I always doggie paddle into posts like this because I want to maintain that line that runs between being honest & coming across as a complaining momma who is painting a bad pic of her child. That’s why I have been adding to this draft since I created it on June 7, it’s July 28.
If you’re new to this blog or my life, you can go to my archived posts & catch up; read the one in particular about my daughter Grace & her journey. That’ll set the stage for this “strong will” issue I’d like to discuss. I don’t even like those words, never have. Why can’t we just say strong & end with that? Isn’t it just strength bottled up inside an immature mind that needs guidance on how to channel it & express it outward to be projected correctly?
She’s 4 yrs old now, so there’s that. She’s a she. There’s that. She was born w/ no thyroid & as she grows, her levels get cookoos. There’s that. As her thyroid med dose gets adjusted to adjust to cookoo thyroid levels…well, it makes her emotions cookoos. So there’s that. She has mild sensory processing issues from those 4 yrs of labs & the onslaught of procedures & specialists. That. Then the simple fact that she is my offspring. THAT. Sigh….so long story short- girlfriend can bench press a Buick with her internal strength; because to be honest, she really hasn’t been given any other choice but to be to be a fighter.
Now me, the mom who like other mom’s, think that we are supposed to know how to handle & fix every single detail of our babies lives, especially the new baby through Kindergarten part. Such a formidable time. And the “they’s” out there tell us, if you don’t get it right during that window, then you have completely missed your mark & you’re going to have a screwed up delinquent on your hands. So we drill into our heads a list of things people say do & don’t do. We measure our kids against other kids. We allow social media to be another scale of determining if our children are set for greatness or prison. I mean it’s utterly ridiculous & exhausting. And that’s why in this situation of having a daughter who sets the bar WAY HIGH on the parent me correctly scale, I chose to withdraw from giving a rip what we “look” like to the world. I decided to measure my daughter, my parenting & my home against the standards God sets regarding grace/mercy/kindness/self control/patience, etc. And what I found was the world standard albeit ridiculous, is MUCH easier because it’s rooted in weakness. The strong fight & the weak blend. I have found some key breakthroughs in our parenting her, getting through to her & assisting in her healing process & it’s because we choose our way, God’s way.
::I do not mean to get you excited, like I have this all figured out or have reached the finished line. Many days I am dragging myself from 30 minutes to 45 minutes to 5 more minutes. It’s definitely a marathon. So please do not assume for one second this is doctoral advice, just an epiphany on the child I birthed, this may not relate to your own, but it may be a hand up to those of you who need alternatives::
My daughter is likely THE most intelligent child I have ever met. Not to short change my teen son with his high IQ & preparation to enter college with awards/accolades/scholarships that he worked his woo woo off to achieve, however, as smart as he was at her age, he’ll agree, there’s just something insanely gifted about her. (see her early story re: what a miracle it is she’s on this side of glory mentally)
With that being said, she is also THE most sponge like child I have ever seen when it comes to taking on other’s emotions. I mean literally internalizing them & becoming them. Whether it be characters on shows, in her books, kids in her Sunday school class, our family, etc. If you cry, she’ll cry. If you’re loud, she’s loud. If you’re happy, she’s happy. I’ll say 75-85% of the time, the moods & words of others set the stage for her if she chooses to allow these moods affect her. Then there’s the other 25-15%. That’s the part that almost causes me to hyperventilate typing this— it’s the part she DOES NOT WILLINGLY CHOOSE, it’s the part of her sensory issues & her journey, that have chosen her. And it’s the part that I am fighting the good fight through prayer, partnership, OT classes, faith & spiritual warfare with satan every day to claim & gain her full healing & restoration.
You see, I read & I hear often about “invisible scars” “invisible diseases” “invisible sicknesses” that it seems the majority of our society deals with currently. Those things have been communicated as being depression/anxiety/fears/mental disorders & so on. These are the ones that society has often placed the toughest & most cruel labels on…. they’re lazy, negative, making excuses, they can help it, they’re spoiled, why doesn’t this person just choose joy, etc etc & frankly I have probably more times than I would like to know, accused someone of being a wet blanket, Debbie Downer, when in actuality, they suffer from something invisible that I am clueless about— which is the prime reason we should be advocates for self control & our word choices/thoughts.
