Sorry, But I’m Not Really Sorry

Whenever someone stops by and sees my house, looking like a bomb went off in it, I instantly apologize. Instead of saying “yeah, it’s called my children/husband/dogs, and honestly I was too tired to deal with it”, I apologize and just say that I wasn’t feeling well. Sure, it’s a half truth. The real truth: I’m not sorry. I’m not really even embarrassed. I honestly, don’t really care. Some days, you are going to come into my house that looks professionally cleaned. But most days, you’re going to find a disaster. And honestly, if you have a problem with it then that’s more on you than me. If that dictates how you view me as a friend or a mom, than I’d rather you not come over anyways.

It’s the normal thing to do right? To apologize for a mess? To apologize for anything? I know people can tell I’m not really sorry when I’m really not, but I say it anyways. Because honestly, I don’t think that they care if I mean it. I think they just want me to say the words. I’ll concede that. It’s what we’re trained to do. But I’m not sorry. I really don’t even care.

Mom’s have a lot to do. Stay at home moms, moms who stay home and work from home, moms who go out to work. It doesn’t matter. We all deal with the same struggles of having a list longer than there are hours in the day. We’re on the clock 24/7. I get up at 5:30am, and sometimes don’t get to sleep until 1 or 2 am. That’s not counting the 10000 times that I wake up in the middle of the night for anxiety/kids/dogs/general body not cooperating things. I have my to-do list. I’m not special or a supermom. I’m just a barely average mom. Maybe even a mediocre one.

Stop apologizing for not meeting other people’s standards. You’ll feel much better about yourself if you don’t. Own your mess. You are your own person and if they have a problem with that, they know where the door is. It’s that thing hidden behind the mass amount of recycling that has amassed in your dining room that they barely made it through when they entered in the house.

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When You Start Cutting Special Needs Funding

The idea of cutting slashing special needs funding is appalling to me. This is the group that arguably needs their funding cut the least. It’s easy to dismiss this if you never had to sit through IEP meetings or worry about how your kid is going to succeed in school without receiving services. “Those are kids that would never make it anyways, so what does it matter?” is a sentiment that makes me cringe. This isn’t just going to affect those kids who may have severe disabilities, who deserve the dignity of going to school and learning and interacting with other people. Cutting this type of funding affects a broad range of students that you may look at and not believe that they receive services. But they are. And cutting those services will only hurt them.

It’s apparent that there is already a budget issue with funding special needs programs. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. My son’s early intervention services ended at 3, at which point I would either have had to hope that he got into this preschool program that offered these services or I would have to cough up money that I didn’t have. (Which I would have figured out, because that’s what you do.) When doing the evaluations, they met several difficulties along the way. First of all, he was still basically nonverbal just shy of his 3rd birthday. Secondly, he doesn’t have the focus or attention span to be bothered with testing. The tests came back inconclusive. That was a very bad sign that this nonverbal 3 year old was not going to get into a program that he really needed to get into. I was fortunate enough where that special needs team came together and realized there was a need, even if they had to really strain to get him into the program (he made it in for “self-control” issues).

The gamble paid off as the next year he did qualify for speech services. After getting those speech services? He just took off and not only did he start speaking very well, it turned out he could actually read. Which we wouldn’t have known had he not gotten these services. Had this team just dismiss him. They recognized that he was a bright child and that they needed to intervene to ensure that he could succeed in life. After he left preschool, he was out of these services. I thought I didn’t have to worry about it again. Until I did.

Again, in the meeting it was a struggle for the team. While they used a few technicalities as answers, it was needed otherwise my son wouldn’t get the services that they agree he needed. I’m lucky that I didn’t have to fight. Other parents aren’t that lucky. Those are the parents that suffer because the budget is already so tight for these kids. These kids are arguably the most vulnerable in the school system, especially for those “normal” kids like my son. Those kids where people don’t even realize that they are receiving services. Without receiving these services, my son could have easily become a statistic. He could be on the track of disciplinary issues or even eventually drop out because they are frustrated or dismissed as “unworthy” by a school system that values students based on testing and meeting a specific grade on unfair standardized tests. But for now, he is going to be fine.

That is until funding starts getting cut. Cutting the Special Olympics funding because “rich people will keep it afloat”? Are we seriously trusting fancy rich people do to things that don’t benefit their bottom line? But charter school funding remains untouched? Why not count on the rich people to put their money into those charter schools? Why cut services like the ones for those on the autism spectrum? Do you think rich donors are going to cover that too? It’s disgusting and appalling. These aren’t just issues that affect low income people. These are issues that the middle class are dealing with and the moment you ignore that, you are disproving anything that you have ever said about caring about the middle class. My son needed noise cancelling headsets to be okay in school. It took nearly 2 months to find a pair from someplace that was willing to share it because they didn’t need it at the time. The schools should be able to have those accommodations for the kids who need it. But hey, let’s cut funding to the special needs programs that kids rely on to succeed.

