The sleep deprived ramblings of one full-time mom. I pretty much write to stay marginally sane and to make other moms feel better about themselves. You're welcome.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Parenting: The Toughest Job You'll Ever Love

So I haven't blogged in awhile. And by "awhile" I mean over a year. Life got in the way, I went back to work full-time, etc.
But I'm back. *cue the confetti and champagne*
I just need to talk and I hope that you'll listen. If not, you're probably in the wrong place, no?
About a year ago my son was diagnosed with ADHD. Not "shows some tendencies" but "HELLO? ARE YOU STUPID? THIS KID OBVIOUSLY HAS THIS SHIT!!"
I think my husband and I had both known deep down, but we were firmly planted in the "ADHD Is Overdiagnosed and Overmedicated and We Can Handle This Because Otherwise We're Shitty Parents" camp. We had our names on a plaque outside the main cabin. And we handled it. Until we couldn't.
Years of phone calls from teachers, visits with the school counselor, parent-teacher conferences that led to binge drinking...they all came to a head in Miles' third-grade year when he ended up in a classroom with a group of "challenging" boys and a teacher who had zero tolerance for, well, anything. Call it the perfect storm, call it the year from Hell. Whatever moniker you give it, we were in over our heads.
So we called in the Big Guns. We visited the pediatrician. We took Miles to a therapist. We got on a first-name basis with the school counselor. And we finally agreed to test him for ADHD. We were told that there were often "gray areas" that suggested a diagnosis but didn't prove anything conclusively.
Then we got the results. And they were BLACK AND WHITE. This kiddo had it, the textbook version that got pharmaceutical companies salivating. And he needed meds.
We balked.
We talked.
We researched.
We prayed.
And we ultimately listened to the experts and agreed to try medication for Miles. Thank. God.
Within weeks he was a different kid. Not different in an altered-personality kind of way, control. The impulsivity was down, the hyperactivity was diminished. He was master of his own behavior for the first time.
And we wondered why hadn't done this sooner.
Miles' fourth-grade year was 180 degrees different from his third-grade year. Granted, he ended up (with more than a little help from the school counselor) in a class with some positive role-models and a teacher who gave him a gift he'll cherish forever: a love of learning. But there was something different in him, something that made him receptive to these positive influences.
For the first time in years, Brian and I breathed a sigh of relief. Parent-teachers conferences were a time to celebrate, not a time to dread. Grade cards were something to be framed; in fact, his final semester he got straight A+'s, something I didn't even know was possible!
And perhaps we got lulled into a false sense of security...more to come, but this mama needs sleep. Thanks for reading, listening, giving me a chance to vent.
This parenting thing is harder than it looks.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tantrums: Not Just For Toddlers Anymore

We expect toddlers to have tantrums. We may not enjoy them, but we realize they're age appropriate and we (usually) have the tools to deal with them and move on. But what about when an eight year old throws one?

I don't mean a fit in the grocery store or a falling-on-the-ground kind of display. I do mean a full-body, out of control, screaming tantrum. The parenting books don't cover that one. And our instant response is to think, "What the hell? He/she is way too old to be throwing a tantrum!"

And yet... Have we as adults been known to lose it now and then? Are we always calm, cool and collected simply because we've blown out a certain number of candles on our birthday cake?

Case in point. I recall a family trip to Colorado when my son was two. My husband and I were in one vehicle with Miles while my parents were in another car traveling with my (also two year old) niece. For the lucky few out there who haven't been on a road trip with a small child (or two, or three...), let me just say that the phrase "hell on wheels" takes on a whole new meaning.

We drove across the entire state of Kansas (an incredibly scenic trip filled and shit) and made our way to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The trip took about 13 hours, the equivalent of approximately 47 hours when traveling with a two year old. (It's like dog years.)

We arrived, exhausted and cranky and ready for a nap. The toddlers were also grumpy. My dad decided that he and my husband needed to run grab fishing supplies while my mom and I hung with the two overtired children. Someone had to buy food and supplies for the condo so I volunteered and took my son with me. Big mistake. Big.

