Sunday, July 31, 2016

The First Day of Kindergarten

Sorry it's been a while since I've posted. Kayla and I went on a trip to check out some colleges. It's funny how a mother can get accustomed to the idea that her child may go to school seven hours away, and it actually becomes okay. When they were little I swore I would never let them move that far away. But I guess it's what's best for your child, not what's easiest or best for you.

Jordan was excited about going to kindergarten. She made this very clear, by letting me know she "was ready and couldn't wait for school!". She kept asking how many days were left until she could go, and she drew her teacher a picture to bring on the first day. I was also informed by her, that she "wasn't shy".

This last statement, I'm assuming, was just as much for her benefit, as for mine.  If she says it out loud, then it must be true.

I took this opportunity to explain to Jordan the importance of raising her hand if she knew an answer, or if something was on her mind. This way her teacher could get to know her and see how smart she was. I then informed her that when she got on the bus that first day, I would probably cry. I said I would be crying "in a good way". I didn't elaborate on this because honestly, even today, I'm not quite sure what I had meant.

Not surprisingly, I did cry, but nothing about it felt very "good".

I was so happy to see her get off the bus later that day, but she was totally fried. She told me the bus ride was too long and too loud. It took her about an hour and a half to settle down and begin to share her day with me. She said she liked school because she was line leader (one of the many benefits of having a last name begin with B) and she guessed what was in the surprise box. She asked me if I remembered my first day of kindergarten. (I could probably go on and on about this specific question, but I will spare you. What I will say is, for a five year old, this concept, having the ability and interest to wonder about my childhood experiences; I believe this thought process is pretty deep.)

When I think about this whole scenario today, I can't help but wonder if all the information I've read about parents and how they treat their first born, applied to me. Why would I tell her it was important that her teacher know she was smart? And why did I feel the need to share that I would cry when she got on the bus? These were my own worries, my own issues, not hers.

I may have spoken to her like she was an older child, and more mature than any five-year-old needs to be, but at least I didn't include my true feelings. I didn't mention I was excited for her, but I was also panicking on the inside. It didn't tell her how my whole life has been dedicated to our three kids, and her starting kindergarten forced me to think about my future, my life post-kids. Yes, in my brain, I was already picturing adorable two-year-old Kevin, leaving me forever. I didn't share all of these somewhat irrational fears with her. That's something, I guess.

After her second day of school she told me that she had wanted to see me again, and that she missed me. My heart just swelled. I really looked forward to seeing her too. I missed my big girl. A lot.

Thank you.

Us Too

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Times They Are A Changin

This entry is a little different than the others. It actually has nothing to do with the trials and tribulations of raising our family, but I still think it's worth writing about. We are all going to experience similar circumstances throughout our lives. There's just no avoiding change.

We had a small mishap with our beloved 2000 Honda Odyssey. When I say beloved, I actually do mean, I think I loved this van. If one of our kids said anything negative about it, I would joke and put my hands over the steering wheel, as if covering it's ears. If it struggled to get up a hill, I would coax it along saying things like "Come on baby, you can do it." Granted I only did this when the kids were in the van, to get a reaction, but still.

Our family grew up in this van. I sat in the back so I could be on pacifier duty, and nurse the kids. We ate hundreds of meals in it. We pulled over threatening to leave the kids on the side of the road, if they didn't stop crying... You know, all the parent-like things that we, as parents, are forced to do. It had over 200,000 miles. That added up to a lot of road trips. During the trips, the kids used to journal about the places we were going, drawing pictures of the Verrazano Bridge, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, the Horse Shoe Curve, Monticello, and roller coasters from Cedar Point, Dutch Wonderland, and Sesame Place...

Although the accident was not a bad one, sadly, the van was totaled. So Adam and I had to clean it out yesterday. My goal was to "act like an adult", realizing that a van is a materialistic, non-living thing. But instead, I cried like a baby. Because I realized, it's the end of an era. The end of me being a mom of little kids who needed me all the time. The end of obnoxious school bumper stickers, of toys, markers, and drawing paper in every seat pocket. The end of triple-checking that we had enough batteries for the headphones, and movies for the player, so no one would lose their mind on a long trip. I guess it's actually the beginning of the end. The responsibility of  having to drive the kids to all of their many sports, concerts, friend's houses, and schools. has already lessened.

