Today I had my son’s IEP. That’s an Individual Educational Plan for those of you who don’t have a life filled with acronyms. I met with his teacher and other specialists to discuss his progress throughout this school year and goals for the upcoming year. Throughout the 5 plus years since my son’s adoption I’ve been to countless meetings, met with over 50 professionals and been given both heartbreaking and heartwarming news. We adopted our son knowing that he had some special needs but really had no idea what the extent of his needs would be and how our lives would be changed because of them. In the world of disabilities his are considered mild but they still affect our lives every day.
Before I became a mom I worked with children with special needs for many years. I thought I knew just about everything there was to know about just about every disability. Boy, was I wrong! The thing I was most wrong about though was not recognizing just how difficult this process can be for parents, especially the moms. We hang on to every kind word, every positive report, every (rare!) admission that we were right. And for all those times that we receive bad news, that the diagnosis has changed, that the chance for improvement is slight, a little piece of us curls up and cries.
Before the meeting today I ran into another teacher at my son’s school. Her daughter, who I had the privilege of teaching many years ago, graduated from high school yesterday. She has Down syndrome and she wants to be involved in the fashion industry. It was so wonderful to see pictures of this beautiful young lady who I remembered as a toddler in her graduation cap and gown. I felt so much empathy for her mom, realizing all of the struggles and therapies and stress that she has gone through all of these years. As moms it’s important for us to reach out and support the other moms around us, whether they’re parenting a child with special needs or “just” parenting. Celebrate the victories together and be there when we need a shoulder to cry on.
Every mom is special by virtue of being a mom. Moms of kids with special needs are special with a cherry on top! Let’s be there for each other.
Lately I’ve realized that it’s time to slow down. Even when I’m really enjoying what I’m doing; writing every day, journaling, taking an online class, making Zen Tangles, I become easily overwhelmed. I’ve been reading Martha Beck’s book Finding Your Way in a Wild New World.
Yesterday morning while I was out walking I met a rather large turtle near the road. She may have been going to lay some eggs or some other turtle business but when I saw her she was just being still inside her shell. As I stood there talking softly to her and making sure she stayed out of the path of any cars that might come our way she gradually came out of her shell. I stooped down to get a closer look and the message I received was “slow down”. It’s not the first time this week I’ve heard this same message. I’m not hearing voices, it’s just what’s inside of me and I know it’s what I need to hear. Then she meandered into the underbrush to do whatever turtles do. So even though I’ve got a lot going on between finishing the school year, packing for our vacation, making reservations and starting our kitchen renovation, I’m going to heed the advice of the turtle and slow down. I plan to continue to do all of the things I’m doing but I’m going to be doing it a lot more slowly and intentionally.
Sometimes when we’re too rushed and busy slowing down is the best thing to do. Let me know if it works for you too.
Sometimes I say “yes” when I really want to say “no”. Learning how to say “no” gracefully is a skill we should all cultivate. When your mind and body are not in tune with what you’re doing you probably won’t do it well. You may feel resentful or stressed or even angry as you’re doing the unwanted task.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to say yes or no to something that I only halfway wanted to do. It was something I felt I “should” do and something that I even found interesting and often enjoyable. However, it would be happening during my long awaited vacation, and while it wasn’t exactly work, it wasn’t exactly play either. So after telling the person who invited me to participate in this event that I would think about it and get back to her I stopped and felt what was happening in my body and my mind. I was starting to feel stressed. I was starting to feel anxious about missing saying goodbye to my son when he’ll be going away with his grandmother for a week. I started to feel like I really didn’t want to do this thing. So I called back and said “no”. I did it gracefully and with conviction. I didn’t feel guilty about it. My body and mind instantly relaxed and with that sense of relaxation came the sure knowledge that I had done the right thing.
Sometimes there are obligations and things that we do because we really feel that we must. However, when you have a choice and are leaning toward saying “no”, listen to yourself. Do what your heart tells you. Only say “yes” to things that resonate for you and that you really want to do.
In the upcoming weeks one of the things that I want to do is develop an online course to help other moms rediscover themselves. I’ll be inviting you to participate and to provide feedback. If that resonates for you and you want to do it, please say “yes”. If it doesn’t resonate and you don’t want to, please listen to your heart and say “no”.
Sometimes even with all of the strategies I’ve put in place to help me deal with stress I find myself feeling overwhelmed. This week has been one of those weeks. Lack of sleep, preparing for the end of the school year and a long anticipated vacation, taking a really exciting online course and dealing with everyday stress has left me feeling somewhat frazzled. In response I’ve been meditating more, doing more conscious breathing and writing less. I’ve also found myself doing things that I know are NOT helpful like eating a giant chocolate chip cookie that was on the kitchen counter at work, doing less yoga and having a “pink drink” before dinner. (E-mail me for the recipe for pink drinks- they’re awesome!) It’s easy to slip into habits that are counter-productive. It’s easy to slip out of habits that are helpful. The snooze button has been calling out to me again. After a week of being really diligent about getting up 30 minutes early to write and have some “me” time I just groaned and rolled over yesterday and again today. In the past I probably would have decided that falling back into bad habits was a sign of my inability to get my act together. Today, in the spirit of acceptance and forgiveness I’ve decided to give myself a break. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. I’m going to give myself the same pass that I’d give to a good friend in the same position. What would I tell this friend?
“You’re a good person. You’re a good mom. You’re doing your best. Get some rest and soon you’ll feel better. Maybe that chocolate chip cookie had secret healthy ingredients tucked inside and you might have pulled a muscle if you’d done more yoga today.” (Yes, I have been known to make up stories to help my friends feel better).
Be a friend to yourself and take a break when you need it. You’ll thank yourself in the morning.