My Heartfelt Thanks

Thank you all for your comments in my previous post. I spent the weekend carefully reading them, holding each sentence close and letting the words wrap themselves around me like a protective cocoon. I appreciate your concern, your honesty, your stories. Your words were outstretched arms helping me to pull myself out of that dark hole of inadequacy, embarrassment and shame.

As a teenager, I would have been one of those people staring in disgust at a screaming child and a parent who couldn’t shut that kid up right away. Can’t be that hard, I’d think to myself. Oh, how fate can put you on the other side of the situation and shame you into realizing your prior mistakes. Never – never - would I now think of questioning a parent who was trying to calm an out-of-control child. As long as they’re not beating the child, my only thoughts are of sympathy for both parent and child.

When I was pregnant with Cordy, I remember wishing for a child who was intelligent and healthy. Very little else mattered to me at the time. I told Aaron that I hoped she was of normal or above average intelligence, because otherwise I wouldn’t know how to handle her. My reasoning was that I was a smart child – placed in gifted ed programs, always ahead of the rest of the class – and I knew how to deal with it. A child who was “slow” or “special needs” was something I couldn’t identify with, and therefore would struggle to understand. Seems shallow and petty, I know. I’m embarrassed just writing it out.

The funny thing is that Cordy is intelligent. She’s so smart – I got what I asked for. But her emotions, her reactions, and it seems life itself are so intense that she can’t cope. This age is a double-edged sword: toddlers have no mental filters, so their thoughts are right at the surface and they are open books. You can see exactly what is going on in that little head. But they also have a lot of emotions with little understanding of those feelings, so the briefest flash of anger or sadness or confusion can erupt into a meltdown as they try to understand what’s going on.

Most toddlers learn to cope with the world around them, labeling and harnessing those emotions as they grow into preschoolers. Cordy has a lot of trouble with this. The smallest obstacles end in fits that last beyond 15 minutes, with her often ending up unable to remember why she was upset. But the tantrum feeds into itself so she can’t stop.

So I got the smart child I wanted, but she’s an emotional H-bomb. And I don’t know how to handle her. I guess this is what happens when you aren’t specific in what you ask the universe for, right? (note: totally joking here)

Her final evaluation is September 5, but that week and a half seems so far away. I want some professional with a clipboard and letters after her name to tell me exactly what the problem is and how to fix it. Because until that point, I’m still left to wonder if she’s a normal kid and I’m just a bad parent. Were I in another situation like Friday, I can’t even shout at the onlookers, “What’s your problem? She has [insert official diagnosis here]! Do you know how to handle it?” The best I can do for now would be, “What are you looking at? She may or may not have sensory integration difficulties, or maybe just problems with transitions, but we can’t really be sure…” and that simply isn’t a very strong position.

Thank you again for holding my hand through this. I’ve never felt more alone in my life than when I was in that parking lot, and I haven’t felt as much concern and comfort as I do now. You are my virtual playgroup, and I appreciate your advice and support. I can only hope those other parents there that day will someday be placed in a situation where they can understand what I was going through, and will then be more compassionate towards other parents they see. Like so many of you said, it takes just one major tantrum in public to know how it feels – so many of us now understand and would never judge a parent harshly when coming across a similar scene.

And finally, because I can’t have two completely dour posts in a row, I have to add this: today Miranda is three months old. No longer colicky, her personality is emerging and we’re enjoying the antics of our little diva who can’t stand to be alone for even a moment. Not one second. But the smile she flashes when you hold her is totally worth it.

Hey, my big sis is loud. I have to stand out somehow.
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  1. Anonymous says:

    Can you get respite care for children with special needs? I didn’t read the last post to see if this was suggested, but they could come and give you time off so you can go run the judgemental jerks over. Just at thought.

  2. Anon – LOL! No, I don’t think so, but if she is given a diagnosis at her eval, it will qualify her for the district’s free preschool, meaning I won’t be taking her to that preschool anymore.

    (And I don’t want to badmouth the preschool – it’s an excellent school. It’s some of the parents…)

  3. Wow, I missed your post Friday and just got caught up. What a tough situation to be in.

    I have a nephew that had rage and transition issues as a small child. He was diagnosed with Aspberger’s, he is 13 now and hardly shows any symptoms of the disease. He’s very smart and athletic and totally fine. Not saying that’s what she has, but whatever the case, you will get through it. Hang in there.

