Writing the plot of our story and sharing it. This chapter happens to be about SPD.

This is very much a blog about my family as it is about photographing life. And I aim to be honest in all those areas. The thing is, as the kids grow older, I wonder where the line is of their story to tell and my story with them as featured characters. I love sharing here in the off chance it helps someone else or selfishly, if anyone reading relates and in turn helps me with my struggles. See, in that case, I feel less alone. My blog and my camera are forms of therapy for me. Being an ex-pat, the blog has often been the only place I can dump out my thoughts as my best friends were all asleep a half a world away. My computer and I have had many moments over a glass or two of wine. My computer has seen me ugly-cry.

I am about to come really clean. I think it is important that you know that while it all looks beautiful on the blog, life is not perfect…for anyone. I am ashamed, but I have developed into a yeller. Not the heart wrenching Old Yeller dog. I am talking about the type of mother who gets pushed to her limits and then screams to get her way. I am not happy about that. I hated yelling all my life. That was my dad’s style and it terrified me. Then again, I guess that was the point. Now I have become what I despised and my kids deserve a calmer childhood. I want them to love and respect me, not cower under my rage.

my-son

Things have been getting harder and harder since we came home from Fiji. Why Fiji? Well, that was when we took away the twins’ pacifiers and literally uncorked a storm that had been bottled deep inside our boy. Kieran has been diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder and that noo-noo that he had was his way of self soothing. That dummy that got me publicly criticized by a troll (who swears she will never read me again because of my bad parenting decisions, specifically the horror of four year olds with pacifiers at bedtime!!!) on an internet forum was actually something that was helping my son regulate himself. Clover slid right into sucking her thumb, but not Kieran. He has nothing but his bunny left. So he freaks out more, chucks tantrums and overreacts to a lot. From frustrations, loud noises, surprises, sleeves that are too long, socks that don’t sit just right to a child who steps in front of him in line…the list of triggers is long. I thought he was just being naughty until I started to accept that something more might be going on. I trusted my instincts and got him seen. We work with a wonderful OT now and are learning as much as we can so that Kieran can head off to real school next year with all the tools he needs to thrive.

Whatever I can do to help him learn how to self soothe, I will do and my first step is to get my own reactions in check. See, if I can’t control my behavior how do I expect my son to do the same for himself? While I was coming to that realization, a blog post was making the Facebook rounds. It was written by a woman who described her epiphany as being caught yelling at her kids by a workman at her home. I was not caught in the act by a stranger, but had been listening to old 10,000 Maniacs songs when one line from What’s The Matter Here jumped out at me: “If I’m the only witness to your madness offer me some words to balance out what I see and what I hear.”

oh-clover-oh-deer

My kids were witness to my bad behavior. They were the only witnesses I needed. At that moment I had no words to balance it all out.

Now I do and I offer them these promises.

The yelling stops now. We will be as kind with our words as we are with our actions. We will help each other get through this life. I will offer a smile and my attention to you when you need it. I will be firm and kind when I need to guide you. I will take a deep breath before I respond. When I get to my limit I will walk away and cool off. I will come back and show you that this is a wonderful life filled with beautiful people who matter. You are those people who matter most to me. I will make mistakes and so will you, but we will always try our best.

gemma-reading

It isn’t going to be easy for Kieran and it isn’t going to be easy for me, but we are both going to succeed. This is our story and we get to write the happy plot.

Now you are all my witnesses.

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  • Tuesday Veldhoven via Facebook - Behind you 100% my amazing friend with support, shared no-yelling resolve, a shoulder when needed and wine when necessary. Big love to you and your beautiful crew xoxoxoxoxApril 14, 2013 – 4:50 pmReplyCancel

  • Amelia - You are brave and I believe in you.April 14, 2013 – 4:54 pmReplyCancel

    • sesame - Thank you!April 14, 2013 – 8:19 pmReplyCancel

  • Jane - 10,000 maniacs. I love them. I know that song word for word. Well done. REALLY well done that you knew that there was something amiss. Many do not catch on until much later.

    xoxApril 14, 2013 – 5:19 pmReplyCancel

    • sesame - Thanks Jane. I am surprised all of the neighborhood hasn’t heard me singing lately as I run. Good to fall back in love with old music!April 14, 2013 – 8:18 pmReplyCancel

