Brutal honesty and self-talk.

 

Someone sent me a quote the other day and I loved it so much that I put a paraphrased version of in my Instagram bio.

It says:

“Parenting is the most rewarding thing that has ever completely destroyed my sense of self.”

And those couldn’t be truer words for me.

I’ll strip it right back to the bones: “Parenting is the most rewarding thing

Yes. Absolutely it is.

It can give me chills (of the good kind) it can make me laugh and it can give me the greatest sense of accomplishment I’m ever likely to experience.

Watching mini versions of myself running around is amusing, wonderful, heart-warming but also somewhat frightening. When my child achieves something whether spectacular or a smaller personal progression, my heart swells with pride and I also get to feel some of that euphoric feeling they’re experiencing.

There is a part of me that takes ownership for their success and I become so happy for them that I feel as though I could almost burst. I pat myself on the back and mentally list off all the ways that I helped them to reach their goals and the emotions can be simply overwhelming.
When one of my kids succeeds – I feel as though I have finally done SOMETHING right in raising them and the self-talk is usually kind, compassionate and positive.

(But I do have this warped idea in my head that I will somehow be more acceptable to society when my kid is seen to be “one of the good ones).

And when one of them is hurting– I also go through similar pain to what they’re experiencing and it’s hard to separate my own feelings from the truth of the situation in front of me.

This happened a lot when my daughter as younger. She was bullied for a while in primary school – as was I – and it took me back to my own past hurts. To this day, I still struggle to be civil with the girls involved in tormenting her.

I was only chatting with her about this the other day and she told me point blank that I need to bury the past, get over it and move on. (She’s very different to me in this way. She’s a far less emotionally-led person than I am and a lot more matter-of-a-fact about these things).

And she was right.  If she has been able to forgive and get past this, why then can’t I?

Because: so much of my time and compassion and love was invested into helping her through the horrible years that I forgot where to draw the line between caring and taking it personally.

I believe that this is a common parenting mistake for a lot of mothers.

I’ve also done it with my boys concerning societal judgments on their behaviour (whether that was incorrectly perceived by me or the criticisms were real). I’ve gone all psycho-mum on educators, doctors and family members/friends when I’ve thought that my kids were hard done by or ripped off in any way.

I’ve stepped waaaaaay over that invisible line and I’ve come out swinging because my emotions told me that it didn’t matter whether I was right or not, it only mattered that I was seen to be fighting the good fight.

And now to the second part of the above quote: “completely destroyed my sense of self

To me, that means that the very same child that can cause me to reward myself with kind, compassionate and positive self-talk, can also cause me to hate on myself with toxic venomous judgmental words that I would never ever direct at another living person.

Like EVER.

Because I know that words can bring life or be a destructive force. I just don’t seem to value myself enough to withhold such harsh judgments from me.

Let me explain:

If my child doesn’t listen to me and shouts at me and calls me unspeakable names; instead of me just recognising that my child is being a jerk, I instantly blame myself for not having taught them better ways to manage their anger.

If my child gets in trouble at school; I’ll give myself a major dressing down because I tell myself that I probably should have better prepared them better for a situation such as this. I tell myself that I’m a failure and that I’m not present enough in their lives and that it’s all my fault that they’re being a dickhead.

The reality is that sometimes, they really ARE just being dickheads. And that’s a fact.

When my kids fight with each other, I reprimand myself and assume that they’ve only learned this because they watch their father and I tear strips off each other on a frequent basis, and I tell myself “Oh well Fi, I guess they’re only doing what they’ve had modelled in front of them for years”

 And it’s like a vicious cycle.

But the reality is that my kids are probably no worse than any one else’s kids. The difference is that I constantly compare myself to other parents and most of the time; what I’m seeing is only a small snippet of what really goes on in other households.

Or it’s what has been presented to me.

Because I’ve discovered that most parents just aren’t as candid as I am. Most parents only show the highlight reels and cover up all traces of them stuffing up when dealing with their offspring.

I get that, really, I do. I get that airing dirty laundry in public makes others uncomfortable and can sometimes make for some awkward conversations and predicaments. But I’m not talking about that. I’m not talking about hanging your kids out to dry (see what I did there? – the laundry reference?)

I’m not saying that we all need to compare horror stories online of what our kids have done wrong. I don’t think we need to shame them- especially publicly. Our job as a parent is to protect them- not tear them down. But admitting that sometimes we – as parents have missed it, or stuffed up, or even reacted in the exact opposite way to how we should have, doesn’t mean that we have failed as parents.

It just makes us real and honest. And that’s a very healthy place to be if it’s used correctly: to better yourself and learn from your mistakes.

I’m talking about the idea that social media seems to have purported that we are only allowed to show our successes and our wins. That we’re supposed to bury the messy, gritty and downright soul destroying parts of parenting down to depths never to be seen, and make everyone believe that we have are shit together and we are sailing along calm waters all the time.

Because all that THAT does is make parents like me second guess ourselves and wonder what the hell WE did so wrong to have to battle the situations that no one else seems to even understand, let alone live when the reality is that everyone of us have struggles but only some of us own them.

Most one-on-one conversations I have with other parents (particularly mothers) usually go along similar lines to this:  “Wow Fi, thank you for admitting that- I know EXACTLY what you’re talking about, I totally agree with you and your honesty is refreshing, I wish I could speak so openly about that but ….”

