Posted in Adult Homeschoolers Series, Parenting Ideas, Uncategorized

Homeschool, Public School, and the heart of Socialization

Socialization: if ever there was a polarizing issue in the homeschool movement, it is this.

I was homeschooled from 1st-12th grade in a time when parents, like my own, were forging a new education path for themselves, their children, and for future generations.

So much has changed in the homeschool movement (Example: I just read a novel where the main character was homeschooled and it was a NORMAL thing, not some fringe, weird, reinvent-the-wheel movement. WHAT??? Incredible!).

However, so many of the attitudes and beliefs within the homeschool system remain the same, especially ideas about socialization and the negative influence of public schools.

I read a blog post recently about this issue. The author is a homeschool mom who wrote about the negative socialization issues that her children are avoiding by being homeschooled. Here’s an excerpt from her post:

 Yes, my kids are missing out on being socialized in a schooled environment. And you know what else? I’m extremely happy about it!
I do not want them socialized to conform, fit in, gossip, bully, compete, and lose their compassion and individuality.
I want them socialized to have empathy and understanding for others, to be helpful and cooperative, to be friendly and accommodating.
Putting a group of kids of the same age and social skills together does not achieve this. We’ve all been there.
If you’re worrying about homeschooled kids being socialized, you’re worrying about the wrong group. We’re doing just fine thanks.

I was brought up to believe and defend this notion myself, the idea that the homeschooled environment of family, education, and faith would “save” me from the pressures and social corruptions that are inherent in the public school environment.

However, while my homeschool socialization was different and positive in many ways, there were still cliques, mean spiritedness, and shutting people out. Human nature is still human nature.

Here’s a sad story to illustrate my point:

When I was in high school, my friends and I wanted to have a party. No, not THAT kind of party—a happy, fun, homeschool kind of party! A GAME NIGHT!

I organized the whole thing, a tournament board game night. We had to have a certain amount of people to make the tournament a success so I chose the guest list with care.
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I only wanted my best friends there, my fun friends (not anyone annoying or weird).
So I purposely excluded one of my friend’s brothers.

The night of the party, my friend confronted me and asked if her brother could come. I actually protested: “We need a specific number of people to make this game night a success. Sorry…”

She was disappointed and frustrated: He really wanted to come. He didn’t’ get invited to very many things. Can he come?

“Fine,” I huffed. “He can come.”

I was in a bad mood for the whole party.

As an adult, I am so ashamed of how I acted. My heart really aches to think of my attitude and actions, as, knowing what I know now, I would guess that this boy was on the Autism spectrum, just like my son. He was very smart, socially awkward, and very, very keen to talk about his special interests. I didn’t know anything about Autism back then. All I was thinking at the time was that he was annoying and awkward and I didn’t want him at my party.
I was mean, petty, excluding, and a snob. I was a “popular girl” who didn’t want to invite the “weird kid” into my group.

I was a homeschooled girl who never went to public school and never hung out with “bad influences” (ie. Public schoolers).

The “Socialization” the author talks about in her article wasn’t a public school vs. homeschool issue.
The way I acted was a result of a selfish, sinful heart.

Many parents, both today and when I was growing up, believe that the homeschool environment will “save” their children from “evil,” social or otherwise.

But this isn’t true.

Bullying doesn’t have to happen in a classroom; it can happen in sibling relationships.
Competition and feeling superior to others happens at kitchen tables, not just in classrooms.
In my homeschool group, full of children who could spout off thousands of Bible verses, “prayer request” was a synonym for “gossip.”
And you all just read my damning story about my own lack of compassion for a boy who I felt was too “different” to be my friend.

As much as we want to protect our children from the world, we, as parents, can’t save them from their selfish, sinful human nature. Ultimately, only God can do that.

I appreciated the desire and sentiment of the mom who wrote the article.  I get it, I really do. I was homeschooled myself and I had to defend my homeschooling experience as “just as good” or “even better!” to every person I met.
However, after growing up and gaining some perspective about my educational experience, and now being a public school parent, I’ve realized that my homeschool experience was simply “different.” And different is great—but it doesn’t make it morally or socially “better.”

Homeschool or Public School both offer gifts and challenges to a parent, and it is up to the parent to shape the character of his or her children with the gifts and challenges presented.

I remember many mornings when I walked my boys to school and we saw a boy getting off the bus. The boy had some special needs and often had a hard time making the transition from the bus to school.

As the boy screamed or flailed, my son frowned and said, “That’s Landon. He screams a lot.”
“Why do you think he screams?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t like him. I don’t like to sit with him.”
“I think Landon has a hard time communicating what he needs or wants. What if you couldn’t tell people what you needed or wanted? How would you feel?”
A pause. “Mad…and sad.”
“Maybe you would feel like screaming too.”
“Yeah, I would feel like screaming.”
“I bet Landon feels the same things you do. He wants to be understood, and he wants a friend. If he makes you feel uncomfortable, I understand. But I always want you to be kind to him. He’s a person, just like you.”
My son nodded. “Okay, Mom.”

