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.
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.”
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.
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.