And then when I ask them why they hide behind their pretty pictures and captions they tell me that they’ve learned to shut up and ‘smile and wave’ as the saying goes. Just fake it and hope like hell that people are buying it.

And I think that’s sad. Really, really sad.  Because if you can’t be honest about where you’re at – nobody knows how to help you.

Occasionally I’ll have a day where I’m tearing my hair out, I’ve exhausted all my patience and have hit a brick wall emotionally when it comes to parenting. And sometimes on those days, I used to post a picture or quote on Instagram.

On those days, I could usually predict who would avoid me like the plague and who would comment, like and rally alongside me. I was usually correct in guessing the texts, DMs, and phone calls I’d receive and it never failed to amuse me when someone would passively aggressively post immediately afterwards a quote or caption that was intended to put me in my place.

Or worse: they’d make a point of coming and talking to me in person because they were “concerned” about my mental health and how I was coming across. A few times I was told that they were concerned about my children’s wellbeing. I can tell you that this is like waving a red flag to a bull with me – (don’t EVER allude to the fact that you think I’m an unfit parent just because I chose to be real).

It was like they were saying: “How DARE you use a social media platform to garner sympathy or whine about your life. How dare you be so forthright and in my face when all I wanted was to come on here and look at the pretty sunsets and happy families.

But I got rid of all those phoney followers long ago. I didn’t need their judgments (I’m harsh enough on myself!) and I have realised over the past few years that they were in fact the ones who were struggling the most.

I have been scared away from the internets on more occasions than I care to admit but gradually I am becoming a lot stronger and surer of myself.

The Case Worker I have just acquired has been counselling me and showing me how damaging my self-talk has been in the past and she’s been encouraging me to ‘give myself a break’.

I am learning to step back from any situation where I feel as though I have failed my kids and talk to myself as though I were talking to a friend. She’s having me roleplay and speak out my responses so I can hear for myself how damaging my own words have been all these years.

Here’s an example:

My little one was very sick last week.  But I missed all the cues and all I saw was the revolting behaviours and aggression during the days leading up to it. When his teacher sent him home with a spiking fever and a throbbing headache and sore throat- I suddenly realised that all his meltdowns and outburst were because he felt crappy and didn’t know how to tell me. His behaviour told me, but I wasn’t able to see past the shouting and the kicking and the defiance. It was autism 101 and I totally missed it.

My case worker asked me to imagine that my friend had called me and explained the above paragraph. She asked me how I would respond to my friend in that situation.

Easy.

I would tell my friend that it wasn’t her fault. That she is too close to the situation so was unable to see the signs. That she can’t be expected to get it right every single time but that it doesn’t mean for a second that she’s a terrible mother. I would tell her that she’s an incredible mum and that even realising in hindsight is awesome and that she should be proud of how far she’s come. I would tell her that I can see how exhausted she is raising these kids whilst working long hours and that she needs to give herself a break.

Lastly; I would tell her that I love her, that I’m always here for her and that I believe in her.

Self-talk.

It’s totally a thing, and my goal this last 6 months of 2017 is to learn to love and care for me better because no one else is going to do it.

If you’ve gotten this far- through the 2000 + words and are still reading; I thank you.

I hope this weekend is kind to you.

X

 

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Beginning to exhale 

Blogging about your children is an issue that has been a topic of much debate.
There is the camp that say that it’s ok and that it’s no one else’s business what you write because they’re YOUR children therefore your right, and then there’s the camp that is almost venomous in their opinions and attack any parent who chooses to write anything at all.
This second (and polar opposite) group often refer to the the afore-mentioned group as abusive and attention seeking while the first group see the second as do-gooders and the ‘parent police’ .

I’m somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.

I think that writing about your children is definitely a personal decision that needs to be discussed with your kids and it’s certainly not a right. I think that any writing needs to be respectful of the children and mindful of any possible future effects on these children. I also think that the children need to give their permission before anything is shared. And in the past- I have not done that.
I hold onto a lot of regret over that one.
We need to remember that one day they will be grown and there is such a thing as cached information and that it’s possible for anything that we share now to potentially have a profound impact on our kid’s futures.
I feel that it some ways I have crossed the line between wanting to protect my kids and the never ending pursuit of finding my tribe, the other parents out there who can nod in agreement and say ‘me too’.

I have read back on posts I wrote 5 years ago and cringed. Not because of what I wrote- but how I wrote it. Of how I let my own emotions and hurts override the maternal instinct to protect my kids and how I described situations that could now be seen as detrimental to my children.

A lot of the things that I have written when my kids were much younger were NOT written to garner attention or extract sympathy from readers, but simply to try to find other people ‘out there’ who get it.

Other parents who know firsthand what the emotions are that you can’t always necessarily describe and the parents who will stand beside you as you continually push impossible elephants up increasingly higher mountains.
But blogging can also be a place where triumphs are shared and troubles are halved because talking about those things that you’re struggling with can become less daunting and overwhelming when you have another parent offering up advice or ideas that you may not have thought of yourself.

But at some point over the years I learned to shut up and say nothing. I learned that a lot of people judge and a lot of people already have their opinion formed and that there’s nothing you could say or do that will sway them or convince them to see something they’re not willing to see. It’s not always malicious but sometimes it unfortunately is.