Character shaping and enlarging small hearts can happen any time—around the kitchen table learning fractions, or walking to school each morning. But an immature and selfish heart will find it hard to grow when the barriers between “us” and “them” remain intact.
Heart2
It’s been many years since I was that snobby, selfish high schooler. I’ve learned a lot since I’ve had my own children. I’ve learned even more since my own children have been diagnosed with special needs.

I’ve learned that my experiences as a first generation homeschooler were unique and different, yet neither “bad” nor “better.”
I’ve learned that socialization is usually “mainstream” or “avant-garde” but that doesn’t make it right or wrong.

I’ve learned that it is up to parents to teach character, morals, and how to treat others with kindness, compassion, and respect and that, homeschooled or otherwise, it takes effort and patience to instill these Positive Socialization values within our children.

PS. My kids are now the Public School Kids I used to judge
The Day I Taught my son the F-Word

Posted in Uncategorized

Dear Followers, I’ve moved!

Hello dear BamBlog followers. I recently moved to a new host. My domain name is the same but I am no longer hosted by wordpress.com.

If you would like to keep following TheBamBlog on your WordPress reader, please go to www.thebamblog.com and click the “Follow on WordPress” button on the right side of the page.

I have so enjoyed building community with each of you! I hope we can continue to build community together on my new and improved blog!

Thank you!

All the best, Brittany

PS. Here are a few posts you may have missed from May:
Grieving the Gap between “Am” and “Was”My therapist told me it was okay to bribe my kid
When self-improvement looks like a hot mess (aka my blog move)

Posted in Christianity, Encouragement, life, Own your Story, Uncategorized, Waiting Sucks

The Waiting Place

My husband and I are waiting for a phone call. If we hear a “yes” on the other end of the line, our entire life is going to change. Wild, scary, exciting, growing types of change.

In January, we were told that we would get this phone call on March 8.
On March 8, we found out the date was pushed to April 15.
On April 15, we were told we would have to wait at least another 3 weeks.

So many times we have looked at each other and  sighed, “I feel like our entire life is on hold.”

We’re in the Waiting Place.

I’ve been in the Waiting Place a lot in the past year.

It’s an infuriating place to be.
You feel stuck.
You want to fly out of your skin but you’re forced to stand still.
You want to scream to the the sky, the doctor, the therapist, the school, yourself, God–HURRY UP!!!!

FullSizeRender
From Oh! The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Suess

There are long sleepless nights of “What if…this? What if…that? What if…nothing?”
There are long conversations discussing every scenario under the sun and every response to “this one” or “that one” but you can’t pick any one because you are in the Waiting Place.

I wish I had some big, wise, amazing thing to write about “How to be patient” or “How to Wait Well.”

I don’t.

Right now, I feel like I’m in that quiet place you get to when you’ve cried your eyes out: Your shoulders stop heaving; your breath comes in shaky waves, but it’s slowing.

And you feel still.

I’m spent with the waiting. I was spent last year when we were waiting for answers from the school about Benji’s Child Study, about whether or not he would pass first grade, about the Autism testing.

I’ve reached the still place at the end of all my anticipation, scenarios, worries, and what-ifs.

“Be still, and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10

I can’t fight my way out of the Waiting Place, like the boy does in Oh! The Places You’ll Go.

It’s too exhausting.

WaitingPlace
From Oh! The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Suess

But, if I’ve learned anything in the last year, waiting doesn’t last forever. It does come to an end.

And in the meantime, while my soul is still in the Waiting Place, life goes on. We may feel like our life is standing still right now but it isn’t.

Our Real Life is happening right now, not three weeks from now, not next month, not in the fall, not next year.

I have dinners to cook, stories to read, homework to check, friends to visit, boo-boos to kiss, a husband to dream with, a house to care for.
I have my family to love.

Love always moves forward. There is so much Good to be done.

Even in the Waiting Place.

Are you in the Waiting Place right now?
How do you cope?
Teach me how you “Wait Well!”

I hope that my story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

Posted in Encouragement, Mom Confessions, Motherhood, Own your Story, Self Care, Uncategorized

My 30’s suddenly got very Expensive (and why that’s ok)

I’ve always considered myself a pretty low maintenance girl. Except for a brief stint in my teens where I refused to leave the house without curling my bangs (the need for poof was real, folks), I’ve always been pretty comfortable with a minimalist beauty routine.

IMG_5419
“The Bangs” (I think I was 15 here)

My skin was perfect as a teenage (much to the chagrin of some of my girlfriends). I used plain water or makeup wipe to wash my face in the evenings (if I remember to do anything at all).

A pat of Covergirl foundation, a swipe of mascara, and chapstick completed my regular makeup routine. I felt like a million bucks.

