I Regret Having My Toddler (when we did)

My partner and I want to be in our thirties. I’m not really sure a better way of putting it, but the average life of a thirty-something is where we want to be. We both want to already be at the point where we’re financially stable, looking into our own house, have a decent support network, and are ready to have a family. Only downside: We’re not at that point. There is no way for us to be at that point. It’s possible that if we’d gotten the dream jobs out of college we had expected we’d be at that point, but we did not. Too few college students do, although we knew a few of them.

If I’d known how things were going to turnout, we wouldn’t have had our baby. It was a bit of contention between my partner and I- my partner hated me saying it, I couldn’t help feeling it. From my partner’s perspective, if we hadn’t had the baby when we did, we wouldn’t have had Bo. We would have had some other baby. Yes, we would have loved that baby- but Bo still wouldn’t have been in our lives.

I love my baby to death, but he deserved so much better. There were days that I was terrified his special needs were entirely because our life is so difficult. And, to a degree, I was right. He desperately needs a rigid schedule- something we couldn’t give him in college and something we couldn’t give him from a retail job. This meant he never got enough sleep and just didn’t do well overall. I still haven’t gotten a regular 9-5 job, my new job is contract work and the schedule is all over the place- it’ll be so much better for me and financially, but I worry about what it’ll do to him.

I have no idea what I believe, my faith has been shaken up and dragged through the mud and I’m now a bit afraid to believe in anything. If you are a believer, I can see people saying that things happen for a reason, that this was the way our lives were meant to play out. If you aren’t- then we were two idealistic college students who rushed into something we weren’t properly prepared for and have to pick up the pieces now. It doesn’t really matter which view was right- either way, we’ve gone through an incredibly difficult time and still aren’t quite out of the woods yet.

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Our Garden

We finally live in a place with a decent front and back garden. It’s not the best ever, but it’s decent. We have a small-ish back porch that attaches to the back garden, so we’ve cordoned off a section of it with a baby gate and planted grass so kiddo can play in it.

Past that, I’m working on a vegetable garden. The land is ready and today I got pepper, zucchini, and tomato plants. I have a few seeds ready as well. I’m nervous about how it’ll go, the garden has some problems with pests, but excited.

In front, we planted 4 blackberry and 2 raspberry bushes. They’re still very small and young, but they’ll look nice when they’ve grown and the fruit will be good as well. We also have 2 strawberry plants that mom gave us last year that survived the winter.

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Fear Instead of Community

There’s something that’s been bothering me lately. It’s the way our culture has shifted to calling in the authorities rather than talking to people. The way we’ve shifted away from having communities where neighbors actually interact and kids play outside. The way we’ve shifted to living in fear and intimidating anyone who isn’t as afraid as we are.

I was reading an article about parents getting arrested for leaving a child in a car at a safe temperature in a safe location for less than 10 minutes. Not just arrested, but charged with felonies and severe crimes! That on its own is a concerning development. But I came across this quote:

We’re raising our kids in a moment when it’s easier to call 911 than to have a conversation.

That’s it. That’s the way things are. That’s what’s bothering me. We’re living in a world of fear, where we’re terrified of each other and don’t think we need to look out for each other. Where we’d rather see someone’s life destroyed for a poor decision that caused no harm to anyone.

Because this isn’t just about the fact that people will call the cops rather than have a conversation. It’s what the cops are doing about it. Rather than giving parents a slap on the risk and warning talk about the dangers, parents are getting arrested and children are being taken from their families. And not all cops are bad, of course, you also see wonderful stories of cops buying poor parents a car seat rather than giving them a ticket or taking the time to help a family rather than arresting a trespassing teen.

Things aren’t all bad, but a lot of parents don’t feel safe anymore. I know a woman who’s 8 months pregnant and is terrified because she fears that if she tries to turn down interventions in the hospital, she’ll get CPS called on her and her children taken away. Which may sound paranoid, but then CPS took away a newborn because her mother left the hospital “too early” and a woman had a baby taken by CPS for refusing a C-Section.

I recently saw an article arguing that our children are less free than they ever have been, likening the levels of restriction or children face to times of slavery. Thanks to the internet, I think that that’s complicated. In one sense- they’re more free to interact with people and learn things than any generation previously. But, physically, yes, many of our children are far more restricted than they were.

I recently visited a neighborhood that had kids playing outside. Wandering around without a parent hovering over them. Talking and laughing and just being kids. It was wonderful. My partner seriously talked about moving there, if we had the funds we would’ve been looking at houses. But it’s not nearly as wonderful as it is horrible- because it’s the first neighborhood I’ve seen like this in years. I live in a neighborhood with kids, and they never play outside. We have a big green communal yard and woods beyond it and the kids never play outside. They don’t ride their bikes.

I don’t like this change, but I’m not sure how we can fix it.

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Elimination Diets Suck.

It’s been over a year since I gave up gluten. It’s been over 6 months since I discovered the magical supplement that lets me eat gluten without problem (CoQ10, can never say enough about it, seriously helped my fibro as well). Which makes my life a lot easier, but we’re still a mostly GF household because my toddler still needs to be gluten free.

