From Mental Health

Thoughts on managing mental health issues for parents and kids.

A fresh look at philanthropy for the overworked parent

For the Love of Humankind: A Bit of Sanity for the Overworked Parent

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Philanthropy – a word from Greek origin that translates to “ for the love of mankind”.

A fresh look at philanthropy for the overworked parent

Philanthropists are generous, donating time and/or money where profit is not a motive. This idea, though still at the core of philanthropy, is evolving. Everyday people use their buying power to effect change when they support organizations that ‘give back’, are local (less environmental impact), support fair-trade, etc. I call it ‘conscious consumerism’ and you see it everywhere these days. Many businesses have it built into their philosophy where employees are paid to donate time for a cause, where corporate sponsorship, business-lead fundraising (think of 5km runs for cancer, walks for muscular dystrophy etc.) are the norm. So how does this relate to parenting?

It comes down to mindset. Who comes to mind when you think of a philanthropist? You may think of Andrew Carnegie for which Carnegie Hall in New York City is named, or Bill Gates and his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, among others. Both Carnegie and Gates were wise businessmen, set on amassing fortunes often before their generous spirit was sparked. The kind of philanthropy they and many who amass millions are associated with comes with brand or name recognition, and there’s nothing wrong with that, often a name helps attract and initiates further generosity, which is great. Carnegie believed his purpose (and that of industrialists) was to first accumulate wealth and to follow that by distributing the wealth to benevolent causes. In 2010, Bill and Melinda Gates, along with Warren Buffet launched the Giving Pledge, a commitment by the world’s wealthiest to dedicate most of their wealth to philanthropy. Though I have certain issues with the Gates Foundation (why not make computers that don’t become obsolete is what many argue and I would agree), the Foundation does amazing work in so many fields across the globe. But what about your neighbor, who picks up two other kids from your street afterschool and looks after them, free of charge, until thier working parents come home? Take a look in the mirror. What about you?

Since working on a book on philanthropy with Gena Rotstein of Dexterity Ventures (www.dexterityventures.ca) how I look at philanthropy and the work I do as a parent has been changing. I would’ve never thought myself a philanthropist before. Sure, I’ve donated dollars to support friends and colleagues in their donation pledges and I’ve run in a number of charity runs, but that wasn’t philanthropy, or so I though. It counts of course, but in my mind that wasn’t real philanthropy. The writing I’ve been doing with Gena Rotstein has been about actualizing what philanthropy can glean from a business – asking questions, having a goal and strong vision, being accountable – these are just a few business applications that are reshaping the landscape of philanthropy and have reshaped how I began to look at parenting as a kind of philanthropy. I’m donating LOTS of time and energy to raising a decent human being – one who is courteous, mindful, respectful, brave, thoughtful, inquisitive, playful, and innovative. This is not for personal gains alone. My son is going to outlive me of course, but before that his outreach is going to extend way beyond my personal world. Am I parenting so I can boast that he has manners and gets good grades? Not at all.

When you think about, it’s not a stretch, to see that when we engage in mindful parenting (and yes, that clause is important because I don’t think it’s applicable always, like when I let the TV run, I’m not being mindful though that’s ok too), aren’t we doing so “for the love of humankind?”

I’m not suggesting anything beyond opening up our minds to what parenting is. That in those tough moments when things don’t seem to being going right, when he’s not listening, when you are pressed for time and struggling to find patience to be kind when your kid is shouting no at you and you strive to look beyond the scene playing out in front of you. Think of me. Think of your neighbours. Think of your children’s future acquaintances. Go beyond that scene, take a breath and then respond. What happens when you think, this is not about me, or him, but how can I act here, now, that will change our future interactions for the better? This is philanthropy at it’s core – generating time, a huge dose of patience to practice asking how your actions can move beyond solving the immediate to solving the immediate AND effecting change in the future. Sounds pretty great doesn’t it? You act in a way that gets you out of a bind but is also generous to everyone else around you by engaging with your child in a way that suggests accountable actions (both yours and his) in the future. It’s a pretty great investment. It’s hard to see it like that sometimes, but it’s helped me in some of those moments and I offer it here, as possibly helping you step beyond a tense scene for a great cause: for you, your child, for me. For the love of humankind.

 

*For more doses of the philanthropist mindset Kim is starting a Daily Donation on her blog WhiteSpaceBlackArt.com where you can find generous spirit motivators useful to parents and non-parents alike and information on various charities doing work in all realms of outreach that have to do with our future: children.

 

Tales of a New Mom

Tales of a New Mom – From the Trenches at 5 Weeks

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It’s been 5.5 years since I’ve done the new mom thing. Some things are coming slowly back to me, and some feel/are new.

Tales of a New Mom

New Babies Are So Tiny (and Floppy): R was 6lbs 2oz at birth, and we’re currently working towards 8lbs. Words like peanut, nugget, itty bitty, etc. all spring to mind when I think to describe her. She’s very strong and squiggly, though. The number of times she has made my heart stop by tossing her head around or trying to launch out of my arms is already countless. “Support the head” is my constant refrain.

New Mom Brain (Where Did It Go, and Will I Get It Back?): It’s “funny” how things that would normally be cause for great alarm are just par for the course when you’re the parent of a new infant.

New Mom's Memory...

Memory loss: I have had so many conversations that I simply do not remember. We’re not talking conversations where I remember when I’m reminded. We’re talking conversations where my husband recounts it to me, and I have no memory that it ever happened.

Difficulty distinguishing dreams from reality: I’ll think about a conversation or event, and I cannot remember if I dreamed it or if it really happened. (#1 – At least dreaming is a sign that I’m getting more sleep. For a while I wasn’t even dreaming.) (#2 – Okay, not all the time. I’m pretty sure that the time I had to line up in line as a soldier and choose my weapon, one option of which was a block of wax, didn’t really happen.)

Feeling like I’m lucky if I can attend to even 50% of a conversation: Part of my new mom brain is always somewhere else – trying to listen if the baby is stirring, figuring out the last time she ate, have a complete thought while simultaneously listening to a story from the 5.5 yo, be a functional human while half my brain is asleep, etc. (I’ve heard that river dolphins only sleep with half of their brains at time. They should do a study on new moms, I think we may also do this.)

Having Trouble Accepting Help: I’m fortunate, in that I’ve had several people genuinely say, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.” I know I need help, but coming up with something that they can do AND actually bringing myself to make the request – is frequently beyond me. At least this time, when we are offered specific help, we don’t turn it down or feel bad for accepting!