  4. Great post. What if she is diagnosed as totally normal? I don’t know the whole situation but she sounds totally normal to me:) She is smart – she knows what she wants but doesn’t know how to tell you yet – isn’t that what growing up is all about? Maybe she isn’t normal, but that would mean I should get my daughter checked out too because she sounds exactly like Cordy. Anyhow, I give kudos to you for being a smart and concerned mother and looking into it to give your daughter the best chance :)Hope that makes sense……

  5. Hi.

    I am usually a lurker but had to comment today. I have a son 3.5 yrs who has been diagnosed with Sensory Integration Disfunction. He also has traits of Autism and ADD.

    The pressure when going out is tremendous. Not just in public places but also when visiting with family. NO ONE understands. At least that is the way my husband and I feel.

    In one of my most stressed out moments, I lost it. We were at the mall. My husband was buying some shoes at a small shoe store. My son was being himself and yelling, and yelling. He just has times when he yells. He is severly speech delayed so, he can’t really express himself with words. Anyway, I noticed a younger woman staring at him and then give him a dirty look.

    Believe me, I know it was bad. He was annoying me but he is not allowed to annoy you. I left the store to go to another because I am very sensitive and did not want to cry. Little did I know she had gone into the same store. This time, she walked up to me, huffed in my face rolled her eyes at my child and stormed out of the store. I kid you not!!

    At that point, I was on the verge of tears. I went back to the store my husband was at and saw her one last time. She was staring at me and all I could do was yell “F-U”. I did. I screamed it. I looked like a total idioit. All my rage and frustration came out to her. I was shaking. I was livid. Here I am in the middle of the store, son in the stroller, newborn in a sling and I am cursing like a sailor. The ohter parents just stared at me like I was crazy.

    The only word I can discribe when dealing with my son in public is…raw. I feel naked. I feel like no one understands. When he starts to act up, I can feel my body begin to stress. I adore my son. He is my life. This is all still fairly new and I am still adjusting to the challenges and diagnosis. So, I feel raw.

    You did much better than I did. It is not one of my prouder moments but it is what it is. I lost it.

    Thank you for your blog and thank you for being so honest. Your writing often times are my thoughts and fears all in one. I come here because it is one of the few places where I know that someone else understands.

    Mama bears can be scary but a mama bear of a speical needs child…well, they can be darn right crazy.

  6. oh my gosh..that baby is SOOOO CUTE!

    good luck with the diagnosis. Sounds like whatever it is — you can handle it!

  7. Kari – Good point, and important to remember. If she is diagnosed with anything, I don’t want her to internalize that and think of herself only as that label. Thanks!

    Suzanne – If she’s normal, she’s normal. But while a carseat is a pretty typical type of tantrum, most kids are done in 5 minutes or so. Hers last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour or more. And she can have them up to 10 times a day on bad days, set off by anything, including a noise she doesn’t like, a bit of applesauce dripping onto her arm, a change in light, etc. I don’t see a lot of kids who are as sensitive as she is.

    tete – Your comment brought tears to my eyes. Raw and naked are such good words to describe that feeling when a major meltdown happens in public. You described it perfectly.

  8. Be careful about pinning your hopes on on a specific diagnosis. There will be coping but you will have a long road ahead of you before things seem better and even if they seem better it may be that you can just cope with it better.

    Motherhood has gotten rid of my eye rolling because a kid is screaming. Now I just smile knowingly at the other parent because some time or another even the best kid will do something like that and I know that the other parent has to be stressed by the situation too. Hang in there!

  9. Oh wow! She has a totally sweet face. Just asking for smooches!

  10. A couple things:

    1) There ARE respite programs in some districts. Ours are from what is called “the Regional Center.” Not sure of how it works in other states. My hope is that all the various programs, resources, etc. will be explained to you once there is an official qualification category; however, I would suggest looking up a Google or Yahoo regional group to see if you can get “insider” information from other parents of kids with sensory issues!

    2) As tempting as it is to yell out a diagnosis in the heat of battle, keep in mind that Cordy will internalize this “excuse,” so use the label judiciously. Some people I know have little business cards that have the diagnosis on it, plus a website to go for more info. I’ve never done that ’cause it seems uncomfortable to me, but others say it shuts up the onlookers!

  11. Jennifer aka Binky Bitch says:

    So glad the blogging community came through for you. I know they’ve helped and supported me more times than I can count.

    Mira is just precious!!

  12. oh, sweet bejeezus, that babe is cute.

    and if any other parent looks at you like, ‘this NEVER happens to me,’ well, they’re probably lying.

