Sunday, October 18, 2015

Get the skeletons out of your closet and put them in the front yard!

Last week my sister and I went to a pumpkin patch and picked out pumpkin's with our kids.  There was a pretty nice selection, I'll admit.  Lots of sizes, cool shapes and even some neat heirloom pumpkins, yellow, rusty orange, red, white and green.  Only one of my kids was much into picking them out.  Yes of course, you might remember one of Storm's special interest's is decorating.   It's an all consuming type of obsession with everything having to do with decorating for the holiday.  Right now for fall, and basically since September, it's been a maddening, anxiety producing, can't stop thinking about how to rearrange lights, spider webs, skeleton's, tomb stones and now since the visit to the pumpkin patch--pumpkins.  I'm not sure how to explain the intensity of his obsession with decorating, but once it starts, nothing is going to stop him from working on his projects.  He wakes up talking about it first thing in the morning around 6:00 AM, and it's the last thing he talks about as his head hits the pillow.  Tonight, he can't even settle because he's thinking about how he will rearrange things tomorrow.   I've never seen anything like his kind of determination, effort and persistence when it comes decorating.  He will talk to strangers about it as they walk by our tomb-stone engulfed yard, he will talk to kids about it at the park, at church, at school; basically to anyone who will listen for even a second. Or even if you wont listen he will still tell you about his plans for adding a smoke machine and maybe some blow up decorations next year.  He will keep talking to you as you wave and smile and walk away, he still has more to say as you walk around the corner; he's never done on this subject.  He is always thinking about what he will do next, even if it's just rearranging the set up in our front yard.

Years ago I didn't understand these obsessions or even see them as such.  Mr. Shane, his favorite worker man, came to build our attic fan.  After which, Storm  referred to himself as "Me Shane,"  for literally two years and that's when all his "projects" began.   He would be the same "worker man" every day and would yellow-tape off my kitchen; as a:  WORK ZONE while I was trying to cook.   The WORK ZONE continually expanded until the entire main level was blocked off with caution tape and to be honest it was hard to maneuver around it.  After a few weeks of trying to be tolerant,  I though to myself:  "enough is enough kid, I need to have my  house back".  This type of upheaval and clean up of the "WORK ZONE" inflicted a melt down of epic proportions.   At the time, I simply saw this as defiance.  I now understand I was inflicting the worst kind of anxiety on him when I took down all his caution tape; because I think his special interests, which belong to him alone, give him a form of control that he doesn't have over anything else in his life.

He struggles with reading and writing and with school in general.  This year, because he is now in second grade, he is starting to get picked on at school.  He sometimes gets in the other children's personal space and makes a lot of noises and vocalizations; which second graders don't appreciate and don't over look like the kindergartner's did.  His mind is so busy, that he struggles to focus and he talks incessantly about things that many of his peers don't relate to and that don't interest them.   As his peers get older he is struggling to connect with them because they are maturing in ways he is not.

My son is brilliantly creative and incredibly persistent and can work like no body's business on the projects that he is passionate about.  His brain is moving at the speed of lightening, and his body at the speed of a tornado.  Watching him and listening to him talk so fast, makes me tired for him.  I want him to find rest and peace, yet he works tirelessly and anxiously; having to have things just so.  Oh, how he struggles to slow down.  It's taken years to see the world through his eyes and I'm still trying to understand him even now.  For every challenge he faces, he has many gifts that amaze me.  

He recently started to draw cartoon like characters.  I asked him how he knew how to draw them so well and he told me he saw a picture somewhere and that it stayed in his mind.  He said when he sees things in his mind, he remembers them.   Suddenly I realized that he has this visual memory and I think this is why he struggles so much with language and learning to read and write.

 I believe he has a vision of what he wants his Halloween-masterpiece-art-scape of our front yard to look like.  To him it's not just a mess of two months early plain-old every-day Holiday decor.    It's more than that, it's his expression, it's his vision, it's his creation, it's his art.  He loves it so much he wants to share it with the whole world.  He wants you to stop by and say "Wow, you really worked hard on it this year, that's amazing."  Or "Wow, that skeleton popping out of your Mom's garden pot really spooked me!"    He delights in sharing his vision with the world.

