Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How Are We Raising Our Children Again?

When I was growing up, I made lots of mistakes.  My parent's may have warned me about certain situations, or give me advice (mostly of the unwanted kind).  But they did not hover, they did not fix my problems for me, nor did they excuse me when I did  something wrong.  Why are today's parents so different?  As a mom, parenting books, magazines, websites, blogs...well, they all tell me to hover!  They tell me that I need to help my kids make friends, that by helping them with their arguments with their friends I'll be a better parent, and that they'll see me as a "friend" if I help them solve all their problems.  Why have things changed so much?

Today, we care a lot about each other's feelings...and not just the people close to us.  There are people who look at a criminal and say, "I feel sorry for them."  There are people who say, "We just need to understand them more."  That's what parents are teaching their kids...intentionally or unintentionally, it's happening more and more.  I do this very thing...telling your kids during a playdate to give up one of their favorite toys to their friends..  "They're the guest, so you need to give it to them."  Or what about when your child is throwing a tantrum and instead of jumping into action to discipline you say, "Well they're tired....they're hungry...they're just having a bad day, " etc.  It's not that it's bad to be compassionate or to show empathy.  It's when it's expected that I have a problem...when the child EXPECTS to be excused or allowed to behave like that.
So what now?  How do we get back to valuing ourselves?  We have to teach our kids to look after themselves.  Mom and Dad are not always going to be there to fix their problems, to solve their relationship issues and not everyone is as forgiving as parents.  How do our kids benefit from us hiding these facts from them?  They will go off into the world, with a naive impression of the world, and seeing everything through their rose-colored glasses.  They need to be able to make decisions...important decisions that could possibly impact their future.

Our children are our future, but yet their success or failure does not always define who we are as parents.  It's ok to let them experience failure.  We can love them, want the best for them, but we can't live their lives for them.  And I think it makes them stronger and more able to adapt by giving them the skills they need...the responsibility then does and should lie on their shoulders, not ours.

Lindsey is 12, and she knows everything about everything.  And like most kids her age, she thinks the world revolves around her and if life doesn't go her way...well, she has what we call a "teen tantrum."  I was a single mom with Lindsey until she was 2 and although I thought I was really helping her to become independent and self-sufficient I look back now and see the hovering.  I remember not just telling her, but showing her by my own actions that other people were more important that myself.  Rarely did I ever show her that I felt like I was important enough to put myself before anyone!  It has taken me a long time to even see my own value and self-worth.  But how could I teach her to value herself when I couldn't do the same?!!  I hope that Lindsey will learn, despite her naive views and willingness to believe any and everything that there are some things worth fighting for...most of all, that SHE is worth fighting for!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mommy, am I odd?

Today on the way home from school, Ethan asked me "Mommy, am I odd?"  Such an expected question from a child with Autism/Asperger's...but yet, one I dread answering.

The truth is, yes he is odd!  He can tell you as much as any paleontologist about dinosaurs...before that he learned everything about whales, sharks, dolphins and many other swimmy creatures.  Before that, he knew everything about the Titanic and other historic oceanliners or ships...and before that it was Thomas the Tank Engine, which also lead to an extremely detailed history stored in his brain about all types of trains.  So yes, he is a little odd...but so what?

I asked him why he asked me that...did someone say that to him?  He said no, but that he realized he knew so much more about dinosaurs than everyone else in his class and that they just weren't interested in dinosaurs.  There are so many things locked into his brain, I have no idea why he brought it up.  But I feel strongly that he is seeing the difference for himself.  He talks occasionally about how hard it is for him to make friends, to have a conversation at the lunch table, and to find a playmate on the playground.  Although we do go to a social group once a week to learn some of these skills, it takes practice to get them down so he isn't so "odd."

My answer, "No honey, you're not odd.  God made you to be the boy you are and you don't have to be like everyone else."  His reply?  "Mommy, sometimes it's ok to be odd, isn't it??"