So in a way I allowed my heart to toughen up a LOT. I formed a protective barrier around it because I got tired of people walking out on me, and I got tired of other people (even other autism parents) judging me or gossiping about me because they couldn’t or wouldn’t understand what we have been going through or why I would write about it.

Fast forward to last Friday when I met with our new family case worker.
I spent 6 years trying to secure this for our family and I’d almost given up. Six long years of emotional blogging to try to release some pent up grief and to try to dig us out.

On Friday, I sat quietly around a large boardroom table that had a case worker, a senior case worker, a family referral officer and her senior manager sitting there taking notes and assessing ways that they could help our family.

Our family that is in crisis.
Our family who is held together by sheer determination on my part and by the grace of God.

The case worker had a thick file in front of them full of information that had led to us being here where we are right now.

It contained detailed reports from professionals in the medical as well as educational fields. Reports that would make most mother’s hearts rip apart and most families to go through similar emotional breakdown.
And during this meeting, I was required to let it all out.

I was required to describe everything with absolutely no details spared, with no ‘t’ left uncrossed, no ‘i’ left without a dot and no pages left unturned.
Because this was what was needed to enable the workers to put plans into place to help out family to find our equilibrium again.

The first thing that the social worker said to me was that I needed to be helped first.
Because a mother who has no outlet and no relief will not be able to function well enough to be the best mother that her children need. Especially when it’s such a difficult situation that you’re all in.
She knew from past communication from me that writing was what leveled me out and what I use as my therapy.

She knew that I have been avoiding writing for fear of backlash because of the nature of the events surrounding both of my boys and she advised me to keep the details I had shared with her off my blog and that I instead use her as my safe place to discuss these things.
But she doesn’t want me to stop writing altogether.

She wants me to continue writing the fictional novel I started years ago and publish the one that I completed already.
But I haven’t decided yet what to do with that. Because a part of me doesn’t want to share what was written from such a deep and personal place.
Part of me wants to keep the novel sacred because it was written semi auto-biographically and a lot of it mirrors what I was going on in my own heart and mind at the time.
So for now I’m going to sit tight.

But the good news is that for the first time in a very long time – I am finally able to exhale.

And that is worth far more than all the gold in the world.

Not that kinda mother.

img_7617There’s a certain kind of clarity that comes from being 40. Well, er – 41 actually but I’ve stopped counting. I have decided that I’m not going to get any older, Ima stop right here at this age.

Well, last year’s age, but you know what I mean.

And by clarity, I mean, self-awareness. I seriously could no longer care less what other people think of me.

Yeah, that’s a lie too. I WISH I didn’t care but my emotions preeeeetty much rule this girl.

Yep. Always have done- probably always will do.

And that’s ok.

Anyway – as I was saying, I’ve learned a lot about myself in these past few years and I’m gonna write about it here so I can read back on it the next time I’m in full blown self-hatred mode and rediscover why its ok to be me.

Firstly – I am aware that I am different to most mothers. I am not great at the whole example setting thing.

My teenaged daughter is usually the one telling ME to mind my language and it’s usually her asking ME to get a grip when I lose it. And my boys have seen me in a puddle of tears on the floor holding onto a glass of wine for dear life and then been there to comfort ME more times than I care to admit.

But here’s the thing: my kids know they could rely on me to be there for them no matter what happens, and that I will love them regardless of anything that they could ever say or do.

So I’m calling that a win. I’m not always perfect, but my love for them is.

I may not always operate in complete coping mode but I am capable of being what they need when they need it most and that’s what is most important.

I don’t always make the best decisions when it comes to parenting but I do always apologise when I stuff up.

That’s also important.

Secondly: I’m a better mother when I spend (a metric crapload) of time away from my kids. And THAT’S ok to admit too. It doesn’t make me a bad mother; it makes me real. Not all mothers want to spend every waking moment with their children climbing all over them and obsess about every tiny aspect of their children’s lives. We are all different. I for one go stir crazy when I’m not afforded enough “Fi” time.  And the result of that’s not fun for anyone. BELIEVE me. Working outside the home with long hours is what keeps me sane and helps teach my children the independence that they may not have learnt had they not have been forced into it. I’m not gonna feel guilty about that anymore either.

It’s wonderful that some people can post all over social media about how much they LOVE school holidays and simply ADORE having their offspring home and post album after album of beautiful photos of the amazing artwork, craft creations and outings they have done with the neatly dressed, intelligent, well behaved children, – but that’s not me (or my children) either.

No.

Not even close.

It’s taken me a loooooooooong time (and I’m not there yet) to be ok with the fact that I am not like those mothers.

I abhor craft, I don’t have an artistic bone in my entire body and going ANYWHERE further than the corner store with two autistic boys makes me want to stab myself because it is a hell that most people won’t ever fully experience.

And here’s why:

My kids have zero executive functioning skills. Know what they are? They are the skills that allow kids (or adults) to exercise mental control and be able to regulate themselves.  These skills are easily learned and eventually instinctive in neurotypical (or normally wired) individuals and most kids have them down pat by about ten years old.

And by self- regulate I mean, to be able to make decisions for themselves, to instinctively understand what is expected of them in public places and to know how to self-entertain, behave appropriately and in their own best interest.

