As a camp counselor and lifeguard, I was in the best shape of my life. Lithe and brown and sporting long, dark braids, I lived up to the nickname from campers: Aunt Pocahontas.
This was twenty years ago, mind you.
(Sometimes, this thought freaks me out. Twenty years is a lifetime, yet it seems like yesterday. Will the next twenty years go so fast?
Also, side note, twenty years ago, mothers and fathers trusted me to keep their tweens alive for an entire week. What were they thinking?)
Anyway, in spite of walking, running and swimming, I thought my derriere was still way too big.
Words from a much older lifeguard impacted my self-image more than I’m sure he ever knew. Looking back, I’m not really sure why I didn’t tell him to shut up, or even mention it to my supervisor. I guess I knew he meant no harm (and I still believe this).
Unfortunately, though, his words shaped my self image. Every time I ran by, he raised a hand in greeting.
Hey! Bubble Butt!
He had a mildly insulting nickname for everyone, much like Gilbert calling Anne “Carrots.”
And here I am, twenty years later, still remembering.
So I must remember, in the moments when my children are annoying, or aggravating, or do something downright stupid:
We all think words that cross the line. Right?
I’ll admit it.
I think words I should not say every time the boy decides he’d like to experiment (for instance, when I discovered his attempt to determine whether he could emulsify a huge, open container of oil and vinegar…in his BEDROOM).
Or when the girl pretends a comprehension disability much greater than the difficulty she actually has.
HOW could you be so STUPID?
DON’T be such an IDIOT.
These are the things I must not say. Because honestly, they’re not BEING these things.
I mean, yeah, if you want to get down to brass tacks, I do think it’s a dunce move for a kid with known motor-skills-issues to transport a liter and a half of stinky, sticky fluid into his room. But he’s not BEing stupid; his actions are simply unwise.
And I still have to watch my tongue.
Today, I listened to a new acquaintance talk about her mother, who evidently has nothing nice to say about her choices, her lifestyle. her clothes, her hair and her choice in men.
This acquaintance is in the midst of surgeries (two shoulder surgeries down, one neck surgery to go). She is effectively disabled for weeks after surgery and her insurance won’t pay for rehabilitative care. Instead of staying with her lone local family member, she talked the doctor into putting her into a rehab facility that serves homeless persons.
Because her mother’s words hurt so deeply, she would rather stay in that facility than with the one person in the world who should love her unconditionally.
One other thing: this woman is in her fifties, and her mother’s words still have this power.
I pray that I will never be that mother.
My frustration has, more than once, allowed unkind words to slip out.
Today, I renewed my vow to watch my tongue. To think better, kinder thoughts. To focus on the behavior rather than the personality.
Because what I say to them will exist forever in their minds.
In twenty years.
In forty years.
After I am dead, my words will live.
When they remember my words, I want them to feel encouraged. Uplifted. Inspired. Motivated to do better—without feeling belittled. Loved.
Twenty years from now, I don’t want them to look in the mirror and glare at what follows them. If they hear my voice in their heads, these are the messages I hope they hear:
I love you more than the sun and the moon.
I will love you—no matter WHAT you do.
I will never stop believing in you.
I hope Hubby hears those things, too.
I read these wise words about the power of what we say (and thought you might like to see them, too):
Ephesians 4:29 ESV
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Proverbs 12:18 ESV
There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Matthew 15:18 ESV
But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.
Matthew 12:36 ESV
I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,
Proverbs 16:24 ESV
Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
James 1:26 ESV
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.
“My daughter has gone from no dreams to big dreams.” That’s my favorite. (Looking for a great new blog to read? Check out this post from AdoptiveBlackMom.com!)
After spending all of 2016 trying to orchestrate Hope’s success, I slid into December exhausted and frustrated. My daughter was frustrated and exhausted. Our relationship felt no better than it did at the beginning of the year.
I feel like I threw out everything I knew and just said, “Eff it. How bad would it be if I just stopped?”
Here we are nearly 8 weeks later and a calm has fallen over our home. With the exception of the ongoing chatter about all things Kpop, Hope and I seem content, actually happy.
She’s a delight to be around
most of the time.
I’m not angry
much, so I’m guessing I’m easier to be around too.
We spend time together in the evenings and chat about all kinds of things including politics.
