Tag Archives: parenting

a little bird made me

July 25, 2015

If you want to get me cranky, protective and outraged, give one of these statements a try when you are next talking to me.  Even better, use most of them in one conversation, and do it in front of my son.  That is a sure fired way to ensure that I will discount your helpful suggestions on how I can better do my job as his mother.  (It will also 100% guarantee that I will write a blog post about it.)

1. He just needs to fit in with everyone else

You think?  Wouldn’t it be great if just telling him to fit in with everyone else was the answer.  Wouldn’t it be great if we were all cut from the same mould and could fit into the designated slot in life that you think we should fit into.  Oh, and while we are at it, thank you for telling me, after knowing him for a very short time, how you know what he ‘needs’.  Because up until now, while I have been dealing with schools, psychiatrists, paediatricians, psychologists, police, social workers and the government, it never occurred to me that I could solve all of this by telling him to fit in.

Fitting in.  What does that look like?  Is that where he doesn’t say anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, doesn’t question whether something is fair or not, doesn’t overreact when he feels he is treated unfairly, and doesn’t interrupt your vision of what your life should look like?  Wouldn’t it be nice if he did fit in.  Did it ever occur to you that perhaps all he wants himself is to fit in.  To not be the kid who can’t cope with too much noise, or with not being perfect at something the first time he tries, who can’t understand why other kids don’t get his sense of humour, who worries that other kids don’t like him because he gets angry when he is overwhelmed.  To be ‘normal’.why fit in when you were born to stand

Guess what?  I don’t want him to fit in.  If he fitted in, in the way that you want him to, he would lose himself, and all the good things that go with being him.  His awesome sense of the ridiculous, his ability to give hugs just at the right time, his sharp mind and amazing strategies, and the endless possibilities that are open before him because he has to work so much harder than everyone else to do the same things that other kids in his class do with ease.

I'm beautiful in my way'Cause God makes (2)

2. He is just doing this to get attention

Of course he is!  What kid climbs an electricity pole in the middle of winter and declares that he won’t come down, in order not to get attention?  What kid rings his mother who is many hours drive away and threatens to kill himself, in order not to get attention?

The question is not whether he wants attention, it is WHY he wants attention.  What overloading of his senses, his ability to cope, his sense of fairness has happened that is causing him to act in such an extreme way?  And what can we do to help him to see that he is loved, supported, and cherished, so that he doesn’t need to behave in this way in order to get our attention.

3. He needs to understand how this makes (insert name of choice) feel

Ouch.  There it is again.  What he ‘needs’ to do.  If only he can rewire his brain circuits so that he understands other people’s emotions clearly, and take them into account when those people are contributing to his need to seek attention, then everything will be okay.  You will love him if he understands how his behaviour is affecting you.

Maybe, just maybe, you might like to think about how an 8 year old kid sees the world.  Forget whether he has special needs or not – most 8 year old kids are still fairly egocentric in their actions.  Telling him to take your feelings into account and to stop this behaviour is not, unfortunately, a magic cure-all.  If it was then I would be rich, having saved many thousands of dollars on specialists because I could have taken your advice for free.

4. He needs to understand the consequence of his actions

Uh-huh.  Again, what he ‘needs’ to do.  Because if he can just think about what his behaviour is doing, then he will stop it, straight away.  Can I remind you again, using small words, that this boy is 8 years old.  He doesn’t like hurting people.  He doesn’t like feeling hurt.  He doesn’t like constantly stumbling through life, letting people down, making mistakes.  If he could, at this age, think of the consequences of his actions and therefore change his actions, don’t you think he would?

5.  He is going to have a miserable life if he doesn’t start to improve his behaviour

Grrrrrrr…….how dare you presume to tell my son what his life is going to be like. And even worse, how dare you tell him that his life will be bad.  He believes the things that adults tell him.  Ever heard of a self-fulfilling prophecy?  And quite apart from my emotive response to how an adult can be so cruel to a child, how on earth do you know what his life is going to be like?  Have you seen the amazing steps he has taken over the last couple of years?  Do you know just how bad things were 3 years ago?  Do you know how much work and support I put into ensuring that in fact he has a wonderful future ahead of him, and how much he looks to the positive future now? And finally, do you honestly think that this is his choice?!  What on earth is he hoping to gain by ‘choosing’ to behave in this way, particularly when not behaving in this way has so many more rewards!

