What if, What if, What if?

This is the flavor of anxiety we saw tonight in our 4 year old.

We are going on a family vacation to Cape Cod in June. I brought it up at bedtime tonight to my daughter and said how excited I was. She lit up when I mentioned it but that light quickly faded. You could see the wheels start turning in her head. The wheels that you DON’T always want to turn for an innocent little girl. Her brows became furrowed. She started to stutter and ask questions.

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“What if there are crabs?”

“What if the crabs come up on the sand and pinch me?”

“What does it feel like if you get pinched, can you show me on my hand?”

“What if Madeleine eats sand?! Can you not put her in the sand so she doesn’t eat it”

“What if the room I sleep in is dark?”

“I want to bring my stuffies to the beach but what if they get sand on them?!”

“Can you bring something to keep Maddie in so that she doesn’t touch the sand?”

“What if the beach has big waves? I don’t want to go in the water. Will there be big waves?”

The panicked, anxious, racing thoughts went on and on with repeated questions even after our best efforts to acknowledge and reassure.
It breaks my heart to hear such worries from a little girl that should be way more focused on her excitement for a vacation. I get that kids anticipate what things might be like in the future but the level she goes to is an upsetting one. And that is only the beginning of the challenges having an anxiety disorder has brought our Eleanor. It has been a really long road with many doctors, psychologists, evaluations and not to mention the struggle Ryan and I have had both collectively and individually. We’ve slowly started to get answers (there are sensory processing components as well) and see more clearly what makes her tick and as heartbreaking as it is to see your child struggle, these answers will hopefully also bring to light possible tools for coping and also open doors for finding the right supports. We’ve been lucky she qualified for services through CDS (Child Development Services) very early on and having that support was immeasurable (Teresa <3). That led us to her current school where I believe she is in the best place she could be.

I think people hear the word “anxiety” or the term “anxiety disorder” and it’s largely misunderstood by those that have no true experience with it. Having anxious moments is a part of life. Feeling anxiety is a normal human feeling and response. An anxiety disorder though is a mental health disorder that is characterized by excessive feelings of worry, anxiety, or fear that interfere with someone’s every-day life. There are stretches in time where every single day is a complete struggle. Eleanor comes by it honestly; I was diagnosed with GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) at 16 and it has completely affected my every-day life, sometimes in debilitating ways. I even have intense anxiety about writing and sharing a blog post like this. So Eleanor comes by it honestly, unfortunately. In kids it can present in many different ways. Tonight for example was showing in a very obvious fear or worry-based way. But often times it presents with extreme meltdowns and explosive tantrums because she struggles to understand or regulate big feelings she has inside and can’t quite verbalize what’s troubling her. There was a 2 year period where every single time we had to leave the house and put her in the car that it would take 20-30 minutes of screaming, biting, kicking, spitting, and hyperventilating to get her in the car. Two years!! Almost every transition from a bday party or family gathering ended the same as well. We began to dread going anywhere and felt alienated from other families that didn’t understand what it was like. We will have a conversation with another parent and we would mention that we were having a really hard time with Eleanor and tantrums. The common and understandable response is “oh yea, she’s 2 or 3! We have tantrums at our house.” But if we pushed a little we quickly realized Eleanor’s went to a very extreme level of upset and she had multiple huge meltdowns a day leaving us raw and numb.

What gets us through is those moments of just seeing Eleanor. Without the anxiety. Without the dysregulation. Her personality is electric and she’ll either blow you away with how intellectual she is or have you in stitches with her shows and facial expressions. I’ve truly never met anyone like her and my goal is to help the truest Eleanor blossom while learning to cope with whatever challenges she might have or face.

I could write a 10 page post about all the intense, grueling details of the last four years with Eleanor but I’d rather not broadcast everything to the world. In summary, it has been the hardest four years of my life and taken a toll that has forever changed both myself and Ryan. We still don’t feel like we have all the answers and other diagnoses could be in her future. But what I do know is that we are truly grateful for the family support that we have, the psychologist that has let us cry and vent for years, the support from CDS, the school that has helped her grow in leaps and bounds and as self-centered as it may sound, for the fact that she has parents that care and have tirelessly worked to do whatever it takes to help her cope and also blossom into the beautiful person she is.

