May 12

Repost: The Critic

contemplationAs much as I think I have “accepted” my children’s learning challenges, I forget that I still have The Critic living in me as well. The voice of acceptance is calm and even soothing at times. It has been cultivated and reflects flexibility and surrender to what is in me and my children, rather than rigid ideas of what “should” be true. “The Critic”, on the other hand, is loud and harsh and, at vulnerable times, unrelenting. Three kids with ADD? Yeah, right! You’re just a bad mother. ADD? Not! Rather, it must be LMS (lazy mother syndrome). Maybe you are imagining all this because you are in the mental health field. Maybe you jumped the gun in terms of assessment and intervention and maybe all this HELP has actually created the problem. Maybe it is your hyper-vigilance with the oldest, the Sudafed you took for a bad sinus infection when pregnant with the second child, or the way the youngest baby turned blue as she left the birth canal and needed oxygen… Or, most benignly, maybe it is just your screwed up DNA.

It does not matter that we have consulted with experts in the field many times over the years to see if the ADD and related learning problems are our imagination, the validation we desperately need to avoid self blame. It doesn’t matter that we have been told that this is genetic or simply how they are wired. I still find myself living with chronic doubt. I don’t like to admit that The Critic is always nearby, but it is. Continue reading

May 02

Repost: Hello, My Name is Eve, part one: What were you expecting?


This repost is by Kay Marner, the co-editor of Easy to Love but Hard to Raise: Real Parents, Challenging Kids, True Stories. Through editing the book Kay found a pattern in the experience of parenting children with neurobehavioral special needs. She frames it as the experience of an everyparent, “Eve.”

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When I was pregnant with my first child, I spent untold hours with my nose in the book What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

Throughout my son Aaron’s first year of life, What to Expect the First Year was always close at hand, on the table by the rocking chair where I fed Aaron, sang to him, read to him, and rocked him to sleep for naps and bedtimes. Then, before I knew it, I’d switched to What to Expect the Toddler Years.

Sound familiar? Do you remember those days? Wasn’t it magically reassuring to follow along—and even read ahead–in books that explained every stage of development, and answered every possible question—sometimes before we knew to ask it? Continue reading

Apr 30

Repost: Detachment Parenting, or Confessions of a ROBOT mama.

I first wrote this post 3 years ago. My son had been newly diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and I knew enough about him and enough about FASD to know that his behaviors weren’t completely under his control, and that the best thing I could do was not to respond. Since I wrote this I’ve learned a great deal more about FASD, and am an FASD educator. I’m happy to say that by using the 2 strategies I explain in this post, as well as providing accommodations and environmental change for my son, much of these behaviors have diminished. He’s also 3 years older, and as John Holt said (a rough paraphrase) in one of his wonderful books about homeschooling: ‘Never let anyone else take credit for a child’s development that occurs simply because the child is getting older in the world.’

lady_robotI have something to admit: sometimes the very best tool I have a parent is my ability to detach. Or at least pretend to detach, which is just as good when it comes to managing my easy-to-love-but-hard-to-raise child, but which isn’t particularly healthy for me: stuffing and stifling one’s feelings is not generally thought of the most emotionally healthy activity, you know.

What I mean by detaching is this: if my child screams, swears, or throws stuff at me, tantrums on the floor, demands x,y, or z,, perseverates, says “what do you mean?” over and over and over again in response to simple statements, runs from me when I’m speaking, interrupts while I’m having a conversation with someone else, talks nonsense when my husband and older son and I are conversing at dinner, destroys his toys, destroys other people’s toys, takes things that don’t belong to him…I do my utmost to remain calm. All of these behaviors are related to the brain damage he experienced as the result of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. None of them are on purpose. All of them are a response to his needs not being met…and all of them are profoundly difficult to deal with.

I have two basic strategies for managing these types of outbursts: Continue reading

Jan 09

Be the patience you want to see

This is an excerpt from The Resilient Parent: Everyday Wisdom for Life with Your Exceptional Child, by Mantu Joshi. Mantu is the father of three children, a minister, stay-at-home dad, and a writer. The Resilient Parent offers short person essays to help us reframe the experience parenting children with special needs so we can be more resilient parents!

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I hate transitions. I hate that I cannot just beam my children from activity to activity like in Star Trek, or get them from the minivan into the house by wiggling my nose like Samantha in those old Bewitched episodes. No, we have to physically get from point A to point B, which means that someone is likely to throw a tantrum. Continue reading

Nov 24

If Mama Ain’t Happy…

This is a re-post of a speech I gave to welcome everyone to the 1st Happy Mama Conference and Retreat, first held summer of 2012 in Conover, NC. It’s a great retreat and is still going on!

