Month: November 2017

Birthday parties don’t have to be torture

Birthday parties don’t have to be torture

One of the things that I have always struggled with is the idea of children’s birthday parties.
When I was a child, my parents hosted birthday parties for me.  I am certain that they were enjoyable, and that my mom handled them with ease.  She doesn’t have the same anxiety that I do, and isn’t derailed by something as seemingly simple as gathering children together in one space for play and eating cake.

laura's fourth birthday
My friends are probably going to kill me for this

So when did things get weird?  I suspect that a lot of it has to do with my desire to not hang out with people I don’t know.  I’d classify the parents of all of my kids’ classmates as People I Don’t Know.  And that sets my amygdala into massive panic mode.  It may also have something to do with the fact that when my oldest was turning 8 (maybe? I can’t remember now), we invited his entire class over for a birthday party and no one came.  Not one single child.  He was devastated, I was devastated, and I may have vowed never to put any of my children through that again.
For many years, we simply celebrated with family members, and that worked…sort of.  I can’t help but worry that I deprived them of some vital growth experience.

Fast forward quite a few years, and we now have kids with diagnoses, kids who struggle in loud places, kids who mostly do parallel play.  Kids who aren’t developmentally on the same plane as their peers.

Last year, Wonder Boy was invited to a birthday party.  It wasn’t his first invitation, but we felt like he was ready to give it a go.  He handled it mostly well, and advocated for when he was ready to leave.  But it was definitely clear to us that he stood apart from his classmates.  While they all joked and laughed and played together, he sat there playing with Silly Putty and staring off across the room.  They didn’t exactly exclude him, but no one tried to really include him much in the conversation.  And that’s fine, they’re kids, and they haven’t really learned that skill at that age (they were four-going-on-five).

This year for WB’s birthday I decided that rather than attempt to plan a party which would make me ridiculously anxious (because let’s face it, it’s all about me), I would schedule a playdate with his closest friend.   She happens to be at the age where he is developmentally, and it really works for both of them. She also has two older sibs, so Speedy has friends to play with as well.  All of the kids get along really nicely, and we enjoy spending time with their parents. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Not long ago, WB and Speedy went to the youngest girl’s birthday party, and they did pretty well with the limited time and the very active play (at a place with a climbing structure and ball pit).  While we weren’t ready to do that for WB, we appreciated seeing how well he did there. Her parents are smart- they provided pizza and cake, and the treat to go home with was a balloon with a bottle of bubbles attached.  Simple, affordable, and not some tiny cheap toy that will become the source of sibling rivalry.

I like to provide a takeaway in each post, something which really shows what I learned and that you can use when you’re feeling frustrated or unsure of how to handle a situation.
My takeaway from the birthday party stuff is this: You know your children, and what will best meet their needs, but also don’t be afraid to give them the opportunity to surprise you.  We know that WB can handle a standard birthday party, but we also know that he’s happiest at a playdate with fewer kids.
Besides, who really wants to assemble 25 goody bags?

Each new day is an opportunity

Each new day is an opportunity

I also like to think of each day as an adventure.  I’m a little like Indiana Jones at times, carefully navigating the booby-trapped catacombs of supporting and loving kids with atypical* needs.

*their needs are typical for them, just not typical compared to most of their peers.  I loathe using the word “atypical”, but it’s short and easy to use. 

If you read my post yesterday, as well as some of the other eating-related posts, you have figured out that eating is… not easy in this house.  Everyone has their own issues.  This is mine:

IMG_0046
My child’s divided plate.  I want my own divided plates because I cannot STAND to have food touching other food.

So back to the Speedy’s breakfast drama.  Yesterday was the Major Smoothie Catastrophe of 2017.  So this morning, I decided to try a method that Speedy’s one-to-one aide uses at school.  Lunchtime is hard for him, and the cafeteria is too overwhelming, so she takes him to the OT room and gives him headphones and an iPad.  She puts on a series of Laurie Berkner videos from the Lullaby album, and he happily eats his lunch and focuses on the videos.

Could it be that simple?

Well, let me just tell you.

