The Worry Of A Child.

Last night I had to do a little bit of freelance stuff before I went to bed. Something I hoped would take 10 minutes but I couldn’t find the problem which meant I wasn’t going to get to go to bed when I wanted. I was tired as it was the end of a long day and I was very overwhelmed with my To Do list and Nikki was whining and pouting about the fact that I wasn’t going to come to bed and lay down with her.

Listen, Nikki. I’m stressed. I can’t figure this one problem out and I’m tired and you making me feel guilty is not really helping.

Then she started sobbing and I got even more frustrated.

That’s not helping either! Now I feel shitty for making you cry! Why can’t you just say, “Good luck, Mom. Hope you can come lay down with me soon.” Why do you have to freak out and be so dramatic?

So she stifled her cries, wished me luck, and I went back to work. I never solved the problem but was so tired I had to go to bed anyway. I went to go give her a goodnight hug and kiss these notes were on the pillow next to her.

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Sorry I made you feel bad word. I don’t want to go to sleep knowing I made you feel bad – so when you come in here please wake me up and give me a hug.

Nikki is showing worse anxiety at age 9 than I have at 39 and I currently suffer from worse anxiety than I’ve ever had in my life. Her problems do seem to help me address mine though because – especially lately – I’ve been trying to work with her and that means I have to work with mine.

We talk a lot about how I’d like her to tell me what she needs instead of just melting down. If she’s having a bad day and needs some extra love, let me know. Don’t just freak out over something that is really not the problem. We’ve been talking a lot about what it means to be sensitive. She cries a lot “for no reason”. We talk a lot about how that also has a good side and I believe it’s what makes her kind and loving and the kind of kid who hides notes for me on Mother’s Day.

Where I used to worry about Wesley becoming a sociopathic serial killer, I now worry about my daughter being so unable to cope with anxiety or emotions that she’ll be medicated her whole life. I’m certain medication is in her future because if her stress/anxiety gets worse with puberty, she’ll need something to help her cope. But I want her to learn skills before then to help manage the somewhat normal levels of anxiety and extreme emotions.

Sometimes she can get lost in drawing or writing, she’s a very creative spirit. I’ve been trying to encourage that activity if she gets overwhelmed. I think I need to be better about pushing that because I think last night would have been a perfect time for her to use those habits to work out her worry.

And I need to quit being a dick to her.

I need to remind myself, even when I’m frustrated and stressed, that she is just now learning how to navigate this world as someone with sometimes toxic levels of empathy and emotional sensitivity that she can’t seem to manage. I need to take a pause before I respond to her like I did last night, and while I might have valid points, those points are – well…pointless…if she can’t process them because she’s sobbing uncontrollably.

She makes me want to be a better person so I can teach her how to deal with all of those overwhelming emotions. Whenever I’m having a particularly rough time lately, I find myself thinking, What would you tell Nikki?

I did wake her up and give her a million hugs last night. I hope it helped. I’ll try to be ready with boundless love for her again this morning.

My poor, sensitive, anxious soul. That’s what it is – once soul in two bodies. I’m hoping as we each make efforts to heal ourselves, we’ll help the other person as well.

Parenting is tough, yo.

The Neighborly Thing To Do

I’ve been mulling over several things regarding current events and I hadn’t finished mulling so I didn’t post this morning.

BUT I AM DONE MULLING!

Not really. But I’ve reached a good stopping point regarding one issue. A mulling rest area, so to speak.

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This time of year it’s common to see these notices posted from Combat Veterans regarding their hatred of fireworks and their request for neighbors to honor that around Independence Day. This is always very favorably received and I notice images like this are shared out by my liberal AND conservative friends and family. This is one of those issues that everyone can seem to stand behind. I love those issues. I don’t like fighting so when everyone agrees my heart is happy.

AND I AGREE TOO. I hate loud noises and I don’t have any combat induced PTSD. So I can’t imagine how much more awful fireworks would be if I did. I hope the neighborhoods respect those requests by these heroes.