Fast forward about 15 years. The bangs are gone, thank goodness (best decision of my entire Senior year in high school).

But my minimalist beauty routine was failing me–mostly because puberty decided to catch up with me in my early 30s.

After my fourth baby was born at the end of 2014, my skin started freaking out: acne, dry patches, oily patches– my face didn’t know what to do. Thank you, postpartum hormones.

I also started noticing that my hair wasn’t as silky and smooth as it used to be.

IMG_4853
Not the bangs, again! Thanks postpartum hair regrowth…

So this is it, I sighed, looking at the small forest of gray hair sprouting from my temples. There were too many to pull out any more. I’m getting old.

I don’t know if it was my postpartum hormones speaking, but I started to feel ugly.
Fatigue probably had a lot to do with it too. Sleep deprivation is not kind to one’s face…or self esteem.

IMG_4917
Photoshop, who?  This is real life, folks.

Are Moms supposed to be beautiful? I wondered. My husband assured me that I was.  I felt mollified but not content. I didn’t know who I was when I looked in the mirror any more. I was doing what I had always done but it wasn’t working anymore.

By the time my baby reached a year old, I was tired of waiting for my “postpartum hormone” to calm down.

I had to realize the truth: my body was changing. Though I am far from “old,” I am getting older.

So, although my frugal ways and pattern of minimal beauty habits screamed against it, I decided to start spending more money on self-care.

I threw out my bottle of $14.95 face lotion (that seemed “too expensive” when I bought it) and, at age 31, I purchased a full skin care regimen–my first ever cleanser, serum, lotion, eye cream, and night cream.

It cost about six times what I had paid for that tube of drug store lotion, and I felt super guilty about the purchase. Am I just being frivolous? I wondered.

But in the days and weeks of consistently taking time to wash and moisturize my face, I saw a huge difference–the dry patches and uneven skin tone were soothed, and the adult acne settled down too.

Using a quality product for my changing skin was actually a good thing (Imagine that).

A few months later, I crossed another boundary and bought shampoo and conditioner for $10 a bottle–each. I KNOW! Talk about guilt! Especially when I normally spent $3-4 on hair care products.

I justified the purchase by telling myself, “It’s okay. You only wash your hair every other day.”
I am a busy  mom of 4, after all.

And do you know what? The expensive stuff was amazing!  My hair wasn’t losing it’s luster! I had just been using crappy shampoo for years.

I’ve slowly branched out a bit more. I bought makeup that cost more than $5.95.

I’ve decided to invest in clothes that I love and are well-made, instead of talking myself into liking a garment just because it was on sale.

IMG_4919
A new haircut always helps (my baby was 9 months old before I “splurged” for this chop). See my silver? I’m embracing it!

All of these changes may seem kind of shallow.

But feeling bad about myself because my skin and hair were unhealthy just made me self-conscious, and ultimately made me feel shallow because I was thinking about looks all the time.

But when I decided to embrace that my 30s are going to require a bit more money and self-care, and started using products that help my body feel its best, I actually think about myself less because I’m not so self-conscious.

Beyond even the money issue though, I had to let go of my perceptions of what it means to get older, as well as what it means to be both a mom and a woman. I had to embrace these truths:

It’s okay to take care of your face and hair.
It’s okay to spend money on yourself.
It’s okay to want to feel beautiful.
You matter.

You are a woman first, not “just a mom.”

Taking care of myself is important. I’m glad that I feel like “me” again–older yes, but when I started take the time and money to care for myself, I feel more vibrant, confident, and beautiful.

What about you?
Did your 30s get really expensive?
How has self-care changed your self-esteem?
Share your story below!

I hope that my story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

Posted in boys, Christianity, culture, Education, kids, Mom Confessions, Own your Story, Parenting Ideas, public school, Uncategorized

The day I taught my son the F-word

Teachable moments. You know the ones–they come up out of nowhere and scare the living daylights out of you.

“Mommy, is there a bad F-word?”

My heart stumbled. I cocked my head at my first grader. “What do you mean, honey?”

“Some kids in my art class said there was a bad F-word.”

First grade?! Already? Is this what I get for sending my kids to Public School? “Can you tell me the word?”

He smiled sheepishly and whispered, “Fruck.”

Laughter bubbled up, unbidden. So he’s still a first grader. “Well, honey, there is a bad F-word, but it’s not ‘fruck’.”

“So, what is the bad F-word?” He asked, sticking his pencil in the corner of his mouth.

“Uhhh…”
scarterstudios M018I paused, my heart tripping over itself once again. Is this what the Teachable Moment looks like? Wide-eyed, innocent, and 7 years old?

While my pause was calm and calculated, the tension I felt inside twisted tighter until it was a palpable ache: I wanted to preserve his innocence. I wanted to tell him, “It doesn’t matter. I don’t want you to worry about bad words.”
But as much as I mentally chided myself about the “bad influence” of public school kids, I knew that was a non-issue.

