My Juggling Act – Making Time for All Children

I have three children, for some that seems like a lot to keep up with while others have far more children than me and see it as less of a challenge. Having children, no matter how many can always lead to a juggling act. Some are juggling work, family and home while others juggle home and family only. Whatever you are juggling, we all know as parents that a 12 hour day doesn’t ever seem long enough. I am here to share with you what I do to ensure I make time for each of my children, specifically  my youngest, as well as share a few tips on how I make it all work!

How to Make Time for Each Child

With my  middle child being different than my other two, having a previous mood disorder & anxiety diagnosis but awaiting an autism evaluation, you can imagine my hands are full. It’s often difficult to realize I haven’t paid one ounce of positive attention to my other two children because Aj had me so preoccupied tending to his needs. Due to Aj needing so much of my attention, energy and strength I have to be very conscious of paying positive attention to my other two children; why? Because it’s important that my other two children know I do love them just as much as Aj and that they are just as important. It’s also important to pay positive attention to my other two children because I don’t want them to start to have bitter feelings towards myself as a Mom who may not pay them enough attention nor having those feelings about their special needs brother. It’s not Aj’s fault he requires more attention and time from me, it’s no one’s fault.

How To Juggling Your Kids

For my youngest it’s easy to spend positive attention time with him because he is pretty simple. At age 5 the most important thing you can do for K-man is to pay attention to what interests him. K-man doesn’t really care if you are truly interacting but he does care that you are physically and mentally there in the moment playing cars, Legos or blocks with him. Our most recent time together involved him setting up his many vehicles in his room and me attempting to make a race track for him. We had a blast and it only required about 15 minutes of my time before dinner. That’s another good point; the amount of minutes per child doesn’t seem to have mattered to my children. Just a simple 15 minute time allotted for each child to have your undivided attention makes for the difference between a child acting out to get any form of attention versus a child who can have patience knowing they will get the positive attention at some point that day.

Making Time for All Children is Important

I must admit spending a minimum of 15 minutes positively interacting with each of my children really changes their moods. My K-man tends to enjoy any attention he can get and if you are not giving him enough positive attention, he will seek out the negative attention. Aj is more simple, he doesn’t seem to feel the need for a lot of one on one time but I am working on getting him to be more interactive at a comfortable-for-him level. My oldest and only daughter tends to drift off the grid a bit when her brothers are requiring more time from me, but I do ensure that my daughter and I get a Mom/Daughter day every so often and I also make sure to spend 15 minutes minimum with her at end of day after her brothers are asleep. This has helped us build a bond stronger than a herd of elephants.

Four Tips on How to Ensure your Children Get Positive Parent Time

  • Know Your Children – Out of everyone in the whole world you should be the one person who knows what makes your children happy.  If they enjoy Legos, play Legos. If they enjoy chatting about their life, listen to them chat. If they want to read books, pretend play or so on, do that with them. Ensure you are engaging in one on one time that is based on an activity your child loves to do.
  • Realize It’s Quality not Quantity That Counts -  Spend a minimum of 15 minutes each day with one on one time. The magic number I have found that works best is a minimum of 15 minutes each day per child. Be sure to set a timer so that when it beeps they know their time is up. Also be sure to set aside your cell phone and give your child your 100% undivided attention. Kids know when you are not “really there”.
  • Remind Your Children to Respect Their Sibling’s One on One Time – Be sure to get your other children engaged together or individually with something that will allot you the 15 minutes with their sibling. Remind each child that they too will get your undivided attention on their turn. This teaches the skills of manners, family bonding, and taking turns.
  • Get in Touch with Your Inner Child – During these one on one time sessions remember, while you are this child’s parent, that this particular time with your child is all about having fun, being silly and connecting with them on their level. Have fun with it, be silly and creative, should I dare say be goofy?! It’s suppose to be fun one on one time, make sure that it is!

There you have it, a few ways I have ensured that I am raising my children to be happy and healthy. I hope these tips will assist you in gaining more positive one on one time with your children which will increase the bond you two have from now to forever.

Doesn’t Matter the Label, Just Matters That I am Mom

The label that my middle child receives down the road as we venture into the path of a possible new diagnosis really doesn’t matter to me. Aj’s Dad and I have been raising the same boy for the past seven years so whatever label is placed upon our son really doesn’t matter as it pertains to anything other than giving us something to research better. You see, no one lives our life. No one outside of our home has experienced the real Aj.