But you know what I don’t see? People getting pissed off and declaring anger that “Fireworks have been banned!” I don’t see groups rallying in protest and shooting off fireworks ANYWAY because they LOVE FIREWORKS and there’s no triggering for them! Just excitement and awe! I don’t see any kind of responses like that from anyone. On the contrary it’s always just support.

Could you imagine if I stood outside my neighbor’s house, my neighbor the combat vet, and just shot fireworks from the sidewalk and said, “This is a free country! I can do what I want! I love fireworks! WOOOO!” Do you think people would rally behind me?

Jeezus, I hope not. I hope they would tackle me to the ground and apologize to my neighbor on my behalf.

To me, refraining from shooting fireworks when you live near a combat veteran is the same type of gesture as removing a Confederate Flag from the state grounds, even if it means nothing more to you than a symbol of your Southern Family history. Governor Bentley may not see Jim Crow laws or Desegregation Protests or the KKK when he looks at a confederate flag, but he knows others in our state do – MANY do – so he decides, as a state official – to not fly it on state grounds. It’s a gesture of kindness and empathy. He’s not necessarily saying, “I see the flag as a symbol of hate!” – but he’s recognizing members of his community DO see it that way and he’s trying to be respectful of that, even if he doesn’t feel the same way.

Just like when you see the sign in your neighbors yard requesting that you refrain from shooting fireworks since he/she is a combat veteran. You may not be triggered by loud sounds, you may LIKE fireworks, but because you do not like the idea of your combat vet neighbor suffering with PTSD episodes, you avoid buying the fireworks. The fireworks may not mean the same thing to you as they do to your neighbor, but you respect his viewpoint and refrain anyway. Because it’s the neighborly thing to do.

Removing something that is a symbol of hate to MANY; and refraining from something that is a PTSD trigger to your neighbor…these are steps we take to be neighborly. To strengthen our community. To say, “I do not feel the same way about this thing as you do, but I do not want to cause you to have ill feelings, so I will avoid that thing that causes you those ill feelings.”

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Last year there was a billboard like this that popped up around Christmas. (SIDENOTE: The image is not showing up on phones, it’s a picture of me running through the woods instead (WTH?) so if you’re seeing that it SHOULD be a billboard that says “You KNOW it’s a MYTH, Celebrate REASON this SEASON!” and it has a graphic of the Shepherds going towards Bethlehem.) I’m not a Christian but this billboard upset me because it is one of the many attitudes atheists take towards Christians that implies their faith and religion is stupid. I DO NOT LIKE THAT. It’s not a neighborly thing to do. Even though this billboard is basically one that speaks for MY people, I was upset by it. If someone said, “Do you agree?” I would have to say yes, because I’m not a Christian then Christians stories are myths to me. But – if you ever hear me speak condescendingly like that about my neighbors? Slap me. Because I deserve it.

On the other hand, this billboard?

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This one is much better. It’s basically just seeking out like-minded people. This one also speaks for people like me but does it in a way that doesn’t alienate other members of the community. Both billboards serve the same purpose, but one alienates our neighbors in our community, one does not.

One more example: Election Season. You know what I can get behind? Stickers and shirts and magnets supporting your candidate. Go for it! It’s great! Support your peeps, yo!

You know what I don’t like? Stickers/Magnets/Bumper Stickers that attack the other candidate. Because then everyone in your community who might vote for that person takes that attack personally. I hated the “Anyone but Bush” stickers even though I am a bleeding heart, baby killing, tree hugging, godless liberal. I HATED THOSE STICKERS. If we support our issues instead of attacking the issues of others? Then we can relay our stance without alienating our neighbor.

Maybe some think this is our country becoming “Too PC!” for our own good. But I think both instances (the fireworks and the confederate flag…I’ve rambled a bit since then) are simply examples of people being neighborly. Of people wanting to strengthen their community. Of people taking a moment to stand in the shoes of their neighbor and making a decision based on how THEY feel. We can all still believe what we want to believe and even vocalize it, but maybe we could do it in a way that remembers our neighbors may feel differently. Maybe we can still show respect, and maybe even kindness to those different from us.

