Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Unamed Father, I feel you man! Lord, I Believe, Help Thou Mine Unbelief

Sometimes this road is bumpy.  I am often reminded of a passage in Mark 9 where the guy I call the "unamed father" brought his sick child to Jesus in hopes of him being healed.  Lord I believe; help thou mine unbelief.  Blatant honesty there and I feel the dude.  On the real I do.  It has been hard for me to navigate with the shaken faith. I have trusted God for provision and I have trusted His patience. What I have doubted even though I try not to is the idea that I am as important as say Thomas was or as important as my children are. It is hard to admit, but sometimes I feel like I'm just here to take care of people.

Don't get me wrong. I'm glad I could be there for Thomas.  He was my heart.  He outlived his prognosis by over 3 years. And I like to think God allowed me to help that happen.  I also adore my babies and I love being their mother.

I loved Thomas, but I never got to really feel important to him or like I was first after God with him because of his illness. Our lives revolved around his condition. When he died I had a 6 year-old and a 2 month old so it was about them. Nearly 4 years later I have a 3 year-old and a 10 year-old. It is still all about them. My 10 year-old daughter is dealing with Dyslexia and ADHD Predominantly Inattentive and every night it literally school work from the last bite of dinner to past bed time while I try to make time for the 3 year-old and his ever developing brain and personality.  What a worker that child is though.  Once motivated, she puts in the work.  Motivation is a challenge and the same method might not work on consecutive days.  But you could say that about any child.  Somehow, she's developed an internal expectation of herself beyond what is generally expected of a child with Dyslexia and ADHD-PI. But then I haven't shared those typical expectations with her.  She is expected to work at the level at which she is capable.  I spend hours and hours finding ways to increase that level for her.

And I find myself thinking…where am I in all of this? In the midst of 2 jobs, education plans for 2 children, a 20 year-old house with a mortgage that needs work, vehicle maintenance and everything involved in taking care of and truly parenting 2 children, where am I? I want to lean on God, but I can’t seem to permanently and completely escape the feeling I have to make everything happen. Thomas depended on me to run the home when he was here and I remember being very afraid of making mistakes.  I still made them. Usually unless it was a huge screw-up, I could fix whatever happened before he even knew because I thought he couldn’t handle the stress of anything going wrong. There were also times I cried from the stress and he didn't know why.  The medication he was on would not have allowed him to comprehend the situation.  Other times, I figured he had all he could handle going to work (even though he’d been told long ago to stop) and going to church.

Every day was like a battle for survival and as weird as it sounds knowing how unlimited God is, it’s like I somehow thought, we’re using up our share keeping Thomas alive and I can’t ask any more of God. Then afterwards with everything that happened, I converted from that to thinking we’re using up our share with me staying employed in this economy and being able to keep the children on the track on which they started and them being happy and healthy. It’s like provision is all I expect.  For everything else, I literally bust my behind day in and day out.  Nothing wrong with that I guess, except for the fact that I know that sometimes I'm doing it because that's the only way the life I want will happen.

I know in my head I can hand God my shattered heart for mending and I know only He can mend it, but I get half-way in and step back. I’m on guard so the healing process I believe has slowed for me. I spent so much time on guard as a spousal caregiver and now as a solo parent, it is troublesome to think of completely letting my guard down even with Him. Lately when I am brave enough to talk to God about me and listen I hear “true love”. It’s not just what He’s offering. It’s what He’s been giving the entire time. Only that could have stuck with me not just the now nearly 4 years Thomas has been gone, but during the time of caregiving.

I made rash decisions then. I sometimes had a crappy attitude about having to give up so much. I was angry about losing our dreams and sometimes I felt cheated having to be married without certain privileges, others enjoyed. But true love came through in the fresh air, in the love from my (then) little girl, in a rare moment we could laugh together Thomas and I without thought of his condition and in being able to watch him interact with his children, especially the times my stepchildren came to visit. And I was given one dream back when I had my son. His conception was nothing short of miraculous.

God has shown me true love and patience beyond what I have shown. I know it. I’ve even expressed appreciation for it. I just don’t think I have fully embraced it. And I think that’s resulted in some regretful decisions. Some was “I’m going to do what I want right now because I’ve been cheated out of so much already.” Some of it was just not looking far enough down the road to see the full result. Some was thinking I have to make life happen because no one else will.

