Comparisons hurt…. and they can do lasting damage

I chose to walk away from a group chat earlier today because people were comparing what their children could and couldn’t do. I find this really hard on so many levels. I feel like I’m having to justify why I feel like this.

In know society is full of comparisons and oneupmanship but that doesn’t mean I think we need to bring this on to our children. It is one thing saying you are concerned about your child’s development. It it’s another entirely when you feel you have to prove your child is as good as the next one or better. Each child will develop in their own time. Some will speak, some will walk. Some will write, some will perform. Some will love science, some will love music. Some will be all rounders. Some will have a very specific skill. Some will need help to get their development happening. Others will do it an looking time before their orders. All are perfect the way they are.

I’m also aware that maybe I’ve been blessed by my friend circles in the past or maybe just attitudes have changed more recently, but there seems to be less around celebrating the milestone, big or small, that your child has achieved, and more about have they done this thing by this date.

As a parent of two children with very different sets of additional needs I’m even more aware of the damage that comparing can also do to the mum. For a mum to hear than another child’s doing more and better than theirs it can be so painful and destructive to their confidence. The stress it can add to the parenting journey is huge.

As a parent, when your child is the one that’s not hitting the same achievements as other children the same age it is hard.  You start to doubt yourself, your parenting, your instincts. One thing I had to learn was that they do it when it’s right for them.

I was very blessed that the nct group’s I was part of with both of the pregnancies with my boys were incredibly supportive. Both groups celebrated the achievements if each child and joined one another in support rather than it being a big competition. In fact with my second son, they were all as keen as I was to set my son achieve the next weight gain! They cheered us both along.

Yes there are concerns that your child has “problems” and that that need help. But there are also people around to help identify that. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. You know your child. You know if they are happy. You know them and who they are. You are also the one that needs to champion them. You need to celebrate them and every little thing they achieve. Let them know that being them it’s very definitely enough. Being the best of themselves is all I ask of all my children.

I will always struggle hearing others comparing their children, because it highlights where I have a child who is different. I would much rather celebrate one child’s achievement, rather than the minute i hear “xxx can do this” i know that it will be followed by “well yyy can do this and this”. I’ve been told that it’s natural and i have up accept it will happen. Yes it will happen but that doesn’t mean i have to like it , agree with it, or participate in it.

Looking after me so I can be there for them

One of the things that I have realised over the last few weeks is that as much as I focus on keeping my mind healthy i’ve not been keeping my body healthy. I’ve used far too many excuses to cover the quantity of chocolate I can consume in an hour. I’ve had days of eating in secret, binging when I feel out of control and then hating the weight creeping up and the waistbands getting tighter. I knew that the only time I would ever actually make an effort to stop the bad habits was when I was ready and I wanted to do it for the right reasons.

It’s like any life change, you can only make them when you are fully in the right head space and fully motivated for the right reasons. In the last year I have seen people I have known many years, and very close to me in age, lose their battles against horrid illness. This has spurred me on to make sure that the time I have with the family is the best possible, and also to be the best mum and wife that I can be. To be this I have to take care of my body. So I have started a journey. It will not be a short one, it needs to be a life changing permanent journey.

I know from past experience that it will be a journey where I will deviate at times. I know it will be a journey where I struggle to put one foot in from of the other on some days. I know on other days I will be running down the road calling everyone to come and join me. It is a life journey. But I also know for me that this is also a faith journey. It’s me trusting God that He will be with me in the lows and celebrating in the highs.

In the last few weeks there have been some big waves rocking the boat that is “life” and instead of looking to God and my faith, I went to chocolate, slovenly behaviour and blaming others. I have to remember that there is a bigger plan and a bigger person that knows and cares and loves me. He loves me no matter what, but I know that I hold a responsibility to. And that responsibility starts with loving myself in a healthy way. I will be the best of me and my Heavenly Father is in that with me.