We started planning a grand trip abroad for spring break, and…
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Luckily, today was an in-home-counselor day for the girl, so she had several hours to explore the situation with her therapist. After dinner, the counselor suggested my daughter could share with me what they’d discussed.
She was obviously uncomfortable, so we pulled out a game of Uno and talked while we played. I always try to remain level-headed and objective when she talks about how she sees the world, but sometimes…
My daughter shared that she is jealous of her brother because he gets all the attention and she feels she is entitled to more of the attention because she is older. As the therapist helped her share her feelings (she provokes her brother to get him in trouble because she is jealous of him), it became evident that she’d colored a picture of herself as neglected and ignored, while Hubby and I showered our son with attention.
Photo by Adam Koford
First off, he’s been in hot water for the last several weeks due to trouble at school and ongoing infractions at home. The attention he’s getting is the kind I’m sure he’d prefer to skip.
Second, while he’s had early bedtime almost every night in the last three weeks, she’s had Hubby and me to herself for almost an hour every night. We ask her what she’d like to do and the answer is always, “Watch Girl Meets World.”
I shared this information with the counselor, then advised my girl, “if you’d prefer to play a game or just talk after your brother goes to bed, Daddy and I would be happy to do that. We only watch TV because that’s what you’ve been saying you’d like to do.”
She backpedaled quickly. “No, no, it’s okay, I like Girl Meets World. We can still watch.”
“So…” I say, “in what way do we give your brother more attention?”
She couldn’t answer.
“I think you’re right; he’s definitely had a lot of attention the last few weeks; we can start giving you the same attention. We’ll put you to bed early and make sure to get on your case as soon as you step a hair out of line.” (We’ve been on that boy like grease on a teen’s face: everywhere and all day long.)
And then I went for it.
“Let me tell you about one of my earliest memories. I was probably about two and a half, and my parents had some friends over for dinner. They put me to bed and went to the living room to play games or talk or whatever it was that adults did before HD cable.
I woke up maybe an hour later to hear them all laughing. I hopped out of bed and wandered into the living room to see my mother bouncing
my baby brother
on her knee. He was grinning and drooling all over his blue onesie. I couldn’t believe it. Obviously I was older. Why should HE get to stay up later than I did? I didn’t even drool.
Of course, I didn’t realize that babies need to eat every few hours. He probably woke up and needed a diaper change or something, then feeding, then had to be jostled back to sleep.
they had the nerve to put me
BACK TO BED.
I stayed mad at that drooly little bugger for years. He ruined my fun, got all the attention and nobody put him back to bed early.
All because I didn’t understand the way the world truly works…or that babies can’t wait.
So, here’s what I think. You’re mad at your brother for showing up and ruining your fun.”
Her face stretched in shock. “How could you KNOW that?!?”
“Because I was a 12 year old girl with a younger brother. And also, when you arrived, you told me some stories about things you enjoyed with your birth family.”
She wrinkled her nose. “I don’t remember.”
“Well, you might not have the memory anymore, but you certainly had it when you got here.”
“Sometimes little kids just make stuff up and think they remembered it,” she shrugged.
“Based on the amount of anger you had about it, I don’t think so. I think you are really angry at him and you take it out on him, but it’s not even real. He doesn’t ruin your fun and he doesn’t take your attention. You get just as much and maybe more attention. What’s making you so angry?”
She frowned. “My feelings.”
“Nope. Remember, Counselor Bob talked with you about how your thoughts create feelings and feelings create actions. You THINK you’re getting less than your brother. You THINK you deserve more because you’re the oldest. You THINK Daddy and I are being unfair. Are those thoughts true?”
Shrugging again, she said, “Maybe not.”
“I guarantee you, they’re not true thoughts. Another way to say that is
So what do you need to change so that your feelings will be different?”
I can tell she’s getting it. Reluctant, she sighs, “my…thoughts.”
We finish the game of UNO as she dissolves into hysterical giggles, throwing herself around and almost banging her face on the table’s edge several times. I admonish her to be careful, worried she might end up with a bloody nose. The therapist looks at me, eyes questioning.
“This is what we get when she has to discuss something uncomfortable.”
Or when her worldview lens gets cracked yet again.
One of these days, she’ll knock that spiderwebbed lens right out and see the world the way it really is.
I just know it.
