My Child’s Anxious, How About Yours?

Parenting doesn’t come with a handbook. For most jobs, you get a handbook on the first day. For the most difficult job we get in life, that’s some pretty crappy orientation. Sure you get nine months to read books and ask questions and figure out what you think you will do, but once that baby’s born and you strap him or her into their car seat and drive away from the hospital, it seems like your life becomes a series of “shit, what do we do?” conversations with your significant other. (And once you’re a seasoned parent you’ll feel free to have that conversation with yourself. Daily. Out loud. In the grocery store.) Things have a way of not working out even slightly like you imagined. And every single day you question your ability to parent. You feel like you’re failing so badly that you begin to question your ability to do something as basic as pick out your own clothes in the morning.

On my blog and in my Facebook posts, I try to make people laugh. I want people to understand that they’re not alone—we’re all floundering. But sometimes in my desire to get people to relate, I feel completely alone. As much as most of you can relate to having a child that makes you pull your hair out by the roots, not everyone can understand or relate to the level of stress that parenting puts on me and my husband on a regular basis. You see, we have a child who has been labeled with a half a dozen diagnoses from the health care professionals that she has seen; anxiety, depression, ADHD, ODD, OCD, PTSD, and school phobia, to name a few. Some days she shows signs of all of these, some days she has none. I don’t like labels for this very reason. Putting a label on her doesn’t make anything easier. A label doesn’t cure a kid. The only thing a label does is have people claim to “understand” your life. As in “what’s wrong with Johnny? Why does he act that way?” “Oh well he has XYZ.” “Oh, that explains it. But, hush, let’s not talk about it.”

Anxiety, depression, those all fall under the umbrella of “mental health”. Nearly 1 in 5 people are suffering from a mental health disorder. And yet, talking about mental health is still taboo. You can’t physically see something wrong. There’s no lab test, no scan, no real way to know for sure what’s going on in someone’s brain. A lot of people don’t think it’s real and won’t acknowledge it. Because people don’t want to fully acknowledge mental health, most people still don’t understand. They don’t relate to what is going on in your life and they look at you different—like, why can’t that kid’s parents get it together? Why is their kid lying on the floor of the classroom curled up in the fetal position? They must have terrible parenting skills. why is she fine one day and a blubbering mess the next? They real should discipline her better.

I used to think like that…back when I had one kid and he was easy. Back when I had one kid who went to school without a problem. Back when I had one kid whose biggest fear was going in the basement. Back when I had one kid without crippling anxiety, I knew what everyone else was doing wrong. Now these days, I don’t even know what I’m doing right.

Parenting any child is difficult—like riding a unicycle—practice makes perfect, but you still fall off from time to time. Parenting a child with a mental health issue is really challenging—like riding a unicycle blindfolded with one leg while a rat nibbles your arm kind of challenging. Not only are you wracking your brain on how to get through a day in the most “normal” way you can manage, you never know when the day is going to implode. From the moment you wake up to the moment they go to sleep, you’re walking on eggshells. You never know when your happy child is suddenly going to be paralyzed with fear of a fire drill and refuse to go to school for three days. You never can plan out a day and expect any of it to go according to plan—you might have to have to stop in the ER because your child thinks she’s dying from anxiety induced stomach pains. You can’t go to your other child’s baseball game and leave her alone because she says she hates her life and wants to die. You can’t go to the gym because your child is hysterically crying because she can’t calm herself down because she’s stressed out because she thinks everyone’s talking about her even though they’re totally NOT. Or you can’t even go to work without her clinging to you because she’s terrified of something happening to you. Or her. And what’s worse—you don’t know how to help her. You can’t even assure her she’s safe.

With a child with anxiety, you run the gamut of emotions similar to grieving, because in a way, it is a grieving process. You’re grieving the loss of your child’s normal childhood. You’re grieving the fact that you are just as helpless as she is. First you’re in denial—-there’s nothing wrong, your kid is just being a brat. You need to tighten the reigns, take away her phone, be stricter about bedtime. No more sugar! No more TV!

Then comes anger. Why the hell can’t she get it together? Okay, maybe she’s depressed, maybe she’s anxious, but holy crap not every day of my life is rainbows. Does she think I want to get out of bed every morning? No, I don’t! But damn it, I get my ass up and do it. Does she think I don’t worry about things? I suck it up and deal! She’s making me furious! And that anger gets projected onto your kid. Why does she hate us so much? Why does she do this to us? And you’re screaming and yelling and there’s tears. Every. Single. Time.