 

Lead by exampleAnd finally – don’t ever, whether a child has special needs or not, talk about that child in such a way in front of him or her.  It is cruel.  And slightly ironic.  While you are so busy telling me that he needs to control himself, behave better, understand the consequences of his actions, you are doing the exact opposite.  Perhaps leading by example would be a better way to help him.

Vent over!  Regular programming will resume shortly!

A small post-script.  If you think you recognise yourself in this post, you probably do.  (And we may never have met.)

 

Un-jumbling my thoughts

This morning my car and camper trailer are being inspected so that I can transfer their registration to the State we moved to earlier this year. This means I am sitting in a very cold waiting room in a mechanics yard for an hour. After the chaos of getting all three children out the door this morning I am enjoying the peace (although not the cold so much!)

Peace means time to sit and reflect, and organise my thoughts. (If only I had bought a thermos of tea life would be perfect!). My thoughts are a bit jumbled and if course I need to work out why! I rarely air my dirty laundry on this blog, but today those stinky jeans and smelly tops might get a bit of airing as I share some of my thoughts on parenting and divorce.

I have had some challenging interactions with my ex-husband and his current girlfriend over the last couple of days and I think that is the cause of the ‘jumbling’. I have realised that I resent having to form a new relationship with her because he has started a new relationship. I didn’t choose to have her in my life, but because of his choices, I have to start the whole dance of explaining the background of why my children behave the way they do, interact (or don’t) with their father the way they do, are triggered by certain behaviours (no matter how illogical they are), and why even though he may be an awesome father in her eyes, there are aspects of our children’s care where we have very different views. It is one of those side effects of divorce that you don’t factor in (if you factor anything in.)  Whether she is a lovely woman or not, having to tiptoe through the awkwardness of not criticising this man she is ‘very serious about’ and not screaming  ‘open your eyes woman – do you honestly think it was all my fault, and all the fault of his next partner’ down the phone takes it out of you!

And there is the ongoing conversation with him about why I am being so selfish as to not be working full time in a public service job. If only I would do that ‘everyone’s lives would be easier’. The repetition of the same conversation, with no new understanding or recogition on his part about my role in supporting our son, and his bizarre accusations that he would be happy to pay child support to my father, but not to me as he knows that I ‘spend it all on fabric’ (yes – truly – he said that) are exhausting.  While the advice to ‘just not engage with him’ is sage, there are occasions (like last night) where talking to him about what is happening for our kids is in the children’s best interests.  Until he asks when I am returning to work because he is sick of giving me money.  (Of course he isn’t giving me money – he is contributing to the support of our children who live with me the majority of the time.)

This all makes me look back and wonder how I ended up here. How did I fall in love and marry someone who has such different views on life from me?  How did I hide the truth from myself for so long?  Why do my children have to suffer because of decisions that are beyond their control?   And there you have it – a jumbled mind.  Sigh.  Life is complex.  And the grief for the loss of what could have been is deep.

As always I need to balance all of this out with the good things in life. On Mother’s Day my boy, who had a bit of a rough morning before he came home to me, curled up on my knee and fell asleep for over an hour.  Honestly, it was the best gift!  None of my kids have done this for more years than I can remember.  To just sit and hold my usually wriggly, jiggly son, breathe in his soft boy scent, feel his warm skin and his gentle heart beat, was a gift that I cannot measure.  My girls made me cups of tea, gave me big hugs and spent time talking to me. I am truly a lucky parent.  The simple things in life bring so much joy.enjoy the simplethingsinlife|a little bird made me

Now my car and trailer have the all clear, I am heading home for a warm cup of tea and to sit in front of the fire to defrost while I catch up on bookwork, and, although I have no answers to my rhetorical questions, my mind is less jumbled.  Thanks for listening to my brain dump.  I hope that your week is not full of jumbled thoughts, and that you have moments for quiet reflection on the good things in life.