I'm not going to lie and say I didn't complain about being an unpaid taxi driver all those years, but it's still hard to let go. Even though having a mini van would be convenient, especially considering (in theory) we need to move all three of our kids somewhere, within the next three years, we are not going to get another one. My days of being a somewhat embarrassing (according to the kids) mini-van-driving-momma, are over.

I guess this is okay. Because when one chapter in life comes to an end, another one inevitably begins. And, as I understand it, new beginnings are something to be cherished.

Thank you.

Us Too

Friday, July 22, 2016

Trying to Find the Humor

Here's how acutely connected I was to Jordan. When the doctor mentioned that she may need her tonsils and adenoids out because she had so many ear infections, it freaked me out. It was as if time froze for a moment. My initial thought was, No way. No way was someone going to cut into my baby, for any reason. It actually made me physically shudder when I allowed myself to think about it. Yep. Hyper-focused.

I sometimes wondered if Jordan was feeling the same way about me. Was she in tune with, and obsessed or worried about my moods and feelings? The answer to this was a definite no. How could I be so sure? I knew this because one time when I was at my wits end, while visiting family in Western PA, I yelled that I was ready to go home. I'm sure this had nothing to do with Jordan's behavior, since she never threw at least one huge fit while in Western PA (she says sarcastically). And what do you think the five year old Jordan replied back to me?

She screamed that she was "ready to have no Mom!"

Good times.


Thank you.

Us Too

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Being Afraid to Try

Do you remember a few posts ago when I told you that Jordan looked up some of her eating habits and found that she shared some of the symptoms of Avoidant/ Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)? Well, I probably shouldn't' have been all that surprised with this news. Because her eating habits as a young child, I guess you could describe them as being ...difficult.

We often had dinner battles. She would scream for 45 minutes because we wanted her to taste a bean from my chili. One small kidney bean. She refused, and we insisted. She did end up tasting it, but after 45 minutes of drama, anger and hurt. Was it really worth it to win the battle? I'm not sure, but my initial gut feeling is, probably not.

For a while she wouldn't eat foods like corn, apples, and pears. Basically anything that had a skin, was a no-go. It made her gag and she would cry and say “I can't.” Sometimes Adam would cut the kernels off corn on the cob, which really didn't thrill me. At least then, she ate about half of the serving.

So, get this... I wasn't thrilled that Adam cut the corn off the cob for Jordan, but when Kevin was young, I would sometimes let him eat ice cream for dinner. He ate so little and his doctor said he needed to gain weight, so why not give him some high calorie, fat-filled ice cream?

Cringe.  If anyone asks, yes, I do believe that we treat our first child differently.

With regards to Jordan, if I'm going to get pushed beyond my comfort level, then I feel the need to take the control back. I'm not sure if this is a terrible, or a necessary, character trait.. Good or bad, I am a competitive person. It has served me well with all of my years of competitive running. It has helped me to stand up for myself socially, and in the work place, if needed. But I wonder if it has contributed, or complicated, the task of raising am impossibly strong-willed child like Jordan.  

What I am sure of, is I was becoming immensely attached and in tune with, Jordan's moods and emotions. To have a child constantly push me to such intense levels; I think it caused me to hyper-focus on her. I cried when she learned even the simplest tasks, like riding a two wheeler.

It was the realization that she struggled with things, not physically, but mentally. It made it very emotional for me. When Adam was helping her learn to ride her bike, he joked to me afterwards, saying she was a nervous wreck. And I agreed. She would just ramble on and on, giggling and talking incessantly, saying things like “Mommy, look. Mommy, I'm scared. Mommy...” She was saying something every second that she rode.

This wasn't like dealing with an everyday normal, childhood event. With her it was always so much more. Because of her anxieties and fears, she was constantly fighting an internal battle against her own mind. For Jordan, sometimes it seemed easier to sit an activity out, but along with that decision came a pile of guilt and self doubt. So when she did accomplish something, anything, it was a big deal.

So I began to hyper focus on her. This is probably why it became almost impossible for me to handle those early teenage years when she began to internalize her feelings and fears, and she inevitably began pushing me away.

Thank you.

Us Too

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Amazing Women and Soul Sisters

After Jordan's traumatic experience, she felt embarrassed and wondered why she couldn't do things on her own. My answer?  Anxiety. That's it.

I told her feeling that way only belittles everyone else who suffers. Mental illnesses may be harder to see and more difficult to understand, but they should never be minimized.