That’s the kind of community I want to live in.

Thoughts of Rainbows

Nikki and I went to a local reception celebrating the SCOTUS ruling last night. It was so crowded and stuffy we didn’t stay long, and that fact alone brings me immense joy. There were two men who got married there and I cried for the millionth time for the day. One the way home we stopped by Publix for snacks to eat during the World Cup game and there was a honest-to-god Rainbow in they sky. It was amazing.

I woke up thinking about all of the forms of support I saw in my community yesterday. I was thinking about text messages and emails and how many people liked Instagram photos or Facebook statuses of mine proclaiming my joy and enthusiasm for the ruling. I was thinking how much that means, seeing someone I didn’t know to be an ally before, clicking “LIKE” on something like that. How that simple gesture from someone who is part of a religion I don’t believe in, someone who votes opposite than me at every election, someone who gets their News from sources I don’t even know exist…how wonderful of a feeling it is to see that person “LIKED” my celebratory postings. It shows me how this issue really does cross all borders because being gay or bisexual or transgender is not a political stance any more than my curly hair is.

The storms woke me up before 3am this morning so I got to work on some domestic chores and made this little graphic so I can preserve my favorite part of the ruling yesterday, in all of it’s rainbow glory.

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Tears of Joy.

I was so sick to my stomach this morning as Twitter was getting more and more convinced that today was the day that SCOTUS would rule on the marriage equality case. I’ve never hidden the fact that I’m a cryer, but I was really crying just thinking: What if? What if they deny equality? Where do we go next? I mean…I WAS SICK. And then, like flash of lightning, the FIRST tweet I saw from the front lines was this one:

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And I started sobbing uncontrollably. This huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. My kids were now all equal in the eyes of the law. There would be no future struggles to be legally bound to the person they love in the eyes of the law. Just like that – legal to be married in 50 states. The future of my kid(s) (My younger two periodically proclaim their love for people of the same gender because they know nothing different than Love is Love thanks to big bro) looked bright and full of the same legal rights I enjoy as a married person.

I cried and I cried.

And then I read the ruling.

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is Reversed.

It is so ordered.

And I cried some more…that passage is so terribly beautiful. It is a victory for marriage, the institution itself.

And then I read the President’s words and I cried again,

Sometimes there are days like this, when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt. This morning, the Supreme Court recognized that the constitution guarantees marriage equality. In doing so they have reaffirmed that all Americans are entitled to equal protection of the law, that all people should be treated equally regardless of who they are or who they love.

And then I went to Facebook and it was like a Rainbow explosion. Now, I living in Alabama, many (most?) of my friends and family are conservative Christians and you would think I might have seen hate or discord but instead it was support and rainbows and love post after post after post. There are Christians here who are loving and not at all judgemental and completely full of support and enthusiasm for the LGBTQ community. They filled my Facebook today with happiness and celebration. Even as their churches released official stances against the SCOTUS ruling, they vocalized their happiness over seeing this equality finally achieved.

And I cried again because those people are the ones changing the tides. No one expects anything different from hippie vegan liberals like me, but the Christians who are showing loving to their LGBTQ neighbors and friends, they’re the ones saving lives with their words of support by showing the Christian LGBTQ teens in our community that they’re loved and they’re welcome.

I’m just so proud of my community. I’m so blessed to be surrounded by such love.

It’s a better day. A brighter future. And I’ll be crying for quite some time from the joy of it all.

Where We Are At

This was SUPPOSED to publish yesterday. I just assumed no one felt it was worth commenting on. I didn’t realize until I sat down to write this morning that it was still in “draft” mode. So, maybe you get two entries today!

WOAH. I’ve dumped some serious word babble on this here blog this week. Let’s lighten things up and let’s start with the best picture of my kid ever.

