Monthly Archives: September 2017

September is a nightmare for me. Literally.

It is the end of September and the transition back to school and the million activities has gone with unprecedented smoothness.  Obviously me being at home this month rather than working full time has been the game changer.  Berrik’s transition back to school from being homeschooled has also been incredibly easy.  For the first time ever, managing school with Berrik has been completely simple and almost without any stress at all….for him or for me.

Yet, I am not sleeping well.  I am having almost nightly vivid nightmares that have me waking with a start, heart beating, covered in sweat and unable to get back to sleep for sometimes hours.  The theme of the nightmare is the same each night.  I am doing something wrong – although it’s not always clear what I am doing that is wrong, the anxious feeling of doing something you’re not supposed to is intense in these dreams. And each night, whatever I’m doing wrong results in a massive disaster about to happen, and that’s when I wake up.   Everything from police chasing me as I am driving, and then about to crash, to hiking up a mountain and slipping and falling off a cliff, to having a blow out with my best friend and her ending our friendship.  The story in my dream is almost always different but the impending sense of doom and the panic feel the same.

I’m no psychologist (perhaps I need to talk to one!), but my gut sense is this has something to do with having a child with special needs.  I think when anyone has a child whose path in life is not ‘typical’, whether it be learning disabilities, illness, accidental injury or any other situation that puts a child and family on an unexpected trajectory, there is a special kind of stress and thought process.  I don’t know this for sure.  I’m just speaking from my own experience.  I worry about all my kids.  I am heartbroken for them when life hands them a lemon or two (but usually glad for the teachable moment), and overjoyed when they find success.  But with Berrik, it’s a bit different.  He gets more than his share of lemons.  And that is truly heartbreaking.  But he’s resilient and works hard as a result, so I can see the lemonade for those lemons.  Where I really struggle is wondering deep down if his struggles are somehow my fault.  Did I do something during pregnancy that caused this?  Did I not intervene early enough?  Am I doing everything I can to help him?  Each year I learn more and more about how to help him achieve his greatness, but at the same time I question whether I am doing enough, and whether I am doing it soon enough.  It’s a ridiculous and unproductive thought process since we cannot turn back time, and intellectually I know we do many things to help him and that many of them are working really well.  Yet the thoughts are there.  Always lurking.

How does this relate to the nightmares?  I think that now that Berrik is in school and the majority of the daily responsibility for his learning has been handed over to his incredible and very capable teachers, I’m feeling some anxiety.  The school is really good with communication, so I’m up to date on how Berrik is doing in a general sense.  But the day to day, hour to hour progress is no longer available to me the way it was when I was teaching him at home.  I think that this is resulting in me feeling anxious about whether putting him in school will prove to be the best answer down the road; maybe trouble letting go of the control? My fear of realizing 2 years from now that I should have kept him home is my guess at what is causing these crazy nightmares.  I have looked back many times and wished I had made a decision earlier or made a different decision, or learned more about something sooner. Even though my gut tells me this school is going to be great for Berrik, I think my brain isn’t ready to accept a movement towards worrying about Berrik in the ‘typical’ parent worrying about a typical child way.  I think the nightmares are part of that processing.  I think they are related to my fear of impending doom if things don’t continue to go well in school.  And my panic about making the wrong decision but realizing it too late.  For years I have been in fight or flight mode, and perhaps now that some pressure is off and the cortisol levels are dropping, things are trying to sort themselves out in my head.

The whole situation has really got me thinking about the sequelae of raising a child with special needs.  I never like to diminish the joy that Berrik brings us by talking about the negative feelings, because the negative feelings have nothing to do with Berrik in the sense that he does not cause me to feel this way.  But the guilt, anger, and fear are feelings I have struggled with since we realized that his trajectory was going to look different than many of his peers, and different than that of his sisters.  Some hours, days, or months are worse than others, and almost always, our day to day life overrides these tough emotions, but those feelings are there, waiting in the background.  I know that in the big picture, his journey is considerably simpler and easier than so many others.  I also know that I am exceptionally lucky because I have a husband who is ‘all in’ when it comes to the kids, and a support system of family and friends that always have Berrik’s back and always have mine.  A friend recently reminded me to enjoy the ‘moments’ because every moment is a blessing.  She is one of those people who really understands what is important, and can look to the positive no matter how rotten the lemons are that are handed to her.  So instead of worrying about what I should have done differently, or about what challenges next week or next year might bring, I’m going to start trying to enjoy the moments of this week.   And here’s hoping this deliberate effort to adjust my mindset will chase away those nightmares.  I could use a nap.  🙂

 

Berrik is sick. This is the best day EVER!