Wondering If I’m Going to Get My Body Back/ Learning About My “New” Body: Bleeding, bladder, belly, boobs. Enough said.

Returning to the Silly Patter, Stream-of-Consciousness: I was already in silly mode with my older one (which animals do we think have the biggest poop. Whose poop is the stinkiest. Now I’m realizing how largely, poop related the humor is. Well, that and knock-knock jokes.) Now, as I’m trying to hear noise besides the screaming of an impatient infant, I’m making up songs where I narrate making a bottle or changing a diaper and trying to find rhymes for words like “sha-boopy.”

Having 2 Kids Is a Whole New Ballgame: As a new mom who is an only child, the sibling thing has always been a bit of a mystery to me. Now, I’m struggling to gracefully balance time and attention with a preschooler and a newborn, and I’m trying to help my older one navigate feelings of responsibility, love, alienation, and insecurity that I’ve never felt before. It’s one thing to know, intellectually, that this was coming, but it’s a whole ‘nother thing to experience it.

As Much As I’d Prepared, I Can’t Get Everything Right (But Preparation Can Help): With my first, I was only able to breastfeed for 3 weeks. Five years later, I could still be brought to tears by the topic.mother and child statue This time, I started conversations with healthcare providers months before I was due. I talked to my health insurance company about coverage for breast pumps and lactation consultants. When my supply again failed to manifest, I saw an amazing lactation team, I pumped, I took herbal supplements, I felt like I was losing my mind, I got amazing help and support from friends and family, and again, I decided that the best decision for myself and my family was to stop trying. Again, it’s the most painful part of this process, and I know I will always second-guess myself and my choice; however, this time I feel more like I took the time to make the best decision I could, rather than giving up in a haze of confusion and despair.

A new mom has so many conflicting urges/ emotions:

  • I want to stay inside in a cocoon, snuggled with my adorable new baby.
  • I want to experience my previous autonomy where I do not have to be 100% attuned to the needs of this tiny new life.
  • I want to take her out into the world everywhere.
  • I want to protect her from people and illnesses of this germy winter season.
  • I want to buy her all the new, cool things that have come out for babies since I last had one.
  • I remember how little was actually necessary with the first one.
  • I want to see her grow now, so I can hear her voice and see her walk.
  • I want her to stay tiny forever.
  • I want to cherish and devote every spare minute I have to being the best mother I can be.
  • I want to figure out who “I” am apart from my identity as a mother and get started on making that happen – right now.
  • Feeling utterly alone.
  • Feeling a part of a large, caring, supportive community.
  • Feeling like, I’ve been here and done that already.
  • Feeling like this is a whole new experience, and I’m lost.

Is the Big Bad PPD Coming? I suffered from mild postpartum depression after my first. Other than some major drama with the breastfeeding, I feel a little saner this time around; however, PPD can come on months after childbirth. I’ll be wondering for a long time if I’ve really made it past the danger zone. PPD is serious stuff. If you think you might be experiencing PPD, get help. It’s not only for you but for your family, too.

Does this sound familiar to anyone? I’d love to hear that I’m not the only one experiencing some of these things! Are there things that you’re experiencing that I left out? Please share!

Related Links:

How to Help a New Mother

Great News! Mommy Brain May Trigger Brain Growth

Wash Your Freaking Hands Before You Touch Someone’s Baby

Postpartum Depression Quiz

4th Trimester Bodies Project

Circle of Control: Disney with a Sensory Sensitive Child

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For the past 18 months I have been dreading the Christmas/ New Year’s of 2015-2016. Now I try to be a happy person so why you say was I dreading this past holiday? Control. I went with my extended family on a trip to Disney World. That sounds like the opportunity of a life time, but my dread came from realizing I could not control much for my special needs child. I expected the worst: insomnia, sensory meltdowns, family arguments and much more.

Circle of Control: Disney with a Sensory Sensitive Kid

Then one day before we left on the trip I took a long hard look at my attitude. I had predispositioned myself and others to have a miserable time. That did not sounds like what I wanted for any of us. So I took a little time out for me to recapture some of the joy. We were headed to the House of Mouse. I researched food we might like to try, rides we wanted to go on, shows to see and the weather. I was a one woman excitement factory! That joy and excitement spread to my family.

We used a Disability Access Pass. As soon as we arrived at Magic Kingdom we got our pass and the cast members asked what accommodations we needed and how they could help us to have an enjoyable time. I stated what we needed and were off!

I was the cheerleader for those tired of walking, the getter of snacks and souvenirs. We counted steps walked on my mother-in-laws fitbit and tried to best our steps each day. I chose to control what I could control and let go of what was out of my circle of control. I could control if we ate, or rested or tried a new ride, but I could not control how hot it was or the speed of an lines we waited in. Each time I felt myself get frustrated, mad or rushed I stepped back to see what could I control and what was beyond me.

My family had a marvelous vacation! I loved seeing Disney World through the eyes of my children and my nephews. This vacation taught me to look to what is in my circle of control and for the rest, I follow the words of Elsa: Let it GO!

Practical suggestions for mindful living.

Mindful Living

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Practical suggestions for mindful living.I know I’m not the only one lying awake at night thinking of our hurting world. I hold my babies tighter not sure of their future and what it might look like. I say this with a compassionate attitude towards those that are truly suffering. I’ve been feeling empathy pains and aches for those people whose lives have been shattered and live in fear on a daily basis.   In order to keep moving forward, I choose to focus on the moment and pay attention to what’s in front of me.  “Be present,” said Ms. Lei, J’s teacher during her Empathy Parenting workshop a month ago.  She gave an example of when we treat ourselves to a cup of coffee. Often we are instantly pulled in six different directions, breaking the silence, and missing it’s greatness.

“When you are in the now,” she said, “you will be aware of every last sip.”

Every.last.sip.

What a wonderful idea and journey we could all take through life. She shared with us the children’s daily routine of circle time at the beginning of each day. By asking each child to “come into the circle and feel your breath,” she’s inviting them to be present and practice mindfulness.

I challenge us all to begin to live our lives this way. When a friend shares with you her struggle over her child’s behavior, put aside your to-do lists and personal struggles. Be in the moment. Practice empathy friendship. This could just be undivided conversation and a hug or offering to babysit. If your child is struggling to put on his shoes and your arms are full of library books, purse, water bottle, and you’re halfway out the door. Stop. Put everything down (you can huff and puff in your head, if it helps) and help him through the struggle. If your partner seems tense from work (and if you two can grab a moment alone) lend an ear to those struggles, even if you have no idea what their job entails.

