Scary Babies

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What would A Surprising Joy be without a big surprise?

We are thrilled to be welcoming our third child to our little family this March! Much like her older sister, this little girl is already enjoying surprising mommy & daddy. While unexpected, she is very much wanted and we cannot wait to meet her!

Pregnancy is a weird experience. I suppose it is magical and amazing but mostly, I find it strange. Each pregnancy has been different, however there is a consistent theme in mine…fear of the ultrasounds.

Depending on who you speak with, some parents will tell you that once they had a child with special needs, they were too scared to have more children. Others state that they never gave it any thought and some say they would proceed but in a half terrified state. I fall somewhere in between category  two & three. We wanted more than one child and Lily, being our first, and having Down syndrome really did not deter us much from having additional children. What it did do, was create an innate fear within us when it was time for the anatomy scan ultrasound.

During my pregnancy with Oz, we opted out of any prenatal testing, just as we had with Lily. Prenatal testing takes on a whole new meaning once you already have a child with Down syndrome. There is a cloud of conflicting emotions. Some, all of your friends would understand but others, you keep to yourself partly because you aren’t sure what to make of them yourself and partly because the thought of being judged by others makes you want to vomit. (And you are already nauseous enough as it is!).

How should I feel about finding out my next child is “normal”? What if I am happy? Would that be wrong? Would that be an insult to Lily?

What if I don’t want to have another child with special needs and want to pray for a “normal” child? Am I a terrible mother?

Now, if you have followed our journey thus far, you will know that we would never terminate our child because of a disability. So even with these thoughts above, that never crossed our mind. But all those other thoughts, did. And they were hard to hear and even harder to reconcile.

I did my best to ignore them and managed to enjoy being pregnant last time (aside from the physical discomfort).  Oz was born happy & healthy & no major problems.

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Now I am in my final pregnancy. Knowing this will be my last baby I carry on the inside (we will be fostering later), definitely creates a different experience all together. But those thoughts…those thoughts are there…once buried, they have resurfaced and I dared to explore them.

The biggest difference in this pregnancy is that I decided to have a prenatal test done. This test would clue us in on any abnormal chromosomal activity. So effectively, we would know when I was barely 10 weeks if there was a chromosomal abnormality present. (As a big bonus, we also would learn the gender of our baby!) Every pregnancy is scary so I decided to shed some light on some of the fear so that I could begin to let go and revel in this one.

While waiting for the results, I began to face the thoughts that had made me feel like a monster before and were threatening to again.

“Am I a bad mother for praying for the results to come back normal?”

Of course not. No parent wants their child to have a disability that would impede their health or impact their quality of life. I have stated this before but we are so very lucky that Lily does not have any health problems as of yet. But her medical future is still a scary one for us.

“Am I somehow de-valuing or insulting Lily by not wanting to have another child with special needs?”

I guess that would depend on how you look at this question. Since we chose to have Lily regardless and would make that choice over and over again for all our children, my answer is no. For the same reason as stated above, I want my children to have all the opportunity and ease of life as possible. Knowing the uncertainties and the potential health problems and seeing first hand what a disability can do to your child’s spirit some days, of course I would never wish that on a child. I don’t wish that on Lily. I would remove any disability from my children if I could, and I am not going to feel bad for thinking that way.

Our results came back negative for any overt chromosome abnormalities. I was flooded with relief, quickly followed by the heaviness of guilt. No matter what I had reasoned, it is obvious that these thoughts had imbedded in me self-doubt. I was so insecure about how to feel that I wasn’t sure how to let my friends know, either. Should I use exclamation points and smiley faces? Should I just state it as a fact void of emotion? Turns, out that it really didn’t matter. This was my private battle, not anyone elses. Or so I thought…

I have had  amazing opportunities to meet with and speak to hundreds of parents that either have a child with special needs or have one on the way.  I have been blessed that many of these parents have shared their fears along with their joys with me. And I learned that I am most certainly not the only one with these intruding and uncomfortable thoughts. I am also not the only one who has felt alone and insecure about sharing these thoughts with anyone else. To all of us parents that have went on and had other children since our little one with special needs, I get you and I know you get me. Thank you for that.