  • Rachael Beth Beckstrand via Facebook - Oh wow. I really commend you, Rachel. Very honest and sincere.April 14, 2013 – 5:27 pmReplyCancel

  • Lucy Nailon via Facebook - You are awesome. I am full of awe xoApril 14, 2013 – 6:13 pmReplyCancel

  • Jasmin - Much strength, love and peace to you xxApril 14, 2013 – 6:22 pmReplyCancel

    • sesame - Thanks Jasmin. It is hard to admit, but it will only get better now.April 14, 2013 – 8:17 pmReplyCancel

  • Kirsten - There are some really great books by Adele Farber and Elaine Mazlish. How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk, liberated parents liberated children, sibling rivalry. They might sound terrible but they are so practical and genuine. There’s a really good section in the liberated book about anger, why bottling your anger up isn’t the answer, and words you might use instead of yelling. Worth a read. I love your honesty.April 14, 2013 – 7:13 pmReplyCancel

    • sesame - You know, I started with one of the books you mentioned. That was another part of this epiphany. I loved it (the How To Talk one) and I should have mentioned that it was one of the major turning points. It also helped me see that there was more to Kieran’s issues than just the normal testing limits stuff. I will look into the other for sure. Right now I am reading The Out of Sync Child. I am going to have a full library soon. Thank goodness for my Kindle!April 14, 2013 – 8:12 pmReplyCancel

      • alexis yael - The Out of Synch Child is really great! Another book that was really helpful to me to stop the yelling was Screamfree Parenting (I think I need to reread it again, since we’re coming up on a birthday and the months before and after a birthday seem particularly full of transition/ sensory/growth issues).

        You can do it!April 15, 2013 – 12:03 amReplyCancel

  • Heather - I hear you, and I can relate!!!

    I catch myself yelling sometimes out of desperation. My almost 5 year old is such a sensitive soul and it breaks my heart when he replies (sometimes through tears) with “you hurt my feelings”. I know he is right and takes all my strength not to cry also. My younger son is much more resilient and just yells back! No win, win with this approach.

    I’m so proud of you and will do my best to join you!!!April 14, 2013 – 7:20 pmReplyCancel

    • sesame - Nothing worse than breaking your own kid’s heart, huh? Thank you for making me feel less alone. I am here to support you as well.April 14, 2013 – 8:15 pmReplyCancel

  • Belinda - Wow
    Thank you for your bravery and honesty.
    Power to you sister!!!!!April 14, 2013 – 7:41 pmReplyCancel

    • sesame - Thank you.April 14, 2013 – 8:16 pmReplyCancel

  • Aimee - Rachel, this post and your post on facebook really caught my attention because I, too, have found myself to be a yeller and when I never was before. I yell at my kids. It’s like the only way I can get their attention. After your post, I realized that I raise my voice for things that really don’t merit it. I raise my voice because I can’t control myself patience, I lose it too easily. I don’t know why. My parents yelled at us growing up and I was always super scared when my dad yelled. I hear them in my voice when I yell at my kids. Sigh… it has to stop. I have been trying to control myself since I posted on your facbeook post but I have lost my temper twice since and yelled. I need to find another way to process. Any ideas you come up with please share because I am out of ideas. I applaud you for coming out to us on your blog about this. I have always enjoyed reading your words here because I feel like we share a lot of the same feelings being expats far from our home countries.

    I will take this journey with you… I am going to try really hard because I don’t want my kids to remember me as a yeller. My husband says (translated from french expression) i have an iron hand in a velvet glove. Sort of a tough love thing going on… I used to think this was alright but now I don’t this so and want to change. Thank you for the motivation. Let’s do this.April 14, 2013 – 7:53 pmReplyCancel

    • sesame - We can do this together. I am thinking we could have a FB private group to support each other in our attempt to change.April 14, 2013 – 8:14 pmReplyCancel

      • Aimee - I would love the private FB group… it’s been a hard couple days. My three year old is really pushing my buttons and I need to find a new way to work through it.April 22, 2013 – 6:32 pmReplyCancel

