The youngest will go to school in the fall and so their dependence on me has dropped dramatically in some ways but increased tremendously in others. They are constantly fighting for my time and attention with each other and with my husband. They could care less about whether I am home or not until I go to my room and then they all converge upon it and interrupt what little free time we try to carve out for ourselves. He’s very gracious about it and tries to give me time with them but I am frustrated by it. My normal routine is to try to get 15 to 20 minutes of alone time when I get home to change, go to the bathroom, decompress and check in with my husband before taking turns with all five of them individually while juggling dinner, baths and bedtime and an additional 30-45 minutes of up and down time for water, bathroom runs, the I forgot you need to: sign this, read this or run to the store and buy that because I have to have it for school tomorrow episodes. Throw in temper tantrums; fights among siblings, the phone, the door and anything I might have planned for the evening and you have chaos in a not so orderly way.
I try to treat them fair across the board to a fault but again my background plays a big part in making sure they never feel less loved than the other, treated differently or singled out in a negative way. Even with all the checks and balances I have in place it never seems to be enough or work out smoothly and on any given day at the end of the evening I find myself sitting on the side of the bed drained and feeling like a failure in a very big way.
Raising these girls is harder than anything I have ever encountered because each one has their own unique set of issues that are very real and have to be addressed in very specific ways (therapy, medication, alternate behavior charts, etc.) so what works for one doesn’t work for the other and just because you master one doesn’t mean you’ll be so successful at the other. As they get older things only get more complicated.
My oldest girl is sixteen going on twelve. She's not motivated, doesn't want to grow up one day and acting too old on others. I have to remind her that I am the mother because she is quick to chime in and tell them what to do or not do even when I'm standing right there. We don't see eye to eye on what I let them do or not do because she uses her power over them to be her little slaves. She wants to be "ghetto" instead of herself and is often at odds with how she is being raised with how the world tells her to be. She loves God, going to church and has a good relationship with Him. But peer pressure is unbelievable. She finds herself surrounded by friends who have very casual attitudes about sex, school, and life in general. Her generation is one of sub par potential. They have been spoon-fed and seem to think that is how life really is. Her life has not been that way and she has been exposed to far more reality than the majority of them which is a challenge in itself. She had a very difficult relationship with my ex-husband but through it all the one thing she seems to have captured from him was his short temper and brisk dictator like demeanor. At times and I have to call her out on it and remind her that we have feelings and that her tone and the context of her words is not acceptable. We are fully entrenched in the PMS world of hormones and fluctuate monthly with the cravings, the tears, the drama and in the next moment she's sweet, loving and an absolute joy. Boys are on the perimeter and we intend to keep them there stressing that her education is first and foremost. Sometimes its a struggle to keep her focused and moving forward but I think that eventually she will turn the corner herself and find her own motivation but for now I'll continue to push and prod her along when I'm not wanting to choke her out because of the eye rolling, teeth sucking, nonchalant attitude she can invoke in the blink of an eye.
Our ten year old is scared of her own shadow. She has a lot of issues with being loved and self-esteem due to the constant badgering she received at the hands of her dad. She was his verbal whipping post. He never spoke to her about anything nice or positive. He constantly put her down and made her question whether or not she was lovable. We went through a year and a half of therapy and made great progress but at times it still comes back full throttle and we have to work through it again. They say that time heals all wounds and so I'm prayerful that she will be totally healed one day and not so insecure and needy. In the meantime, we try to work through it one day at a time. She used to be my shadow literally for the first seven years of her life. She clung to my legs constantly. The past three years have been better for her and she has broken away and is learning to let me go and explore her world outside of our home. She's smart, talented, beautiful and going through puberty. We have braces, an expander and the beginnings of acne. In the 4th grade schools start the discussion on sex education and puberty. Trying to tell a 10 year old about puberty as she cries and covers her eyes and ears because her older sister has given her sound bites about how awful it is and now she’s scared...frustrating. ARGGHH! She's a bowling wonder and an artistic prodigy. Watching her grow up is like watching a baby colt get it's legs after birth. It's a wobbly beginning but the way they grow and catch their stride in the end is amazing and I know that is how she will be when she gets older - amazing.
A beautiful baby, fat, chubby and full of herself. That was how you would describe our seven year old. Now she has the diagnosis of attachment disorder/adolescent bipolar. They are major issues within themselves but when you couple that with compulsive lying, sticky fingers, stranger danger and a blatant disregard for authority you have a child that the system is anxious to swallow up, put on drugs and lock away; but not on my watch. I believe that you can overcome what life has tossed your way if you have the right elements surrounding you and so I am working hard to connect with the right people, to set up the right boundaries and not give up on a child some people would be happy to put away and not deal with because every day is a challenge of some sort - getting dressed, riding the bus, respecting teachers, accepting consequences for actions at school, on the bus and at home. Homework is a 2 -4 hour ordeal sometimes more but other days it goes off without a hitch and we're only in the first grade. Never knowing what to expect but trying to maintain some sense of order is trying. Yet she is lovely, sweet and very kind and all she wants to your attention and will do whatever it takes to get it over and over and over again.