Put simply:  because my boys are autistic and don’t yet have these skills mastered, a simple outing usually ends in one or both of my boys hitting/punching/kicking/poking/slapping each other in the nether region or screaming out something to the tune of:

“I’M BORED AND HUNGRY AND I HATE YOUR HAIR MUM AND YOU SMELL LIKE BUTT AND YOU’RE THE WORST MOTHER EVER BECAUSE YOU WONT BUY ME A NEW GAME AND WHY CAN’T I HAVE THIS CHOCOLATE AND WHY CAN’T I GO TO THE TOILET RIGHT BLOODY NOW AND WHY CAN’T I GO HOME WHERE MY PLAYSTATION IS BECAUSE YOU KNOW I HATE GROCERY SHOPPING AND WHY ARE YOU SITTING IN THE CORNER OF THE SHOP ROCKING AND SOBBING MUM WOULD YOU LIKE ANOTHER WINE?”

Or, you know, something like that.

And when I remind myself that most mothers stop dealing with toddler tantrums at around the age of 5 and that I am still dealing with them in 10 and 13 year olds I remember to stop comparing myself to the mum who took her four beautifully dressed children on a thirty six-hour car trip to see the beach on the other side of the country and stopped at every boutique café along the way because that isn’t – and will never be – my life.

Plain and simple.

It’s not even comparing apples and oranges but instead comparing apples with mutant kiwifruit cross bred with an exotic rambutan and bitter melon (they’re real fruits – google them).

But I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. Just don’t judge me for not being even close to having my ducks in a row.  In fact, living this ridiculously insane existence has afforded me a sense of humour that I never knew I had before, and it’s taught me to never ever EVER take anything at face value.

There is ALWAYS more going on in everyone’s lives than what they post on social media.

I’m learning not to compare my off-the-planet home life to Susie homemaker and have come to the realisation that not everyone is as brutally honest as I am.

I may scare a lot of people off with my honestly because it’s often confronting and raw and uncomfortable, but it also filters out anyone in my life who isn’t willing to stick with me through the darker days and has shown me who I can trust and who only wants to be my friend for what they can get from me.

So thankyou to anyone reading this because it means that you’ve stuck by me and I love you and appreciate you more than I could ever convey.

Have a great weekend all. I am spending mine taking my son to the hairdresser to fix up the home hair cut he gave himself (those darn executive functioning skills to blame again).  Or lack thereof.

Haha.

The rocking horse …

I’m a worrier. Always have been, it’s kinda my ‘thing’. I’m not proud of it, and next to my tendency to over share and to talk too much – it’s my most hated personal trait.
One of the things that has been bothering me a lot lately may seem small and insignificant to some, but I’ve struggled a lot with it and am still trying to figure out the best way to move past it. And that is friendships. Specifically- for my boys.
Lucas has been catching the bus home for a long time and whilst there were some teething problems, he seemed to be handling it quite well. But recently he has been coming home quite distraught and adamant that everyone hated him. It took a lot of directional questions and detective work on my part, but I finally got to the bottom of this alleged bus bullying and it was a hard one for me to stomach.

My boy in all his aspie glory took it upon himself to self-nominate as the ‘bus monitor’. Which, in plain terms means that he decided that snitching on all the other kids who weren’t following the rules was his personal responsibility.

So, any child eating on the bus was awarded a mark against their name in his notepad, as was anyone swearing, standing up or ‘being a bully’ and he took his self appointed job very seriously and carried his notebook into school every morning to report to the teachers what he had seen on the bus the previous day.

Clearly the other kids were not huge fans of this and the rest is pretty easy to figure out.

Lucas is turning ten this year, and sadly – his quirky little ways aren’t as endearing to other kids as they once were. Kids are quicker to point out his differences and he responds to this with aggression.

Sigh.

And then there is Harley.
I worked DAMN hard to get him this placement in an autism class and I stand by my decision. He needed this because he was drowning in mainstream and I truly believe he’s in the best possible place for the rest of his schooling. But that comes at a price.
And the price is socialising.
Since he has been in his placement, he is surrounded by other children with varying levels (for lack of a better word) of autism. And that’s great – but it’s also not.

Because at lunch and recess and sport and PE and pretty much every extra curricular activity that his class is involved in- he is surrounded by other children who also have massive social delays and enormous anxiety. They are all given the option to stay in the ‘safe playground’ (which is a concrete area with seating attached to the unit they attend) or to play in the ‘regular playground’ which is where the rest of the high schoolers hang out.

No prizes for guessing where they all end up.

And all of them ‘want ‘ friends, but none of them have any idea how to go about making them. And that’s sad. None of them understand how to initiate conversations and because they’re not choosing to mix with the rest of the school- they aren’t learning vital social skills to survive in the big bad world. This bothers me greatly.

As much as I want to wrap him up in cotton wool and tell him that he can stay my baby forever- I know that I am doing him a disservice by not encouraging him to do the hard things and teaching him those social skills that he will be expected to display one day in the workforce.

Harley comes out of school most days and talks animatedly about the boys in his class and what they did at lunch time and the games they played in class and he talks fondly of the other boys, but he has absolutely no idea how to foster friendships with any of them and truly believes that they aren’t his friends and don’t actually like him.

And I’m left wondering how to teach these skills to my boys when they only have each other and don’t really have any ‘typical’ friends to teach them about having mates or being socially appropriate etcetera etcetera.

