Learning Valuable Lessons When They’re Young

The value of work is what we’re talking about today. It took me awhile, but my hope is that our children learn a little sooner. I’m very grateful for everything my parents provided for me, but I want my children to understand the value of hard work.

Visit me here at Reality Moms to learn what I mean.

The Twos. Part Deux.

A couple months ago I wrote a piece for Reality Moms on the idea that the two’s weren’t quite as terrible as I’d expected.

Well, I can admit when I’m wrong. (Mostly. Sometimes?) Now that we are in the thick of it I’m back to admit the error of my ways and share some more of our journey through the adventures of life with a two-year-old. Or at least, life with our two-year-old.

My latest piece about the life of Ben on Reality Moms.

Yep… that’s Ben!

Parenting a Child with “Invisible” Special Needs

I’m a parent to a child with nearly invisible special needs. He’s nothing special, and by that I mean he’s about yay high, blond hair, blue eyes, kind of dirty all the time… I’m not quite sure what people expect to see when you say you have a special needs child. I hear all the time how “normal” he seems and looks of surprise when people meet him.

To the naked eye, my son is a beautiful, wild two-year old boy. What you don’t see are the hard times we have. The therapies we juggled for the past two years. How even after all this time he sometimes likes to neglect one side of his body. Or how his jaw still struggles to find strength to chew some kinds of food. Or how he gets really overwhelmed sometimes and bangs his head on things or pulls his hair. Much of our play is work, trying to increase his strength and coordination, or help his speech become more defined.

Because he appears like every other child on the playground, I worry about my son. I worry that his teacher won’t understand that he is dealing with some special needs and that he needs help, not punishment. That his outbursts aren’t because he is naughty, but because he is frustrated. While you may see him as a child with ordinary abilities, this boy is extraordinary.

You see, when my son was a baby he survived a traumatic brain injury that we were told may leave him unable to walk, talk, or go to school. The milestones that children experience are things that we all meet with joy- with him, I meet them with cheering & great victory. He doesn’t walk, he runs. But still I worry.

I already get puzzled looks when I mention therapies. Or potential diagnoses of cerebral palsy. That’s when that word “normal” rears its ugly head once again.

I wonder how the world will treat my son when he’s no longer a tiny cute toddler. When he is faced with the real world that I can no longer protect him from. When someone may notice that he is a little different. Then what of this “normal” everyone speaks of?

I wonder if he we will be able to get the resources he needs to help him succeed when he ages out of early intervention. When our team of many becomes our team of just us. I am already his advocate, educating people on the world of Ben, but I will become his fighter if I need.  In some ways I struggle, but I think I was completely meant for this job- we were meant for each other.

Because you can’t see some things doesn’t mean that they aren’t there. While you may not see his struggles, you may also not see the miracle. The fact that his victories come with a little extra effort which makes us appreciate them even more.

Facing the Fear of School Violence With Kids

*as of 10:45 am, the subject of the man hunt has been found dead. 😦

Twenty years ago, I was in college when the Columbine High School shootings happened. I can still see it today. Sitting in my boyfriend’s apartment at the University of Iowa, I watched the students evacuating the school, hands on their heads. It was scary and surreal all at once. I’d never seen anything like it and assumed I wouldn’t again.

As I’ve gotten older, what I thought was a one-time incident has become a new norm. Children as young as preschool practicing lockdown and lockout drills, learning what to do if there was a perceived threat at their school.

Today, this phenomenon has hit my own hometown, Denver. I’m typing this as all school districts in the Denver metro area are closed. They’re canceled today due to an armed and dangerous woman with an obsession with Columbine making credible threats in the area. She came to Colorado from Florida, bought a gun and is thought to be headed for a school in the area. In today’s society any hint of school violence is taken seriously and so we are at home while I ponder how to handle this with my littles.

My sons are two and four. Today, my older son’s preschool is closed, and the younger’s home daycare is on lockout. They’re young- too young for this fear and ugliness. My oldest is young enough to still have faith that people are inherently good, but old enough to know that it’s not normal to be home on a random Wednesday. His school practices drills with enough information to instruct the children on how to stay safe in a dangerous situation, but not enough to scare them. They learn where to go and what to do if there is a threat, but they don’t really know why. It’s up to us as parents to share that part as we choose.

I want to tell him that he is safe in school. But I’m not sure I can.

So today, I choose to share just enough with my son. Enough that he knows that there are some bad people out there, but that his teachers are good. That if there is danger they will protect him. That he is safe at school. That today, there is someone bad who wants to do something bad to a school and so he gets to stay home with me. And then I will hug him extra tight, tell him how much I love him and pray that his woman is found before she executes her plans.

This is how I choose to handle it because really, I don’t know how. I don’t understand how the world got to this place. I choose to handle it this way because he is four. He is too young for this.

*If you’re looking for information on how to talk to your children about violence this is a good article from the National Association of School Psychologists.

A Letter to Our Younger Self

Dear Self,

I know you think you know it all, but as your 40-year old self, let me tell you. You don’t.

I wanted to share a few things with you to help protect your heart. I wish I knew all these things when I was 25. And even if you don’t listen, you’ll be ok. But if you do, you’ll be ok a lot sooner.

Spend less time in bars making bad decisions and more time on yourself. It’s ok to be alone. It’s ok to go to that wedding solo, and it’s ok to stay home on a Saturday night enjoying your own company.

Start saving. You don’t need all those clothes, you just don’t need all that “stuff”. Spend your money on experiences- they’re worth the investment in the memories you’ll make.

Don’t waste your time on men who don’t matter. If he doesn’t respect you enough to call you in advance or meet your family, he isn’t worth your energy. (Read this one twice).

Tell Mom you love her and that you appreciate everything she did for you. By the time you truly realize this she will be gone, and it will be too late. If you don’t believe me yet tell her for your 40-year old self. You’ll thank me for this later.

Put away your childhood now. It’s over. 

Respect yourself. Respect your body. Eat a little healthy. Stay active. The foundation you’re building today will go a long way.

You don’t need a huge social circle. Find a few girlfriends who will become your ride or die ladies and stick with you. Don’t ditch them every time some guy calls.

Learn now that you are enough. Forever and always. Just as you are.

Enjoy this time, self. Enjoy your time. Be you and do you. Someday your time will be someone else’s. A husband and two crazy kiddos. It’s another beautiful time, but you can’t get these days back. Use them to grow, use them to change, use them to just be you.

In love,

Your 40-year old self.