Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Am I Creating a Melancholic Child? Musings on Jakob

As an introverted, melancholic parent, I sometimes wonder if I am creating a melancholic child. My son thinks I am never happy. Which is not true but that being said, I rarely laugh, I rarely smile, I talk less, think more and listen to music that I am sure would drive some to depression. And now that I am pregnant, I am tired often. He’ll remark that, “today was a rough day” or that he needs to rest day and night. Sure, he needs his time to draw, and play with his Lego alone in his room but I also know that he is an extrovert at heart. He loves to be with friends and could play with friends all day long but the environment that I have created in our home is a solemn one. It is quiet. We don’t have dance parties in the kitchen and few people come around. I need solitude. I need silence. So how do you balance the needs of your child with your own needs? I wouldn’t say I am grumpy and, in fact am rarely angry at the kids but as it is with adults, my tone is, more often than not, flat and I am sure the trials of the last three years can be heard in my voice and seen in my spirit. The truth is, that some  most adults find me offensive so why wouldn’t a child of the same nature? But it is not what I say but how I say it. I am curt and yet never with malicious intent. It is a personal policy not to make attacks on ones’ character and yet, often, what I say is taken as just that. It is something I work on daily and comes with being Green, or an INTJ or whatever other personality type you want to give it. But what if…what if my child is Blue?! Or Sensing…which he totally is - Jakob is one of the most sensitive children I know. Not in the bawling his eyes out at every thing kind of way, but in a compassionate way and in the way that he takes reprimand with a crushed humbled spirit as opposed to fear, hostility or defensiveness. The thing is, what I value in myself, is not necessarily what I know to be best - if that were the case, I am pretty sure I wouldn't have married Ben (an equally melancholic musician).

“As parents, INTJ's main goal is to raise their children to be intelligent, autonomous and independent. They want their kids to think for themselves and make their own decisions, and so are likely to give them room to grow, and to challenge their decisions and thoughts at key points in their lives.

The INTJ is not naturally likely to be an overly supportive or loving parental figure. Since their own need for expressions of love and affirmation is relatively low, they may have difficulty seeing that need in their children who have Feeling preferences. If they do see this sensitivity, they may not recognize or value the importance of feeding it. In such situations, there will be a distance between the INTJ and the child. This is a problem area for the INTJ, who should consciously remember to be aware of others' emotional needs.”

I talk a lot about Ella in this space, but Jakob is unto his own. It’s true – I worry less about him. I don’t worry that he isn’t making friends at school, or struggling to learn. He is at that age when he is just beginning to be able to articulate the complicated emotions that he feels but his lack of understanding often causes confusion.

Yesterday, he was in tears because “everything had changed”. He bounced between talking about what had happened at school and life at home and it was hard to figure out what exactly he was feeling or if he was just exhausted and needing a release. We came to the conclusion that he longed for summer vacation when he didn’t have to work so hard, like in school but then today, he expressed that maybe things changed because of baby.

“But baby won’t come until later,” I said.
“But you’re always tired now.”

This could be true.

But it could also be that he isn’t used to having his quiet melancholic mother around so much because I used to work all the time.

I recognize his sensitivity but to be honest, at this point, I worry that may mishandle it. I have no firm answers. I remind myself to give hugs, to empathize and to show mercy. And every day pray for the love of God that I don’t mess up my children too badly.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mothering a Child with a Disability: The Secret Thoughts on Acceptance

Most days, parenting Ella is just like parenting a typical child…except when it is not.

Today, was Ella’s last day of soccer for the fall season and today was the first time that a girl was nasty to her. I suppose it wasn’t a big deal. She simply exclaimed loudly that, “Having Ella out on the field won’t do anything.”

The 5 year old inside me wanted to yell back, “Like you do anything!?”

A bit later the same girl grimaced and backed away dramatically from Ella, when Ella made an attempt to join in their sideline fun. I had had enough and finally went up to her and reprimanded her for her behavior by simply saying that she was being mean and should be nicer to Ella. I realized completely after the fact that some parents might be upset with my initiative but the reality is, Ella isn’t going to stick up for herself. In fact, quite the opposite. It was heart breaking to watch Ella on the field tonight. She was discouraged, and her lip popped out and quivered when she was cut out of play by meangirl and her friend (they were playing 3 on 3). As an isolated scenario, again, I realize it’s not that bad, but in my mind, it is just a foretaste of what’s to come.