Now we still have that big, scary anatomy scan coming up in a couple of weeks. I have chosen to not care anymore. Those thoughts will come and go and eventually will fade back into the recesses of my mind where I prefer them to reside anyway. Soon we will welcome our little girl. She will meet her big sister and big brother and all will be right with our little world, no matter who she is and who she will become. ❤

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Lily Luet

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Oz Jameson

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Baby Girl

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And she drooled pink…..

Parents are uniquely qualified for investigative research.

A beautiful Saturday morning in the McKenzie household- I was giggling with Oz on the couch and Lily was helping daddy in the kitchen. Then I hear my husband say, “What is coming out of your mouth?” In true toddler form, she ran away to the living room as he tried to get a better look at her.

My husband exclaims, I think she is bleeding! As I grab her and plop her on my lap, I see that her shirt is covered in countless drips of a pepto bismal-looking pink. Following her stained shirt up to her mouth, I see her chin covered in the same pink drool and more in her mouth. After a brief debate about the color (I won) we confirmed it wasn’t blood. Unless of course my daughter is part faerie, in which case pink blood may be normal.

The next step was figuring out what in the world it was….this meant a more invasive technique. We chose the lay her my lap and use her toothbrush to help us look in her mouth. Anyone who has ever dared to put their finger in their toddlers mouth, never did it again and probably lost part of their finger! In case you are unaware, they BITE! So the toothbrush dicovered a small clump of pink behind a tooth. We lost the wrestling match at this point though and had to retreat for a minute. A drink of water to flush out the remainder and we were confident that whatever it was, was gone.

But as scientists, and more importantly, still new parents, we were compelled to uncover the source of the pink drool. She could not have gotten into any medicine or chemical. It looked like candy but had no discernable odor like candy. What would dye my daughters drool pink? Since we had ruled out anything dangerous we relaxed and began to gaze around the room.

Then I saw it. Smack dab in the tray of her easel was a pink crayon, with a small chunk missing. It looked so innocent just lying there, silent.

I realize that we are only at the beginning of stories like this and you can believe I will be honing my observation skills!

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Empty Box of Tissues

….We have emerged from the depths of woe and despair and are healing with a smile now….

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The last week and half has felt like a haze and athough I think I see the light at the end of the tunnel, I am afraid it may just be that freaking freight train others have spoken about!

Okay so I am being both vague and a bit dramatic but having two very sick children and next to no sleep for over a week will make one a bit battle weary.

Now I have been through pnemonia with Lily (twice) and the stomach bug (once thank God) and I have had the pediatrician tell me that on average kids can get sick up to 6 times a year (!) so I wasn’t niave nor necessarily optimistic about winter rolling in. Let me say this here….I was not prepared for the illness that struck our household.

The New Year 2014 found all four of us in poor health and at the nearest pediatric urgent care. Yep, January 1, 2014 we rang in the new year with RSV in tow.

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RSV for a two year old and a 6 month old is just about as much fun as it sounds. Here is what I have learned this last two weeks:

1. My children are stronger than I am.

2. Sucking snot out of a toddler and a baby should be an olympic sport. I mean seriously- wrestling with one hand trying to keep away their hands and hold their head while trying not to hurt them with the restraint AND get the job done?? Yeah I think I could get a bronze medal at least.

3. I can make up a “Take Your Medicine” happy song in a flash. Half of the time the technique works and I dont wind up with sticky bubblegum flavored ibuprofen all over me.

4. I really can just keep going on no sleep. although I seem to be only going in circles some days.

5. Repitition offers both hope and despair. Take temp-give meds-clear nose-do breathing treatment- rock to sleep-put back to sleep after coughing fit woke them up-try to make them eat or at the very least drink something- repeat.

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I know this is a whiny little rant blog post but I have been tested this week. Watching our daughter beg to go to sleep just to be awakened moments later by a terrible cough or watch your infant son cough so much and so hard, he vomits. I never really understood sickness before- never truly understood how a little virus could injure a person or cause death. You hear all the time that the very young and the very old are so succeptible to severe complications from illnesses but it hit home watching my two navigate their way through this and I will honestly say that I became moderately afraid.

