Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The myth of the perfect parent

Somehow even with being home with just Zoey, I haven’t found much time to post.  It’s partly a lack of sleep and not being able to focus on much that requires coherence and partly trying to finish up some photo projects that I want to get done before I go back to work.  Ugh.  Just the thought of it is starting to give me anxiety.

I knew it was going to be harder coming to grips with returning to work after Zoey than it was with Tera.  It’s mostly because I have a lot less time with Zoey (with Tera I had close to six months because of summer), but a lot of it is that more of that time than I had ever wanted was spent with her in the hospital; it’s just not quite the same thing. 

So right now I’m dealing with the anxiety surrounding my return to full time working mom, and also about a million other emotions.  I find my days now, busy, but not packed.  Our evenings exhausting (mostly due to lack of sleep), but not overwhelming.  Our weekends almost completely enjoyable because so much of what NEEDS to be taken care of is done so during the week.  When I go back to work, that all changes.  In the mornings, we’ll have to get both Tera and Zoey ready and out the door at a reasonable time.  After work we’ll be trying to fit in workouts, a somewhat healthy dinner, more than likely work that didn’t get done during the day, preparing for the next day, and hopefully at some point enjoying some time with the girls.  The weekends fortunately during the late fall and winter are a little less hectic as far as plans, but will still have to include grocery shopping, other extraneous errands, and all the other stuff we won’t have time for during the week.  We’ll make it work, we always do, but I’ll be more stressed that I’m missing out on quality time with my family and trying to balance work and home responsibilities.

I’ve come across a few articles recently, since I actually have some time to read right now, about being the perfect parent.  With Tera I was always worried that we weren’t working on enough strategies or that I wasn’t researching enough about new alternative ways to help with her development and/or health.  I still think about it.  But now with Zoey, for some reason I feel calmer.  I worry that we’ll be overwhelmed when we’re both working, I worry that money will be too tight with them both in daycare, I worry about them getting sick since I’m using up all my sick time being on maternity leave, and I worry about a million other things like most moms.  But still, in the midst of that, I feel calmer.  And the weirdest thing?  For all my musings on how I could never really believe that I was a mom with Tera, now that we have both Tera and Zoey, I feel like a real mom.  But am I a good enough mom?

It is definitely a struggle to feel even adequate when you can’t help but be bombarded by social media’s portrayal of all the things you COULD be doing as a parent to make sure your kids are geniuses and healthy both physically and emotionally.  A perfect example: I love Pinterest.  I know it’s not all realistic, but I love it.  When Zoey came home I had all these great ideas saved for siblings pictures.  We have a really nice camera and a new lighting kit courtesy of a great friend, and I just wanted to capture these once in a lifetime pictures of Tera as the big sister and Zoey as the infant baby sister.  The problem? Tera doesn’t sit still.  She doesn’t smile on command.  Zoey is past the point of being pose-able because she’s not actually a newborn, but she’s nowhere near capable of holding her head up or anything even close to that.  And Tera is too unsteady, and let’s face it, she’s three, to hold Zoey without one of us right next to her.  So while we got a few really great ones of the two of them, I have to come to grips with the fact that most if not all of the ideas that I saved won’t happen.  It’s just not realistic. 

And so when I came across this article, it struck home.  Tera has finally started watching TV and movies and you know what? It’s amazing.  I know we should be reading or creating something incredibly crafty with her, but the kid is at daycare from 7am until about 4pm and in between those hours she spends two and a half hours at preschool.  She’s getting plenty of stimulation.  On top of that we’re almost always sitting with her.  There are many weeks when her dinners consist of either peanut butter and jelly or chicken nuggets, but she always has at least one vegetable and/or fruit.  When we go to Starbucks with her, she gets a donut, but she’s never had candy (at least not with us) and we don’t give her cereal.  Half the time we have to bribe her with vegetables to get her to eat meat.   We use Tera’s iPad as an incentive to get her to follow her morning and nighttime routine, and sometimes to go potty.  Oh well.  If you want to judge me, you come on over and see what it’s like to get her to take a bath, comb her hair, and brush her teeth. 