But I’m smart enough to know that as alone as I have felt, God has been there or I’d likely be somewhere in pajamas looking at the soft walls. Still trust is an issue. It’s like when employers have teams do that trust exercise where you fall back into someone’s arms because if they really trust each other things will work better. Life is decent, fun even with multiple difficulties and challenges, but I think one of my issues lies in wondering how much better it could be if I let myself fall backwards to Him. Am I keeping myself and my children from better? A new love even? God’s never let us down. Not really. And I hear that still small voice: “Trust Me, I’m not out to crush you.” Still with everything that has happened, I haven’t yet been able to completely and permanently shake that nagging feeling that I can’t ask any more of Him and if I lean back I’ll get hurt.

My hope is in His patience and understanding. We can all place hope in that. God loves us.  He loves me and even more than that, He is well aware of how difficult all of this has been.  I'm aware that I can keep going with apprehension as long as I keep going.  Afterall, it worked for that guy.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A New Stage: Frustration (A Summer Journal Entry)

My daughter was just shy of 7 years-old when her father died and I'm not quite sure how she felt. I knew she was going to miss him but mostly what she talked about was what was going to happen to him once we buried him.

Eventually when she was about 9, she got to "It isn't fair."

She's 10 now and we are over 3 years out. Thomas is off the pedestal and that has brought out a lot more in her. She's looking for reasons and for this to make sense. Lately, she wants to know not just why this happened to him, but why it happened to her. "How did I get here? And I'm not talking about you and daddy having sex, mom." "How did I (emphasis on I) get here into this (emphasis on this) life?"

Now we are a Christian family so the answers in this house center around faith when it's warranted. As the conversation went on she confided that she's (like a lot of us) having a tough time with her faith and she eventually told me it had to do with daddy. She described it as "frustration" and wanted to know how to deal with it.

First I admitted mine. I told her it hasn't been easy to hold on with all that happened, how daddy was so sick, then his death, the problems with the money, not being able to spare her the pain, all that. I admitted I have times of frustration, but I've tried to because of all of the positive things I can attribute to praying, believing, etc. and we talked about those.

I told her I know it must be hard because we miss daddy, but whatever you feel about what happened whether it is sadness, frustration, anger, it's okay. You won't hurt God's feelings. He can handle it. That's why I've stuck with Him. I feel like He's handled all my anger and still loved me and helped me. He's felt sadness and anger and everything else and He'll still love you even if you have to tell him you are frustrated with Him. And I told her that just like God, I could handle her telling me whatever she was feeling about God and about daddy.

Then the flood gate opened. She hadn't broken down like that in quite a while. It was what we would probably call a cleansing cry. I've accepted I can't protect her from the pain and that's been hard. Guiding her through it sure isn't in any way easy, but I feel grateful she isn't closing up. She said she felt much better and we've started some reading as she asked for a book to help her with praying and her behavior. She's Dyslexic so she very rarely asks for anything to read, so it was pretty big, but we plan to read together. I got her a child version of a prayer book I have.

So, it was one of those times my part time job got no attention.  I write and transcribe at home part time. Quite a few nights became snuggle on the couch for a movie nights. Weekends were for field trips: one to a farm about 40 minutes away. Other activities for the summer: museums, nature walks, aquariums, and once the weather cooled, the zoo. Those were way more effective for her than worksheets and books alone. Helps my son use up quite a bit of energy too.

I look at him sometimes and wonder when we'll hit these stages with him.  Having him meant starting over in a lot of ways.  As he grows, I wonder if I'll be starting this journey over in a lot of ways as well.  We'll see.

Sometimes...I Do Feel Overwhelmed (A Summer Journal Entry)

And summer is one of those times.  When August hits, it is not only the most expensive month, but now it is the month when my stomach starts churning thinking of the upcoming school year.  I could really use someone with whom I could shoulder all of this. When Thomas was here he was sick and I had to be the strong one, the foundation, the one to handle everything.

I was the main parent, the money manager, appointment scheduler, housekeeper, everything. He was sick so long, I hardly remember what it was like to really be able to rely on him like most women I know rely on their husbands, but I tried to be grateful he was here to talk to, but when I really really needed someone to talk to, about my fears, my hopes, my angst, I didn't feel I could add on to what he was already dealing with because of his health issues.

I'd gotten decent at the super woman thing, but it did wear thin before he died and he was upset at having to take more on for himself even though it was minimal. He felt all he should have to do was work, but really I was trying to get him to go out on disability because I thought he'd live longer and we'd be able to be more of a family. No go.