With no medication interfering with Aj in any way positive nor negative, the school is starting to get a glimpse into what our world has been like for years with Aj. He’s either withdrawn and down or hyper and happy. This is why there is certainly a mood aspect to our son but there is also this other side of Aj where he shows anxiety, he is anxious about new things and anxious that life needs go to a certain way. Then there is that routine driven side of Aj and that mentality that once he has it in his head something is correct, there is no talking him out of it.

There is the side to Aj where you could tell him the sky is blue and if he is convinced at that day and time that the sky is purple, then the sky is purple. It’s that simple for Aj. Aj is a complex child yet also very simple. The real world rules don’t necessarily apply to our sweet Aj, he is unique and in some ways unique is a great thing while in other ways unique can get into the way of a public school child. Aj is starting to show me signs of concern in the public school environment, I wonder if he will ever make real friends, real long term friends. I wonder if Aj will ever have a life that is one that people classify as normal.

Then I realize … those wonders are my anxiety kicking in. As I watch Aj suffer with some anxiety symptoms, I notice my generalized anxiety disorder starts to chime in. It’s this emotional connection that Aj’s counselor has advised me to separate better with that keeps me wondering and worrying about things outside of my control. I am better at controlling my anxiety, after all I haven’t had medication for anxiety in many years. I have learned to fight anxiety and I will teach my son the same skills, as I have with my oldest.

Aj is a happy child, if anyone asks I would say he is compassionate with a huge heart but he lacks the understanding of sarcasm or snide comments. You see, with Aj you have to say what you mean and mean what you say because if not, he gets frustrated. Aj doesn’t comprehend sarcasm for the most part, yet there are a rare few moments that he actually may look at you after a quick witted comment and smirk as if he got it. Those moments are rare. For the most part, Aj is a child who needs people to say what they mean and mean what they say.

Aj cannot have people in his home environment that cannot be that person for him, it’s not easy. My daughter and his younger brother have worked hard and continue to work as a family to ensure Aj has a safe, loving home environment. That means far too often we have to bite our sarcastic tongue and say things the way Aj needs to hear them. While we find humor in sarcasm, Aj does not. In my mind, it’s not that difficult but when you have a tween daughter and younger sibling of a child like this, it can cause a ruckus from time to time.

I don’t want to deter my daughter and my other son from being who they are to their core, but I want to teach them to respect who Aj is at his core as well. It’s a juggling act around here most days. Whatever label Aj ends up with for a diagnosis, I am okay with that, because after all, I have been raising him for seven years so no matter what they say “he has”, reality is HE IS my son, always has been and always will. I will always be here fighting for him right beside him and encouraging him to move forward to lead a happy, healthy life.

As I do with my other children. That is my job. My job is Mom.

What Brings me Absolute Joy?

Each day I wake up to the same routine for two weeks in a row; Aj needs his specific morning routine and breakfast ready for him. My youngest needs his scrambled eggs or toast or cereal whatever he finally decides upon after 15 minutes of being indecisive. My daughter, the eldest of three, wakes up groggy but always has a slight smile on her face when she gets a hug from Mama. Each morning I wake up to children happy, healthy and thankful for their Mama who wakes up each day bringing them joy, but what I get in return is nothing money can buy.

February Vacation with my Kids

Each day I get a new perspective on life, as I am working to ensure Aj’s day goes as planned, that there isn’t any kinks to offset him before school to get him frustrated. Each day I wake up ensuring each child’s needs are met, for when my children’s needs are met, so are mine.

My job is Mom.

Being a Mom has brought me absolute joy. Being a Mom has brought tears to my eye. Being a Mom has left me tired at an early hour. Being a Mom has left me wondering, “am I doing this right?!” Being a Mom has opened my eyes to the world through children. Being a Mom has brought me absolute joy.

When I can begin each day with hugs, kisses and I love yous and end each day the same; that to me is my success story.

What Brings me Absolute Joy?

It doesn’t matter what falls in between; the normal chaos of raising a middle child who thrives on his day to go as planned and structured the same each day while also juggling his two siblings that are more free spirited like their Mama. It doesn’t matter how drained I can feel at times and want to curl up and cry over the fact that my middle child is struggling. You see, my middle child may be struggling but he doesn’t see it that way. My middle child sees himself as a loved boy, with parents who adore him and work hard to ensure his life is lived to the fullest. My other children see a brother who struggles but is a joy to play hide and seek with or pretend play MineCraft or Sonic. My family sees each of us for the love we have together, because together we bring each other absolute joy.