Somewhere between the frozen food aisle and the bakery, I lost it. As in, shoved the cart away from me, yelled at Miles, burst into tears LOST IT. There were strangers staring, people pointing, and probably several calls being made to social services.

It was not my proudest moment. And I was 28 at the time.

Then there's a dear friend of mine, an amazing mom and an incredibly successful business woman who normally exudes poise. But one day she reached the end of her mommy rope after breaking up one too many sibling brawls, cleaning up one too many spills, dealing with one too many sassy kiddos. She ended up throwing the mother of all fits in front of her husband and children, jumping up and down and crying, LOSING IT.

Not the high point of her existence. And she was 36 at the time.

So perhaps I need to put things in perspective when my third grader fails to control his emotions. Perhaps I need to remind myself that even "grown ups" lose it now and again. If I can't always keep it together at 34, should I be so harsh with him when he can't at 8?

Maybe next time I'll take a deep breath, give him a bear hug and tell him I know how it feels.

Or maybe I'll just join him.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Naptime or How To Get Your Toddler To Sleep In 47 Easy Steps

My son was a napping champ. The kid went down easy and stayed that way until we woke him. He stopped cold turkey when he turned three, but I figured he'd slept enough in those three years to last him awhile.

My daughter is an entirely different story.

She has never been a marathon napper. When she was an infant I was lucky if she slept thirty consecutive minutes. Fits and spurts would best describe her napping style.

That changed when she became a toddler (I'm guessing she wore herself out climbing on every available surface, emptying out every cabinet and drawer in the house, and running away from me in public places) and she began sleeping longer stretches during the day.

That's still the case, but unfortunately she's now realized that while she's sleeping SHE COULD BE MISSING THE MOST FUN EVER HAD IN THE HISTORY OF FUN and fights naps like her life depends on it. We're talking epic battle of wills here.

Today, for example, went something like this:

Me: "Corinne, let's read some books and relax."
Corinne: "NO NAP!!!!" Runs screaming.
Me: "How about some milk?"
C: Stops in her tracks. "Milk? Okay." Drinks it. Throws cup and yells, "NO NAP!" Hides behind chair.
Me: "Honey, it's time to rest. Let's cuddle and we can read some books."
C: Looks at me suspiciously but sits through two books.
Me: "Okay, sleepyhead, time for nap."
C: "One more book, mama. Just ONE!"
Me: "Sorry, sis, it's time to rest." Carry her to her room kicking and screaming.
C: "Rock, mama! Tiny bit!"
Me: "Okay, we'll rock for one minute and then naptime."
C: Proceeds to close eyes, fake snore, open eyes and throw hands in the air. "I awake! Naptime allllll done."
Me: "Nice try. Lay your head down and go night-night."
C: Giggles and starts singing ABCs. "I go find Miles. I all done wif nap." Tries to crawl off my lap.
Me: Gritting teeth and counting to ten silently, "Corinne. It's time for nap. If you don't take a nap we can't go to bubba's school carnival tonight!"
C: "I DO go bubba's carnival! I go NOW!!"
Me: "First you need a NAP. Now lay your head down and RELAX!!"
C: "I go in my crib. You pat me."
Me: "Fine." Put her in crib, try to pat her as she wiggles and finally stands up. Give up.
"Goodnight, Corinne." Leave room.
C: "STOP, MAMA! Come BA-ACK!!"
Me: Wait five minutes for her to wear herself out a bit. Return to find her with one leg hiked over the crib rail, poised to climb out.
C: "Look, Mama. I stuck. You rock me?"
Me: "Fine, for one minute."
C: Cuddles up in my lap. Starts singing again and shaking her head back and forth to her own music.
Me: Close eyes. Realize the mama is falling asleep and the toddler is still wide awake. Open eyes.
C: Suddenly stops singing and nuzzles my neck, snuggling into my body like a baby monkey. Whispers, "Happy dreams, Mama."
Me: "Happy dreams, baby girl." Watch as her breathing slows and her features soften. Feel her warm, soft skin on mine. Tuck this moment away for safekeeping.