One piece of paper makes such a difference

Lonely

One of the things I have tried to highlight is how lonely the parenting journey can be when you have a child with “special needs”. I have been so grateful that I have had a couple of amazingly supportive friends who have been on similar journeys. It is a minefield and having friends who have had to walk some of the path before you is a real blessing.

Today we got a piece of paper that I never thought I would be happy to receive. We got the confirmation of our son’s Early Support panel hearing and that he is entitled to support. This will make a difference to his life and ours, both in what is available to him from professionals, but also when he starts school the support that the school will be providing. It also will help when we move. It shows that he’s already been assessed and is in the “system”. It means we don’t have to go through the lengthy referrals process for this part again.

I never thought I would be happy in having it confirmed that my child needs additional help from a young age, and that he has “significant and complex additional needs” but today I felt a degree of relief that my mummy instincts haven’t been wrong, and that my happy boy needed more support.

The next steps, when they are able to happen, will involve a lot more appointments, and time but it will be worth it.

Sylvia-Inspirational-Quotes

Frustrations and warmed by generosity

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I’m sure I’m not the only one for whom this image is a good depiction of when you are trying to just do a “normal” food shop at the moment. Not to stockpile or panic buy. Just to do a normal food shop.

For us, it hasn’t even been to do our main food shop – which is normally twice a month. This has just been as a result of trying to do a top-up shop and also to try and place my normal monthly online shop for delivery next week! As a result of stockpiling and panic buying, we have been struggling to purchase the bare essentials for our children to eat. What’s worse, is that these are mainly specialised foods – non-mainstream long-life milk, special flour, gluten-free bread. Free from chicken nuggets?! I know that there are others with allergies needing food, but we all shop normally and we always can buy what we need. For the shelves to be empty of these products it either means those with allergies are stockpiling, which from what I’ve seen in discussion groups is unlikely, or those without allergies are now buying the free-from products.

For us, this is not a case of we like to buy the more expensive, free-from options. These are the only foods we can buy without our young children getting really ill. And I know we are not the only ones who have been affected by this. There are friends around the country saying that they are struggling to buy the free-from products they or their children use.

But the flip side of this is we have seen a huge outpouring of love from friends and family as they try to help us source the food and milk we need. We have had deliveries just appear on our doorstep. Friends and family near and far stepping up to offer help. We are so grateful.

The other element we are having to face at the moment is a little boy who thrives on routine and his normality is having his “world” turned upside down. We all know these are for good reasons, but for children with various additional needs, these changes are causing huge problems. I know friends who are having to go into isolation with their children for 12 weeks as it’s for one of the family member’s best interests. I have several friends that this virus for them or a family member would likely be fatal. So we know these measures are necessary. However, for some of us, it is harder than others.

For us, this has meant we needed to set up a Lego play space for our little boy. As I have mentioned before, lego is the one activity that calms him and helps him focus. But with him sharing a bedroom with his 15-month-old sister, this is tricky. So for now, she will only go in their room for sleeping. We will keep her out of the room the rest of the time, as she is still frequently putting things in her mouth. This isn’t ideal, but we’re having to make things work.

I’m investigating online toddler group and activity sessions with songs etc so that we can watch to keep him engaging with others. Life is going to be a strict learning curve for sure.

I’m just asking that people moving forward stop and think about what they are doing, saying and sharing. Keep to the government facts. Stop and think, do you really need to keep an online shopping slot reserved every week for the next month? Do you have a neighbour that needs help? What can you do to make life easier for others?

Special-Needs-Lego-Therapy

Asking for help is totally ok!

Yesterday evening I read the sad news that Caroline Flack, a 40 year old TV presenter has taken her own life. While she made mistakes in life, the press and society seemed to make more out of her troubles than try to help her. And how many of us read the stories or saw the pictures of her falling around drunk?

But more than this…. why as society do we make it so hard for people to ask for help? She should have had everything to live for, but she also obviously felt like it wasn’t enough. It’s so hard to hold your hands up and say you struggle. I know that from personal experience. No, today I’m not suicidal, but 24 years ago I was. I was at that lowest point. And I didn’t know that I could ask for help. Society didn’t talk about mental health. In fact I was made to feel ashamed about taking an overdose. I was made to feel like I was the problem. It took another 20 years to be cold enough to start talking about my battles with anxiety and depression.