She told me that she was medicated, and wondered if she even has anxiety anymore. She worried that she was an incompetent person.

Oh hell no! You are a person who suffers with anxiety.

This is why I am so passionate about sharing and trying to spread information about mental illnesses. Those who are suffering have so many of their own internal doubts. Imagine if society embraced what they were going through instead of sometimes labeling, fearing, and judging. In a previous post, I myself even described her behavior as "wallowing in self pity", before I changed it to "being depressed". The language used, and attitude towards, does matter.

Jordan recently described one of my best friends who struggles as "An Amazing Woman", which she totally is. And she considers Jordan to be her "Soul Sister".  Thankfully, there is a bunch of support and validation out there. But the world can always use more. More advocates, more acceptance, and more understanding.

How can you help contribute to this? Simply by sharing, and by listening with an open mind and an open heart.

Thank you.

Us Too

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

If We Ever Doubted That The Issues Are Real...

Every once in awhile I think it's easy to forget that the struggles fought by many are very real. Maybe this is why people decide to go off of their meds. When things begin to get better, they wonder if medication is necessary. But the struggles shouldn't ever be overlooked, ignored, or forgotten. A few days ago, our family (well, mostly Jordan) was reminded of, and slammed hard with, this dose of reality.

Here's the abridged version of the story. Adam and I were going to be away during Arcadia's Honors orientation day. Because of this, Jordan and I did a practice, or a "dry run". We took the train, and then a bus to Arcadia. Never having done this before, I asked the bus driver if the bus went to Arcadia. It did, and six minutes later, we stopped at the school.

The day went well. Jordan and I explored campus again, ate lunch, and came home. She and I both felt okay about her doing this on her own.

At six in the morning, Kayla dropped Jordan off at the train station. She rode the train, walked the short walk to the bus stop, and got on the bus. So far so good. But she didn't ask the driver if this bus went to Arcadia. And she wasn't positive which stop was hers. Plus, she had never pulled a stop cord before.

So she didn't get off the bus.

Not until someone else pulled the cord, maybe ten minutes later, and she followed them off. She had no idea where she was.

This is what anxiety can do.

I received a frantic call at eight in the morning. Jordan was lost, crying, and walking aimlessly somewhere near Philly. We were lying in a bed in Baltimore. It took a while for Adam to find her location on his phone. I stayed on the phone, attempting to calm her down, and we were eventually able to lead her towards a Rite Aid. We called and woke up her wonderful 18 year old cousin, and he was on the road within five minutes to pick her up, and drive her home.

Why am I sharing this? It's certainly not a plea for sympathy. The last thing Jordan wants is for people to feel sorry for her. I think she would be happy knowing that people were willing to attempt to gain a better understanding of the possible struggles and limitations.

I said long ago that this blog was not going to be a play-by-play of Jordan's life. But this is important. It's obviously important for us, and especially Jordan, to realize her limitations. But it's also vital for people to be open minded and accepting of those who are struggling.

And yes, it is very real.

Thank you.

Us Too

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Some Venting and Ranting

Uggh. Yesterday was a crappy day for me. One of those days when you look forward to nothing and doubt everything about life. When every thought steers you towards worry and negativity. So I informed Jordan that I would not be able to "help" her. Which means, I won't be making sure that she eats, I won't help her not get stuck in front of the mirror, and I won't help her to get into the shower. (Which basically means I look out the window and at my phone, so she can get in without picking. I figured there needed to be an explanation of how this works).

We're all allowed to have one of these days, right?

So she did get herself Honey Nut Cheerios for breakfast, which is a positive. She knows it's not the most nutritious choice, but it's something that takes little effort. And she ate it. So there's hope. She looked up a new eating disorder, that she feels describes her behaviors. It's called:

Yay. Another disorder. I have previously written about the group of people who were graced with the whole "package" of mental illnesses. It makes life rough for them, and my current perspective is that it totally sucks. So instead of having permission (especially as a parent) to get angry and insist that your eighteen year old eat enough to maintain a healthy lifestyle, you understand that this may fall on deaf ears.

Well not deaf ears, not even stubborn ears, but perhaps "incapable' ears. Because if there are others who suffer with this, enough so that a new disorder was named to classify and describe it, then it must be real. Right?

So what do you do? What course of action do you take when you know someone can't help or change their behaviors? Do you assist them by doing tasks for them, like a crutch? I know I sometimes do. Do you let the person omit themselves from "normal" life activities like working, driving, shopping, going out to eat, hanging out with friends... because of anxiety, and self-consciousness due of self induced skin issues?

