Month: April 2015

Walking With Daddy-Exceptional Children Bonding With Other Caretakers

The other day while I was at work, Michael went on two long walks around our neighborhood with his father. This was good exercise for both of them, but just as importantly, it was the time the spent talking and bonding that has made all the difference in them growing closer over the past year. It was always me in the past taking Michael places, or at least to the majority of places, as I was the stay-at-home parent. But as Michael has gotten older, he has been yearning to have that closer relationship with his father. His father was ready for that too, and it has been great to see them developing together.

For me, this has meant learning to let go of always being the one who had to do everything for Michael, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. It has meant that I didn’t have to feel that I had to take on everything in raising Michael, and if I let go and took some time for me, he wouldn’t fall apart, we wouldn’t fall apart. I had to learn to ask for help, time away, and to show both of my boys that they needed each other as much as they needed me and I needed them. Before last year, for various reasons, that was hard for me to do this. I’m so glad I’ve come to the point now where the guilt is gone, and I see that it was not only necessary for their survival,  but for mine, that Michael start attaching to other prominent adults around him, starting with his Dad.

Exceptional Moms, are you still trying to do it all for your kids? Are you learning or have you learned to ask for help from partners, family members if they are able to, babysitters, friends? Your exceptional child will benefit from the attention of another adult while you take the time to pursue things that fill you with passion and make you a stronger parent. It’s amazing to watch our kids blossom with the other parent, family members or other caring adults. Their level of security to you will increase, as well as their trust in the world. You will be be richer for these relationships in the end too. Until next time.

Advertisements

Exceptional Kids’ Minds and What It Has Taught Me About Memory

“When I was little, I used to live with Uncle Paul. He would take me to my swimming and soccer. I lived there when I was a baby, and then I came to you.”

I have not known what to make of Michael’s latest memories. He would recount to me stories that happened with me or his father and relate them back to my brother. He’d be smiling, and I think he knew that it was partially fiction, the part about living as a baby with my brother, but the rest happened. I think it is his way of making sense of his life and things I have told him of my life as a child. He is doing this more and more, and talking about extended family members in this way. I think it is sweet, and is giving me more of a glimpse into his amazing mind and what it can do. Like a lot of children on the spectrum, he is very intuitive and really in  sync with his sixth sense. He knew a friend of mine was pregnant before we told him, he talks about memories from very early on in his baby years with accuracy, and his memory for song lyrics, directions, and people’s names and faces are phenomenal.

Every day I get another glimpse into what makes my exceptional son tick, as he is getting more and more verbal. It’s been wonderful. He has also taught me that what are memory strengths in some, are memory weaknesses in others. He is having so much trouble learning how to write and form letters, whereas for me that was easy as a child.  But for me, I still have challenges reading maps, whereas for Michael that is child’s play, no pun intended. 🙂  Having an exceptional child whose brain is wired differently, really has gotten me to see that intelligence needs to be measured on many levels. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and it’s important to work on the weaknesses, but play up the strengths that we all have. This will help us become the best people we could be.

What are your strengths Exceptional Moms? What do you need to work on in your own life to get the desired outcome you want of a life of balance? Think about it, and remember, while you are advocating for your child’s possibilities and happiness in this world, you are also advocating for your own.   That is one of the gifts our exceptional children have given us. Until next time.

Deep Questions Mixed With Simplicity-The Perfect Equation For Happiness

“Why did God decide not to give me brothers and sisters Mommy?”
“Because God decided to give you lots of cousins and friends instead.”

He smiled. Phew! I avoided that minefield. This wasn’t the first time Michael had asked me this question, yet this time he seemed to be demanding a more in depth explanation. What I told him seemed to work. I hoped it would stick this time. He has started asking a lot more questions about the role God plays in his life, why things are the way they are. I am proud, but sometimes am not sure how to answer. I am always honest, truthful, and keep it simple. This is what all kids need in their explanations, particularly kids who are exceptional and whose brains work differently.