He and I used have conflict all the time, because my need to control and my lack of understanding super-seeded his need to create.  I thought being a good mom was equal to a clean and orderly house.  I thought his immediate obedience and listening to me the first time I said something, meant I was in control and thus I was raising a respectful child.   This respectful child would reflect that I was a good mom.   That's how it worked with my other kids, but that concept didn't work with him.  The more I fought to implement this ideal, the more Storm fought me.   The more I tried to make him conform, the more tantrums he had and the more unhappy both of us became.   I thought Storm's difficult behavior and tantrum throwing, said to the world "You are a failure as a parent!"  I allowed teachers and other's critical comments about him to reflect on me as a mom.

For those of you raising these strong willed, passionate, tantrum throwing kids.  Stop judging yourself right now.  You are doing the best you can in the moment.  First, I had to let go of these "ideal's" and "should's" I was telling myself.  That my house "should" be clean, and that I "shouldn't" have caution tape all over the place and paper towel roll skyscrapers in my family room.   I have never been a big fan of Halloween, and I don't like all the dark things associated with it.  I had let go of worrying that people would assume that Halloween was my favorite holiday and would therefore make assumptions and question my character, based on the shear fact that the outside of my home currently looks like  Harry Potter's Hogwarts and or a real cemetery.   I've had to realize that God's the only one I need to please.  Others are free to assume what they'd like, but God knows my heart and having skeletons all over my front yard might be better than having skeletons in my closet!

 I thought that Storm was the one with all the issues, but God often places him like a mirror in front of me, forcing me to see the areas in which I need to grow.  Why do I worry so much about what others think of me?   Why am I so hard on myself and expect perfection?  Why am I so uptight all the time and controlling?  Is it most important for people to see that I have a perfectly obedient child and praise me for being such a great mom in that moment?  Or is it better to have a child that eventually learns real coping skills and how to handle the hard things in life.  To raise a child who knows that I empathize with his struggles and knows that even if he fails, I'll still love him regardless, and that its okay to make mistakes and get up try again.  That I accept him as he is, with all his "stuff."  Isn't that what we all are longing for?  Unconditional love.

Things are not perfect, they are so far from it and I'm fine to keep it that way.  Trying to be the perfect Mom was really hard and really unattainable.  When I look in the mirror now, I see a woman who is learning one day at a time to be the best mom she can be for her children and that is good enough.  She doesn't have it all figured out, but she knows that God does and He loves these kids even more than she does. This woman is a real person, and she's far from perfect.  She makes a lot of mistakes, but when she does, she admits them and admits to her children she needs God's help.  She is learning to forgive herself and accept God's amazing grace, because when she does that, her parenting reflects this same kind of loving and merciful grace.  She recognizes that her kids are learning too, and that this thing called childhood is messy and it's meant to be.  It doesn't matter what strangers think she should do because a fit in the grocery store or at the zoo is a learning opportunity; not a means to impress the outside world with how good her parenting skills are, but an opportunity for a mom to teach her child what he needs to learn in that moment.

Maybe if we stopped putting forward our pintrest perfect lives and instead shared the real and genuine parts of ourselves, the parts that aren't so put together and photo worthy, then other mom's would know that they are not alone in their struggles.  Maybe we would start supporting each other and saying things like "wow this mom gig is hard!  I've been there too! I'm here for you sister!"  Maybe if we put the skeletons in our front yard and stop being ashamed of the things we struggle with; then others would start taking the skeletons out of their closets and take a step toward being more genuine.  Not one mom has it all together, not even the ones who appear too; parenting is hard work and parenting a challenging child demands the support of others who have been there and done that and survived!

My sister and I brought home our colored pumpkins.  We both had ideas of what they might look like on our door stop.  My sister's turned out, just as she expected.

Aw, isn't that so cute!  I love her creativity!

Now these are mine:  You can guess who decorated them for me.  I seriously did try to deter him from painting these ones so I could have a cute front porch too!  But alas, these are the results and they just make me laugh!  I hope you can find a way to laugh too!  You are not alone!  So get those skeleton's out, or come by and check out mine!

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