Mother Teresa said “small things, done in great love, bring joy and peace.” This is absolutely true. Tuck that note into your kids lunchbox. It might just be the lift they need to get through a tough day of middle school. Pick up dinner for a family of five,  just because. Practice random acts of kindness. I can say with absolute certainty that the reward will be two fold. You get to make someone’s day but the joy in giving will be all yours.

In addition to mindful living, recognizing what we’re grateful for can also lift our spirits.

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What do you do when non of the traditional parenting advice works for you? Managing ADHD and non-neuro-typical kids

Raising a Neuro-Typical vs. a Non-Neuro-Typical Child

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I have two beautiful, loving, bright little boys. As with many families with two or more children, one of my children is more challenging than the other. However, unlike most families, my oldest son has ADHD, and the other does not. In raising them, my husband jokes that we could send our youngest child off to boarding school, pick him up when he turned 18, and he would turn out just fine. Before my older child received his ADHD diagnosis, we were often left scratching our heads at the end of the day, unsure of how to exactly parent him. Most parenting methods simply did not work with him.

What do you do when non of the traditional parenting advice works for you? Managing ADHD and non-neuro-typical kids

Child Psychologists, C.B. McNeil and T.L. Hembree-Kigin, describe the difference between a neurotypical and a child with ADHD, when they write:

Suppose a child with ADHD and a classmate are both eating pudding and become silly. They make pudding mustaches and pudding earrings. You respond like most parents by saying, “That’s disgusting. You’re supposed to eat pudding, not play in it.” How will the calmer classmate feel? He will probably feel sorry that he disappointed you, and he will immediately wipe the pudding off of his face. Yet, when you use exactly the same parenting strategy with the child who has ADHD, what happens? He laughs, makes a pudding beard on his face, and throws his pudding at you. So for the average child, criticism is a very effective deterrent. That child will probably never put pudding on his face in your house again. But, for the child with ADHD, the criticism is like the tall glass of water for a thirsty person. He was under-aroused and the criticism provided the stimulation he needed to feel better. Rather than being a deterrent, the criticism was actually a reward.*

While I have never had a “pudding” experience, the psychologists summed up the experience of parenting my two children perfectly. My youngest child misbehaves, but he reacts to my behavioral corrections, frustration or disappointment. My oldest child often escalated his behavior when I tried to correct him or got upset. The old standby of positive and negative consequences either didn’t fully do the trick or took much longer to work than with my other child. For my oldest child, I read countless parenting books (123 Magic, Love and Logic, the Difficult Child, etc.). I read blogs and attended parenting lectures. Afterwards, I would leave each lecture thinking that I had tried all the old tricks and followed the advice of therapists, but my son seemed to be able to outsmart all parenting advice. He also pushed almost every limit, and he didn’t seem to learn from negative experiences or consequences (Why not touch that hot grill or jump out of a parked car’s window head first?). My youngest son tests limits, but he doesn’t test every limit over and over again. He also occasionally throws fits, but he doesn’t frequently throw such extreme fits that it sounds like someone is beating him. When he plays with friends, he doesn’t get so overly excited that he cannot calm himself down. As for the parenting books and therapist blogs, most of the parenting tricks work on my youngest son. In fact, I rarely need to do any research. I can just parent him. I love both my children with all of my heart. I am in awe of them and their individual strengths every day. However, I can say that parenting my oldest child has taught me a lot of humility in ways that parenting my younger child never will.

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Perhaps the most difficult part about parenting my two children is the disparate ways that people react to them. When my oldest son was between the ages of 2 and 5, I rarely left the house without someone remarking, “Boy, you’ve got your hands full,” or “You must be tired at the end of the day.” I didn’t mind the comments, but viewed their remarks as coming from a place of sympathy. In truth, I did feel tired at the end of the day, and I did have my hands full. I did mind the people who judged my parenting by my oldest son’s behavior. Teachers asked me, “Have you ever disciplined your son?” or “Has your child ever had any structure?” Other people asked, “Have you ever tried telling him about inside voices and outside voices?” A well-meaning friend even offered, “Give him to me for a week. I think I could straighten him out.” In reality, we live by routine in my house, not because I am a particularly structured or organized person (in fact, I’m quite the opposite), but because my oldest son behaves much better when there is a routine. We have a morning routine prior to school, an afternoon routine and a bedtime routine with free time scheduled within each. For my older son, I have made behavior charts to encourage positive behaviors and given far more negative consequences (time-outs and taking away toys or television privileges) than I ever have created for my younger son. I also talked about inside voices and outside voices with him frequently (something I have never even had to mention to my younger son). In general, my oldest son acts pretty well at home. His main behavioral problems occur when he is over-stimulated, bored, around a lot of children, or in a new situation. Knowing this, I used role-play with him, demonstrating different ways to act when children wouldn’t share their toys, when he felt angry with a friend or when he felt overwhelmed. When we began therapy, the therapists were impressed with the amount of things my husband and I had tried.

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With my youngest child, I generally receive positive feedback from both strangers and friends. I also rarely hear anything negative about him from teachers. His preschool teacher loved having him in class so much that she cried when I told her that he would be leaving preschool early last summer because we were going on vacation. People also rarely comment on my ability to parent him or give me advice about how to raise him. No one has ever offered to take him off my hands for a week, so they could parent him better than I did. While most parents probably would attribute their child’s good behavior to their parenting abilities, I don’t pat myself on the back for my youngest son’s good behavior. I feel much more successful as a parent when my older son behaves well in circumstances that are difficult for him to manage. That is when I know my husband and I have truly done our jobs as parents.

In the last year, since my son received his diagnosis, I now have a new lens through which to view his behavior. Because ADHD is often an inherited condition, I have stopped blaming my child’s impulsivity, hyperactivity, low frustration tolerance, or loudness on my own failed parenting skills. Instead, I try to provide him with tools to manage his own behavior. A year of family therapy has taught me that I couldn’t have intuited a lot of the parenting skills we needed to use with my son. Have you ever narrated your child’s play, step by step, in a neutral voice, to encourage self-talk and awareness? That was not something I would have initiated on my own. We also have to ignore a lot of non-harmful, attention-seeking behaviors that others probably would not, and praise my son when he behaves like your average, neuro-typical kid. A friend with a child, who also has ADHD, recommended Ross W. Greene’s book, The Explosive Child. Of all books, that one has helped the most, because it begins with the notion that all children want to act “good,” they just don’t always have the necessary skills to make the right choices in a given moment. Both my boys want to behave well, but my child with ADHD simply needs a little more guidance and coaching.