I wasn’t always this to the point. I used to go into too much detail with Michael and end up stressing us both out. Then I learned that simple is better. It is like mindfulness or living in the present. Dealing with things as they come up makes life a lot easier and more fun to digest. Since I started simplifying things for Michael and myself, I have begun to write better, think better, and have better relationships with family and friends. I feel like life is in balance and I couldn’t be happier.

How could you simplify your lives today, Exceptional Moms? What distractions or multiple agendas could you put on hold to focus on the things that really matter to you? Try it! You won’t regret how simplifying things for yourselves and your kids will help all of you live happier and healthier. Until next time.

Exceptional Children and Awareness of True Inner Happiness

There is a saying, “out of the mouth of babes.” This means that children tell us the truth, show us what they are really thinking, and we are left without a doubt in our mind as to which way to proceed. This is becoming more and more true for me, especially in my experience with Michael, an exceptional child. He has told me the truth of what he is feeling in his heart and mind, and has shown me the truth of my life, what was working, what wasn’t, and where I had to fine tune and adjust. He may not always use words, but by his actions, by his questions about life to me, he has forced me, and good on him for that, to question what I was holding dear before, and what was and is really dear to me, what really matters.

In the last year, I did a lot of soul searching, and realized that what I was saying out loud didn’t match what I was feeling inside. I was telling him about what was important in life,  and not mirroring those things to him. When he would ask why Daddy or I had to work and we would tell him to pay bills, I only recently added on that we like what we do for a living and that was important. I always praise his talents and tell him what he could do with those talents, what type of job he could do when he asked me. It’s only fair though, that I tell him to find a job he really enjoys and is good at, or else he won’t be happy. It’s only fair as he was the one who showed me what wasn’t working with jobs I had in the past, both directly and indirectly. He has changed how I see my abilities, and the abilities of those around me. I am doing things in my life now I only dreamed were possible to do before, because I didn’t believe in myself or trust myself enough to take risks. Superficially I would, but I would never go full steam ahead. Writing was only one of those areas that I now pursue with greater confidence. How I act with people, how I advocate for myself has completely changed too. I know what I want and do all I can to achieve it.

How have your lives changed with having your Exceptional Children, Exceptional Moms? Have they showed you what is real, pure and simple, what happiness really is? We adults tend to forget that simple is the way to happiness, and that the way to find that simplicity is to look inside our hearts, inside ourselves to what matters to us, what makes us get excited in the morning and want to get up. Without that we may be living, but we do not have a life. And only with a truly happy life inside and out, can we be the best selves and parents we can. Until next time.

How the Past Defines Our Present

Lately Michael has been asking a lot of questions about when he was a baby, where he went to school, how he felt, what he did. I talk about this in another blog post as well, where he is fascinated to look at pictures of his life at this time. This morning over breakfast he wanted to know which daycares he had gone to as a child, what had happened, and then he started talking about his current school and after-school care program. We talked some more about this outside as he waited for the bus.

“I like going to school Mommy and daycare, but I like coming home to you too. ” Ahhh. It was one of those sweet moments.

This got me thinking about how I reminisced about school when I was a kid, where I went, my friends there, and how I think back to the good, and sometimes not so good, memories. I usually focus more on the good memories though, and am teaching Michael to do the same. We both had plenty of them and made lots of friends along the way. This also got me thinking how our past defines us, defines how we see ourselves in relation to others, the good and bad, how we learn, how we make sense of our world. If we have supportive family to help us sort through some of the difficult moments, it makes it all that much smoother. I was lucky to have that and still do, and I know Michael has that too. His father and I are always trying to guide him how to be himself, share his best gifts with the world, and make sure that he is in a nurturing positive environment in school which he definitively is in.