But, we love our kids.  They’re well taken care of, we eat healthy but also allow Tera to have treats. They will always know they’re loved but will learn to understand that our undivided attention all the time isn’t realistic.  We will spoil them because we can, but when they are old enough to understand, they will have responsibilities that will be completed without promise of a reward.  We will always support them, but they will have to do their best even in difficult situations.  It will be hard watching them deal with disappointment, but I’ll be damned if they don’t learn how to do it with grace and dignity.  Do I think any of these things will be easy? Probably not.  But we chose to bring them into this world and if we are going to expect them to give their all, then we owe them the same. 

I didn’t have a perfect childhood, few people do.  But I always knew, unquestionably, that I was loved and even when my parents didn’t agree with me, they supported me.  All I can hope is that when they look back on their childhoods my daughters can say the same.  


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Hey Down Syndrome, sometimes I still struggle with you...

A few days ago I posted on Facebook that Down Syndrome and I were once again at odds.  You see, Tera's extra chromosome and I have a love/hate relationship.  I love my daughter and so in part, I have to love her having DS as well.  It's a part of her.  But what I don't have to love is the challenges that it presents to her.  Do I think it will make her a stronger person? Yes.  Do I think she will always overcome those challenges? Yes.  Do I have to like that she has so many challenges already? No.  Do I think it will make me a better mom than I would have been otherwise? Not always.  It's hard.  It's really hard.  For her and for us.

I don't like that she is three and a half and still in the 2's room at daycare.  But she hasn't quite mastered the prerequisites for moving up yet.  I don't like that throwing objects, all sorts of objects, is still a problem that we face with her.  I don't like that she is still struggling with potty training.  I don't like that she sometimes seems to lack the ability to refrain from hitting people when frustrated.  I don't like that she is unable to communicate all her wants and needs verbally to everyone.  And I don't like that I don't have the answers to fixing these problems.

Tera had a particularly difficult week at preschool last week.  There isn't always an apparent reason when these bad weeks happen which can make dealing with the situation all the more difficult.  Of course we could chalk it all up to her still adjusting to Zoey and not being the center of attention anymore, but she's been acting pretty normal at home (normal meaning just that, not perfect but not making me pull my hair out).  We've been communicating with her teacher at preschool and her social worker and we think we might all have a plan of action to help Tera be more successful.  Because I'll be honest, when she has a bad day at school, I'm not angry with her, I'm heartbroken.  Everybody has bad days, little kids included.  They probably actually have more than adults because they struggle with trying to understand why they feel a certain way and then even if they know, how to express themselves appropriately.  Tera doesn't necessarily understand all the various feelings AND she lacks the ability to cope with them because of her communication skills.  She can't tell me (yet) that she pushed a kid because they took something from her or that they were getting too close to her.  She can't tell me that she didn't sleep well because of bad dreams and that resulted in poor decision making.  I am not saying DS is responsible for all her bad behavior, it's not, but it has hindered some of the skills and behaviors that are necessary for acting more appropriately.

What does make me feel better is that she is learning these skills.  At school they talk about different feelings and they work with her on the best ways to express those feelings.  They ask for our input on what works at home and how they can implement that in the classroom and we do the same thing.  It really does take a village with that kid.

So Down Syndrome, here we are.  I love that you have brought awareness and more love than we ever imagined to our family.  But I don't love that my daughter has to work so very, very hard for so many things that other kids, and parents, take for granted.  I love that you have made me cherish and appreciate so much more, her accomplishments.  But I don't love that it takes her so long to reach some of them no matter how hard she tries.  I know you're not going anywhere, and some days, weeks, months, and years that will be harder for me to accept than other times.  It's still hard to see Tera around other typical kids and know how she's different from them.  But it also makes me so proud to see how far she's come.

Today marks the first day of October and the beginning of Down Syndrome Awareness Month.  This is the first year since Tera has been born that I won't be in the classroom to spread awareness to my students.  But I can continue doing it through this blog and the girls' Facebook page.  I am going to say right now that I'm admitting my lack of time right now and not even going to try to promise 31 days of blogging this year, but I will try to post something every day for the rest of the month to show my love for Tera and her extra chromosome, and all the other very special people and families we know because of it as well.  So please check in daily to see what you might learn and consider sharing some of that information with the people around you.  It's a lot harder to feel scared and uncomfortable with something you know more about and that's what this month is for.