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Archive for the ‘J-Man’ Category

Failure

I spent a long time writing this post, erasing, re-writing, debating, questioning … and I have mixed feelings about publishing it.  I know that we all struggle as parents sometimes, and I know that, for the most part, I am a good parent.  It’s just that sometimes I wonder if I’m good enough.  Sometimes it’s hard to admit that “good enough” has to be good enough.


They say about kids with ADHD that the adults in their lives are constantly holding their successes against them.  “I know he can stop being impulsive – he did just fine yesterday!” or “I know she can sit still and concentrate – I’ve seen her do it!”  The fact is that the only thing that ADHD kids are consistent about is their inherent inconsistency.  There are successful moments when the whole universe falls into alignment – but that doesn’t change the underlying disorder that kids with ADHD suffer from.

This I know, and embrace, and believe.  But sometimes knowing that a child can’t help themselves doesn’t change the frustration in the moment when things aren’t falling into place.  Thing is, J-man went a solid six weeks with nearly no behavioural issues, with nearly no fighting about taking his medicine, with nearly no less-than-optimal days at school, with nothing but successes packed in his corner.  So when things started falling apart again a couple weeks ago, well, it was really hard to remember that he can’t control this and that just because things were working for a while doesn’t mean that the current behaviour is totally within his power to change.

Two weeks ago, I called Ye Olde Developmental Pediatrician to say that it’s just getting harder, not easier, to get him to take his morning medications.  It had been relatively easy when he was taking Prozac, but we found that the Prozac was over-activating the ADHD (a common side effect of Prozac in kids is hyperactivity).   Our next try was Zoloft, which wasn’t helping at ALL and his anxiety about taking medicine by mouth became completely out of control.  YODP and I had a heart-to-heart about it and he said, you know?  Maybe we just need to accept that J just can’t take medicine by mouth right now and we need to just see how he’ll do in the short term with the Daytrana and Clonidine patches alone.  If you can’t solve the problem, eliminate it.

So we tried that.

And… it was a colossal disaster.

I admit, the hardest part of the only-patches trial for me was the feeling of failure.  I had failed this child, again, in trying to help him push through his anxiety so he could just take the medicine, for the love of pete.  After all – we *know* he can take medicine without fighting it – he did it for six solid weeks!  Surely he can do it now!  Except, see?  That’s me, holding his success against him rather than helping him through the less-successful times.     But we pushed through it, got him back on Prozac, had a few excellent medicine-taking days, and though he was a little more active than I’d like, thanks to the Prozac, he was otherwise having success.

The trick, I found (at least for a few days) was to not allow him to see me getting tense over his medicine.  He picked out a special treat ahead of time (I used to make him wait until he was done taking the medicine) and then put the treat AND his medicine on the table and walked away.  Walking away was the key.  If I saw him hemming and hawing or whining or crying about the medicine, I lost all sense of empathy and just got tense – which only made matters worse.  Leaving him alone meant he pretty much took his medicine within a “reasonable” period of time – even if not as quickly as I would have liked.  But it worked.

Until today.

Today he wouldn’t take it. “I wish I could take my medicine in the kitchen.”  Fine, we moved to the kitchen.  “I wish I could take my medicine at the table.”  Fine.  We moved back to the table.  “I wish…” and I walked away, realizing I was falling into the trap I’d so gracefully avoided the rest of the week.  When I came back, twenty minutes later, he had eaten his special treat – but hadn’t touched his medicine.  I wasn’t graceful about it, either.  I was, I’m ashamed to say, furious.  And again, I was failing him.

Today was a very bad day for a lot of reasons, despite there having been a lot of good.  It’s days like today that me wonder if I will simply fall into the traps my own parents fell into.  My memories of my mother while I was growing up are… universally unpleasant.  I know that there were lots of good times, and she did lots of good things for and with us.  I know that she probably had more strong points as a mother than weaknesses.  But that’s not what’s etched into my permanent memory of her in that period.  Will my children see me the same way?