 

 

 

 

 

Heaven on Earth

I’m a bit of a mommy-zombie today. Eleanor had a weird night of waking and crying almost every 2-3 hours (brought up some good ol’ memories of the first 8ish months of her life!). No idea why! She couldn’t tell us anything, didn’t have a fever, and answered NO to every question we asked about any aches, pains or needs.

It never goes well once we go into her room in the middle of the night, especially during night terrors but I don’t think this was a night terror kind of night. She had a very stimulating, busy day so that’s sort of my guess as we expect she has a form of a sensory-processing disorder (that’s a whole other topic!). She usually wants to get up and walk around the house, watch TV or even play. And when we say no we are going to stay in her room it turns into flailing, kicking, screeching tantrum time. Eleanor has never been a big cuddler or affection giver. (She has recently been giving family hugs and kisses, which melts my heart into a complete puddle.)  But last night when I picked her up and sat in the rocking chair something amazing happened. She laid into me, stopped crying, and we ROCKED! I couldn’t believe it. Talk about Mommy Therapy 😉 She cuddled into me, you could tell she wanted me close and remained still. I wanted to just bawl my eyes out with happy, mushy tears. I think we rocked like this for 45 minutes, she even fell asleep. My back started revolting from holding her in the position she wanted to be in but I didn’t care. It was heaven on earth, a feeling that is pretty much impossible to describe, especially to someone that isn’t a parent. Time stopped and every single worry, thought, ache or pain just melted completely away.

All we needed in that moment was each other and it felt like the calmest, happiest, therapeutic moment I’ve had with her in a really long time. Parenting is difficult as we all know and if only all of us could have these moments once a day to fuel us through the sometimes never-ending tantrums and challenges. I know this is a random sharing post but I hope all you Moms and Dads get to have a moment like this today, tomorrow, or when you really need it to recharge your parenting batteries.

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Be well,

Lindsey

Disconnecting to Reconnect

**I wrote this post about a month or two ago but felt like it was still relevant for me to share**

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Ugh….even poor Ruby was feeling the affects of the phone-attached-humans!

We have become a little disconnected lately. Not too surprising with a rambunctious toddler in our midst, both of us trying to work, house projects, the list goes on and we all have one. I tried to think about things we could do to reconnect. The typical “one date night a week” idea has just never stuck so that idea was out. Then it hit me that one of our biggest problems is how much time we zone out on our phones. For me it’s Facebook and googling the heck out of everything and for Ryan it’s forums, researching hobbies, and Instagram. So with a little convincing we both decided to disconnect from those things for a week. No Instagram, Facebook, Google or anything involving the internet for that matter. The only exceptions were work-related things and responding to any messages someone might send us.

Day 1: Holy moly. I had NO idea how many times a day I instinctively picked up my phone and checked my FB news feed. I had to catch myself probably 25 times today. I had to be so conscious and stop myself from reaching for my phone periodically. It sort a felt like a craving that I was trying not to give in to. So weird. Going on my phone is the last AND the first thing I do everyday. But I did NOT go on FB once the entire day. We went to bed tonight and I started a book! Ryan read some of the magazines in his growing pile.

Day 2: Ryan cheated today. The rule was if anyone messages you on social media you can respond so that we aren’t being rude but NO browsing on either Instagram of FB. Ryan’s biggest issue was the internet and Instagram so when he was tagged in a photo on Instagram he went to view it and the temptation was too great; he “started to swipe” he guiltily admitted. I have maybe gone onto a website or two to research something briefly but I’m pretty impressed I have NOT gone on Facebook once.

