I don’t stick my hand in a toilet for just anyone!

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In one of my recent posts on the Dallas Moms Blog, I mentioned that my daughter had found pure joy in a box of paper clips.  I wanted to expand on that a bit because it went from joy to obsessive attachment pretty quickly, and became quite entertaining.

Early this past Saturday morning, she had a single jumbo paper clip that she had been playing with.  She was having such a great time that when I came across a brand-new-never-opened box of clips as I was purging supplies, I offered it to her.  She was giddy with delight over these paper clips! She exclaimed, “We’ll never have to buy jewelry again, we can just make it!” as she made several bracelets and necklaces after I showed her the amazing magic of linking the paper clips together.

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She didn’t forget her first love, though.  She held on to that first paper clip that she had been playing with.  She could even tell it from the 20 other jumbo paper clips that looked just like it.  She said it was bent differently.

She even clipped it onto the waistband of her pants so it could stay with her at all times.

She’s so loyal, she asked to sleep in her sweatpants instead of the red footed pajamas that she sleeps in “every single day of winter”, just so she could sleep with the paper clip attached to her pants.

Sunday morning, she wore it to church.  I was starting to think I’ll never need to get her a dog.

After Sunday School, before heading into worship service we visited the restroom.  Sometimes we share a stall, sometimes we don’t.  This time we did.  I went first, then she went.  As she was turning to flush she saw it…

The paper clip had fallen off her pants and was in the toilet.

The water was not clear.  Thankfully it was all liquid.

The devastated look on her face gave me no choice.  Her new friend had just fallen in the toilet, and Mommy was going to have to come to the rescue.

(Thankfully, this really didn’t bother me.  I mean, I’ve been peed on, pooped on, and puked on. This was a piece of cake!)

So, I stuck in my hand, pulled out the paper clip and proceeded to the sink to wash both my hands, and her little metal friend.

She was SO grateful, it definitely made it all worth the effort!

It amazes me how she latches on to something so quickly like that.  We have several little rocks, or a leaf, or a piece of paper that she becomes so emotionally attached to. I love seeing the little things that she takes such joy in and how she gets so much pleasure from such tiny things.

To the woman with the autistic child at Walmart…

Dear Struggling Mom,

I heard your child all over the store.  As I visited different areas of the store in search for the things on my list, I could hear him stimming.  Loudly.  I recognized it immediately.  My heart immediately went out to you even though I hadn’t seen you yet.  I knew that grocery shopping was probably not on your list of fun things to do today, let alone with your child in tow.

As I approached the checkout lanes, I saw you. You weren’t hard to find.  He was about 5 years old, sitting in the front seat of the buggy as your daughter (6 or 7?) stood next to it.  I wondered how many people were judging you thinking that your child was misbehaving as he squirmed, kicked, and yelled from his place in the buggy.  I know I once would have. Before I was a parent.  Before I was a parent of a special needs child. I wondered how many people avoided getting in that lane behind you, but I just felt like I needed to choose that lane.  I ended up behind you with one person in between us.  My heart broke as I saw the tired, worn out look on your face.  You had a buggy full of groceries, which meant you had been there a while.  I have no doubt you were ready to get out of the store and on your way home.

I looked down and saw a small tennis shoe under the buggy of the lady in front of me.  She had no kids. I looked forward at your son’s feet – yep! Missing a shoe.  I picked it up and handed it to you, and you just smiled and said thanks.

I watched as you tenderly put the shoe back on his foot.  Then, as you turned your back and he continued to kick, off it came again.  Not wanting to interfere too much, I waited to see if you caught it.  You did.  Once again, you tenderly put it back on his feet.

As you were waiting to pay, he suddenly went into an outburst getting much louder, and hitting himself in the head with his fists.  You so gently reached over and stroked his arms and spoke calmly to him.  I had tears in my eyes as I watched how you cared for him with love.  You didn’t grab him or yell at him or try to “make him behave”.  You just comforted him and tried to make him feel safe.

I saw you paying with a WIC card, and your behavior it impressed me even more.  I don’t know if you are married or a single mom, but obviously money is tight.  Money issues, and dealing with a child with special needs can take a lot out of you.  I don’t know how you felt on the inside, but on the outside, you were not taking it out on your kids.

I wanted to help.  So badly, I wanted to help.  I didn’t know what to do.  You don’t know me, so it’s not like I could offer to take your kids for the afternoon.  I couldn’t afford to buy that buggy full of groceries for you.

So, I used all I had.  My words.

I didn’t know what to say.  Everything I said in my head sounded silly.

I hoped you didn’t think I was interfering, but I had to say something, so I walked up and touched you on the shoulder and prayed for God to give me the words to speak as I said,

“Can I just tell you that you are doing an awesome job with your kids? I know it’s not the same, but I have a daughter with Asperger’s and I know it can be stressful.  The way you speak to your children and the way you have been handling him shows how much you love him.”