Make broad cuts that are necessary. If charter schools are really that great, parents can make that choice themselves. Don’t take money from public schools who actually need the money to improve. The special needs programs need more funding to keep up with the growing need, not getting cuts and forcing these school systems to refuse even more services than they already do for kids in need. If I didn’t have an excellent team supporting us, my son would’ve lagged behind. And if I need to, I will make it my mission to ensure other kids like him are taken care of. And I’m one hell of a fighter.

Surprise! It’s a Pre-504 Meeting!

Last week, I mentioned about how I felt like I was in an endless cycle of evaluations. I discussed about how my youngest spend most of his time in an early intervention, dealing with specialists and evaluations. When he was done with his IEP, I was relieved. I thought that this would be the end of it. That now we could just worry about him being the kid that he’s supposed to be without needing to “fix” anything. He still had his quirks, but that was just who my boy was. And I love him for that.

I also mentioned about how I received a letter asking for permission to do more assessments on him, that the first evaluation required a closer look at his situation. His situation is that his handwriting is illegible, so much that the teacher can’t accurately assess him. I mentioned that I hadn’t heard back from this last letter, and I was anxious to see what was next for him. It was later that day, after the blog had been posted, that I received a phone call from the school to schedule a meeting with me. I knew what that meant. That mean that the cycle I had just ended with my son was starting up again. Had the evaluations gone well, I would have just received a letter saying that everything was fine. Instead, I had a voicemail that said “let’s schedule this thing as soon as possible.” That wasn’t a good sign.

I did become very anxious about this. Any parent in the same situation can understand the feeling of failure. That you did everything that you thought was right and it turns out, you fell short again. It’s not even a consideration in your mind that this was just how things were; it’s something that you did to cause it. You fear that everyone thinks that they need to fix your kid. But they don’t, because he isn’t broken. He’s just a little different.

They discussed some of the interventions that they had already started to put in place for him. In addition to the noise cancelling headphones for his sensory issues (which was a result of diligence on his teacher’s behalf rather than a requirement due to an IEP/504), they had started giving him one of the classroom’s Chromebooks to write out his lessons in instead of handwriting the work. This made them extremely happy because not only could he type well, he could type fast. He would type out between 3-4 sentences in under a few minutes. He could spell fine, even words that they wouldn’t expect a kid his age to use properly let alone spell. He was so bright and they needed to help him so that everyone else could see how bright he was too.

Back with his speech problems, I was always afraid that people wouldn’t realize how smart this kid was just because he couldn’t verbally communicate with anyone. They knew though. My biggest fear was that he would always be dismissed because he was his own person. This was validation that maybe I didn’t have to worry as much about that. I’m fortunate that I don’t have to fight for my kid because it seems like he has the right people on his side that are fighting for him too. I didn’t have to fight for a 504. Everyone in that room agreed with the plan.

So what is the plan? He’s back to movement breaks/rest breaks as needed to keep him focused and to help his attention/anxiety issues. He continues to use the computer and will use a special grip for his pencil to help strengthen those muscles to improve his handwriting. The occupational therapist, though I didn’t meet her at this meeting, seemed confident that he was bright enough that he would pick everything up quickly. He is bright enough to pick it up quickly, but they are also forgetting what I like to call “The Georgie Factor”. Getting his cooperation is more of a fight than his intelligence. Best of luck to them though.

Next week, I get to go back to the school and get the official 504 plan. I’m interested in meeting the occupational therapist to see what she says about him. I’m also very interested in getting tips of what I can do at home with him because it’s apparently not enough. But I’m relieved that there’s a plan, that they know what they are dealing with, and that they are confident in a positive outcome.

Parenting is All About Figuring it Out

It would be really easy if you could look in a book and learn all about how to be the best parent. You can’t, though. It would be great if children fit into some textbook mold so you can know what to expect. But they don’t. The reality is parenting is about the unexpected and walking around like you have no clue what’s going on most of the time, but are just really happy that everyone survived the day. Even if it did require a Deathwish french press coffee in the morning and only God knows how many other cups of instant caramel latte you consumed throughout the day.

I had my first child at 18. Imagine all of that insane wisdom that came with it for my friends in their future. When they mentioned a birth plan, I laughed. There is no planning it. There’s a “dream”; not a plan. I guarantee for the most part, nothing will go as planned. My birth plan at 18? Not to die in childbirth. I like to set the bar low. My birth plan at 29? Can’t say that it was much different. Just simply having a healthy baby and not dying in a pool of my own blood was sufficient enough. When I hear people start planning out their home birth, I do roll my eyes. I do judge. That’s great and all, but what about the unexpected? People need to learn to not be so rigid if they are going to have kids. Because the unexpected is your life now.

