is a chance for me to learn. Learn about my kids, about myself.

As a family, we are happy and joyful, even if the journey is far from being over. And, it’s okay. For now, I’ll just breath easier knowing what I know, knowing who my son is and being able to support him in the exact way he needs.

Knowing exactly, where we need to go as a family, and that’s towards happiness. Joy.

So know that, if you’re still there, living in that space of uncertainty, when you don’t have answers and all you feel is that dark worry living inside you, eating away at your joy and your happiness, try to take a deep breath. Try to see the child you have in front of you, the child that’s yours and no one else, and remember the love. We will never get these times back, when they’re little and being silly, running around in circles before crashing to the ground because that’s what toddlers do. Weird things. Fun things. Like getting them dressed and immediately after, they walk right into a pool with their clean clothes (and the only extra dry set you’ve brought).

I know it’s scary. I know those fears, I know what that uncertainty can do to you, my dear, parent.

Focus on the love and their joy. Live in that moment with them. Live in their joy. Because that’s what matters more than anything else: their joy.

And, your happiness with theirs, together.

Finding Joyful Moments

 

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

Because it works.

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

You’re trying.

You’re doing what you can.

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

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

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

This parenting role is hard.

This parenting role is also, incredibly so, joyful.

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

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

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

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

Call a friend. Or text. Or whatever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They’ve already forgiven me.

They’ve already moved on.

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

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

But I keep trying.

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

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

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

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

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

With me.

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

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

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

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

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

Give yourself a bit of grace, my dear parent.

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

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

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

Talk about a true gift.

The Hidden Toll of Parenting

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

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

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

Parenting is not for the faint of heart.

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

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

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

Hard.

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

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

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

Why am I mentioning this?

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

That’s huge.

Huge.

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

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

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

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

Eric? Not so much.

Like, really, really not so much.

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

I have to support him.

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

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

You know, toddler things.

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

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

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

And sleep?

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

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

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

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

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

Well, shit.

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

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

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

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

It’s helped.

But the question is, what do I do now?

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

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

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

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

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

The answer is no. The answer is also yes.

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

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

The point is they’re there.

All of them.

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

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

All that above?

That’s stress.

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

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

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

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

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

I need time with no kids.

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

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

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

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

Small, little shifts.

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

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

Again, small little shifts.

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

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

And I’m here to say: I get it.

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

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

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

Yes, yes it is.

But we, as parents, we matter too.

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

Just like you.

You, dear parent, you matter too.

Parenting: A Roller-coaster Ride

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

Sometimes, for dear life.

Sometimes, in utter and complete enjoyment.

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

How high you’ve climbed…

And how far you’re gonna fall next.

Then, you get to do it all over again.

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

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

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

Is it worth it?

Absolutely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For three days in a row.

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

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

Sigh.

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

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

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

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

I’m not perfect.

But I’m trying to be a good parent.

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

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

Just, playing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

No Such Thing as “Perfect”

 

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve probably clued in that I’m not sleeping much these days (read: At ALL). And yet… life doesn’t stop because my day, technically, started at 3:30 in the morning. The laundry still needs to get done. Food chopped, prepared, and cooked because we all know feeding our kids (and ourselves) real food is key to being healthy and just plain feeling good. Oh, and let’s not forget the endless wave of dishes.

You know, all that normal stuff that comes from living with kids.

So too comes the normal stuff when potty training a two-year-old… I’ll just let your imagination fill you in on that one.

But on top of all that parenting stuff, all the normal pieces that come with having kids, if you’re like me and have got a late-talker (or two), you’ve got even more on your plate. You might be organizing and driving them to speech therapy appointments, or maybe you’ve decided to just take on the speech work and play yourself because it’s what works for your family.

That’s right. You. The person who both kids aren’t letting sleep.

And yet, moments when Eric does actually take a nap, instead of sitting down and playing My Little Ponies with Kate, a game that, if it were up to her, would go on for hours, I’m pulling out a book. Or playing video games. Or working on a online writing workshop.

I’m choosing, in those quiet moments, to focus on my own self-care. To fill my own cup so I can get through the rest of the day, evening, and chances are, probably well into the next day (or two) before I get another peaceful moment of downtime.