Being an older parent, I like to think that I am more relaxed as a person, as a mother. I listen to my gut, I approach things scientifically as well as emotionally…so yeah, none of that held up this time. I ended up taking Oz to the ER twice and Lily once. All for valid reasons but I felt that stupid, over dramatic parent fail feeling.  Luckily both children never got too severe that I couldn’t continue caring for them at home, which was such a relief.

Now I sit here typing while my son lay next to me sleeping (still with a raggedy breath) and my daughter sleeps in her bed across the hall. The house is filled with sounds of humidifiers running. Looking around I see eveidence of the epidemic everywhere- tisssues strewn all over, empty syringes laying in bizarre places only proving how ridiculous of a feat it was to give the medicine. The nebulizer that occupies our table in the living room, the random assortment of medicines (both natural and western) in every room of the house and of course the ever-growing mountain of dirty laundry testifies to our week. The promise of hope? Hope lies in the sound of my children sleeping- peacefully-at the same time. Which means I should try to end this silly little post and join them in slumber. I have greatly missed the sandman and welcome his embrace tonight.

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May your families find and keep health this winter season and always.

Lily turns 2! (Part two) “Results Are In”

“Down syndrome is only the background in our life, not the scenary.”

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Ahhh December. December is a month filled with magic and excitement. December has an energy to it unlike any other month. For me, December has always been extra special as it holds my birthday within it’ s calendar and now December holds Lily’s birthday as well. On December 2nd, Lily turned two! Yes, December is a beautiful month filled with blessings and memories but there is a darker side to December.

As joyous as a birthday celebration is,  there is another side to Lily turning two. Her turning two also means an onslaught of doctor appointments, tests and evaluations. December is when we must face Down syndrome head on.

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A brief recap of December’s past:

Dec 2011– Lily was born and we juggled being new parents with a preemie and Down syndrome diagnosis all at once.

Dec 2012– We were waiting to hear back if Lily had bone and/or liver disease as some of her test results came back abnormal.

And here we are Dec 2013-

Now before I come off as a negative, glass half empty type of person, let me say that as a parent to a child with Down syndrome, it is not really a matter of IF she will have some variance of  medical problem but rather WHEN and WHAT. So my reluctance and grim outlook on doctor appointments and test results is justified or at the very least, understandable. So off to her dr we go and off to face Down syndrome in its’ many forms…

Now contrary to what many may think, we do not actually talk about Down syndrome every day, we don’t really even think about it most days, and sometimes we even forget about it completely. As Lily is getting older, I admit it is harder to forget about DS but it still remains only a background setting to our lives, not our scenary.

So when the very first thing I must do at the dr is fill out a developmental form for average 2 year olds, I feel the all too familiar, icy feeling of Down syndrome coming into the forefront of my brain and slapping my conciousness around.  This time, I could harldly answer yes to any of the items listed. The only area I could answer yes in was in her problem solving skills. Although I am not blind, nor ignorant, I really had no idea just how behind (delayed) Lily is in her motors and communication. It stung.

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Next up was her regular pediatrician evaluation and discussion. I love her pediatrician and we always chat about the right course of action for Lily in her whole health. We made a plan and proceeded forth with the lab work.

Lily has had her blood drawn plenty of times and I am always in awe at how well she handles herself. She did not disappoint this time either. This time her brother Oz, now 5 months old, was with us and he was very unsettled by the experience. I got my first glimpse of what an amazing brother he is and will be- as Lily cried, he began yelling and even growling at the techs!

—Round One of appointments is done! Now we wait for the test results.—

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Next up, Lily meets with a developmental pediatrician. She is wonderful too and is helpful at looking at the overall picture of where Lily is and how she is doing. Since medically we are waiting test results, we focus more on development.

Lily isn’t walking.

Here is where I receive another little smack from Down syndrome. Lily’s left leg is severely weaker than her right. She is asymetrical. Her asymetry was more likely due to her being born early- the vascular connectors in her brain were not developed yet. In a typical child, they could overcome this quickly with just a little PT help. In a child with DS, it means she must now triple her efforts and it will be four times as hard for her to walk. 😦

Lily’s inability to walk stirs up all sorts of emotions within me. Some I prefer not to share and others I just don’t really understand. Will Lily walk? Yes, most likely. So why do I care that she can’t walk now? Well, I guess I am  just like every other parent, I hate that my child is delayed in something. I hate that she wants to do something but can’t. I hate that all of her friends can walk except for her. I hate putting on a happy face and agreeing that she will walk in her own time and yes, she is an excellent crawler. I hate that I feel this way at all. But I do. And now I hate that Down syndrome is officially creating a barrier for her.

