An Intentionally Long Bedtime

This morning my seven-year-old intentionally knocked over his brother’s full cup of milk. Totally awesome, right?! I politely said to him, “You know where the paper towel is.” He then not so politely screamed at me, “You are a BEAST!” Seeing as we haven’t really been, um, shall we say bonding lately, and rather have been at absolute odds with each other, I immediately thought (okay, assumed) that he had just called me not a beast, but a b*tch.

“What did you just say to me?” I asked abruptly.

“You’re a beast! A beast, beast, beast! Just like the mom in Brave! You always make me pick up my messes! And besides, I didn’t knock the cup over. It fell over!”

Oh, oh was I ever tempted to reply with a sarcastic dinger or two given the current frustrating state of our relationship. But I didn’t. Thankfully the “more” mature side of my mind showed up and prevented me from saying, “Oh, cups just fall over, eh?” and “Really, that’s amazing because I swore I just saw your five fingers reach out and push the cup over and then saw your eyes twinkle when the milk poured all over your brother.” Seriously, it’s such a good thing those thoughts didn’t sneak out because they would have totally escalated the situation and that was the last thing I needed this morning.

Shoot, it is the last thing I need to happen at all right now with my oldest. We have already escalated our vicious cycle of driving each other nuts to the highest level of insanity. Everything I say, he complains about. Everything he does, I complain about. It is getting ugly folks, really ugly. The good news? I recognize that we are in a bad cycle and that soon I will be screaming my head off at him if I don’t get things under control. The other good news? After having been through several of these cycles I know that I have the power to put an end to this cycle simply by offering more love and less, well beastliness. I know from experience that often times when my son is acting pretty beastly himself that it isn’t because he intentionally wants to be a beast, it is because he wants me.

He wants my love.
He wants my attention.
He wants to see me more.
He wants me to listen with more focus and less distraction.
He wants me to understand whatever it is that is troubling him that he doesn’t understand.
He wants me to just stop harping on him and just start hugging him.

And that is where the bad news comes in; even though I know that my son wants (and needs and deserves) all of the above, even though I want to give him all of the above, and even though all of the above aren’t big or hard requests to fulfill, I have found it hard to do any of the above! Say what? I love my son; hugging him should be easy. I love my son; stopping and just talking with him and not to him should be easy. I love my son; laughing with him and enjoying his company should be easy. Yes, it should be easy but right now this particular cycle has been so challenging and his behavior has been so infuriating that I am finding it hard to get motivated to grow up! It sounds awful, but I have thought on more than one occasion lately, “Ugh, dude, I so don’t want to be kinder to you and more patient and all that jazz because you are driving me nutso!”

This fairly constant thought though is getting me, us, nowhere but to a worse place: he pisses me off so I piss him off so he pisses me off more so I piss him off more. It’s miserable! I am not happy with where our relationship is; it makes every day insanely longer and more difficult and well, more discouraging! I mean, who likes fighting and bickering? Who likes feeling like a bad parent? “Not I,” said this mom.

So, after another round of less than satisfactory exchanges at dinner, I decided that tonight was the night I had to try to put an end to this cycle. I got his younger three brothers into bed and headed towards his room. Now mind you, at this point, I was wiped, done, and so ready to go downstairs and claim “me-time.” I just wanted to clean up the kitchen, prepare for the next day and then plop in front of my computer to read all the latest gossip on People.com while sipping a, get this, HOT cup of decaf coffee without interruption. As much as I wanted to tuck my son in and give him a hug and kiss good night, I really didn’t want to make it a prolonged event tonight. I just wanted it to be sweet, loving and well, intentionally quick.

But tonight, I knew that if I wanted to put an end to all the beastliness between us, that if I wanted to get my son and me to a more connected and happy place that an intentionally quick bedtime wasn’t an option. Nope, the only option was an intentionally long bedtime. So I, a very tired and very much craving down time parent, fought all the “just go the f*** to sleep already thoughts” and intentionally chose to make bedtime longer tonight. I took a deep breath and walked into his room prepared to snuggle and talk with him until he fell asleep, whether that meant 15 minutes or 45 minutes.

As I cuddled up with my munchkin and smoothed his hair, he told me that, “Well, the truth is, to be totally honest, I am scared to tell Melissa that I love her.” He also told me that, “I am actually really starting to like math but I can’t stand writing and well, I love reading.” And upon my telling him I was sorry for being so beastly that day he told me, “It’s okay mom. I accept your apology. We all make mistakes. You know mom, you just need to be careful because, like, you know, once words are out they can’t be taken back.” That’s right sweet little orange rhino, that’s right.

I proudly kissed his forehead and as he started tossing and turning, trying to get comfy, I did the same. I felt entirely uncomfortable in that moment. It had hit me that in just a few minutes, I had learned so much about what was going on in his world that I had no clue about. I am not going to lie; it stung a bit. Okay, a lot. I couldn’t help but to think of all the other sweet thoughts and stories and moments I have missed lately because of our mutual beastliness towards each other and my inability to step up and get us to a better place. I couldn’t help but to feel ashamed and disappointed. And yet, I also felt hope and happiness.