Being there at the lowest point, feeling like you have no other option, is a dark lonely isolated place. Unless you’ve been there it is hard to understand. People look at the life you project outwardly, and assume that that is the whole picture. They love the rose tinted perspective they see. Today it’s like the social media portrayal that people put out. Only show the best and the positive or the humorous bits.

But life isn’t like that in reality. Really isn’t black and white. It’s blue, green, pink, grey, yellow and many more colours. And while for you, yellow might be positive, for the person next to you it might be negative. Rather than assuming that they see what you see, take the time to stop and to smile and to ask how they are and what they see! Those words our actions might be the thing that changes their day from a negative to a positive!

And if today you’re the person who is feeling that the world is black, hard and pointless, then please also remember you are not alone and there are people to help. Life is a hard road to travel, but there are some amazing highlights even on the darkest days.

Small things that can do lots of damage

Yes I’m talking about words. What you speak can do so much damage. And the damage can last much longer than you ever realise. Knowing I’ve upset or hurt someone with my words intentionally or not plagues my mind for days. Similarly being hurt by the words of friends can take weeks or even months to go away. Or even if you think the hurt has gone, it doesn’t take much to resurrect it.

I know that there are times currently where I can be more sensitive to what people say, but I also know my closest friends are aware of this. But that hasn’t stopped people saying things without thinking. Little comments about how my children are dressed, or a mark on their faces or that I’ve not wiped their nose instantly could all upset me. It left me, and still can leave me, feeling judged.

But I’ve also witnessed how social media especially means words can be really damaging. I’ll never forget how it felt when I was single but desperately wanted not to be, and I had friend after friend posting they were “in a relationship with” or “engaged to”. And while I was happy for them, it could be hard to read.

Pregnancy announcements could be the same. Knowing how others could be hurting because of their own situations that you or I are not aware of made me be very cautious. And again while I will celebrate with friends in their joy, it doesn’t take away the pain. This pain, hurt, jealousy, etc isn’t new, but before social media it was easier to manage. You can only control to a point what you can see when you log in.

I do share on social media, but I choose who I share things with. Not everyone can see everything I post and that’s my choice. I choose who sees lots of images of my children. I choose who can see my blog post notifications. I choose what I post generally. And I carry the responsibility for those choices.

Commitment…as a wife, parent, friend, colleague

I’ve been thinking about commitment a lot over the last couple of weeks, as my eldest child turned 18. I made a commitment to him from the moment he was born that he would always come first. And I really hope that I’ve always kept that promise. That promise didn’t mean he always got what he wanted, or that he liked everything I said or did, but I meant that he was always a the forefront of my choices and plans.

And now that he’s turned 18, that commitment doesn’t end. And because he has 2 siblings that commitment doesn’t change. I have to change to adapt to putting my children and their individual needs first, and work out the compromises that need to be made. Within that, I also have my commitment to my husband. He is my best friend and my partner for life. He will be along side me long after all our children have flown the nest. My commitment to him is to keep investing in us through the tough times as well as the great times.

Anyone who truly knows me, will know that I give my 100% commitment to everything that I do. Be it friendship, work, hobbies, faith, life. That is a core part of who I am. As a result I don’t have a huge circle of friends, but those I have I give everything to. A lunch or coffee date will take priority as I give them my time. I know how much someone giving their time to me like that matters to me, so I value it when I give it to others too. Yes this can set me up for hurt, but it is a core part of me.

My commitment to my younger children means commitment to the menial tasks like making meals, sterilising bottles, providing them with a safe home environment, feeding them, clothing them. But it also means a commitment to being there forever. You can’t turn off being a parent just because they reach a certain milestone, but you can change how you relate and behave.

So take your commitments seriously. Especially to other people. You are probably unaware of how much others value it.