  13. There will always be as*holes out there, quick to judge and slow to help.
    But YOU ARE A GOOD PARENT. And ‘normal’ is a relative term.
    Both your children are beautiful. That coy little smile is so striking.

    (and ditto the Mama Bear comment. In the wise words of Tyra Banks: FIERCE!

  14. Thanks Christine :)

  15. oops…Christina :o

  16. Mrs. Chicken says:

    That Mira is a cutie patootie.

    I’m so glad that you are feeling better, and I bet some of your intensity of emotion has to do with being home full-time now, knowing that there is no expiration date on dealing with it full-time.

    I hope things go well for you both next week. And I promise that if I could, I would lend you a hand. I wish we lived closer together.


  17. …and that simply isn’t a very strong position.

    I’ve felt that SO many times – like it would be a relief to get a diagnosis just because that would be so much clear than living in this maybe-maybe-not state.

    I don’t REALLY want my son to have Asperger’s just so I know what to call his odd collection of issues – but it can feel that way sometimes.

  18. MamaMichelsBabies says:

    Awww hell Mama.. I just read the last post and my heart about broke… I remember that vividly, I remember the meltdowns, I remember that lonliness. I’m so sorry you had to deal with the self rightous jerks who were there. You can do this, and you ARE a good Mom.

    Also… there is no “normal” child.. there are guidelines,but no strict rules, children are their own person, and at Cordy’s age especially, they will be damned if they are going to be anything but. Even if there is a diagnosis, that’s still normal, my oldest has so many letters after his name you would think he needed constant and detailed “alternative education” (that’s what they call it here) He doesn’t, he’s a normal 10 year old boy who doesn’t transition well, and once we found out how to work around it, it was better for all. I don’t see my son as anything but a child, with a few quirks. You shouldn’t see Cordy any other way either.

    If it is mainly a transition problem, please believe me when I tell you it WILL get better, easier, more manageable.

    And Mira? She’s got beautiful big eyes, adorable.

  19. Christina,
    I read your previous post yesterday, but of course it was just as I was running out the door. I wasn’t able to comment.

    I am glad you feel such support from the blogging community about what happened with Cordy. I think the truth of it is, all of us…all of us, have been in similar situations with our children. Situations where our kids are out of control in a public place, and we may be powerless (to a certain degree) to contain their emotions. Let me just say this: Many of those parents who are staring and making judgments are doing so because it makes them feel better in that moment not to have their child be “the one” who is melting down at that point. It makes those of us whose child is being “good” at that moment better somehow.

    Despite that, many children who behave this way are totally normal. Don’t be surprised to find out that she has no “diagnosis”…she may just be a very willful little girl. I say this because my daughter was similar to yours for the first five years of her life…now she is an angel.

    Oh, and that Mira is the picture of perfection. What a beautiful baby.

  20. She looks like she’s scheming. Very cute.

  21. My Life As It Is says:

    I too, wished the same thing – gifted/smart, not low-end special ed. As a special ed teacher I knew I couldn’t handle teaching and parenting the same level. My son is both. Gifted with Aspergers. But, ya know what, I wouldn’t trade him for the world. He is absolutely perfect. Even with all his oddity’s and people staring at him becuase what he is doing is so age-inappropriate. To me he is still perfect and I would do it all over again.

    It does get easier as kids learn strategies. Not that my child is grown up by any means, but the age Cory is was one of the toughest for us too. Once you have the ‘label’ and can get strategies to help with the weatknesses and strengths of the ‘label’ things will begin to fall into place.

    There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it doesn’t have to be a train :)

  22. Oh Mira is beautiful! I love those chubby cheeks!

    And hang in there with Cordy. I can’t even imagine the worry and stress involved with this all, but you and Aaron are great parents and you will all come out on top. Be thankful that Cordy is smart and that these issues are only limited to situational aspects. I hope you find something out next week, at least to ease your mind.

  23. Mira’s a doll. Total doll!

    One day at a time, hon. Moms need to break down every once in a while, too.

  24. Wow, you seem to be dealing with a lot. I hope they find out what’s going on with Cordy and correctly diagnose her. You will be in my thoughts! And your baby is just adorable. Thanks for sharing that sweet pic. Hope you have a lovely day!

  25. Being a parent is never easy, is it??? I look forward to hear how you learn to handle every new situatin your kiddies bring your way!:)

  26. Mrs. Chicky says:

    I’m so sorry I missed that post. It sounds like you’re going through a lot right now, Christina. It’s just not fair.

