8 things to consider about preschool

Recently I went through the difficult process of withdrawing my son from preschool.  There had been red flags all along but I told myself that I was being neurotic, over-protective and crazy.  I went against my gut.  I think that because I was a first time mom I didn’t trust myself.  Now, a year and a half after he started he is out of that awful preschool and I have gained a good bit of knowledge about the whole process.  I would like to share these *red flags* that you may notice with your own children.

Potty Training
Perhaps one of the first situations I found to be very strange was this preschool’s potty training policy.  When signing my son up for school I was told that the preschool would work with my son on potty training and that most kids were potty trained within a few months!  I was excited about this.  As the months went by he was no closer to our potty training goal, in fact, he was more removed from it.  It was concerning.  I decided to try to send him to school in underwear since Pull-ups were confusing (they are just diapers) and he was actually allergic.  I was told that he couldn’t come to school in underwear because it was a health hazard.  A health hazard?  I’m not sending him to school with violent diarrhea.  He wasn’t going to go poop on people.  Sigh.  I strongly believe that his hiccups with potty training (at almost 4 years old) are in large part due to the way potty training was handled at preschool.  Make sure the potty training policy is clear at the school that you choose.  Make sure the teachers and staff are willing to work with you and your son or daughter.   Make sure they are encouraging as potty training can be a very difficult time!

Closed for every (no good) reason.
I believe my son was not in school more than he was in it.  Every time I turned around the school was closed for some reason.  Mostly this was due to weather.  This is understandable… however, they would drag it out as much as possible.  They wanted to go by the local school system, which is generally a pretty good rule, except public school students HAVE to go to school and they live all over the county.  We pay for preschool.  Even this I can get behind I guess… but the early dismissals.  If the school system dismissed early (even for just an hour!) …preschool would close at lunch.  Same with delayed openings.  They didn’t even start until 9:45!  If the local school system delayed (they start at 7:30/8), preschool would delay the same amount of time.  I’m sorry but your start time IS a delay!! Who starts at 9:45?!  ::eye roll::  Make sure, when looking for a school, that the school wants to be open!  The staff should love what they do, and shouldn’t look for excuses to shut down for the day.

Won’t let you observe
Listen to me.  If you get nothing else from this, please understand that if a preschool denies your request to observe… or just ignores it- as if you didn’t even ask… GET OUT.  There is a reason they don’t want you in the school.  You should ALWAYS be able to observe your own child, especially if there are problems.

Change in behavior
If there is a change in behavior in your child the preschool could be to blame.  Sure, kids grow and change and they go through different spells and tantrums, but if things get worse and the teachers seem discouraged or even mean… there could be more going on than is easily noticed.  For my son, he was a great kid the first year.  I always got a great report.  When he went to the next class with a different teacher, he was criticized from the very beginning.  Each day resulted in more troubling behavior from both my son and the teacher.  Our little ones don’t always know how to tell us something is going on… sometimes we just have to read between the lines.

What your kids DO tell you
Every once in a while your kid will pop up with a statement that makes total sense.  I hear my son tell me all sorts of stuff in a day.  “Preschool was fine and good.”  “Gigi’s house is far away.”  “I’m going to poop out of my head.”  “My paci’s name is Harold.”  Some things make sense, others don’t make a whole lot of sense and its easy to just say “oh okay… great… sure… that’s awesome,” at the ramblings and go about your day.  However, every once in a while if you really talk to your kid and listen, they’ll say something that you can’t just ignore.  I asked my son, for example, if he liked his teacher and he told me that he did.  I asked if his teacher ever got mad at him and he said that she did… when I asked him why… he replied, “Because she is pissed.”  I don’t know if she said those words to him or not… but I know that he felt that anger and disappointment and that was enough for me.  If you ask your child a question and they reply with “things are fine,” “it is good,” “I like it,” — dig a little deeper.  See if you can ask your questions in a different way.  Sometimes the answers are worth the extra work.

Discipline
The way a school handles misbehavior is very telling.  The first time my son was scolded at school he was removed from the playground and had to spend the remainder of play time in the director’s office.  He was 2 years old.  He ran out of the gate during recess and wouldn’t come back after being asked to.  I found out later that he was taken into the director’s office where they shut the door and had a conversation with him.  I spoke up at the time and have no regrets about the fact that I informed them that they would NO longer be having any closed-door conversations with my 2 year old.  It is always inappropriate.  As time went on my son was removed from more activities.  He was taken out of chapel, music class.  Eventually he quit making art.  I was paying for him to be removed from situations constantly, rather than redirected.  When searching for a preschool, please pay attention to how the school handles discipline.