After that comes bargaining—with your kid. If you get ten stickers you can go to the movies. If you get fifteen, you can have a sleepover. She tries for a few days—she’s determined. But she never makes it. It’s not potty training or a chore chart—she doesn’t have control all the time. She can’t help herself from becoming anxious about a school project or getting nervous about a basketball game.

And this is what sends you spiraling into the next stage—depression. It breaks your heart that you can’t do this on your own. You can’t make your child better as much as you want too. You are going to have to make some pretty difficult choices. It breaks your heart that you may have no other choice but to medicate your child, maybe put your child in an inpatient mental health facility, or home-school her. You’re devastated to think your child may never know a “normal” life. You have failed in your mind.

Finally, you get to a stage that we haven’t gotten to quite yet—acceptance. Being able to say “This is not my fault. This is not her fault. This is something we have to tackle together. And conquer together.” Because if she had any other disease, diabetes, cancer, sickle cell anemia—people would see it that way—YOU would see it that way.

People don’t talk about mental health, especially when kids are involved. They don’t talk about kids being depressed and anxious and fearful because in a lot of people’s minds, it doesn’t happen. What do kids have to worry about? Kids are resilient—kids don’t get traumatized and have it affect their whole lives, right? I can’t talk about this with too many people—they don’t understand, and that’s good for them. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, but that doesn’t help me feel less alone, less helpless.

I think it would be lovely if everyone would just be honest about how parenting scares them. I think it would be great if people didn’t get caught up in what other people were posting about their oh-so-perfect lives and worry that they don’t stack up, that they’re failing. Maybe we could go around with stickers on our chests. “Hello, my name is John—I’m afraid my kid is an asshole because he likes to burn bugs.” “Hello, my name is Chris—my child bites stray dogs, I think he may have rabies.” “Hello, my name is Heather—my child’s anxious, how about yours?”

Skinny Mom in a Not-So-Skinny Mom’s Body Speaks Out

img_4280Full disclosure: I am about to vent. If you don’t want to read a venting post, move along.

I am 139 pounds. I am also 4 foot 11 and 3/4 inches tall. According to the math, my BMI (Body mass index—the not-so-nice measurement doctors use to flat out tell you that you’re fat) is 27. Therefore, I am considered overweight. However, I am not the little butterball that those dimensions may indicate. BMI and weight don’t take a lot of factors into account. I work out regularly, cardio and weights. I am pretty muscular and strong (my husband would prefer me helping him lift and carry in a dryer over my 15 year old son who benches 130—probably because he bangs shit into the walls and drops stuff on his father’s foot, but I digress). Could I stand to lose a couple of pounds? Absolutely. But I’ve spent the better part of my adult life either trying to lose weight or trying to accept that I am never going to be skinny.

Yes, I know…I will never be 105 pounds again. I will never even be 110 pounds. But I’m okay with that. I would have to literally starve myself to death to get there and what fun is that? I can think of a million more exciting ways to untimely demise. Hell, I was down to 115 a few years ago and that required me to work out FIFTEEN hours a week and eat about 1000 calories a day. I shook when I tried to bring my fat free, calorie free, taste free food to my mouth. I obsessed about everything that passed my lips and every drop of sweat. I was skinny as hell, but I was MISERABLE. All I thought about was food and that I wasn’t working hard enough. When that scale stopped moving despite my best efforts, I realized I was beat. And I felt horrible.

That was quite a few years (and pounds ago). It’s taken me a lot of maturity to get to a place in my mind where I realize that pesky number on the scale is not the measure of my fitness and health. I’ve stopped letting the scale dictate my life. I enjoy my food (and my cocktails), I work out moderately, but I don’t go crazy with either. I try new things and I’m not obsessed with how many calories I burn. I don’t eat ice cream every day, but I certainly won’t say no to it on a special occasion (Like a Monday.) My days of fad dieting and yo-yo weight loss are hopefully behind me. I’m confidant enough to post a make-up-less, messy hair, post work-out picture of myself on a blog. Don’t get me wrong…I still cry on days my underwear is too tight. I’m not totally Zen…just content. 

