Perks of having atypical kids

preemie tee shirt

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My first kid came 16 weeks early.  I see your math-wheels turning, converting that into months.  Yep.  He spent 3 months in intensive care and 3 weeks in a transitional hospital.  He was about 6 months old when he first brought his hands to midline (the center of his body in front) and 8 months old when he passed a toy from one hand to the other.  Two important firsts for which we had been watching and waiting.

On each occasion we photographed the event, reported it to our parents, physical therapist, occupational therapist, developmental followup personnel, pediatric neurologist, and family friends.  And each time one friend or another said “I didn’t even know that was a milestone.  I wonder what else I have missed.”

A friend on a parallel path called to tell me when her daughter reached for a tree branch outside, around age 8, and how she and her partner wept with the joy of it.  That takes vision, planning, desire, cognition, hand-eye-mind coordination!  States away, I wept into my phone too.  We rejoiced together.

I survived tee

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The highs and lows of raising atypical kids are extremely low … and extremely high.  There are ways that parents of “typical” kids don’t get to experience the intense joy, love, and gratitude that we get to feel.  Initial diagnoses, possible outcomes, and planning courses of treatment are shocking.  Keeping track of appointments, services, medications, medical histories, and both short- and long-term goals are hard, and parenting atypical kids is hard, even grueling, with spurts of hopelessness and a constant quiet drone of worry –like that annoying neighbor who is always mowing his lawn.

In most cases, that’s not ALL it is though.  While the bulk of parents quietly check off those big visible milestones — tick, tick tick — we warriormamas study that list and all the wee steps leading up to each developmental check mark. Waiting. Watching. Hoping.  When it happens, it is huge.  A prayer answered, a celebration inside and out.  Hearts a-burstin’, eyes a-dancin’, skipping, cartwheels, screaming, and jumping for joy.  Jealous?  Our victories aren’t celebrated as points on the way to college, tech school, moving out, or adulthood, they are self-contained victories, and the joy we feel is so enormous, it can almost break us.

A facebook friend recently shared a report on which colleges graduate those students who end up making the biggest salaries, disappointed that his kid’s college wasn’t on the list.  As a parent, that is so far from my frame of reference, I can’t believe that we are both talking about parenting.  As I type this I am reveling in one good day — how it sounded smelled and tasted — and I know that in some deep way, I am the lucky one.

Come on over to Facebook and tell me what your hardest joy in parenting has turned out to be.

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Moms’ self-care: yet another task?

bath tub at the ocean

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I admit, I despair of those articles telling me all the things I must, should, or could be doing for myself.

Take 15 minutes, practice mindfulness, reach out to friends, take a bath.

self care is not selfish

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They are all great ideas, they are not selfish or outlandish, and they sound so do-able.

But they’re not.

Not for me.

I am a little jittery already, and taking time to smell the roses just… makes me uncomfortable.

Those self-care ideas still feel selfish, even though I know they’re not.

Or they feel like tasks: things I need to remember, maintain, or organize.

And before I could take a bath, I’d have to clean the tub.  Boo.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t learned some alternate self-care strategies!

self care

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I have, and they fall into three general categories: incorporate, schedule, outsource.

Incorporate nurturing things into your life.

After finishing a huge project I paid myself with luxurious flannel sheets, and every time I use them it is a treat for both eyes and skin.

Add a scent to your nighttime routine.

self care

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Or a luxurious soap to your morning routine.

self care

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“Surround yourself with” sounds like an enormous task of planning and commitment to me.

Instead, find one image that you love.

It could be a place, a trip, a person, a color, a dream.

Something that you will see and smile.

Then, put it where you will see it.

Or plant a perennial — my lilac tree looks good, smells good, and throws some shade.

Done once, enjoyed daily.

Schedule the things that get you through the week.

If you are reading this, you probably know that I love Mondays because it’s moms’ night out.

self care

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Every Monday, rain or shine.

And it must work, because our families respect it and make sure it happens.

Lunch, massage, a britcom, playing cards, a knitting or exercise class, a drink, or Wednesday evening gardening.

Schedule it once, enjoy it regularly.

Outsource what you can.

