Friday, February 13, 2015

What We've Learned {Wyatt}

Here’s the deal, you won’t ever find me writing a book about parenting and not just because I hate reading books and the fact that the mere thought of writing one would give me more anxiety than I can handle. It’s because just when you think you’ve got it, these little ones that we love more than anything in the world will humble us straight to our knees. And let’s not even talk about how the best plan of action for one kid can be totally useless for the next. How is that!?

I don’t know it all about kids, but I’ve been around kids for as long as I can remember. I’ve been teaching kids in some capacity since I was a teenager. I went to college and have a teaching degree.   I don’t ever pretend to know it all but let’s face it, I definitely feel I’m trained. And before having Wyatt I had no idea HOW HARD PARENTING COULD BE. Yes, I knew there would be sleepless nights, poop explosions, and temper tantrums all along, but the hard part is so much more. The minute the doctor handed me my first baby my world changed in a way I could never have prepared myself for. My very first most humbling realization in parenting was when I truly realized I could never hold all the anxiety I felt over what could happen. I realized fairly quickly I was going to have to LET GO AND LET GOD be in control and I had to hand Him my fears and my worries.

Now, I’m going to fast forward quite a bit. So add 2 more kiddos. Lots and lots of boo-boos, laughs, tears, and fun. Plus more prayer than I could ever begin to count. And it became time to send my 100% all boy, strong-willed (they call it) or spirited (others call it), determined, sensitive (even though you wouldn’t know it; sometimes I’m not sure I knew it) boy to Kindergarten. Now, we’ve always had our challenges but this is already going to be a long blog post so let’s just start here.

Oh wait, let me back up for just a second. If you know us well or know Wyatt, you know this sweet, caring boy likes to keep us on our toes. Every second of every day. Kids love him, because he’s fun and fearless. Adults love him because he’s caring, kind, and creative. We love him for everything he is. But there’s never been any doubt he’s the firecracker in the family. I have been saying since he became mobile that if you are looking for him, look up and work your way down. He’s going to climb as high as he can and go as far as he can go (in every sense that can mean). We’ve never had any doubt this boy will move mountains and change the world. I’ve read the book (yes, I make big sacrifices for my children) Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka and somehow she knew OUR Wyatt! The book explained “spirited children” feel things deeper and push things farther. And most importantly, “spirited children” possess traits we value in adults but find challenging in children. I read this when Wyatt was 5 and I’m so grateful I found it. Life was a bit hectic in our house. Having a 5 year old, a 2 year old, and an infant is just hectic at times… well, almost always.

So, back to where I planned to start… Wyatt started Kindergarten at 5 and a half. And it started out ROUGH. He did great at school, and the teacher in me and the people-pleaser in me was so grateful for it. But let me tell you, as soon as the girls and I picked up Wyatt from school it was chaos like I can hardly explain. He’d get in the car and immediately start arguing, which turned to yelling, which turned into an all-out fit over any little thing. And it went on like this until bedtime. It shattered my heart to pieces every single day. And it rocked my patience to the core. I’d end up yelling, or crying, or both. I called Chris several days telling him I needed him to come home because I couldn’t even cook dinner because Wyatt was throwing fits or fighting with the girls or whatever it was that day. One night, I found myself praying so hard asking God for answers and help. I begged Him to SHOW ME and GUIDE ME. I felt like I had ruined my son. Maybe I wasn’t strict enough, maybe I didn’t prepare him enough for school, and maybe the negative things I’ve heard people say were right. Here’s the thing, not everyone has a “spirited child,” and not everyone will understand your child or your parenting. People will judge, people will stare, and people will tell you how “one good spanking will fix the problem.” I’ve been guilty of this, too. I’m a people-pleaser to a fault and continuing to parent the way I felt was right for Wyatt was getting hard and now that things were really hitting the fan I was a mess of confusion.

Again, before going any farther. I’m not writing a parenting book. I’m not judging. I’m not even necessarily going to say you shouldn’t spank your children. I’m saying, I knew what didn’t work for Wyatt and a spanking NEVER worked for him. At the same time, I was at a point where I didn’t know what WAS going to work.

While all this was going on we were taking a Love and Logic Parenting class at our church and it was wonderful. The people in the class quickly became our friends, everyone shared struggles and helped each other work on solutions. We’d go home and try what we learned and shared what worked and what didn’t and find new solutions. Again, this was a humbling experience. The very first session the class teachers applauded the entire class for being there. The couple recognized going to a parenting class could be hard and reminded us we were a room full of caring parents. They even shared about their own struggles. Some people just wanted to learn to be better and others were having problems they needed answers to. That was us. There were a few times in the class I teared up because it was so overwhelmingly refreshing to be with people who truly understood the pain we were dealing with. And that’s not to say other people weren’t. We wanted so badly to help Wyatt and help our family be able to have peaceful afternoons and family time. Things got better, but we also knew it wasn’t as good as we felt it could be. And some of the strategies we were learning weren’t quite working.