Isolation was the key word.

Now here I am with the children, working to get 504 Plan requests together and whatever else Ariana needs for the upcoming year. ADHD predominantly inattentive seems to be a foreign concept. Oh she doesn't have that, she isn't hyper. So on top of it all, I'm feeling misunderstood about a subject I'm still working to understand. I have read probably 6 books on ADHD since she was diagnosed and just as many about Dyslexia. I finally found a book solely on ADHD PI and I wish I could pass it out to about a dozen people. What an eye opener. I had just finished it but it has changed my life.

Then trying to get people to understand that Dyslexia is not just about falling behind in reading...ugh! She's my daughter and I love her with every fiber and I'll protect her, advocate for her, and do whatever I have to in order to avoid her going backwards. The amount of progress she made over the past year with what little I understood it being the first year after diagnosis was remarkable.

Her school is small and now I'm getting hit with concerns with singling her out. It's really too late for that concern. It is what it is. She is fine with it. She actually tells people about Dyslexia now. She does well with the 504 accommodations and I'm not giving them up for anything. I am working my behind off with her at home to nurture the way she learns best and she is actually looking forward to going back in a couple of weeks. If anyone else has a problem with it I doubt they mind enough to switch and have their child have Dyslexia instead.

Then there's my baby.  I changed the night time routine so that it is more interactive with my son to get him talking more and using his motor skills more and following directions. The speech lady that came to see him felt he was a bit behind. He is already starting to use more phrases and words. She said something to me about him repeating his instructions and had a name for it. Who knew that was something bad. Geez!

And at night when they are in bed, it is just me with all of my research up way too late at night...and no one's shoulder to lean on when I do lay down.  It's just heavy sometimes. I'm generally not too bad about doing this alone. I was practically alone when Thomas was here and if I have to tell the truth, he might actually be with the crowd on this one as far as Ariana is concerned.

But others though they may be difficult to bring around, do care.  I'm going to use that to my advantage.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

But You Don't Go That Way! Toilet Training: A Battle of Wills

It's amazing what we celebrate. We have had our ups and downs with toilet training, but with no man in the house, I found myself in a power struggle with my son in the quest to get him to take his rightful place in front of the bowl. My niece gave me some suggestions on what worked with my nephew. My son stood firm in his position. He even claimed he had to poo poo to get his way, but what that did was let me know he understood what I meant when I said "boys stand to pee pee and sit to poo poo".
The man in his life, his Godfather gave him a pep talk and offered to take this on for me, but told me I could not give in when he asked to sit. This was a test. I had been able to demonstrate to my son anything I wanted him to do until this. He really had to trust me telling him this was what he was supposed to do. And it didn't look good. He didn't have the words to say it, but I was sure from the look on his face that he thought I was off my rocker. Every parent knows that look when they see it.

I started to wonder if I was just trying to get him to do this too early, but while he understood he shouldn't wet himself he would because he tended to want to avoid sitting on toilets away from home unless he had to poop. I couldn't take his pull-ups away at school until he went to to the toilet consistently. So the urgency of this is that it was actually holding up potty training. He was wearing undies with me and pull-ups at school.

Finally one night we found ourselves in another battle of wills. I again offered him a sticker if he went. I had some left over from his birthday party. He told me he was tired of standing there and I said, "Me too. Go pee pee so we can get out of here." We had talked, I had given him a bath (hoping the warm water would loosen him up), taken a break and gone back, but he still stood there. Every other time I had given in and let him sit. I promised him it was okay to let the pee pee out.

Finally the tiny little stream appeared. The boy hit the toilet better on his first try than...well, better than I expected. Maybe all those times standing there thinking about it were worth it. I held my excitement in check until I was sure he was done. Then we celebrated. He was so happy. And as promised, he got to pick out a sticker. He decided to put it on the side of his train table.
Eventually there was a string of stickers on the side of that train table. He began to notice how the toilet water changed color when he went and it became a game to spread that slight yellow tint around to practice his aim. It is amazing what we celebrate. Soon enough, it was "Mom, I got to go potty!" And the answer to my question, "Do you need help?" was "No". Now, he's earned time in his big boy pants at school. He's grown from my baby to my little boy. So I'm sure we've only seen the first of many times he'll think I've lost it.