 

Thoughts about Mental Health (now that’s ironic)

While at my cutting table, preparing some new stock (‘hooray’ I hear some say, ‘finally’ say others) I have been reflecting on two different conversations that I have had in the past week, and how I have responded, reacted and considered the issues raised.

The first was a conversation with a friend last week who was complaining about his ex-wife and in the midst of the conversation said ‘And you know she is still on antidepressants.’  This took me aback and I blurted out ‘But so am I.’   (He has known me for a long time and we have discussed my medication on several occasions.)  He responded “But you are pretty high functioning, and able to operate at a senior management level” as if this somehow meant that I didn’t need to be on anti-depressant medication.

My response was that people of all walks of life, with all sorts of ability take antidepressants.  This does not mean that they are not capable, not able to function, not ‘sane’ (which was the underlying message about his ex-wife of course).  It really got me thinking about how so much of society sees that medication for mental health is somehow not a good idea, or a sign of weakness, or a sign of an unstable character.

Talking openly about mental health isn't the easy choice, but it is the right one.

Talking openly about mental health isn’t the easy choice, but it is the right one.

Then yesterday I received a communication from my ex-husband who suggested that our son may have an auditory processing disorder, and that I should research this, as it can often be mistaken for ADHD (which our son is diagnosed with, along with other mental health issues.)  Now apart from the fact that I already have an independent psychological assessment report that states that our son has processing difficulties (that has been provided to his father) it made me realise that because our son’s condition is being treated so effectively with medication, (after years of trial and error with everything from naturopaths, chiropractors, diet, exercise, behavioural management strategies etc – so please don’t offer me new alternatives to medication) his father now thinks that he doesn’t have the very issue that he is being medicated for.

While my initial reaction might have been anger at yet another challenge to the professional advice that I have sought and questioned and administered over the last 4 years, it occurred to me a little later on that perhaps the two conversations had something in common.

Neither of these men would suggest that a person prescribed medication to address a heart condition should not take it.  Neither would they consider offering their own diagnosis on what the ‘actual’ problem was.  They wouldn’t suggest that this person wasn’t fit and proper to carry out their job based on their use of prescription medication.  But when it is a mental health issue, they were both happy to judge, to re-diagnose, to second guess and to ignore the effects of medication as treating a medical condition.

None of this is new I suppose.  It just saddens me that despite education, information, and open conversations, people still can’t see past their prejudice about mental health to look at the evidence sitting in front of them.   I don’t have any answers to how to solve this, but I am comfortable with my resolve to talk about my experiences with my own mental health and that of my children (where appropriate) to remind people that depression and anxiety can affect anyone from any walk of life, and is treatable.  Maybe it will help someone else to understand that it is simply another medical condition. Nothing more, nothing less.

And now I return to cutting out fabric.  Happy days!

Finding time

I have been reflecting over the last week on what it is that I am doing with my time!  When I worked full time I seemed to have more time to sew, to blog, etc. Now that I am self-employed I seem to be running in circles all the time.  I am not sitting idle, and am not spending hours surfing the internet, yet I seem to not get to the things that I want to do.  This was frustrating me for quite a while, until I realised that the things that I have added in to my days are the very reasons that I am no longer working full time.

Over the last few years I have had to shift my priorities.  I have had to change my parenting style. I have re-invented our day to day life.  (Not just once!).  The reason that I have less time available to sew, or blog, or return phone calls, or pay bills (oops!) is because I am more present in my children’s lives.  I am still not engaged at the level that I could be, and am certainly not a saint (heaven forbid) but I have come to realise that by spending more time putting the children first our life is better.  Now when my boy is starting to get angry and lash out I can normally pin point the cause within a few minutes.  I can usually remember the strategies that will help him to calm down without escalation.  (Usually.  Definitely not always.)   When my artist-in-residence is collapsing in a ball of spiky frustration I can see where it has come from and help her to unravel and calm down.  (Sometimes).  And when my eldest chick is having completely out of character episodes of appalling behaviour I have no idea.  Until I empty her rubbish bin and realise that she has been sneaking her little brother’s snacks – full of gluten – and her body is attacking itself.

Much easier to be kind to myself when I think about what we have dealt with each day and how we have resolved it!