11402751_10153930932008496_5973684110158484163_n His hair is just curly enough to be adorable at this length. Donnie kinda wants to cut it but Wesley likes feeling it “swish” around his face. But – he has basketball camp coming up – so Donnie insisted we find him sweat bands to wear in his hair to keep it out of his face when he plays. That on top of him losing both of his front teeth in the same week and his love of a crossbody bag Donnie brought home from his last business trip (it says “Visual Studio” on it – HA!) and this picture is just all sorts of awesome. It captures so much of his personality and it cracks me up every time I look at it.

If you follow me on Twitter or if we’re real-life Facebook friends, you’ll know that Wesley offered a profound statement yesterday: “Everyone has a butt. Unless you’ve been murdered and the person who murdered you chopped off your butt.”

That kind of stuff is a regular occurrence around here and it’s fantastic.

He has been slowly easing out of the terror phase of the last few years. He definitely handles his anger better, does a lot of deep breathing. He also understands the pain his anger inflicts on others and is much quicker to offer sincere apologies. But really? His anger just seems less. He’s not as quick to be angry as he once was. And when he turns that corner it’s not as hard to get him back. It doesn’t go from one jackass retort to a night of punishments anymore. He’ll deliver the jackass retort, apologize, and then make a joke about naked butts.

I’d love to say “THIS IS WHAT WORKED!” and regale you with some sort of method someone taught us but really? It was a little bit of everything and a whole lot of failures. Some things suggested by some people worked some times but everything failed most of the time. The only thing I can say that helped 100% was that we quit with timeout.

Whenever Wes would do something minor, like make a jackass retort (Yelling, “No!” when I told him to do something.) I would send him to timeout. But – he would refuse to go. So…the small retort turned into hours of fighting, sometimes requiring me to physically carry him to timeout and hold the door closed. He would kick me the whole way there and then destroy his room while I had him in there but I felt like I had to do it because I told him to go to timeout and he didn’t. You HAVE to follow through.

So, I stopped sending him to timeout because the follow through was impossible.

I would just take away his DS, or tell him, “Okay. No TV for the rest of the night/week/lifetime.” I distributed a punishment that required nothing on his part, it was all me. He would still get pissed but it didn’t turn one small smart aleck comment into a night of abuse from him towards me.

The other thing is that I worked on my own anger. Donnie was not as big on this part of the process but since Donnie wasn’t the primary caregiver, his behavior wasn’t as important as mine. I really, REALLY, worked on how I handled when I yelled and how I yelled. I am not perfect by any means, but I tried to show him I was working on it and I reminded him that I was trying to be a good example. “You don’t like it when I yell at you, do you? I don’t like it when you yell at me either.” That’s not a guarantee, but I do think it’s necessary. That was a lot of what we talked to our counselor about – anger management. He talked to him separately and then he talked to me about it.

So…no timeout, manage my own anger, and really try to set aside alone time with just him and I. We have the periodic date night, sometimes at his request, where we just go to dinner together. I think that helps.

But really? I think a lot of it is just he’s older. The older he gets, the more understanding he gets in terms of the scope of his world and the effect of his behavior on those around him. This summer he’s also going to a daycare where they WEAR HIM OUT and that is super important for someone with as much energy as he has. He swims and plays basketball all day and many nights he falls asleep watching TV at 6pm. IT IS LOVELY.

And that’s where we are with Wesley right now. He’s “all boy” which I found to be an annoying phrase before I had Wesley, but now that I have him I realize what people mean by that. He’s wild and insane but also loves a good fart joke and to talk about his butt. He’s still very sweet but also is already showing some of that teenage attitude. The sarcastic/annoyed, “I’m sooooorrrry!” accompanied by an eye roll and arms in the air is the thing I want to strangle him for the most now. THE ATTITUDE. Man, where do they learn that shit from? I’m assuming some hooligan at school because it’s always the hooligans, but I don’t know.

All in all? Better. Much better.