Category Archives: Parenting

Golden Six

Another golden birthday to celebrate in our family – Jack is 6 on February 6! Six is pretty great – kids are just another thing that gets better with age (those of you waiting to tell me it also gets harder can just keep quiet). Six is also maddening – because stubbornness also seems to increase with age (now is the time the rest of you can tell me it gets easier). But, ups and downs as they are, I wouldn’t have Jack’s personality any other way.

Jack is:
1. spirited
2. witty
3. unapologetic
4. smart
5. tenacious
6. always surprising

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From day one, my sweet baby, you have never lacked for personality or gumption. The side-trip to the NICU was hardly a blip on the screen, as was the return three weeks later when you had RSV – where the nurse noted you were quite chatty (still makes me laugh because you and your brother are both such talkers I think that’s one of the main reasons you get on each others’ nerves – both of you wants to be the one talking). Your fighting spirit is truly one of your defining characteristics… much to my joy and chagrin because tenacity cannot be turned on and off and often you direct that spirit at your dad or I and Lord help us, you will wear us down.

And you are so very smart. Always wondering about things, never letting us give a fluff answer to one of your inquiries and forever remembering what we have told you in the past. We had your conference yesterday and the teacher was laughing because she had just sent me an email giving you a glowing review after a visit from a gymnastics place, telling me how you were worried about your little hand and not being able to do things but then you were even able to swing on the bar and you were SO PROUD and realized yet again that you can do things you thought were too hard; but the teacher was laughing because literally seconds after she sent me that email, you were sent inside from recess for punching a female classmate (who also happens to be our neighbor). So that’s awesome. I asked her not to tell me any more good things until the end of the year, but she shared that you were also doing so much better with controlling your bad behaviors and were making excellent social choices (recess punching aside). Your father and I suspect that you – while definitely always instigating things – are also a little bored with kindergarten and would like more challenges (unlike your brother who would like everything to be easy, thank you very much).

You make me so proud, amazed, crazed and happy – I cannot imagine life without you in it – so glad you joined us six golden years ago! Now go eat a slice of cheese, a banana and a pancake – you promised you would start eating those foods now that you are six and I’m going to hold you to it (or not – we’ll see who has enough fight in them). Love you mucho!
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Throw Back Thursday

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Remember when my sweet child removed the stuffing from one of our couch cushions… File that one under, that’s what daddy gets for taking a shower. Good times.

Speaking of good times, due to my lack of consistent blogging, I have been thinking about when I used to blog more regularly and thought that I would indulge myself with revisiting some of my favorite posts that you might have missed the first time around (because you might be new around here or the ramblings of my formerly Diet-Coke-fueled mind were just tempting enough for you to click through and read the first time around).

Posts that give you insight into who I am: Who is ememby

Categories that can tend to be entertaining:

Specific posts you might enjoy:

I mean everything I have written is totally worth reading so I’m not sure what you are waiting for… get reading, people. There are over 550 posts for you to catch up on!

A case of the Mondays

ememby_todayisgoingtobeawesomePoor Jack has been feeling out of sorts lately, fighting a bug I think, so today we are hanging out together at home while he gets to experience the joy of a sick day. Though I think that joy is lost on him… he’s not one to just lay around and do nothing for long periods of time (and in this house we apparently define long periods of time as anything over 10 minutes; which is as unfortunate as all three of my boys defining wake up time as any time before 7 a.m., including on weekends). Hopefully getting to stay home for the day will fix whatever is ailing him… starting kindergarten has been a big adjustment for him and though he doesn’t complain (about that), I think he needs a break from real life like any other person – yes, my five-year-old needs a mental health day.

Of course it is only 9:30 in the morning and we have many hours in front of us… someone might want to send us chocolate. And if this continues tomorrow, well, I tag Simon for staying home… that or tough love mom who sends her kid to school in the face of phantom, non-descript illness.