This kid is obviously brilliant. Dyyyyyyyying of laughter. Shocked the boy hasn’t thought of this.
I love my kids. But there is no one in the world who will test my patience or make me question my sanity more than one of them. Well, maybe my husband, but I’ll save that for another post.
Over a year ago, my eldest took flight and moved out of the house to attend college 4 1/2 hours away. By way of attrition, my husband and I decided to play musical bedrooms with the two remaining children. Each child would get a larger room, and the move would open up the bedroom upstairs for a home office for my husband who was exclusively teleworking. Win-win, right? This was going to be no simple task, however; one does not simply switch rooms. There was new décor to plan and buy for, new paint for the walls, and then the actual move itself.
Over the course of the approximate six-month long project…
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When your mom borned you, she took one look and threw you in the trash.
The classmate who delivered this charming nugget to my son probably had no idea how close he was to the truth. No concept of how deep his words would wound.
Afterward, we had a long talk about how it’s okay to want to punch someone but it’s not okay to actually put hands on someone. I am proud that even in the face of such soul-searing spite, our boy did not retaliate.
I suggested that he find a constructive way to deal with the painful feelings. Punch a pillow. Draw a picture. Write your feelings.
Tonight, I take my own advice.
Our son’s teacher vacillates between understanding and intolerant.
She is personally offended by his need to draw while she talks and doesn’t understand his Aspie idiosyncrasies.
But after Dad died, she gave our boy a lot of grace as he worked through the grief in the way all the articles predicted: a nosedive in school behavior and performance.
My emotions conflict often when dealing with her.
Today, I received a text.
I saw your son violently kick a student from another class. Please encourage him to behave appropriately in school.
The text bothered me.
If he “violently” kicked another child, I should have been picking him up from the principal’s office, not finding out after the fact.
This was followed by,
He didn’t eat his lunch today.
During the test today, he took a red pen and drew on his arms.
This last one, I’d already noticed, a fabulous red dragon tattoo. Although I’ve asked him not to draw on himself, I’m not that concerned about impermanent ink decorations. If he sneaks off to get a real tattoo, well, that’s a problem. No tattoos until you’re 25, when your brain has matured fully. That’s the rule.
I responded, “Yes, I saw. Did he do anything right?”
She didn’t answer.
I added, “He mentioned that his friend showed him new shoes that change color and invited him to hit them with his foot. Was this the kicking incident?”
No response, then,
He asked permission to bring a cannonball and a bullet to school. He said you will help him bring the cannonball to school. Cannonballs and bullets are not allowed in school. Please discourage him from bringing these items to school.
Good grief. A family friend gave our little history buff several artifacts collected over the years. Our guy’s first response:
“We’re learning about this in history! I bet my teacher would love to see these!”
I told him that he couldn’t take them to school but that possibly I could get special permission to bring them in so the kids could see the display. Evidently he was too excited and brought it up to her.
This is the kid who smoked me in the “Jeopardy” category World Wars and corrected his teacher (accurately) when she taught about Pearl Harbor.
He’s really thrilled about history. Instead of encouraging that passion, she’s just annoyed.
My true difficulty with the situation is this:
I get it.
I understand fully that he requires ten times more direction than any other kid in class. He needs someone to help him see the connection between his actions and consequences (good or bad). He is frequently distracted by a buzzing light, a whispered word, a tapping foot or a bug doodling around the room. He doesn’t think through actions or words before he does or speaks.
I want to be on her side. I want to be a team.
Maybe the last two years (with fabulous teachers who recognized the diamond shine under the inches of behavioral coal dust) have spoiled me. We worked together to find solutions and they’ve offered advice for his current teacher. Those two years weren’t perfect and there’s no way to dream they were, no matter how flexible your imagination. But we worked together and tried each others’ ideas.
She discards ideas faster than I can suggest them.
Seriously, I just want us to work together to point this kid to success; the success I KNOW he can have. In a recent IEP meeting, his caseworker shook her head and said, “even with all his focusing struggles, he’s still keeping his grades up. I can’t believe it.”
I CAN believe it.
He’s brilliant. When he barely studies, he still passes (sometimes with 100s). With the right guidance and focus, he’ll be unstoppable.
