“Too Nice”
Posted: 13 Feb 2016 08:08 PM PST
Recently, someone told me once again that I am “too nice.”

It really pissed me off.

I haven’t been told that for a while. When this person made the comment, I remembered how this is such a trigger for me. I’ve been told my whole life that I’m too nice. And it’s not meant as a compliment. Nope, it’s an insult. An insult disguised with words that, taken by themselves, should be good. An insult designed to weave around me and stab me from in the back, where I don’t see it coming and I’m weak and can’t protect myself. An insult that the person can easily laugh off, saying I’m too sensitive, I’m taking it the wrong way. But trust me, I know the difference between a compliment and an insult.

Too nice. First of all, when has there ever been too much kindness in this world? And second, why is kindness something someone should feel badly for?

The school I drive by every day has a sign that tells of important dates, things to remember, etc. This past few weeks, there has been a message on this sign. It says,

“Kindness Matters”

Amen to that. Kindness does matter. This school sign has been a personal validation for me. Sometimes I arrange the route I’m driving so I can drive by the school and see that sign that I’m sure was meant just for me. To encourage me, support me, lift me up. Kindness matters.

I recently read an article on Facebook about what makes a marriage last, happily. Guess what! It’s kindness! Scientists have shown that if a couple is kind to each other, their marriage will last. If a couple responds to each other with kindness, they will maintain a happy, successful marriage. I can testify to that. Alex and I have never been a fighting, nagging couple. Sure, we have our differences. Sometimes in moments of overwhelm and extreme stress, we snap at each other. We don’t agree on everything. But overall, we treat each other with respect and, most importantly, kindness. We’ve been together for 22 years, and we’re still crazy about each other, so we must be doing something right.

There is a difference between letting people take advantage of you because you’re too wimpy (aka “nice”) to stand up for yourself, and spreading kindness every chance you get. I can be nice and still stick up for myself, set boundaries, and not be used by people who like to take advantage of us Nicies. But I don’t have to be rude, obnoxious, or mean to get my point across. I can be nice and still be effective.

The person who called me “too nice” most recently was referring to the fact that I probably do too much for my kids. She was saying that to some degree, I enable them. I agree with this, in some ways. There are times when I will put a boy’s socks on his feet for him rather than have that be the thing that pushes him over the edge into Rage right before getting on the bus for school in the morning. On occasion, I have been known to feed my child, who can absolutely feed herself, because she is so distracted that she can’t focus on eating and her stomach hurts and she is an emotional mess because she is so hungry. I’m ok with that. I’m ok with doing what works for my kids.

A friend and I were talking about this once. We marveled over the fact that both of us have children who have a finite amount of patience for the world. They work extremely hard to hold everything together, and sometimes the world asks too much of them and they can’t take it and they explode. Maybe they explode because they can’t find the “right” breakfast. Maybe putting their socks on is too much. Maybe having to do homework is too overwhelming. Maybe brushing their teeth just can’t be done. Maybe they can’t get things into their backpack easily and things spill everywhere. Maybe they have a hangnail that makes them feel like their entire arm is being ripped from the socket.

Whatever it is, my friend and I were so happy to know that we’re not alone in our approach to our kids and their limited patience. We do what works. We would rather have our kids save their “hold-it-together-ness” for the bus. Or that math test. Or the teacher who says they aren’t trying hard enough. Or the lunch line where a kid bumps into them. Or the fact that their socks bunch around their toes funny and bug them all day. Or that their glasses have permanent indentations on them because the dogs chewed on them, again, and we can’t afford to buy yet another pair of glasses just because there are little spots on the lenses from dog teeth. Or the fact that it’s too cold in the classroom and they forgot their sweatshirt and now they can’t concentrate because all they can think about is being too cold. Or that the winter wind makes their little lips dry so they have to lick them and then it becomes a tic and they can’t stop so they lick them until they’re raw and every type of chapstick Mom buys hurts or doesn’t feel right and they can’t stop licking them even though it hurts and they know they shouldn’t lick anymore…

I’m ok with doing what works for my kids. I encourage and celebrate independence, of course. But I also understand my kids, and how they work so hard to function. I’m ok with being nice to them so that Home is one soft place they can fall in the world.

I do know I tend to be a little bit more on the enabler side of things. I also know, thanks to much therapy of my own, that this is due in part to the fact that all my babies were born too early, too fragile, too weak, and medically unstable.

When you are faced with death at the beginning of a brand new life, it scares the pants off you. You’re never the same. You wait and watch for any sign that things may be going wrong again. You hold your breath for all the years that follow, and wait for the next trauma to happen. You return to the NICU day after day after day, aching to hold your sweet babies next to your skin, to smell their tiny heads and marvel at their unbelievably small legs that your wedding ring can encompass. You return, day after day, terrified to find out what horrible thing happened during the night while you were away.