I worry that this is my fault because I never involved them in any sports. (I offered but they weren’t interested). And I never forced them into play dates or social functions that they clearly didn’t want to attend.

I even stopped requiring them to go to church because the fall out afterwards from the sensory onslaught was becoming too much for ANY of us to deal with.

And because it’s ‘my thing’ to worry, I lie awake some nights angry with myself for not fixing any of this earlier – or some how preventing it and I beat myself up for being a crappy mother.

I worry that they are going to be dysfunctional adults and that I would’ve caused it through neglect. And then my mind starts to go places it shouldn’t.

Eventually I drift off into fitful sleep and wake up the next day drained and beyond tired.

But here’s the thing: I really do know better. I know deep down in my heart of hearts that this will all somehow work out.

Because they’re God’s kids and He won’t let them sink. They may go through any number of storms in their lives but He will always be in the boat with them telling those pesky waves to quieten down and the raging waters to calm.

Like He does for me.

All. The. Time.

As my dad used to say: “Worry is like riding a rocking horse. You can ride it like crazy but it doesn’t actually get you anywhere, all it does is wear you out and steal your joy”. 

I just need to be reminded occasionally.

My girl was the cutest little rocking horse rider you ever did see

Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

You raised me right.

Hey Dad,

You would have turned seventy this month. That’s right 7-0.

Seventy on the seventh.

I still remember your face when your walked into the restaurant for your surprise 60th that Mum threw for you.  I remember the tears of gratitude that filled your eyes as you looked around the room and saw all your family and friends sitting there just to celebrate you. I never imagined that it would be your last big party.

To be honest – I am still pretty angry that you had to leave us.

I know that eight years on people are probably thinking that I should be past the anger stage by now, but every now and then it comes in like a giant tidal wave and completely wipes me out with such intensity.

And I never ever see it coming so I’m never fully prepared.

I never used to swear this much. And I never used to struggle with the massive anxiety that I have had ever since the strongest and most loving man I ever knew closed his eyes for the last time on this earth.

Death really sucks big ones.

Right now, it’s Sunday afternoon and I’m sitting in my driveway in my car that’s got an empty petrol tank that I couldn’t be bothered filling.

The engine is on and I expect it to die very soon but I need the air conditioning turned on because I can’t open the windows due to the shouting I’ve been doing, and the manic banging of my fists on the passenger seat in total frustration.

Its all slightly insane but oddly cathartic to be so geographically close to my family but so far away emotionally.

They haven’t found me yet and I’m not ready to go inside and adult or parent. I want to get this out of me before I explode and end up hurting someone else by reflex.

The grief is crippling me at this moment and I just don’t know what else to do with it so I’ll scream until I lose my voice or one of the neighbours calls the police.

I kid of course .. Writing to you is calming me. It’s helping me feel heard and valued.  It’s allowing me to purge this anger a little and make room for the peace that my soul craves.

I’ve become a bit of an expert at pretending, but Mum knows the truth. She wants me to go and get some grief counseling.  But I just don’t know that I can ever trust another counsellor again after the marriage counselling went catastrophically badly and almost ruined me.  Ruined us – ruined my hope and my belief in human nature.

I want to go back on the medication that I despise because I need to once again be numb.

I need to not feel so much and I need to be able to function again.

I’m going to be ok Dad, don’t worry about me.

But I would give anything to have you put your arms around me one more time and tell me that ‘God’s got this kiddo’.

Because Sunday’s are always the worst day of the week for me. I just can’t do church anymore – I can’t keep pretending for the sake of not making other people feel awkward at my outbursts.

So I’m going to sit here in this hot car and wait for Jesus to come meet me where I’m at.

Because that’s what you would have told me to do. Because you raised me right .

I love you. I always have and I always will.

image

This was your 40th dad. The age I am now

 

Guilt

Mother guilt is pretty much a given when it comes to motherhood. Its just a part of the whole deal.

I’ve had my fair share. Sometimes it comes from pressure that I put on myself and sometimes in comes in the form of comments from other people, friends, family or even the kids themselves.

I try to maintain a healthy work/home balance but I’ll be the first to admit that I’m actually pretty crappy at it. In fact – I totally suck at it.

I have spent the past I don’t know HOW MANY years advocating for Harley and trying to get him the help that he needs in the school system at any cost.

I did everything I could think of to help him manage better at school and spent years paying for countless therapists to try to encourage some sort of progress on paper, but all I kept seeing was a defeated and sad little boy.

He has always struggled to read, to write and with maths. Actually, he has battled with pretty much every element of school life. The socialising would still be the part that he has the most difficulty with but being that he is autistic- that aint about to magically change anytime soon.

We were driving to school last week when he oh-so-casually mentioned to me that his teacher suggested that he gets his eyes tested because she noticed him squinting at the board and also at his workbooks.

“How long have you had trouble seeing honey”? I asked him.

“I’ve never really been able to see much” he replied.

Um. Ok.

So I took him to the optometrist that very afternoon to learn that he also has the beginnings of the same eye condition that has plagued me for most of my life (but hopefully it will be able to be corrected in time so it doesn’t reach the point that mine have).

Blind as a bat I believe the technical term is!

And to think that it didn’t even occur to me to get his eyes checked – cue the mother guilt … in spades…

I took the afternoon off work today to go with him to collect his new glasses and was almost in tears as he excitedly skipped through the shopping centre reading out every shop sign and describing to me everything that he was seeing in great detail.