I’m choosing to take care of me.

And I’m feeling pretty darn guilty about it.

Correction: I’m feeling imperfect. Because there is so much more I can and should be doing.

Should… right?

I should be focusing more on Kate when I have those quiet moments. Playing with her and connecting, doing the one-on-one time our speech pathologist wants us to do, activities that are ones of my choosing rather than Kate’s.

Wow. Such a loaded statement for me — and a lot of negativity hiding behind some reasonable sounding words.

Absolutely I should be having one-on-one time with Kate, but not for speech therapy work. Instead, they should be so we can connect. The more we connect the easier the rest of our day goes. Her cup is filled. She’s feeling my love, so when I do ask things of her, she’s more willing to listen and follow along. So yes, that is important.

But… she also needs me to not be a raging banshee and these days, that’s getting really really hard. Massive sleep deprivation with maybe a teensy little end in sight (maybe?). Also, a little boy who only wants mommy and will scream, nonstop, until his needs are met by me (this includes all hours of the day). And here I am, working as hard as I can to keep my steam from flooding out my ears, to remain compassionate and empathetic. To not immediately jump into fight or flight mode but to stay present and connected.

To do all that, that means I need to take care of me.

Just like the flight attendants tell me every time I board a plane: I need to put my own mask on first.

And yet… it’s still hard.

See, I’ve got this little voice in my head and it’s constantly whispering and nattering, pointing out all the things I’m not doing and how things would be so much better if I were. I’ve got a list of activities and goals our speech pathologist wants me to work on with both kids and yet here I am, barely getting through the day as it is. Even when I told her what we were going through (potty training and zero sleeping) her reply was for me to get help.

And the comment just made me madder.

Are you kidding? Seriously?? Going through the system, whether school or insurance, to get my kids seen by a possibly halfway-decent speech therapist who understands the difference between a speech disorder and a language disorder and how to help her. And we won’t even talk about the emotional fallout that me and the kids would go through as I fight for them, fight for others to understand who they are and their unique differences? All for the effort of getting in actual, routine speech work time?

Sorry. No.

That math there, not to mention the time while at a facility and driving there, certainly not the emotional piece, is worth it.

How about I trust, to try and do my best at home, and trust in my kids? That they understand what I’m going through and that I still love them?

That the little bits we get in… like with Eric at the park, snuggling on my lap. How I started kiss-tickling him and he started laughing. I would stop and he would look at me, right in my eyes as if to say: I want more!! To which I said, “more,” and kept on going.

Until I stopped and waited for him to look at me again.

Do you know what that was?

That was living. Living a life, connecting with my son, while at the same time practicing the speech techniques I’d learned from our speech pathologist. Is it not better to have these little tiny moments, dozens and dozens throughout the day, compared to some arbitrary time that goes for another arbitrary amount of time?

In a way, it’s silly (for me, personally). Because except for a brief period, I was never strict with the routine speech time with Kate. It just… it just fell away from our day because it felt too much like work. And what I wanted to do with her, instead, was play.

Play.

And not only is my worrying, my fears of not being perfect, silly because I’m clearly not doing so bad. I mean, I have walking, talking proof here that I’ve got this. Yeah, I still need support, yeah, I’m still learning with each new stage of the game, and that’s why I’m getting support from someone who truly understands my kids and late-talkers. And yet… I’m still the one who understands *my* kids the best and what I know, what I truly, truly believe is we’ve got this.

Heck, the other day, I about fell onto the floor (thankfully, I was sitting on the floor to begin with) when Kate looked at me and said a full sentence in front of her grandma.

I didn’t fully understand what she’d said, so I told her I didn’t, and asked her to say it again. She did. She trusted her words enough to repeat them, even clearer this time, and then she did it in front of another adult.

“May I have the iPad now?”

Again, just picture my jaw smacking into our play-doh crusted carpet. And you better believe, I told her yes.