So I pull up my boot straps and now we are going to PT 4 times a week as well as working harder at home. (This is in addition to Speech therapy 2 times a week) Holy crap.

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Now here is where my heart is lifted. Lily is currently testing right on time, if not a tiny bit advanced, in her cognitive skills. That means she is smart. Every parent wants to hear that, I needed to hear that. My daughter is an excellent problem solver and does beautifully in social situations and pretend play.  I am having an interesting experience of emotion as I write the paragraph above and then this one- a complexity of feelings are swirling around me and I feel completely emersed in the insanity of the happy/sad paradox I am in. Ain’t parenthood grand? 😉

As for the less dramatic but equally important information: Lily is speaking at a 12-15 month old level, she is only mildly behind in her fine motor (nothing anyone is concerned about) and advanced socially.

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So that is our plan for her developmental delays- more therapy! We can do that!

Back to the medical: Lily gets tested for thyroid every 6 months to a year. 60-70% of people with DS have a thyroid problem and take medication for it- we know several who already have begun treatment. Although it is not a guarentee that she will have it, it is likely. Every year she gets tested for Leukemia. Children with DS have a higher risk of having leukemia and that risk never goes away- she will have a CBC (blood count) done for the rest of her life. This time we requested she be tested for celiac disease too- it can be common with DS and she seems to get red cheeks after eating grains. (I read somewhere that that is a symptom).

Results are in!

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No Leukemia!!

No Celiac Disease!

Elevated TSH (Thyroid Producing Hormone)- but normal T2, T3 (thyroid hormones). This may or may not mean anything. We are now waiting on the Endocrinologist we saw last year to review the results and decide what he would like to do.

So basically- She’s HEALTHY!!! (Phew!)

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As I look at my little girl, I see so many things. I see big blue eyes, I see a fierce independent streak, I see a drive to accomplish whatever she sets her mind to, and I see an inner beauty that together with her outer beauty makes her quite striking and amazing. As she gets older, I also see Down syndrome. Down syndrome has shaped her eyes into an almond mold, made her ears and nose small, created smaller bones and a shorter stature, made her have to fight and struggle for everything she does, it is respsonsible for her inability to walk, created a frustration in her that is intense and stripped her of her confidence around groups of children.

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Down Syndrome is not who my daughter is, it is not a persoanlity trait, it is a barrier that holds my daughter back. Sometimes I imagine having a sword fight with Down syndrome. Although an intangible thing, it is my foe and it hurts my daughter.

I do not love Down syndrome. I am not grateful for Down syndrome. During the month of December, amongst all my joyous celebrations I also wage battle with an enemy.

A battle that Lily and I are determined to win everytime. Lily just turned two and she won this battle over Down syndrome!

Happy Birthday little girl, shade of my heart- you are healthy and beautiful and we love you so very much!

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Lily is 2 (Part One)

2 years ago I became a mother. 2 years ago the world suddenly became a more dangerous place. 2 years ago I learned what Down syndrome meant. 2 years ago I learned who I can be.

2 years ago I met Lily Luet.

Oh Lily Lu, my little Lulu, how you have grown and changed. I should have known that you would be a firecracker, one who not only plays by her own rules but actually designs the game we play. With each passing moment, each new year, you become more of an individual and truer to yourself. This last year, you have learned and discovered so many new things about yourself and about your world.

You can identify your body parts (including your boobies and your butt) I find people’s reaction to this amusing 🙂 This has led you to an awareness of your clothing and your undying determination to help me with every single clothing and diaper change needed. Whether I want the help or not.

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You are enthralled with books- you understand how to hold them, turn the pages, you know if they are upside down and you enjoy pointing to everything and even reading some of them to me and your brother, although we have no idea what language you are speaking.

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Your hair is longer and I have swept the fine threads of your hair behind your tiny ear so many times that you now return the favor and are quick to move my hair out of my face and tuck it behind my ear. You are so thoughtful.