*C.B. McNeil, T.L. Hembree-Kigin, Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, Issues in Clinical Psychology, DOI 10.1007/978-0-387-88639-8_15, Copywrite Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

10 Small Things That Make My Day Brighter

10 Small Things That Make My Day Brighter

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Life has gotten so much busier since Jack started half-day school, 5 days a week. I truly thought life would breathe a little easier once the school year began. Although I laugh every day at my naiveté, we couldn’t be happier with the decision to send him to our small, heartfelt Montessori school. He runs right into class every day.  It makes me so proud to see him loving this new part of his life but I have to admit that I’ve felt a wave of emotions these last several weeks. My little boy is in school! Our long days together have come to an end. Sniff. Sniff. Etc. Etc.

Need a pick me up? Check out these ideas for appreciating the moment.

In times of big change and big emotions I like to take a step back, take a deep breath, and look around at all the little things that make my day brighter. The following is a list (with helpful links) of my ten favorite things of the moment.

  1. I purchased this bento box from Zulily.com nearly two years ago in anticipation of making school lunches. Am I the only one who can’t pass on a good deal?  I thought it would be a great way to eliminate Ziploc bags and even more fun to get creative with food. Boy, was that an understatement.  I’ve had a total blast (most mornings) making food fun for little dude. Sliced cheddar in the shape of tiny teddy bears was a big hit.
    bentolove
  2. If you want to give yourself a kick in the pants, GET A FIT BIT. The holidays are coming up. Make sure to get your letter to Santa in the mail now.
  3. After Pops gets Jack to school in the morning, it’s an absolute treat when his sister graces me with an extra hour of slumber because that means I can have my favorite breakfast-of-the-moment in solitude. There is no better start to the day than with a bowl of blueberry oatmeal and a piping hot cup of coffee.
    heartcoffee
  4. On the days that I’m thrown in the driver seat full throttle I turn to my new friend The Complete Cookie. These little vegan, kosher nutritional gems are conveniently perforated into two servings. For a full cookie it’s 16 g protein and 6 g of fiber. They have many delicious flavors but at this moment peanut butter cookie is my favorite.
  5. Two books that I would highly recommend…
    books
    Mom’s One Line a Day: A Five-Year Memory Book. This is one of those grab in a fire things for me. It is so wonderful to look back on my babies’ lives and see what they were doing each day and how they’ve changed. This is a wonderful gift you could give to new parents. There have been many days when Albert has picked up the pen and taken over too. I love that this book is chocked full of love and so much pride. What a treasure!
  6.  Small Victories (Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace) by Anne Lamott. She is such a breath of fresh air. I laugh, cry, and ponder when I read her books.
  7. Tortilla wraps have become a bit of an obsession for me. I’m especially fond of the big spinach ones by Mission that only set me back 210 calories. The following is a quick list of what I’ve put in wraps lately; Spring mix, spinach, artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes, smoked Gouda cheese spread, black beans, crab cake, tuna salad, Trader Joe’s roasted eggplant dip (2 tbsp 30 calories), hummus, peppers, cucumbers, pasta salad, cannellini beans, edamame, etc. The list goes on and on. The key to a healthy, happy wrap is portion control with a variety of fillings. So yummy and for someone who gets in a rut with meals, perfect.
  8.  When I saw these Saucony tennies (found here on Amazon) on the sale rack at Nordstrom ($25!!!) I knew they were coming home with me.  My Emmaline has a teeny tiny fondness for all things shoes. I blame it on her Nana and her turquoise sequined house shoes that E has been after since birth. My Mom informed me recently that those slippers have been bequeathed to my sweet daughter. For now, she will have to slum it in these wee things.
    shoes
  9. IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Under Eye Concealer & Hello Light Liquid Brightener. These early mornings aren’t doing my under eye area any favors. I picked this up at Ulta for half off during their recent 21 days of beauty. A Beauty Blender sponge works really great with this product.
  10. Radio Flyer Ultimate Wagon. This contraption was a well thought out purchase for us. Sadly we have not taken it to an amusement park or major outdoor excursion yet, but those times they are a coming. We have been enjoying this as a way to wind down our evening taking a nice stroll after dinner and before we settle in to the night time routine. It’s easy enough for big boy to pull when he feels inclined and handles like a dream. Cup holders and a pouch that fits a good sized picnic are also a plus.

I would love to hear about all the little happy things that bring joy to your lives, especially on those slumpy days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coming to Terms with ADHD

Coming to Terms with ADHD

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Okay. I’ll admit it. Prior to having children, I didn’t really believe in ADHD.

Coming to Terms with ADHD

I thought that ADHD was either grossly over-diagnosed or that it was simply children’s reactions to being placed in unnatural environments with unrealistic and developmentally inappropriate expectations. After all, many schools limit recess time to 20 minutes a day. Under the pressure of testing, public schools have largely pushed academic learning and a more sedentary lifestyle on children at younger and younger ages. At home, children spend less time playing outside and more time indoors watching television or playing video games. In my naïve view, children, deprived of an outlet for their energy, would naturally act out.

The news media often corroborates this notion that ADHD is either a product of our current society or a syndrome invented by the pharmaceutical industry rather than a true neurological difference. In a 2014 Guardian article, Dr. Bruce Perry claimed that ADHD was not a real disease. “Part of what happens,” he A mom who confronted her ADHD skepticism.stated, “is if you have an anxious, overwhelmed parent, that is contagious. When a child is struggling, the adults around them are easily disregulated too. This negative feedback process between the frustrated teacher or parent and disregulated child can escalate out of control.” In the Psychological Today article, “Why French Kids Don’t Have ADHD,” Marilyn Wedge discusses how French psychiatrists, unlike their colleagues in the U.S., view ADHD as having social/emotional causes rather than neuro-biological ones. As a result, the French treat ADHD through psychotherapy rather than medicine. Other articles point to diet as a cause for hyperactive behavior. Many commenters on blogs or editorials view ADHD as the product of an undisciplined generation of children. They claim that if parents simply disciplined their children more or spanked them, then those children wouldn’t act so out of control. Finally, even psychologists, who believe in ADHD, question the dramatic increase in the number of children diagnosed with the syndrome after pharmaceutical companies began heavily advertising ADHD medications on television, radio or in magazines.