I realize now, that what I needed to do was walk away.  Forget about the stupid medicine.  Let him be unmedicated for a day.  Truthfully, the consequences of an unmedicated child wouldn’t have been any worse than the consequences of fighting about it for so long.  More than two hours before that kid finally took his medicine.  And he didn’t do it until we had both calmed down.  A lot.  I went into his room once with the medicine in my hand – I had been crying from the frustration – and he said, “Are you okay?”  He was concerned about me and my puffy red eyes.  In the midst of this unbelievable struggle, this boy needed to make sure his mommy was okay.

The fact is, when we have days that we struggle, like today, I forget about the joy that he brings to everyone around him.  I need to re-group and re-focus on all the positives that he has.  He’s the most kind-hearted child I have ever met, and I can’t honestly imagine our lives without him.  He cares about everyone, he’s concerned if the triplets are upset, he brings them blankets when they’re sad.  If I’m sick, he covers me up and tucks me in, pats my arm and says, “I hope you feel better soon.”  When he sits down for dinner he asks, “Are you going to join me?  Do you think you can eat a pretzel today?”  Unfortunately, I haven’t been keeping even pretzels down anymore.  “That’s okay, Eema – you can just sit with me until you feel better.”

He is, in so many ways, thriving.  Things are starting to fall in place with his speech pathologist and he’s really getting the hang of this reading thing – he’s started to recognize a few words on sight.  He can write his name – a feat that seemed impossible a year ago (though, I admit I wasn’t so pleased to discover that he had practiced writing his name  with a marker… on his wall!).  He loves school and is engaged and interested in learning.  On his good days, which to be honest far outweigh the less-good days, he is eager to learn, gets upset if he thinks the class isn’t going to do “centers” (when they focus on math or reading or science, or whatever).  He is a beam of sunshine most days.  He is a leader in his class – and all the kids look up to him.  On his good days, he’s a powerful and positive leader.   Fortunately, he mostly has good days.

He shares, he loves, he giggles, he laughs.  And yes, he struggles.  Don’t we all?

Sometimes, we get lost and can’t see the whole forest – just the one tree that isn’t faring as well as the others.  But if I’m honest with myself – the positives far outweigh the hard times.  It’s just that when things are going well, we forget to notice them.

But this little boy has nothing but love in his heart.  He has so much joy to bring to the world.   He has brought so much joy into our lives with his toothless grin  and his dreams of a future filled with unlimited bionicles, bakugan, and dinosaurs.  I just hope that tomorrow, when I’m struggling to hide my tension about him taking his medicine, I can remember and focus on all the good instead of focusing on that moment and ruining it all.  After all – the truth is, he can’t control this right now.  He can’t just decide not to fight the medicine.  The medicine is treating a disorder that is characterized by a true inability to be consistent, a true inability to control impulses.  Sometimes knowing that he “can’t help it” doesn’t make it easier in the moment.  But it does help when you’re trying to find a tiny grain of empathy in your body for your child.

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Protected: More Than Meets The Eye

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How does your garden grow?

Sometimes I wonder if people really know what I'm up against in my house.  I mean, really? The J-man is a fun-loving, special little boy.  He's growing into an extraordinary individual.  He has wonderful opinions and a fantastic outlook on life.  I adore him.  Really. 

But.

(There's always a "but" right?  You knew there was one coming, didn't you?)

He is Mr. Contrary these days.  Allow me to illustrate:

Exhibit One:

Every Sunday I make pancakes for breakfast, because I am the world's best Mommy.  (Okay, some Sundays I make waffles, but we all have our flaws, right?)  Further evidence of my World's Best Mommy status is that I specifically make the J-man a smiley-face or Mickey Mouse pancake using chocolate chips.  I mean, really? I am awesome.   

These days, J has words that he's supposed to practice every weekend – "sight words" they're called, or "wow words" as he calls them.  They're words that he's supposed to learn to know on sight, rather than having to sound them out.  Words like: "the", "I", "you", "go", "my", "and", "or", and so on.   The first week we had the words to practice on the weekend, I thought it would be neat to do something special.  So I made three little silver dollar pancakes and spelled out "t-h-e" on the pancakes with chocolate chips. 