So if I’m in such a good place with accepting my body, why am I venting? Well, obviously accepting yourself is hard. And it’s a constant internal war especially when it comes to comparing yourself to other people. Not so easy to ignore the issue of weight you HAVE A SCALE IN YOUR OFFICE THAT PEOPLE WEIGHT THEMSELVES ON ALL THE TIME AND FEEL THE NEED TO SHARE THEIR WEIGHT WITH YOU!!!! When the people weigh more than me, it’s okay. It may be sick, but it validates me. It’s when people are at LEAST 6 inches taller than me and get off the scale (after taking their earrings and pants off to weigh themselves…yes that actually happened) and announce their weight and it’s the exact same weight you are and they lament about how fat they are….well, that takes a toll on my self esteem. If this was just one person, I wouldn’t be bothered. I would chalk it up to mental illness on that person’s part and pity her. But it’s not just one person…oh no. There are several skinny beotches that I come in contact with on a daily basis. Not only are they skinny, I’m pretty sure their goal is to make anyone who isn’t skinny feel crappy by talking about the dreaded numbers on the scale. I mean, if they’re 5’7″ and 139 and feel like a cow, I must be a freaking heifer right? It aggravates me after I’ve worked so hard just to be happy with myself and ignore that stupid number on the scale. I get it—they’re not on that happy little cloud in oblivion that I’m on. But that damn cloud is hard to reach and easy to fall off. I don’t need their negativity about themselves bringing me down. So if you read about me on MSN or CNN it’s probably going to be because I hauled off and choked one of the skinny bitches that think they’re fat. That and the fact that I’m planning a massive “toss your scales out the window” day pretty soon. If I hit someone with that big old office scale, I’ll probably take out an arm or a leg. But, hell, they’ll weigh less, won’t they?

Multitasking Moms

Believe it or not, occasionally, I get to read other blogs. Granted, I read them when I’m on the treadmill or on line at the DMV or stuck in traffic. I read an interesting one recently that stated that in order to stop feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, moms need to STOP multitasking. I closed out the blog off my phone as I jumped off the treadmill and laughed for a good solid ten minutes while I folded the laundry and listened to voice mails. I debated about whether the author was a man or a twenty-three year old single woman without children. Whoever it was is seriously out of their minds or delusional. Multitasking is essential as a mom. For as little as I manage to get done in a day, I don’t think I would accomplish half of that without having mastered the art of multitasking.

I wasn’t always a multitasker. Hell, I don’t think I could tie my shoes and chew bubble gum at the same time as a teen. But there’s something about having children that suddenly gives moms the ability to perform more than one task at a time. I empty the garbage while cooking (and subsequently burning) dinner. I iron my work scrubs while dictating my blog into Google Docs. I make my grocery list while eating breakfast. I make my bed while I wait for my straightener to warm up. I’m putting on eyeliner while peeing. As I’m washing dishes, I’m on hold with the doctor’s office making the kids’ yearly physical appointments. Sometimes I’ll even dust as I write my novels. I learn Spanish on my headphones while vacuuming (okay, maybe I dreamt that one). I clean out the fridge while I eat my lunch. I plan out the day’s errands so that I have the shortest route, thereby taking as little time out of the day as possible. The multitasking also occasionally causes ADHD as well, one thing leads to another—I start off vacuuming the couch and end up buying a closet organizer online. I’ll start off cleaning the bathroom and somehow end up changing my curtains. Sometimes I feel a little dizzy from all I’m trying to do at once.

It’s not all work that I multitask, either. Oh no, I’ve managed to multitask pleasure, too. (Get your mind out of the gutter.) I’m talking about cutting coupons while I watch a baseball game, reading a book while getting a pedicure, playing solitaire while waiting on line at the carwash. There is never a moment in the day where I think I’m just doing ONE thing. If I have to do A,B and C, why not get it done while doing X, Y and Z? How would I exist without multitasking? Probably the same way I’d exist without my Post-it note lists…badly. How is that supposed to make me less stressed? Just the idea of it is enough to make me break out into hives. How could anyone possibly get anything done if they don’t answer their email while pooping???? Who watches TV without a pile of socks to match up? Who has time to shop for school shoes online without making their kids’ lunches at the same time? There are only 24 hours in a day and 48 hours worth of stuff to do!