Right now, though, she’s just telling him (and me) what he’s doing wrong. And that really gets me steamed. I have NO problem with consequences and the Assistant Principal can vouch that I lend full support to every intervention.
He responds to consistent recognition of what he’s doing right. If he knows he’ll be consistently rewarded for doing the right thing, he generally does the right thing. I say generally, because he’s far from perfect (aren’t we all) and it doesn’t always work, but 8 out of 10 times, it does.
She says, “it’s too hard” to catch him doing well. She thinks it’s ridiculous to give him a “good” point for eating lunch (which the psychologist suggested as at least one guaranteed good point for the day). She argued against most of the interventions that everyone else (school counselor, head psychologist, principal, case worker, mother) agreed upon. She has 20+ other kids and doesn’t have time to devote to my kid. Just “thank God” when he’s quiet and ignore him.
I get it.
But this constant “tattling” (because that’s what the texts above felt like) is just wearing me out. Tomorrow I’m taking the conversation to show the principal, then asking what can be done.
The last time I asked, every other class was maxed out and there’s no possibility of moving him to another class.
Maybe there’s no solution other than,
“Hang in there.”
We’re in school for about four and a half more months. Almost an eternity, yet I know the time will dissipate like clouds puffing past a skydiver.
Fifth grade is not the end of the world. No one wants to know, “How were your marks in elementary school?” No one asks, “Were you ever sent to the principal’s office before middle school?” Maybe we just need to make it through.
In the meantime, though, Hubby takes me for walks and I write.
Tonight, as we trudged down the moon-drenched driveway, I said,
“I want to punch her in the face.”
This is not entirely accurate; I don’t actually want to punch her because then I’d have to deal with legal action (this is the forethought I hope to instill in our boy). However, I want to write about it, and thereby feel better. And so, with a tip of my hat to the best rhymer ever, I write.
I must not punch her in the face
Though maybe just a spray of mace
Just a smidge, only a sample
No, I must be an example
Must not, must not kick her knee
Shall not, will not put a bee
In her coffee piping hot
Flick her? No.—NO! I cannot.
When I am so mad…I’ll write!
Get some extra sleep tonight.
Go for long walks down the drive.
In her car hide a beehive.
Oh, wait, that last one is wrong;
Instead I’ll sing out a song
Whisper a soft little prayer
That she will lose all her hair.
Oh, no, there I go again.
Paying vengeance is a sin
I must let it go, be done
Show forgiveness for my son
That boy’s always watching me
And I so want him to see:
Great achievement’s possible
Mercy is unstoppable
Even on the hardest day
Grace and faith will make a way.
There. I feel better.
And bonus, I’m not going to jail for punching a teacher. So, there’s that.
When life just isn’t fair, how do you deal with it?
Did you know? I didn’t. Cuddling up with a good book and glass of wine might do more damage than we think.
Don’t shoot! I am about to deliver a dirty little secret kept by doctors. Why? I don’t think anyone wants to know. I’ve held this post for a year while waiting to get up the nerve. My hand shook while pressing publish.
I had only heard rumblings about it and that was long ago, after Paul McCartney’s wife, Linda, died of breast cancer. I quickly forgot, until last summer.
The bomb was dropped into the conversation while enjoying lunch al fresco with a friend who had just finished radiation treatment for stage I breast cancer.
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In a few minutes, I will stand before a board of people who will tell me whether they will help us with our daughter.
I am asking for an evaluation by a company committed to helping families with RAD kids. They record interactions throughout a day-long assessment between the parent and child and give observations and recommendations.
I know that it is highly likely there are things we can do differently to help reach her. Our problem? We don’t know what they are. This evaluation would give us that information.
Here’s what I plan to say.
The psychological evaluation from 2010, which was completed before she came to live with us, outlines the same issues we see now. In six years of therapy and behavioral intervention, her situation has only escalated.
If she continues the lying, maladaptive social behavior, cruelty to animals and pervasive thoughts of doing wrong, what do you think the situation will be in 6 more years?
In six years she’ll be eighteen. If she escalates further, she may be in the hands of the state. Yes, this intervention requires serious funding, but that cost is nothing compared to what her behavior, unchanged, could cost the state or even the people around her.
I’m asking you to help me find intervention that will actually work. It doesn’t have to be what I’m requesting, but if there’s a stone we’ve left unturned, please point me to that stone.