When my son, who I am telling you was near perfect in the discipline dept. these almost 17 yrs, especially ages birth-5. I had almost zero behavior anything. So you can imagine how trying some days have been in our family dealing with her small % of “can’t help its”. Again where I was a social moron, I always thought the kids who screamed out in stores. In the movies. In public anywhere, well they were brats. They needed a good ole southern butt whipping & the parents needed to “grow some” & put down their foot & gain the control back. And I know many of you do & do it too. And many of you have taught your own kids to do it. And many out there have done it to me & my child…… and frankly it is THE worst feeling of helplessness for your innocent child, who in my case, is blessed to even be alive & functioning. These yrs of actions from others, feels like continuously causing you to revisit the most unimaginable anguish & raw emotion of your entire life; for me & the guys anyway. Even though we could care less in the grand scheme of it all, there is still a place inside so tender & so exposed that the very moment another person chooses to judge her actions or reactions…. or judge us & our choices, it’s like gasping for your last breath before sinking to the bottom of the ocean. If pain, suffering, unfairness, exhaustion, anger, rage, loneliness, denial, & agony could be rolled into ONE emotion, that’s what the actions & words of others feels like inside when you’re raising a child with sensory processing issues. It’s something people who do not understand nor care to understand, will ever be able to relate too. I have personally been dealing with the character of others in this area for 4 yrs. That’s why it’s taken almost 2 mnths to even create this in a way that is tactful & more helpful to other parents who suffer vs a blog of anger from a hurt momma.
We are very fortunate that Grace’s issues are on the “mild” side of things. I don’t know how you beautiful parents who have kids in the Autism spectrum & other areas much deeper than ours keep yourselves together most days. Our biggest battles range from behavior fluctuations. Transitional issues. Fear of loud noises. Easy trigger points that fire off a range of outbursts from screaming in anger to hysterical in tears. After awhile you can figure out the things that set them off, sometimes you just cannot avoid it. People in stores are brutal. Moms in play groups can be vipers. People do not understand the isolation & the loneliness & the sweaty armpits that comes with having a child who many times cannot control herself & you the mom can’t control the reactions of grown ups who should know better. She is FOUR. As of last week. Before that she was even younger. She is not 24, not 34, not 54, not 74….but YOU ARE. So rather than act like she should be your ages, I think the adults of the world should prepare to be a little more gentle to those who struggle, & worry more about their behaviors than the behaviors of the children who are trying to heal. If I even began to list the things, the comments, the assumptions, the rejection or the profiles that people have created about my daughter over these yrs, it would make you weep. But how blessed are we for those who truly know us, truly love us & have the luxury of really knowing her, & being blessed by her story of miracles & faith. I know even more & more there are parents out there who don’t have anyone, very alone & very silent. Craving someone not to throw stones at them, but to notice they’re drowning & offer any form of mercy & care that any human to another can possibly muster up & share. I have been there in that exact spot. Many times over. You just want to run & shout “PLEASE understand. PLEASE hear my story. She can’t help it. We are SO isolated. PLEASE keep inviting us to places; one day we won’t have to decline.”
My daughter has been in speech due to the thyroid disease & OT since January. Off for the summer, but starting back full time in a few wks. I am excited for our great team of people at this school, as well as, our church, who partner with us, because they see her intelligence, her gifts, her talent, her humor, her potential & her future; they want to be a piece of the puzzle that God is molding her into being. The guys & I recently had a family mtg to decide some ways we could change our discipline & responses to her & the ways that would be long lasting positives to her character development & inside voice. Here’s what God brought to me/us after many hrs of praying & searching. I’d like to share with you out there, who in this moment have a “STRONG” child who needs a soft parent. Again like early on in this post, this isn’t a Nobel Peace Prize discovery in the field of sensory & behaviors, but we see in her that these strategies & tactics are working & developing to what we know will be positive character traits that will stay with her for the duration of her life:
- no more spanking- this is a very sensitive area for me in the first place. Being the product of a mom who chose to use her hands & violence of her words vs love, communication & a gentle spirit, I’ve fought for 40 yrs to overcome the seeds of damage from producing into a garden of poison passed on to my great great grand kids. The only way this stuff stops is when you choose that today it will & you mean it! We’ve noticed since spankings have been replaced with taking away luxuries for the ENTIRE day, the consequence of losing the things that are fun are much more attention grabbing & purposeful, than popping her butt, because you’re a parent so screwed up & raging, this method was the only choice you were ever given or ever taught. It’s not a necessary alternative for her anymore. “Hey do not hit us or others & in order to get that drilled into your head, here, let me hit you”. Does not work for her. Will never work for her. And it does not teach in any way whatsoever how to deal with or handle our emotions long term.
- less words, 2 choices- the meat of this is stand firm in what you say & don’t put yourself on repeat. Once is enough, more words, then you’ll find less listening. We also give her 2 choices, “you can ___ which is your 1st choice or you can continue to not do ____ & you’ll go stand in time out, afterwards you will still have to do ___ anyway. So what’s your choice?” almost 90ish % of the time she’ll choose the right choice, but eventually in a control moment, she’ll choose timeout & realize this is the miserable choice. This choice always leads her to great remorse & us to less exhaustion or guilt.