Thus, I too questioned the prevalence of ADHD. I viewed the syndrome as more of a behavioral problem than something stemming from neuro-biological differences. Then, I had my son, Sam. He was a happy, fat, wonderful baby (of course, all babies are wonderful). I breastfed him until he was over a year old. When he started eating solids, we limited sugar and fed him primarily whole foods. Except for plane or car trips, we didn’t allow him to watch television or play video games. Because we live in a moderate climate, he played outside almost every day. Yet, at 22 months, my son, like most toddlers, started having behavioral difficulties. Unlike most toddlers, my son didn’t grow out of many of the challenging behaviors, and those challenging behaviors seemed more extreme than those in other children. I attributed his behavior to the terrible twos and threes. Because I also blamed myself for Sam’s behavior, I read almost any kind of parenting book available about strong-willed and spirited children. However, none of the advice I read in therapists’ books really worked with my son. When Sam was four years old, I had an easier time parenting him, but he was still more challenging to raise than my younger son. Most people described him as having a lot of energy.

A mom facing her ADHD skepticism.After a tumultuous first semester in a traditional kindergarten, which I documented in my first blog post, I decided to take Sam to a specialist. After two days of extensive testing, including brain scans, the neuropsychologist diagnosed Sam with ADHD. In our follow-up appointment, the neuropsychologist spent over an hour describing how ADHD affects a child’s executive functions and how the frontal lobe develops differently in children with ADHD. My husband, who also attended the meeting, said that the neuropsychologist could have been describing him as a child. However, because psychologists did not diagnose children as having ADHD at the time, my husband was simply called “stupid”, “bad”, or “un-teachable.” My husband, who completed a master’s degree in his second language, obviously does not have any cognitive deficits. However, he does have problems with following directions, planning activities, listening, sitting still and solving problems. He has many strengths, but he also probably has undiagnosed ADHD. In some instances, ADHD helps him to hyper-focus on things he likes to do, but it also hinders his abilities in other areas.

Listening to the neuropsychologist, I also began to think about my mother’s first cousin, who was always described as a “wild child.” I only knew him as an adult, but he had boundless energy, couldn’t sit still, talked very loudly and with a lot of profanity, and slept very little. He was also a very intelligent, sweet and caring man, who became a wonderful father, husband, entrepreneur, and outdoorsman. His path to adulthood was not easy, and he had a very strained relationship with his parents throughout his adolescence and early adulthood. I started thinking about all the children, who were deemed troublemakers as young children, and the effect that those labels had on them. Even though people sometimes claim ADHD didn’t exist when they were children, kids with ADHD-like behaviors and neurological differences have always existed. Parents and teachers just didn’t have the tools to deal with the behaviors. I don’t think any child wins when that child has been pigeon-holed as a bad child at an early age. That kind of labeling only exacerbates situations rather than ameliorates them.

Finally, ADHD affects so much more than a child’s ability to sit still in class. My own son, when interested in a topic, can sit still for hours or hyper-focus (also a symptom of his ADHD). He can listen to audio-books for hours, build elaborate lego creations, and draw. However, during hyper-focus, he cannot pay attention to anything else but the task at hand. Unless you touch him on the shoulder and look him in the eye, he won’t hear his name being called. He also won’t stop what he is doing to go to the bathroom. At school, he has difficulty sitting criss-cross applesauce in a group, walking silently in a line, concentrating in a normal-sized classroom of 22 children, and following multi-step instructions. His ADHD affects his visual tracking and focus. His optometrist told me that whereas only 5% of the population has problems with visual tracking and acuity, 80% of her patients with visual tracking problems also have ADHD. Other studies show that children with ADHD concentrate better when they move, as opposed to neuro-typical children who become distracted by movement. In short, children with ADHD are simply wired differently.

If you've ever doubted an ADHD diagnosis, read this.

In many ways, I am grateful for the ADHD diagnosis, because there are a lot of research-based methods proven to help children with ADHD. I also realize how mistaken I was. All of the things that I thought might cause ADHD (schools with limited recess and emphasizing rote learning, poor diet, excessive screen time, lack of outdoor time, etc.) were not present in my son’s life. Yet, my son still had ADHD. When we moved my son to a wonderful school with an hour and a half recess, project-based education, small student-teacher ratios, and tactile learning, my son’s ADHD didn’t disappear.  He still struggled. However, the teachers at this school were willing to implement accommodations to help him succeed.

As far as parenting, my husband and I have attended lectures and therapy sessions to learn how to parent our son better. Because psychologists have been studying ADHD for over 50 years, we have benefited from their research and findings. My son is a creative, sweet, thoughtful, passionate, energetic and smart little boy. Like my husband, ADHD both helps him in some areas and hinders his abilities in others. I would much rather live in a society that gave these kids the tools to succeed than a society that penalized these children for being different. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that scientists blamed autism on the autistic child’s “frigid” mother. As for the claim that French children don’t get ADHD, research reveals that approximately 3 to 5% of French children have ADHD just like the rest of the world. ADHD may still be over-diagnosed in the United States, but I think the next generation would benefit much more from a society that helps kids with learning differences succeed. No one wins in a society that refuses to accept the fact that some kids are wired differently and may need different tools and accommodations at home and in the classroom.

Helpful Links

ADHD Resources from the CDC

ADHD Myths

ADHD Blogs

Collaborative and Proactive Discipline

 

 

If you love someone with depression, read this.

A Letter to My Daughter: On Depression and Growing Up

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I wrote this after my daughter faced a second bout of depression. It broke my heart when she was first diagnosed, yet gave me a sense of power to call it by name. She identified her foe at an earlier age than I had. Determined to help her not become depression, I wrote my thoughts down. She’s become an insightful, intuitive and compassionate young adult embracing all of who she is in ways I can only dream. With her permission and intent to support others, this is shared today.

If you love someone with depression, read this.


You cried the first time I left you. I knew what you didn’t — I’d return. I held your little body as you wretched the first time. Your tiny voice begged, “No, mommy, no.” I couldn’t stop the upheaval. My hands held you, my heart broke. It would pass, I knew. But only after you went through it.

The summer before kindergarten you begged, “Please, let’s homeschool. I don’t want to go all day.” I wrestled with the decision, yet told you it’d be fine. We chose an intimate school with shorter hours. The pre-K teacher said you were ready.