In the moments of willfulness, the outbursts of independence, the testing of limits, I begin to see the person my daughter will become. Every moment she's learning, growing, changing. And yes, pushing boundaries. But it's all because she's figuring out who she is and because she doesn't want to miss a single second of this amazing journey we call life.

And really, can you blame her?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Weaning the Mama

Confession is good for the soul, right? We're all friends here, no? Okay, okay, alright...I'll spill my deep, dark secret if you promise not to judge. Too harshly, anyway.

I still give my two year old a bottle.

There. I typed it and my laptop didn't burst into flames. Now stop pointing and laughing.

I should have prefaced this by telling you that I have a degree in child development. I also taught preschool, spent several years as a parent educator with the Parents As Teachers program, and was the director of a child care center/preschool. So I really should know better.

Neither of my kiddos took a pacifier. Neither of them had a lovey, a blanky or a thumb-sucking habit. My oldest stopped taking a bottle at a year, just like he was "supposed" to.

But this one, my baby...she's it. We're done. One boy, one girl, quit while we're ahead, the whole shebang. And I realize there's a certain level of pathology involved here, some deep-seated desire on my part to keep her a "baby" for as long as possible.

I honestly think my husband worries sometimes that I'll end up on the news, the mother who kept her fifteen year old in diapers and a crib, rocking her to sleep and breastfeeding her. (Hello. I hate changing diapers, so that's obviously not going to happen. *sticks tongue out at Brian.*)

I realize she's not a baby anymore. I know she's fully capable of giving up the bottle. She's developing into a little girl, one with opinions and personality and spunk. And one day soon, I will throw the bottles away.

But for now, twice a day (or more often sometimes, I'll admit), we settle onto the couch together and she nestles into the crook of my arm. She looks into my eyes and strokes my hair. We press pause on the world, the one in which she's growing so quickly it makes my head spin, the one in which eventually she'll slam the door in my face and tell me she hates me. We take a time out, together. For that moment, it's just the two of us, holding each other tight. And you know what? I'm okay with that.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

So Close

"I only turned my back for a minute..." How many tragedies involving children begin with those eight words? We all know in the darkest corner of our being that life can change in the time it takes a ball to roll into the street, a truck to run a red light, a stairway door to be left open. I knew it too, but yesterday happened anyway.

Let me preface this by saying that my daughter is fine. She is safe, she is home, she is ornery as ever. And I'm pretty certain I owe a major debt to a guardian angel who was working overtime to make that happen.

Yesterday evening my son, Miles, left our house with a friend to play at the friend's house for a bit. A moment later the friend's mom called and I was speaking with her for a matter of minutes when I realized Corinne was no longer in the room with me. Assuming she'd gone into her room to play, I finished the phone call and went in to check on her. She wasn't there.

No big deal, I thought, and I began calling her name. Then I realized the gate to the top of the stairs was open. Again, no big deal. She's adept at getting up and down the stairs and there's nothing she can hurt herself on in the basement. I wasn't worried.

Until I reached the bottom of the stairs and saw the sliding glass door open a foot.

I literally couldn't catch my breath. My two year old was alone, wandering outside in a neighborhood that borders a heavily wooded area with a creek, streets that see a fair amount of traffic, and coyotes. I ran outside, sliding in melting snow in my bare feet. I called her name and searched in vain for her, but saw no sign. Racing around to the front of the house, I tried to keep panic at bay, but visions of her toddling into the street filled my head. I searched all around the house, even running back inside in the hopes she'd come home on her own, but to no avail.

I'm sure all this took place within a five minute time span, but it honestly felt like hours. Every awful scenario scrolled through my mind until suddenly I spotted her. She stood four feet from a drainage ditch that backs up to a neighbor's yard. Due to heavy snowfall last weekend followed by warmer temps, the ditch was now a rushing creek, and she was pointing to it with obvious interest, saying, "Water!"

I cleared the space between us in a heartbeat and once I had her in my arms I literally couldn't stand. My legs just gave out and I held her, sobbing and thanking God. She kept wiping my tears away and saying, "I okay, mama. No cry. I go find Miles."