We called J up to the table to tell him his breakfast was ready and showed him his pancakes. 

"What's that?"
"That's one of your Wow Words!"
"Which one is it?"
"It says, 'the'"
"Oh."
"Oh?"
"Well, why didn't you do 'go' or 'my' or 'you' or …?"

And my dear, sweet angel of a child spent the next 20 minutes critiquing my choice of wow words.  Twenty. Minutes.  No joke.

Exhibit Two:

For Purim, the kids wear costumes.   J is old enough to have some input into what his costume should be now, so I asked him what he'd like to be.  After a couple of ideas, he decided he'd like to be Batman.  I spent some time searching around for the perfect costume, and finally found it:

IMG_3510

He put on the costume, and said, "How come you didn't get me Iron Man?"  What?  Are you Kidding Me?  This kid asked for Batman.  I thought I was being the cool mom for getting him Batman.  Finally I convinced him that he had asked to be Batman and this was a good thing.  Seth got ready to go to synagogue and explained to him that since he was wearing all black, he needed to be sure to hold Abba's hand the entire way there because cars wouldn't be able to see him in the dark.  I sent J with a flashlight also to make him more conspicuous.

And so, on the way to synagogue, J turned to Seth and said (are you ready for this?): "Abba, if I were Iron Man, I'd be Red and Gold and then the cars could see me so they wouldn't hit me!"

Argh!

Exhibit Three:

This morning, after breakfast, J asked if I would let him watch some Berenstain Bears on TV before it was time to go to school.  Actually, he came downstairs and said, "Berenstain Bears! Patch!" and what he meant to say was "Mommy can I please watch some Berenstain Bears on TV and will you please get me my patch?"  Once we cleared that up, I put on some Berenstain Bears.  I had just pressed play on the remote, and it hadn't even started playing yet, when J turned to me and said:

"Why didn't you put on Transformers??"

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Time In: The Zen of Parenting

We're taking a class entitled "Parenting the Challenging Child," that is being taught by our developmental pediatrician.  It's interesting, actually, because many of the techniques and philosophies being presented in the class are things that he has already presented to us in our appointments with him, but now we are seeing them presented in a much more methodical manner, rather than in the more bandaid-approach we've been getting. 

One of the key philosophies of the course is that techniques like "time-out" and ignoring undesireable behaviors only work effectively if it is time-out from positive attention.  So before adding the negative, reactive strategies to our parenting toolkit, so to speak, we are building our strategies for positive, proactive strategies.  Last week, we talked about the importance of "Time In." 

Time in is much what it sounds like – in many ways it's the opposite of a time out.  It is time spent with your child, but it's more than that.  It's not just ANY time spent with your child.  There are rules, you see.  Time in isn't an opportunity to teach.  It's not a time to discipline.  It's not a time to be a parent, per se.  It's a time to let your child BE a child, and for you to spend time with your child BEING that child.  You don't answer the phone, you don't do dishes or make dinner in the kitchen while you're half-paying attention to what your child is doing in the other room.  You don't ask any questions, you don't give any instructions.  Unless your child tries to do something truly dangerous like lighting the cat on fire, you don't issue any reprimands.  This time (15-30 minutes a day, ideally) is completely child-led play time.  You should try to see the world through your child's eyes for this brief period of time.  Instead of asking questions about what your child is doing, you should comment on, or narrate, what your child is doing, give lots of positive praise, and play along, or take directions from your child, but really let your child lead the way.  Your child should be the one to decide what happens during this time, you shouldn't be the one dictating any of the activities or the nature of the play.  Like I said, hard as it may be, this is not a time for teaching moments, or for interrogations (no questions!!  This is the hardest part!), or for reprimands.  Make sure that you've got a child-safe and child-friendly environment where your child is free to act like a child free from admonishments to not touch that, or not go there, or not do that, or whatnot. 