For starters, did you just see that sentence??? And second, we don’t “teach” our kids manners. I mean, with our language delayed kids, we don’t tell them, to say “please” or “thank you.” Those are meaningless words to kids who rely heavily on visualization. For example, the word “apple” has a clear picture to it, right? But “please?” Not so much. So, we never bothered with manners… except… that’s not fully true. We model it in our own interactions. Constantly. When Kate tells me she went potty (by saying “poo poo”) and then we go and I help her wipe, I always say, “thank you” (I mean, she did go in the potty and then came and got me for help, which is certainly what I want so you’d better believe I’m telling her thanks!). Or when she actually does put her used bowl in the sink, I always show my gratitude (I get real tired real quick picking up 20 barely used bowls off the floor).

But the word “may?”

Wow. That one surprised the heck out of me. Tells me right there too that I’m not doing halfway bad with this manners thing because clearly she’s getting it.

And yet… here I am still facing these moments of feeling like I’m a terrible mom.

Because I’m not perfect.

The other day, Sean and I were sitting on the couch while Eric was actually napping and Kate was quietly content with the iPad. I told him that part of me felt like I’m a terrible mom because she’s on it so much these days, because I don’t use these quiet moments to be with her, to connect with her, to play a board game and teach her further things like turn taking (and like our speech pathologist wants her, to do something I want her to do rather than always her).

And then I told him, as soon as I let those feelings become words, that I’m not a terrible mom, the other half that I knew was even more true:

That I truly, truly need this quiet time.

I’m not perfect.

There will always be something more I can be doing. Something I want to be doing. You’ll notice I haven’t talked about my fiction writing or my publishing at all… even though I desperately want to get started on both, I know I can’t. At least, not until I start sleeping.

And it’s extra hard too to hear from someone else, this speech pathologist and professional we trust, someone who was a mom a long time ago and clearly remembers this stage, tell me that I should just get help.

As if it’s that easy.

Well, it’s not.

Even Sean commented, with Eric, he doesn’t want anyone else’s help. He wants me right now and he’s pretty darn vocal about it.

Now, this isn’t to say her advice was all bad. We’ve been asking for more help from the grandmas, and on days were I’ve gotten almost zero sleep, have asked the uncle and aunt for help. I even had a friend and her kids come over to play with Kate so I could rest. And I’m setting up help with our mother’s helper again.

So, we’re trying.

But… let’s also be realistic here.

When you’ve late-talkers, chances are you’ve got some pretty opinionated and stubborn little kids on your hands. Whatever you decide, how to be help or not, it’s not going to be some simple or quick fix.

And really, let’s just be honest here.

Parenting is hard work.

Parenting late-talkers is even harder.

And parenting is also about seasons. There are times when life is good and fun and maybe a tiny(?) bit easy. And then there are times like I’m living through right now when surviving the day is the goal. When getting to bedtime without losing my shit (ok… at least not too much) is considered success.

And I truly believe whatever the right answer is, it’ll be different for you than it is for me. And my answer right at this moment will be different now than it will be later or even tomorrow.

But let’s just be kinder to ourselves.

Parenting isn’t for the faint of heart, both for the amount of all-consuming love we feel, and those moments when, really, the last thing we want to be is a parent.

And you know what? Doing my best, doing what feels right, every day, every moment, and somehow… the words still came for Kate. Even being my, often times, inadequate and imperfect self, the words still came. And they’re coming even more, day after day, from asking, “Can I have chocolate now?” to “May I have the iPad now?”

We don’t need to be perfect. Our kids don’t need us to be perfect.

All they need us to do is try, and try again, every day. And to love them.

That, I think I can do, my imperfections and all.

Always on the Go: Toddlers and Writing

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Every person who’s ever been a parent (or has seen one on TV) has a comment (or two or three) about two-year-olds. Heck, we’ve got a flashy code-name for this developmental stage: Terrible Twos. Our culture has since added another for three and four… and I wouldn’t be surprised if that it hits 18 now.

But really, this huge change hits before my smiling, little exploring toddler even turns two. It’s that range, between 18 and 20 months, when my sweet baby bundle of joy finally realizes he has an opinion of his own… and he not only can express it, he wants to.

Loudly.

With determination.

With the absolute conviction that The World Is Ending… right now. (This, of course, translates to: the minute I don’t get what I want, you’re going to be sorry.)