How do you talk to your Exceptional Children about their past Exceptional Moms, and about your own? How do they talk about school and friends, or think about it? Is there a positive dialogue, good memories? If there are some bad memories, can you talk to them about that too and show them how far they’ve come from that rough time? This is a tool I use for Michael and for me. It reminds me that the path I’ve traveled on has been rocky, still is at times, but with looking back at what I did right and wrong, I can make the present and future better and be a stronger person. It’s a great lesson to share with our loved ones. Until next time.

Homework Challenges For Michael- Life Challenges For Me

This week has been a challenging week at home for Michael and I. The cold rainy weather has not done much to make us energetic and enthusiastic. In our own ways we have been trying to cope, but put us together, and it’s been a little bit of fire and water. Michael senses I’m a little more demanding, he feels stressed, and has been testing with lots of behaviors. I get angrier, and we’re stuck in a battle of the wills, where sometimes I am acting more childish than he is. Homework is the battleground. He likes to do it, but on his terms. I can’t make a capital K so I’ll do a small k, and so on and so forth. What makes it extra challenging, is that he really can’t do these tasks easily. It’s part of the delays he experiences. Any kind of fine motor work has always been challenging for him, but being my son, he won’t ask for help easily if at all. When I try to gently show him, he gets mad. “It’s not your business Mommy!” I would have laughed at that comment, had the bus not been about to arrive in five minutes, and he was still insisting on forming the letter the wrong way in his workbook because he couldn’t do it the right way. Sigh.

You see what I mean. When Michael started getting homework this year, I didn’t know that I would be as challenged as he in doing it well. Some days and weeks do go well, but in general, it is showing me what I have to work on, my own sense of patience, control or lack thereof, and allowing more time to do homework either after school, or when he starts sleeping better again, earlier in the morning. There have been some times this week I have questioned who is really being more the child. Some days the answer has been me unfortunately, as I look to reign in my sense of mastery, my needing to let go of what I can’t control with my kid, and my asking for help. I have had issues with all of these during this challenging week.

What challenges are you facing with your Exceptional Children regarding homework, and how do you think this reflects on how you handle stress Exceptional Moms? In my support group, a few Moms were talking about hiring tutors to help their kids with homework, as they were constantly locking horns on this issue. This is something I am truly considering looking into now. Perhaps with a change of face we will both benefit from more patience with each other. The important thing to remember, is that all challenges in our lives are there to teach us something. For me, the lessons are asking for help myself, and managing my emotions. Come to think of that, Michael could benefit from learning the same two lessons. We all can. Don’t be afraid to see the bigger picture in the seemingly mundane tasks like homework. You’ll grow into a more confident person, and model that behavior for your child so they will handle the stresses of life better. Until next time.

“I Am Blessing You With Holy Water Mommy”-Exceptional Children Making Sense of Religion

The other night Michael was being a little silly at bedtime with lots of energy to still burn off. Sigh, it’s been a cold rainy week. I can tell. 🙂 He asked for a glass of water to drink, and then in his eagerness to drink it up fast, he ended up spilling some on himself. He turned to me laughing, “I’m blessing myself with holy water Mommy.” I did not dare laugh though I wanted to, and gently reminded him that the priest blesses us with holy water, not people. I also told him we don’t joke about that. He nodded. It was funny though. He is trying to make sense of his upcoming First Communion celebration in May. From that little joke, stemmed a short conversation about this sacrament and how nervous he is about it. I reminded him that all his classmates are nervous too, and that we would be preparing him for exactly what would happen. I also told him he would do great. Michael is a very spiritual kid and asks lots of questions about God. Sometimes he is silly, sometimes rude to provoke a reaction, but I see he is trying to piece together faith, a concept that is even hard for most neuro typical adults to wrap their heads around. For an exceptional child who needs to see things concretely and often on paper, this is really complex and even anxiety provoking at times. Here is a God that we talk about, but he can’t see with his eyes and touch with his hands. Still, it is his heritage, our family traditions, and I wanted to expose him to that, for better or worse. Faith is what has and continues to carry me through rough waters, and I want Michael to know he has that tool in his arsenal as well, when he is struggling. I want him to learn that God is there, in our hearts, in other people, in various signs we see in the world around us.