What next? Infection? Brain bleeds? Illness? Losing precious weight? Not feeding correctly? Not breathing while they eat? Heart stopping? Jaundice? Blindness? Intestines not working right? Spinal taps? RSV? Not maintaining their own body temperature? Failed hearing tests?

You feel guilty for going home without your babies. You feel guilty for sleeping. You feel guilty for being tired after an endless day at the NICU, sitting, waiting, willing your babies to breathe. You feel so guilty for being healthy while your babies are so sick. So much guilt.

Then you finally get to bring your fragile little ones home, and you’re deeply relieved because this is what you’ve been waiting for, for months. And then reality sets in and you realize your round the clock nurses are gone and you

Energizer Bunny
Posted: 13 Feb 2016 05:50 PM PST
So much has been happening lately, I haven’t had a moment to write! You’ll be happy to know that Jonah FINALLY got an IEP!!! The school team agreed that they now see him struggling academically as much as I have always seen him struggling at home. Whew.

Of course I cried buckets at his meeting. It’s my MO. I’m The Cry-er.

I had a 504 meeting for Aidan in the morning. Alex was out of town that whole week. (Perfect timing. Not.) Aidan’s meeting went well. We talked about more ways to support him academically, and also with homework. We added a few more supports so that hopefully his anxiety will start to decrease. We’ll see how it goes.

Then after lunch we had Jonah’s IEP meeting. I didn’t cry at all during Aidan’s meeting! I was very proud of myself. And at Jonah’s meeting, I started out just fine. I was worried. If he didn’t get the IEP, I wasn’t sure what in the world we were going to do. I was nervous. The team started reading through Jonah’s evaluation. I was doing fine. We keep reading. And reading. And then comes the part about where he falls on different rating scales based upon how teachers, parents, and Jonah himself, see that he is doing emotionally, academically, psychologically, etc. How much is ADHD is affecting him, how social he is, all that good stuff. The first couple of rating scales, I was still doing fine. But the rating scales were color-coded. And it felt like there were a million of them. And they all basically said Jonah is tanking in almost every single area.

I felt frozen in time. I couldn’t even hear what the school psychologist was saying anymore. I couldn’t understand the words she was using to explain the graphs. That said my son was doing terribly in so many ways. I fought back tears, I struggled to maintain my composure, I tried to swallow and breathe and take a deep calming breath and think about how I was NOT going to cry…

and then the team turned to the next page of the report and there was yet another graph, charting out how much my boy struggles…

and that was the straw that broke the dam holding back my tears…

and then I ugmo-cried. We’re talking way past “ugly cry” here, people. It was ugmo. It was one of those trying-to-not-sob-out-loud-so-then-you-choke-on-the-sob-and-cry-even-harder-as-your-face-contorts-and-you-want-to-shrivel-and-die kind of cry. Bad. Really bad. And really mortifying.

When our sweet, supportive advocate whispered if I needed to take a break out in the hallway, I ugmo-cried even harder. The team stopped talking and turned to me. To watch me ugmo-cry. To make sure I was ok. I squeaked (because even my voice wasn’t working right) that it’s just so hard to see in black and white and red on these graphs how much my little boy is struggling. And failing. The psychologist smiled at me reassuringly and said that that’s why we’re meeting, to give Jonah the help he needs.

I don’t think I stopped crying for the next 30 minutes. Thankfully, the team just kept on going with the meeting and let me weep until my eyes were red and puffy and my nose was red and puffy and my cheeks were red and puffy.

We did take a break eventually. I waited in the hallway of the front office to take my turn in the bathroom. And then one of the ladies from the front office- who knows me pretty well because I’m constantly there…with Ben’s forgotten glasses. With Jonah’s forgotten iPad. With forgotten books, and homework, and water bottles, and picking up sick boys…we see each other a lot. So this sweet angel walks down the hallway to me with a box of tissues in her hands. She gave me the kleenex and said I could wait in a room off the office if I wanted to. What I wanted to do was hug her and cry until there weren’t any more tears left in me. I’m worn out from these meetings, from fighting for my kids, from being their watch dog 24/7. I was so touched by her kindness that I burst into MORE tears and mumbled something about just needing to go to the bathroom. I wasn’t making a lot of sense at that point.

On my way out of the office, the other sweet angel working that day held out her hand to reach mine, and clasped my hand with both of hers and said “Be strong. Stay strong.” Which, you guessed it. Made me cry more. I said to her “Stop being nice to me, you’re making me cry even harder.”

That’s what I love about our schools, our community, my friends. Wherever I go, someone is there with a helping hand, a supportive word, and kind box of kleenex. I emailed my office ladies the next day and thanked them for being so supportive of me, and for trying to help me find calm and comfort during a very stressful time.