My husband never multitasks (as far as I’ve seen he barely “single”-tasks some days) and he seems a hell of a lot less stressed out than I am. Right at this moment he’s watching golf. That’s right…watching golf. And that’s all. He’s not watching golf and filling out the kids’ emergency forms for school. He’s not watching golf and paying bills online. He’s not watching golf and trying to clip the dog’s toenails. He’s just…watching golf. And he doesn’t feel an ounce of guilt about just doing one thing (and one pleasurable thing—well, for him it’s pleasurable…I’d rather get my tongue pierced than watch golf). Maybe I would be better at things if I didn’t multitask. Maybe I wouldn’t be as stressed. Maybe I wouldn’t burn dinner if I just focused on dinner and not trying to see how many other things I could get done at the same time. Maybe I’d enjoy a TV show or a book every once in awhile if I wasn’t feeling guilty for not performing some chore while I indulged in those pleasures. Maybe I could…if I wasn’t a mom. In my next life I think I’ll be a dad.



Just a Little Pee

I have a dilemma that nobody in my family seems to understand. In fact, not only do they not seem to understand my plight, they find it humorous. They laugh at me and make jokes…at my expense. I don’t find it humorous. Maybe some of you out there…specifically those of you who have given birth (and given birth MULTIPLE times)…can understand my issue. The issue of having dealt with unborn children using your bladder as a trampoline for nine or more months. The issue of coughing, sneezing, jumping, or laughing being mortal enemies of one’s…ahem…urinary tract integrity. The issue of wondering just how “discrete” and “panty-like” the new adult diapers are these days. Yeah, I’m talking about peeing yourself.

I’m not to proud to admit that some (ALL) of the aforementioned activities have caused me to lose control of my bladder in the past. Stay with me here, ladies (Men and children, you’re excused now). If you’re in shock right now you’ve either, 1, never given birth, 2, given birth to the most docile in-utero specimens who have never played soccer with your kidneys, or 3, have some wicked Kegal skills. I do not fall into any of those categories, hence the conundrum that I face on a regular basis. I’ve gotten used to having to squeeze my legs together when I go to comedy shows and begging off jumping rope and jumping jacks and any other jumping activities (thank God for small favors). I’m over the fact that I have to race to the bathroom to sneeze. (Instead of saying “God Bless You” when I sneeze, my husband asks “You need new underwear?” Snarky bastard.) I’ve come to peace with the fact I will probably never have a full night’s sleep again because I have to pee fifty times. But what I cannot for the life of me deal with any more is peeing on the treadmill.

Yes, you read that correctly. I, grown ass woman of 41 years on this earth,  have actually peed on the treadmill. Now before you’re thinking I just dropped my drawers and squatted on the damn thing, let me explain. I was running….really fast. Like 8 miles an hour fast. I was working hard, my body was giving it everything that it had. Every ounce of strength I had was devoted to keeping my heart and lungs and leg muscles going. In its overzealous state however, my body neglected to keep my bladder muscles going. So yeah, I peed my pants on the treadmill. And not just a little trickle. Oh no. A river. All the way down to my brand new shoes. In the GYM. On a Saturday morning. In the very first row of treadmills. With at least 50 to a 1000 people milling around.

Needless to say, I dashed out of there faster than…well, faster than me peeing myself at 8 miles an hour. I ran home and announced to my husband that I was NEVER going back to that gym ever again. After he was done clutching his sides to hold in his spleen that was threatening to come out of his mouth from him laughing so hard, he assured me that I was bluffing. He knows how much I like my runs. I was not bluffing. Now if it was the middle of summer, I’d say hey, I’ll run outside instead. Maybe by the time I need to run on a treadmill again, there will be a totally new crowd at the gym (it’s like they change out the people for the season at the gym…really weird). But no…it’s the smack dab middle of winter, there’s snow on the ground and it’s freaking cold. I NEED a treadmill.

Hence the reason I dragged the hubby out to test out close to a million treadmills (okay, SLIGHT exaggeration). I don’t bluff. Yup, I’m quitting the gym on the grounds that I’m MORTIFIED, so now I have to buy a machine to exercise in my basement in privacy. That way when my body shuts its “Non-essential” organs down, I can be ready with a towel. Or maybe I can line the belt with pee-pads that we used for potty training the dog. Or better yet, I’ll wear a diaper. Who cares, right? I’m at home and my family thinks it’s hysterical anyway. After all, I’ve given birth, therefore, I have no shame anymore. And apparently no bladder strength whatsoever.