Public school or not, my kids were going to hear things and learn things from others as they grew up, public school, private school, homeschool, or Sunday school. I can’t control the moments they are not with me.

But he was here with me right now. This moment, at our kitchen table, in our home, was a safe, teachable moment.

If not now, when?

He was asking me for truth. And the truth was, “asking Mom” wasn’t always going to be his first choice.

So I took a deep breath and said, “Well…yes, honey. There is a bad F-Word.”

I told him what it was. I said the word and he repeated it, making sure he heard me right. I tried not to cringe at the profanity coming out of my baby’s mouth. Instead I pushed forward, plunging down this new path.

“Sweetheart, I’m telling you this because I want you to know the truth. But with knowledge comes power and just because you know this word doesn’t mean you should say it or teach it to anyone else.

It is not your job to tell kids at school that you know this word. That’s their parent’s job, not yours. I am very serious about this. Do you understand me?”

He nodded, his eyes wide. “Yes, ma’am.”

I looked at his face, at the soft, smooth skin on his cheeks, knowing that they wouldn’t always be soft and smooth. I would be kissing stubble on my firstborn’s face before I knew it.IMG_4869I pulled myself back to the present, savoring his innocence and openness and the questions that he asked without fear or embarrassment. That precious door was wide open and I wanted to keep it that way.

“You know, sweetie, sometimes kids talk about stuff at school. Kids think they know stuff. But that’s not always true. But Mommy and Daddy—we do know stuff. So if you ever have questions about anything that kids talk about at school, you can come to us and we will tell you the truth.”

“Okay.”

“Okay.”

And then I helped him do his homework.

It was such a bittersweet conversation.

As much as I want to plant goodness into every corner of my children’s lives, the fact is that the world is full of hard, nasty, evil things. I want to shelter them from that darkness. But I also want to help my sons grow to be men who will be lights in a dark world. And if I am going to teach them to be lights, I can’t ignore the darkness.
F-wordI I have to be proactive.

So, when he asked, I taught my son the F-word.

Should I have told him that we would have this conversation when he’s older? Perhaps. Maybe it was too early.

But at 7 years old, his first instinct was to come to me.  As he gets older, that instinct will fade.

The conversations we have now about language, what’s right and wrong, about light and darkness are forming his very soul.

The Teachable Moment is terrifying but, for me, being keeping the door open in order to teach my children the truth is a gift that can’t wait.

PS. House Church, Cussing, and ASD (teachable moments that DO NOT go as planned!)

How do you navigate these terrifying Teachable Moments?
Have you taught your child something huge and scary? How did it go?
Share your story below!

I hope that my story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

Posted in Autism, Autism and Church, Benji's Story, Christianity, Encouragement, Mom Confessions, Uncategorized

God, Autism, and the Fruit of the Gospel

When I was growing up, verses like Matthew 7: 18-19 both baffled and scared me:

A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 

I wanted to be a good tree: But how did I know if I was bearing fruit? And, furthermore, how did I know I was bearing GOOD fruit?

It was all very metaphorical and confusing.

Of course, the fruit that I wanted was the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self control (Gal. 5:22).

Those were Good Fruits. They had names and actions attached to them. Easy, right?

But I fell into self-doubt over and over again. How did I know if the fruit I was bearing was actually  Good Fruit? What if my efforts at love, peace, and patience were just my human attempts to muscle my way towards Good Moral Character?

If I took a deep breath and didn’t yell at my kids when they spilled their milk on my freshly mopped floors, was I producing Patience?

How could I know if I was actually bearing fruit?

I believe the answer lies within the very nature of fruit itself.
FullSizeRender[1]The defining characteristic of fruit is that it has seeds.* You can’t grow fruit without planting seeds, and all fruit has the ability to reproduce itself because it contains seeds within.

With this foundational nature of fruit in mind, my questions shifted:
Am I planting seeds?
Is the fruit that is growing reproducing itself?

The first question is a bit easier for me to answer. Yes, I am trying to plant seeds. In fact, I’ve been thinking a lot about seeds lately since it’s been a year since I published this post about planting seeds.

When I published this post, I had no idea that a little over a month later, we would be sitting in the kitchen eating breakfast and Micah would ask me, “What does it mean to believe in Jesus?”

So I talked to him about about what it means to make Jesus your king and follow him with your life.
“Do you want to follow Jesus with your life?”
“Yes, I do!”

And Micah made a decision to follow Jesus on May 15, 2015.

I think, for Christian parents, we rejoice in our child’s decision to follow Christ, but we still wonder, “Is this real? Does he really get it?” (Am I alone in my doubts?).

I wondered how I could know that my son’s faith was genuine and not just a child’s attempt to please his parents or go through some sort of religious ritual.

But looking back at this first year of Micah’s faith, I don’t wonder if it was real or not. I know it was real because I’ve seen growth.