I have had a couple of great moments this week that I wanted to share.  I was fortunate enough to be invited to see Mary Poppins, the musical, being produced by the Free Rain Theatre Company at the Canberra Theatre.  (One of the amazing up-sides of the Human Brochure experience has been invitations to so many wonderful events!)  I took the artist-in-residence and we absolutely loved it!  It was, to quote Mary herself, ‘practically perfect, in every way’. We even had a chance to have our photos taken with some of the cast afterwards!

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The artist-in-residence having a night at the theatre.

The artist-in-residence having a night at the theatre.

This weekend just past was also very special.  The Handmade Markets were on, in a new location here in Canberra.  I am still not at the point where I am ready to return to having my own stall, but I love my role in the background of the markets, which allows me to interact with all the market designers on an individual level.  The exposure to so many talented people is a true delight.  Even better, I was able to take the children with me and when we stopped to talk to different stallholders the children had the chance to interact with them too.  They got to taste beautifully handcrafted chocolate (thanks Cicada chocolate!), to receive hugs and rainbow roses from GG’s flowers (special hug thanks to Gayana), and the artist-in-residence was able to talk to different artists about their work and her own art.  Mick from Leafy Sea Dragon presented her with one of his cards depicting one of his own artworks as an encouragement to another artist.  She was thrilled!

The eldest chick and her two friends ran their own business throughout the markets, providing stall holder support.  They were exhausted but very happy and very proud at the end of the weekend.  This band of 12-year-old young women are learning about money management, customer service, hard work, planning, and innovation at a young age and I could not be prouder of them!!

I also managed to sneak myself a treat on Friday night.  I had an hour to fill between finishing helping with the market set up, and when I was to collect the children from their father’s house.  I thought about ringing friends etc but decided to take myself into town for a meal on my own.  We have an area here called ‘The Hamlet’ which is where the gourmet food vans park, and various funky shops are tucked away.  I went to the Mr Papa van – Peruvian Street Food.  Oh my goodness.

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The burger made with slow cooked pork belly, sweet potato, and a very tasty sauce and salsa combo is heavenly!   I then followed it up with a little trip to the Frugii Dessert Laboratory where the ice-cream alchemist creates beautiful ice-creams, and desserts!  (The owners are also delightful people!)

017b44bb4b29c63f9f742e0e02f00cabd99df22e73I had the choux pastry with hazelnut cream, and blood orange syrup.  And even better – I had time to sit and enjoy and just have time to myself.  Talk about bliss!

Baby set |a little bird made me

A custom order set for a baby overseas

After all this inspiration my plan was to sew, design, and create all week.  Hmmmm…… the best laid plans!  Between routine medical appointments, school meetings, housework, and general family commitments, I have managed only a very small amount of sewing.

Ipad case and accessories |a little bird made me

An ipad case, coin purse and key fob for a birthday girl in Melbourne.

The good news though is that I have created some new pattern templates, which is speeding up my process a lot.  (Instead of measuring and cutting each piece I am now using a template to cut each piece – such a simple thing but one I just hadn’t done!!)  I also finally made a key ring fob – something on my ‘to do’ list for a long time.  I like it!  Maybe I should make some more…..    where is that ‘to-do’ list again?

Our farm |a little bird made me

Wandering on the farm is a delightful pastime

Dam | a little bird made me

The dam is the source of much entertainment – and home to some venomous snakes!

Farm life |a little bird made me

I love the skies out here!

I did spend time with my boy down at our dam finding rocks, sticks and long grasses to try and create ‘survival tools’ like spears and knives.  We haven’t been particularly successful yet but we have had a lot of fun trying!

And I indulged in some fabric shopping – with no particular project in mind!  It is just so lush!  The new range from Skinny la Minx, via Hawthorne Threads.  Drool.

01336619eb5f8a927b88032198547f2c2f9f3620e1Now to decide what to do with it!  Choices, choices, choices!

I hope that you have been able to find time for yourself in your week too.

