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Knowing When to Say When

The last two years have been full of ups and downs for our family. We’ve been riding a roller coaster of emotions- the highest of highs and some really dark lows.

I’ve been open about my struggles with PTSD and anxiety- until lately. I was doing great, and when I wasn’t I was ashamed to share it again, thinking that I’d failed. I felt like I was out of the woods, and suddenly here I am, waking up before sunrise every morning, anxiety gripping at my insides, sadness and shame forcing me out of bed to start my day.

I know that anxiety and depression is a lifelong struggle. But like many people who fight it, I forget. I will feel great for a while, think I am cured and get cocky. I’m healed! Self-care be damned! Take on all the things! Lean in!

It’s not true, friends. I’m scared all the time. I feel like one of my worst nightmares happened in my own home and while Ben is doing amazing, I can’t protect him. I’ve gotten so anxious that I’ve turned into a tyrant. I don’t take the boys to the playground for fear of injury. When they kick the ball into the street one too many times I force us all inside because I know that a car will come whipping around the corner, injuring one of my precious babies. I yell. Will tells me I’m mean. I cry. Too often.

I’ve become someone who lives in a box of fear, and that’s no place to be.

So, what’s next? I confessed to Jeff all that is ailing me, and while he doesn’t understand it, he does his best to support me. He listens, he reads up on anxiety and depression (nerd), and he stands beside me. He is a big dumb guy sometimes, but he is also my biggest champion. And he knows that under this shouty woman is a wife and mom who is scared, whose lunacy is rooted in a of love.

I’ve turned to my psychiatrist for help, and I’m on the hunt for a new therapist. I’ve learned over the years that I’m better medicated, so we are working to find the right cocktail of drugs to help me even out, so I can attack the anxiety demons. #xanaxismyfriend

I need to find a way to balance the fear with reality. To know that I can protect my boys, but that I need to allow them to spread their wings. To realize that after darkness, there is dawn- and you must embrace that, not live in fear of the next storm.

And I share. With all of you because we are better together. I’ve hidden behind a mask of fake happiness too many times, and I know so many other mamas who do too. I’m not sure which is scarier- sharing or hiding. But I share because I know I am not alone, and I want to lend my voice to those other friends struggling in silence. Fighting the fight against anxiety is exhausting, but I’m worth it. My boys are worth it. We are ALL worth it.

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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.

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Seeing the Forest Through the Trees: Life with Toddlers

We have all heard it before- “the days are long, but the years are short.”.  Are they?  Are they really??  I keep pressing the fast-forward button, but my kid is still three.  I hear that three and a half is magical, and that children turn the corner from beast to beauty, but I’m still waiting…

I’m kidding of course.  Little limit testers that they are I love my boys more than anything in the world.  As everyone keeps telling me, though, we are in the thick of it.  Chasing around two boys is insanity.  I’m pretty sure our au pair will be canonized some day because she must be a saint to stay on top of these two all day.

The Days Are Long.  So, So Long…

Our youngest is 14 months old.  That means he is a great communicator, full of points and grunts.  He knows exactly what he wants, but hasn’t quite taught us his language.  We are working on sign language, but the only one that is taking is “more”.  He signals more for absolutely everything!

Childproofing is my new hobby.  It’s amazing how different two kids can be.  Our first didn’t find any of these grown-up things entertaining.  Our second, on the other hand, finds turning the gas on the stove off and on quite fun in addition to sticking his hands in the toilet.  Fun fact: it’s super fun to watch grown ups try to turn on a child-proofed stove.  Some days if I am feeling really mean I sit back and observe for a minute before I explain the latest child proofing gadget I’ve picked up.

And then there’s our oldest.  On the one hand, we have this mini adult.  The boy is smart.  Like, really, really smart.  Ask him how the earth rounds the sun and he can tell you- in great detail.  And DO NOT utter anything you don’t want repeated.  He has a mind that is a steel trap and incredible recall.  On the other hand, he cries when we run out of ketchup, or when Daniel Tiger is over for the day.  And cries.  And cries. I tread lightly, not wanting to poke the bear if I am the bearer of bad news.

But the Years Are Short…

Suddenly, my older son doesn’t need me to hold his hand on the escalator.  And when did he start going down the big slide?  Did I mention he is going to Pre-K next year?  When did my babies become tiny humans?

There is a beautiful struggle of motherhood.  A push-pull between the tiny, needy little baby, and then the independent little person.  You spend so long being their everything that it can be quite jolting the first time you realize that they don’t need you every waking minute now.

I sit and watch the boys play together, giggling and having fun.  They are really starting to become friends- brothers.  These are the beautiful moments- the reason we have two, and the joy of parenting.  My older son is setting an example, teaching his little brother how to build with blocks, or showing him how to pet the fuzzy shapes in a touch-and-feel-book.  This is the good stuff.

But Still…  the Days are LONG

I leave the boys for a moment.  Because I can do that now- they are a toddler and a threenager, so they can be trusted to play together without major incident- right?!  A minute later my older son, Will comes barreling into my bedroom with a devilish smile on his face.   (His “Daddy face” as I have dubbed it).  I ask him what is going on.  I’m no rookie.  He smiles, devilishly, telling me “nothing”.  Ultimately he breaks down. “Ben got into the cat poops again!”.

The days are long, my friends.  So very long…