Too Chatty
When taking my son to school I would chat with the teachers in the mornings.  Usually this was harmless chit chat.  Other times, I was shocked at how much his teachers were willing to share.  I was told in casual conversation about a child’s custody situation.  I was told that his mother had problems, he had behavior problems and he lived with his grandparents.  I was told about several children’s specific situations.  I always thought this was a bit odd as it was not my business…but then I realized that my son was not immune to this gossip.  As I dropped my son off in the mornings I wondered what the parents knew about us.  I wondered if they knew that my son had been struggling in school… or that I struggled with mental illness issues.  I was horrified.  Things I’d told to them in confidence were possibly on display for the whole school to know.  A child or family’s personal business should be just that.. their personal business.  I am sad that these teachers treated these matters as gossip.

Sick kid policy
When taking my son to preschool I was terrified of all of the illnesses he would be exposed to.  I knew this was inevitable and trusted that the school would take proper precautions to make sure illnesses were contained to the best of their ability.  Of course, without fail, my son picked up many illnesses his first year.  He got throat infections, URI’s, stomach bugs, and even mono.  It seemed he was ALWAYS out with something.  It started to become unbelievable.  I got to where I panicked when I saw a kid with a runny nose.  I was very cautious with my son.  I kept him home extra days just to make sure that he was recovering well and not a threat to other children.  I felt guilty thinking that I could send him to school with an illness that could spread to other children and their little siblings! I realized that I was seeing more and more children at school with very runny noses that were lethargic with hacking coughs.  I wondered if the school was abiding by its own stated rules in the handbook.  One child seemed very ill and he was allowed to stay.  Sickness in preschool is inevitable, but there are proper precautions that a school can take. If the school isn’t following their own policies, call them out on it.

Of course there are more things to consider when thinking of taking your child out of a school or choosing the right school for them.  I think the most important thing that I wish I had done was trust my gut.  I knew early on that my son’s preschool was perhaps not the best fit… but I ignored it.  I told myself that I was paranoid and that no school would be the perfect fit.   I should have listened to myself.  Turns out, a “mother’s gut feeling,” is a real thing.  I think it is a God given gift to make sure your babies are safe, happy and healthy.  I pray that I can listen to it more and doubt myself less.

a moment to myself

Today I witnessed my son’s first real panic attack.  He is 3 years old.  I don’t really have words for this.  He made the craziest face.  He wanted to cry but he was too uncomfortable to cry.  He wanted to “be normal” in a room full of kids that he didn’t feel okay around.  He wanted to be okay.  I could see it all in that face he made.  He wanted to cry but he didn’t.  He breathed rapidly… he told the teacher he was “all finished” and he came to me.

I have so much more to say and absolutely no energy.  That face he made has sucked away all of my energy.  All week I’ve been strong for him… and strong for my daughter.  My husband is sick ..and all week it has just been me.  I’ve had to cook, clean, take care of babies, etc. etc.  The only thing keeping me going is the 30mg of Prozac I am taking.  Tonight, I am crying… sobbing. I can barely make it through my work.

Blogger world.. if you pray- pray for me… and send me positive thoughts and energy.  I need to feel the good vibes you all have.  Thank you.

A Mother’s Love

One of the hardest things about being a parent with anxiety is concealing that anxiety for the benefit of your anxious son.  The past few months have been difficult.  I’ve become obsessed with the possibility that something is wrong with him.  Does he have autism?  Does he have ADHD?  Does he have selective mutism?  Is he just a developing young boy who needs time to adjust and be a kid?  I don’t know.  The not knowing is making me crazy.

Every day that I pick him up from school I have to deal with his teachers telling me that it was another rough day.  He ran from them.  He didn’t engage with other children.  He didn’t listen.  He acted out.  I don’t know what to say to them anymore.  I have no idea what to do.  As much as I hate that they have to deal with his misbehavior… I hate even more that this could be due to anxiety or some other condition and none of us know how to deal with it.  I never want my son to feel anxious.  I don’t want him to act out because he doesn’t know how to express himself. I have such an ache in my heart for him.

Today I put him in his carseat and I kissed his cheeks.  I stared into his beautiful blue eyes and I tried so hard to read them.  I felt myself pleading with him telepathically almost.  I tried to feel what he was feeling.  I wanted to know so badly.  “how was your day love?”  “fine and good.”  Sigh.   I never get a direct answer. I just love him so much.   I want to fix anything and everything for him.

