Oh. OCD.

How do I tell you that there is something wrong with my child?

How do I explain my lanky 10-year old’s toddler-like fits, his crippling fears over mundane things, his lengthy, peculiar rituals, his exhausting conversations that go nowhere but span across multiple days, or the downright rude things that come out of his middle-schooler-bucked tooth mouth?

I don’t know. I’m new at this.

I mean, I’m not new at having a child with abnormal tendencies. He’s shown glimpses of an obsessive level of stubbornness since infancy. I’m just new at understanding them – at understanding him, I guess.

Over the last couple of years, his… differentness… has shown itself with increasing vigor. This summer, the months before he will start 5th grade, have been the (so-far) culmination of difficulties. Instead of weeks or months between fits of strange behavior, there suddenly is almost no “normal” reprieve. I feel like I’m losing him behind a wall of… of… badness.  

My son has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

            He is plagued with obsessions and compulsions.

                        You do not have to repeat things to make them "feel right."
                        You do not have to wash your hands 4 times, for 45 seconds each.  
                        It is okay to use a school or public bathroom.

            He overestimates danger and so is tormented by bouts of intense fear.

                        You do not need to double lock every door and shut every window.
                        Your water bottle is not "contaminated."
                        No one is going to get into your bedroom with a grappling hook.
                        You do not need to sleep with the covers tightly over your head.
                        Please - for the love of God - stop coming into our room in the middle of the night asking to sleep on our floor and proceeding to scream about it for 30-75 torturous minutes.
            He craves absolute certainty and is crippled with stress in the absence of such.

                        Yes, I’ll be at the bus stop when you get off. Just like every previous 492 days of school.
                        Yes, those shoes match/will be comfortable/are weather-appropriate.
                        Yes, Dad will be home around 6 PM. Just like I told you 3 minutes ago.

             And to boot, his OCD sparks oppositional defiance that is frequent and persistent. Basically, he's almost always irritable, angry, or straight-up deifying instruction from adults with authority over him (ie. all adults) but particularly me.

I’m a fairly hard-lined parenter. Like: I already gave you an answer, there’s no discussion kind of parent. Like, you want to complain about that, now you can do this too kind of parent. (And, for the record, I call this good parenting.)

But my son is pretty much turning any shred of intuition, success, or aptitude I may have held as a parent into crap. It-doesn't-work, there-is-no-logic crap.

From the humbling ground of square-one, I am having to learn how to parent OCD. And it's way, way less intuitive and more time-consuming. It is smash-your-head-against-the-wall-difficult.

It feels like everything I've been fighting for parentally for the last decade is lost behind a wall of my son's irrational fears and emotions I have to help him (a) recognize are not real and (b) learn to fight against. 

It used be like, hey kid: use polite language and gracious manners. Apologize. Look a person in the eye and speak up. Struggle to think of others. Lying is unacceptable.

Now, it's like: you will drink out of the same cup twice. Yes you can.

I don't know where it goes from here. I don't.

My husband and I are constantly fighting for our gentle, agreeable, funny child trapped behind these struggles with thoughts stronger than he has learned to fight and emotions bigger than he has learned to sort. 

We go to therapy. He does. My husband and I do so we can parent him - and hopefully not lose our minds in the process. There are books for us and workbooks for him. We're talking about medication. And really, we're struggling every day with him. 

Oh, so, I guess that’s how I tell you there is something wrong with my child.

The mental illness in my son's brain is the new Terrible in our lovely lives. But onward we plod, fighting for the greater Lovely. Fighting for our boy.


Summer With Kids: Have a Plan

What do you do with your kids during the summer?

Do you ever get that question? I certainly do. Give them a popsicle and lock them outside. Uh, just kidding. The answer in our household is often routine. When nothing else is scheduled, we use a schedule.

Because I work full-time and also put in a lot of volunteer hours, I’m no stranger to using careful scheduling and time management to stay on top of an otherwise overwhelming amount of tasks and information. It can get crazy otherwise. Can I get an amen?! I also have a child with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder who does better when he clearly knows what to expect.

Basically, because I prefer a sane household, I enforce a schedule.