    • Inna - I am with you too! It is sooo hard to control yourself especially if you have more the 2 kids :(. I have been promising myself not to yell thousands of times – and then it happens again. When my kids would tell me: “Mom, you do not have to yell!” I ask them out of desperation “So what should I do I If I told you calmly 4 times already and YOU know what you should do and it is still not done????” They just tell me – “Still you do not have to yell!” I am so lost when this Happens. I loved that book too. It has so much helpful info BUT we have to be very consisted with it. I am glad you shared your heart on this one.April 15, 2013 – 3:12 amReplyCancel

  • PlanningQueen - Beautiful post Rachel. I always find writing it out (private or public) really helps clarify the thoughts and create a plan of action. Wishing you strength and calmness as you start this new chapter. xxApril 14, 2013 – 8:20 pmReplyCancel

    • sesame - Thank you Nic. I am finding that making a plan is a big help for me. I am sure that being unorganized causes a lot of my rash reactions. I think I am getting quite a lot out of the OT appointments myself!April 14, 2013 – 9:20 pmReplyCancel

  • Louise Fletcher via Facebook - Thanks for continuing to say it like it is for you, in pictures and words. It’s why I keep coming back to be inspired by your images and who you are.April 14, 2013 – 8:28 pmReplyCancel

  • The Orange Rhino - Welcome to the community 🙂 What a terrific post. Honest and so relatable. I wanted you to know that my son (3 of my 4 actually) have varying levels of SPD. It is hard stuff. Please know that you are not alone when figuring out how to go about accepting and managing it. Interestingly enough, when my son started OT for his SPD I stopped yelling. World of a difference. If you need anything, please email. Best of luck to you on your yelling less journey!April 14, 2013 – 9:22 pmReplyCancel

    • sesame - Thank YOU and your most excellent post(s) about your realizations. I am very committed to making this work and getting out of this parenting rut of yelling. You have made such a wonderful resource for us by sharing your story. I really appreciate you checking in with me here.April 14, 2013 – 9:27 pmReplyCancel

  • Jen Lavelle - Hugs Rachel! I wouldn’t worry about the occasional yelling .. I think as moms we all do it. How else are we suppose to get our point across?! Don’t be so hard on yourself — this job of ours can be very tough. Good luck with Kieran! – jenApril 14, 2013 – 9:51 pmReplyCancel

  • melissa - To quote Barnie Stinson “challenge accepted” Seriously, and glad you brought it up. Starting tomorrow.April 14, 2013 – 9:58 pmReplyCancel

  • amy bader {life in eden} - I so respect your honesty. Getting real is tough but so free-ing.

    My oldest has some SPD issues and ADHD, and over the years there have been stretches that are terribly taxing and we had terrible guilt about our yelling and constant frustration. While we and he have both improved with time and maturity (for both of us!), I’ll be honest that we still go there sometimes. Parenting any kids can be hard, and ones with challenges has it’s own, well, challenges. What I do want you to know is that the fierce love you clearly show the other times has a strong power. Despite our periods of not-so-great-parenting before we got more intense help — our son is a happy confident boy who knows he is well-loved. Have faith that that shines through … even if/when you slip and yell.

    Now my boy twin is facing some possible learning challenges. So another ball of wax to tackle. We’ll get through for sure! xoApril 14, 2013 – 10:23 pmReplyCancel

  • erika - “This is our story and we get to write the happy plot.”
    That cracked my heart in half.April 14, 2013 – 10:49 pmReplyCancel