I saw a flash of something. An anxious, sensitive part wary of transitions, scared of new things, and afraid to be less than the best. I stood by you, stayed at school until you settled and surrounded you with trustworthy nurturing adults. You flourished.

When you wanted to dance, fears of something new and not-being-good overwhelmed you. I encouraged and maybe pushed a little the first class. I sat outside the studio door. Uncomfortable with first tries, who could blame you? That fear, that hesitancy, keeps some from ever trying. Soon, you no longer walked or ran. Twirls, leaps and jetes (accent over the second “e”) propelled your steps. At 7, you said, “No matter what, momma, I have to dance.”

In spite of hesitancies, you’re driven. First steps can stop you, or slow you down. You want to be sure. The thing is, we’re not always sure. Sometimes, the only way to know is to try.

Do you remember your first Nutcracker audition? You went back and forth. You wanted to do it, you didn’t want to do it. I strongly encouraged you to try. I’d a feeling you’d love the stage. (The audition environment was safe, nurturing and fun with adults you knew and loved. Puhlease, I’m the furtherst thing from a dance mom.)

Finally, I said, “If you get a part, you don’t have to take it.” Freedom and control, the back door and safety net now visible. You could say no. But, to have the choice of no, you stepped outside your comfrot zone and tried. You made it, chose to be a dancing mouse. More auditions followed and you loved every moment.

It’s hard being a mom. I constantly weigh encouragement vs. pushing. Sometimes, my heart knows you should try something and I give a bigger “encouragement”. I usually read your signals and give you room and respect to dig in your heels. I listen with my heart. I help find back doors so you can walk through the front ones.

Remember kindergarten – the place you didn’t want to go? You loved it so hard you didn’t want to transition to first grade. There were tears. There was clinging. Your kindergarten teacher saved the day and you went early to your old classroom. You helped set up and she walked you to first grade. It was magic. My confidant first grader found her way through a difficult time. She came in through the back door.

Transitions are challenging. They feel so abrupt. I swear, transitioning from wake to sleep takes a toll on your little body. I know. It does the same for me. I learned to give you the right amount of “heads-up.” Too much and anxiety ate away. Too litte and it’s becomes so big, jarring and overwhelming. Just enough and it’s smoother sailing.

A nurturing guide helped you assimilate well into Montessori elementary school. But, mid-elementary, your world fell apart. Your lifelong furry companion, Kadi, died. Your heart broke. A new best friend moved into town and moved out just as fast. It was all too much for your big heart.

The part of you that came alive when you danced, the part that gets lost in a book or movie, the part that sees beauty in the ordinary is the same part that shattered when Kadi died and a kindred sister friend moved. You lost the beauty, the silver linings, the sparkles and threw yourself into dance.

Your head in my lap, you cried. You wanted to be like everyone else. Happy. I found notes saying “I want to die.” I learned you didn’t want to die. You wanted everything to stop — a break from the heaviness of unhappiness. It drowned.

I looked for a way to make it better. There are no chapters in general parenting books about such notes from 8-year-olds. My strong hands held you as I shook within. They weren’t enough. You felt alone. The absolute worst. Feeling alone in a full family.

We searched for an answer, a way through the darkness. You went to where I’d found help before — a therapist, a gentle psychiatrist. We gave the unhappiness, the heaviness, a name. We boldly and unashamedly called it aloud. Depression. This, alone, brought immense relief. You weren’t crazy, a misfit, or broken. You were depressed.

Most people bounce back from the curve balls and sadness life throws their way. People with depression fall harder, deeper and longer. They often need help bouncing back. A life line, so to speak.

Depression isn’t evil. It’s not a curse. Not anyone’s fault. It just is. I’m sorry it is, but I can’t change that. I’m sorry there are tornadoes, cancer and scary ghost stories. My sorrow won’t make them disappear. (How I wish it would.) They don’t go away if we ignore them or hate them.

Naming took some of its power and gave you back some control. Some nights, you sleep through a thunderstorm. Some, you lay unafraid and listening, knowing storms won’t hurt you safe and warm inside. And, sometimes, you crawl into bed with another who makes you feel safe until it blows over. Maybe, you turn on the light. When the storm of depression hit so big, we found shelter in good therapists and helpers.

Your beautiful curly hair (even though it’s made you cry and you’ve spent hours straightening it) is your Grandfather’s; your brown eyes and fine features are your Grandma’s. Your overbite and the sparkle in your dancing eyes from another Grandma. Your stubbornness? Straight from your dad and his dad. (Okay, maybe a little from me, too.) You ability to tune into animals? It’s easily inherited from many in our family. Your flat chest? I’ll claim that one — sigh, sorry. A risk for heart disease? Cancer? High blood pressure? All come from family members. Unfortunately, depression came from me, maybe others, too. We can’t change these things. We can face them and accept them. We learn to deal with them and when to get help. Together.

When you don’t feel well, everything goes wrong and homework sucks; when it’s hard, overwhelming and you feel you’re under a pile of wet wool laundry with no way out; depression can strike. It’s your kryptonite. Your weakness. Like a horse with an old ache from an injured leg – overwork that horse and the stress first appears in a limp or stumble in that leg. You’ll always have to remember that leg and be aware. You’ll watch for red-flags before the limp is is too bad. You’ll learn what builds it up and what makes it wobble. You’ll take care of yourself. You’ll keep the kryptonite at bay. I’ll help. Others will, too.

Do you remember the magic glass story? It was only half-full. A thirsty little child refused to drink it. It wouldn’t completely quench the thirst, there wasn’t enough. Another child came along happy to drink what was there. The second child learned the glass was magic. As soon as the child drank the water, it magically refilled.

Sometimes we need help to see the glass is half-full. Maybe it’s a chemical thing in the brain changing your perspective on the glass. Medicine or talking with a professional may help. The first step is realizing your perspective — how you see the glass. Taking care of yourself — make sure you exercise, eat well, journal, etc. may help the perspective and change the focus on the glass. You’ll learn what works for you.

Your curly hair isn’t your fault (unless you pay big bucks for a bad perm). You didn’t choose your brown eyes. Depression isn’t your fault, either. You’ve a separate life from me, yet we share many characteristics. Those brown eyes and depression remain. Individually yours and mine.