There’s a lot of summer schedule suggestions for kids floating around out there. In case anyone may benefit from ours, here’s what we do:

A lot of the summer we are traveling. Or there’s the occasional day-outing or play date. This schedule is not for those days but for all the others. It's for the normal, in-between, kids-bickering, kids-bored days.

May you enjoy the time with your littles this summer, Mamas. Godspeed.

And when all else fails, don’t be afraid to give them a popsicle and lock them outside.


Parenting Through the Failures and the French Dressing

Good God, parenting is hard.

(I mean that less as an expletive and more as an actual cry out to God. But both work here.)

At times it’s so difficult it sucks. Like, sucks the life out of you.

If you're new here, I have two children. And ya, ya, they're basically the meaning, joy and all that stuff in my life; blah, blah. Also, I am often convinced by their actions, non-actions, and words that I am an incompetent, haggard, imbecile. The latter of which has been more common of late.

These two darlings of mine are opposites in nearly everything. 

My first child came into the world after a grueling 2-full days of pain-filled, epidural-failing labor in an uncomfortable hospital with shared recovery rooms. There was no sleep - or recovery - to be had in that loud, hot room with someone else's screaming newborn and crass family members on the other side of a curtain. Twice a day the cafeteria delivered prison-quality food that consisted primarily of iceberg lettuce with French dressing. (Ugh. WHO eats French dressing?)

Regardless, I was enamored with the life entrusted to me. That long-awaited, tiny, beautiful baby was mine!

As our days together grew, along with the bonding and immeasurable love, he confounded me in ways I assumed were due to my parenting inexperience. It was only some seven years later, I started to see these traits as part of who he is. He has obsessive compulsions. He struggles with anxiety. He is complicated.

Conversely, a few years, a few states, and some major life changes later, my second child came into the world in a miraculous, perfectly-timed flurry of ease and joy. [More on that here.]

In a cool, beachy town, she arrived quickly and with forgettable pain. We laid together in a quiet, cushy room to ourselves with no French dressing in sight and the world felt easy and good with her in it.

The five years of her since then have been largely easy and good. Where our eldest often confounds and exhausts us, our youngest comes along with receptiveness and reason that restores our sanity.

I don’t know who these little people will become - which is the outcome that drives the very purpose of parenting - but in these early years with them, they certainly have already niched out distinct traits and qualities.

One of our offspring, my husband says, struck the genetic lottery. She is smart, good at everything she tries, and likable, as though the very tranquility she came into the world with still emanates from her. Our other offspring, not unlike the way he came into the world, is... complicated. Many of his good qualities are quieter, take more time to see and appreciate. And, his character requires much more correction. (This is in part due to his older age, to be fair.) Parenting him takes more patience, humility, and time.

It is easy to grow weary or frustrated parenting any child … to wonder what you’re doing wrong and gosh-darn-it what’s wrong with them?!

It's in this onslaught I've forgotten something.

In the struggle and the self-doubt, I forgot that I’m the one for both of my children. My husband and I are meant for these two specific children; we have what it takes to to raise them into moral, just, kind humans; to take these blessings and cultivate the good within them as they grow.

In the words of Lysa TerKeurst, a wiser woman than I:

...God gave me this specific child. God sees within me the ability to be the one He’s perfectly designed to raise this child.

Through the normal difficulties or the unique ones, the sunshine and rainbows or the arguing and dejection, may each parent among us be encouraged and reminded that we are perfectly designed to raise the child or children we have.

Whew. And may God help us in the process. (Especially when puberty hits.)


Don't You Cry.

“Ding, ding,” goes her Hello Kitty bell as she peddles hard around the track. Her bike flops lopsidedly from one rickety training wheel to the other. She doesn’t want to take them off yet. The sun is hot on our backs and the air is painfully dry.

This is where we live now. It still doesn’t feel like it.

My phone is in the purple and white basket clipped onto the front of her bike; it’s playing Guns N' Roses' Don’t Cry as we circle the track, waiting for her brother's practice to be over. I’m humming along and pretending Axl is singing to console me, (and also pretending that the lyrics are not largely a bunch of relationship garbage – I mean genius – I mean garbage.)

She is excited to have the important job of carrying my phone, especially whilst it blares music. Happily, she dings her bell along like the 6th member of the band. We just need some tight American-flag biker shorts and a lot of pomp and then we'd be all set out here.