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I asked him on the way home why he hadn’t told me earlier that he couldn’t see well and his answer damn near broke my heart.

“Because I just figured that everyone else was seeing the same as me but I thought I was dumb and that they were just smarter than me.”

I glanced at him in the rear view mirror and noticed him look down at his feet.

“Plus, I didn’t know what to say to tell you Mum. I couldn’t find the right words to describe it, and I knew that you have to work really hard for our money and I didn’t want to waste it on glasses because I know you can’t really afford it”.

I was gutted.

Sure, I’ve had to say no to the kids a lot lately because bills often eat up the majority of my pay, but I had hoped that he knew that I would’ve done whatever it takes to get him what he NEEDS.

But I managed to sit him down this afternoon and explain that I will always find a way when it comes to my kids. And that I was so super proud to have him as my spectacular spectacles buddy.

 

One minute of every day

In line with my previous post about looking after ME, I downloaded a fancy new app called ‘YOU’ and I’m absolutely LOVING it!
The basic idea of this app is to record by photographs small daily changes that you are making to your life for the better. You can make your posts private – like a personal visual diary, or public (like I have) where people from all over the world can like or comment on your personal growth pics.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “Great, it’s another social media platform that’s no different to Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook or even Twitter. Why do I even need this?”

Well, the truth is : You don’t. But the purpose of this app is to empower people and to help them to be the best YOU that they can be by helping you to create and achieve micro goals.
From my personal experience – most social media platforms tend to bring our people’s competitive sides and posts can sometimes turn into an ‘keeping up with, and running ahead of the joneses’ battle. I jumped off that comparison train a while back because it used to do my head in.

I deleted my Facebook and Twitter accounts years ago. I simply couldn’t deal with the crap that seems to go hand in hand with social media.

I still have Instagram and I’m very particular over who I follow and who I allow to follow me. It’s part of the ‘looking after me’ policy that I’ve adopted.

This app appeals to me mostly because in the about section it says:

Don’t ‘photo stress’. It’s not a photo competition so don’t feel pressured – life is not always picture perfect!

And there are even “7 commandments of the YOU app” that stresses that the app is not a competition. It tells you not to focus on commenting or liking other people’s posts but to remember that the purpose of the app is to help YOU.

It points out that participation is a choice and not expected every day and that they recognize that it’s easy to become overwhelmed when feeling like you have to post every single day. It encourages you to stop and take the time to reflect and think about your goals and encourages you to share anything that you’ve learned about yourself that may help someone else.
Today I posted pics in the categories of MOVE, LOVE, TAKE A MOMENT and FOOD.

 

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I think this app is going to be a wonderful tool for me to continue taking the baby steps that i need to take for personal growth this year.

Why don’t you come me join me?

Simply download the app onto your smartphone and come find me!

My profile name is – Hey_its_Fi

And my account looks like this:

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Hope to see you over there soon!

 

Being Kind To Yourself..

20121123-222717.jpgI’m not one for making New Years Resolutions; I never continue them past the first week of January anyway. Declaring publicly that you are giving something up or starting something new is a sure-fire way to make a fool of yourself or end up disappointed when you ultimately fail.

Ask me how I know this 😉

Besides, I already know of several areas in my life where I need to make changes. God has been speaking to me gently about them for a while and I have also got some friends around me who aren’t afraid to be honest with me when they see me battling hurdles in my life. These friends are few but they are consistent and they speak life into me when I’m struggling and love me no matter what season I’m in.

I’ve always thought that self-harm was cutting, overdosing or physically damaging yourself in some way, but lately I’ve been made aware of the fact that self-harm actually refers to anything that you’re participating in that is causing you injury whether it be physical, emotional or mental.

And I’m the worst at self-sabotage.

I frequently say yes when I really want to (and should) say no, I eat what I know is going to make me ill (I have a list of known food intolerances as long as your arm) and I allow myself to be persuaded into being places I don’t want to be.

The downward spiral continues when I start to hate myself for being weak (again) and I push myself until I end up an emotional basket case and no good for anything or anybody.

Life is always going to throw curve balls at me, and people will always disappoint me – I can’t do a damn thing about any of that. But what I can change is how I view ME and how I treat ME.

Over the course of this year I have many long-term goals, physically, spiritually and emotionally.

Physically I’m looking at gradually eliminating meat, processed foods, dairy, sugars and alcohol from my diet, fine-tuning my eating habits and getting on top of my many food intolerances.

I want to improve my running; both distance and style and I’d also like to work at losing a bit of weight, toning up and strengthening my body.

Spiritually I want to set aside more time to spend with my children and with Jesus. I want to rearrange my priorities and make room for miracles and blessings to occur and I want to teach my children by example about having hope.

Emotionally I want to learn to be kinder to myself. I want to learn how to say no when I need to, how to stand up for myself and how to stop taking crap from other people because I think so little of myself. I also want to set aside time each week to write. I process better when I do this and I find it incredibly cathartic.

 I know that life isn’t always going to be easy and it’s a pretty overwhelming and exhaustive list of changes that I want to make in my life, but I don’t intend on doing everything all at once.

I haven’t even set dates as yet as to what I want to achieve by when or even how I plan to go about reaching those goals, but I have set myself the baby step goal of doing one thing per day that is just for me and just because I deserve it.