He is sprouting all over the place!

I specifically remember one day where he was furious at Benji, mostly because of some of Benji’s Autistic tendencies.
“Benji is such a selfish JERK!” Micah cried.
We had had “a day.” I couldn’t disagree. But what could I say? I dug down deep and found the truth, growing in my heart.
“Honey, sometimes it’s hard to love people, ever brothers. But Benji needs love–he needs you.”
“I don’t want to love him!”
“I know. And I can’t make you love him. But I would like you to think about it and pray about it. Pray for him and ask God to help you know how to love him. Can you do that?”
Micah shrugged and gave a half-way nod.

The next morning he came into the kitchen and said, “Mom, I’m feeling a lot better. And I did! I prayed for Benji! I prayed and asked God to help me love him and understand him. And I do love him. I do!”

IMG_5341.jpg
One loved Benji

And there it was: Fruit. Luscious, juicy, ripe, wonderful, delicious fruit that was full of seeds.
It was fruit from my life, seeds of love that I asked God to give me for Benji that I then planted in Micah’s life.
The seeds germinated and grew in his little fertile heart, a heart that said yes to Jesus and yes to growth.

Micah’s faith is real. It’s growing and producing fruit, with lots and lots of seeds.

I’ve seen his tenderness toward Benji in other ways too.

In January, we joined Awana. Micah has soared (In fact, he just finished his first Sparks book–in 3 months!!)
Benji has struggled.

But there are so many weeks that I hear my twins earnestly conversing in the back seat of the car on the way to Awana: Micah patiently helping Benji with his verses.
“Ok, Benji: Repeat after me.” And they practice together, over and over again.

Week after week, Micah celebrates Benji’s small victories, even accepting less praise over his impressive scripture memorization in the light that “Benji said one verse tonight!”

Last night, as we drove to Awana, the boys practiced again in the back of the car. But the conversation shifted away from the verses Micah was helping Benji memorize to seed scattering.
“Benji, if you believe in God, you will have life with Jesus!” Micah said.
“I do believe in God, Micah!”

I listened intently. I was amazed at Benji’s confession. His Autistic mind is so fixed on the concrete; I honestly wondered if he would ever grasp the abstract concept of an invisible God who loves and cares for him. Coupling his lack of abstract thinking with his hatred of church, I seriously doubted if he would ever come to know and love God.

But for months I have prayed, “God, you made my son. You know how his mind works. I know you can reach him. Help him to come to know you.”

“You do, Benji?” I asked, looking at him in the rear view mirror at a stop light.
“Yes, and I believe in Jesus too! I want to tell God I believe in him and I want to follow Jesus with my life.”
And he did.

I asked him a lot of questions, my heart overflowing, but still tinged with doubt: “Is this real? Does he really get it?”
FruitI have faith that it is.

Benji received new life yesterday. God answered my prayers–I don’t know exactly how but I kept trying, I kept talking, I kept listening, I kept accepting him as he is, and I kept praying. And now? A seed has sprouted and I am going do to my best to cultivate this new growth with love and faith.

Every seed starts with faith. We put it in the ground and bury it, having faith that something will happen if we do. Sometimes seeds grow. Sometimes they don’t. But we have to keep trying because it is only by planting a seed that the fruit has a chance to grow, and in growing, multiplying in others to produce a good, good harvest.

*As opposed to a vegetable, where we eat the root (carrot), leaves (lettuce) or flowers (broccoli).

PS. Some other fruit stories:
The Other Side of Despair
Searching for Beauty
When Holy Desire and Motherhood Collide

I hope that our story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow!
Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?

If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

Posted in Autism, Christianity, Encouragement, grief, miscarriage, Mom Confessions, Own your Story, Uncategorized

The other side of despair

You know that part in the Anne of Green Gables movie where Anne dyes her hair green and hides in her bed?
“Go away!” she sobs to Marilla. “I’m in the depths of despair!”

“I’m in the depths of despair” became a tongue-in-cheek catch-phrase for my sisters and me as we navigated our teenage years.

Like Anne, most of our woes were trite and worthy of eye-rolling, not sympathy. I really had no idea what despair was until I became an adult.

When I had my miscarriage, I was baptized in grief for the first time.
I learned what hopelessness feels like.

My motherhood journey has looked wildly different than I thought it would be.
On many occasions, especially in the last year, I have literally thrown up my hands, saying “I’ve got nothing. I have no idea what to do.”

And all I can do is ride the wave of that moment, or day, or month, and pray we all come out intact on the other side.

Sometimes I’ve stood on the edge of that deep, black pit, wondering if I am going to fall in. Other times, it’s only when I look back, far removed from the experience, that I realize how close I was to collapsing.

I probably overshare on my blog–I know it’s one of my faults when I teach in the classroom. When the semester ends, all my students know WAY more about me (and my husband, kids, and first crush) than I do about them.