    But that face! OMG, that face! So cute.

  27. I thought about you last weekend. We went up to London to stay with hubby’s brother and wife. I found out their granddaugher smacks her little boy when he has a tantrum. My thoughts were omg, thank god that Christa didn’t handle her little one that way. Pats on the back to you! Her excuse is she doesn’t want him to grow up like his daddy. If I’d seen her I would have told her that doesn’t work. I’m so bloody angry about it.

    Oh wow your daughter is just a little beauty. Yep for sure a keeper:-) :-)

  28. Big hugs and I’m so glad you got so many wonderful, loving responses when you needed them. And the offers of direct contact from people who have been, or are going through, exactly what you’re dealing with right now with Cordy have to be amazingly useful.

    I was telling Slipshod about your post and all the comments you got and was thankful out loud that we have this community online – it’s so amazing that nowadays we can so easily connect with so many people who can help us, or at least commisserate! I can’t imagine doing this mothering gig without e-mail and blogging… I’d be on the phone all the time like my sister before me (her kids are teenagers now so she didn’t have this opportunity) if I didn’t have these outlets/opportunities for communication online. And my mom had neighbors before us for her outlet. But I think that what we have here is even more effective because, like I said, you have connected now with people who REALLY KNOW what you’re going through because they’ve been there.

  29. I’m just getting caught up… Sweet baby photo.

    Also on Cordy… I feel ya. Seth had alot of problems as a toddler. Alot of screaming, fits, not eating, not sleeping, more screaming! (Was diagnosed with a Sensory issue.) I felt very alone and emotionally exhausted by about 10 a.m. each day. But keep in mind, even if you get a diagnosis, at time, people may look at your child like they are “damaged” in some way. (When he’d freak out, I’d saying something and get a pitiful look.)

    But if SI is the case, it can be dealt with. Finding out what’s going on (whether its SI or not) is so important. And their issues are so much easier to work with, work around, and straighten out at a younger age. So kudos to you for knowing your child, for having the patience you need with you and for having the dedication to arrange for some check ups.

  30. She is just precious!

    My littlest knows what it’s like to have a loud sister, and now that he is attempting to walk the big sister also finds great joy in knocking him down, shoving him away, yanking toys away from him, and generally being a big bully. So Mira…. don’t get any bigger, you are safest the size you are!!!

  31. Well public and home tantrums are par for the course here…that is just what we deal with…..
    It is just noisy and stressful…all the time!

    I lost it at my son in a donut store the other day….due to listening issues….the silence and glares around me after were great.

  32. C, I’m sorry I didn’t see this earlier.

    We may not be in the same position that you are, but I have certainly felt those eyes on me and have wanted to shout, “Haven’t you ever witnessed a tantrum before?!”

    If my child is acting up, I want people to ignore me. Just leave me alone and let me handle it. So I tend to give others the same courtesy.

  33. I’m totally new to your site. I am friends with Twins x Two, who just won your contest (yay!) and I wanted to check out your site …

    My daughter is now almost 13. When she was a toddler, she behaved very much like your Cordy in the parking lot story. I was always so afraid that as a young, single mother, someone would think I was causing those behaviors & take her from me.
    She had speech problems, sensory problems, and fine motor problems. She began an early intervention program at 2 years old.

    We didn’t get her officially diagnosed until she was 9, with autism. Last year she was also diagnosed with Tourettes. The older she gets, the more apparent it is she’s not ‘typical’ of her age. (mainly because she’ll still have a meltdown now & then, for old times sake)

    She’s outgrown much of her sensory issues, but they still lurk (and I believe manifest as her Tourettes tics).

    Hang in there. Once you get her diagnosis & can better understand her, the easier it gets. You may not even feel the urge to yell her diagnosis at others, if YOU know it; I found that’s all that matters for me.

    It’s harder for girls, too. It’s harder to get diagnoses, it’s harder to get people to understand they’re not always going to be sweet & demure & wear pretty ribbons in their hair. I think if my Karly was a boy, she would’ve been treated much differently but also had much lower expectations put upon her – so, it can help that she’s a girl, too.

    Whatever happens – just trust your instincts. YOU are the parent, you know your child best. And a diagnosis doesn’t give your child the disorder or a disability – it gives her HELP.
    Who you decide to share that information with is up to you.

    We recently had a baby with Down Syndrome, and I’m looking forward to the journey with her. I’m a much wiser parent now, and not afraid of the challenges – hers or mine.

    Good luck!!

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