This is a crazy-tough transition for everyone and I’ve been telling my husband for months now this day was coming. Well, it’s here. It’s full-blown. And it’s also more challenging than when I went through this with Kate… even though I’ve been rewiring my parenting brain and philosophy, practicing a more peaceful, cooperation-approach style of parenting. And yet… wow. Parenting Eric, right now, is a full-time job. You see, it’s no longer about feeding or nursing or diaper changing. Or walking outside while he slowly toddles around and has the most interesting observations about a handful of rocks, or dirt, or leaves. Man, babies are easy. They’re constant, in the physical sense, and you’re always dead tired, but whoa is it easy.

Now Eric runs. Now he throws rocks. Now he limit tests because… guess what… that’s what they do at this stage, that’s their job. However, now I’ve got two kids who are veering in different directions and different opinions of what that should be. And all the while I’m trying my best to not always say, “No,” and instead, figuring out what the real need is.

Oh, and I’m still not sleeping.

And all that I described above? That’s constant. That’s my daily life. I am constantly on the go, constantly moving, constantly being aware of Eric so I can step in and gently redirect (which usually fails as he’s way to perceptive for those tactics) and try to teach that throwing rocks and sand can hurt and it’s not okay. Eric then usually just smiles and grabs another two-fistfuls and throws again.

This makes for some very loooong days.

And… I’m still writing.

I know, right? People look at my output and think I’m crazy. Or superwoman. And it’s not like my output is huge… oh believe me, there are days when getting in five minutes of quiet play-time for my subconscious is a huge, huge, huge success.

I’ve been working at this parenting and writing thing for five years now (including pregnancy because oh man does that count) and while I haven’t found the ‘answer’ I was always looking for, I’ve somehow managed to write and produce. But writing with a toddler has its own unique set of challenges.

Like, never really getting peace and quiet.

Unless you do the dreaded ‘screen-time’ which so many parents and grandparents and in-laws (and doctors too) will give you the evil eye if you so much as hint at this.

Well… I do it.

I do it because I’m an introvert. I need quiet time to recharge my batteries. I need this downtime where it’s just me so I can then step in and be a patient parent, a kind and empathetic parent. After we’ve gone swimming and shopping and I’ve been up since 4 a.m. because neither kid could sleep… you better believe I’ll use movie time (and all-things-Disney) to give me that desperately-needed quiet and recharge time. It’s a much better alternative than me losing it and yelling when Eric’s goes to the bird cage (which strategically blocks the window that’s by the couch, and the three story drop) and stands there and purposefully shakes it.

But I also use that time to sneak in the writing. Sure my goal is to wake up before the kids and write before they’re even up, but when my average is four hours of broken sleep, you better believe I’m doing my best to sleep as much and long as I can.

Also, I try to write after Daddy gets up. He spends time with the kids and then is off to work, but that’s hard too because he hasn’t gotten much sleep either. So it’s this trade off… letting him sleep in so he can then go and make the money to pay the bills and all our food… or me getting that quiet and alone time to write.

Somehow, every day for the past three months, I’ve gotten the writing in. Sometimes it’s so tiny no one who wasn’t a parent of young kids would count it. Sometimes I’ve literally tried three times to write and every time I sit down, I’ve got a kid hanging off me like I’m their own personal climbing gym. And yet… those little dribbles do add up. But even more important, they keep my creative voice open and willing to come out and play. I think that’s been the hardest shift as a parent-writer, especially as a mother (when kids are under a certain age we are just hard-wired to hear everything and that little voice where stories come from immediately shuts down).

It’s taken a lot to get my creative voice to come out and play; it’s taken a lot of patience and time to tell myself: it’s safe now; it’s safe to write again. So each of those days, when the writing is a dribble, it still plays a huge role in keeping my stories open, in keeping me connected to my need and ability, as a storyteller.

I am always on the go. Always on the ball to step in and teach. And with Eric, he’s more aggressive than Kate was so I really need to step in and slowly, painfully slowly, teach him what to do and what not to do.

So, how have I done it? Write and parent an opinionated toddler? (So far, anyway?)

Little dribbles, every day.