Today’s baby step was coming home from work, running myself a bubble bath and drinking a healthy smoothie made from fresh fruit and almond milk.

Tomorrow I am visiting a beautiful florist and I am buying myself a massive bunch of roses and coming home to do yoga and weights in front of a romantic movie.

I’m being kind to me. I am choosing to value myself. This is going to be MY year, I am going to look after myself and I am going to shine.

What’s your 2016 going to look like?

The gentle voice of teaching

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I love my Mum so incredibly much.

Today is the day that my mum has to go into the city to see a specialist about her lungs. She’s been sick since last November and hasn’t been improving very much at all. The doctors that she has been seeing in her country town have performed every test under the sun but it’s time to go and get the big guys to take a look.

Hence today’s appointment.

To say that I have been worried sick is an understatement. There’s something about losing one parent that makes you all that more concerned when it comes to the health of the other one. Especially when they are quite unwell.

Originally, I’d planned to go to the city with Mum on the train to keep her company. I had also intended to be her support whilst talking to the doctor. It’s always a good idea to take someone else along with you to appointments like these because the other person often hears what you don’t through emotions etc.

I know that when I walked out of the very first appointment with my neurosurgeon, my husband heard: “I have performed this operation several times before and although I have complete confidence that everything will run smoothly, I am legally required to tell you about possible side effects of this kind of invasive surgery”.

Whereas all I heard was: “You could die, or become paralysed”.

See what I mean?

But my Mum isn’t a worrier like me. She honestly has complete trust in God that He will bring her through this smoothly and without drama. I want to be just like her when I grow up, and I think that me wanting to be with her was more about what I wanted, than being about her to be honest.

Right now, I am so annoyed that things didn’t pan out the way I had planned them to in my head. You see – Paul was supposed to take the day off work to mind the children so I could go with Mum. But he ‘forgot”, and the prospect of taking the boys for a long train ride, a 5-6 block walk and then 2 hours waiting in two different doctor’s surgeries didn’t exactly thrill me so I’ve opted to stay home with them instead.

I was stomping around the house (like I always do when I’m cranky) and asking God why He didn’t slap Paul about and make him see sense. I wanted God to let Paul know how much I was depending on him, and how much he had let me down. (Again!)

I was literally throwing plates in the dishwasher when God gently spoke to me and said: “So, your plans were changed by factors beyond your control. Things didn’t go the way you had planned them to.”

“Like I’m surprised” I answered bitterly. “That man only EVER thinks about himself, he never considers me or the kids and I’m so sick and tired of it ” I mumbled.

Then God asked me: “So, what are you going to do about this? Are you going to let it ruin your entire day? Are you going to allow this to steal your joy and make you miserable or are you going to choose happiness, seek joy and realise that sometimes things go awry and end up out of your control?”

 I knew exactly where this was going.

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I’m striving to be a gentler and more compassionate mother.

My thoughts shifted to my son Harley.  I realised that every day, he is thrown into this type of situation. Every day, he is faced with the unknown. Frequently plans are changed with short notice, I make impulsive decisions (because that’s the way I am) and predictably – his autism causes him confusion when things don’t go the way that he had predicted that they would go.

Most days he acts out with bad behaviour and questions me constantly on ‘what’s happening next’ in an attempt to gain some understanding as to what to expect for his day. But often I snap at him to leave me alone and will change my mind at the last-minute and just expect him to accept it and get over it. I chastise him for being so explosive and tell him to build a bridge.

I can be a really mean mother at times and I’m not proud of it. I knew I had to make things right and change my stinking attitude.

Yes – I had been let down by my husband and was extremely put out as a result, but I knew that the remainder of the day was going to go in the direction that my choices led it. So I went and made a cup of coffee and sat out in the sunshine for a while and listened to some music until I had calmed down. I made the choice to make the most of today. My heart is heavy at the moment due to other things that are happening in my life. But how blessed am I that Jesus doesn’t chastise me when I fail like I chastise my own children?

I am so thankful that He gently convicts me of shortcomings in my own life and then shows me how I can fix them and move on. And THAT’S the kind of mother that I am striving to be for my children. I am not going to allow my own messed up heart and emotions to ruin them.

Proverbs 15:1

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Class of ’93 – preparing for my 20 year high school reunion.

These days, I look in the mirror and I don’t feel as old as my reflection tells me that I am. I see the lines, the grey hair, the crooked smile and the dropped face yet I still feel as though I am in my mid-twenties.  There are other days where I feel like I’m fifty, but twenty-nine is the magic age that I’ve decided that I am going to be every year from now on. I’ve even got my six-year-old son convinced that this is my real age and I’m surely not going to ruin that with the truth anytime soon!

But the fact is, I am only weeks away from my 38th birthday. Later this year I will be attending my high school 20 year reunion and I can’t decide how I actually feel about it.

This photo was taken the same weekend that I went to my ten year reunion. This baby is almost 10 and this girl is 13!

This photo was taken the same weekend that I went to my ten-year reunion. This baby is almost 10 and this girl is 13!

