Patience is not the ability to wait – but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting. (Author unknown)
I don’t know how to say this delicately – but anyway, here goes! Ginger (my beloved Ginger) – has always had a way of doing things the HARD way. Over the past few years, and especially since Violet (2) was born, Ginger’s personality has been especially spirited, sensitive, reactive, defiant, and well…quite moody.
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, but I think that when Violet was born, it kind of broke Ginger’s heart to give up her status as the baby of the family. It has been a hard couple of years for her (and us) – trying to come to terms with that.
Don’t get me wrong, she LOVES her baby sister. They are so close and love each other so much. It’s more about how much she identified as the baby, and then when she gave that up, she didn’t know who she was anymore. She started trying on a lot of different hats to figure out who she was, and many of them were really hard to parent. 😉
Everything from potty training to dressing to sleeping was an overwhelming battle. I parent from a place of positivity and love – and at the end of my rope many times, I tried all sorts of strategies that I thought could help Ginger find her place and feel secure.
I found myself frustrated, feeling helpless and isolated. It was really a tough place to be.
The issues kept getting worse, and about a year ago, Ginger developed what I can only characterize as extreme people phobia – as in, she was terrified of EVERYONE except for a few people in our immediate family and close friends.
She would scream, not get out of the car if we went anywhere in public. When I took her places, I had to carry her on my back and if anyone so much as looked at her, she would start crying (screaming, actually) – fully melting down. And forget about if anyone tried to touch her.
During all the many times I had to go out with her into public spaces, I got some very judgmental remarks from people about what I was doing wrong with her. If only they’d known how hard we’d been trying, and all the lengths we’d endured to help her, I think they would have seen it differently.
I took her to a doctor a few months ago because I honestly did not know what more to do and wondered if her health was the issue. In my heart, I knew she didn’t have Autism because of how she acted at home, in private, with members of our family. It was like a switch – in private, she was amazing and compliant. Whenever we’d ask her to do something or go out in public, she was NOT okay.
At the doctor’s office, she had a FULL BLOWN panic attack and the doctor could not even check her heart rate. It was a disaster. At the same time, I found out that our insurance had been accidentally cancelled due to a credit card glitch – and so we were then without insurance until we could get that resolved! So – not only did that little doctor’s appointment tell me nothing, I also had to pay through the nose for the visit. Ahhhh- life! (Still, I was grateful to have access to healthcare and the money to pay for it).
Long story short, we did a bunch of blood tests to rule out this and that. We got her thyroid test back which was off – but then when we got the full panel results, all was fine! I was speechless. Everything looked good! Her Vitamin D levels were low, which we began to supplement. Other than that, we just waited.
I didn’t know what else to do but wait, love her, and just accept that in time, things would get sorted out.
During this time, I worked on acting lovingly to her as she was – not correcting her behavior – just affirming her and letting her know how much I love her unconditionally. Not that I love her attitude/behavior – but that no matter what, I deeply love her core person and nothing could ever change that.
(I mean, I always did that before, too – this time I just consciously focused on it and went to great lengths to make her feel special).
I noticed that when she wore her footie sleeper pajamas with her comfy Crocs, she felt much more secure – almost like a suit of fleecy armor was covering her little body. I stopped having that battle and just let her wear her pajamas anywhere and everywhere we went…even to the ballet! 😉
I moved her carseat so it’s the closest to me in the car. I let her sleep in my bed at night. I let her have the first pick of everything. And I carried her everywhere, of course!
We talked a lot about ways to calm down, breathing, and other strategies to interact with people without losing it. 🙂
The other thing I did (which probably made the biggest impact) – is that I started letting her help me with everything. For so long, she was searching for her identity- and I do believe she found it in being the best helper she could be.
Ginger has become my right-hand helper in everything. For example, at night, she helps me clean the whole house while Paprika reads to Violet in their bedroom. Ginger (age 4) will often clean up the living room, family room, and pick up the bathrooms while I do the dishes and laundry in the kitchen. Then, when she’s done, she comes in and helps me! We also feed the cat together every night before bedtime. She washes and shampoos herself and Violet in the bathtub (with me sitting nearby, of course). She picks up all the toys. She fixes broken things. Whenever I need anything done, I ask for her help and she is MORE than willing to help me.
It gives her so much self-esteem to have these defined duties…jobs, if you will!
I don’t know that any ONE of these things helped her – and I know that we are not at the end of the road (not by a long-shot).
But, I DO know that over the past few weeks, my little Ginger has had such amazing progress – it actually makes me want to cry! She is like a different child – she is her real, authentic self – the one I have always known is within her! She dresses herself in real clothes – not pajamas (not that I care anymore). She has been cordial to strangers in public. She has even made friends at the park! All these things seem small, but to me, they are a miracle.
(This is a picture of us after a LONG couple of days of Mr. M being gone – we had just cleaned the whole house together before bedtime, and she wanted to take a picture of the two of us. I know I look tired, because I WAS very tired!):
These past few years with Ginger, I have grown so much as a parent – and I really have to thank her for that growth. I realize now that no one can understand your child and your family better than you can – and that while it’s important to listen to others, it’s also vital to KNOW in your core your own path.
I have also learned patience – patience in the moment, and patience over the long term. So many days, I would feel desperate, at the end of my rope. And then the sun would rise, and the day would be new.
I started thinking of my life like water – and how although quite gentle, water erodes everything over time. In the end, there is nothing more enduring and persistent, gentle yet firm – than water. Water is patient and slow – but it never gives up. And that is how places like the Grand Canyon were formed. Just water.
Anyway – we are at a GOOD place now. I know more storms will come, and that nothing is constant except change. I am grateful for the progress Ginger has made – she is so much happier, which radiates out to the world.
I know now that a child’s soul is their own to take care of, and that while we may guide them and help them – in the end, we have to let go and let them fly. Even so, it is my job as her parent to nurture her and love her, and help her find strategies to find her way in the world. But at the end of it all, I have to let go. Easier said than done, right? 😉