Normally on any given morning, it can take him up to 45 minutes to eat one bagel.  We put cream cheese on half, and butter with cinnamon & sugar on the other half.  And then it takes regular reminders to chew and then swallow the food.  Every day we go through this, and it degrades quickly.

This morning I told him what we’d be doing.  He sat down (with one half of a bagel) and I put on the videos in front of him.
In ten minutes, with zero prompting, he’d eaten his bagel and moved on to a yogurt.

I can’t even begin to express what a relief it was to go through the morning with no fights.

Feeding my kids is killing me slowly

Well that seems a bit harsh, actually.

But really, the struggle is REAL.

In order to maintain Speedy on the medication which does help him focus, we have to hyper-load him with calories and healthy fats.  This is not easy with a child who can’t remember to chew or swallow (or doesn’t want to, I’m not sure) certain foods. I will note here that his doctor is working with us to rule out medical issues.

Luckily, I have a pool of incredibly smarty-smart people at work who I can call upon for ideas. And I’m not just calling that because they read my blog.  They’re really smart.  I highly recommend working closely with behavior specialists.

This morning I tried idea number one: smoothies.  If chewing is an issue that causes daily fights (and OHMYWORD does it ever), then smoothies are an option!  I took the recipe for a peanut butter and banana smoothie (gag) and added the instant breakfast powder along with some almond milk, ice, and yogurt.  Okay, it was nasty.  I added some chocolate syrup in an effort to fix it, and hoped that the “Yay, chocolate shakes for breakfast!” sell would be enough.

healthy-lifestyle-woman-drinking-delicious-green-smoothie-eating-mixer-jar-vegetable-juice-isolated-white-background-54726170

Yeah.

No.

Not so much.

Admittedly, peanut butter and chocolate was a bad idea.  It’s fantastic if you’re talking peanut butter cups, but not so much if you’re talking drinkable breakfast.

Sooooo….. I kind of have a short fuse with this child of mine.  I can’t say why him versus all the others, or maybe my oldest two would tell you that I had it with them too.

This morning’s Big Smoothie Experiment rapidly degraded into a fight, when I took it way  too personally that he didn’t like it.  What is wrong with me?  All I have to do is try different ingredients!

I’ve long suspected that am the boys’ biggest problem, but I also suspect that many parents feel that way.  How do I teach them to navigate this world which is only beginning to understand them while at the same time teaching them not to act entitled?  How do I teach them ALL THE THINGS OMG?
This is what happens in my brain every. single. day.

Tomorrow we’re going to try something else- Speedy’s older brother had some alternate smoothie recommendations, and thank goodness that his cooler head prevails most mornings.  He gave me the opportunity to take a deep breath and recover.

I feel the need to leave you with at least one nugget of wisdom.  My takeaway from all of this was that it’s really truly NOT personal when your kids don’t like a food.  That tomorrow is a new day, and there are approximately 9,485,220 different foods out there waiting to be tried.  All of the world’s problems will NOT be solved by making sure that your child likes each and every one.

My other takeaway is that I really need to just calm the hell down.  Maybe I’ll switch to decaf….

How providing all of the information is the best way to support our kids (or anyone, really)

Do I win an award for longest and most awkward title?  Hehe.

But really, providing all of the information is absolutely important.  Let me show you why:

This morning, Speedy and I were having a Battle of the Wills. I have said to him repeatedly “Please set a good example for your brother”.  Now, somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I probably knew that this is a vague concept for a child.  But I persisted. What’s that quote about doing/saying the same thing over and over again, while expecting a different result? Yeah…

light-bulb-icon_23-2147506146.jpg

So this morning, when I reached the point where my fuse typically blows, I stopped and backed up.  “Sweetheart, when I say to ‘set a good example’, I mean to say that when you do what’s being asked of you, then you are showing your brother how to act”.

A wave of understanding washed over him.  I had finally given him the information that he needed in order to respond in a way that would make sense to the situation.

This ties in directly to my last post about what comprises a Social Story™ and how to create and implement them.  That’s really all it is- providing context.

We take a lot for granted, and it’s really important to dial it back a bit and explain things in a supportive, positive, and factual way.