I’m reposting the speech for a couple of reasons. One, because even though several years have passed, none of the challenges I and so many of my fellow mamas of children with NB special needs have changed, and two, maybe more importantly, the core message of this speech is still CRUCIAL for us to remember: you are not alone.

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I’m Adrienne Ehlert Bashista. Some of you might know me from our group blog and book: Easy to Love but Hard to Raise, or through the Facebook page connected to it, or through A Mom’s View of ADHD blog or Facebook page, or some of you might not know me at all.

I have a 10 year old son who has fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, or FASD. I’m not going to talk that much about FASD except to say that it’s a brain-based disorder that manifests itself behaviorally. It’s a physical disability because it is based in his body, but it’s in the part of the body we don’t see, the brain, but the part of the body that has the greatest impact on his behavior, his learning, his ability to get along in the world, and his relationship with his family and anyone else he meets.

Our path to getting our son the correct diagnosis was a loooooong one. His first diagnosis was ADHD, followed by ODD, mood disorder, pervasive developmental disorder, pediatric bipolar, then we found out he has borderline intelligence and finally, after 4 psychiatrists, 3 therapists, 2 family practice doctors, 3 OTs. 1 speech therapist we found the diagnosis that made sense.

For everyone in this room who’s had to struggle to find a diagnosis, whose had to trust her gut more than the experts, who’s taken their kid to very well-meaning, kind, but ultimately ineffective people, who’ve largely blamed yourself for your child’s behavior problems (because in the end, who else do you blame)? I need to tell you this: Continue reading

Sep 18

Shocking the carpool moms…

scribbleThis morning was rough.

J, my 11-year old with FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorders) has recently started school after being homeschooled for 2 1/2 years, and while it’s probably our best option out there it is not perfect. He’d be the first to tell you that. I’d be a close second.

We are now in week 4. Weeks 1 + 2 were blissful, week 3 was rough, and now, finishing up the first month it looks like rough is here to stay.

He got up at 4 this morning, then 5, then 7. “You are a f*cking bitch!” he yelled me at 4 a.m. when told to get back in bed.

At 5, “You don’t care about me, you asshole!” He pulled a framed picture off the stairway wall and hurled it at my husband, who was explaining he had to wait until 6 to come downstairs.

At 7: “I hate that fucking school. It is so fucking boring! Get me the fucking salt!” He threw the kitchen chair to the floor. Continue reading

Sep 08

No One Brings a Casserole

Screen Shot 2013-09-07 at 4.47.12 PMOnce again, I am attempting to sleep in a chair in an emergency room. It’s been three days since the kid was discharged from a three-month placement. He started in a CBAT (useless). From there, where he received no care, he was moved to a psychiatric unit where meds were finally changed. Final stop was a developmental disabilities unit for behavioral therapy and then home. Things were a little shaky and we thought it was just part of transitioning home. We have a wonderful behavior therapist that helped us navigate through some rough times. The hope was once he was back into his day treatment school and into his routine, he could settle. Unfortunately, that was not the case. This year has been exhausting.

And the hardest thing about all this madness is, as a friend of mine often says, no one bring a casserole.

These past three months were the second placement this year. He has been placed more than he has been home. It has been a physically and emotionally draining experience. It has stressed our finances. Free time is spent traveling to facilities for visits, attending meetings, making phone calls and doing research on offered treatment options. There were days the entire family would make the two-hour drive for a visit only to be turned away because he was unsafe. Resentment began to build. Family members felt robbed of weekends. Some of the things we were all feeling sound incredibly terrible and selfish – even in my own head. And the hardest thing about all this madness is, as a friend of mine often says, no one bring a casserole.

Continue reading

Aug 16

Should brothers and sisters take care of their SN sibling? Where’s the balance?

balanceA couple of weeks ago I was at an event for moms of kids with special needs. I was the facilitator of a group conversation about balancing the needs of the rest of the family with that of our neuro-behaviorally challenged kiddos.

Facilitator does not mean expert or even master of the situation, by the way. I hope I balance things out, but most of the time I feel like I’m failing miserably. No matter what my husband and I do, everything revolves around my younger son and his needs. It kind of has to. He has FASD, and because it’s brain damage caused by alcohol exposure in utero, the best interventions for him are to manage his environment so he can navigate it successfully. He can’t change, so we need to. And us changing = imbalance, sometimes. Fair doesn’t mean we all get the same thing, fair means we all get what we need. And in our house some days it seems like we’re very far from fair. One small person’s needs rule our household most days, although we have developed some work-arounds that help out a little. Continue reading

Aug 05

What I did on my summer vacation, or Car Trip! Yay?

car tripIf you clicked on this expecting a list of suggestions for how to have a happy car trip with your behaviorally challenged child then I hate to break it to you: you’re not finding it here. My husband and I are in the midst of a 2-week car trip with our two boys, 11 and 14, and while there have been some true high points to the trip (Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls thrilled me- yes, I am a true tourist in my own country) there have also been some super low, low points. Like having nasty wet paper towels thrown in my face at a restaurant. Like hours-long swearing fits in the car. Like constant bickering. Like my younger child’s complete and utter refusal to do anything other than what he wants to do with absolutely NO compromise.