This is my happy place, my safe zone and it is also that for my children. So when asked what brings me absolute joy, my reply is simple;

Being a Mother.

Updates on Aj, After our Last Counseling Appointment

This has been a journey and a half with my now seven year old son, Aj. First day he was born I could tell you something wasn’t right, he was more angry than happy. It appeared my son had inherited something that runs heavily in the gene pool; bipolar. So it began, a lot of testing and counseling to ensure we were parenting the way Aj would respond. Aj had test after test, all coming back that he was a normal child as far as brain goes and most of the developmental areas. Sure Aj was not speaking much by 15 months of age, but he ended up having glued up gunk on his left ear drum from too many ear infections as a child, tubes in ears were placed and voila, the child blossomed in speech. For every little milestone not met, there ended up being some medical reason. Nothing really waved a red flag other than the fact that Aj had a mood disorder going on. At first they wanted to say he was ADHD, but after ADHD medication gone bad, we realized that wasn’t the right diagnosis. After many years of counseling, parenting techniques taught to us and medication after medication for mood disorder as well as the one time try of Prozac for anxiety, it has now been brought into the light that maybe Aj is on the autism spectrum.

Raising my Son Aj

As we met with the counselor that has seen Aj from a young child to the current year, the observations I was making about Aj started to raise a light bulb with both the counselor and myself. I’ve been thinking the autism spectrum for a while with Aj but never did he have such strong symptoms of autism until this past month without medication. Aj hasn’t been on any medication since January 20th, 2014. In time I have noticed some things about Aj, that while some were there from the beginning, they are far more visible to everyone in his world now as time has gone on.

  • As a baby; Aj needed to have juice, milk and water in specific cups. If those cups were not used he would have a meltdown. I recall, back when I was married to Aj’s Dad that we left a note for my ex SIL that Aj must have his milk in “x” color sippy, his water in “y” color sippy and his juice in “z” color sippy. If you messed that up, he would have a meltdown.
  • Aj didn’t potty train until four years and 3 months of age; while I have no clue if this is part of autism signs or not, I can say it was abnormal as his younger brother and older sister trained by age 2.
  • Time went on and Aj still thrived on a very routine driven lifestyle; even with medication Aj needed to know x,y and z would happen in that area every single day. Should an appointment be scheduled after school and we have to go to that appt instead of right home for homework, Aj would have/will have still to this day, a meltdown.
  • Aj clearly is a rigid fellow too, with some anxiety which means he needs an almost unrealistic environment to live in; one in which everything happens the same exact way each day, down to his fried egg sandwich for breakfast each morning.
  • I found myself saying, as of late, that Aj would do best in a world where everything is the same every single day, nothing changes, there are no appointments, no changes in routine, where everything happens in an x,y,z format. Everything each day needs to happen how Aj sees it to be his norm, or else there is an extreme meltdown of frustration.

Raising my Son Aj

As time has gone on, now over a month and a half of Aj without medication, I am seeing the need for him to have more than one blanket to fall asleep. The need for everything at bedtime to go as planned, so let’s say his five year old brother goes off kilter and starts being silly during bedtime book time, Aj cannot handle it and will get fixated on something. If Aj has anything happen to deter him from his path of normalcy he will get into a frustrated mindset where he can be found to quickly go thru the home and hit things, throw things and just have a total rageful fit. I have noticed, as of late, his quick frustrations or rageful fits are derived from something not happening in the way they normally do or in the way Aj has it in his mind they should happen.

Aj thrives on electronics, the counselor has advised us to take them away from his life as much as possible and since they are such an important part of his world, to use them more of an incentive based privilege versus a norm thing in his daily life. Using the electronics as a privilege has really helped to get Aj come back down to Earth at times during his frustrations. I have had to restrain Aj more often than not these past couple of weeks due to frustrations beyond his control. I have had to hear him spout off words like dumby, liar, stupid … all words he rarely ever used in the past. My heart breaks watching Aj fall apart because the more each day goes on, the more I see a child that looks a lot like Max in the series on prime-time TV called Parenthood.

While it doesn’t matter to me what label is placed on my son Aj, I just need something to figure out what’s going on. I already know how to parent Aj, he is a unique child who thrives on routine. I do everything in my power to ensure his day is full of things that take on a daily routine, and in the Summer I even create a poster board with times for everything so that the days go by much smoother. Even my oldest, and only daughter, stated that Aj did really well this past Summer when I started using a poster board schedule for the family.