Now it’s pretty much second nature. Grocery shopping isn’t hard once we figure out how the specific stores distribute gluten free stuff. Menu planning is simple. We just automatically focus on recipes that are either already gluten free or easily converted, and know where to look to find them. Today we went to the food court and discussed what we wanted to get- there was no agonizing over menus to figure out what’s safe for our toddler. We just know. We’re fortunate that it’s a pretty easy one to spot and also that our toddler’s severity of gluten sensitivity is low enough that some cross-contamination isn’t an issue. There are some people who can’t eat anything in a kitchen that works with gluten due to cross-contamination. That sucks.

It can be easy for me to forget what this was initially like. The first few months were absolute hell.

Before going gluten free, I had severe digestive problems. I had a very narrow range of foods I could eat. Gluten was a huge part of my diet. Gluten free breads were so expensive that I couldn’t just switch them out and gluten free baking is not easy to start with. It took trial and error to figure out which gluten free brands didn’t totally suck.

I spent a month basically starving. I spent many, many months going to restaurants and staring at menus and wanting to cry and scream because everything I wanted was something I couldn’t eat. A few times I cheated and suffered severely for it.

Every time I see talks of elimination diets, though, the memories come flooding back. Whenever I see parents talking about having to try eliminating something from their kid’s diet I sit there and go “How could I have survived putting my child through that?”. The learning curve is steep and unforgiving as an adult- it gets even worse when you’re starving your own child and panicking that it won’t really help and your kid is suffering for no reason. I also cannot imagine going through it while breastfeeding.

So to anyone facing an elimination diet:

Yes. It sucks. You can try to prepare yourself better than I did, but there is a steep learning curve no matter what you do. But you can do it, and you can come out the other end.

To anyone who hasn’t had to face an elimination diet and doesn’t get what all the fuss is:

Please be patient with whoever it is that’s going through it. It is very, very hard at the start. It sucks. And you may not get it, but just trust that most people aren’t going to go through it unless they seriously need to.

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Getting It

We finally had a meeting with an occupational therapist last week. It was exactly what we had needed since our toddler was 2 months old. We finally spoke to someone who Got It. Someone who was familiar with kids like ours, who knew families facing our problems well, and who knew how to help. We’ve already started implementing her suggestions and seeing an immediate result. Our toddler has sensory issues, definitely sensory seeking in some areas but we won’t be able to fully know until he can communicate better what he’s experiencing.

We have so many answers. He pulls down furniture and barrels into things and hits and kicks and body slams people because his nervous system is in a constant quest for input. He’s Johnny 5 in the bookstore. The reason he gets violent while giggling merrily is because he truly doesn’t know it’s hurting, in fact it’s fulfilling a need (which we now have advice on how to meet non-violently). He also has impulse control problems, but that’s mostly age appropriate. The problem is that when you put together the need to push yourself to the limit with poor impulse control- well, it’s not a good combination.

Things were so bad before the appointment, our toddler had been a miserable nightmare and we just had no idea what to do. Everyone was exhausted and miserable, it was so hard to keep on top of housework or cooking or even paying the bills. We’d read every freaking parenting book we could get our hands on, and a lot of the advice is the exact opposite of what our toddler needs. If we didn’t have that appointment with the occupational therapist, I really don’t know what would have happened, to any of us.

No one understood or even believed how difficult things were with our toddler. The Occupational Therapist got it. Not only did she get it, she had answers. Finally.

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Is It My Fault?

I think this is something that comes into the  minds of most parents when they’re having their child evaluated for special needs. Is it my fault? Is it something I did? There’s a deep fear that maybe we’re just bad parents.

It’s also, actually, a bit of hope.

If the problems are caused by our actions, we can change our actions. There’s something we can do to prevent our next child from facing these challenges. We aren’t facing something innate to our child’s very being. We don’t have to struggle about whether we’re truly helping our child with their challenges and trying to force our child to be something they aren’t.I really do wish that this was our fault, that this was due to our actions, that if we just changed our ways our toddler wouldn’t have to face these challenges. Finding out that, no, our toddler does have special needs that date back to the womb… It’s both a relief and a heartache.

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21 Month Molars

The two year molars… Oy. Just. Oy. Or, in our case, the “21 month molars because LOL you thought you’d get until your baby was 2? That’s precious”.

Two year molars are just this giant practical joke. The other teeth, it was one giant roller coaster ride from start to finish. We were constantly in teething mode. Sure, we’d get a week or two respite, but the pre-teething pain started at 2 months and continued until the final molar cut around 12 months. And then… nothing. We grew accustomed to life without teething.

Then, a few months ago, the pre-teething started up again. Drooling. Crying. Swollen gums. Diarrhea.

In the last month, teething has started back in with a vengeance. Late night My Little Pony marathons because nothing else will distract our toddler from the pain. Being woken up to ear-piercing screams when the pain medicine wears off. We better have had another one cut last night because otherwise- we are so screwed.

On top of that is the new behavior problems. Before, our toddler was not nearly mobile or dextrous or tall enough to cause problems. Now, teething brings with it major destructive impulses. Throwing things to the floor, pulling things off the table, trying to destroy the baby gates. We are currently facing what I can only imagine is the non-verbal “NO” phase. Where once we could ask our toddler to give us something, now they run the opposite direction. Our toddler no longer listens, and is completely without the words to tell us if they want anything else.

This is one of those times that having a non-verbal toddler sucks. If our requests were met with a firm ‘NO!’, we would’ve  immediately known we were in the ‘no’ stage. Instead our first worry is “Have our toddler’s language skills regressed?” “”Is something actually wrong with their hearing?”.

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