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You have a good sense of cleanliness now. Your bath time is sacred and you secretly wish you could live in the bath tub. You are thrilled to wash your hands and will bulldoze over any obstacle on your path to brush your teeth. You know where your toothbrush lives and you enjoy a bit of flossing too.

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You are a master of all things pretend. Your little people and little animals live a very rich and funfilled life. They adventure all over the place and enjoy many directives. You are an excellent mommy and big sister – you insist your babies are properly cared for and believe in nursing and baby wearing.

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Anything, and I mean anything can magically change into a telephone. This includes but is not limited to food items, aka the banana phone you made a call on this morning.

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You have learned how to solve problems- if your dress interferes with your crawling speed, simply place the hem in your mouth and crawl on.

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You have discovered the pleasure of stabbing things with a fork and stirring with a spoon. You have also made it your mission to free all the food from their constrained spaces inside plates and bowls. You are their hero. They celebrate your bravery.

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You have learned the value of communication, you sign for more and for elephant. So far you have not asked for both at the same time. You have about 15 words. You talk extensively in your own language but you are trying to teach me how to understand Lily. I am slow and you sometimes get frustrated with me.

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You are trying to walk and take some steps now although it is much more pleasing to you to crawl at such high speeds you can out crawl the dog and cat!

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You are a couch climbing master and are currently perfecting your craft by attempting more dangerous climbs.

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You can draw a mean line. You color like you are divinely inspired but paper is irrelevant to you.

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You hug and kiss and even shake hands – you are very social and out going. People are compelled to engage with you when we are out.

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You sleep in your big girl bed now. You love your bed. You love getting out of your bed. You are still secretly hoping that your dad and I will be fooled by your fake snoring and leave you alone to your own devices under the guise of sleep. In the morning when you wake you climb out of your bed and shout for daddy while banging on the baby gate that confines you to your room.

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You believe the very best way to watch cartoons is standing directly in front of the TV, with your hand down the back of your pant and the tops of your butt cheeks exposed because you believe they need air too.

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You have unleashed the power of your index finger and use it to direct us to comply with your list of demands. Your item of choice must be retrieved and placed in the exact location your index finger directs.

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You have decided that food is not to be trusted and therefore must be immediately refused. After intense interrogations that include, sniffing, stabbing, swirling and smashing, only the very few are deemed worthy of being eaten. Only the raspberries and sweet potatoes passed inspection for your Thanksgiving dinner.

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Lily, my reflections here are unending, as you fill up my life with so many stories, memories, laughs and tears. I am and will always remain proud to be your mother and your guide here on Earth. 

December is a beautiful month filled with blessings and magic but there is a darker side to December. As joyous as a birthday celebration is,  there is another side to Lily turning two. Her turning two also means an onslaught of doctor appointments, tests and evaluations. December is when we must face Down syndrome head on.

To be continued…..

20, 40, 60 and GONE

The single most terrifying moment was about to be upon me.

My dad came over and whisked Lily and I away for a little bit of birthday shopping. Since Lily and I both have birthdays in December, it is easy to get them mixed up with Christmas. He makes sure there is a notable difference and it is becoming a wonderful little family tradition.

After braving the mall two weeks before Christmas, I discovered a little gem of a coat I had wanted for a long time. It was half off! Oh happy birthday to me! We had rented one of those little car strollers from the mall for Lily to enjoy but after a while she was getting bored. So I took her out and sat her in front of a mirror where she could chat with the cutest little girl I have ever known!

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My dad pulled out his wallet and began handing me money. I held out my hand, smiled at Lily and then looked at my dad ……for the count of three. He counted out 20’s and laid them in my open palm- 20, 40, 60… I looked back at Lily and she was GONE.

And I mean GONE. She had vanished. Suddenly the air was sucked out of me, my vision changed to a surreal view of the department store, my hackles raised as I scanned each and every living thing around me. SHE. WAS. GONE.

I hit the floor looking under all the clothing racks and my dad immediately ran the other direction looking for anyone carrying her off…

Frantic cannot begin to explain how I felt. I am actually in tears writing this experience right now (and it ended well). A surge of fury and fear raced through my body, changing me a little- my entire being was tingling. I noticed everything and nothing all at once. I felt like a giant and yet so powerless. As I was about to unleash a primal scream alerting everyone in the store as to my unbridled terror, when an old man touched my arm.