Bread and Milkers Unite

I love how when the weather people announce it’s going to snow sometime in the next 3 to 4 days, suddenly the grocery stores are bursting at the seams with panicked “Bread and Milk doomsdayers”. Everyone laughs about it and rolls their eyes and makes fun of the people running to the store…there’s even quite a few viral videos of people mocking the Bread and Milkers. But if everyone is making fun of all these people…who are these people that are panicking???? Oh wait…it’s us…the very people making fun. The very people saying “I’m only going to the grocery store because it’s my day to shop…not that I’m scared of a storm. Oh, and I’ll take two gallons of milk and six loaves of bread please.” Well guess what, sister? It doesn’t matter why you’re at the store. If you’re there before a storm, you’re a Bread and Milker.

I’m a Bread and Milker…I freely admit it. It’s because of one reason. I have an almost 16 year old boy living in my house who might eat anything that isn’t nailed down. I mean, as long as it’s on his list of the 10 things he actually eats right now. Pasta, soup, toasted bagels, frozen pizza, hot chocolate (oh wait, that’s only 5). He’s extremely cranky when he’s hungry (which is 23 out of 24 hours) and might be forced to eat something out of his comfort range if we run out of his favorites, ie., MY food. The idea of not being able to get out of the house and replenish his food supply actually makes me shake a little because I’m half Italian. The notion that we would have to go more than a few hours without eating is terrifying. I don’t want to ever run out of food. Hell, I don’t even want to come close to running out of food. I mean, I really don’t want to eat that bag of shriveled up grapes in the fridge.

I hear you at home, shaking your head at me. “Silly woman,” you’re saying. “You’re over exaggerating. You’re not going to be snowed in for months. ” Yeah, well you know what? When it snows and we lose power, it’s going to FEEL like being snowed in for months with a kid who now can’t cook any of his top 5 foods because we have an electric stove. And electric toaster. And electric Keurig. And pretty much electric everything else that fuels his food makers in this house.

I can tell that this isn’t convincing you. You continue to shake your head. “You should have enough food in the house for at least a week. What, don’t you buy enough food when you go to the store? What kind of person runs out of food in a day or two?” That’s what you’re thinking isn’t it? Yeah, well I’m willing to bet my car that you don’t have a teenaged boy at home. I buy A LOT of those foods he likes, I’ll come home from the store with EXTRAS, but he sees that as a challenge, as in, “how many frozen pizzas can I warm up in a day?” rather than actually rationalizing, “This is the food for the week…I should go slow.” Within a day or two of grocery shopping he’s already moaning that we have nothing else to eat because HE ATE IT ALL WITHIN TWENTY-FOUR HOURS OF IT ARRIVING HOME FROM THE STORE! I brought 2 gallons of milk on Saturday and by Monday morning, there was only half a gallon! I HAD to rush to the store like a Bread and Milker!

When I had no kids at home, or even when the kids were younger, I could have probably have gone weeks without leaving the house for food. I brought food and it stayed in the fridge or the cabinets until I wanted to use it. I could count on a gallon of milk lasting 4 or 5 days. Boxes of pasta remained stacked in the basement for months at a time, not disappearing stealthily in the night like they do now. (Yes, he eats an entire box of pasta in one sitting). That’s back when I had control and he couldn’t work the stove and he wasn’t tall enough to reach the cabinets. Now he’s half a foot taller than me and I have to ask him to reach things in the cabinets. As if eating non-stop normally isn’t bad enough, add in the “maybe we’ll lose power” factor. What if we lose power and he can’t charge his phone or play his video games? Oh the horror! He’ll be eating till he explodes just out of boredom! A growing boy trapped in the house during a snow storm is a frightening prospect…one that’s turned me into a Bread and Milker. So if you still don’t understand my plight, if you’re still shaking your head at me, saying “I’ll never be a Bread and Milker, I have plenty of food at all time”…well, give me your address. I’m sending him over to spend the snowstorm with you.

