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A humorous look at daily life in a house with serious mental illnes.

Independence

I wrote this poem when my now ten year old was just a small child and was just learning to crawl and stand and do all of the things that babies do for the first time.  The difference was that she was my fourth and final child and I was savoring every move that she made because I knew that she definitely my last. Let me know what you think, and if you can relate….

Independence

Today you learned to stand. What will be next? Goodbye to those days of total dependence. Believe it or not, I will miss them!  Each new step that you take leads you away from me.  Each new task that you master makes you need me less.  I applaud your courage in facing new daunting hurdles.  I pray I am as brave overcoming my obsticles as you.

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South vs West

Okay I know it’s been a very long time since I’ve blogged and I have a very good reason…life.  I know, I know…excuses….we all have them and they are like everyone elses…lame and boring so I won’t go into them for you. I will however tell you that I have had ample time to think about lots of topics since I have been absent and am full of myself and have many subjects on which to thrill and amaze you all….I hope.

I have decided that I am definitely conflicted in my parenting style.  Having been raised in the very deep south, Mississippi, to be exact, with a very firm autocratic “because I told you so” attitude, it is very easy to slip into that manner of parenting.  “Spare the rod and spoil the child” are words that are spoken in almost every home down there, along with all of those other adages that they love to use to be harsh and reinforce their shared ideas. “What they need is a trip to the woodshed.”  “Children should be seen and not heard.”  “Go and break a switch for me.” “A good old-fashioned whipping will beat that idea right outta you!”  I am sad to say that when I started my parenting career that I actually thought that corporal punishment was the most effective way to go and employed it quite freely. Now that is not to say that there are not some moments in your kids lives that you just have to put your foot down. and do just that…it is called for in some rare instances, like when they are trying to insert something into the light socket or drive drunk. Most other times they are just being kids, learning life lessons, and getting on parental nerves. It is how you deal with it that teaches them how to deal with the world.  I was doing fine with the “Mississippi mindset” until I had my bipolar 13-year-old beauty because all of the typical parenting tricks that you employ on your erring offspring didn’t work with this little munchkin.  To be totally honest, I had noticed cracks in the old system…that is, wasn’t as effective as I would have like it to be, but what else is there to do???

We moved to California when my girl, was just a baby. AH HA! my world began to grow and so did my brain…thank goodness! I am sure that my kids are happy for the change!  I watched as Cali parents actually gave their kids time outs…What were these things?  How did they work?  I started to buy parenting books to see why what I was doing wasn’t working out for me.   Here is a brief list of the main thing that I learned.

  1.  I win by default because I am the parent so I don’t have to get riled up by my kids. That idea really gets them confused and me amused.  I stay super calm and they don’t…ha ha ha…points for me.
  2. Swearing at some point becomes an issue, they are only words people…don’t give them weight…I refuse to be offended by letters strung together to make sounds…it is ridiculous . (However, there is a price to pay…in our house it is a dollar in the swear jar per offense…and I have to admit I am the largest donor to the jar, dammit! Some times I actually prepay when I am grumpy or PMSing.)
  3. Respect is key in our home, but it isn’t a one way street.  I respect my children also.  I respect that they know what they are doing wrong and don’t lecture and keep my instructions as short and sweet as possible because I know they are smart and will ask follow-up questions if they have any.
  4. Logical consequences are usually the best punishment and you have to find out what your child’s strengths and weaknesses are.  If you take a football away from a ballerina it doesn’t bother them.