Raising my Son Aj

We have some great times around here, Aj isn’t really as moody as I once thought him to be. In the past he had two moods; angry or sad. There really was not happiness. I imagined my son Aj a lot like my sister who has bipolar. Still to this day with some of the symptoms Aj shows, I can see a slight mood disorder as part of him, but overall I am hearing my inner mom gut scream Autism. I asked the counselor about this and he said that mood and anxiety can take a part in Autism. I had no clue. I am meeting with Aj’s pediatrician in a week or two as a means to get Aj in for an autism evaluation. I never knew they had such a thing, but this is our next step in the journey of raising Aj. For now, I know what he needs; routine, routine, routine and as much of a free spirit person I am – I have to learn to be more routine driven for the sake of my  middle child’s growth.

We have previously questioned autism, so did Aj’s counselor but now the signs are far more than I can share in this one blog post, just know that I trust my instinct with my child and I also trust his counselor a lot!

If you have any resources for autism, such as a check list of symptoms or what not, that I can review to really get a grasp on things to share with the pediatrician for our appointment, that would be great. As this pediatrician hasn’t been so helpful in the past and I want so badly for her to hear me and help my son this time around!

 

 

My Kids Work For Incentives and I’m not Talking Bribes

Bribing is an emergency parental tool in my opinion. I am sure to use it when I need a quick outcome to something, but it’s not a parental strategy that should be used all of the time. The best way to gain your child’s respect and teach them responsibility is to setup some sort of incentive program to get them to be 1) more independent and 2) responsible. As a parent we must teach our child, rather guide them, into the world of adulthood by setting up healthy boundaries, sticking with clear cut consequences and giving a bit of responsibility to them. Teaching a lot of the normal skills in the way I am used to parenting doesn’t work for all of my children, the first born and last born take kindly to my normal parental approach but my middle child has been the challenge.

My middle child is unique and thinks differently, my normal parenting techniques haven’t ever really worked for him. This is why I am always trying to be creative in addressing any issues that come from his medication being off or his changes as he gets older. Incentives is the way to go and I’m talking incentives to do every day normal things that he is capable of doing but can prove to be extremely difficult to get him to do. My middle child is more sensitive, his mood disorder plays a toll on him and he is a very literal child who is routine driven. I, on the other hand, am a fly by the moment person who loves surprises and just “wings” it. I have to train my brain to properly react to my middle child to ensure the best growth for him as a person.

During the Summer we had a schedule, this schedule was written up on a poster board, if there were to be any changes to that routine I had to let my middle child know ahead of time to avoid any major frustrations. The schedule worked amazingly to keep him on track and make our Summer full of fun. When school went back into session, the schedule no longer applied and was taken down. As my middle child’s medication stopped working fully I watched him withdraw from doing every day normal tasks such as brushing teeth, getting dressed on his own, wanting to do anything on his own, constantly needing someone there by him. It was rough and that’s when I decided to nip it in the butt with an incentive chart.

Incentive Chart

I decided to choose some tasks that I knew my middle child had to work on being encouraged to do on his own, providing him with more confidence in his own self and giving an incentive for his tally mark on the chart. Since my youngest and middle child are 1) both boys and 2) only 2 years 6 days apart, the incentive chart was created for both of them to work off of.

On the chart are tasks I want them doing on a regular and on their own, such as reading a book, cleaning up after themselves and getting their own self dressed both in morning and after bath for bedtime. I also wanted to get them brushing their teeth on a regular, as they were really getting frustrated with the idea of teeth cleaning again.

Since I started this chart, where they put one tally mark for each time they complete a task, I have seen amazing changes. My sons get themselves dressed in the morning before school, they brush their teeth on their own without me even asking, they have a love for books again and they love feeling accomplished in doing these things on their own.

At end of week, each tally mark counts as ONE PENNY, yes, they work for ONE PENNY each without complaint. Last week my middle child earn 23 cents and since he followed the chart so well, I gave him a quarter instead of 23 cents. While you may see this as a small amount, even my daughter will work for such small amounts because for my three children it isn’t about the money they are getting, it’s about the positive response from me beaming with pride and hugging them telling them how pride I am of them.

So you see, my kids work for incentives but it’s more emotional incentives than it is money based.

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