I know he knows something is up.  I’ve tried so hard to get him to talk to other kids.  I’ve scolded him about listening and not touching other children.  I’ve tried so hard to help him… and maybe I’ve done too much.  I know he’s heard me talking about it.  He’s seen me cry.  I know he knows more than we give him credit for.  I feel so guilty.  Each day I struggle with letting my emotions show too much in front of him.  I am desperately trying to keep my thoughts and feelings to myself.  It is so hard.

Why isn’t a mother’s love enough?  It is the strongest emotion I feel.  I feel like it has the strength to fix any problem.  How can it possess so much power yet still not make everything perfect?  No matter what I hope he knows that I love him yesterday, today and forever and ever and ever.  I would do anything for that child.  I will do anything for him.  I don’t want him to suffer… ever.  I’m always here to help him.  I think I’m telling this blog because I don’t know that he understands when I tell him.  I can only hope he does.

If you pray, pray for me and my family.  My head and my heart need the love and support.

 

 

Claire: a one minute poem 

I knew I was on the road to recovery when I felt inspired to write. I held my almost 3 month old daughter and could feel the words being created in our bond.  Postpartum depression/anxiety can rob you of a lot of things- but eventually you find your way home.  These words aren’t groundbreaking literature, but in that moment they were everything to me.  They were me breaking free from darkness and discovering my new self.  After 3 months of feelings that were hard to manage, I was allowed to feel the joys of a new baby. She was and always had been the biggest blessing- even when I had trouble seeing anything beyond fear.  I am grateful for this moment and will never forget it.

Claire

Breathe you in
Warm skin, loving lips
My hair around your fingers
Pulling me close
Covering you
Protecting you
Your skin so soft
Your will so strong
A simple kiss
A loving gesture to you
Your home and your protection
Keep me this close forever
Forever with you

Collapse, relax, breathe

I’m exhausted.

Today I got to catch up with a good friend.  She had a baby in June and our kids were finally able to get together and have a playdate.  (As much playing as can happen with a 5 month old, 2 month old and 3 year old.)  As we spent time reflecting on the past couple of months we started to talk about Claire and her allergy syndrome.  I realized when talking to her that this whole thing is getting to me even more than  I thought.  –Which I thought was impossible really.

So what am I afraid of?  I think that is what I should get out.  Maye if I confess my fears I can become more at peace with them.  I don’t know.  I have to try.

I’m afraid of more hospital visits.  I’m afraid of a more severe reaction.  I’m afraid to introduce any new food.  I’m afraid of everything that goes along with this. I’m afraid of the unknown.

Presently I’m afraid of her brother smearing peanut button on her, or her getting her hands on bread crumbs… or her paci going in her mouth after her brother has put it in his and eaten something.  I’m afraid her bottle may touch something on the counter she shouldn’t have.  I’m afraid of EVERYTHING.  I struggle so much with OCD anyway, and now this diagnosis has kicked it into overdrive.  I don’t even know if these things are real threats or dangers… but I feel like my girl is so fragile.  I feel like being overprotective is the only way to cope.  I have no idea actually how to cope.  I don’t know if my fears are rational or irrational.  I never know where that line is.

I’ve been constantly dealing with these fears… these thoughts–all of it.  It feels so intense because its my baby.  She is everything.  The pressure is …so much.  I wish I could accurately express how this feels.

My therapist always asks me to identify my feelings physically.  I feel them in my chest and in my stomach.  It feels tight.  Really, really tight.  The more my mind races the tighter my teeth clench and the tighter my stomach feels.  Eventually, they collapse.  They relax.  Briefly.  Recently, every day has been this way.  I get to a point where I have to make my muscles relax… it feels like defeat.  Letting my guard down feels like failure.  Relaxation feels like laziness.  How do I continue this way?

A glass of wine, a puddle of tears

raindrops-in-puddle-1171471-1279x849.jpgTonight I sit and drink my nightly glass of wine.  An all too frequent habit that I probably shouldn’t be engaging in at all.  It hurts my stomach and I regret it the next day but for the few hours I feel the alcohol in my body.. I feel relaxed for the first time all day.  I feel “happy.”  I feel carefree …I can breathe.

Today was hard.  Another set of doctor’s appointments, but this time for my sweet Claire.  She was diagnosed with a rare food allergy syndrome and the swarm of emotions upon hearing the diagnosis was overwhelming.  I had tunnel vision… tunnel hearing (if that is a thing).  My body started to escape itself… I wanted it to not be real.  I wanted to hear that I was just being an obsessive mother who was overthinking things.  I tried so hard to listen to the doctor all while processing my feelings and obsessing over whether or not she could tell  I was a million miles away.