With tears in your eyes, you replied with “Thank you, that means so much!”.  We gave each other a knowing glance, and parted ways.

I wish I could have done more.  But the tears in your eyes told me that I had done something.

I learned from you too.  You reminded me how important it is to put our children’s needs first.  Not to worry about what the other people in the store think.  It doesn’t matter. What matters is that our kids know we love them unconditionally just as they are.

I pray that you and your family will be blessed this year!

What is Santa doing to your child’s self esteem?

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Let me preface this by saying that I don’t have a problem with kids believing in Santa. I think it’s fun, sweet, innocent, and embraces the spirit of giving.  So, I’m not saying you should give that up at all.  I would, however, like you to consider HOW you use Santa in your home.

Imagine this…

You are a young child and you work hard to please your parents & your teachers.  All year long you hear “You better be good, or else Santa won’t bring you any toys”.  So you do your best, but you make mistakes.  Just like we all do.  You have good days, and bad days.  You have days that are harder to obey than others.  But you try, you really do.

You’ve learned that your parents love you no matter what.  Even on the days you get in trouble, you have no doubt they love you.

As it gets closer to Christmas time, you hear it more often…I’ve heard it so many times in the last week that I’ve lost count.

”You better be good, or Santa won’t bring you any presents!”

“You be good or you’ll get nothing for Christmas!”

So  you try.  You really do.  You feel awful when you make mistakes because you really really want to get that new toy, and you are scared, worried and anxious.  What if you get nothing?

Then, Christmas arrives, and you receive whatever your parents could afford to get you.  A new soccer ball, a Barbie, some new clothes, a Lego set…whatever it may be.  You are excited!  Maybe Santa didn’t get everything on your list, or maybe it wasn’t exactly what you had chosen, but it was for you and that made you happy.

Until you talked to your friends or the other kids at school.

Why did Betsy-the Bully get more presents than you did from Santa? Why did she get the whole dream house while you got just one doll?  Why did that mean ol’ Bobby get a fancy battery powered ride-in car, and you got Hot Wheels?

There is only one explanation if you believe in Santa.

You just weren’t good enough.

Your best wasn’t good enough.  Not only are you not good enough, you are WORSE than that bully.

Now, how do you feel?

No one ever explains to this children that we all come from different income levels.  A fancy toy in one house, might be nothing in another.

Parents do this to children every single year, and it breaks my heart!

I just really have a problem with the “Be good or you’ll get nothing!” threats.   My issue with it is this, either you are 1) setting your child up to be seriously disappointed & to feel worthless when this Santa they believe in doesn’t bring them any toys, or 2) You are throwing out an empty threat you have no intention of following through on.

Now, that said, I have no problem with a child who has been having discipline problems being told that they would not receive certain presents if certain behaviors didn’t change.  But those presents should be the ones given by the PARENTS – not Santa!

I thought about this and wondered how this would affect the children we’ve had from foster care.  I actually think this would be harder on the kids who are used to someone loving them.  Kids who come from tough family situations are so used to not feeling worthy, that Santa wouldn’t be any different.  They are used to having nothing, so to them *anything* is amazing.

But for a child who is growing up and still learning, still exploring, making mistakes and learning from them…why in the world would we want then to base their self-worth on what some mythical person thinks?  Yes, St. Nick was a real person, but today’s “Santa Claus” isn’t.  St. Nick never based his gifts on how good or bad the person was anyway.  He gave because he loved and wanted to help.

This is real, people. I’ve actually talked to several people recently who went through this as a child.  Believing that they were never good enough for Santa because their parents couldn’t afford to buy fancy toys.  They were told their behavior dictated their presents.  Then they got the best their parents had to offer, but it didn’t even compare with the gifts the other kids at school got.  So, they thought it was because they weren’t good enough.  They don’t even think about their parents’ income having anything to do with it…after all, this was from Santa, not Mom & Dad, right?

Parents, please just think about it.  Think about the message you are giving your children.  Let them believe in Santa, fine, but get rid of the “good or bad” stuff.  Peer pressure and comparing ourselves to others is hard enough.  Let them know that we give gifts at Christmas because we love.  Tell them Santa brought them exactly what he thought would be perfect for them.

If you are a Christian, then go a step further.  We give, because Christ gave to us.  He gave to us not based on our behavior, but based on his love for us.

While we’re at it, let me jump on one more soapbox! I’ve also heard this a few times lately and it makes me cringe. Please don’t threaten your kids with “I’ll call the cops if you don’t behave!” or anything along those lines.  The Police are our friends and they are here to help.  Please don’t make your children afraid to approach a Police Officer should they ever actually be in need of one.

I couldn’t ask for more

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Today at the park I asked Lovebug, “Do you know you’re beautiful?”.

She replied, “Yes. Daddy told me.”