  • Sarah - I’m mother to an almost 8 year old with SPD, who also happens to be the most precious kid in the universe and I’m standing in a place now where I can say that I wouldn’t want him any other way. We’ve come a long way, he and I, and he and his siblings, and he and his friends. It hasn’t been an easy road–I, too, found myself turning into my angry father and had to make steps to change QUICK (reading, reading, more reading helped so much), and he has had to work harder than most others to just be calm in the world and probably always will. But he feels all things–love, empathy, joy–with such gorgeous intensity that I’ve found, as his mom, the playoffs to be huge 🙂 What I know: I’m a better mother and person because of him. I will never again judge another parent whose children are clearly misbehaving in public. Who knows what that child is strugglling with, and wow do I know that even my best laid plans go to pieces during public meltdowns, where all the tools I’ve tucked away to deal with and avoid sensory triggers fail. I am more generous because of my boy. I see the world through his blaze of brilliant intensity. So high fives from one SPD mama to another. It’s a difficult road but I’d choose it every single time to have this child. Books that really, really helped–the Adele farber books mentioned above, especially the one on sibling rivalry. It taught me how to help my kids negotiate respectfully, and really how to speak to and understand one another. For siblings in an SPD family, teaching the importance of flexibility and compromise is tantamount to a peaceful home. Also, and perhaps most critically for Rapid Response situations, The Explosive Child. I don’t like the title, because I think it limits the readership to people with “explosive” kids, when really anyone with kids would benefit from it. It gives such amazing practical advice for how to de-escalate conflicts while at the same time allowing kids to have control over the outcome of a situation and responsibility for their actions. Such a fabulous parenting book all around. Completely turned things around on the yelling front over here at my house. I found the Out of Sync child to be great help in netter understanding the brain of my boy, but The Explosive Child gives amazing strategies for helping me calm and bend that brain to my will—{hahahahaaaa evil laugh} while simultaneously making my kids think the choices are all theirs, which they are within clearly defined limits. Brilliant 😉April 14, 2013 – 10:59 pmReplyCancel

  • Kristen - I rarely comment on blogs, but I feel compelled to comment here. I’ve been sliding down the slippery slope of yelling at my kids lately. It can be easy to develop the habit because the first time you do it, it definitely gets their attention! I’m taking your lead on this one and working on getting things under control before summer hits here in the states!

    Second, I have a son with SPD. He doesn’t eat…anything. It’s been a long learning lesson for me in managing my expectations and learning how to deal with the “public” who thinks things should be done a certain way. For instance, my son is 6 and still will only drink milk out of a sippy cup. As a result, he still gets milk in a sippy cup. A lot of people think this is ridiculous, but that is a fight I’m not willing to engage in. I guess I’m saying all this to say that you are not alone, even when you think you are. SPD is just starting to be recognized and understood. The good thing is that as he grows, it will most likely get better and better (plus, he will learn ways to cope in therapy).

    Thanks so much for today’s post 🙂April 14, 2013 – 11:00 pmReplyCancel

  • Catherine - Yes yes so much yes to this. I need to read and reread this. I struggle with yelling and the guilt and shame that follows and I KNOW better and want to do better. Thank you for sharing. You’ve definitely renewed in me my resolve to keep trying. xoApril 14, 2013 – 11:15 pmReplyCancel

  • Nancy - Like you, I grew up in a yelling household, and like you, I was repeating that learned behavior with my kids until I had the epiphany that it didn’t have to be like this. It’s not easy at ALL to change those habits and behaviors, but I don’t want my kids to grow up in that environment, and also I don’t want to pass it along it them. So, I’m doing my best to be the change I want to see in this world. Good luck to you!April 14, 2013 – 11:50 pmReplyCancel

  • lisa Bentley - 🙂 you are an amazing lady. The kids have a good momma.April 14, 2013 – 11:51 pmReplyCancel

  • Jen Downer - I have a lot to say about all of this… but mostly, you are doing a fantastic job. Plain and simple. You are AWESOME! xoApril 15, 2013 – 12:51 amReplyCancel

  • Irina - Thank you very much, Rachel, for this post! Over them past year I’ve become quite the teller myself and I absolutely hate it and although I try to catch myself as much as I can (and I do manage to keep my cool sometimes!) I still slip and then can’t help but keep thinking I’m failing at the whole parenting thing. Your post (and all the comments that come with it!) make me feel a bit better knowing that moms everywhere go though the same thing! So thank you, Rachel, for sharing your struggles and strategies, and to all you wonderul moms who help us all feel less alone in this everyday battle! Best of luck to all of us!!!April 15, 2013 – 1:53 amReplyCancel

  • Cynthia Streefkerk via Facebook - From one spd-mom to another: you can do this. Just be very, very gentle with yourself. The key is taking a break before the explosion. And somtimes, that’s just hard. You got some great book suggestions on your blog. Add in: the surprising purpose of anger. Hug!April 15, 2013 – 2:22 amReplyCancel