But sometimes I think that if I didn‘t share–blogging or otherwise–I’d step over the edge, into all that blackness, and tumble down, down, down.

And it’s not just the act writing, though that’s cathartic.
It’s the sharing.
It’s a way of saying, ” I have a burden. Will you help me carry it?”
_mg_2860_1We all need a good friend to listen to us vent about our bad day. The sharing helps us carry the burden. In those really dark moments, it helps us back away from the edge.

But sharing is a two-way street. Every good friend knows that you can’t just vent about your own bad day–you have to make space to listen too.

And, for me, this act of “making space” has been key to me not succumbing to despair in some of my darkest moments.

I read an amazing blog post last week by Rachel at Hands Free Mama. In her article, “Your Role in a Loved One’s Struggle” she wrote,

On the other side of despair is connection—connection that comes from recognizing a familiar look of pain in someone else’s eyes and reaching out your hand.

The greatest gift I have been given as a result of sharing about my life on my blog is that on a weekly basis, I have friends (and even strangers!) send me private messages saying, “me too.” The other night I sat chatting with three women on facebook, in awe of the gift I have been given.

They share their stories with me, stories of their grief, their waiting, their adjustment of their expectations, and always their overwhelming love for their children.

I share.
They share.
We carry each others’ burdens.
We back away from the edge, hand in hand, walking towards light, in hope, together.
_mg_2809Everybody has something. But you aren’t alone in your pain.
Take the first step–share.

You never know how God will use your story to bring hope to another person.

 

What’s your story? If you shared it, what would happen?
What COULD happen?

I hope that this story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

Posted in boys, Encouragement, Mom Confessions, Parenting Ideas, twins, Uncategorized

Sour and Sweet: The Power of a Stranger’s Words

This past week, I’ve had two different interactions with two different strangers concerning my four boys. Both women made short, passing comments to me about my sons. Both comments altered my attitude about sons and my day–if only for a moment–but not the the same way.

On Saturday afternoon, we went on a walk/bike ride in our neighborhood . Benji was riding his bike, Silas was on his trike, and I was pushing Eli in the stroller. Micah decided to walk/run. It was more fun for Micah to chase his twin down on his bike, yelling, “You’re under arrest!” while hitting him with a plastic sword.

At one point, the “you’re under arrest” game was getting a little too serious: Micah had caught Benji and was trying to throw him off his bike.

“Boys! BOYS!” I hollered down the sidewalk. “You need to SETTLE DOWN!!”

Right then, we passed the mail lady doing her daily route. She smiled and shook her head. I caught her eye, hoping to share a smile about the shenanigans of raising crazy kids.

“It only gets worse!” She quipped, walking briskly to the next mailbox. “I have a 12 and 13 year old…mmm hmm! I know! It only gets worse from here.”

My heart sank, and as much as I tried to shake off her words, they sank into me, like little burrs, irritating me with every step on the rest of our walk. I was in a foul mood when I got home (it didn’t help that my twins tried to throw themselves and the bike into the street–while cars were coming–at one point).

She didn’t have to say that. I’m not sure why she did. But it affected me.

This morning I took all four boys to the Dollar Tree. It’s the first day of Spring Break and we were in dire need of some Essential Items.

We loaded up with sidewalk chalk, jump ropes, bubbles, water guns, and other plastic crap, and made our way to the check out.

Bags in hand, I made an attempt to herd my little kittens out the door when a clerk caught my eye. “Are they all yours?”

11539035_10102113386324218_888264570455143371_oI always smile when people say this, hoping that my smile will make them think Happy Thoughts! towards me, but I braced myself for her response. “Yes! They are!” I said, a little too cheerfully.

“You were blessed with four boys! That’s amazing!”

I smiled again, this time genuinely. “Yes, and four adorable ones at that!”

“That’s the truth!”

We started toward the door but suddenly, I turned back to her. “Thanks for saying something encouraging. So often people…don’t.”

She didn’t have to say that. I’m not sure why she did. But it affected me.

It takes the same amount of energy to say something sour as it does to say something sweet.
Words have power and encouragement is a powerful thing.

Let’s use our words and power for good. You never know how your words will affect someone.

Has a stranger ever said something sour to you that ruined your day?
Has a stranger ever turned around your day with a kind word?
Share your story below!


I hope that our story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you.
TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?

If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

Posted in ADHD, Autism, Benji's Story, kids, life, Mom Confessions, Self Care, Special Needs, twins, Uncategorized

Part 2: Should I medicate or NOT medicate my child’s ADHD? Answer: Yes

Yesterday I wrote about our experience of choosing to use medication to meet the needs of our son with ADHD.

Choosing medication was a good decision for Micah.

However, I have two sons with ADHD. Here’s the other half of the story.

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Two adorable, sweet sillies!