I went to my last reunion in 2003 and I was thinking today about just how much has changed in my life in just ten short years. At the last reunion, I had just celebrated my fifth wedding anniversary, I had an almost 4-year-old in Ella and Harley was only a few weeks old. I remember trying to find an outfit that covered my post baby belly to attend that night and worrying myself stupid that everyone was going to think I’d gotten fat.  Which is actually quite amusing to me now, because if I could have known then what the next ten years of my life had in store for me, I would have realised that it was such a small and insignificant worry in the grand scheme of things.

For example;

I could not have known that I was going to be diagnosed with a brain tumour almost 12 months to the date from that reunion, or that I would need to wait for a donor to receive a corneal transplant nine months later. I could not have possibly have imagined that I would have another son and that both of my boys would later be diagnosed with autism causing my world to momentarily come crashing down all around me.

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I can still clearly remember getting ready to out that night ten years ago. I remember sitting on my parent’s couch breastfeeding my little boy and calling out instructions to my best friend who was in the kitchen playing with my little girl. She and her husband had come over for the night to babysit because ironically enough – both her Dad and my Dad were attending their own high school 40 year reunion in another town the very same night!

“Make sure she’s in bed at a decent time, and there is a bottle of expressed milk in the freezer if Harley wakes up. I’ll be home at ten to feed him again”. I called out to her. She stuck her head around the corner and nodded telling me to go and enjoy myself.

I looked down at my little boy who had fallen asleep in my arms and kissed him on his forehead. I was deeply in love with him and this was going to be the very first time that I had left him alone for more than half an hour.  I knew that I could trust my best friend with him so I handed him over and skipped out the door not knowing that this precious little bundle would one day rock our little worlds.

The conversations flowed easily at the reunion, I saw people I hadn’t heard from in the entire ten years and caught up with people who I’d actually forgotten all about! (You have to remember that this was all pre-Facebook, so most of us had no idea what each other had been doing since school.)

“So what do you do? What have you been up to the past ten years?” I was asked over and over again.

Each time I smiled and explained that I had just had my second child and that I was taking 12 months off. I chided myself for not having anything worthwhile to tell them even though everybody seemed satisfied with my answer. I remember leaving the reunion feeling like a complete loser and I felt like I hadn’t achieved anything to boast about. I mean, some of my classmates had travelled to far away and exciting places.  Some had completed many years at university and most were established in flourishing and exciting careers. I was envious and embarrassed that all I had managed to do was work a few casual jobs, get married and pop out two babies. I felt pathetic and as though I couldn’t measure up.

As I was remembering all of this today, I marvelled at how much water has flowed, no, FLOODED under the bridge since then. I thought about how I was pushed off a short

So much has changed in ten years. My baby boy is almost ten! And I guess I've grown up a little too ;)

So much has changed in ten years. My baby boy is almost ten! And I guess I’ve grown up a little too 😉

plank into a sea of unknown that came with Harley’s autism diagnosis. How I had just managed to stay afloat on the tiny island I’d fashioned to keep me safe from the sharks in the water below and how that small island disintegrated beneath me when my third child was also diagnosed. I remembered how long those pesky sharks nipped at my heels every time that I would have a bad day and start to sink again into the murky depths.

Although I have now completed certificate III in education support and am about to start certificate IV, I still have the exact same employment history that I did at my ten-year reunion, so unless I land the perfect job in the next few months, I won’t have any impressive vocational stories to share or achievements to boast about.

But as I sat thinking today, I also considered how things such as my weight, my education and my employment history have lost a lot of the power that they once held over me. I realised that in my quest to be the best autism mother that I can be, I have allowed this journey to take precedence over all those past ideals and that none of it actually holds any major significance to me anymore.

I am who I am. I am who I am supposed to be.

I was meant to be an autism Mum.

While I have many days where I’d happily trade the long nights, the angst ridden meltdowns and the unexplained outbursts, I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t experienced all these things. I get exhausted from deciphering grunts and groans and the aggression that is directed at me I could happily do without, but these moments have shaped me. They have helped me to become more compassionate. They have allowed me to view the world through lenses that I wouldn’t have had the privilege of looking through had I not been sent down this path.

These moments have helped me to find my inner voice and taught me to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. They have shown me how imperative it is to advocate for acceptance and how to teach society why change needs to happen.

And my little girl ain’t so little anymore

If this wasn’t my journey, I wouldn’t have met the amazing fellow autism parents that I am now in contact with, and I probably would have taken a lot longer to figure out why I am here on this earth.

I uttered the words ‘I hate autism’ as recently as last night because some days it is overwhelmingly lonely and difficult raising special children like mine but even so – I am thankful that I get to be their Mum.

And although I worry ‘less’ about my weight these days, I am still in possession of female hormones and scold myself with every piece of chocolate that I pop into my mouth leading up to this reunion. I look at my goal dress hanging in the wardrobe every so often and sigh heavily with regret. But then I remind myself that what I look like does not define me, but what I am, what I say, what I do and what I believe in are what matter the most.

And my Lucas makes 3! He is almost 7.

I believe in my kids. I believe in lovingly teaching them to believe in themselves and encouraging them to be the best that THEY can be no matter what. I believe in teaching them that there’s nothing that they can’t do and that they are every bit as important as the next person.

I’ve decided that I am in fact excited about this upcoming reunion and that I will wear whatever fits me on the day. I will proudly admit that my life is far from perfect and I will walk away from there with my head help high knowing that I am living my life in the best way that I know how.

I am living that life with nothing more than good old-fashioned love.