Saturday, April 18, 2020

Random Reflections on Parenting in the Quarantine

We’re a month-ish into Covid-19 Quarantine.  Weeks have never flown by so fast and also taken so long to pass at the same time.  Our normal seems like a distant memory, but I miss it.  Well, some of it.  Not so much the crazy busy schedules, but I miss freedom and people that don’t live in my house.  And if I happen to see someone in person, not worrying if I’m getting too close.  And telling family to stay away from my kids is awful.  I mean, I’m certainly not much of a hugger or a cryer, but I want to give hugs and I’ve started crying on a regular basis.  Stupid quarantine.

My best friend is in my quarantine circle.  Judge me all you want.  I’m over those comments.  

In the beginning I kept telling myself I’ve done this before.  As any high order multiple mom has.  When you have lots of tiny babies who can’t afford to get sick- you’re hyper aware of germ exposure, you hardly leave the house, and essentially put yourself in self quarantine.  But it’s not the same.  My husband is working from home amongst our chaos on a make shift ironing board desk.  No one can come visit.  The kids don’t nap.  They need schooling and want me to cook all the time and they ask a million questions a day.  Mostly “What can I do now?” Or “ Is it screen time yet?”  And some days my answer is “I don’t care anymore!” You win today, children.  You wore me down.

Speaking of questions, I frequently get asked if I’m going to homeschool.  Because it’d be so perfect with all the kids in the same grade, right?  Well, sure, if you’re into that sort of thing.  Which I’m not.  I’ve always answered that question with a firm NO- unless I’m forced and/or that option is what’s best for any of my kids.  Well, you’d think I’d learn to never say never my friends, because here we are with a set of sextuplets on forced distance learning (i.e. crisis homeschool).  And guess what? It’s not for me.  Firm NO was spot on.  Four weeks in and I’m more thankful than ever for teachers.  I don’t know how they do it day in and day out.  And my kids’ teachers have gone above and beyond to support their students and parents during this craziness.  We hit the teacher jackpot.  Which makes me more grateful, but also more sad, because we just found out they won’t be going back until next school year.  And, honestly, I hate that.  It sucks.

The school situation goes from me feeling like it’s all working to panic and overwhelm of all that I should be doing.  Between the 2nd grade curriculum and Leah’s plethora of services, it’s hard to know where to draw the line on what’s best.  Plus, you know, the usual mom stuff.  Originally, this post was going to have some of my helpful tips I figured out during the first couple of weeks.  But things have changed.  I don’t even care about what I figured out a few weeks ago!  I guess the semi-controlled chaotic laid back structure is working.  But it’s much more likely my kids will be Minecraft masters and turn into giant pizza rolls by the end of this than writing in cursive and explaining character traits.  And that’s ok.  We’re all in this boat together.  Paddling in circles.  Debating jumping in the life raft to save ourselves.

Now don’t get me wrong- we’ve also had fun!  My kids really are best friends.  They play and work well together.  They bicker and fight, of course, but just as siblings do.  During this time, I have loved the conversations with my kids over the Bible and faith and reasoning what they’re learning in school.  They know so much more than I thought they did.  We’ve played new games, made new recipes, watched new movies, gone on countless walks,  and I’ll cherish those memories.  We’ve sorted toys and clothes and planned a quarantine birthday.  I’ve loved spreading joy and cheer to others however we can and seeing other people do the same.  That part is pretty awesome.  But I’ve also found a pile of boys underwear with poop still in it and a very stale pop tart behind a shelf and who knows what else awaits me in the nooks and crannies of home.

Obviously, We have had our ups and downs and special moments like everyone else.  I’ve gone from “we’ve got this!” to randomly crying to hiding in the closet... one week I even put hiding in the closet on my daily schedule.  But at least I’m not hiding in the pantry eating peanut butter anymore.  Although I’m not completely above it.  