How about you Exceptional Moms out there? What do you think about exposing your Exceptional Children to a religious faith or some sort of spirituality? Have you tried it? I know some children are not developmentally ready until they are older, but have you brought them to places of worship and tried explaining religion or spirituality to them? It’s a loaded topic for most parents on what to teach their kids, I know. It definitively comes down to a family’s personal choice and belief system, as well as what they feel will work for their child. I encourage you to examine your family’s belief system, your child’s comprehension level and interest, and then don’t be afraid to introduce any form of spirituality to your children. They may surprise you with what they take away from it, and as a family, you will bond and grow closer than ever. Until next time.

Michael’s Lessons To Me In Dealing With Negativity

Learning to let go has been an ongoing lesson in my life in so many ways. When I look back now at the people I’ve met, the situations I’ve had to deal with, I see that it has been God telling me how I need to forgive the negativity in others and forgive the negativity in myself. Once I began seeing how caught up I would get in worrying about what people thought about me, about what I should be doing, about why someone would stay stuck, I realized, I am in control of how I feel on the inside, and I don’t need to surround myself with stress and sadness. Yes, there are some situations that are stressful and sad and depressing. But to live life focused on those situations, didn’t free me to pursue what I really wanted to do, my mission, so to speak, in the world. I also learned that there were things I couldn’t control, and that was how it was meant to be. No human being is completely responsible for the whole world.

I have spoken before in another blog about how we all have a mission, a reason to be here. I really believe this to be true. I also believe that our children are our best teachers in showing us the way. For them, we want to be at our best, to give them the best possible outcome. But sometimes we get stuck in negative patterns, wanting to control everything so much, that we don’t see that by letting go of our fears and worries, the path will open up. Michael, like most exceptional children, has very little fear of saying what he thinks. Some people have joked some exceptional children have no social filter. That is not always a bad thing. He will voice his opinion, negative or positive on a subject and question why he can’t do something he wants. He has hopes, dreams and wants to realize them. Yes, sometimes they may seem impossible or may not happen, but who’s to say they won’t? He has told me he wants to be a surgeon, a bus driver, a teacher at his school. Michael doesn’t give up on what he wants, or see the bad in people. He’s always trying to help friends out at school. He wishes his grandparents well on their doctor’s visits. He doesn’t hold grudges. I lost my temper with him the other day after school over a stupidity.When I realized I had been a little too intense in my reaction, I apologized and asked Michael if he forgave me. “Of course I do Mommy.” He doesn’t stay mad long. I am learning how to do more of the same.

How about you, Exceptional Moms? How much negativity about yourselves and towards others have you kept inside? I’m sure you know that not only is it physically unsafe to let it fester in there, but emotionally and spiritually it depletes you, and leaves no energy for growth and for the true path of your life to open up. Let go of negativity in yourself, of seeing it in others. Stop trying to fix things. As women, we specialize in this, and let your soul, your inner self direct you. When I watch Michael’s soul at work, I marvel at his beauty,  and it reminds me once again of what he is here to teach me to do. Until next time.

Writing and Self-Compassion Exercises- Paths to Wholeness

I’ve always been a storyteller for as far back as I can remember. I told stories to my imaginary friend, my dolls, later when I played with my brother, and as a teenager, like most girls, I began to keep a journal. I wrote down the stories of my life, my first crush, a good day, a bad day, fights and observations with and about friends. Writing gave me peace and helped me find resolution. Then with schoolwork, I moved away from writing, and rediscovered it only in college when I started writing my first mini novel, but never finished it. I didn’t have the full confidence in myself to really get back to writing until I’d graduated from university and was in the workforce. It happened in the strangest way too. I was working as a receptionist/admin assistant for some sales people. They were a nice, but demanding bunch. One of them would really stress me out. At the same time, I was engaged and planning my wedding, so there was stress all around me, you could say, even if some of it was good stress. 🙂 At lunch time I sat down in frustration after a difficult morning handling his requests, and out came two poems. I stared at the page dumbfounded. “What the hell?” I remember thinking. These are pretty good! Then later that evening two more came. I ended up in the next few years publishing three poetry anthologies, and, to this day, I write the best poetry when stressed, angry or depressed, though there are some happy poems I have composed that are good. As the writer in me emerged, short stories started coming out, and then later novels. I have penned quite a few, but like most writers, it’s hard to get them out the door into publishers’ waiting arms. Life gets in the way. Paying bills gets in the way. Having an exceptional child with exceptional needs gets in the way.