I couldn’t ask for more.

I am so blessed to be married to a man that understands the importance of a daughter feeling loved by her daddy!

And that confidence leads to her continuing to try new things…like this really steep (fast) slide that she’s been very afraid of.

Keeping in touch with Daddy over the miles

Yesterday, Lovebug (my 6 year old daughter) and I said “See ya later” (not goodbye) to my husband as he left to join the Army. He just re-enlisted after serving for 7 years and being out for 13. He signed the paper months ago, but today he actually left. The Army calls it “shipped out”, even though he left on a bus. We’ve had plenty of time to prepare, but it’s still tough when the time finally comes. I can handle it pretty well I think, after all, Hubby and I have been married for 8 years. I know logically that this is temporary and I will see him again. I know our marriage is strong and our love does not lessen with distance. I can even look forward to getting some things done with my free time in the evening. It works differently with kids. Telling them “5 months” might as well be “next week” or “next year”. They don’t have the same grasp on time that we as adults do. No matter how excited Lovebug has been that Daddy is joining the Army, seeing him drive away on a bus brought on a little sadness. Not too much though, because she couldn’t wait to get home and get started on Tip #3 below!

Thankfully, I had done a little research in the months leading up to this and found some great ways to make the transition easier on kids and help the time pass. I’ll tell you what we did, and maybe if you have a husband that travels, or who decides to join the military, you could use these tips!

1) Hubby video recorded himself reading many of her favorite books, so that every night we can watch one (or two) and she still gets her bedtime story from Daddy. I think we ended up with almost 30, so we’ll just cycle through them a few times. Last night we watched two of them and I could see in her eyes and huge smile how much it helped. It was as close to having him here as we can get right now.

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2) He also video recorded a special message just for her that he surprised us with after he left by leaving me directions to it in an email. It was probably less than a minute long, but was filled with love and blessings for her. It’s something she will watch again and again and keep forever, I’m sure. (He did the same for me, and words cannot express how much that meant to me!)

3) The “Daddy Box”! We picked out a special Rubbermaid container, and labeled it “Daddy’s Box” using my Cricut and some vinyl. Anytime Lovebug colors a picture for him, makes a craft for him, or just finds a rock she thinks he would like, she can put it in the box. Once we get his address, we’ll be able to send some of the things to him, of course, but this box is special. We’ll store up these precious items so that when he gets home they can sit down together and go through the box. They’ll spend precious time together as she tells him about each and every thing she put in there. I have no doubt she’ll have a story for each one. Today’s the first day of him being gone, and there is already a special picture in there for him!

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Practice makes perfect

The other day my daughter was practicing riding her bike.  She was working on her turns and making figure eights without turning too much and falling over.  I told her “Practice makes perfect!”, and she told me “No it doesn’t, Mommy! No one is perfect except God.”

How right she is!

If only practice made perfect, then maybe I could have hopes of being a perfect mother one day, but alas, it doesn’t….and I can’t.  Lately, I find myself making mistake after mistake after mistake.  I lose my temper, or get upset about something I shouldn’t, and I end up having to go once again and apologize to my 5 year old for getting too mad, or yelling, or not listening well enough.  It’s humbling.  Even more humbling when she practically interrupts me to quickly say, “it’s ok Mommy, I forgive you!”.

I am finding that the more that I acknowledge that God is growing me in an area, the more I struggle with it.  Also, I and realizing that I tend to be harder on Emily in the areas that I myself need the most work in.

For just one example – she gets upset because she’s not getting her way about something and gets grumpy with me.  DUH, right? She’s a kid!  But when she does this, I get upset with her because she’s upset, instead of just letting her be upset.  I accuse her of being selfish and getting upset just because she doesn’t get her way.  Wait – aren’t *I* upset because I’m not getting MY way? I’m not getting a nice, perfectly obedient child every minute of the day, so I get upset because it’s inconvenient for me to stop and discipline her, or teach her at this very moment.  Now who is being selfish?   I’m expecting her to have adult level behavior for issues that took me years as an adult to learn….and that I’m still learning.  Why are my expectations so high (too high) of her sometimes?

I’ve often heard saying, “When you point a finger at someone, there are 3 more fingers pointing right back at yourself”. Try it, you’ll see.  No really…stop and try it.  Point at something or someone.  See those 3 folded fingers? They are pointing right back at YOU!

I find that SO often when I am saying something to Emily out of frustration or anger, it’s like God was saying them to ME instead.  “You need to get in control.”,   “You need to listen to me”, “You aren’t paying attention to what I’m saying.”,  “Are you thinking of yourself or others?”, “Are you being a blessing to others right now?”.

OUCH.

So, I’ll keep practicing.  Every day for the rest of my life.  I’ll never be perfect, but I do hope to become more and more Christ-like.  In the meantime, I surrender all to Him!

“He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.” ~ Proverbs 21:21