But I’ll leave you with this- an interesting observation two dear family friends brought to my attention this week... we are three women of different ages and very different life stages.  We’re all experiencing different quarantine experiences- almost opposite really- but, yet, all having the Exact. Same. Feelings.  All over the place.  From grateful to lonely to peace to frustration to worrying about a million things and everything in between.  But all of us cling to our faith and prayers and hope for the future.  That’s what keeps us grounded.  Because these are weird times and we’re not in control.  But we’re all in it together.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Random Reflections on having a child with special needs

This is a tough one.  I don’t go into details about it very often or with very many people.  It taps into a lot of emotions that most people don’t understand.  Or they try and it gets awkward.  Or they have a child with a different set of needs and it’s not quite the same for either of you.  And it’s easier to smile and say “she’s such a joy!”.  But after writing about birthdays, I felt this needed its own post.  I get the most attention for having high order multiples, but Leah’s needs make it a whole other ballgame and those needs alone equal that of the other 5 put together.  I wrote a post a few years ago about being outnumbered, so I won’t get repetitive... just know not much has changed in that regard since they were two.

Leah has so many needs because of her siblings squishing her in the womb.  Her brain didn’t fully develop which led to very significant delays in all motor skills, vision, language, and eating/digestion.  Beyond her basic needs and simple therapy exercises, her needs are often put to the side because of her siblings collective needs.  Yet having so many siblings is a huge blessing.  If I only had Leah, I think I’d be much lonelier.  I wouldn’t bother to take her on outings or swimming or anywhere I wasn’t sure she’d have a positive reaction.  Therefore, not meeting anyone and only seeing therapists and teachers as adult interaction- and Leah wouldn’t get exposure to much either.  If I only had Leah, I also might be obsessive with her care and activities.  There’s just SO much that we could be working on with her, that it’d be easy to fall into a serious schedule trap.  Instead we do the best we can.  That often means admitting to doctors and therapists that I didn’t do any of the “homework” I was last assigned.  But ya know- she’s loved and she’s happy and that’s what I focus on.  And when all her siblings start singing together to calm her down and cheer her up, or ask to push her on a walk and check to make sure her feet and hands and head are in the right place, or cheer her on during a therapy session- I see their bond and how special it is to have so many siblings the same age.  

And Leah IS a joy.  Everyone tells me so and I believe them because I see it.  She’s joyful.  When she’s happy, she lights up the room and it’s contagious.  When we come back to school every August, it takes us two hours to make it through the classrooms because Leah’s fan club has missed her over the summer and wants to love on her.  They don’t do that for just every kid.

She’s also made me appreciate the little things.  I mean the tiniest most minuscule of things.  Because when your child meets no developmental milestones- I mean NONE. Ever.- you get excited over the tiniest things they accomplish.  Hold their own head up for 7 seconds when it used to be 3 seconds?!  WOO HOO!!!! I mean we’re seriously excited over these things.  The tiny things add up to new accomplishments before you even realize it.  Thankfully, her therapists take notes and when I don’t feel like any progress is being made, looking back a few months always proves otherwise.

But with the joy and love and celebrations, there is also a recurring grief and fear and anger and sadness.  I have learned it’s never easy to hear there’s something “wrong” with your child.  Whether there’s a shock involved of an unknown issue or your mama’s heart feels something is off- it’s never easy to hear a professional say the words out loud.  Makes it real.  No more inkling of hope it might not be true.  It’s even harder to be told there’s nothing you can do.  She’ll never be able to do anything.  Try what you like, but it won’t matter.  Especially when she’s 2 months old and weighs all of 3 lbs.  So I grieved the image of the girl I thought I’d have and the things she’ll never do and experiences she’ll never have.  Every now and then that grief comes back up, usually while completing developmental questionnaires.  It’s not fun to check no to every question- no need to actually read the questions.  And there’s fear of the future.  What happens when I can’t lift her anymore and she’s as big as me? What happens after she ages out of the school system? Will her siblings care for her when we no longer can?...If she even lives that long?  Things parents of special needs kids think about at night.  I try to keep myself out of that rabbit hole because I’m not there yet and worrying about things that are so far ahead does no good.  But it’s there.  The anger and frustration of the whys and hows and dealings with doctors and insurance companies appears periodically.  And I often feel sad for the parents who put complete trust in what those professionals tell them.  That a child will never do anything no matter what you try.  Ugh.  It’s just not true.  It might take a lot of time and a lot of work and a change in perspective- but progress is progress and everyone can do something.  Even if it’s just spreading joy with a smile.

But what I always come back to, what grounds me, is faith.  That God made her just as she is for a purpose.  That God gave her to us for a reason.  Do I know what that is? Nope. Do I have doubts? Yep. Is that ok? Of course it is.  And I can look back and see how God was preparing me for this mom job years before I ever saw it coming.  It’s absolutely not a perfect pretty picture, but I’ll take it and keep on doing the best I can.