These are perfectly fine and perfectly acceptable for the parent-writer. You should celebrate every word, especially when you touch down into your creative place. Man, that’s a huge reason to celebrate and cheer right there!

Another tactic, especially when starting a new story, is have an idea raring to go. Whether a character or place or problem… just something so then when I do sit down I can focus and just write. When you write, one sentence, then another, it’s like this little wake-up to your subconscious. The act of writing gets that part of you to wake up and come out and play.

And speaking of play, keep the writing fun. Keep it a place where you go to play.

Whenever I find myself getting frustrated (ahem… yesterday) as I try to write but Kate or Eric decide, at that very moment, that they must literally be attached and will not leave me alone long enough to get to my creative voice… I tell myself to stop. To let go. I’ve learned that trying to plow through and keep writing is miserable for everyone (and usually ends with me getting frustrated and yelling). And that is not fun.

So, I stop and try to come at it when my kids are in a better place for me to write. That means I need to be okay with writing for only five minutes, or in one case, two minutes. But… it was writing and therefore it counts (certainly when that was my third attempt).

With kids, it’s all about being flexible and the more I stop thinking about what I want and focus on what they want and what they need (especially on those days when they won’t leave me alone), I’m usually in a better place to handle what happens next… my ability to let go of my writing and give them the attention they’re, very clearly, communicating to me.

I’m happier for it. They’re happier for it.

The writing is what it is, but it’s there. Some days it’s a full hour or forty minutes. Some days it’s barely enough to plug into my creative voice. But you know what? Every little, tiny bit helps. Somehow, for me, that recently ended up with a 17,000 word short novel. I just kept plugging away at it, bit by bit, and that meant that every time I sat down I was already tuned into that world and those characters.

The more I work and try and keep the writing fun, the easier it comes to me. Even if I have a toddler who doesn’t stop moving, who cries and stomps and turns around in circles when he’s mad because I wouldn’t let him take a bath in the toilet.

And this toddler-time isn’t forever.

I remember, when Kate was two and I had just discovered the new (for me) world of homeschooling, and I asked another mother if it was possible to write and be a homeschooling mom. This was huge for me. Huge. I’d already (happily) put so much of my writing on hold to be a mother, but this is a core part of who I am. I couldn’t just shrug it off for years; I would be miserable! I told this mother that if I couldn’t write, there was no way I could commit to something like homeschooling. She then asked how old my child was and I told her.

She laughed.

She told me that two was the year you never sit down, and, she was right.

Totally and completely right.

But, I know too that this isn’t forever. That at some point Eric will settle down into his own person. That, one day, the teething will end and I will one day, gloriously, sleep again.

It will happen.

(I really, really have faith in the sleep part.)

In the mean time, I’ll do what I can, keep being flexible with the writing, keep having fun, both for the writing and my little 20-month-old because this is only a small blip in his life and it’ll be over before I know it.

I don’t want to miss a second of it… but… I also want to stay sane and keep writing.

So here’s to our approaching two years and all the great fun as Eric does his very, very best to explore the world, and my, limits… wish me luck!

Let ME Parent my Kid, thanks very much

I’m an introvert.

Way, way down on the introvert spectrum.

So is my husband.

We don’t like big events. Giant-sized gatherings mean lots of stress, anxiety, and the longer we stay the worse it gets (and the longer it takes to recuperate). We’re into smaller, more intimate gatherings. The kind where you can have an in-depth, meaningful conversations. The kind where you can really focus and give attention to the handful of people that are there.

That’s not to say we can’t (and don’t) do Events, just that we’re selective.

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We also know what to expect during, and after.

For my husband, a half-day trip to Disneyland means he needs at least a month of recovery before he can go again. For me, I better not schedule any errands or outings a day or two after.

We need a few days of quiet rest, of lounging around the house, the park, or the beach.

Is it any surprise that our daughter has a similar temperament?

Not really.

I saw signs of this at Kate’s first Christmas when she wasn’t yet 5 months old. I saw how upset she’d get from all the noise, the lights, the strangers (strangers to her) who wanted a turn holding the baby.

