09 April 2007

Woman to Woman:Parenting children with difficult personalities

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Give me babies any day, but 2-5 year olds can be really complicated little people. The toddler/preschool age has been a real challenge around here. I'm sure you're all saying to yourselves, "No, really? Toddlers? Difficult?" Lol. But on top of the usual challenges of exerting their independence and testing boundaries, etc., etc., etc. our children have had issues with communication (delayed speech), sensory dysfunction and body awareness.

Both of my boys have energy in excess. They do not walk. Anywhere. Not from one room to the next even. Because of their need for constant sensory input, they also run into things, and people. Purposely. It feels good to them. We give lots and lots of big bear hugs in this house. They are very soothing and very calming. We wrestle, we tickle, we have lots of pillow fights. The boys prefer to sleep under heavy blankets, even in the summer time. They have "chewys" to wear around the neck for that impulsive need to bite on something.

They are both in occupational therapy once a week, although my oldest son is also attending a specialized preschool program in which he also receives speech and physical therapy. He was born 5 weeks early and has struggled in some aspect or another since the day he was born. Sweetest child in the world, yet he has an extremely difficult time controlling his impulses - which range from talking out of turn to inadvertently kicking his neighbor.

He is currently being treated for ADHD as well. Given his age, my husband and I have taken no further action than added therapy. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is my mantra. And so far, he is not developmentally delayed, so we're faring well enough for now. He will be in Kindergarten next year and we will see then, I am sure, the legitimacy of his diagnosis. But for now, we are hitting the therapy hard and are seeing progress.

My younger son has a condition called right side asymmetry, a form of hemiplegia. Which means the right side of his body is significantly weaker than the left. He is not restricted by it much, except for lack of coordination. Consequently, he is rarely bruise free. And always frustrated. But he runs and jumps the same as any other 2 year old boy. He doesn't let it stop him whatsoever, and in fact tries prove himself to other little boys his age.

The issues my sons face make it very difficult to manage them 100% of the time, particularly in the unknown of the public eye. On one hand, they completely understand right and wrong and what is proper behavior. They just need constant reminding. On the other hand, they are not entirely capable of controlling all their impulses. And those impulses are often heightened by unfamiliar situations: meeting new people, having to wait in lines, crowds. There are a lot of situations that cause nervousness in them, and that usually manifests itself in outbursts and hyperactivity. I've walked out of the grocery store embarassed because my 2 year old screamed the whole time we were there. Or kicked the stranger's hand that reached out to squeeze his chubby cheeks, or pat his blond curly head.

Underneath these boys' fast moving bodies, however, are delicate, sensitive little souls that really try hard. So I struggle, often, with the impression we make.

I've had moments where I've really doubted my mothering skills, knowing full well that the issues I am dealing with are not a reflection on me. And I've had moments where I've been able to hold my head high, because I know I have to work harder with my children to get the same results as a lot of other moms.

I've cried myself to sleep at night wishing and praying for clearer answers.

The best one I've gotten is to love them.

And a lot of times, that's all I can do.

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Morning Glory said...

Lei, this was really beautiful. I just had to stop and comment. I had no idea the issues you dealt with regarding your children, but I admire you all the more after reading this. The best we have to give our children is our love and support.

I'm glad we're in this project together.

An Ordinary Mom said...

Lei, I am so glad you took the time to share your world with us. I know it touched me in ways that you will never know. I am so glad to know there are other moms out there who relate to me. Although our kids might struggle with different things, the last few paragraphs you wrote I could identify with so well. It really is all about the love!

Jen said...

Oooh I can relate to the idea of kids who can't seem to walk anywhere! I laughed out loud at "chewys" around the neck. Maybe I should try that one!


scribbit said...

Thank you for the window into your world and the world of your children. It's good to share our struggles and realize we're all working and doubting and needing help from time to time.

Lisa M. said...

I enjoyed this read.

I appreciate your candor.

I really loved the baloon idea, and can't wait to try that with Ethan.

Its good for us to read the reflections of other mothers. I Love this project. Thank you-

Julie said...

I want to thank you as well for sharing this bit of your world with us. This has given me some new insights.

Code Yellow Mom said...

I soooo hear you here. This post is so meaningful and real. I especially love "I hold my head high because I know I have to work harder to get the same results of other moms." I've never thought of that, and it is so true - there are so many behind-the-scenes efforts going on that a stranger looking at a snapshot of behavior has no idea...

Thanks for the great perspective.

Terina said...

thank you!! i love reading other moms struggles. i feel better about my own, and know that we are all in it together.

Montserrat said...

"I've had moments where I've really doubted my mothering skills, knowing full well that the issues I am dealing with are not a reflection on me."

Well said! It is hard to get past that in this judgmental world. We can do something though. That is to remember everyone we meet is fighting a hard fight. We need to be more kind and less critical.

Nice post.

Sunydazy said...

I enjoyed reading this. Thanks for sharing about the tough things you face everyday.

It's just me... said...

In reading many of the blogs, it is interesting to see how many of us started off by saying something about not having children with diagnosed 'difficult personalities'. This topic really got a lot of us thinking, especially me, in what 'difficult' means in my life and in the life of my kiddos. Thanks for the topic and your words...

love.boxes said...

Blessing to you in all of the good you are yearning to accomplish with your dear boys.

Zoe said...

Lei- I soooo feel you on this post! It is interesting to hear that they like the feeling of bumping into things. Asher has sensory issues with different things as well. A couple of thoughts came to my mind actually while I was reading this. Have you read "The out of sync child"? If not-I have a copy that you can have. (Doesn't really pertain to Asher as much as I think it would to your boys.) Also, have the therapists ever shown you the brushing technique where you "brush" them (with those yellow newborn brush/sponges) on their arms/legs/body throughout the day? If not, this really really helped Asher. I just thought that I would throw these ideas out. Oh, I so wish that we lived by each other! I love you. You are the best Mama for your boys!

Lei said...

Zoe - yes and yes. :)

Amber said...

I love posts like this. It gives me a greater appreciation for the various struggles we all go through on one level or another.

Oprah had a show on autism last week and I haven't been able to stop thinking about those parents and how so many people are quick to judge a parent whose child reacts "unacceptably" in public. Understanding and acceptance is so key, not judgment...

Tammy said...

I so appreciated reading your insights. Too often, we can be quick to judge a situation when a child seems out of control in public. Reading your struggles is a good reminder that not everything is cut and dry, nor how it seems.
Thank you so much for sharing this!

kfk said...

Um, that was just so very soft and moving and touching and beautiful, Lei. I am sorry you struggle, but I so admire you for your strength and attitude. Many would have thrown their hands up at it all instead of embracing it with great big bear hugs. You are wonderful and mighty; you should happy-cry yourself to sleep with that thought.

jenn in holland said...

Thanks for this post and your frank discussion of the topic. It really gave me a new fuller picture of who you are. I really appreciate that. I wanted to ask specifically about the chewys your boys use. I have been trying to figure out where to order one that I saw another boy with recently. It looked like rubber tubing hanging kind of like a bolero tie around his neck. Is this the kind of thing you are referring to? I have googled and come to the chewy tubes site, but that's not exactly what I am looking for. I would like something that won't get dropped or lost and he can have available, for those impulse biting moments, like you said.
Can you tell I have one with sensory issues, developmental delay and vestibular system issues as well?
Thanks for your help Lei. I do appreciate it. I would love to e-chat sometime and swap stories about our kids.
You can reach me here: aeinoyou AT yahoo DOT com