Friday, December 5, 2014

Parenting struggles

A while ago I wrote this post about my kids, about our issues, about ADHD and about mother-guilt. After I wrote that post and started getting the ball rolling on trying to figure out why my good kids were getting such bad grades I talked with their teachers who assured me that they are doing great. It took some wind out of my sails and made it difficult for me to move forward. I felt like I'd come back to the over-reacting mom.

Then we had a pretty traumatic few months. We were moving metro-areas. Then we weren't (yay!) but then my husband was working insane hours (I honestly didn't think it was possible that he could work more than he was at his old job. I was wrong.)  and the kids went on break for the summer. 

We started a new school year with some new priorities: encouraging words and gentle actions and Josiah has had a fantastic year at school so far. I am remembering my days of teaching 6 & 7 year olds in Sunday School classes at church and what a huge difference it made in all kinds of ways for boys between the ages of six and seven. A six year old boy can hardly sit still, a seven year old can sit still and write some words on a paper or read a simple sentence. Seven just may be one of Josiah's golden years. He's still struggling here and there but with his school work he's staying on-task. Completing his work and scoring 100s across the board. 

However when we got Katie-Abigail's progress report and it said that she is a solid B student. Okay, I can take that. But she is failing in her science/social studies class. Mostly because of the way that it is being taught. She does not seem to absorb information that she hears or reads very well. Filling out her worksheets is hard, especially if she has to write a response. I've noticed that her writing has improved since last year but we are a long way from where I'd like for her to be. 

A couple months ago I sat in the kitchen at a friend's house. We were talking about our kids, about potty training about the hard parts of mothering. One of the moms has a child in occupational therapy for severely things but especially sensory processing disorder. I asked her so many questions. A lot of the things her son does are things I've noticed with Eli. 

So today I came home with another load of books from the library and took another picture. It looked like this:  

Tonight I spent my quiet hours at night reading about sensory integration disorder. I'm still trying to work out what is (and what isn't) going on with my kids. My head is buzzing. In all honesty I'm still in information overload mode.  This is what my overarching thought is: it is super important to try to understand our kid's behaviors before we run strait to trying to change their behaviors.  Especially if those behaviors are related to something physical. I feel like there is so much power in recognizing our children's physical struggles. It takes so much of my fear out of the situation.

I have also started reading "The Highly Sensitive Child" and it has been really good so far. It is very positive in tone which helps me a lot. It also helped me think about my family within a framework of sensitivity. I am a pretty sensitive person. I'm intuitive, I tend to feel the emotional climate of a room intensely, I am overwhelmed easily by new places and people. I don't like to try new things. I used to think  that being a sensitive person meant that I am a fragile person but as I look back on my life I have seen over and over again that I have a lot of internal strength, even though I also have this tendency to be easily overwhelmed. 

It also made me think about my husband as a highly sensitive person - which is something that I sometimes forget about since tends to be very task-oreinted. But he is a highly sensitive person, just in different ways than I am.

Every single one of my kids has sensitivity/sensory issues  - from lack of sensitivity/processing to being highly sensitive, to being sensory seeking. I have one who is highly sensitive in social situations - but being highly sensitive can also tie into anxiety. I have kids who were tough to potty train, except for my socially sensitive one who was a dream. I have kids who don't feel when they have to pee and don't care if they are wet yet freak out if their hands are dirty and don't want to be touched. They only want to eat familiar foods and can be picky eaters. I have kids who slouch, I have kids who are in semi-constant motion. Every single on of my kids has allergies of one kind or another - which is an indicator of being highly sensitive or having sensory integration problems. 

I think understanding these things is important for me, as their mom. It gives me power and takes me out of the picture.

I was thinking a lot about that today - this idea of taking myself out of the picture. In the text in the picture further up it says that parents should not respond with the same fear and frustration as the child. But I know I sure do. I take it personally when my child isn't performing well in school, or is hard to potty train. However when I understand that my child has a physical issue, like that he can't feel when his bladder is full and doesn't process the sensation of being wet the way that I'd like for him to, then I stop blaming myself and start to try to solve the problem. I set a timer and take him to the toilet.

When my oldest hit nine it was awful. We were fighting a lot. She was getting angry at me more than usual. She was crying more than usual. Then I started noticing it was going in a cycle. She'd be great, she'd get cranky then she'd explode then she'd be great again. Then I started realizing that her behaviors were pretty typical of how I feel when I am about to get my period. She didn't start her cycle for a few years, but when I realized that our fighting had more to do with her hormones at the moment than how I was failing her as her parent the less I freaked out and overreacted and the more I was able to work things through with her in a more gentle and understanding way. And for the record, so far thirteen has been a dream compared to nine. No one warned me that the pre-teen years could be so hard!!

When Katie-Abigail was four I was at the total end of my rope. She was screaming and throwing tantrums everywhere we went. I could not get her to behave for me. Then I learned about the concept of triggers and it revolutionized my parenting strategy. I began to realize that her trigger is hunger and started packing snacks. I practically had a brand-new child. We also found activities that calmed her down in general like painting and doing puzzles and we did those every day so that her overall stress didn't get too high. Josiah needs to be well-rested. He can go practically forever between meals but if it was too near nap-time he'd melt down. Eli can go forever between naps and meals but he needs to know the plan. He likes to have our trips out mapped out and if the plan changes he likes to know about it. If I make a last minute decision to stop at the grocery store by our house before we go home and he sees us pass our neighborhood he will start crying. He thought we were going home, we didn't turn into our neighborhood. His little world has ended. Knowing what makes them tick helps me help them.

I am still figuring things out as I go. I don't know where all of this will end, I guess with parenting it never really "ends" it just continually morphs into something different... anyway. I just wanted to share my experience in the middle of everything. It's overwhelming but I think at the end of the day it's worth it.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your journey with your kids so honestly! My little girl is 4 months old, and I'm already a little freaked out about how I'm going to handle different parenting challenges as she gets older. I'm totally on board with the whole "read everything you can, then figure out what to do about it" mentality. I first read about HSP on Anne Bogel's blog earlier this year, and it's made me realize that I might be a highly sensitive person and just never knew it. I want to be the kind of mom who pays attention to the little things in my kids so I can hopefully notice things like that sooner and help them navigate it as best as possible. It was good to see the perspective of someone with older kids who's already gone through a lot!


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