Right from the beginning, we needed to keep an eye on her. Look for signs of agitation and quiet warning cries before The Big One came. Kate had a very clear, very distinct line that Should Not Be Crossed, and we’d swiftly remove her from the situation.

And also, right from the beginning, it became clear that no one seemed to understand that she was her own person, with her own feelings.

Her feelings were often ignored because she was the baby.

Her feelings didn’t matter compared to The Adults.

And sure enough, that trend has continued, and I’m seriously getting sick of it.

I was just admonished the other day for not agreeing to let Kate see the new parade at Disneyland. You know, the one that starts at 9 p.m. I was told that, “it’s just one night and she should be allowed to see it once in her life!”

Right.

Well.

She can see it when she’s old enough to make the decision for herself. When she’s old enough to understand what the packed-in crowds, lights, ridiculously loud music will do to her.

(Then, I’m going to let the person who pushed for this parade to deal with those consequences the next day because I’m certainly not going to.)

And yet, two days after the parade conversation I was again taken to task (by someone else) about a decision my husband and I made to limit Kate’s big events. Her sleep schedule and temperament have been completely out-of-whack since Daylight Savings (along with our mistake of scheduling too much) and we’ve been working hard to get her back on track.

Yet, it didn’t matter to this person that our choice was, you know, working….

All that mattered was we were limiting her social experiences. That we weren’t properly ‘exposing’ her to the stress of parties. That the 3-4 outings we go on each week, even meeting other families and kids, didn’t count.

And you know, I honestly don’t mind when someone offers advice.

I don’t mind when they give their opinion because that’s how I learn. That’s how I get more and better ideas to figure out this difficult task called parenting.

But here’s what I do mind: I know my kid better than you.

Seriously. I do.

I know the subtle shift in her body when she spots some Cool Pond or pairing of ducks looking for a snack, and I know when she’s going to bolt. Just like I know the signs of her getting over-stimulated and the situations that will push her faster than a pissed-off hornets nest right into the red zone.

So, when I say, “Thanks, but these are my reasons for not following your suggestion….”

Back. Off.

I heard you. I said no, now let it go.

Stop trying to make judgment on my daughter’s temperament as if you know what she’s going through.

Accept that when we decide, “No Big Events for 2 weeks,” that we had reasons behind this decision. That we had many long, in-depth conversations before we came to this decision.

Don’t judge us and certainly don’t compare our daughter to yours.

She’s her own person.

She’s also only two.

Two.

She hasn’t had three decades of trial and error like we have. Exploring and experimenting. Trying and then evaluating (and then evaluating again when the second try turned out like the first).

Kate doesn’t understand that if we go to Child’s Ridiculously Big Birthday Party, that there will be consequences.

For her.

Energy-wise. Temperament-wise.

She doesn’t yet know the effects of this fun, but loud, boisterous event will have on her. That it will wire and ramp up her little system, pushing her farther and farther into the red zone until…

She can’t unwind.

She can’t calm down.

She can’t sleep that night, then the one after that. Maybe even for another week or two (and you can seriously forget about holding her pee those nights too).

She’s exhausted.

And the problem is Kate doesn’t have the tools yet to understand why or to recognize these ‘warning’ signs within her body.

But I do.

That’s my role as a parent, and one I understand because we share the same temperament. It’s my job to slowly teach her these signs, what they mean, and what to do about them.

It’s also my job to limit these Big Events and to space them out so they don’t overwhelm her. We do go to family gatherings and birthday parties, and we love going to Disneyland, but we find ways to make these into smaller, more manageable chunks.

Trial and error is often required, and you know, these two weeks of no events was a trial too. We wanted to see what would happen… (and what happened is that I haven’t washed her bed sheets for several days, which is pretty darn awesome).

And frankly, I need a quieter, slower life too. Certainly if I want to write.

A few years ago, at one of the Oregon Coast workshops put on by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith, they talked about making your writing a priority and defending the time you set aside for writing. (To be honest, they’ve talked about this so often that I haven’t a clue when I first heard it, only that I’ve been consciously working on it since I decided to take writing seriously.)

What their teaching meant (for me), is that I needed to limit the events and obligations. The more things I have on my calendar, the less energy I have to write.