We also share people who face it with us. They’re not afraid to call it by name. As you grow up, you’ll still need them. My heart isn’t getting smaller. There’s plenty of room to love you all the way through. I’m by your side. I’m not afraid of your curly hair or your depression. (Ok, sometimes on grouchy running-late mornings, your curly bed hair is more than slightly intimidating.)

Growing up has ups and downs, emotions and hormones on every turn. You’ll soon distinguish depression from life’s normal growing pains. It can be hard, I won’t lie. Sometimes you’ll need help. Keep talking, keep hugging. Keep showing up. You’ll get through it.

Throughout your day, plant little things to make you happy. A little time for you to work out, read, watch netflix, walk on the beach, play with a dog or be with a friend.

Never forget, I am here. I can listen, lend a strong supportive hand and encourage (even push a little). You’re doing well on a difficult path. It’s getting better. Depression isn’t a punishment or weakness. It’s not caused by you or anyone else. It just is – like a thunderstorm that hits the farm up the road but leaves another one high and dry a mile away. Some struggle with it. Others don’t.

I hope for you sunshine, rainbows, and gentle ponies. But, I know there will be rain, clouds, and bumps along the way. You’re surrounded by those who love you and will lift you up. You will make it through. Coming out the other side may not be exactly how you envisioned it, but you will come through –breath by breath and day by day.

If you learn anything from me, I hope you learn to be gentle with yourself. Seek others when needed. Turn away shame. Love yourself, my child. You’re sensitive, compassionate and loving. You’re the perfect you.

7 Tips to Help You Help Your Kids Build Healthy Friendships

7 Tips to Help Your Kids Build Healthy Friendships

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I consider myself very lucky. I had two best friends growing up, both of whom are still in my life. I no longer live in the town where I grew up, which seems to be more the norm these days than in the past. Neither of these friends live in our hometown either – we all scattered for college, got married and are now raising kids and pursuing our careers. I’m grateful that technology has allowed me to maintain connections with both of these bright, thoughtful, supportive women.

7 Tips to Help You Help Your Kids Build Healthy Friendships

As a parent, I want to help my kids build these kind of healthy friendships. Despite what my husband says, building healthy friendships doesn’t always come naturally to everyone.

Our kids sometimes need support and coaching, because let’s face it – friendships can be hard. You are opening yourself up to someone else, becoming vulnerable in a way you haven’t with anyone other than family before and it is quite likely that your best friends will hurt your feelings sometimes. Managing through the ups and downs of early friendships sets the stage for building healthy friendships throughout your child’s life.

All kids are different and need their own guidance and support – especially kids who are outliers due to various asynchronicities, cognitive ability or emotional regulation. As parents there are some specific skills we can encourage as our kids journey into healthy, life-long friendships.

Build Negotiation Skills

At the heart of all healthy friendships is the give-and-take that is rooted in a deep and genuine concern for the other person. That give-and-take rarely comes naturally to kids (at least it hasn’t to my kids).  As adults we have likely learned complex negotiation strategies – either through formal education and training or just through years of experience. Breaking those strategies down for kids can be daunting, so I suggest starting with the idea of teaching our kids to focus on a shared interest or outcome.

I’m going to pick on my own kids for a moment. They both really enjoying playing together – they like spending time together – but they don’t share a ton of common interests. Given their druthers, Davis would play basketball and Patrick would play Minecraft. This used to result in lots of fights and hurt feelings. We have worked hard to teach them to focus on a mutual goal – spending time together. When that is the goal, then they can both step back a bit and make a compromise – maybe it is a game of Around the World first and then a cool down with a collaborative session of Minecraft or a competitive game of Plants v Zombies. Whatever the plan, when the focus is on the goal of spending time together (and not what they are doing), the squabbles abate and they enjoy themselves immeasurably more.

Foster Empathy

Healthy friendships require that both friends are able to put their own emotions aside and respond appropriately to the other person’s emotional needs; healthy friendships require both people to practice empathy.

Empathy isn’t simple. In fact, it requires some fairly sophisticated skills like distinguishing your feelings from someone else’s, understanding another person’s perspective and regulating your own emotional response. Some kids are naturally better at these skills and other kids need lots of practice.

In our house, we focus on:

  • Naming our own feelings
  • Identifying other people’s feelings
  • Role-playing facial cues and body language that frequently accompanies specific feelings
  • Exploring how people can have different perspectives
  • Developing an internal moral compass

Teach How to Say, “I’m Sorry” (and Mean It!)

Learning how to apologize is really an art form. Many parents want to rush the process by insisting that their kids say, “I’m sorry” for transgressions. However, if your kids aren’t cognitively and emotionally ready to apologize, then the obligatory apology doesn’t do any good. It becomes a hollow way to brush past hurt feelings. The simple recitation of, “I’m sorry” doesn’t teach our kids what an apology means.

True apologies require that our kids have 1) the cognitive ability to understand that they did something wrong, 2) the emotional skills to empathize with another person, and 3) the moral compass to want to make things better. This isn’t the apology of a toddler – it is the sophisticated and meaningful apology of someone capable of and interested in developing healthy friendships.

So next time your kid makes a misstep and really should apologize to someone, stop focusing on the outcome (the apology) and focus on the process.

Role Play Through Tricky Situations

Almost all friendships hit a rocky patch every now and then. What defines healthy friendships is the ability to manage through the hurt feelings and get back on track. This takes negotiation skills, empathy, and the ability to say, “I’m sorry.” Even with all these skills, sometimes it helps to practice in a non-threatening environment – that’s where role-playing comes in handy.

When your kids hit a rough patch with their friends, there will be hurt feelings on both sides. Helping your child break-down what has happened, how (s)he is feeling and how to make amends will make the actual friendship mending process go much more smoothly.

Our kids don’t always have the right words or the emotional regulation to do this naturally, so let them practice with you. Be the coach. Provide encouragement, a safe place to process, help deciphering the situation and gentle guidance.

Encourage Hobbies (Find a Tribe)

Making friends comes naturally to some kids, but not all kids. Kids who are outliers for whatever reason (IQ, the alphabet soup of diagnoses, innate nerdiness, etc…), sometimes struggle to find their tribe. The best way to find a friend is to do things that interest you and do it with other people!

Take inventory of your kid’s favorite activities and then seek out groups who enjoy those things. Martial arts, sports teams, chess clubs, naturalist groups, church groups, etc…It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it is important to your child.

When you find these groups, help your child understand that the friends may not share ALL the same interests as them and help him/her focus on their commonalities. It is unlikely that any one friend will meet all of your kid’s needs – encourage your child to appreciate the difference between friends and how they complement each other.