For the first two and a half years of Michael’s life, I did not do much writing other than some love poems directed at Michael. I was so happy to be a Mom. Then autism hit, and everything came to a standstill. I could not even think about writing. Every spare moment was devoted to therapy, working with Michael, his routine etc. Only about two years after his diagnosis, could I even write about the autism in poetry, and then I started writing short pieces about coming to terms with what he has and being his advocate. I shared the piece at my writers’ group, and moved several of the members to tears. I came out as an Exceptional Mom with an Exceptional Child to my group, who had become dear friends over the years! It felt liberating and wonderful. Writing freed me from the chains of living with all these emotions inside of me. Releasing them helped me become a better Mom, a better person. Then after a burnout I experienced last year, writing came through again. My therapist recommended self-compassion exercises to help me be mindful of my thoughts and be good to myself.

Have any of you Moms ever tried writing? It is a wonderful tool to come to terms with your feelings. There is something about seeing them on paper and visible before your eyes, I think. I am a huge advocate of therapeutic journaling and writing exercises to help you in any journey you are on. A great website to find them  at is http://www.selfcompassion.org. The woman who studies this subject herself is the mother of an autistic exceptional son. Her journey is incredible. Try it.  It can be for your eyes only. I speak to Michael about my writing. He is fascinated that I write stories. One day when he is ready I will share the stories I write about him. Good luck on your healing journeys Exceptional Moms! I hope the therapeutic exercises can help you also move ahead in your incredible lives. Until next time.

Michael Opening Me Up To The World-Getting To Know My Neighbors

I used to worry so much when Michael was born if he would ever talk, would he lead a normal life of interacting with people, holding a job, having friends, being happy? The other afternoon while I was still getting my coat on to take him to his catechism class after school, he was out the door having a meet and greet with our next door neighbor. He said hi, how are you and have a good night. I was overwhelmed and very emotional! He was being appropriately social. Michael is a very social kid, always has been, even when he didn’t have the words. But now here he was having a conversation with another person. I was beyond proud! And then I thought of all the times in the last two years we’ve done our walks around the neighborhood. Michael has asked me questions, and been very observant with what is happening around him. And this year, he has started waving and saying hi to neighbors, even those that didn’t answer him. The last two days I have noticed this in particular. What an amazing advancement this is for Michael, for him, for those around us.

Prior to Michael’s birth, I kept a lot to myself. I was not particularly social, other than with the small group of close friends I have. I would admire and cringe as both my parents would work the room with their socializing. My brother was always very extrovert too, so I felt like the family oddball, the one who wanted to sit in the back of the room and observe the action without participating. I figured it was the introverted writer in me, but now I have learned that writers are not all introverts or extroverts. We have a bit of both in us. This is something else that Michael has shown me, my dual nature, all our dual natures which bring us closer as human beings if we embrace it.

Exceptional Moms, what insights have you learned from your Exceptional Children? Are they moving you away from your fears or towards them, or maybe both at the same time? That’s ok if they are. It’s only by facing our fears and becoming one with them, that we can overcome them and grow. I encourage you today to look at all the beauty that your kids have shown you is in the world. Yes, there are the struggles, but it’s when we see our kids’ victorious over life’s struggles that we all win, us, our kids and society. Our children are here to open us up to the world in many ways. Let’s be ready to listen to the message when it comes. Until next time.