Get the idea?

This wasn't my first introduction to the concept of Time In.  Several books discuss the concept; most recently when I read Russell Barkely's "Taking Charge of ADHD" I was reminded that we should be practicing the art of Time In.  Dr. S. had emphasized the importance of Time In during our office visits.  But I'm not good at Time In.  I'm okay with generally spending time with my kids.  But this specific kind of Time In technique?  Not my strong suit.  Seth?  Seth is great at it.  He's a natural at this kind of Zen Parenting where you can just let your kid be a kid and let all the parenting instincts and teaching moments and reprimands go.  Seth gets in the moment and crawls around on the floor and builds legos and wrestles and lets J lead the way.  Me?  If you take away my questions, my teaching moments, my ability to lead in any way… I get tense.  There's no Zen of Parenting in Time In for me.  So the whole Time In thing has naturally fallen to Seth, not really on purpose, but because it's his strength and my weakness.  We're a team and we play to our strengths, right?

But that's cheating, according to Dr. S, and we have to learn to share responsibility and share the fun.  So last week, after our class on Time In, our homework was to practice our Time In technique.  Mommy isn't used to not doing well on her homework, so I was determined to make this work!  Thus began my first foray into the world of Time In. 

J was playing with Transformers and I started to play with him.  He didn't like what I was doing, so he switched Transformers with me.  I hate Transformers, passionately, so I was sort of at a loss for what to do or say.  "Golly what a nifty Transformer, and gee, how deliciously violent this game is" somehow seemed terribly inadequate.  I was tense and fairly miserable.  "Grr!" I said.  "My guy is attacking your guy!"  "No he's not," J said, "My guy has a shield and he blocked your guy! Take that! Kablam! Kablam!"  I stifled the urge to remind J that we don't like him making shooting sounds.  "Um, well, then my guy has shields too and um, your weapons can't penetrate them!"  "No, your guy doesn't have shields, and now I shot him," J countered.  This wasn't going well. 

"Gosh, J, this is a really neat Transformer!  Can you show me how to make him back into the sports car??"  Whoops!  The Time In Purist would be tapping the table to remind me that I'd just broken the cardinal rule of Time In… not only had I asked a question, but I'd redirected the play.  Fortunately, it didn't backfire this time.  "Oh yeah, look at this, Eema!  It is SO cool!  You do it like this, and you move that around, and then you…"

 I gradually became more comfortable playing with him, and we chased each other around the living room.  I became a giant transformer-eating monster, waving my arms about and stomping my feet in Frankenstein-like movements toward him. 

And then it happened.  I finally experienced the true moment of Zen Parenting:

J jumped up onto the couch, bounced over onto the chair, jumped to the automan, bounced back over to the couch and climbed onto the back of the couch and declared himself the winner (winner of what?  I'm not really sure).  J knows that my absolute most non-negotiable rule in the living room is that he may not climb up on the furniture and bounce around on it as if it is a playground.  He knows it is a sure-fire way to test what kind of mood I'm in.  But just as I was about to remind him to get off the couch, I remembered that would be against the rules.  Not only did I not have to reprimand him right then and there, I wasn't allowed to.  He wasn't in immediate danger, the cat wasn't about to be set on fire, it was time to just let this one go. 

In that moment I felt like all my tension just went out of my body and I was free.  Finally I could just let J be J.  I could just be with him and see the world from his perspective – perched upon the back of the couch, and you know what?  It looked really nifty from up there.  I understood what drove him to be up there, for just a moment.  For that moment I didn't have to be the mean old mom who has all these rules.  I got to be the cool mom who overlooked that relatively minor infraction in the grand scheme of things.  And then?  The giant transformer-eating monster scooped in, picked him up off the back of the couch, tickled him, and wrestled him down to the floor, giggling madly, with nary a reprimand to be heard.  Mission accomplished.  No arguments.  No fighting.  No pushbacks.  And without missing even a second of quality time with my son.