Hope that tomorrow would be a better day after such a peaceful, relaxed and much overdue conversation and re-connection and happiness that tonight I chose an intentionally long bedtime! Tonight I didn’t once think about the dishes or celebrity gossip or having a few moments of silence. Nope. Instead I thought about how sweet my son’s face still looks at age seven. 10.16.06 (5)I thought about how adorable it was that he was afraid to profess his love for his crush. I thought about how much I love talking to him and listening to his stories and thoughts. I thought about how much I missed him, how much I loved him.

And most importantly, I thought about how I would intentionally try harder to be more connected and less beastly, because that isn’t just what we both crave, it is what we both need.

Tears of Fear?

I just can’t stop crying today!

I just cried in the bakery, and then in our Pediatrician’s office and now I am crying as I write this. Or rather try to write this because I am so overwhelmed with intense gratitude, joy, and relief that I can’t think straight or, well, again, stop crying long enough to be able to type clearly! You see, today is a big day in our family, a big, big, BIG day!

Today, February 6, 2014, we celebrate our littlest man, #4, being seizure free for one entire year!

Today is a day that I never thought would come, that I feared never would come, that I so desperately hoped would come. And now it is here and an entire year of fear is pouring out of my eyes

Let me tell you this, it feels phenomenal to be letting go of fear; to be fully exhaling for the first time in 365 days (or at least feeling like it.) I feel like I have been holding my breath just about every single second for the last year, hoping, praying that the next second wouldn’t bring another seizure; that the next second wouldn’t bring me to my knees, watching the clock to know when to give the emergency medicine to stop the seizure, to stop potential damage; that the next second wouldn’t push me to yell to my sons to grab the phone and “bring it to mommy quick” so that I could call 911 and get my son oxygen immediately as we raced to the Emergency Room, again.

Today the only thing the next second is bringing is a smiling, laughing, and curious, two and a half year old acting like R2-D2 by walking around with a storage bucket over his head while making all sorts of beeping sounds. Okay, and it is also bringing a stubborn, mischievous, troublemaker, but that side of him doesn’t often faze me because I am just so grateful. So grateful that he never had another seizure; that he never received the final life long diagnosis of Temporal Lobe Epilepsy; that I won’t ever have to check “epileptic” on the thousands of school forms; that I won’t have to tell him, “Sorry babe, you can’t get a drivers license;” that I don’t have to worry that if I look away for one split second that a seizure will start and I will miss the opportunity to give him his emergency medicine on time, just as I did during the last one.

Yes, I am grateful for so much. But today, today I think I am most grateful for the tears for they are finally pushing all my fears and sad memories out of my heart. The tears are forcing me to finally feel all that I have felt for the last year and half regarding this matter but was afraid to feel because I felt I needed to be strong, and calm, and pulled together to manage the situation. The tears are bringing the traumatic feelings of having to watch my baby son seize numerous times, of having to watch his lips turn blue and his eyes become black and distant and gone, of having to then feel that it was my fault because I didn’t give him the emergency medicine fast enough and that is why his last seizure was so horrific, to my mind.

The tears are helping me to breathe a little easier and for that, I am so grateful.

I have lived much of the last year in a constant state of anxiety; anxiety that a seizure would strike, that the meds wouldn’t work, and that, well, that shit would hit the fan and my darling precious baby would suffer damage from the seizure. After all, that was starting to be the doctor’s concern. All of the doctors, even though none of them agreed on #4’s final diagnosis because he presented different than the norm, agreed that his seizures were too severe and potentially damaging to be left untreated. They all agreed that one more seizure and serious precautions would be needed. So I spent a lot of the last 365 days in a quiet state of panic, slowly counting down every day we survived, seizure free.

At first we went two and a half months, the longest period without a seizure. I jumped for joy. Then it was three straight months, and four and five and six. Soon I stopped counting because I felt safe, I felt that we were in the clear. Then September came, bringing the anniversary of his first seizure – and the beginning of germs season at school, a potential trigger for him. My anxiety increased; I just wanted to get through the sick season seizure free, I just wanted to get to today to say, “YES! We have gone one year seizure free!” because I knew if he did make it, that the doctors would feel that we were indeed, in the clear.

So here I am, here we are, in the clear and yet everything seems blurry because I am crying my eyes out over such immense relief that I can let go of my fears…and such intense love for my little guy.

* * * * *

So here I am, totally over emotional wondering if I should post this because it has nothing to do with yelling. But it does. I held my tears of fear in for over a year. While my fears might have been legit, holding them in probably wasn’t. I mean, it was a normal thing to do, but based on how good I felt today, how I finally felt free like I was me and that I wasn’t hiding anything, I wish I had let them out a little sooner.

Bottled up emotions do me no good; they just push up against me on the inside, day in and day out, urging me to open my big fat mouth with a huge yell so they can get out. I used to be really good at letting my emotions out; then I became worried what people would think of me. So I stopped. And I started keeping it all in, trying to stay together for the sake of opinions surrounding me. The truth? The four most important opinions to me (well five if you include my husband) are those of my kiddos.

I know bottled up emotions make me cranky and prone to yelling and probably create a not so high opinion of me at times. Sure, my kids are going to have not so high opinions of me at times – I am cool with that and welcome it as it probably means I am parenting right! But if I can prevent some of those moments by bottling up less and sharing more, I am going to do so. Today’s tears proved to me how much I have been holding in this past year. Yes, year. It is no coincidence this year was harder to yell less than the previous one where I shared more! So there is another reason I am grateful for my tears today: they have opened my eyes up to the fact that I need to start opening up more so that I can more easily yell less and love more.