This is even more true since I became a parent (certainly since I had #2).

Because of how my brain is hard-wired, I need time and quiet to recuperate. I need to catch my mental breath and have my plate cleared of events and errands (and all those details needed to get myself and my two kids out the door… like remembering to ask Kate to go potty before she gets strapped into the car seat or giving Eric’s diaper a quick sniff before he joins her).

The more stuff on my plate, the more stressed I become. When I hit my red zone, well, I can forget about the writing.

We decided to slow our family down. To slow down our lives and to say ‘no’ to someone’s party or gathering unless we decide that this is one we should indeed go to.

We’re still going out. We’re still having fun.

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And the results have been amazing.

Kate’s getting her rest again, even napping too with less struggles. We’re able to enjoy her and Eric more, especially with how fast our baby boy is growing up.

Slowing down has given me the energy and patience to be the kind of parent I want to be.

It’s also allowed me to write again.

We are a family of introverts (though Eric might turn out to be the exception!), and you may not agree with us, but I’d ask that you try to understand. And even if you can’t understand, then please respect the decisions we’re making for our children and for our own lives, just like we try to do for yours.

And in case you’re wondering… Kate will not be attending the ‘Paint the Night’ parade at Disneyland. She’s only two. There’s still plenty of time.

Plus, that’s what YouTube is for.

Unravel the Mysteries of Being a Parent-Writer

Well, I’m a professional writer. You’ll find my fantasy and science fiction published under Chrissy Wissler. For my romance and young adult stories, you’ll find that under ‘Christen Anne Kelley.’ I also wrote a ton of nonfiction articles for magazines like Women in the OutdoorsMontana Outdoors, and Inside Kung Fu (they even gave me their ‘Writer of the Year Award’ back in 2009).

I love writing. It’s part of who I am. Stitched into the fabric of my being….

Except, I’m also a mom of two very small kids.

Two adorable kids, whom I treasure, but who also take up a butt-load of time (as they should). Now, I knew what I was signing up for when I decided to be a parent. I also knew that my writing wasn’t going to wait quietly on the top shelf, gathering dust until my time freed up and the kids got older and needed me less.

(From what I’ve heard, the ‘needing you less’ part is just an urban legend.)

But, but… I’m a writer!

I need to write.

It’s also a very important sanity-equalizer. You won’t believe how much better I feel when I can write (read: a hell of a lot more patient with my kids and bed-time battles).

Except there IS the kid and time factor.

On good days, I’ve got my hands full with them and all those pesky house chores (laundry, groceries, unloading the dishwasher – I really hate that part). On bad days, well, let’s just say sleep will return when my youngest turns five.

Which is in 4 1/2 years.

So, being stuck in this strange balancing act of my treasured kids and my treasured writing (AKA Sanity), I did what writers do best. I tried to read about it. Found nothing. When that struck out, I then asked a bunch of other professional writers for help, and got some advice.

But it still wasn’t enough.

Yes, I understand the whole ‘have-fun-with-your-writing’ thing. I embrace the whole ‘writing-will-always-be-there-so-enjoy-your-kids-while-they’re-young’ thing.

I get it.

I do.

Hell, I strive for this.

On some days, it’s cake. On others, I’m guarding my toddler’s door because it’s nap-time, she’s wired and overtired, and all I’ve got is chocolate holding me together.

Which is about when I realized there’s got to be other writer moms and dads out there in the same boat as me (or a bigger boat because their kids are bigger – a no less tricky balancing act than the one I’ve got).

So, I decided to write about my own trials, triumphs (oh, please let there be a few!), and just plain state-of-mind. Maybe some stuff will resonate with you like a trumpet, maybe nothing at all. That’s cool. The point is the more we share, the more we can learn from each other. Maybe grow a little. Maybe avoid one mistake… and make ten others.

I hope to bring on other writers as well, guest bloggers to share their own experiences and thoughts and how the heck they survived being a parent and a writer.

If nothing else, I just wanted a blog that told other writer-parents that you aren’t alone.

Which, we’re not.

Because… I don’t know about you, but I’m still guarding my daughter’s door as I write this….