Since then, I've made it a point to spend time differently with J, even when it isn't specifically Time In time.  I try to be more animated while I'm talking with him, I let him lead the discussions more, I respond to the things that he's saying and I try not to just say, "uh huh" when he's talking about something I couldn't care less about (like transformers).  Even if I'm feeding the babies and he's standing there talking to me, I can still make him feel like he's got a few minutes, or even seconds, of my absolute, undivided attention.  And it's making all the difference in the world.

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We moved the nursery upstairs about a week and a half ago.  My three precious babies aren't just three steps away from my bedroom anymore.  Seth is in heaven; I am traumatized.  I thought I'd be over it by now, but I'm really not.  I admit it's nice having all four kids upstairs together.  It's nice having our own space downstairs, as we'd intended all along.  It's nice that J isn't all alone anymore.  Certainly, the babies haven't noticed any difference.  But…  it's so different at night – I'm so accustomed to hearing Sam's little sighs through the night, Ellie's cute little coos, and Abby's cries (Abby?  Not such a fan of sleeping). 

Our morning routine is completely different now, too.   It used to be that pretty soon after the first sounds we heard in the morning, Seth would get up and start changing diapers.  He'd change Sam first, and bring him to me to nurse.  Then he'd change Ellie and Abby, and bring me Ellie to nurse, and put Sam in the nursery to play while he offered Abby a cup of milk which she usually refused.  Now we hear them wake up, but we usually let them talk to each other for a while (and sometimes they even fall back to sleep!).  After J comes down to tell us he's awake, we tell him to go get dressed for school, and we go upstairs to get moving with the day.  Depending on whether Seth is still home (he often has to be at the hospital at an ungodly hour of the morning), we either split baby and J-man duties or I take care of it.  '

But first thing's first:  I open up the nursery door, and three beautiful, smiling, gorgeous heads pop up from their cribs.  These bright-eyed, bushy tailed, amazing babies never fail me.  They greet me with such joy and unconditional, overflowing love every single morning that I can't help but wonder why I ever questioned how I could handle triplets.  I wish, in those first few days or weeks of my pregnancy, when I was completely panicked about the prospect of getting through a triplet pregnancy and triplet parenthood, that someone could have adequately expressed to me how incredible a feeling it is a year later to have those three enormous grins shining at you when you open their door in the morning.  Or how unique an experience it is to sit down on the living room floor and have three enthusiastic babies giggling and crawling as fast as they can, racing to be the first one into your lap and climbing up to be the first one to get kisses.  I'm sure those experiences are incredible with one baby.  But they are nearly indescribable with three babies. 

Back to the nursery.

So you can see, this transition to the nursery is not entirely bad, it's just… different.  Once all the diapers are changed, we let the babies roam free for a while.  No more baby pit, you see.  The whole first floor (sans the kitchen, bathroom, and J's room) are baby proofed (for the most part).  I get J his morning medicine and then I nurse Sam and Ellie before I get the babies into high chairs for breakfast, about which time my nanny usually arrives (if it's a weekday) and takes over.   With the big difference in morning routine, it does making nursing the babies harder to squeeze in, and sometimes, it just gets skipped – I think we're getting closer and closer to weaning.   

So it's not an entirely bad transition, it's just a change.  And we all know how well I deal with change.

Hah.

In other news, Sam is completely walking.  He rarely crawls, but when he does, it's incredibly cute, and I keep thinking I should get it on video before I lose my chance.  I probably never will, and I'll regret it.  Ellie has become quite a good walker, as well, though not nearly as steady as Sam.  She's catching up though.  Abby, who had steadfastly refused to even STAND, let alone walk, took three steps on Monday without me there to even see, the little traitor.  How dare she?  She promised me she wouldn't walk yet!  How could she do this to me?  Who gave her permission to walk?  Certainly not me!  Anyway, I think it was a fluke, because she hasn't done it since, and she hasn't even stood up without support, so I don't think it's something she's keen on repeating any time soon.