Continue reading

Feb 01

Guest blog: Dating & Raising an “Easy to Love” Child

Today’s guest blogger is a 35-year-old mom with a 5 year old kiddo with ADHD and ODD. Her child has been on medication since August.

Note: ETL stands for “easy to love,” which is short for the title of the book: Easy to Love but Hard to Raise.

holding hands

If you asked me to define myself a few years ago, I would use the following words, “failure, divorced, single mother & thirty-one”. At the end of 2009, I asked my ex-husband of seven years, to move out of our home and filed for divorce. He unfortunately got himself heavily into drugs months before his eviction and as a result, he was a danger to me and my child, “M” who was 2 at the time.

M was always a “spirited” child from birth. As 2010 arrived, M was showing more signs of ADHD and M’s behavior was not for the faint of heart.  M’s acting out, biting, hitting and uncontrollable anger was exhausting and difficult. As M’s behavior worsened, I felt alone. It was hard for other family members and friends to understand M’s actions and often times; I was looked at as “the problem”.  I was emotionally drained. With working full time and dealing with single motherhood and my ETL, I wondered two questions. (1) if I would ever be able to get myself out there and (2) who would want to be a part of my madness?  For those that are single mothers and raising ETL kiddos, there is hope.

I decided to take a tiny leap and took the dating world on slowly. I tried EHarmony and went on a series of many bad dates.  Either the chemistry was not correct, date did not take hygiene seriously or moved too fast (wanting to meet kids after first date). I actually had one person that wanted to do a “family” date after two dates. That may work for other women, but not me.  Not only were the dates bad, but what single working mom really has the time to date, especially a mom of an ETL kiddo?  I came to a fast realization that (1) I barely even have time to shave my legs in the shower without M knocking down the door (2) makeup and trying to look cute are overrated (3) Babysitters are few and far between (4) uninterrupted sleep may outweigh a date (5) having thirty minutes to myself definitely outranks a date.

I admit, I had a negative outlook on the whole dating thing and it was not until I crossed paths with someone special that I realized dating might be okay.  I ran into someone I knew a long time ago and for me, there was instant chemistry.   Even though there was chemistry, our paths would not cross again for five months and when they did, I knew that this person, “B” was special.  We took things very slow and did not involve M for many months.

Once M was involved, things got interesting at times. There were times that M had massive tantrums and many therapeutic holds ensued in front of B, who never judged me. Throughout 2010 and 2012, M’s behavior was a see-saw of ups and downs and when there were downs, it was not fun.  It took a few years and a therapist to get M evaluated and on medication.  Even with M’s medication, M had shares of tantrums and moods. There are two evenings in particular that stand out.  One evening, M was in a mood and I had to give M the emergency meds for the first time. M was angry and having a massive tantrum that involved hitting and biting and a therapeutic hold.  Once the meds started working, M calmed down but it was about 30 minutes of “fun”.  While this was going on, B did not judge me, intervene and most importantly, did not leave.  When all was calm, B was outside and I stepped outside to tell him it was safe to come back in and B gave me a hug. I was in emotionally drained and in tears and B told me I was a good mom.

Another time, B came over for dinner. While I was trying to finish dinner and set the table, M started to get in a funky mood.  It escalated at dinner and I had to remove M from the table and put M in time out. I had to hold M’s door shut and M had a big one. M destroyed the room, screamed bloody murder and was throwing objects at the door.  B asked me if I needed help and I told him I have it handled and to enjoy his dinner.  Even though I did not find it funny at the time, I find it comical now, as this is my life at times with M.

Even though it took some time, I was able to find someone that does not judge me or M. B is good to M and provides a positive male role model for M, which I am grateful for.

Raising ETL kiddos is hard, draining and emotionally exhausting but there is hope! Through my story, I want to leave you with the following: 1) Single ETL mommies can date and have a successful relationship 2) your ETL kiddo will be able to handle someone new in their life 3) take things slow and take your time introducing kiddos in the mix 4) try to take time for yourself whether it is gym time, nap or relaxing 4) Humor can make the worst day a better one 5) Things may not be perfect but you can be happy.