I have been very open about the differences between my oldest and my youngest. My youngest, who seems to be in an endless loop of observations and interventions. When he went to preschool for his IEP, I was happy that he was going to get the help that he needed. Or at least that first year, that they would be able to see that he needed speech therapy and set it up. They did. He got it for his second year of preschool. Then he satisfied his IEP and he went into Kindergarten with no plan. Aside from some anxiety issues, he didn’t do terribly in Kindergarten. For a kid who never spoke before 4, he was not only on par with his class in speech, he was exceeding some. He was a little “active” and had “attention” problems, but we all attributed them to his sensory disorder. It was fine.

Then at his parent teacher conference back in November, it was suggested that they do an occupational therapy evaluation on him because of some issues such as his handwriting and need for noise cancelling headphones in class. His teacher has been great. Eventually I finally got a letter a couple of months later. I was anxious to see what the results were. If they mailed it, that means they didn’t need to setup a meeting for an IEP, right? It turns out, it was a letter to inform me that there was more testing needed. It was stressful. When you have been dealing with evaluations for practically his whole life for various things, it does get into your head a little. It isn’t about me thinking he’s less than anything because of these interventions. It isn’t about what other kids will think of him. It’s all about wanting to do the best for your child. If he needs the help, I’m going to make sure that he gets what he needs. I want him to succeed. I want him to thrive. I just hate the waiting game, because that means you just sit around worrying until the results come in.

No one expects watching their young child go into surgery when they are planning out the nursery. No one expects struggling through evaluations when they feel that first kick. No one expects that they are going to agonize over every decision that they make because who knows what the repercussions are for their future. There is no greater responsibility in the world than being a parent. My best advice that I have ever given to any other parent is: “At the end of the day, as long as you did everything that you could to make sure everyone made it out alive, you did exactly what you were supposed to.” You can’t control what happens, but you can give them the best odds possible.

When Getting Away Includes the Kids

My husband and I recently won a night away, our choice to take the kids or keep them home. Last year, we won the same trip and opted to go by ourselves. We learned a few things on that trip, our first away from our youngest on an overnight. (Our youngest is 6.) The first thing that we learned is that gambling really isn’t for us. We were more in awe of the food options and the pop culture store than anything else. We used our spending money as follows: about $50 on gambling and then the rest was spend on random junk food, treats for my parents who watched our kids, and the big chunk of money was spent on things to bring back to our kids.

We thought that the kids would enjoy the arcade and play area. Our oldest, who’s a swimmer, would love the pool. My husband, who doesn’t wake up early when he doesn’t have to, woke up at 9am so that we could hurry home to be back with the boys. We didn’t enjoy being away from them. The same thing happened on our honeymoon. We only spent a weekend away, because we missed our oldest. Vacations away aren’t fun to us. We look at the long game. You blink and suddenly they’re off to college. In just 2 years, our oldest will be potentially out of state in college. 2 years. A weekend away seems like too much especially when you’re that close to watching them leave the nest.

People think we’re strange. We get lectures about how we’re only weakening our relationship for not taking time to ourselves. That we couldn’t possibly have a close and strong relationship by only really going on a date night once or twice a year. But the thing is, every couple is different. Some people love going out, reliving their dating lives. Some people are homebodies that would rather be at home playing video games together or watching television together after the kids go to sleep. I always say that date night is every night in our house. I’m cheap and honestly, I don’t like people enough to be in a crowded room of them while I try to pretend that I’m not completely socially awkward.

I don’t need lectures about taking time for myself or time to ourselves to work on our relationship. Some couples need that and other’s don’t. I think when you’ve reached over a decade together and you still like each other and are still madly in love with each other, you don’t really need all of the extras. I need the little things, like surprise coffee during the day because he was driving around at work and just thought of me. I need little things like him surprising me with supper because he knew I was stressed or sick and he didn’t want me to have to cook and clean as well. He needs someone who lets him have that hot wing before bed even though we all know he’s going to complain all day about it. He needs someone that will let him play video games without harassing him about not paying attention. Luckily, I don’t require a lot of attention. In fact, I like the quiet.

So with the trip that we won this year, we are taking our kids with us. They are only going to be so little for so long. We have a strong foundation, a solid relationship, and we don’t want to miss out on experiences with them. We’d rather that than a night away where we keep talking about how we miss them or text our oldest to remind them both that we love them. Every couple is different and if they are working together, then there’s no need to judge. Their lives are not yours to have any say in.

Eventually, We All Go Down

This is an overdramatic title about illness in the family. I’m talking bad colds, the flu, whatever other god awful plague that enters into your home. I’m not sure if it’s just me or not, but this year is the worst year for illnesses as far as I can remember.