All three babies have been varying degrees of sick the past couple weeks.  They all had a cold that wouldn't quit for about 3 1/2 weeks.  The girls got ear infections and sinusitis.  Sam skipped that, but then developed a four day 102 degree fever.  He was so sad – he wouldn't eat or play, he just sat in our laps sucking his pacifier and holding his beloved elephant blankie.  I normally don't let him suck on a pacifier except during naptime or bedtime, but that's all he wanted, and I thought it was only fair.  Poor baby.  But everyone is all better now, or so it seems, so here's hoping.  J also had a cold and his normal reactive airway/asthma type stuff along with that, but fortunately, even though he won't take his ADHD medicine without a fight, he LOVES taking his inhaler, so at least THAT isn't a fight! Whew!

J is doing really well.  I'm really proud of what a great big brother he is and how well he's doing in school and with speech therapy.  He's such a loving, creative soul and wants to do well.  I'll write more about it in a separate post, but we're taking a parenting class on "Parenting the Challenging Child" given by our Developmental Pediatrician, and we realized that so many of the things that made J challenging are already less of a challenge just in the couple of months that we've been working with the developmental pediatrician – and I'm just so proud of J for the progress that he's made.  The class is still incredibly helpful and it's good to see the material presented in a very methodical way, instead of the more bandaid approach we'd been getting it in our appointments with the pediatrician, but I feel so much less like we need this DESPERATELY than I did two months ago when we first registered for the class (though it only started 3 weeks ago).

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This post is otherwise entitled "The only political post I ever plan to write."  Though I have much to say about the political environment today, I just don't have the will to stir up that much controversy. 

The J-man's school was used as a polling place, but they didn't close the facility, because the polling area was relatively small in comparison to the facility.  It was great, because the kids got to see what a polling place looks like and they held a mock election in the class.  First, they voted on what snack they would have that day so that they could learn what voting was all about, and then they had a mock presidential election.  All the kids got to vote for who they wanted for president.

So we asked J who he voted for:

J:  John McCain
Me:  What made you decide to vote for John McCain?
J:  All my friends were voting for him.
Me:  And what made them decide to vote for John McCain?
J:  He's the coolest.
Me:  Oh!  Well, that's a very good reason.  Do you know who actually won the election?
J:  Who?
Me:  Barack Obama.
J:  Oh yeah!  Our whole class voted for him!
Me:  Sure, for varying degrees of "whole." 
J:  Why did he win?
Me:  Well, 52% of the registered voters who actually voted on election day voted for him.
J:  Who did Abba vote for?
Me:  Well, you'll have to ask him, but he doesn't have to tell you if he doesn't want to; we have anonymous balloting in the United States.
J:  Abba?  Did you vote?
Seth:  Yes, J, I voted.
J: Well, did you vote for John McCain?
Seth:  Er, No.
J:  Did you vote for Bark Obama?
Seth:  Yes, I did.
J:  Oh, that was a very good idea, all of my friends voted for him, and my whole class voted for him, and half of the class voted for John McCain. 
Seth (aside):  Coming soon?  Fractions!
Me:  So, who did you vote for, exactly?
J:  Well, some of us voted for John McCain and some of us voted for Bark Obama. 
Seth:  Did any of you vote for Ralph Nader?
J:  I don't know.  Is he president?
Me:  He was a presidential nominee.
J:  Well, we didn't vote for him.
Seth:  Did any of you vote for Dr. Mellow?
J:  Who's that?
Me:  He's a friend of ours who ran a write-in campaign on a single-issue platform of abolishing Daylight Savings Time.
J:  What's a platform?
Me:  It's what you say you will do if you become president.
J:  Well, you know what I will do when I become president?  I will have lots of toys.
Me:  Oh, that's an interesting platform.  And what will you do for the American people? 
J:  I will play with the toys!

So there you have it, folks!  When J becomes president (of course, he won't be qualified for another 30 years, since you have to be 35 to run for president), he will have lots of toys.  And he will play with them.    That ought to solve the world's problems.

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