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Friday, December 4, 2015


A very wise friend of mine told me a quote this week: "A person's greatest strength is their vulnerability." I thought I'll have to mull that one over for a bit to really figure it out. But I also thought, well, I've got vulnerability covered because I put my stories out into the world without filter, letting people see into my life in a very vulnerable way. Ha. Got that covered.

Then my week hit me hard.

Ella and Aidan have been struggling with school anxiety big time. Aidan's teacher hadn't been following his 504 Plan up until two weeks ago when we found out about this. I would email every couple of days about problems, and the teacher would say Aidan needed to learn that skill independently. I was very frustrated. Aidan was very frustrated. I couldn't understand what the problem was, given the fact that he is supposed to get accomodations at school. Why was I hitting a brick wall? Now I get it- the 504 wasn't being followed. Like, at all. we have it back in gear. The teacher is making accomodations. Like he was supposed to three months ago. Now Aidan gets help filling out his assignment notebook. Now he gets help putting homework into his backpack. Now he has his assignments modified. 

Now it's a little too late. The damage has been done. I think it can be reversed, but it's a struggle. Aidan feels completely overwhelmed by all things school. He doesn't trust that he will be able to manage school. He doesn't trust that he will get the help he needs. He doesn't trust that he will succeed, because he doesn't trust he will get support.


So now we're dealing with more school anxiety than ever before with Aidan. Just off and on, not every day, so that's good. But when Anxiety hits, it bowls me over. It crushes me, from body to soul.

Last week, Aidan had an Anxiety Day. He woke up ok. I thought the day would go normally. Then he started in with "I am NOT going to school." He started freaking out. He started screaming, and didn't stop for 45 minutes. He locked himself in the bathroom, crying and screaming that he wasn't going to school. I decided that day to see what would happen if I really pushed him as hard as I could. Partly because people think it's my fault when my kids don't get to school. Partly because I'm tired of being judged- by people at school meetings, by people in the world- because I can't force my kids to do things. So I decided to push hard that day.

When it was time for the bus, I picked all 65 pounds of Aidan up and carried him out the door, kicking, crying, screaming loud enough to wake up the entire county. He refused to put on his coat. He fought when I put it on him and ripped it off. I  carried him to the front porch in his pants and t-shirt. No shoes, no warm clothes. I was pushing him hard. I held him, flailing and fighting for ten minutes, waiting for the bus in the cold. I wasn't dressed for the winter morning, either. My body ached and throbbed, because it always hurts, but having a 65 lb screaming, flailing, fighting blob in your arms makes a body hurt almost more than it can bear. 

The neighbors showed up at the bus stop, which is our driveway. They politely looked the other way as I fought to hang on to Aidan. The bus arrived. I carried my out-of-control blob to the bus. I put him on the bus steps. He fought, he screamed, he wailed, he wept. I physically could not get him any farther into the bus. I tried for a minute. I tried as hard as my hurting body could. Finally, I threw Aidan's backpack down on the ground as hard as I could, said a bad swear word, and gave up. Aidan bolted into the house. I ran in after him, sobbing myself. In front of all my neighbors.

Not a stellar Mommy Moment.

Now we come to Miss Ella. She has had anxiety about school and leaving me forever. For. Ev. Er. But it never gets better, no matter what we do. Now her sensory processing issues are kicking up. Over the past month she has had increasing problems handling all of her senses and the input the world gives them. Food is challenging. Noises set her off. But the very worst thing is tactile- her skin is not playing nice. Clothes are driving her literally insane. I will not let her out into the winter without some sort of leg covering. I know, I'm a horrible, mean Mama. So we have tried every single type of pant I can find. Nothing is comfortable. They have to be tight at the top, long enough, high enough on her waist, and soft and stretchy. Yeah, right. She's the width of a string bean, and tallish. So right there is the first problem. To get pants that fit her length, they end up being big around her teeny tummy. Not acceptable. All my attempted "pants-fix-its" are unacceptable to her also. 

The other problem is Ella's current tic. She has the one back that she had over the summer, where she has to do a tummy clench-and-roll kind of thing. This tic makes her pants fall down from where she likes them to be, and that makes her crazy.

Yesterday, Ella was in tears about going to school. Everything set her off, mostly her stupid pants. I think she tried on every single pair she owns. Nothing worked. After trying his hand at helping Ella, Alex exclaimed "She wants PANTS that go up to her ARMPITS! There IS no such thing!!!" Finally I said that's enough. You're just going to have to wear what you have on. The end. 

She wasn't happy with me. I have had to put her on the bus "the hard way" many many times this year. Yesterday included. She wouldn't get on, so I had to throw the mail that I was holding on the ground to lift her past a friend and into her seat. While she sobbed the whole time. I climbed down the bus stairs to my posse of neighor Mamas. Boy, have they seen an eyeful from us this year. I wanted to jet into the house because I was so embarrassed and sad and overwhelmed. But my sweet neighbor Mamas gathered around me. They hugged me. They said they wouldn't be able to handle what I handle. They said I'm a saint. They said I'm doing such a good job. They said to never worry about what they are thinking about us. They said not to be embarrassed.