Masks

You know how you always give people the pat answers and smile when they ask greet you with “Hi, how are you?” You say that you are fine and grin as though everything is actually good, although you are really feeling totally different inside, basically you wear a mask. Parenting a child with a severe mental illness like bipolar takes a huge toll on the entire family.  It is very isolating and embarrassing, people who come in contact with you have very little understanding of what all mental illness entails and just think that your parenting skills stink and that your kid is a brat when they are throwing a fit for what appears to be a trivial reason to the outsider.  You hear lots of aside whispers in grocery stores and at parks “I would never let my child speak to me like that!”  They don’t understand that for a bipolar kid the triggers are different from for a (and here it is again folks) “normal” kid.  Then throw in the mixed salad of other disorders that go along with the bipolar ODD, for those of you not used to dealing with psych lingo that stands for oppositional defiant disorder and it means just what it sounds like, she opposes just about everything that is asked of her just because it is asked of her. She also has neurological developmental disorder NOS (not otherwise specified)…which really means there is no justified cause for it which causes her to have balance problems (she just learned to ride a bike this summer) and muscular skeletal weakness. And the final coup de grace, as if she doesn’t have enough bad things going against her is that she has sensory issues that cause her major distractions. So things that are supposed to be wonderful and exciting like Six Flags is a nightmare to her because it is a sensory overlode. She can’t ride the rides because they are too scarey for her to actually make it through but she wants to becase “everyone else does” and it makes her feel “normal” (I really hate that word!)  Skating parties are out because of the balance thing and the loud noise thing….any kind of party is bad bacause sugar has ill effects on her.  I could go on ad nauseam, but I am sure that you are getting the picture, life is hard for her and thus hard for us.  She is a wonderful and sweet girl with a heart of gold who would give her left arm to help you out.  Children, babies in particular love her and she is the most gentle and loving soul in the world to them.  I just HATE HATE HATE this disease that she has.  It makes her into a different person at the flip of a switch, the moment that she doesn’t get her way or that things don’t go the way that she plans and envisions them she goes from Dr. Jeckel to Ms. Hyde and becomes a monster. Long after her tantrum is done she is totally contrite and apologetic and asks forgivness with tears in her beautiful eyes.

So the next time you ask me how I am beware, the mask may slip…

 

 

California DMV

I just had to get my drivers licence renewed, this year the state of California decided that I had to go in and have my picture retaken. I guess that was fair since my last photo was taken in 1998 and I look nothing like that any more.  I had just given birth to my 13 year old and, I don’t know about you, but I always do something radical after giving birth to alter my appearace for my last photo.  Something about waddling around with a basketball size lump in my middle for months always makes me want to do something , heck ANYTHING to look better.  In 1998 I decided that it would be a good idea to get a spiral perm for my long hair for a “change” in my look.  Hormone driven ideas are rarely good and seldom turn out the way that they are invisioned at the time (think frizzy mess).

Looking at this picture always takes me back to the first days in California.  We moved from the DEEP south and it was quite a culture shock for me. Driving in Mississippi and driving in California are to totally different animals.  I was accustomed to people taking turns politely at 4 way stops, and if there was ever a question as to who’s turn it might be everyone would yeild and smile and wave the other person forward.  I was shocked the first time someone cut me off, honked at me and shot me the bird. Outraged even!  I thought, “Man, they must be having a bad day!”.  Then it happened again, within minutes of the first incident. “Wow!” I thought “Two grumpy people, sooooo close together, what are the odds?”

Now I know that  is  just the way things are here.  People, for the most part just drive more aggresively and you have to deal with it or get shut out.  I fit right in now, I have acclimated fully (however I don’t honk or flip people off).  I drink my Starbucks and talk on my cell phone (head phones of course) while I am merging onto the freeway at 70 MPH and telling my teenager how to handle school bullies. No sweat!

Oh Dear God, Not the Mercurochrome!

I really like this blog…hope you will too

I Hate Christmas

Ok, so it isn’t actually Christmas that I hate, it is all of the chaos that surrounds Christmas.  Here we are in the middle of January and my household is just now beginning to settle down from the long-lasting effects that it has here. Now I am not talking about all of the stressed out shoppers in the stores and the crazy drivers in the parking lots, although they are enough you make anyone grumpy on their own merits. I mean we all know that they are the most important people in the world on a mission that have to be there faster than us, so go ahead…cut me off…give me the finger…whatever.  I can live with that, because as I have determined before and have claimed it as my holiday mantra “I will not be offended by the ignorance of idiots!”.