- soft voices & demeanor- nothing says I don’t care about you, like someone yelling in your face/ears. Children do not deserve that. My daughter never wakes up with an agenda & #1 on that list is “create numerous ways to purposely make my parents come unglued & turn into raging scream machines” Her challenges & her temperament tell us that she is struggling & she needs help. It’s just the same if her leg was stuck in a hole. Would we run to her & scream bloody murder at her in anger? No we’d act quickly to bring calmness & rescue; so when a child’s mind is stuck in an emotional dark hole, why are we not responding quickly with calmness & rescue? It’s because 9 out of 10 times we parent, the way we were parented & we take on characteristics of the dominating, control fueled, dysfunctional one. Every time! We cannot heal our daughters or sons until we allow God to fully heal us.
- no anger- love & affection goes a long way when trying to get a point across. For some reason tradition, heredity & “the world” have adopted this idea, if you trade rage & loudness for affection & love as discipline strategies, you’ll raise a spoiled brat. It’s simply not the case. I have a 17 yr old son who is the most loving, affectionate, compassionate person I know. He serves others naturally & there isn’t a selfish bone in him. He’s also not a worried, nervous or anxious person & I truly believe it was the was he was disciplined & loved. Love DOES conquer ALL & it overcomes. Telling Grace in a soft tone that she was punished because she did this particular thing, allows us tender moments to hug her & tell her we love her & God loves her & because of that love, we have to honor one another with respect & care. It’s amazing how a 4 yr old can relate to a calm spirit instead of an angry one. Our souls crave what we were created for & we were not created for anything that opposes the fruit of the spirit. (Gal. 5:22,23)
- tv & electronics cut down to almost nothing each day- I mean this is self explanatory. When an entire household is plugged into any thing besides one another, your kids are left to occupy themselves. I often thought because she could read at 3, spent hrs imaginary playing, because we were busy doing things & listened to music etc each day, that we were in a safe zone. Until I examined there were about 3 hrs or so of her day that she was on the Kindle or watching selective DVDs. Because they were educational, they were ok. NO. NO. NO. For every minute your child is plugged into electronics you’ve missed moments to plug into them. I realize we all need to gather & regroup & yes electronics are helpful, but when we are casting idols & electronic addictions in our children, we cannot be surprised when they turn into teens who have no interest in communication with their parents because their heads are buried into the things that have been bought & allowed. Or they can’t sit still in school because they have no attention spans to human interacting. The only way to break future issues is not to start them.
- apologies expected- we are a big apology family. When one of us loses our selves to the “dark side” we are big to apologize once we put ourselves back together again & it’s no different for our little one. The only way to create humility in your child is by example & by expectations. I have apologized to both my kids numerous times. I am not above that. I can lower myself to admit that I am wrong. I never excuse my behavior with the fact that it’s ok to act like a creature, because I am the mom. That’s weak & it’s not right. The worst kind of apology is the one with an excuse attached to it. If you’re wrong then admit being wrong & allow room for the other person to admit that. We make sure she understands why she is apologizing & that we never tell her she is bad or ugly or any other degrading words. We instead encourage her not to make bad or wrong choices & tell her that she is NOT her choices but her choices will overcome her if we don’t teach her the right paths to take.
When I said earlier that raising my children by God’s standards was most important, I meant that. For every child with special circumstances there is always a group of people who think they know best what do for your kids. They know best what you should do inside your own home & lives. Grown people who waste their lives creating pain for others. Strangers or maybe even people you love. There seems to be no difference these days, they all wear the same masks. For all of you that are hurting, please stand in strength against the opinions. God knows how these stories are written for our kids, especially when we’ve surrendered them into His care. He is writing their books, not people. People only have the power when you hand them the pen. Never be defeated by their words, but encouraged by THE WORD & the promises He gives you.
Children like my daughter can either be defined by the labels or embraced by grace, mercy & strength. There will come a day when she will be a young woman. All of these day to day encounters will pass. She will have a chance to take this strength to the world. She will take that tender place in her that feels others emotions & words so deeply, & turn that into justice/compassion/being a voice for the voiceless. God already has & HE already is using this journey for His kingdom. I KNOW this. I promise you this. I assure you of this. I feel grateful in some bizarre way, this is the situation we were given. With all it’s pain & growth & hardship; rather than something we would’ve otherwise taken for granted had we just experienced a “normal” journey. I pray that one day chatter & bullying & whispers re: innocent kids will stop & there will be more community that embrace one another. I am thankful for that small handful of encouragers & time givers in our lives. And I am thankful that through God & with God ALL things are possible. No weapon formed against my family will ever be able to prosper….ever, God says so & He means it!
Psalm 71:5-8 (NLT)
O Lord, you alone are my hope.
I’ve trusted you, O Lord, from childhood.
Yes, you have been with me from birth;
from my mother’s womb you have cared for me.
No wonder I am always praising you!
My life is an example to many,
because you have been my strength and protection.
That is why I can never stop praising you;
I declare your glory all day long.