There but for the grace of God...I have never felt such cold fear followed by such immense relief. Sleep eluded me last night as I re-played the situation and fought to erase visions of what might have been. I am incredibly thankful that our story had a happy ending and you can bet the sliding doors in our house will be barred and locked from now on.

Whoever said that to have a child was to allow your heart to grow arms and legs and walk around outside your body was absolutely right. Today will be spent keeping her in my sight, holding her tight, and giving thanks. Amen.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Post-Traumatic Sleepover Disorder

My eight year old son went to an overnight birthday party last night. Clearly the mom is either completely unhinged or has an impressive stockpile of Xanex in her medicine cabinet, because there were SIX boys staying over, all of whom could be labeled "high energy" by their parents or "spastic little hellions" by anyone not related to them. Did I mention this is a single mom? Obviously the odds of her ending up bound and gagged in a closet were high.

She was taking them all to Kansas City to a restaurant called T-Rex which is basically a dinosaur-themed establishment whose sole purpose is to drain parents' savings accounts. Undoubtedly the boys were on their best behavior and were a shining example of decorum and manners. Miles called to let us know they made it safely back to his friend's house, so either the mom was still in the picture or they threw her in the trunk and took turns driving.

Then at 11:30 my husband received a text that read "pick me up. will is kicking me." Brian called Miles' cell and apparently in the two minute lag between the text and the phone call, the boys had made up and were once again BFFs. Unfortunately, this told us that not only were they still awake at almost midnight, they were still energetic enough to be violent.

I know this is all part of The Slumber Party Code which states that anyone attending must stay awake until he or she is so tired they feel like vomiting (I remember well staying up all night watching Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo and listening to Tiffany), but I also know my son and know that today will NOT be pretty. He can be a challenge on twelve hours of sleep, so when he's sleep-deprived it's rather like having a tiger in the house who has been caged and starved for weeks while being poked regularly with sharp sticks.

On that note, it's time to pick him up. I think I'll ask the mom if she has any extra Xanex...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Hell is a Field Trip

So today I played Good Mommy and chaperoned my son's 3rd grade field trip. We, along with all the children grades 3-6 in our local school district (from 15 different grade schools), went to a college womens' basketball game. It all seemed so simple: load the kids onto buses, arrive at the game where boxed lunches would be waiting, watch the game and head back. *insert maniacal laughter from field trip gods*
I had five children in my group, including my son. I guess in hindsight, four out of five isn't bad...I just happened to sit down on the bus next to a little boy who immediately informed me he was a werewolf and wouldn't stop singing "Billie Jean". Super.
We were supposed to have lunches waiting for us when we arrived, but apparently the deli who was providing the food (and sponsoring the entire event!) HAD THE WRONG DAY. Ummm...would that not qualify as something you'd double check? Just sayin'. I'm guessing someone's ass was in a sling for that one.
Anyhoo, the result was that we didn't eat until the game was almost over at 1:45. Now I don't know if you've ever been surrounded by thousands of hungry grade schoolers, but let's just say that I'd rather take my chances in a tank of hungry sharks.
The game itself was a nail-biter but unfortunately our team lost in the final seconds. At that point the kids were becoming restless and the grown-ups were feeling their age after spending two hours on the hard bleachers. Ideally, this would've been our cue to leave. But as I said, this field trip was anything but ideal.
The Powers-That-Be decided to release schools individually so as to avoid chaos and confusion with busing. In theory, this is a swell idea, but when you're from the very last school to be called, it begins to seem downright evil. When all was said and done we sat for an additional hour and a half AFTER the game ended. Did I mention the thousands of restless grade schoolers??
We finally made it back and incredibly did so without losing a single child. For this you would think there would be some sort of prize, preferably involving vodka. But alas, we were set free with only a "Thanks for helping out!"
It's official. I'm running for the school board and my platform will consist entirely of eliminating field trips longer than thirty minutes in length and providing cocktails for all chaperones. Pretty sure I'll be voted president.