Benji was diagnosed with high functioning Autism in October. Before the official diagnosis, we did a lot of tests, including tests for ADHD. We turned the forms into our doctor but they kind of got lost in the chaos of the Autism diagnosis and we decided to focus our attention on therapies to help Benji’s Autism challenges.

However, a few weeks ago, when we were in a therapy session, Benji’s counselor brought it up: “Have you considered that he might have ADHD?”

I nodded. “We did some tests for that but we never had a conversation. I would say he has ADHD–”

“–I would say so too.” She interjected, kindly.

“–but we kind of just let it lie.” I paused, thinking. “Micah’s on medication and it’s helping him.”

“I can’t make those decisions for you, but medication may help Benji, especially since some of his major frustrations come from not being able to communicate effectively.”

“Yeah, it’s like, when I talk to him, he has to process what I am saying. Then he has to think his response and then how to put that response into words. By the time he starts talking, sometimes he has forgotten what the original question was. It’s really frustrating for him.”

She agreed. “Talk to Dr. A. He’ll give you some advice.”

I thanked her but didn’t make the appointment for a few weeks. It was the same angst of “do we? don’t we?” all over again.

Medication was the right choice for Micah but it was a difficult decision. We did not make it flippantly or lightly. It wasn’t a cop out, or giving up on parenting. Medication doesn’t work like that.

The way ADHD medication works is to simulate the synaptic processes in the brain, the processes that are not firing in healthy patterns. It is a physical challenge that manifests itself through mental and behavioral avenues (The glory of the human body–it is all tied together).

But just because it works for Micah didn’t mean it would work for Benji. Different kid, different parenting, different solutions.

Aaron and I talked about it a lot. One of the reoccurring themes in our conversations about both Micah and Benji was this: We want to do what is best for our kids. We want to be good parents. If we actively deny our child something that could potential help them, does this make us bad parents?

But”Good” and “bad” aside: This decision ultimately wasn’t about US. It was about our son.

Ultimately though, I made the appointment.

I’m glad I did.

Dr. A. discussed the results of the initial ADHD behavior evaluation: “Yes, he definitely has ADHD.”

But, he did not recommend medication for Benji.

“Would it help his attention? Yes. But I don’t recommend this type of medication for kids with Autism because their brains and bodies work different. Anxiety is a big part of Benji’s every day experience. The medication would help him concentrate, and maybe even communicate, but it would up his anxiety. And then we would be in a worse place than where he is right now.”

It all made sense to me. I trust what Dr. A. said, as he is a developmental MD who is an expert in Autism, ADHD, and a many other challenges that kids face.

Even more than trusting an expert though, I trust my own observations about Benji.

Yes, he does have anxiety, sometime debilitating, and we we have a weekly therapy regimen and a bag of parenting tools to help with his anxiety (and many other challenges).

I don’t want to do anything to compromise his growth.
IMG_7939-2594342979-OSo, here’s the bottom line. I have identical twins who both have ADHD.
One is on medication
One is not.

Choosing medication to treat your child’s ADHD is not a one size fits all solution, even for two kids in the same family, even if they are twins.

Only you, and your team of supportive professionals, can decide what is best for your child, what will help him grow, thrive, and be the best version of himself, and ultimately what will help you both have the healthiest relationship together as parent and child.

So, the question is: Should I medicate or NOT medicate my child’s ADHD?

For us, the answer, not-so-simply, is Yes.

I hope that our story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. Please share your experiences below! I’d love to read a part of your story.

TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know? If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

 

Posted in ADHD, Autism, Benji's Story, boys, Mom Confessions, Parenting Ideas, Self Care, Special Needs, twins, Uncategorized

Should I medicate or NOT medicate my child’s ADHD? Answer: Yes

When we were going through the Child Study process and Autism diagnosis with Benji, one of the steps was to “test” for ADHD.

I put “test” in quotes because diagnosing ADHD is not a test, per se. Rather, the diagnosis is based on observations and meeting certain behavior criteria.

We got a Parent form and two Teacher forms from the developmental doctor at the Autism Center and my husband and I answered 55 questions. Here are a few examples:

Avoids, dislikes, or does not want to start tasks that require ongoing mental effort
Is forgetful in daily activities
Is “on the go” or often acts as if “driven by a motor”
Interrupts or intrudes in on others’ conversations and/or activities”
Is fearful, anxious or worried
Blames self for problems or feels guilty
Rate relationships with peers (1-5)

His regular ed and special ed teachers filled out these forms too.

We turned them in our doctor but they kind of got lost in the middle of the Autism diagnosis and we decided to focus our attention on therapies to help Benji’s Autism challenges.

But while we were going through the questionnaire for Benji, I turned to Aaron and said, “Seriously, Micah (Benji’s twin brother) seems to have more of these issues than Benji does.”
My husband agreed.

But we needed more “proof.” One of the criteria for diagnosing ADHD is that it has to manifest itself in two settings, like home and school. So I printed off a general list of “symptoms” from good ol’ Google and took it to our parent teacher conference at the beginning of the year.