We got Jonah’s plan all worked out, and I feel like he is going to have a great opportunity to turn things around and succeed, given this help. I’m so sad for him that things had to get this bad before we were able to get him help. But I’m looking forwards, not back. From now on, he has help and support. He’ll be ok. We got what we needed.

The second day after Jonah’s IEP was in place, I saw the stress physically lifting from his shoulders. I saw his heart fill with peace. I could literally see how much stress relief he already felt from having more support at school. Is life completely perfect for Jonah now? Not by a long shot. But at least we have accomplished a major milestone by getting him an IEP.

Aidan on the other hand…Aidan is such a mystery. We tweaked his 504 Plan so has more support at school. He has a math learning disability, so part of that is that he can’t memorize math facts. He is able to use other ways of doing math- like using a calculator or multiplication table. He needs to learn the process of doing the math problems, but the facts themselves he can find through other means. A couple times he has refused to go to school, I think mostly due to anxiety. I’m hoping that with all these supports in place and the teacher really being supportive and on board with everything, Aidan will start to feel successful and less anxious.

Ben is off his medication that helps with mood stabilization and rages. Eek. So far, things are better than when he first went on the med. But life hangs precariously in the balance right now. I feel like we could take a dive at any time into Anger Crisis again. He weeps that he is doing the best he can, and I do know he is. But sometimes even when people do the best they can, they still need medication to help support them, because their best isn’t cutting it. Sad, right? We’re walking a tight rope, hoping for the best.

The other day, Jonah was standing by the front door with his coat and backpack on, about to walk down to the bus stop. Suddenly he exclaimed, “The bus is HERE!” I thought he was joking because we’ve never missed the bus. We’re always out there on time. But he wasn’t joking. Ben was in the bathroom still trying to fix his hair. I hustled him out, stuffed his arms in his coat, threw his backpack on him and pretty much shoved him out the door, all while yelling to Jonah to ask the bus driver to wait a minute.

The funniest part was Ben. Typically, during the time before he was on the med to help his anger, Ben would have exploded in this situation. I was worried about how much to push him because since being off this medication, he’s a little bit fragile in the anger department. He CAN NOT be rushed. Ever. His go-to speed is slower than a snail. In all situations. He loses his mind if he has to be rushed. So this whole incident was pretty incredible, because to my great joy, my boy did not freak out. He didn’t get frustrated. He just let me rush him out the door. I watched from the window as Ben flubbered down the driveway. (Flubbered: a Carrie-ism, meaning to scuffle-run with arms and legs flailing- a la Phoebe from “Friends.” Also known as a hilarious shuffle-walk. Because you have a 50 lb backpack on and your mom says you must RUN down the driveway to the bus.) All the while Ben’s flubbering down the driveway, he’s yelling in a funny voice “But I didn’t finish my HHHAAAAIIIIRRR!!!!! I didn’t finish my HHHHAAAAIIIRRR!!!” It cracked me up and made me grateful for the day. The day I never thought would come a few months ago. You never know when Anger will appear, and you live in constant fear. When Anger does not appear, I rejoice. I rejoice in my funny boy, flubbering down the driveway, yelling about his hair.

Ella started karate with Alex this morning. Since she was 3 and watched her brothers and Daddy doing it, she has wanted to participate. Her brothers all quit, much to Daddy’s dismay. Ella believes she is not involved in enough activities. Dance, OT/Gymnastics, swimming lessons…that’s not enough for our girl who loves to be busy. Daddy is delighted that she wants to try karate. I don’t use the word “delighted” lightly- Daddy doesn’t get delighted on a regular basis. But this morning, side by side with his little girl in their uniforms, Ella’s hair just fitting back into a ponytail, Daddy was truly delighted. The class went great, and Ella was ecstatic to show us all the moves she learned already. Let’s hope she sticks with it. For Daddy’s sake, if nothing else!

That’s life. It keeps going. Ups and downs and ins and outs. These kids keep me hopping. Aidan has to be checked for glaucoma. Ella may have it too- they’re watching her. Ben has his annual cardiac checkup this week. I found out I have scoliosis (I absolutely hate the word “scoliosis.” Hideous. I’ve decided it will be called “C Spine” in our family, because my spine is shaped like a C.), because I don’t have enough on my plate, so I needed to add PT twice a week. That’s just what I needed. Jonah’s tummy keeps hurting on and off. Ben’s hip hurts because he fell on some ice while on the school ski trip. Aidan’s poop was green two days ago, which made him extremely worried. As much as Ella loves her teacher and friends, she is counting down the days until summer vacation. Every morning is met with a sigh when I answer her question of whether it is yet ANOTHER school day. We just keep going. Like the Energizer Bunny. Remember that commercial? “STIIIILL going!!!” That’s us. Still going.