 

Letting you in on a secret…

ememby_differentawesomeJack is nervous to start school. My fearless child who never lets anything hold him back. Who counts past 800 and would keep going if I let him. My youngest who has displayed more stamina and stubbornness in his 5.5 years than I will ever hope to have in a whole lifetime. Mr. Full Throttle, Guns Blazing is nervous.

My fearfully and wonderfully made kiddo is anxious and I figured this out because a) he has been acting like a crazy cling-on child and b) he asked to wear a long-sleeved shirt when he visited his kindergarten class. As soon as he asked, my heart jumped into my throat because I knew why. Why, on a morning that was already warm and humid, my child who regularly runs around shirtless in the winter, was asking for a long-sleeved shirt. He wanted to “hide” his little hand, his lucky fin.

I have tried very hard to never ask him if he is worried or anxious about something because of or in regard to his little hand. Yes, we talk about it often but in the context of what he can do, or why other people (mostly kids) might be curious about his hand. I have never wanted to suggest to him that his hand should make him self-conscious or anxious or worried, especially if he never indicated that he felt that way about it. Sort of how we only know that the sky is blue because someone taught us the name of that particular hue, but if they had told us it was green – we would call it green until otherwise corrected, none the wiser. Clearly he knows his hand is different, but unless he tells me that the idea of it causes him worry, I wasn’t about to suggest that it should.

But now it appears that he is indeed worried. Which I sort of knew would be coming and actually his surgeon had said would probably happen when he entered school (and again in the teenage years) – that there would be some anxiety or uneasiness around that transition until kids got to know him (which can happen in minutes) or had sated their curiosity. It is 100% normal for people to wonder why he has one smaller hand. Oh, but I cringe just thinking of how that curiosity presents itself or will be phrased: “What’s wrong with your hand?” and those are the nicest alternatives… kindergarteners have a smaller vocabulary where “wrong” is rather benign when faced with options like strange, weird, gross or anything else negative (and the vocabulary will only get bigger and meaner as he grows – a future I pray for fervently; I know that bullying is not tolerated and that people take so many things in stride but stray comments and lingering stares are still bothersome to kids and as hurtful as anything overtly stated).

So when he asked for the long-sleeved shirt, I paused and then asked, “Hey buddy, are you worried about school and maybe anxious about your hand?” He asked what anxious meant and I told him it was like being nervous or not knowing what people would think or wondering if they would look at it. And he said that yes, he was anxious about it. And so I told him he could wear a long-sleeved shirt if he wanted but that people were only curious about his little hand because they didn’t have one of their own and maybe they wondered how he had one (reminding him again that I loved his little hand and that we are all different). And I asked him what he tells people when they ask about it and he repeated, “I just say, that’s how God made me. I was born that way.” And then we revisited the Lucky Fin Project’s Facebook page and I showed him pictures of the kids and adults on there who were going to school just like him and doing lots of other activities. I remembered that there was a post from Jordan at Born Just Right about her advice for kids like her going to school. So we watched the video and read her books that she gives to the kids in her class before she starts school. And once again – what a gift that community is to us! Jack didn’t change his mind about the long-sleeved shirt, but I could tell he was less anxious about it and more ready to face the day than he had been 15 minutes prior. (And after Jordan’s video, he asked to watch all the videos the Holderness family has created – they are super entertaining and we have watched them so very many times, but they have nothing to do with limb differences.)

I wish he wasn’t anxious about school in any way but I certainly wish he wasn’t anxious about his hand at the same time I also know it’s only natural for him to feel that way. Jack’s old enough to notice the stares (which quite frankly stink – it’s so much better to just ask a question rather than obviously stare) and he gets frustrated when he can’t do something the same way or as easily as his brother (like monkey bars – which can be done, it will just take perseverance which he has in spades). At his request, he and I both went and talked to his teacher together, with me guiding him to tell her what we’ve taught him to say about his hand. “I was born that way. It’s the way God made me.” And then he showed her that he can bounce balls and clap and do all the things any other kindergartener can do (this was right before he stole plastic coins out of her toy cash register). I will email her all the info I normally tell his teachers and we’ll go from there. We have prepared him the very best we could for the first day of school and I just pray that he makes a new friend or two quickly and isn’t held back by any thoughts of his little hand.