I actually have no idea. Even if I did know what to do, none of this is in my control anyway.

I do know that life will not always be this way. It will get better. Then it won't. And it will continue on in this fashion whether any of us like it or not.

Thankfully I have learned how, and am now capable of, taking time out for me. Even when it may sometimes feel selfish. If my bike ride or run means that Jordan will not yet get her day started, or my blogging means that she is sleeping well beyond the usual dinnertime, it's okay.

It kind of sucks, but it's okay. Whether I like it or not...

I hope I don't offend anybody, but I'm going to let this image sum things up.

I think I feel a little bit better now. :)

Thank you.

Us Too

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Coping, Patience, and Solutions That Weren't

Yeah, I kind of thought I had a little more...

Watching Jordan grow and slowly become a more independent person was amazing to me. It was like pure magic to witness. Before kindergarten she began showing interest in letters and numbers. She said, "If I had two pennies and Kayla gave me two more, I would have four." Kayla's worried response to this was, "If Me give Jordan all my pennies, then Me would have none."  So cute. :)

Along with Jordan's growing independence and confidence, came more attitude, especially when we backed off on our thumbs-up/thumbs-down reward system. She would speak to us as if she was the queen of the house, the one in charge. "But Mommmm".... Each time we told her "no", she would still lose her mind and fight us on it. Again, her tone made her sound like a disgruntled teenager.

Actually, she and I get along so much better now that she is a teen. And I'm so very relieved about this. Maybe it's because of that longed for light-at-the-end-of-the-parental-tunnel-thing. The light that empowers us with the knowledge that we did not cause any real permanent damage, or create a monster who will never move out on his or her own.

What? I can't be the only one out there who has worried about things like this. Can I?

So, yes, I would get angry at her. I would tell her I didn't enjoy being with her when she was being nasty and rude. She would stomp off up to her room and slam the door. But when she came downstairs, she was as sweet as could be, telling me how much she loved when we colored and did things together. Thankfully our pleasant, endearing Jordan came back.

Not knowing which Jordan I was going to be faced with, on an hour to hour basis, was difficult for me. I think it's part of the reason why we all eventually began walking on eggshells around her. I guess we were instinctively trying to keep the peace, to avoid the blow-ups and anger. It took us a long time (too long) to figure out that this was not an actual solution, it was only a coping mechanism. And after a while we realized, it wasn't even a good coping mechanism. Because as the years went by, it became apparent that we were not actually coping. We were floundering and struggling, but definitely not coping.

Thank you.

Us Too

Saturday, July 2, 2016

For Some, Trying Something New is Easier Said Than Done

It was like potty training all over again. If she didn't do something the way I had envisioned it, I got angry. If she fell below the “normal” curve of what was expected in my world of parenting, I kind of freaked. I guess I felt it negatively reflected on me. Would people think I wasn't a good parent? Would they wonder why my child was still wearing diapers after the age of three, why she's five and still can't tie her shoes, or why she sits down on her scooter?

I'm sure by now you're blatantly aware, or getting sick of, my views on what it takes to accomplish a new task: hard work, patience, and discipline. (If you're not sick of it now, you most likely will be, if you continue reading Us Too). Today I realize that for some, it requires so much more. But years ago, I had no idea.

Maybe I forgot what it was like to be young, when everything was new. I know I didn't worry as much as Jordan. For kids like her, in order to learn routine life skills, confidence and bravery are also necessary. Plus the ability to stay calm and work through the frustration and fear of failure. For a kid like Kayla, when she messed up, she just tried again. Self doubt and self loathing were never an issue. For kids like Jordan, the minute the task became challenging, she pretty much saw red. Her mind kind of clogged up with frustration and panic, and she was done. She would not, or could not continue.

Back then I was positive it was because she would not. The idea that she could not, never really entered my mind. Of course she could learn to do these things. She was a capable, smart, advanced, athletic little girl. She was also a little girl who suffered from anxiety.

This anxiety was becoming somewhat of a crutch, not because of my reaction to it, but because it began to effect her confidence and willingness to try new things. Or maybe it was because of my reaction to it. I guess I'm still not 100% sure about that.

What I am sure of is I had no idea what anxiety was, or how difficult it made it for those afflicted, to try anything new.

Thank you,

Us Too