And there was Claire.  Rolling around on the bed in the doctor’s office, her chubby legs kicking back and forth.  Ripping up the paper on the bed… bringing her left toe to her mouth to nibble on it.  I smiled at her and made a clicking sound with my mouth.  She returned my smile and there was the warmth.  Then… the guilt.

On the ride home I was silent.  Processing every real or irrational thought/feeling.  I was thinking several thoughts at once.  I could feel the grief and fear in my chest and could trace it to my throat.  We got home and my girl smiled at me again and this time I returned her smile with tears.  I changed her diaper and began to sob.  The sobbing left me no room to breathe and soon my husband noticed and so did my 3 year old son.  I was falling apart.  The room began to spin and I sat down in a puddle of tears.  My husband was pleading with me to tell him what I was thinking …but I couldn’t.  How could I tell him this was my fault?

When anything goes wrong… I immediately blame myself.  I should have eaten better when I was pregnant.  I should have tried harder to breastfeed.  I did this to my little girl and it hurt more than I could tell him.  He says that my mind is leading me in the wrong direction.  He said that I made this up and there is no scientific evidence to prove that those things have any correlation with her food allergies.  I didn’t care.  If anything was wrong with her it had to be because I did something wrong, or I missed something… or I could have prevented it somehow.

Really, there was no one to blame for it so I did what I always do.  I beat myself up.  I was angry, upset, scared and had no one to blame… so I took it out on myself.  Only recently have I been able to forgive myself for giving up breastfeeding too early… and with this, all of those feelings of guilt came back.  Could I have prevented this for my child if I had been mentally well enough to continue breastfeeding?

I don’t know the answer.  I don’t know if it would have changed anything.  It probably wouldn’t have…but today, blaming myself was the easiest thing to do.  It was easier to lash out at myself and hate myself than to deal with anything else.  I wanted to hate myself more than I wanted to fear the future of introducing new foods, etc.  Hate is easier to experience than fear.  Anger is easier to identify with than grief.  So I jumped to those familiar feelings as a defense mechanism… to spare myself from feelings I couldn’t manage in the moment.

Tonight, I have this glass of wine.  My escape.  Another way of putting off feelings I don’t want to feel.  And tonight, in this moment, that’s going to have to be okay.

 

Daily Prompt: Carry

via Daily Prompt: Carry

I like to look through these daily prompts and try to get inspired.  Specifically when I don’t feel especially inspired.  Its funny, every time I leave therapy I feel most inspired to write.  However, I go home to a house full of kids and don’t get the chance.  I’m not complaining.  They are wonderful.

So here we go… Carry.

I’ve carried two children.  I’ve carried two beautiful children inside of my body.  I’ve cradled them in my womb from their first heartbeat until I heard them cry after hours of labor.  I’ve carried pieces of my heart in these two children and will carry them forever.

Carrying a child is a really beautiful thing.  If I didn’t carry the worry with pregnancy, it would be one of the best experiences of my life.  Unfortunately, I carry the worry so intensely.  I carry it in every single muscle.  Every breath is laced with it.  I carry it with me and it weighs on every bit of excitement I should be experiencing.

After having my daughter I thought that I could quickly get these worries under control.  I thought that I could overcome them.  I thought I had the power to do this.  The minute she was born I was overcome with such relief, joy, gratitude and fear.  The fear was intense.  It became my sole focus.

This would be the next 3 months of my life.  Every minute has been consumed with fear.  The first 6 weeks of her life I had to have my friends and family spend every day with me.  I couldn’t breathe.  I couldn’t sleep.  I couldn’t eat.  I couldn’t be a good mother.  I could simply exist.  The guilt you feel when this beautiful life that you’ve created depends on you to be everything and you are …nothing.  You are weak, you are depressed, you are scared, you are out of your mind.  I carry that guilt with me to this day.  I knew that I had to call on those I loved to help me in this time and they did.  My baby was well taken care of and she was always loved.  I love her so much and always have.  I loved her so much I had to work through every single difficult moment to make it to the next.  The next was usually better than the last.  Over time it has become easier.  I am still working and I will never stop fighting to be the mother she deserves.

The funny thing is… she is blissfully unaware of any struggle I am going through.  She is 5 months and all she has to do is see my face in the morning and her smile is so warm.  When she cries and I pick her up she is comforted in my arms.  She loves me and I carry that with me during every struggle.

I carried her for 9 months and she and her brother have carried me every day since.  I love them more than I thought I could ever love anyone.  I am so thankful.