And I just cried. And cried. And cried some more. 

Because not only had Ella been a handful that morning, but of course the older boys had their own overwhelming issues. And I didn't feel well at all. And I don't know how much more of life I can take.

I got the older boys on their bus. I took a shower. I went to the chiropractor. Who is so sweet and nurturing that I started to cry again. She said such kind, loving words to me too. She said my kids chose me to be their Mama, and even when I feel like I'm doing a terrible job, they see my love for them. They see how I get up EVERY morning, even though I don't want to, and I'm there for them. She said I was chosen for this. She said I can handle this. I mouthed- because I was crying too hard- that I don't think I can handle it. She said YES I can. I do! I get up and I do it every day.

So by that point my whole face was so swollen I looked like I had been punched. Which is what I felt like also. So that was nice.

I was supposed to meet a friend for brunch. I texted ahead and warned her I'd been crying all morning and I looked like an alien because of my puffy eyes, and not to be alarmed. She must have thought I was a complete loon, but she didn't run in horror when she saw me. She didn't even run when I cried more while we ate and talked. She cheered me on, and she cheered me up. 

AND, she's completely brilliant. She suggested getting Ella OVERALLS to try to combat her problem with the waists of pants!! Duh! Why didn't I think of that? Of course no store in the area sells overalls for 6 year old girls, so I had to order some online. Knowing my luck, there will be something else "wrong" with overalls, in Ella's opinion. But it's worth a try. I talked with her yesterday about it and tried to really make it sound exciting! 

We'll see. I'm not holding my breath. That kid's nervous system can make anything into a sensory problem.

As I spent the day going from appointment to appointment, composing myself in between and then totally falling apart when faced with the wonderful people in my life, I thought a lot. I wondered why I have days like this now where I just cry. All the live long day. What the heck is my problem? I decided it's because the people in my life are too darn nice. It's their faulth.

I thought about how a few years ago, I didn't have this support system of friends who really "get" what my life is like, or even medical people who really understand. I was just little old me, trying to take on the world and get my kids through it as best I could. Now I have an amazing support system set up, so that everywhere I go, everything I do, I'm surrounded by kind, loving, compassionate, understanding, supportive people. Even the people in my life who live far away- when they get in touch, it's always to support and love me. When I get my nails done, or see a friend at the grocery store, or take the kids to therapy, I'm in contact with people who support me. And because I feel their love and generous kindness, it makes me feel weak. It makes me feel vulnerable. It makes me cry on my tough days. It makes me unable to hide my sorrow and overwhelm.

I thought I was Queen of Vulnerability, writing about my children and our lives, letting people in to see they are not alone in their daily Crazy. But I realized yesterday that because I have a strong, beautiful, caring support system, my soul knows it can be even more vulnerable. My soul is taking me to the next level. I simply cannot fake that I'm ok anymore. Sometimes I really try hard to make sure people get the impression that I'm fine, kids are fine, we're all fine. Usually, though, on really tough days, I can't hold it in because the sorrow and weight is just too much to bear on my own. So I go about my business of the day- meeting friends, grocery shopping, having medical appointments- and just cry as I go. I have learned to keep tissues stashed everywhere.

I really, truly hate this about myself. I hate that there are times when I can't fake it. When I can't just put a smile on and do life. I hate that sometimes it's really so hard that I just can't manage to go on gracefully. I hate that there are times when my sadness betrays me and I have to let people in. I learned from a young age to deal with my emotions on my own, and not rely on other people for help too much, and I hate it when other people see what I'm really struggling with. I hate it when my soul decides to let my emotions out of my body for the entire universe to see. Darn soul.

As I processed all of this yesterday, I came to terms with the fact that although I consider myself to be an open book, I'm not as vulnerable as I could be. I don't like letting people in. When I have days like yesterday that are so hard that I can't maintain composure, I think it's because I'm practicing being vulnerable. My Soul Lesson for the moment is to learn to be comfortable with being vulnerable. 

I decided to try to become ok with that uncomfortable, foreign feeling of being vulnerable. I don't know if it really is a great strength to go around crying all day long every time you run into a compassionate face, but I know that I am supposed to learn the lesson of vulnerability. It's hard and seriously uncomfortable. It's not a place I like to visit. I have a hard time asking for help, and letting other people then help me. It makes me want to crawl out of my skin when I'm so open and vulnerable that anyone looking at my puffy eyes can tell I'm struggling. But there are just some days when I can't keep it in anymore, no matter what I do. It makes me feel ridiculous. But it is what it is.

Every day I hope I'm growing as a person, as a soul visiting this Earth. I realize I am a work in progress. I'm not a saint. I'm not perfect. Some days all I can do is weep because of the overwhelming-ness of everything that is on my shoulders. I do believe my children and I chose each other. I do believe I will get through this and carry on- bad days or good. But maybe this whole crying thing is happening so that I learn to ask for help, and more importantly, accept help from my circle of beautiful friends. It sucks to be vulnerable. But I'm working on it.

Being vulnerable is your greatest strength. I'm working on it.