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Taken BEFORE the no-phone week 😉

Day 3: It was interesting tonight when Ryan got home. He was playing with Eleanor and being so attentive. Then when she sort of wandered to the other side of the room and started to entertain herself, I watched him squirm for a second because that is when his phone would have normally appeared. But he resisted. Eleanor came back over to him and they continued playing. I just thought to myself “this is what it’s all about, this is why we’re doing this.” Not only for ourselves of course but for our family, for Eleanor. We don’t ever intend to delete any accounts or disconnect completely. Facebook to me is too valuable when it comes to staying in touch with family and close friends or being able to see big moments in their lives and watch their families grow. But we do intend to extremely limit our “Plugged-in” time and focus more on us.

Day 4-6 went off without a hitch! I think I’m getting used to the freeing feeling of not being tied to something …

Final day: I was actually not looking forward to ending this week. Looking back at the week I felt more relaxed, less scatter-brained and more connected with Ryan. With social media there is this pressure to keep up with your feeds so you don’t miss anything but in doing so you are missing out on so much real life right in front of you.

One of the first blogs I read when I was reunited with the internet was interestingly enough about a similar topic but in relation to mothering. (I sadly have not been able to find that blog post again to give them credit!) The basic gist of the post was about how mothers today are so self-conscious and questioning every little parenting move they make because of the overwhelming ease of researching as well as the epidemic of comparing and judging. The funny thing is mothers have never been so connected and so well-rounded yet they don’t even know it or they question it based on making comparisons with so many other moms. Think about being a mother before Google and parenting books. You simply asked your mom for advice and maybe friends and family if you wanted to pick up the phone and call them with each question. The internet is saturated with “do this” “don’t do that” “you shouldn’t cosleep” “cosleeping is wonderful” yadda yadda yadda.

Anyway, what I basically took from this blog as well as this last week is that I’m doing the best I can and I’m a damn good mom. I will listen to others advice but I will only take it if it will truly be best for me and my family. I will also limit screen time with any media and connect more with my family without any screens. I highly recommend it.

Update 8/13/15: Well it has certainly helped that the second I take out my phone Eleanor MUST have it. I literally can not even have my phone anywhere nearby without it inciting a full-blown tantrum if she can’t play with it. It stays hidden on the counter while we spend time with Eleanor. So I have really kept my reduced phone use promise to myself. Ryan on the other hand…might need a little more convincing, maybe in the form of another unplugged week?!?

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*THIS* is what it’s all about.

Biting, Hitting and Scratching….Oh My!

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It has started. Maybe a little sooner than I naively expected but how would I really know what to expect with my first child? I’ve emphasized how spirited and feisty my little Eleanor is and that personality is stronger than ever. And so, the biting, hitting, scratching, body-flailing temper tantrums have begun.

I guess the hardest thing we had to learn, and learn QUICKLY, was patience. By 3pm and tantrum number 9 for the day, patience seems unobtainable. When she first started expressing frustrations and anger through tantrums I would simply become frustrated and angry with her. Why did taking that tiny penny away from her upset her soooooo much? Why is she throwing herself around in a fit of emotion, she is going to hurt herself! But I’ve learned through some mommy peers and experience that I simply must stay calm and be patient. The more calm I am, the quicker the tantrum passes. Are they still frustrating? Yes. Am I still utterly exhausted at the end of the day? Yes. But I want to be sure that I do whatever I can to help her through it safely and while calmly modeling behavior I hope she’ll exhibit someday as she matures. And this is SOO much easier said than done, especially when she hauls off and whacks me right across the face with what seems to be devilish grin OR contorted face of anger.