Why I Let My Preteen Wear Makeup

You know when you’re staring down at your fresh faced newborn baby (or even before you HAVE a baby and you know everything there is to know about parenting…) and you swear up and down on a Bible the list of things you’ll NEVER do. “I’ll never let MY baby out of my sight before they’re in preschool”, “I’ll never let MY kids have sugary cereal”, “I’ll never let my child watch 6 hours straight of Dora the Explorer”…you know, those things that you inevitably do because…well…because parenting is a “pick your battles” sort of thing.
I picked one of those battles this weekend. When my baby girl was little, I swore I wouldn’t let her wear makeup till she was 13. Well tonight, I broke that promise and let her spend an ungodly amount of money in the e.l.f. makeup store…for makeup.
Let me explain my reasons for NOT wanting her to wear makeup before I explain WHY I did let her wear it.
I don’t think she needs it because I personally don’t really wear much makeup (and I’m a hell of a lot more wrinkled than she is). When I remember to put it on, I usually wear blush and eyeliner…foundation just to even out my skin tone and attempt to cover up some wrinkles. If I’m feeling feisty I might throw on some eyeshadow. Mascara is a very rare occurrence and only if I know there’s NO WAY I’m going to cry. As far as lipstick goes…well, I actually wore chapstick to my wedding after wiping off the lipstick that my makeup artist lady put on me.
I don’t wear too much makeup because’s a hassle. I quite honestly would prefer the extra 20 minutes of sleep in the morning as opposed to spending 20 minutes every morning making myself look like (in the words of my teenage son) “a powdered donut”. B. I really don’t think makeup does much for me anyway. You can barely tell I have it on. C. It’s friggin’ expensive as hell. I’d much rather get a pedicure than buy a $20 brush to blend my cheekbones. D. I hate taking it off at night. I’m not too ashamed to admit there’s been a time or (twenty)two when I haven’t.
So basically, makeup isn’t really important to me. Sure I wear it to weddings and parties and anytime I might run into Channing Tatum. In those situations, I want to look my best. Overall though, my self worth isn’t in what I look like and I have confidence without it. However, if I think back, it took quite a few years to get to that point in time. When I was 12 and 13, I didn’t feel so confidant about my looks. Or myself for that matter. When I was her age, I thought what you looked like (and more importantly what people thought of you) was the most important thing in the world. The middle school girls I work with everyday are a mix as far as how they feel about their looks and subsequently, how confidant they are. I see plenty who, thank goodness, don’t seem to care how they look, but still are clean and neat and presentable. And I see others that I just want to hug and say “Honey, you don’t need all that crap on your face to be beautiful…have confidence to believe you’re beautiful without it.” Because after all, makeup may help you boost your self esteem, but it does nothing for your feelings of self worth.
I never want my daughter’s self worth to be based on looks. I want her to realize she’s smart and funny and a good friend…I want her to realize those are the things that are important. I want her to like what she sees in the mirror without a need to “fix” or “Cover up” anything. At 11 years old, her face is fresh and blemish free…as far as I’m concerned, she needs nothing to make herself look better (except maybe to comb her hair on a daily basis but that’s a battle for another day). I don’t want her to ever think she needs makeup to face the world. I know MANY women who won’t even leave the house without makeup on, not wanting anyone to see their flaws. I don’t want my daughter to ever feel this way. I want my daughter to know that she can run to the local grocery store in sweats, hair piled on top of her head, sans makeup…and nobody will think less of her. But she’s got to get there herself. I can’t make that journey for her.
She has to figure out how she wants to present herself to the world.
Currently, she makes little to no effort to look like a presentable human being on a daily basis. Getting her out of bed for school should actually be a method of torture. There are days she’s still in bed when we need to leave…forget brushing her hair…I’m lucky if she changes out of her pjs.
For the last couple days, since she’s been asking to wear makeup, she’s been brushing her hair and actually making a slight effort to not look like she rolled out of bed 7 minutes before. Therefore I decided, what the hell. Let her wear some makeup if it gives her incentive to get out of bed, if it gives her a little boost of self esteem, if it makes her feel a little more normal. Most likely her interest in makeup will peter out, much like my own did after fighting my mom to wear it. And even if it doesn’t, maybe it won’t be as bad as I’m thinking it will be. I just hope to God the look she’s going for is “understated” and not “rodeo clown”. But even if she goes for “rodeo clown”, she’ll still be my beautiful rodeo clown.