We sat in small plastic chairs at a low table. I pushed the paper over to Micah’s teacher, a very experienced educator with a special education background. “I was wondering, are you seeing any of these behaviors in the classroom?”

She quickly perused the list, smiled a little, looked up at us and said, “Yes.” She then explained that she adored him as a person and loved him as her student. But we knew, as well as she did, that he was getting in trouble on a daily basis for impulsive behaviors.

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The day Micah got a Character Award at school

He would come home, crestfallen because he “lost another letter” that day at school. It became a daily announcement. When I would gently ask him what happened and why he acted the way he did, he just looked at me, wide-eyed and baffled at his own behavior, “I don’t know.”

So, I made an appointment with our pediatrician and we filled out the same forms for Micah that we had for Benji.

In addition to turning in the parent and teacher questionnaires, Micah also had a physical, a hearing test, and an eye test, just to rule out any physical challenges. He was healthy and could see and hear perfectly.

Our pediatrician agreed that Micah definitely showed strong tendencies of attention deficit disorder, as well as hyperactivity.

Next, we scheduled an hour-long, two parent consultation with our doctor about “options.”

The million dollar question was, of course, “How do you feel about medication?”

The whole diagnosis process took about a month, so I had been contemplating this question for about this long…in reality, probably longer.

For a long time, I didn’t really know how I felt about medication. Like a lot of people, I thought ADHD was primarily the combination of strong-willing (naughty?) kids and poor parenting.

And I “treated” my son…and myself accordingly.

But disciplining my son more or even trying creative and alternative approaches didn’t work.

So I looked for other solutions:

More exercise provided a momentary outlet but didn’t help his insatiable energy levels long term (I wished I had a recording of myself hollering “STOP WRESTLING GO RUN AROUND THE HOUSE!”).

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Taking out artificial dyes and greatly reducing sugar in his diet didn’t do anything.

Essential oils helped him to focus on homework some days, but not on others.

Nothing helped him with other challenges:
Listening (I often wondered about his hearing!)
Following multi-step directions (sometimes completing one-step directions was impossible without 4-5 reminders)
Forgetfulness
An inability to play by himself
Ordering his thoughts and speech into coherent communication

These may seem like small issues but, when taken all together, every day, in simply trying to communicate simple directions (let alone having meaningful conversation) the impact was crushing because healthy communication often felt impossible.

But even more than all these exasperating behaviors was the fact that I knew that our relationship was suffering because I was so frustrated.

I confessed as much to our doctor, embarrassed and ashamed.

And his response hit me in the gut.

“Sometimes medicating ADHD is better than screaming at your child all the time.”

He’s right. I thought. Because that’s me.  What we’re doing is NOT working. Something needs to change.

I was trying to do all the right things. I was trying to be patient and loving and give him a healthy, happy childhood. But I had reached the end of myself.

Our relationship was failing. Not because I was a failure as a parent or because he was a failure as an 8 year old boy, but because we needed to address his very real mental challenges with new solutions.

So after much research, many conversations, prayer, consulting with our doctor, and considering what was the Best Thing for Micah and our relationship with him, we decided to fill the prescription.

I’m glad we did.

The medication didn’t turn him into a zombie or change his personality. Instead, it helps bring his state of being down a few notches: Instead of operating on a scale of 8-10 on a daily basis, the medication brings him down to a reasonable 5-7 range.

He and Benji still wrestle, but when I tell them to stop, they stop (most of the time). The manic I-must-slam-my-body-into-something-or-someone is tempered.

When Micah comes home from school every day, the first thing he tells me is this: “No letters lost today!” And he smiles, proudly.
IMG_4389The most significant aid the medication gives him is his ability to capture and order his thoughts and words, to listen and follow instructions, and to be able to attend to a conversation for a productive length of time.

I can actually tell when the medication is wearing off in the evenings (it wears off daily. It is not an addictive substance), mostly because his speech transforms into one non-sequitur after the other. His ability to follow directions (put your shoes away) crumbles too.

Other than a reduced appetite at lunch (at breakfast and dinner he is a hearty eater),  a few days of disrupted sleep the first week he took the meds, and a bit of evening moodiness every now and then, there have been no other side effects.

Medicating our son’s ADHD was not a simple or easy solution. In fact, the way our health insurance works right now, it is crazy-expensive (over $5 per day).

The medication doesn’t replace the discipline, training, redirecting, love and patience he needs every day. It doesn’t control my son or replace good parenting practices.

But treating my son’s ADHD with medication helps me to have a better relationship with him on a daily basis. The end result is more love for this precious boy I’ve been given.

And love is always worth it in the end.

This isn’t the end of the story. Remember those forms we filled out for Benji’s ADHD? We just revisited his diagnosis…with a very different decision.

To be continued…

 

I hope that our story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you.
TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know? If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