  • Angela - I too am always trying to be more patient and not be quick to yell at my kids. It’s so hard to break the cycle! But I’m with you in wanting and really working at changing. If you are interested, some WONDERFUL resources I have read/listened to are Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood by Jim and Charles Fay and Loving on Purpose (cd series) by Danny Silks. So practical and makes complete sense! One quick and easy method I use when my kids are arguing or just cranky is to say to them “Fun or room. Your choice.” They know this means stay here and choose to have fun or choose to go to your room until you are ready to come out and have fun again. I’ve also said “fun or done” when I would rather just stop the activity. Works beautifully! Sometimes they stop. Sometimes one chooses (or I gently advise them they have chosen this because their behavior says so) to go to their room until they are ready to come back out. I don’t time them – if it’s 30 seconds or 10 minutes – it’s when they are ready to come back out and they seriously always come out happy and in a good mood. Long point made short, these simple little things have started to give me little steps to bringing peace to our house without yelling and with giving the kids the feeling of control over their choices while keeping the respect level in place.

    And I am no expert in this area…but my youngest daughter has an OT among other therapists for low muscle tone. She doesn’t like some sensory things and her OT suggested therapeutic brushing. She herself has seen it help children. One child she told me about had sensory issues that had her changing her clothes 7-8 times in the morning until she found something she could stand. After using brushing, her mom said she is usually fine with the first outfit she puts on. We are just learning about it and deciding if it is something we want to try. Just thought I would pass it along for you to research. Another thing that I had never thought of but was recently told about was chiropractics for kids. Making sure everything is aligned correctly is suppose to support and make the nervous system function properly. We did a lot of research on this as well because I had never thought of chiropractics for wellness but only in the injured sense. Just a few thoughts I wanted to share. Sorry for going on so long!

    You sound like a wonderful mom – I think just the guilt you feel shows you are a great mom who obviously cares a ton about her children! 🙂 Prayers for you to find what works best for you and your family and peace in your heart that you are doing a good job!April 15, 2013 – 2:39 amReplyCancel

  • Sheryl - Rachel,

    You are so very brave to post this, and I admire you deeply. I’m glad you found the Out of Sync Child. It was, truly, a life changing book for me on many fronts. I never knew SPD existed, but once I learned of it while trying to figure out my difficult girl, I realized it applied to me as well. All my “quirks” we’re right there in black and white. The book was incredibly reassuring and just the knowledge that there was something behind the behavior significantly impacted my parenting in a positive way. My daughter is now 14, and still has her quirks, but most of the things that made her difficult a a toddler have proven real attributes: persistence, passion, stick-to-it-iveness. I wish you well in your resolve, and wanted you to know you are supported and understood.

    Cheers from beautiful flowery northern Virginia!

    SherylApril 15, 2013 – 3:47 amReplyCancel

    • Robin T - I would also second the Out of Sync Child – very goodApril 17, 2013 – 4:03 amReplyCancel

  • Darcy - Our six year old son has always been a handful. Spirited was the word we would try to use. And I subsequently became a horrible yeller because nothing else seemed to get thru to him. But just last month our son was finally diagnosed with ADHD, PDD-NOS (Autism Spectrum), and SPD. It finally all made sense and was a relief to know that his mis-behaviors were not just a product of our parenting. We now feel more sympathetic towards him and have found a little more patience to work with. But we are still yelling. The constant tantrums, angry outbursts, and manic hyperness are still just too much to manage. I am maxed out. We just had a baby last year and I am tired. I feel like a crazy lady most days and just so overwhelmed by it all. We are starting OT and behavioral therapy soon. I’m hopeful that this will not only help him, but me as well.