This morning Berrik woke up with a headache and sore throat.  I made him breakfast and gave him a big glass of water to drink to see if it would help.  I really wanted him to go to school today.  Not because I want him out of the house, but because today is a big day at school.  His class has been studying Beakerhead this week and have been planning to build a big fort in class.  We went through the whole morning routine and just as we were about to get into the car, Berrik said he just couldn’t go as his head and throat were hurting too much.  He is not normally a complainer so I knew he must really not be feeling well.

I took Berrik downstairs and snuggled him onto the couch with a blanket and some Netflix.  And he cried.  Total devastation.  Big gulping sobs.  “Berrik, why are you crying so hard?  Do you feel really awful?” I asked.  “I just wanted to go to school so bad Mom,” he sobbed.  “I don’t want to miss it.”

I’m not heartless.  Or a crazy mean mom.  But while I cuddled my sad little boy, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy.  Berrik is sad about missing school!  He is engaged and wants to attend.  He’s excited about what he has been learning. This has literally never happened before.  Never.  Not one time has he ever said, I’m excited to go to school, or I’m sad to miss it.  Not even when there were cool fieldtrips planned, and not while I was homeschooling him.

So.  I hope he feels better very soon.  But as he feels unwell and rests, I am feeling excited and relieved and a multitude of other positive emotions.  We have had so many ups and downs in Berrik’s short school career, and I truly wondered if we’d ever find a school that would be a good fit for him.  Many hours of sleep have been lost.  Many grey hairs have sprouted (although I believe the girls can take credit for some of those too!).  Our hearts have broken numerous times.  But today, I can look back on the journey and sigh with relief because at least for today, I know it was worth it.

September is the new New Year

I often feel like September is more of a ‘new year’ than January, and this year I feel it more acutely than ever.  It’s the usual ‘new’ beginnings that come with the school year starting – it’s my oldest’s last first day of Junior High, my middle child’s first first day of Junior High, the beginning of dance season (that never really ended) and the beginning of choir season, karate, basketball, piano, which with the exception of piano, means the beginning of chauffeur season for me.   Its also back to seeing my dance mom friends a bit more regularly, and getting back to curling in one short month so I can see my curling friends weekly all winter – I saw them two times from end of curling season in March until now, so believe me when I say I am looking forward to curling season!

This year feels different than most because we are starting (yet another) new chapter with Berrik.  He is headed back to school.  Unexpectedly a spot opened up in a small private school, and luckily Berrik was chosen to fill that spot.  If you have a child with learning disabilities in a classroom of 27 kids (or maybe even if you have a neurotypical child in a classroom with 27 kids) you’ll appreciate my optimism and excitement when I tell you his class this year will have 10 children with one teacher and one teacher assistant.

We had the opportunity to meet with Berrik’s teachers and tour his classroom this past week.  Apparently this is something that all kids at the school have the opportunity to do. We had a scheduled time and it was just Berrik and I in the classroom.  We had the chance to really talk about Berrik and how he learns best.  Berrik got to hear about what a typical school day will look like, he got to sit in his desk, and check out some of the classroom ‘fun stuff’.   The school OT dropped by to meet Berrik and say hi.  She spent a bit of time chatting with him.  While I was talking with her, the school principal came by the classroom.  She was wearing a dress, but she sat right down on the floor anyways to look at the machine Berrik was building with K’nex.  I had met her previously, so she didn’t even speak to me.  She was clearly there for Berrik.  Any doubts or fears I may have had disappeared.

These people really seem to get it.  They get how important it is to have parents’ input.  They get how developing a strong relationship with the child is critical to the child’s success as a student.  They definitely seem to get how important all members of the learning team are to each student and family.  They get how overwhelming this can all be for families new to the school, and mitigate that through one on one attention and time to talk. This is the first time I have prepared to send my boy off to school and am doing so with excitement and basically no apprehension.

I always feel the need to defend teachers here.  I believe almost ALL teachers and school administrators ‘get it’ in terms of all the things I mentioned above.  The difference is that the public system doesn’t allow for this to happen on the scale  that it can happen in a small private school.

As a small aside, I recently watched this Ted Talk about Dyslexia & Privilege which really resonates with me, and I have often talked about how grateful I am that we are able to access resources for Berrik that many many others would not have the means to.  I have wondered many times how I could do something about this…  But that is another blog post entirely.

So today, on the official last day of summer for the kids, I sit here feeling grateful, excited, content, and hopeful.  I look forward to this year of more firsts, more adventures and more challenges too.    Given the natural disasters around the world in this moment, the craziness of the global political climate, and the stresses that many people in my life are facing every day right now, I choose to enjoy this moment and hope for a tomorrow filled with good news.