I will never forget the look in his eyes as he said, “He found her.” “Mama, he found her.” His eyes sparkled and I could feel his soul rejoice with the news he was chosen to deliver to me. 

Suddenly everything grew still in my mind and the world played a fuzzy background image to the sight of my dad with Lily on his shoulders.

As you would expect after having such intense emotions rack your body, mind, soul- I needed some release. I felt like I was vibrating.  Only now could I spare the energy and time to cry. And cry I did. After the last tear fell and the last of the terror shook free from my hand, I felt drained and my body went a little limp. My dad, a man who although is very sensitive and passionate, never cries, is never rattled. My dad was shaking. He was breathing heavy and he, like me, was not okay.

We took a moment to just remember how to breathe. Lily was making faces at herself in front of the mirror. She was back in her stroller and safe. SAFE. We collected our material finds and proceeded to check out and then onto home.

I never truly believed when people would say “It only takes a second.” For us it was “20, 40, 60 GONE”. My dad found her 30 yards away. She was having a ball crawling as fast as she could, enjoying her new found freedom.

I share this experience, at the risk of looking like a distracted, bad parent, because I was one, at least for that moment, and because for some, their ending of their story has no happy. We all make mistakes and I am forever grateful that mine wasn’t permanent and this story has a happy ending. Hug your children a little tighter and be safe during the insanity of your life. 🙂 Peace to you all.

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Anger Management?

Anger.

The very word contrives all sorts of images in my head from the very mild to the most violent. Anger is the unspoken emotion that we all feel but rarely feel comfortable and safe to discuss within our social circles. Becoming a parent forces you to confront things, like anger, that you may never have explored before and then in the same breath, expects an answer.

This was a much needed girls night in- wine and pjs and excellent company. Although we all come from varying backgrounds and have had very deifferent life experiences, we have so much common. The biggest thing we have in common is that we are all moms of toddlers. While some of us are veteran mothers and others are newbies (like myself)- we all appreciate the comfort in being amongst a group of people that simply understand that tired, half crazy look you don or the inappropiate yawn that occurs when someone is telling a story and the constant interuptions that steer you away from being a ‘good listener’.

As we sat and chatted about our own realities, our men, our daily responsibilities, we naturally also chatted about our toddlers. Soon we discovered that each one of us is being confronted with the same complex issue: hitting.  Suddenly our sweet children are embracing their inner monster and showing us a whole new side to their personality. The anger emotion is unfolding.

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With my daughter, I have observed her hitting for two reasons: 1) She hits for attention and 2) She hits when she is frustrated/angry.

The first was a rather simple fix for me- Upon holding her hands and looking her in the eyes, I would tell her in a calm but serious voice, “We do not hit.” or “No hitting.” I would watch the realization come over her eyes as she processed this information and saw the wheels turning as she thought what she should do instead. And naturally I offered her a solution- when you need mommy come over and use your voice and I will immediately address you. After a couple of trial and errors she and I nailed this one and within 3 days, she no longer hits to get my attention. (Mommy win! Yay!)

Feeling pretty confident in my discipline technique and very proud of my daughter, I moved on to address #2. Hitting when frustrated or angry. Hmmm. As she lifted her hand to strike me because she was upset over my unwillingness to play the game her way- I proceeded with the above measures -only when it came to telling her how to express her anger differently, I drew a blank.

Suddenly I realized that I had no idea how to appropiately express one’s anger. I was never taught how to express anger or frustration. I grew up feeling as though I wasn’t allowed to be angry. Anger was bad. You were punished for hitting but never given an outlet for the anger/frustration behind the hitting. As I discussed this revelation within my circle of friends, it quickly became apparant that none of us felt we had ever been taught how to express our anger. Now, I am not trying to take a stab at my parents, here, because I have no doubt that they probably weren’t taught either. So my question is- why not? Are we, as a society, so afraid of anger that we cannot allow it to exist even for a fraction of a second? Watching your child hit someone can be a frightful experience for a parent and of course you want to (and should) correct that behavior….but how?

I believe there is a difference between behavior and state of mind. There is a difference between discipline and punishment. Obviously my goal is to stop the behavior of hitting but to really accomplish that, I feel I must also change the state of mind behind it: Aggression born from anger. So once again I must face the question- how should one properly express their anger?

