Yesterday on the way to a yard sale with my family, we stopped at Bank of America to get some cash and turned around in the gas station parking lot. As we drove through the parking lot, there was this woman, carrying a car seat across the parking lot with a preschooler in tow; they were heading towards a man standing behind his truck. The man bent down, lit up and the boy went running to him. They were meeting for his visitation.
I don't know what exactly struck me about this, but it really got my mind thinking about how hard it is to keep a family together. Not that marriage for anyone is easy, but for families with special needs children the chaos and stress level can be so high, it is a wonder that anyone stays married. Yet, it might be even more paramount that families with young special needs kids do stay married--those adults need the support of their spouse more so perhaps than average couples.
I had friends visit last night, great friends actually, and she is recently engaged for the first time at 42. I couldn't be happier for her. Her fiance has been married before, and I read recently that the divorce rate for second marriages is like 83%--about the same rate for families with special needs children. 83%-that is amazingly high.
With the visitation scene fresh in my mind, and my friend entering into a new marriage (she has a young son as well) I began thinking about what it really takes to maintain a relationship--what it takes to beat the odds. How can my family maintain resiliency?
James May has a great lecture on the subject here in our area, but even after that talk (two years ago) my husband and I didn't feel like we got any great tips. We actually left that meeting feeling thankful that our "special needs" kiddo wasn't worse. Horrible, I know, but being in a room full of families who had kids that needed physical assistance for everything from eating to walking made us feel thankful to have the problems we did. I definitely do not have the ability to lecture on resiliency, and I by no means am an expert on the subject. However, I do know that there are a few things that help me, and so for all of you moms out there that feel like you are about to become a statistic, here are my two cents:
Humor--James May suggested this too, and most of you know me well enough to know that this is about all I have most days. My husband and I genuinely make each other laugh. That attracted me to him to begin with and sure helps still. Also, there are many days when the yelling, screaming, and feeling completely useless in helping our son that we have to step backwards and simply laugh. How in god's green earth did we get here? Three boys, chaos, a dog, a mortgage, appointments....It adds up quickly--and sometimes I still feel like that 21 year old girl who was barely making rent. LOL
Support--I can't stress this one enough. I am so incredibly lucky to have women on my side, women who have kids like mine, in all of the good and bad ways. Those women hold me up emotionally when my legs are too weak to stand. Find an emotional support system--those women are NOT necessarily your best buds, they are not necessarily your social group, they ARE the only people in the world who "get it". Online or on the phone find someone you can reach out to when your life overwhelms you.
Babysitter--Find someone who can handle your kids. Anyone. A friend, a family member, a teacher, neighbor, ANYONE. Then leave them. :) You MUST have time away from the chaos, even when the chaos is at its worst and you think that the world might literally stop spinning if you took any time for yourself. It might start that you go to visit one of those women on your "support" list--another family that no matter how bad your kid is, won't care. Will empathize, not criticize, and will not under any circumstances think that you should simply be harsher or spank more.
That is my three step program. I think all good programs have 12 steps, but that seems like a lot to remember, and I know you are reading this between your child's meltdowns or OT appointments and don't have the time to read nine more steps. LOL Oh, and I want you to actually use these tips. Start practicing these today; it will give your marriage a fighting chance and I know you are *great* at fighting for your family--you have been honing those skills while battling the insurance company, the neurologist, the school district and god knows how many others (in laws, neighbors, grocery store starers)--start fighting for your marraige too!
I hope you are all having a great weekend. I am going to watch some football with my hubby, shower and head to a play with my girlfriend Shellie; Spring Awakening. Seems like an odd one for the cold and wet fall here in Seattle, but time away is really all that matters.
A little about my family. I have been married for almost ten years, to my husband Jeff who works as a corporate guy in Seattle. We live in a suburb, with our three boys--Gabriel, who is adopted from Foster Care and has such a laundry list of ackronyms that go along with his name they warrant their own paragraph, Nick (who looks and acts just like me) and Matthew (who I call my husband's Mini Me), my two Boston Terriers, Buster (17 months) and King Louie (4 months). And if you are adding up, that makes six males in the house, and one female--me.
Gabriel has Sensory Processing Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder, Oppositional Definace Disorder, a little OCD and probably some more -- but we have more testing to do. He is a challenge on his best day and on his worst, well, then I feel like "Bad Mommy". Way too much yelling and punishing.
Nicholas has his own challenges. He is as physically big as Gabriel, and has the same emotional and academic intelligences. Not beacause Gabe is behind, but truthfully because Nick is very bright. I was once complaining to a girlfriend about how much Nick argues with me (from about 18 months on we would debate topics), and she said with glee, "Oh! That is a sign of giftedness!!", "Really?" I said, "Because I always thought it was just a sign of bad parenting." I much prefer the "gifted" label.
Matthew is so two years old I think that he may never see three somedays. He hates to wear clothes, takes fantastic fits, is a total stealth like "runner" (the reason they invented the "kid leash"), and tests my creativity daily.
I love my dogs. My husband doesn't. That sums that up.
I stay home in a great subdivsion, but honestly think sometimes that they could seriously be filiming Desperate Housewives here--things are a little crazy at times. I have a small charity I run, and attempt to have a small, but stabilizing life outside my kids. Not so successfull most days.
I love to write, so expect to see more posts. I am sure I will post regularly--my motto is "If you can't laugh at my life, you have no sense of humor."