Happy, Healthy, Productive, and Able to Spread Jelly on Toast


from pinterest.com

Everyone has similar hopes for their children. I think most everyone would say they want their children to be “happy, healthy, productive adults.” We all want them to do something positive in the world and to be happy. Whether they go to Yale or to a local community college or just graduate from high school, I think most parents would agree that happiness (with a big side of being a good human) would be the most important piece of their children’s’ futures.

Honestly, that is what I want for Cameron too. I want him to be happy! But there are a slew of additional things that I would like for Cameron. These things come to me as I’m doing everyday things that I know are currently very hard for Cameron to do. While I was putting jelly on my toast today, I thought about how difficult that task is for Cameron. While driving past a city bus yesterday and watching carefully to make sure it didn’t pull out and there was no one around it, I realized that driving safely is going to be very difficult for Cameron; there is no way he’d think about the bus, he’d just barrel past without noticing it—well that would be if he was driving today, but we have about six or seven quickly moving years to get him to pay attention to the world around him before he gets behind the wheel.  Which brings me to what this summer has been about for our family—The Summer of Cameron.

Cameron will be nine years old in less than a month. We’ve been looking for ways to help him for at least two years, and not much has changed; he still has similar, if not exactly the same, struggles he’s had since birth. So this summer has been about therapy to help with self-esteem, swimming for sensory input, and more occupational therapy to help with those everyday things that are hard for him, in addition to just trying to let him be a kid and enjoy his summer. Not to be cliché, but time really does fly! Summer is more than half over (for me, anyway), he’ll be in middle school in only two years, and each year that he struggles with the stuff that we all take for granted, he gets further behind his peers, which will make it more difficult for him to make and keep friends, which will be detrimental to his self-esteem, which will all make it very difficult for him to lead that happy, healthy, productive life I talked about earlier.

So, while going to all these appointments that yield similar comments from professionals including, “What a neat kid!” “He’s so personable!” and the inevitable, “That [fill in behavior here] is not that typical of a child who also does [fill in another relatively contradictory behavior here],” I can’t help but feel a little bit defeated. And crazy. I feel crazy too. He’s so great with other people, and he is so very smart, and perhaps some of the behaviors we see at home are typical of other kids…but my gut (and my husband’s) says otherwise. His personality, and the fact that he’s adorable, and girls his age stare wide-eyed at him with dreamy eyes full of the crushes that I remember having on boys in my 3rd grade class, are his saving graces. And my saving grace as his mom is the fact that his “with-it-ness” is so compromised that he has literally no idea that the girls are looking at him like that.

While I do feel quite defeated lately, I am also very grateful. I’m so grateful for the fact that Cameron really likes all of these appointments that his crazy mother has lined up for him. I’m grateful that he is cute and kind and compassionate and personable. I’m grateful that he is an active and athletic kid, which in our culture may help him gain friendships in the future (take it from the tallest girl on the basketball team who was asked to work as the “manager” because I just wasn’t good enough to play- being good at sports seemed to make things easier for other people I knew). I’m grateful that Cameron is mine, because I think I learn something new from him every single day, whether it’s the name of a president I didn’t know existed (notably Millard Fillmore), or how to more consistently use deep breathing before letting myself say what is in my sarcastic brain.

One more thing I’m grateful for today? That Cameron and his sister are spending the day with their grandparents and this crazy mom gets a little breather. A day off makes it easier to do that deep breathing I was just talking about.


My Frenemy, Guilt


Guilt is a powerful thing. Being raised Catholic, Guilt runs deep through my veins. Guilt has caused me to some weird things like turn myself in for egging someone’s house in high school, while refusing to turn in any of my accomplices. It causes me to be beyond honest, at times, feeling like I owe the world the truth about every little thing (hence this blog). Guilt is such a normal emotion for me, that I don’t even know I’m feeling it anymore; it’s part of who I am. While everyone may have his or her own opinion about guilt, I feel as if Guilt and I have a bittersweet relationship. It’s Guilt that helps me get things done. I feel guilty if I sit for too long, if I don’t play with my kids enough, if my kids or I watch too much TV, if my kids don’t eat a fruit or vegetable with every meal, if I don’t give them undivided attention, etc.

We had an incident at our house recently that has put Guilt in my pocket like my Burt’s Bees lip balm. It’s there always, and if I forget about it for a minute, I feel it with me again, reminding me to take appropriate action. You see, I was so frustrated, I told Cameron to shut up. Did you see that? Guilt made me cross it out because I can’t believe I said that, but Guilt also made me write it because if I didn’t tell the whole truth, Guilt would grow. Before you judge me, know that Guilt has had me judging myself from the second I watched those words cascade uncontrollably out of my mouth.

Cameron has a tendency to interrupt when we’re trying to redirect him. He sometimes yells at us, he cries uncontrollably, and he does not listen, even when we’re trying to help him, which is most of the time when he starts to get out of control like he was the other day. It was during this escalated period of me trying to help him and him refusing to stop talking/crying that I said it.

That Guilt doesn’t work alone, you know… With it, it brings a flurry of other Guilt that you may have forgotten about. So with the Saying-a-Terrible-Thing-to-Your-Child-Guilt, the Guilt that I don’t lose my patience like that with Cameron’s sister came in to the mix. That Guilt brought the one that reminded me that I spend too much time looking at the negatives and leave out the positive things that Cameron does. Even when I do look at the positives, the negatives are sitting back there in my mind, waiting to surface.

As previously noted, Guilt and I have a love-hate relationship. I mean, I’m very used to it hanging around in my life, and I’ve come to accept it, even though I think it shows up unnecessarily much of the time. Some people may think that Guilt does nothing and is a waste of time. I disagree. For me, Guilt allows me to reflect on my actions and how they affect Cameron. When I think about the other day when I said those terrible words to my little boy, Guilt makes me think about what I could have done differently, and how we could have avoided the “incident” in the first place. The last incident was started with obscene amounts of stuff in Cameron’s bedroom, all of which was misplaced by Hurricane Cameron, a category 5 mess-maker. His little SPD brain could not begin to organize that mess and keep it clean. Also, I’ve been inconsistent with brushing him, with vitamins, and he was exhausted, since he’d just been to his first (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) concert two nights before, and had stayed up until midnight. So Guilt makes me stop and think about what Cameron needs and what we’re doing wrong. Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely accountability on Cameron’s part too, but that’s still an area that is shady for me; at what point is his behavior just due to bad choices or due to over-/under-stimulation?

So, well played, Guilt. You’ve made me think about how to make some positive changes in our home for Cameron. In my Guilt-induced reading of my go-to guide, Raising a Sensory Smart Child: The Definitive Handbook for Helping Your Child with Sensory Processing Issues by Lindsey Biel and Nancy Peske, a passage spoke to me:

“…if you do not observe [your child’s] behavior for subtle clues as to what’s up, listen to your child to learn what really makes him “go off,” and let him know he is loved and supported no matter what, all your sensory recipes and techniques will not have their full effect. Compassion, patience, and unconditional love are the real magic ingredients for working with any child, especially one with sensory issues.” (102)

So true! Thanks again, Guilt!