Around Christmas time, I got hit with probably the worst cold and eventually sinus infection that I had ever had. I couldn’t leave the couch. I couldn’t even look at food. It was great for losing weight but I’m still suffering from these effects. My husband, who honestly hardly ever gets sick enough to miss work, ended up missing 4 days of work from illness and the year just started. In one particularly awful experience last week, he brought strep into this house. To which I naturally took Clorox wipes (ignoring my allergy of these products) and continued to disinfect every inch of my house that he could have breathed in let alone touch. I pulled out our air purifier, which has a UV setting to kill bacteria. When in doubt, Purel was our friend.

My boys have been sick a lot too. There were even some cases where the illness lasted 2 days in my youngest, someone who also hardly gets sick and it never lasts more than a day. Every day I feel like I’m getting a new warning from my youngest child’s school about how strep is going around. Everywhere on Facebook, people are going down. It’s coming for us and I don’t even know what it is. But dear lord, has it been a rough one. The best way to avoid this: not have kids. In fact, not having kids is a solid bit of advice to help you avoid a lot of unpleasant illnesses. But they’re so cute, aren’t they? Until those little monsters puke in every inch of your house and you’re torn between dousing everyone in Lysol or just burning the whole house down because it’s been infected and you just need to let it go. (Just to clarify, I mean the actual house, not my children.)

This cold and flu season needs to stop already. I’ve had my fill. I say this as someone who feels like I just got hit by a truck, probably because I’ve spent so much time dealing with everyone else’s complaints of dying that I have finally been smacked in the face with the latest plague that these children have brought into the home. I don’t normally complain about this… but can it be spring already? As much as my allergies hate this, I would rather deal with that nonsense than this.

The Art of Raising Grown Ups

Recently I wrote a blog about “Raising Adults”. The idea is that we’re not just raising kids, we are raising young people to become strong and functional adults. When you realize that every decision you make could potentially shape the life of a future generation, that’s a lot of pressure that you put on yourself. Why do I take this approach? Because I’m a realist. I know that being a parent is a hefty job that carries a lot of responsibility. If you teach your kids that they don’t have to do anything and that life is going to just be sunshine and rainbows for the rest of their life, they won’t necessarily grow up ready for the world. Instead, I try to balance childish whimsy and reality to ensure that my children won’t contribute to that culture of “entitlement”.

It’s a rough and thankless job. Other people will always judge you on your worst parenting day. Your kid just threw himself down in the middle of the candy aisle because you had the audacity to say “no” to them? You get those looks. Sometimes they are looks of sympathy, of “we’ve been there bro”. But most of the time they are looks of “can’t you just give him what he wants?” and you put yourself in a dilemma. Do you give in to the terrorist’s demands or do you stand your ground? My gut always tells me to stand my ground. And I do.

Does your kid still have accidents? How is he not potty trained yet? Why does he still sleep in your bed? Why do we even have to answer these questions? Yes, boys are prone to have accidents for later in life than girls do. Yes, my boys were late potty trainers. I felt as though they shouldn’t be forced into it, rather nudged along at their pace until they were ready. Does that mean that I’ve failed as a parent? Yes, my child still ends up spending half the night in our bed and he’s 6. You can only fight so much before your body is too exhausted to care.

Those are the things I get judged on. I don’t get applauded because my oldest is a talented athlete and high honor student. I get judged because I have expectations that he does chores and does decently in school. I don’t ask for A’s. I ask for his best. I don’t get applauded because my youngest is the sweetest child who is adored by the moms and everyone else who meets him. I get judged because he’s a little on the wild side and prone to anxiety attacks. They perceive a failure on my behalf and they pounce on it. Moms are an especially easy target because we already doubt ourselves on a regular basis. We’ve convinced ourselves that we’ve failed miserably every day before we’ve even had our coffee. (Then we know we have afterwards.)

Instead of telling other moms about how every decision they have made failed their child, remember that every child is different. Not everyone has a child that comes with the perfect manual. We have to raise each of our children differently based on who they are. You think that just because you have 2 kids, you already know everything. But you don’t. They are each their own person, with very different personalities and challenges. I couldn’t take the same approach to raising my youngest as I did my oldest. That would be irresponsible. It wouldn’t work. What you need to do is find something that works for you. What helps you teach a specific set of morals and work ethic to your children. You can use 2 different approaches and still end up with a same result. The reason is because you adjusted your game plan.

It’s easy as parents to just think that you have to go at this one way. But you don’t. Being a good parent is about adjusting with the challenges until you find something that works. If you stick with it and keep your head held high, you can do it. You’re not failing. You’re trying. And that’s better than a lot of kids get.