 

 

Why you should be kind to yourself

I am sure you have seen various versions of the quote that is variously attributed to Plato, Ian MacLaren and John Watson “Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”  I have been reminded many times recently of how true this is.  Life is complex.  What might be trivial for one person is the world for another. If you can treat every one you meet with respect and without judgement, their lives may be lightened and brightened without you even realising it.

a little bird made me

So why then is it so hard to be kind to ourselves?  As a mother I put my children first.  Their needs before mine.  I have written before about the ‘burnt chop syndrome‘ and how I needed to change my behaviour to stop always eating the burnt chop.  Looking back over the months since I wrote that post I can see some of the little ways that I have changed, in order to look after myself a bit more.  But I can also see that I still haven’t been kind to myself.

Other people praise me for something I have done as a parent, and I can immediately list, even if just mentally, all the things that I haven’t done so well.  I don’t celebrate myself very much, yet I celebrate each step that my children take.  I expect myself to fail at so many things, yet I expect my children to believe that they will succeed at everything if they try hard and practise enough.

Tonight my daughter was feeling miserable and sorry for herself, and I heard myself giving her advice that was good advice, and is advice that I apply in my daily life.  I realised that I need to be proud of my ability to see the silver lining in clouds, the positives in a bad day, and the achievements I have made as a result.  If I am not kind to myself, how can I expect my children to be kind to themselves?

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What do I think is the answer to ‘why we need to be kind to ourselves’?  I believe that if we don’t think we are worthy of kindness, who will?  Remember that you are also fighting a hard battle.  You have a right to kindness.  Look after yourself.  Be gentle with your soul.  Forgive yourself.  Learn from your mistakes instead of wallowing in them.  And celebrate the things that make you special.

As for me?  I have started a 12 week health and fitness program.  I am being kind to myself when I skip a day of exercise, or eat a few extra calories, because I am in this for the marathon, not the sprint!  (And I have lost several kilos in the couple of weeks since I started, and that needs to be celebrated !)

I hope that your week is going well, and that you are able to be kind to yourself.  Today!!

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made me

What no one ever tells you about parenting a special needs child

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made meIn the last couple of years I have had to come to terms with the diagnosis of my boy as having special needs.  I have been walking through the fog of discovery ever since, usually taking one step forward and two steps back.  I have been extremely fortunate that I have a wonderful family who provide great moral support even though none of them live within driving distance, a steadfast group of good friends, and that I have the skills to research and find the information I need.  I have also had to learn a new set of skills and shift my thinking dramatically about so many parts of my life, so I thought that if I shared a few of those discoveries here it might help someone else who ends up in the same boat.

1. You have to become your child’s advocate.   There is no one else in the world who knows your child as well as you, and who has more right than you to stand up for what is right for your child.  If you aren’t comfortable challenging the authority of teachers, principals, doctors, or your own family, it is time to learn. Challenging them doesn’t need to be aggressive, but it does need to involve questioning whether there are other options, whether factors that affect your child have been taken into account, and whether this is in the best interests of your child.

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made me

2. There are laws to protect your child from discrimination, but the only person who is going to remind anyone about them is you.  Become aware of your rights and your child’s rights. When the school says ‘oh he/she can’t join the class to do (such-and-such) because he/she will be (insert any myriad of reasons)’, don’t agree and apologise for the inconvenience that your child has caused.  Instead ask what reasonable steps they could take to include your child in the activity.  Often just by asking the question they will be reminded that they have a duty to try and include your child, and will take steps to do so.

3. You cannot do everything yourself.  No matter how independent, strong and resilient you think you are, when you have a special needs child you need to make sure that you ask for help when you need it, or accept an offer of help when it is made.  Your child needs to have other people in his/her life that they trust and are comfortable being with, and you need to have people that you can leave your child with, knowing that they will be cared for and looked after.

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made me

4. You will learn to appreciate little things that make life good.  I used to think in terms of a good week, or a good month. Now I celebrate a good hour, and sometimes even just a good decision about something small.  Being able to sit and drink a good cup of tea in one sitting is worthy of a celebration isn’t it?!

5. You will become very good at making apologies for not attending events.  I have lost count of the number of times I have had to give last minute apologies, not accept an invitation, or rearrange plans because I know that I need to stay home and not disrupt (further) our routine by going out.    I used to feel embarrassed or awkward about it.  Now I just say “I am very sorry but a family commitment has come up and I won’t be able to attend’, and no one ever complains to my face.  It is about establishing your priorities – what is more important – your children or your social obligations?