Start by getting your kids to do whatever age-appropriate chores they can.

self care

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Getting my kids to take out the garbage and recycling, and wipe and put away dishes, was far more gratifying and stress-reducing than I imagined.

And Thing 2 loves food prep: retrieving, washing, slicing. She loves setting the table.  Thing 1 loves lighting the candle if we have one.

It all adds up, and she chatters through the whole thing to the “audience” of her imagined cooking show.

Maybe you have someone who does your taxes, teaches your kids an instrument, or cleans your house.

self care

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And if you are juggling food sensitivities, diets, picky kids, or newly declared vegetarians– you can also hire an experienced researcher and planner to work with you on streamlining your family meal.  Me!  🙂  We can work together to get mealtime back on track.

Visit my website to see details on my short course on Feeding the Finicky and my more intense family meal overhaul called Kitchen Coaching.  And as always, pop on over to Facebook to catch daily tips and quips.

I love Mondays.

vintage black and white photo

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“I’m always hungover on Tuesdays.”

On the phone scheduling a date, we laughed, but it’s true!  Monday nights are moms’ night out.  I go with my neighbor to the local pub, where they can set their watches by our arrival.  We catch up, comment on the news, and laugh. Those hard and long belly laughs that cause chemical changes in your brain.  Have we been doing this for half a decade?  Yes, I think so.  That’s a lot of chemical change!

ladies at a party

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This is part of my self-care.  I love Mondays!  Who can say that?  It’s just a couple of hours, but it erases so much strife — like how exhausting the mundane can be, especially when there are bumps in the road. A system can’t just be implemented for kids; it’s constant change.  Rethinking the same questions over and over: rules, food, screen, bedtimes, friends.  Keeping them fed with healthy food, fresh air, challenging books and some kind of spiritual wonderings…  Exhausting and mundane is not part of that sexy cultural narrative that convinces us to choose parenting.  But that’s a real part of the experience.  I say that with love, but I don’t know if I could, were it not for Monday nights.

ladies in hats

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On Mondays we talk about those mundane things too, though her kids are grown. There’s still so much to laugh about, so much the same.  And it’s working.  Our proof?  Our mates!  They bend over backwards to drive us, rearrange schedules, give us cash…  They make sure we don’t miss a Monday.  We laugh that we must be pretty hard to live with when we miss a week.

What’s your treat?  Your regular self-care?  Let me know in the comments.  And if you’d like to chat about managing the mundane, drop me a line.  🙂

Methusela mom in the cockpit!

helicopter parents

Methusela mom in the cockpit – Funnermother.com

parenting

Methusela mom in the cockpit – Funnermother.com

I was a prom night baby, and knew I didn’t want to do that. When I was 9 my parents were divorced, dating, putting distance between them. It was hard to be heard. In the 80s I found family dynamics theories and my “inner child” — and with some blame and some anger I just listened to my own damned self.

I worked, moved away, got degrees, moved in with a guy.  Struggled with infertility.  It wrecked us.

Then…”don’t worry, it can’t happen” and then “oops!” We jumped into parenting after just one kiss.

I was 39. The baby came early, we fought for him, feared for him, settled into being unmarried parents.  He sat up, stood, walked, talked, defied predictions; it was going well.

We did it again. I was almost 43. Now the Things are 10 and 6, and remember my inner child’s anger?  It’s back, like Iago, pointing out every gap, every failure to attain that “good parent” award, even when the award’s rules and goals are shifting and undecided. The judges who decide on the award do not agree, making it an award impossible to win.  Instead we parents point fingers and judge each other, dividing up into sides.

helicopter parents

Methusela mom in the cockpit – Funnermother.com

And I’ve watched the news 20 years longer than my parents had. It’s never good. Diseases, predators, and bullies, oh my! I often ask, “Is it worse, or is it just more reporting in search of news ratings?” — nobody knows.  So being an older parent means that my kids are heard. But it also means they will never see me in my carefree 20s, they won’t be parented by that young, always laughing and dancing, me.  Instead they will see the worry that always seems to walk before me into the room.  They will roll their eyes as I time their screen exposure, sneak junk food at friends’ houses, shrug off unwanted hats and coats.  But I was a prom night baby; I don’t want to do that.