Having a six year old with Asperger's hasn't always been easy. But I took the time to research it and come up with a plan that I felt was right for us. Staying home with her for two years was one of those choices. I also chose right out of the bat to mainstream her and she has done very well. Not to say that we don't have our challenges but for the most part no one would know that she has it unless she finds herself in a situation that she can't control. Home is the "safe" place and so we get the brunt of her frustration. But that is ok if she can hold it together until she gets home. We limit her introductions to strange places and people, are always cognizant that loud noises and places can have varying affects on her and limit those situations when possible. She is smart beyond her years and was accepted into the gifted program at school but she has her routine and if you deviate from it too much there is hell to pay. Calming her down takes a lot more as she gets older and she can be a bit overbearing and obnoxious just because that is her personality. She knows what she knows, she wants what she wants and she is going to be sure that you are aware of it. She doesn't have a feel for intruding on your personal space and sometimes we have to reign her in from getting into people's faces and talking very loudly. But please, whatever you do, don't intrude on her. Don't touch her and don't approach her directly. Let her initiate contact. She is not aware of her "inside" and "outside" voice. She has a hard time with kids who do wrong because she will tell them that they are doing wrong and find an adult to tell too. She has a definite thing about that but is quick to find a way to cast the blame off of herself and onto someone else by manipulating the situation. Well advanced in her reasoning skills. She'll make a great lawyer.
My five year old is a itty bitty thing but also a great ball of fire. She is a mixture of her siblings. Every single one of them. She mimics their behaviors and that makes it difficult to know if she has issues or she's truly just mimicking to get attention. Once school starts for her and she has the opportunity to find herself we hope that she will morph into her own personality. In the meantime we try to disregard a lot of what she does and focus her back on what she needs to be doing. Acting like a five year old. She has various nicknames to explain her behavior and her personality. Pipsqueak, jack rabbit, munch, and booger. Trust me she has earned each one of them. She can't sit still for a hot second. She loves to draw, color, sing, dance and be the center of attention. She will also test you to your limits just to see what you will do. She has a great set of lungs and will scream her head off or cry at the drop of a hat if she thinks it will get her what she wants or out of whatever trouble she has gotten herself into. She is very indecisive to the point that you want to pull your hair out. If you give her a choice she truly struggles with what to do and instead will do neither one and you find yourself making the choice for her and of course it's not what she wants. She often opts to go to bed rather than eat her food, take a bath or do her work if she decides that she doesn't want to and then she will sit in her room and yell, cry or play with her imaginary friends. She is stubborn and can wait out the average person. Thank goodness my husband and I are not average so we usually win in the end but boy is it a struggle. In some ways I pity her teacher but I'm praying that school will be fun for her and she won't have these issues there.
I CANNOT relate to some of their issues. I was such a tomboy that many of these issues are foreign to me. I only had one best friend growing up who was similar to me and so we didn’t have the squabbles that they are encountering. Sure I argued with my sisters but we mostly just ignored each other or went our separate ways. I don’t care about shopping, dressing in the latest styles, hair, or keeping up with the Jones so they don't get any sympathy from me in that regard. I do, however, care about their relationship with God, who they perceive themselves to be, their grades, who their friends are, what they watch and listen to and how they present themselves inside and outside of the house. Definitely not typical of parents today and so they feel like it’s not fair. Fair or not that is how it has to be.
I find myself questioning how good I really am at this. Part of me knows I’m not half bad but the other half feels like there is a piece of me missing here that is needed to get through the next 15 years with these girls. I don’t know when it left, where it went or why after all we went through it got lost but my compassion, empathy, sympathy and patience have gone on an extended holiday and been replaced by guilt and fear and I don’t know how to reclaim them. I feel guilty about what we went through and fear our broken judicial system and the brokenness of my own spirit at the hands of my ex-husband and the ensuing trauma that took place after he left.
There are days I resent them and their dependence on me. I resent their differences, their neediness and their self assurance that I will take care of it. At times their issues flare up and become a constant reminder of my failure. I have taken the burden of all their issues and heaped them upon myself and am buckling under from the pressure of it all - all their hurts, real or imagined; all of their emotional issues – severe and mild, their physical ailments, I claim those too. If only I had… but I didn’t and I can’t go back and change it but I don’t know how to let it go either and move forward reclaiming all that was lost along the way. I don’t know how to turn it over to God and say “here it is Lord, it’s all in here – the hurt, pain, sorrow, grief, anger, bitterness, heartache, brokenness, failures, wrong thinking, feeling and self mutilation (mentally and spiritually). Have it all. Take it away completely this time. Heal me, make me whole again. So I pray. I read the scriptures and make them my own. I chant them, I memorize them and I try using them whenever I feel I'm hanging by a thread.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10 (NKJV)
“That you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24 (NKJV)
“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5 (NKJV)
And just as quickly as I release it all up to Him I find myself claiming it right back again as soon as the next drama unfolds.
Each day is a tug of war with God over these girls and their issues. I just want things to be well but I also want them to be well now. I am not without my faults and independence and impatience are at the top of the list.
Surrendering myself and all that is within me to Him and letting Him handle it is just as much an issue as dealing with the girls. But I know it is what I must do.