Ironically, his little hand really isn’t the first thing you notice about him. In fact, it isn’t something people always notice at all… it can take many months of seeing him before many adults take note. I think this is two-part, the first being because it truly does not hold him back – there is absolutely no “dis” in his ability, he is simply differently-abled when it comes to certain things like bike riding, monkey bags and swinging tennis rackets. And second, he does try not to draw attention to it – he certainly doesn’t introduce himself by waving his little hand in people’s faces and often tucks it behind him or up into his sleeve. On this last point, I’d love to see a change in him… I mean the kid doesn’t lack for self-confidence, so I’d love to see him more outwardly proud of that little hand – not hiding it when he’s in new situations.

It’s our job to keep building up that confidence and giving him opportunities where he meets others with limb differences or sees their accomplishments. We will keep giving him the vocabulary to talk about his hand and practice with appropriate responses to people’s inquiries. Sometimes we have to make stuff up on the fly, for example: One of the school-aged kids at daycare who both my boys are friends with so I am confident he had the best of intentions, asked Jack if he could give him a dollar to touch his hand. I get the other kid’s curiosity and frankly, one of my favorite things is feeling his little hand grasp onto my fingers because it is so unique. Jack didn’t seem bothered by this request, but since he was asking me about it, I knew he wasn’t certain it was okay for this kid to have asked. So I told him honestly, if he wanted to do that, it was okay with me that “Fred” wanted to give him a whole dollar for something as silly as touching his hand and I explained that he was probably just curious about Jack’s little hand because he didn’t have one and wondered what it was like. And then, God bless him, Liam piped up and said, “Yeah, he doesn’t have a cool little hand. I kind of like having a brother with a little hand!” Right or wrong, “Fred’s” request was not mean-spirited and what’s important is that Jack feel comfortable in these situations and how they play out. We take them as they come and figure it out along the way – which is pretty much the sum of parenting. No matter how many kids you have, they are all different – all with their own individual set of worries and differences – we need to love them and build them up so they can thrive and succeed. Our job is to make sure they know they are awesome – just the way God made them. Because the one thing we have in common is that we are all different.

One more week…

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School starts in one week. Well, technically 1 week and 1 day. And I gotta say, those 8 days cannot go fast enough. Try as I may to want to make the most of them because I know that once school starts life is different and crazy and filled with structure, must-dos and battles over homework, I’m also more than ready for a little break from all this togetherness with my precious children. I love them but we are all driving each other crazy.

We need time apart. And I know I’m not the only one who thinks this. The common refrain I hear (and echo) when I get together with my friends is, “Oh my goodness, are your kids driving each other (and you) crazy, too!?” The end of summer is near and we all know it.

Full disclosure: I sat on the couch yesterday, in tears because Liam was being mouthy (and generally 8) and Jack had refused to stay at my parents’ house as planned. I was disappointed to not have an anticipated break from my highly spirited and intense youngest child and mad at myself for feeling disappointed; and frustrated with Liam for not helping matters (because he was grumpy about not get a break at home from his brother). Simon was tired from having worked all day on a normal day off so I knew he was hoping for calm when he got home. We were all spent and feeling annoyed with each other. It’s not a great feeling to have as a parent, but it is inevitable, that much I know. I’m not the only one who has ever felt this way, not the first or the last… parenting is hard. [Yes – I’ve said versions of this before here, here and here.]

After a little time out, we regrouped and split the kids up and went on an outing. The evening ended up much better than the afternoon. And this morning I heard Jack telling Liam that it was the best day ever because I had told them they could play Wii and have candy before breakfast. Each day is a new day and while we are still ready for school to start, I’m no longer in tears and on edge (my kids are still driving me nuts and now there is a thunderstorm happening so George is losing his mind). But maybe you are and maybe you need a reminder – the list above is like my parenting mantra… the things I repeat to myself when I feel overwhelmed. Hope they help you and if you don’t need them now, you probably will at some point (if you click on the image you can download a printable PDF).