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I don’t feel quite so alone in this journey now. You sometimes feel like you’re the only one going thru a specific trial, but it just isn’t true. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am going to take on this no yelling challenge too! You have motivated and inspired me to try. I’m also going to order a couple of those books mentioned too and begin my library collection :-). Thank you again for putting yourself out there.April 15, 2013 – 4:46 amReplyCancel

  • Kasandra - i had my now 10 y/o, then 7 y/o tell me that “it really isn’t necessary yelling so much” :O … ouch! now i just scream in the car when i’m by myself 😉 good luck and don’t be too hard on yourself … you’re only human and it takes all types to make this world go around 🙂April 15, 2013 – 6:21 amReplyCancel

  • christine hall - My oldest had more sensory problems when she was younger. We named them”alexisms” She still at 8 is sensitive to where things need to go, something might be “too strippy” or today I showed her a dress and it was “Too Roman” she is super creative and really visual. We had her in ot for years, she is getting much better. You are doing great, it is hard.April 15, 2013 – 8:07 amReplyCancel

  • Fi - Rachel not only are you a brilliant mum (it’s written between the lines of every one of your posts) but you also inspire many mums like myself to continually work harder at being a good parent. Thank you for sharing everything that you do. You will work through this and you will do it beautifully. xApril 15, 2013 – 12:23 pmReplyCancel

  • Corinne Sherry via Facebook - I am so on your wave length right now. Spent part of last evening listening to the first part of “Happy Parent Peaceful Child” and reading posts on Orange Rhino and similar. Today was a better day.April 15, 2013 – 4:06 pmReplyCancel

  • Kim - This post is so well-timed for some of the stuff I’m working through mentally right now. I’m also an American ex-pat (living in Europe), and am in the third trimester of pregnancy with our first child. We were in the US for Christmas, but haven’t (and won’t be) been back again before the baby’s born, and as the pregnancy has progressed it has grown harder and harder for me to live this important event so far away from my family (parents + siblings). My husband is from here, so he doesn’t have that problem, and while he sort of understands, he cannot relate from personal experience. And yet, although I miss my family, and especially worry that my parents will pass away while our son is still young and that they’ll never really know each other, I also worry about being too like my parents. My father was like yours while we were young–yelled so much that I was afraid of him–and my mother based her life so much on my siblings and me that, when we left home, her life fell apart into a depression that is still ongoing 20 years later. While I love my parents, and want them to be able to have a relationship with my child, I so do not want to become as a parent myself either the intimidating yeller that my father was (he no longer does it with us now that we’re adults) nor the shadow of a person that my mother has become. Anyway, thank you for your honesty, and the chance to share here.April 15, 2013 – 6:17 pmReplyCancel

  • Joanne Trisha Paktsun via Facebook - Beautiful post Rachel, you are such an awesome mum, such an inspiration to me. I have a 3yo girl with a dummy (pacifier) attachment and get the stares sometimes. But I’ve decided not take it away from her until she has shown me that she is ready to.. it’s mostly limited to night time only now and she is slowly learning to get through tough situations without it… Thank you for sharing and I’m sure you will all pull through fine! 🙂 hugs xApril 15, 2013 – 8:18 pmReplyCancel

  • Irene - My son is just 14 months so he hasn’t really ‘tested my limits’ yet. But after reading your post I’ve decided the way I want to go when he does. So I’m starting getting ready from NOW.
    I wish you all the best on your plot, I’m sure it won’t be easy but you will succeeded. And tanks for your blog, I really enjoy your writing and your pictures.April 16, 2013 – 2:08 pmReplyCancel

  • Laney | Crash Test Mummy - I’ve been watching your FB updates with pride. I’m a yeller and my two get the better of me all the time. But they’re not getting my best and that makes me sad. I’d like try not yelling too. I need a whole other box of tools now!April 16, 2013 – 6:46 pmReplyCancel

  • Robin T - Beautifully said and well thought out. I have become a yelling parent too which I HATE. And I have gotten better but sometimes it comes out. trying to forgive myself for past mistakes and push into being the best parent I can be in each moment. And some moments are better than others!!! Hugs and prayers to you as you do the best you can for K and all of your kiddos. I came here b/c I admired your photography and over time I have come to admire your heart even more.April 17, 2013 – 4:01 amReplyCancel

  • Lea - Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! Oh how this resonates with me! My husband is currently deployed and I have noticed more and more that my yelling frequency has increased 10 fold. It saddens my heart so much but it’s also one of those things you don’t really want to admit to anyone. I desperately needed to hear that I wasn’t alone in this and realize that it doesn’t automatically make me a bad mother. Thank you again for being so honest!April 17, 2013 – 9:20 amReplyCancel

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