 Up until now, children have always been fairly kind to Ella. Curious - yes, mean  - no. But I know that as the gap widens between Ella and her peers there will be many more situations in which Ella will be left out, made fun of and ridiculed. It breaks my heart. The irony of it is, is that later in the evening, I watched as a girl on the opposite team, fell and hurt herself. Only Ella, out of all the girls on the field, only Ella went up to her, and started to pat her back in an attempt to comfort her.

In so many ways, Ella is on par with her peers. For example, socially. In some ways, she is beyond them, like in showing empathy. And yet in other ways…many ways, she is noticeably far behind.

As we get further into the school year I am becoming more aware of the little parts of Ella’s personality that are…what shall we say?…not so “normal.”

It is easy for me to say that Ella is more the same than different when I am there to interpret, help and guide but when I am not there, I suppose I am afraid her “disability” will be exposed for what it really is. (I recognize how ridiculous that sounds).  The children in Ella’s class have been so accepting of her. They play with her at school and ask to have playdates with her outside of school. I could not be more thrilled that she is making friends…but…

But many of the friends ask if Ella can come over to their house. Immediately, my chest gets tight and I start to sweat.  It is an entirely different situation if a friend comes to our house when I am home, and Ella is at home, and she knows her boundaries, but send her to someone else’s house? A house I have never been to? With adults I have barely conversed with?

What if she has to go poo?
What if she runs away?
What if she tests the boundaries and wrecks something?
What if they can’t understand my girl who I always say is so understandable?

We are stepping out. Our sphere is widening and while there are so many good things about it, while, I love to watch Ella warm the hearts of everyone she meets and make friends with those that have a chance to really get to know her there is part of me that wants to shield her from the meangirls of life and live in the ignorance of her disability where I can make it only what I can bear because nobody else really needs to come face to face with it. I want to shelter her from all the bad things people will say, the dirty looks and the whispers behind her back. But if I did, I know I would be also keeping her from the good things in life like friends who love her for her, disability and all.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Fragmented Post on Provision, Gratitude and Steadfast Love

These are the years memories are made…but then again, isn’t that every year?

I spend a lot of time inside my head. I always said that if I ever wrote a book, it would be called Conversations with Myself then Nelson Mandela went and stole my idea…oh well. I suppose if anyone was going to steal it, I would have wanted it to be him.

These are the years memories are made of. I thought this whilst thinking about Christmas and how there is so much more that I wish I could give my children, my husband and my family at this time of year (I realize that it is not technically Christmas yet, but preparations have already begun). We do what we can. Our small two-bedroom apartment will, no doubt, be decked with holiday trim, the scent of cinnamon and gifts under the tree but a girl can dream.

A girl did dream. It is one of my most vivid memories – a memory of my own imagination. A large home, settled in the woods, smoke rising from the stone chimney. Inside, the bustle of people, the smell of turkey and Christmas baking, a huge Christmas tree, grand piano and love and laughter. At Christmas, we celebrate the greatest gift of all – Jesus Christ. But where there should be gratitude, discontentment often lingers and we find ourselves in a tension of wanting more and wanting to give more.

We are poorer than we have ever been. After two and a half years of unemployment and under-employment, our bank accounts have dwindled exponentially. Now, we have a baby on the way to add to the mix. T-minus four months, give or take, until baby’s arrival and while people say that babies don’t cost anything, I think we all know that they do. There are certain things that you need to have: a place to sleep, diapers, a car seat and for us walkers, a stroller.  Not to mention the severe pay cut that will be taken once I go on maternity leave from a job with no benefits.  I panicked to think about how all of this would happen. If I am honest with myself (and you) I still do have moments of panic, like at 5am this morning. But I try to remind myself of God’s provision and repeat over to myself, multiple times a day that it will be okay.

After all, hasn’t a friend given me a beautiful stroller, free of charge? And hasn’t the bedding situation worked out perfectly in that my kids will be receiving bunk beds for Christmas so that we can convert Ella’s bed back into a crib for baby? And wasn’t I able to purchase a winter coat for Ella when Vancouver’s mild temperatures suddenly dropped this past week when I truly wondered how I was going to make this happen?

Doubt is a natural part of being human. It is the outworking of fear and lack of trust. But gratitude has a way of dissolving all of the illusions of inadequacy. I supposed I failed at documenting my 66 days of gratitude, but the reality is, it is still constantly and consistently on my mind. Everyday, in my reading, two words have been ever-present.  

Steadfast Love.

I still struggle to know what this phrase means but I am learning and just reading it over and over again helps dissolve the worry that paralyzes me and steals my joy.  Above all, I am grateful for this steadfast love and if I pull away the curtain of doubt, I see it in the everyday.

Before you get too excited, this is a page out of 2012. No decorations up to speak of yet...sadly.

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