So many people say “woah, you’re in for it” and “she’s a handful that one!” And while I know that some of it comes from her extremely strong willed, passionate personality, I also do realize that this is a completely normal stage/phase/behavior for her age. When you really sit back and think about it, it must be incredibly frustrating to be in her shoes. With no way to fully communicate what she needs or wants, I sometimes don’t blame a little flare in her temper. She is running around, comprehending so much and wanting to explore and share so much with us – all of that with no ability to verbalize or understand how to emote accordingly. I think one of the biggest things we can learn as parents that will help us better understand our kids is that we can’t expect them to have the same faculties, mental processes, or emotional maturity that adults have. It’s so hard to see it that way because it’s almost like trying to imagine unlearning all that we have acquired our entire lives to exist the way a toddler does and step inside their brains. But it’s simple, they can’t comprehend everything we can, they don’t have the same emotional control we have, and they are easily overstimulated because they are taking in and learning so much more every hour than we are in an entire day or week even.

Ryan and I had our first real temper-tantrum shopping experience the other day. We were in a kid’s consignment store and Eleanor was in heaven! We let her walk around on her own and she couldn’t have been more excited to run up and down the aisles, play with the toys and simply explore. She was getting a bit overstimulated and when we were playing with some toys that we needed to put back she lost it. I felt it coming too. I pulled the toy out of her hand and she let out her signature “how dare you momma” squeal that is always followed with throwing her head back and tantrum ensuing. She is difficult to pick up or try to talk to or console. Ryan and I handled it quite well I think. We quickly decided it was time for her to leave so he took her to the car and I paid for our items. Neither of us lost our patience nor did we really try to shame her for her behavior. We want to start the routine now of acknowledging WHY the behavior starts, stay calm throughout any acting out (not reacting to her), and then discuss after she’s calm. We think it’s important to acknowledge emotions instead of ignore them entirely. It’s also important to set ground rules and expectations *yes she’s a little young now but it’s never too early to start talking about how we want to handle these inevitable situations. *

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Thought I’d share a happy, joyful moment too!

I pose a question to veteran Mom’s out there: what did you do when your toddlers were a bit young for discussing their feelings/actions and they completely melted down? I’m talking head-butting or going-completely-limp-then-flailing uncontrollably-and-screaming kind of melt downs. We feel like we’re on the right track as far as modeling our behavior for her but any and all advice would be very welcome!

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We have a toddler!?!?

I am not quite sure what the main direction of this blog post is , I just know that I am in disbelief that we have a toddler now!!! I guess before I had a child I always thought of 2-3 year olds as toddlers. But here we are with a 16 month old acting full-blown toddler. It came out of nowhere and I was not prepared. The tantrums, the hitting, the food throwing and pickiness, you’ve heard them all. I’ll be fooled into thinking her embrace is a hug until she rips herself out of my arms and plants a big ol’ slap across my face. And I feel like it was a really good day if I got her to eat anything other than chicken, pasta, or bread. One second she is the sweetest, kindest little angel and the next she is literally growling, screaming or just saying “nonono” repeatedly.

But sometimes what you don’t hear as much about is the absolute, melt-your-heart moments that make you feel so full of love you might burst. Those moments that seem a little silly when you write them on paper because you can’t fully describe the feeling with words. Eleanor really LOOKS at me now and wants to engage with me. She tries so hard to communicate and show things to me. She idolizes the bigger kids at daycare and watches their every move. She is obsessed with getting our attention when she wants to play peekaboo with us. When she rests her head on my shoulder while I’m reading to her or she just simply gives me the biggest smile, I feel so completely full and content with life. She is a little human-being now with personality and watching her experience things in life for the first time is completely awe-inspiring. As difficult as things truly can be at times, these are the moments that make me immediately forget about how frustrated I was with the last diaper-changing battle or food-throwing meal. Having such a hard time connecting with Eleanor in the beginning and not feeling like a Mother, I finally get it.

I guess the biggest thing I have learned in the last 16 months of my life is that once you get comfortable with things and find a rhythm, it gets turned on its head. I would start to feel defeated in some way like maybe all that hard work I put into establishing certain routines or getting her to do something had failed. But the reality that I’ve now embraced is that this is how it’s going to be, always. Babies, kids, families and marriages are forever changing and growing and the sooner that I let go trying to control parts of them, the sooner that I can simply buckle up and enjoy the ride.IMG_2403