Thursday, March 3, 2016

Raising My Spirited Child

Today I'm not here to talk about crafty things or home decor. I've hesitated to even talk about this situation beyond my closest friends, but it has been weighing so heavy on my heart. I haven't been blogging or even doing many projects because my mind has been constantly elsewhere. So today I'm going to let it out. 

This is my three year old daughter, Roxie. 

Over the last three months, Roxie has been kicked out of two different daycare programs for her aggressive and violent behavior. I don't share this to cast a negative light on either center. They had to make the difficult decision to expel her, and they both worked as hard as they could with the tools they had to help her. They loved her too. 

But now it has become clear to my husband and me that Roxie has some serious behavioral problems and needs more specialized care. 

It's hard to admit. It's hard to admit that I am embarrassed. I feel this tug between doing what's right for my kid and feeling that I've somehow messed her up, turned her into a brat who hits other kids. I'm ashamed when she pulls other girls' hair and pushes them down. That is never okay. I'm embarrassed when she goes limp in the grocery store, screaming like a wild animal in the throes of another meltdown. It's scary and frustrating when she sprints away from me in a parking lot or crowded mall. 

And also... I'm jealous. I see your well-behaved children trailing after you in Target. I see their neat clothing and perfect hair bows. I'm jealous of the confidence in your shoulders. You know your kid won't try to escape as soon as her feet hit the floor. You can even walk a few paces ahead of her! I'm jealous when I see those same children participating happily at preschool, standing in line, fingers on lips, minding the teacher. I'm jealous that you never get a phone call to pick up your child early because her meltdown has completely disrupted the day and no one can calm her down.

And before you suggest various disciplinary strategies or that she "just needs her butt wore out," hear me out. We do discipline. Till we're blue in the face. We prep and coach her about appropriate behaviors before we leave our house and before we arrive at our destination. Roxie spends a LOT of time in time out until she can calm the raging storm of emotions and input that sent her into the meltdown in the first place. We have been known to give her spankings, though we have learned the hard way that it only whips her further up into a frenzy, prolonging the screaming and the fit. We don't understand how to teach her not to hit others by hitting her (and let's leave it at that).

Roxie at her best is spirited, intense, persistent, sensitive, and so high energy. At her worst, she is anxious, slow to adapt and straight up out of control. In the middle of typing that sentence, she crawled sweetly into my lap, then knocked my very full coffee cup onto the keyboard and floor. 

This is my life every day. I never know if she will wake up happy and compliant or if the day will be one big, long fight. I don't know what she "has" or where she will go for childcare now. 

We have been to a developmental medicine clinic to see a pediatrician who specializes in behavior problems. He diagnosed her with an "unspecified anxiety disorder." We saw a licensed counselor who, after one hour of knowing my daughter, recommended medication for ADHD. I have read a lot, a lot of books.

There is so much I don't know, and I don't have a happy ending to share today. I am posting this mostly as a way to move past my shame and embarrassment. I know my husband and I are doing all the things for our kid. We are working hard and seeking out the best ways to help. Yes, her behavior still sucks a lot of the time, but we have nothing to be ashamed of. I am posting this as an explanation to everyone who sees us, whether you know us or not. I want you to understand that you might see my child watching my iPhone and eating marshmallows in the shopping cart at Wal-Mart, but what you are really seeing is a reward for not hitting anyone that day. We are taking baby steps over here. Last, I am posting this as a form of accountability for myself, as a reminder to keep my head up. I want to re-read this post in six months or a year and think, "Look how far we've come."

13 comments:

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  2. Just know you are not alone just brave enough to admit it. My mom went through the same thing with my brother when he was a child. He was so hard to handle at times that even family members uninvited us to family events. Back then no one talked about and always blamed the parent. It hit my mom hard because she was a single mom of three trying to survive. I write this to tell you that never count yourself short and remember God never gives us something that he doesn't think we can handle. Also there is always a rainbow at the end of the storm. My brother grew up to be a very respected man in our community and also a leader in my very large family.
    Thank you for sharing your story, I hope it helps lots of mom's going through the same thing.

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    1. Thanks, Nicki. That's why I wanted to just get my feelings out. Sometimes I feel the judgment like your mom must've-that I'm not doing it right or I'm not doing enough, and that just is not the truth. People need to give all the mommas a break!