Make Your Home Welcoming

Yes. You want your house to be the “It House” – the house where all the kids come, where they feel welcomed and know they will have fun and be safe. It may be an inconvenience at times. It may go against your introverted nature. It may be noisy and raucous at times. You still want to do it.

When your kids friends come to your house, they will have lots of fun, but they will also have squabbles. If they are at your house, you can help model the steps of maintaining healthy friendships. You can teach kids to negotiate, model empathy and make amends.

This is hard work and takes a BIG commitment from you (and your spouse), but teaching your kids these skills is worth more than any formal education they will ever get. A PhD in microbiology won’t get you very far if you don’t know how to get along with other people.

Model Healthy Friendships

More than anything else you can do, you can model healthy friendships. Show your kids what it means to have a best friend – how you support each other and have fun together, how you work through disagreements, what it means to make room for another person in your life.

We travel with our best friends frequently (like 3 or 4 times a year). These are family affairs – two couples, each with two kids. The kids are also best friends, which makes it great for everyone. Part of why we can travel together is that we know each other so well and make allowances for each other’s quirks and needs – we accommodate each other.

I guarantee that if we are together for more than 3 days, the kids will hurt each other’s feelings. Every time it happens, we huddle with our own kids and help them process and then teach them how to make it better. It’s a hands on learning process in a very safe environment. I couldn’t ask for more.


Resources:

Can Children Learn to Negotiate?

Teaching Empathy: Evidence Based Tips for Fostering Empathy in Children

Coaching Children in Handling Everyday Conflict

How to Help Kids Make Friends: 10 Evidence Based Tips


Hoagies Blog Hop - Gifted RelationshipsThis post was written as part of a blog hop hosted by Hoagies Gifted Education Page.

Check out other people’s thoughts on Gifted Relationships.

Vulnerability II and Friendship

Vulnerability (Part II) & Friendship

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Woman Hiding Face with Mask

As I’ve been reflecting on what it means to be vulnerable, I’m realizing -for me- it keeps coming back to friendship and allowing myself (for better or worse) to be connected to other people. Oh – and it’s really hard!

One of the areas where I’ve been focusing on being strong, being an island (therefore closing others out) is with my health. About a year ago I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (although I was being followed for “lesions consistent with a demyelinizing disease” for a year and a half before that), and, at least in my mind, I was amazing. Don’t get me wrong, I had my moments where I broke down in private, but I was able to talk about it, laugh in the face of the disease, be objective, not have an existential crisis about it, take life a day at a time, while recognizing that the future might hold challenges, etc. Considering that the year had brought me: a layoff from a job that I took pride in, a milestone birthday, and the loss of my engagement ring, I thought I was doing a pretty good job of holding it together.

Having struggled with depression for decades, I was particularly impressed that I didn’t succumb to an episode in the face of all of this. I knew what depression was – it was breaking down, non-stop crying, with the belief that things would never get better. Again, I had my moments, but I was impressed with my relative non-breakdown-ness.

It was about the time I started allowing myself to connect with friends again, that I realized how not okay I was. As Beth Woolsey has written about Depression coming in disguise, I didn’t realize that I thought I was okay because I had just turned everything off and given up (except for bouts of extreme pissyness). I floundered with trying to start a business – one that I really cared about. I didn’t reach out to friends. I didn’t “suffer” from my disease because I just preemptively decided that I just couldn’t do things and participate in things because if it. No big deal, I just “can’t do that” (go on walks, go out, do things that require endurance, do yoga classes, etc.)

Being vulnerable gets real
No problem, right?

Oddly enough, breaking out of this “I’m fine” shell has been painful, like the pins and needles you feel after a limb has fallen asleep. My husband is doing a biking fundraiser to help raise money for MS research (you can learn more here!), so I’ve been putting my story out there. Even though I’m trying to be more open, I still falter for asking for help when *I* need it (see, the fundraising is for *him*, not me, so it’s easier than just telling people my story for my own sake). For example, I’ve been going out to more social events where people stand around a lot. When it gets physically painful for me, I just suck it up, look for a chair (and feel so embarrassed when I’m the only one sitting), or leave because I don’t want to be “that person” who needs a special accommodation.

Recently, though, I made a huge stride in that area. My friend (the same one who started my whole thought process about vulnerability) put out an invitation to a concert at a nightclub. I expressed interest without thinking about the venue, then tried to pull out once I realized that it there was no seating, it was just standing. Instead of accepting my withdrawal, she did some research on the venue and found out how to ask for seating. Within 2 phone calls, they had a plan to reserve a table for us in the mezzanine. (You know those cool “Reserved for” tables that they have in nightclubs?)

Of course, I was feeling grateful for my friends’ push and great attitude about not being down on the floor close to the stage (for which I felt guilty), when she said, “I’m so glad we have this table!” I was too busy feeling guilty to realize that the accommodation that the club made might actually be a benefit! The concert was amazing, we walked around downtown Cambridge in perfect Spring weather, and a barrier was dismantled for me. Concerts at night clubs are now something that is within my range of possible. Only now, I realize that sharing my vulnerability is what led to this breakthrough.

I still have no answer for how to positively reframe the look of disappointment on my son’s face when I try to explain to him that I’m too tired to play with him or take him to the park or why the Mother’s Day trip to the Children’s Museum made me cry because I was so tired that I was nauseated but felt too guilty not to go, but I am working on beating myself up less about it.

And look at me go! I can say it. My Mother’s Day was not “fine.” It was physically exhausting and emotionally painful. I love my son and husband, and they showered me with love, cards, and homemade gifts, but I still struggled. But you know the thing that made the biggest difference? Being kind to myself. Don’t get me wrong, being kind to myself is right up there with going to the dentist for me, but even I have to acknowledge that I experience the most amazing change in attitude when I talk to myself and treat myself as I would a friend (aka nicely), rather than my usual mode of dealing with myself (not so much).

So, my work at vulnerability is definitely being made easier by friends who are near me and help; however, long distance friendships can require some different strategies/ skills. Luckily, I also have amazing friends who live in different parts of the country. We’ve developed some pretty cool habits that make it so much easier to share when things aren’t going well and feel more clued-in about day-to-day details of each other’s lives. (More about that next time). Have you had any experiences where you’ve experienced amazing support from your friends?

Woman in Mask Image courtesy of graur codrin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net