At this time, we decided to seek out a counselor. We checked out 2 counselors that were recommended to us and chose the one we thought would be the most helpful for the issues we were having. We were scared for many reasons. What if it didn’t help? How could we ever afford it? Was it necessary? These were HUGE questions. We felt so desperate for some answers and some help, but knew it was a sacrifice in a financial sense and really wanted the assurance that it would work. No one could give us the answers and again we found ourselves praying for the guidance. Eventually, we just KNEW.

After our first session with the counselor (we decided only Chris and I would actually go to the counselor) we discussed some things to try and she gave us charts to make and plans to put in place. We left the session full of hope and it was like a weight had been lifted off our shoulders. I came home and immediately made the charts and such that the counselor had suggested and we started the next day. Like a miracle (okay, not perfect but any relief from the chaos was welcomed at this point) Wyatt was receptive to the changes and the visuals. He understood we were seeing a counselor to help him (I know he wanted things to be better, too). The initial goals of counseling were to decrease the frequency, intensity, and duration of the temper tantrums/fits. Within a few weeks all of this was decreased by more than half! Chris and I continued to go for Wyatt (and for ourselves to learn what was best for Wyatt). Again, this was a humbling experience because it can be hard to admit you don’t know what to do, especially for your child. On top of that, I’ve sat in countless meetings during my teaching years and helped make behavior plans and such and I just couldn’t figure out what to do and I think it was mostly that I didn’t believe certain things would work. I doubted myself so much and by the time we started the counseling I was unsure if the things I always stood by were even right (I think they were for us). The point is, that it takes a village and seeking help was the best thing we could have ever done.

The next step (suggested by the counselor) was to see an occupational therapist for a sensory evaluation. I’ve known since before Wyatt could speak certain things would drive him crazy and cause fits. Things like seatbelts being “too tight,” clothes being “too tight/too loose,” etc. could cause a fit like you can only imagine. At the same time there’s lots of sensory things he craves. It had just become a part of Wyatt to us. However, what we always thought was him being “all boy” was actually stuff that could be causing a lot of this chaos. Starting Kindergarten, getting less sleep, holding in so much energy all day just became the perfect storm. Just like the issues we saw the counselor for, we considered a lot of these “issues” behavior issues and things we just needed to work on. I knew he had sensory issues, but I didn’t think they were something you’d go to therapy for. Long story short, the counselor explained sensory processing issues can not only cause the obvious problems, but that they could also manifest into other issues. That was enough info for us, and soon after we were getting the sensory evaluation. As I sat in the office watching the evaluation and filling out the papers with very specific info I had to select whether it applied to Wyatt or not, it was clear that some of the exact things we’ve been dealing with for so long were obviously common enough for them to be super specific on this paper. There would be a whole section of things that weren’t Wyatt and then a whole section that was Wyatt to a “T.” Wyatt has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). The occupational therapist confirmed this before scoring the test and later mailed it to us with specific goals he would be working on weekly at occupational therapy (which he thinks is the coolest place ever). We are honest with Wyatt. We don’t make it a big deal, but we do tell him that we see Miss So and So at counseling so we can help him and we tell him that he’s going to see Miss So and So for OT to help him with the way certain things make him feel. His first session was yesterday (I actually wrote this a few weeks ago and I’m just now posting) and my sweet boy walked into OT with a piece of masking tape across the front of his shirt that he had put on it that morning to hold his shirt folded over a bit so that “the neck wouldn’t be so loose”. ;) Just to show improvement let me remind you that before that shirt neck problem would have had him on the floor throwing a fit and late for school. Thanks to what we’ve taught him from counseling he has learned to cope better with certain things and focus on solutions. He simply came up to me and asked for tape and I handed it to him and he fixed it himself. We aren’t this lucky every time, but it’s a huge step in the right direction.

 It’s not about the label, it’s about the HOPE that things could be better. It’s about the faith and the prayer it took to get to this point. It’s about the people who have cared enough to share similar stories so I could learn about the hope and the help that’s available. Parenting is hard and we can end up doubting ourselves. Follow your heart. Ask God for guidance.

I didn’t share specific info on what we did and charts we made, because the purpose of this post is not to say this is what we did and it will work for you. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that every single kid is so different and it takes caring minds coming together to make individual plans to help. With that said, I’m more than willing to share anything I’ve made. If you think it might be helpful to you just ask. I’d also like to note, that this was all specific to Wyatt. Not every “spirited child” has a sensory processing disorder.

I have a sweet friend, with a “spirited child,” that while chatting after preschool one day told me she often has to remind herself God didn’t give us these children so we could change them, He gave them to us to change us. So true! I feel like I’m at the top of a big mountain in a parenting sense after this tough climb, and I can see there’s many more yet to climb, but I can also see the big picture from up here. In 6 years, Wyatt has changed me more than I could have ever imagined and all for the better.

 I’m essentially journaling so that I can look back and remember these things, especially on my way up the next mountain. But if I gave one person hope like so many people gave me, I’d feel as though my reason for sharing was significant.

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