It is all of the unscheduled down time that my kids have off of school that make me into a crazy person.  During the school year we have a schedule and we stick to it with vigor and things get done the way that they should. Baths happen regularly, meals occur at a set time and bedtimes only vary slightly. Life is calm when the schedule is maintained and order rules. About one week before the Christmas break my children start to rev up for the holiday season flexing their “I-don’t-have-to-listen-to-you-it’s-Christmas” muscles, homework begins to suffer and so do I, meals begin to be a little more off schedule and bedtimes are more of a hassle. I have learned that in order for me not to totally lose my mind entirely, I must for the whole holiday season, (gasp) give up control of the schedule or end up fighting with the inmates, I mean, children.   Well, we’ve been back on schedule for about three weeks now so hopefully things will be back to normal soon.  Ha! There’s that word again!  Okay, our semblance of normal, at least settled down in time for….let’s hear it….drum roll please….SPRING BREAK  So we can start all over again until we hit the ultimate schedule buster summer vacation.

How do you handle schedules during down times?

 

Friends

I have been stuck at home all week with a sick ten-year old.  Now being the mother of a sick older kiddo isn’t the same thing as being the mother to a sick baby.  When she had to throw up she tended to her own needs and cleaned up after herself, so if you are on the younger end of the spectrum there is light at the end of the vomit filled tunnel. (Gross, and I’m sorry for that!) But this is my final child of four and yay for me that we have finally reached the stage that I don’t have to clean the carpet and the bed sheets every time the flu strikes our home anymore! I have seriously earned this after all of the places that I have had puke on my body that wasn’t mine (down my bra and in my ear are my two favorites locations).

I work at my ten-year old daughter’s elementary school as a yard supervisor so that I have a flexible schedule and can be off when my children are at home.  However, that does put me in the company of children for most of the day:  breaking up fights, enforcing rules and teaching other people’s children how to interact without killing each other. I have really come to appreciate the company of the women with whom I work.  They have become not only fellow employees of mine but also friends and confidants. The saving grace in this arrangement is that I get to spend about and hour a day with my friends, because it sure isn’t the vast amounts of money that the state pays us to keep little Sally and Ralphie safe and sound.

I have missed my friends this week.  I have become very accustomed to having these ladies to share the funny happenings in my life.  No matter how old we get we don’t outgrow the need for friends.  They care when things are going poorly and when things are going well.  My oldest daughter is expecting her second child and one of them crocheted booties for my unborn granddaughter. I got to deal with a lot of teen age “friend” drama this week and made me think if a quote that I learned years ago, so I will close with it.

“Except in cases of necessity, which are rare, leave your friend to learn unpleasant things from his enemies; they are ready enough to tell them.”
– Oliver Wendell Holmes

 

Rude People

It is always amazing to me how people today find licence to say just whatever is on their minds.  It seems that  having children opens the floodgates of everyone’s opinions.  From the time  that your pregnancy becomes apparent, people start spouting what sex they think you will pop out on the expected due date.  I want to know who appointed them the “expert” ? Really, does how Great Aunt Bertha carried her last three children actually make you SURE that you know the sex of my baby?  I guess most of the time, people mean well and are harmless when they aren’t specifically attacking me or my life choices.  Maybe they couldn’t see how creeped out I was to have them rubbing my ever-increasing girth (never having been much into physical contact with strangers).  Then as things progress the “more experienced” moms pipe in with their words of wisdom, invited or not. Well placed questions are the best barbs you know, for example.  “Is he potty trained yet?” (No, I thought that I would let him wear depends to college thanks.) How long are you going to let her have a pacifier?” (I thought that she might want it at prom to make her feel more at home.)  “Are you still breastfeeding?” (Well, they are heading off to kindergarten soon so I was thinking of giving it up.)

After forty plus years on this planet and being the mom to four wonderful children I have learned a few very valuable lessons, one of which I am about to impart upon you. When I was much younger in my twenties I was obsessed in what was “supposed” to happen.  When was my baby supposed to crawl, or sleep through the night, or eat solid food, or walk, or start school or sleep in their own bed?  That “supposed to” got me into A LOT of trouble mentally. I fretted and stewed and worried.  I compared my children to my friends children and found out that I was a competitive parent.  I wanted my kid to do things first so that I could finally have proof that I was doing this parenting thing right.  You have to let go of what is supposed to happen and accept what actually is, because no matter what you expect they will develop at their own pace.  Trust your own instincts and ignore idiots.  No one knows your circumstances, so they can’t stand in judgement of your parenting decisions.  This goes for all stupid statements that people make in general, so don’t be offended by the ignorance of idiots.

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