The months since moving to this place have been long and difficult; the changes have been a constant struggle, launching me into yet another "difficult phase" of my adult life. Has there been anything but a succession of difficult phases? 

Well, so, this is what I’ve come to... “bumping” a 1991 hit from a four-year-old’s bicycle when I really do feel like crying at 4:00 in the afternoon?  

I fear I keep repeating myself, but gosh life is hard. It’s hard with really, truly big problems at a lot of times, and a lot of other times we take our small problems and inflate them into bigness.

Today, I am tired of this sadness so biting. And while I’m at it, I’m tired of limping for the last six years and ending every day in pain. I’m tired of nerve damage and hot flashes and treatment side effects and…  and parenting failures, and... I’m tired.

We all grow weary of our own burdens at times, don't we? I know so many of you, dear friends, struggle with your disappointment, your loneliness, your heartache, your stress, your pain. Maybe you also need someone to tell you today, “don’t you cry,” or hey, “go ahead and cry” - whichever it may be that you need.

So while I ironically seek some console from infamously self-destructive, hedonistic 90's rock-stars, I know it's actually humility, realistic expectations, and outward focus that will push me through.

I hope it will for you too.

I hope you still walk; peddle; ding your bell; play your music.

And of course, even though sometimes it doesn't feel like anything, would that we remember “There’s a heaven above you baby.”

Sometimes that's all there is.

Guns N'Roses: Don't Cry. Written by Duff Rose Mckagan, Izzy Stradlin, Matt Sorum, Saul Hudson, W. Axl Rose • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group


Like a Weaned Child

I’m a few paces behind my lanky 8 yr old as the office lady leads him around the unfamiliar school. His thin shoulders are hunched forward and he’s not making eye contact. Each time she speaks to him, he nods his head with an only-slightly-perceptible movement.

His face is brave though - so brave. I don’t understand how he is not crying. I am.

Visions of the beautiful, familiar elementary school we said goodbye to just last week are haunting me. I want that back for him. I want it all back. I want to have not had to say goodbye to such a place as was our home that I loved. I don’t want to be standing in this loud, hot hallway right now, outside a second grade classroom I’ve never seen before and discretely wiping tears into my cheeks.

How will he remember where to go tomorrow morning on his own? Will anyone sit with him at lunch? What will recess be like? ...Why are we making him do this?

My throat keeps tightening into sadness in the coming days as I try to push through the newness of so many life changes I wasn’t looking for. And when the tears do come for my brave 8 year old who misses his old friends, his old teacher, his old everything, I can’t choke back from joining in with him. "I just watch the kids play. I don’t know how to play with them. I want to go home," he tells me.

So do I. Even though we chose to make this move to be with family, I feel a bit lost and lonely amidst them right now. Oh, I know it will get better. But with 7 moves already under my belt since marriage, I am ill-prepared for how awesomely difficult #8 is proving to be. There wasn’t supposed to be a #8. And I really, really liked #7.

By week two, my son has gained the confidence to join in the games at his new school, to say, “Hey, can you teach me how to play that?” He doesn’t fight going to school in the morning, (well, not any more than he normally would anyway.) He goes several days in between pulling out his goodbye letters from his old friends and hungrily re-reading them. He seems happy again.

For such incompetent, dependent beings, children can be remarkably resilient, can’t they?

There’s a Bible passage that says:  Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me. (Psalm 131:2)

Sometimes is takes a lot of courage to say, “Hey, can you teach me how to play?” And nearly always, it's a challenge to have the reason to see that joy can be chosen, independent of circumstances. 

As for me, I'm still fighting the weaning process; I'm pretty much screaming inside, "Give me back my milk! I want my old joy back." I'm apparently trailing behind that lanky 8 year old of mine in more ways than one. I am working on putting my banging fists down and resting against what I have given up; I know it is only then my hands will be free to embrace what I have now.

So every day I try again at managing without that which I had become excessively fond of, (the definition of wean.) I reach for the composure to quiet my soul. I try to let go of #7 and draw into the goodness of #8.

It will be good here. I will live with joy through this, as I have fought to through the challenges that came before it. So can you... through your struggle.

May God help us draw upon our child-like spirits of resilience.
May we have peace even without the sweet milk of our desires.