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  4. Oh my God it is the toughest part of being a parent when your child is so highly strung. My boy is almost 6. When he was Roxie's age he always always ran away from me when we went out. One time he opened the front door and ran all the way out of our housing estate and out to the busy road.
    His playschool made me stay at playschool all day every day for months!! It was awful.
    It was hard to accept that he is the way he is and every single night myself and my husband discussed his behaviour and what we should have could have done to handle whatever situation arose better. In the end I saw a child psychologist and she helped me to understand that when he is worried (which is a lot)that is when he is angry.He has all this worry inside him and the only way he can release is through pure violent angry outbursts. He is actually a little sweatheart. He just thinks deeply and worries himself so much. We have come a long long way since playschool. He goes to school now and his teacher adores him.He never ever acts up in school.He can still be anxious and he still has outbursts but nothing like how uncontrolable it was a couple of years ago. Shopping with him is still an absolute nightmare but I avoid shops where possible.
    Don't drug her that is completely unneccesary.Go find a play therapist is my recommendation. Read raising a spirited child.
    Don't despair. You are the mommy she needs.

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    1. Thank you! Being a parent is for sure the hardest thing I've ever done! I hope we can see this same kind of improvement in a few years!

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  5. I have three high energy, high spirited boys who were and sometimes are still up to something. They are almost 22, 19 and 16. Listen to me when I tell you to keep the faith. You can do this and every loving moment you invest in your child will pay off. Do what you know works and change what doesn't. It may all be different six months from now anyway. Remember always to stay focused on the outcome, especially on the difficult days, and the outcome is to raise a capable, and hopefully kind and loving adult. Find her strengths and cheer them on. Find your strengths too and salute yourself as well. Some days you'll soar. Some days you'll get by the best you can and some days it's best to remember there's always tomorrow. Praying you find the support you need and the people who can help your little one shine.

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    1. Thank you so much! That is my prayer too. I know she can do so much, it's just a matter of finding the right place and the right people who have the tools to help her!

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  6. Just out of curiosity, have you had her tested to see if she's on the autism spectrum? Or if she has a sensory disorder? My cousin that I babysat for Years would have these horrific meltdowns and would yell, kick, scream, throw things. We used to have to hold her tightly until she calmed down or she would hurt herself and someone else. It wasn't until several years later they diagnosed her with a mild form of Asburgers and a sensory disorder. Once we had the diagnosis we were able to do different things that helped her control her emotions. It was tough. She's 16 now and an amazing teenager though still has outbursts sometimes. It's worth looking into. Just know your an awesome mom and God gave Roxie to you because you are the one she needs. God bless and good luck.

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    1. When we went to the Developmental Medicine Clinic at Children's (sometimes referred to as the Autism Clinic since that's a huge part of what they do there), they observed her and did not think she is on the spectrum. I've also asked them about a sensory disorder, but they believe her meltdowns and bad behavior all have to do with her temperament and the anxiety. And we're watching her for potential ADHD when she's older.

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  7. My youngest sister was very difficult when she was little, to put it nicely, & NOTHING seemed to work. Not time out, not removing privileges, not corporal punishment, nothing. She was finally diagnosed as ODD (oppositional defiant disorder) & ADD & they put her on Ritalin. Idk if it was just the point in time or what, but nothing seemed to help & she's had a LOT of ups and downs in her life since. I think that if my parents had been more open to seeking help at an earlier stage in her life, like you guys have with Roxie, then things would've turned out differently. I also think my mother viewed her medications as a punishment, & so she maybe wasn't as diligent as she could've been about insisting she take them. My advice is to just consider all your options: sometimes medication AND behavioral therapy AND talk therapy are all needed, for whatever reason, just like with adults. And I totally understand your doubts abt the therapist, but in their defense, after being married to a children's therapist for several years, a lot of the signs of ADHD are universal and readily apparent to the trained eye and sometimes, nothing else works. Just do what you feel is best, obvs, both for you AND for Roxie, and know that there are more ppl out there struggling with this issue than you know. Big hugs.

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    1. Thank you and I know what you mean! I am definitely open to the idea of medication if everyone involved feels it's the best/only way to help her be her best self. Of course we want to try the therapy and all that first, but I am not counting it out!

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