6. It is okay to trust your own judgement.  I recently took my children on a spur of the moment holiday to Hawaii.  (I know – crazy stuff!)  If I had thought about it for too long I probably would have listened to all the warnings about travelling with my son, and what could go wrong.  But instead I relied on my own judgement that I could manage the situation for him, and for his sisters, and although I began to question my own sanity on the overnight flight there (when no one slept and he was becoming agitated at the sound of a toddler crying) it turns out that I was right.  By taking everyone’s needs into account we had a lovely holiday that was much more stress free than life at home usually is!

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made me

7. You have to look after yourself.  This one is probably obvious to many of you, but it wasn’t to me, and I learned the hard way what happens if you don’t read the warning signs.  I had a breakdown/burn out at the end of last year that has forced me to learn what happens if you just keep going without caring for yourself.  Whether it is having time to read a book, catch up with friends, have a hair cut, go for a walk – something that soothes your soul, and re-energises you is essential if you are going to be a good parent.

8. Special needs kids fight with their siblings just like other kids.  My boy and one of his sisters argue with each other a lot.  It is loud, it involves lots of whining, and it drives me crazy.  But I have to remind myself, and everyone else, that this isn’t because of his condition – this is standard sibling stuff going on.  And in the same way, the two of them will play together for hours without a cross word and get angry with their older sister for interrupting the rhythm of their game.  Sometimes kids are just kids.

9. You will get to know all sorts of amazing new people.  I have become friends with other parents of children with special needs who I would not otherwise have met which is great for support, but in fact, because my son looks at the world in a different way, he talks to people I would never think to engage with. I have lost count of the number of times we are at a shop and all of a sudden the lady at the fruit section is chatting to us about her life, or at a camp-ground and we are invited to join a camp-fire because they have met my son, or at a park and the other parents know that I make and sell things, thanks to my greatest advocate.

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made me

10.  You will learn to laugh at yourself and with your child in a whole new way.  Okay, so maybe that is because if you don’t laugh you’ll cry some days, but laughter is good for us, and if you can remember to laugh at the ridiculous, everything feels so much better as a result.

If you have any points to add here, please feel free to do so by commenting!

What a week!

All that preparation to begin sewing when the chicks returned to school has delivered very little.    I did get a good start on a project that I have been commissioned to prepare for a magazine, but of course, all I can show you of that are the fabrics I am using!

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I have continued to enjoy cutting up old denim jeans and repurposing the fabric into other items – it is quite interesting identifying the useful pieces of fabric in a worn out pair of trousers!  I also found a great spot to donate my de-cluttered clothes, including those fabulous pink sparkly shoes – a charity shop that targets the trendy vintage and hipster market, and uses the proceeds to support a national help line.

Why did I not get more done?  Ah yes.  Life.  The reality of  life as a parent of a child with a disability was thrust upon me.  This week has seen some big changes in the nest as a result.  The boy has changed schools, from a private Catholic school to attend our local public school.  The middle chick was so impressed with the facilities at the new school and so unimpressed with her new teacher that she started a campaign to move schools too.  Torn between teaching her about facing up to adversity and finding strategies to address it, and the knowledge that the public school offers a program that could have been purpose designed for her, we gave in and agreed to move her, and she started today with much joy.  In the space of a week we have gone from three children in one school, to only having the eldest chick there.  Lots of change.  I think that the outcome will be a good one overall, and the boy has certainly had a better experience in the last two days than he had in his first two days at his original school earlier in the week (or in fact the whole last year term at the original school).  And so we change, find even more new strategies, and keep moving forward.  Different schools, different teachers, different resources, different approaches.  Hopefully this one will be a better fit.

I was meant to post my list of DIY ideas for tween gifts tonight.  I promised it in my newsletter.  And while I am half way through preparing the list I am exhausted and have decided to be upfront about the fact that it is not ready, apologise and publish it tomorrow after I have had a decent night’s sleep.  I am sure that you will all understand!

I hope that your week has not been full of life changing events and that your weekend holds delightful things in store for you.