We've disembarked from a month full of Thankfulness, as my friends on Facebook reminded me of every day in the month of November. Little messages of thankfulness were posted during the last 30 days for everything from "great family" to "a functioning DVR player that allows them to catch up on Empire Boardwalk episodes"...My thankfulness was present, but my demeanor a little weary. We, like many families who live in Los Angeles, have been struggling for a few years. We do what we love, we work hard, and we practice patience, but every once in awhile I struggle to stay optimistic. Charles and I literally cannot work any harder than we already do. My brain spins as to how to make our life work, how to be creative and ingenious about making an income while still being the primary caretaker of my boys. Usually, I rally. Usually, I can find the silver lining and focus on the positive, but I'll admit that leading up to the holidays this year, it's been a little harder to brush away the nagging fears.
Focusing on the positive is a choice. I absolutely know that there is no good that comes out of being sad or depressed....those things don't solve anything, and then you're just...sad and depressed. So, I put one foot in front of the other and I practice patience.
Because of the stress I've been under, I've found my patience waning. My temper is shorter and I've found myself shouting more times than I care to recognize. Sigh. My 5 year old is part of my heart. I can't even explain the love and bond I feel for my firstborn (though, I'm sure I don't even have to explain to those of you who are there with me...) But, Christian is a challenge at times. He is strong willed and smart...a fairly lethal combination. When he has a "bad day"...it is a BAD day. Like today. When I arrived to pick him up from Kindergarten, he was sitting inside the classroom reading a book while all of the other kids argued over who got to ride the tricycles outside (He's usually one of them.) For a moment, I thought, "Aww...why is my sweetie reading a book inside instead of playing?" And then I realized...oh. yeah. And his teacher approached. We talked. Christian looked sheepish. There were meltdowns. There were shenanigans. There were consequences. And, unfortunately, after a day like that, I didn't feel that I could take him to see "Santa's Helper" at the mall, as I had suggested before school. Therefore, there were more meltdowns. And more shenanigans. I found myself having a little self-talk: Calm down, Jen. ...What would Jesus do? ...Well, Jesus didn't have kids. Plus Jesus was perfect. And I am not, and I have no clue what to do... Deep breath. Pull it together. Be patient. I'm trying by re-invigorating our existing chart and adding a few extra incentives to it. I even gave Christian a do-over option today: If he was a great listener at his swim lesson, then he could earn a point toward seeing "Santa's Helper" (who will now require a point total of 7 in order to be earned, by the way.) We talked, he agreed. He was going to make good choices in swim lesson and be a great listener.
From minute one in swim lesson all I heard was, "Christian!" "No, Christian!" "Christian, I need you to listen!" "Christian!" I was seriously ready to lose it. I marched right into the office and asked for a different class- one that is earlier in the day, because clearly at 6pm at night, my kid cannot handle it. Not even when a trip to see "Santa's Helper" is at stake. Frankly, I didn't do well today either. There was some yelling, for sure. There were things said that probably don't come out of a "How to be a Better Parent handbook". So, I put the boys to bed and I vow to do better. To be more patient. To try again. Tomorrow. ...And hope that I am not the main and primary reason they end up in therapy down the line....
Elijah has been my little rock star lately. His receptive language seems to be exploding, and he is incredibly motivated by people. We had a home visit with some of the therapists from his school on Friday. They came to see him in his home environment, and applauded his every attempt. For a moment I thought, "Wow. He may have a rude awakening one day when people aren't applauding every single thing he does..." But, I think he actually might live his whole life with people applauding him all along. That's just how he is. People root for him. He roots for himself. And it's contagious.
On Saturday, we attended his friend Nathan's 2nd Birthday. Nathan also has Down syndrome and there were a lot of the other kids and parents from the Jump Start program at the party. Elijah was crawling over toward Nathan's Dad and seemed to decide that it might be better to stand up and trying walking over there instead...he planted his feet and STOOD UP. No assistance necessary. Then, promptly fell down to thunderous applause and me screaming, "Oh my gosh!!!!! He's never done that before!!!!!!!!!" The coolest thing was that everyone there "Gets it". They were celebrating right along with me. It's not like Elijah stood up and did a back flip, but for him, just standing up independently is about as hard at this point in his life. He was absolutely thrilled by his attempts (He did it 3 or 4 times in a row) and by the response he got from everyone. I tried to take a picture, or video or something, but my brain went into temporary shock and I ceased to know how to work my camera. Here's a photo of him enjoying some time in the bounce house instead. That's all I got. But there are witnesses. :)
I was waiting to blog until I was feeling optimistic and positive again. But, you know, I'm just not there YET. I'm a little impatient and my fuse is a little short. I still have a lot. I still have so much to be thankful for. But, there are also a few things that I have to just keep putting one foot in front of the other on. There are some things that I just have to vow to try again for a little more patience tomorrow.
I was reminded of an experiment the other day. It's the one where a professor fills up a jar with golf balls and asks his students, "Is it full?" They all reply Yes. Then he pours sand into the jar and it fills in the crevices between the balls and asks again, "Is it full?" The students again reply Yes. He says that we should view life like the jar. The golf balls represent the big things- friends, family, love. The sand represents the little things- the "stuff" that we want, but don't necessarily need. The professor reminds his students that if he were to have filled his jar with the little things first, there wouldn't have been enough room for the big things...the things that matter. I've thought about this a lot the last few days as I've been trying to rally back to my optimistic place, and it's true. I also have to remember that sometimes when you are going without the "little things" it easy to forget about the big things- the ones that really matter. I decided to write tonight, not because I am in a great place and feeling wise and patient. I wrote because I'm not feeling either wise or patient, but the act of admitting it and putting it in writing always seems to have a balancing effect for me.
I may not have patience today, but tomorrow is a new day to try again...
Some of my "big things": (From Thanksgiving Day)