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Ethan's artwork

When you have a child with Autism/Asperger's, you never know when they will be set off.  Tonight, it was because Jonah wanted Ethan to play with him.

Jonah can play with Ethan 24/7, but sometimes Ethan just needs or wants to be alone.  He likes to get coloring books or activity books that I keep in a special cabinet for the kids...he'll set on the sofa or in the rocking chair and go through them.  He has a process...he'll get just one crayon, but preferably a marker or pen.  Then he'll go through the whole book, page by page, and make (usually) one single mark on each page on the right...never the left.  I've asked him about it, why he does that...he says he's "marking it."  I'm not sure what that means, but it seems to calm him down so I'm all for it!

But tonight, Jonah wanted a playmate and Ethan wanted to chill.  But because Jonah is 5 and unable to understand Ethan's "special needs" a tantrum of major proportions was held.  Ethan just can't handle that.  As his social group leader would say, "his stress thermometer reached the red end!"  As always, I try to make it better...hugs, kisses, talking things through...but Ethan doesn't really like hugs, he hates talking things through and he wipes every kiss away (they're too wet!).

I had a wide assortment of crafts supplies, scrapbooking materials, and construction paper on the kitchen table after helping Jonah make a turkey for school.  Ethan found his quiet spot in the kitchen, saw everything on the table, and let his creativity flow.  He made me bookmarks that said things like, "greetings from France.  <3 U" or one that looked like a postcard addressed "Dearest Mom."  He made pictures of polar bears climbing a hill with a full moon, and another one that was a Happy Birthday wish (although my birthday isn't until August!)  But the one that means the most to me is the one you see here (sorry it's sideways!).    It says "Thanks for takeing care of me!  For mom!  I <3 u with all my <3!  <3 U!"

This is now hung up in my kitchen, in a little niche where I have a variety of Ethan's artwork...some from when he was only 3!  I'm running out of room, and although eventually I'll have to take some artwork down, this will remain!  To me, it is an affirmation that no matter how angry he is at me, how many times I have to tell him "NO!" and he storms off, he really does love me.  And even if he can't tell me or show me the way Lindsey and Jonah do, I will be able to look at this wonderful expression of his love and be able to once again see into his heart.  That is something I will treasure forever!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A new washer?

So today I restarted my blog for the main reason of winning a new washer/dryer...or other Frigidaire appliances. I heard about the contest on www.blondemomblog.com and knew I just had to enter it. Why you might ask? Let me tell you about my washer...

When we moved to our house 4 1/2 years ago, we decided to buy a brand new washer and dryer. At the time, the Whirlpool Duet washer was considered top of the line. We did our research, we compared it against the Kenmore and other appliances at Sears. In the end, we choose the Whirlpool. I have regretted it ever since!

The problems started out slowly. An occasional fault where we would simply cancel out the wash and restart it. No problem, right? As time progressed, so did the number of faults. And of course, there was the time that a whole load of wash sat in the full washer (including the stinky water!) for over a week before Sears and the warranty program would approve a repairman. That was one of the nastiest smells I have ever smelled. The problem in that case was a sock that was sucked between the tub and the inside wall of the washer. Anyway, after that almost every load of laundry we did ended up faulting out!

On a side note, let me say that with three kids, I have a lot of laundry!! My youngest sometimes will go through 3 or 4 outfits a day! Plus, with potty training at that time and now still having some accidents at night, my youngest is constantly needing underwear, sheets, lovies, etc. washed! That doesn't work too well when you have to keep restarting the load every 30 minutes, or sometimes immediately after you start it!!

If I was lucky enough to win this contest, just think of the possibilities...I might find that shirt that's been gone forever into the laundry basket or a pile somewhere or another. I might have real matching pillowcases that actually match the sheets on my bed! And best of all, I won't have to dry myself off after a shower with a towel that smells like it's been sitting in stinky washer water!!

Now THAT would be the life!!