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As my friends and I spoke, we tossed around several discipline theories and debated different schools of thought. And while I definately have my own opinions and thoughts on what I consider to be appropiate and inapporiate, I found it very enlightening to listen in.

Naturally the method of spanking was brought up, as most of us received spankings as punishment when growing up.  One friend had an interesting idea that spankings are a good form of punishment so long as they were delivered appropiately. She stated that a spanking should not occur immediately after the event and should not be done when the parent was upset. This gave me pause- I tried to imagine myself in a calm and loving state of mind, spanking my child in response to her bad behavior. I couldn’t manage to do it. The very act of hitting, to me, was only born from a state of frustration and anger, not calmness and definately not love. I am looking to discipline my child, not punish.

The one time I ever slapped my daughters hand was because I was irritated and angry that she kept hitting me. She was hitting me because she was mad at me and I hit her back because I was mad at her…..for hitting me… I refer to this event as one of my bigger mommy fails.

No, spankings are not a technique I am qualified to use. Next.

So what about time-outs? I like the idea of a time-out. To remove oneself from the moment of anger so you can calm down and begin to relax. However do very young children have the comprehension ability to actually do that? Or do they simply feel like I did when I was little, ‘I got angry then I got in trouble’. It is my understanding that utilizing a time-out effectively includes not only separating the child from the activities of the room for a brief period of time but also to allow and encourage a reconcilaition once its over. All primates, even non-human primates exhibit a need for conflict resolution. Or rather, the need to reconcile with the one they got into trouble with.

I have attempted a time out with Lily 3 times for hitting. I warned her that if she hit me again, she will have a time-out. She hit me again and I picked her up and put her in a designated spot a few feet away from anything else. I told her she must stay there and then I stood nearby with one eye on the clock and the other on her. I observed her getting quiet, perhaps thinking about what is happening, perhaps not. After about 30 seconds, I knelt down and took her hands and repeated to her that we do not hit people. Then I offered her reconciliation- a giant hug. Although I felt that she understood on some level that she was in time out for misbehaving, I didn’t really feel as though I addressed how to properly express her anger.

I appreciate the art of the time out but it still fell short for how to teach her to properly express her anger. Next.

The only other parenting theory that was touched on was that of purposeful ignoring of the behavior. Okay, I get it- even negative attention is attention and so if you give your child absolutely no attention for an unwanted behavior then they will stop it- right? Although that could herald a good response for hitting for attention but does not aid me in helping her with anger. Next.

After conversing within my circle of friends, I held my thoughts on my dilemna. How to teach my children to properly express their anger. After some long meditative moments on this, it dawned on me……what is anger? Anger is an emotion that fills one with such powerful negative energy that one is compelled to forcefully expel it. Not expelling it can lead to destruction (either internal or external) and expelling it in a form of aggression can lead to big trouble. What about providing a physical way to expel this energy that does not cause harm or fuel aggression? What about breathing? A simple thing, taking a breath, expelling a breath. Perhaps it is a silly idea from an overtired, over anayltical new parent but then again, maybe it could work.

I have begun to teach my daughter (and when he gets older my son too) that when I see her getting angry to take a big breath and forcefully blow it out. I guide her through that breath to release the anger and focus on changing her state of emotion. Since I have begun this, I have noticed that when Lily begins to get frustrated or upset, she will (most of the time) attempt to calm herself down. Sometimes by taking that breath, sometimes by getting very still and quiet and sometimes turning away, briefly, from the source of her frustration. I am struck by how grown up she appears to me as I watch her do this. Now, she does still hit out of anger, but it is not often and is beginning to fade as I feel I have finally begun to answer my question of how to teach her to express her anger. As she gets older and is able to communicate verbally, it is my intention to guide her to using her words to help express her emotions. Until that time, I will build on the breath.

A few notes from the bench: I am not citing any sources or claiming to be an expert on discipline because I view myself as an educated but new parent. This blog is made up of entirely my own opinions, experiences and reflections. I choose what is right for my family within the morals and values I serve to uphold. I believe that children should be respected and diciplined, not punished. I view myself as my childrens’ teacher and caregiver, not their owner and master. They are uniquely them and I am both challenged and blessed to prepare them to take on their life.

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