Loving the Misunderstood: When Our Kids Hurt.

Yesterday, I had two kids home from school. Mister had a cold, sore throat and could barely keep his eyes open and Miss had been wiped out by too many late nights along with a cold.

While you’d expect sick children would by definition be too rundown to engage in mortal combat, you’d be surprised! In their weakened states, they almost killed each other, trashed the house and were absolutely obnoxious!! At my wits end, I rang my husband at work and asked him to come home. After all, I’d been up most of the night with a dreadful cough and all this coughing has left me with dreadful backache. I mean, if ever there was a case where Mary Poppins needed to fly in with magic umbrella, this was it.

It is the first time in longer than I can remember that I actually asked Geoff to come home but when he reminded me that he was two hours away and in the middle of touring a construction site hard hat and all, I took a deep breath and decided to “mum up”. Surely, I could mount an effective counter-attack and neutralise the little peoples? After all, as I am reminded, I am the adult. Surely, size and experience should be enough to combat youth, sleep-deprivation and impulsive thinking?

A little bit of green paint can go a very long way.

A little bit of green paint can go a very long way.

I don’t often write about the more negative aspects of my children on my blog because I don’t think it’s the right thing to do. While I might vent with a friend, it’s quite another thing to plaster their more dubious antics on the world wide web. I might as well stick up a billboard on the main street. That sort of thing is private, not public and children actually have rights to their privacy…even if a family member is in the media in any capacity. Too many writers exploit their children.

At the same time, I also don’t want to create the wrong impression. That just because they might look cute in the numerous photographic images I’ve plastered on my blog, that they’re perfect. Indeed, like all kids, they have an instinctive eye for mischief and a young and speedy mind and body to swoop into action before I’ve even sniffed trouble on the horizon.

Moreover, I don’t want to convey the impression that our kids just coast along having a Mum with a chronic life threatening disease and that there isn’t any fall out. Because there is.

At times, they really don’t cope and nor should they be expected to be okay all the time…just like the rest of us. They get angry. They get upset and not all of this manifests itself in what I’ll term: “socially unacceptable behavior” but is really a cry for help or at lest, a bit more attention. If adults struggle to survive in a pressure cooker, how can a child? Yes, we get on with it but there are times when the pot explodes and everything goes splat on the ceiling. We are anything but superhuman.

DSC_7944

While some children compensate for a sick parent by becoming overly protective and in effect little adults, my kids seem to react by running amok and regressing, sometimes quite significantly. So, instead of being helpful, they’re quite dependent and want and demand everything done for them. When this doesn’t happen, which is inevitably the case, there’s payback…anger, tears, screams.

You get the picture.

As you can imagine, when the kids erupt like this, things can get incredibly difficult, especially as this tends to happen when my health deteriorates and I’m least able to handle the meltdowns. To be perfectly honest, at these times, I wish I could just stick them inside an envelope, whack on a few stamps and post them somewhere else. I know that sounds bad but when you’re struggling to walk, breathe and essentially stay alive and you’re kids are going feral, what can you do? We have friends and family who help out but they can’t live your life. Moreover, although these meltdowns are very intense, they’re usually short and life soon returns to some kind of equilibrium.

Over the last few months, things have been brewing with our son. He’s seen stars and vomited. Had bad headaches. A dreadful asthma cough and really not looked very well either. He’s missed quite a lot of school.One morning when he couldn’t put his finger on his nose and was seeing stars, I took him off to Emergency. Nothing showed up and the vomiting stopped but he still hasn’t been himself. Then, yesterday, I found a tin of salmon with knife marks jabbed through it and it looked like it had been mauled by a shark with metal teeth. This precipitated a huge worry. Why couldn’t he just use a can opener like anybody else? Why doesn’t he know how to open up a can after helping out with cooking? He’s also a Scout. Now, I understand that scouting can make you more resourceful and inventive but surely a Scout can open up a tin by themselves?

One mauled and mutilated tin of salmon...none other than John West: the Best!

One mauled and mutilated tin of salmon…none other than John West: the Best!

I’m sure you can understand my concern!

Not only had he opened the tin with a knife but he’d also spilled the stinky fishy oil over the kitchen table when I was still sorting through cookbooks and a cookbook my grandmother had helped put together back in the 1950s had been smeared with the stuff.

I was livid.

You can also imagine after working so hard on the decluttering and kitchen renovations, that I was just a little bit precious and didn’t appreciate a tornado of a kid thrashing through the place.

But what can you do? Padlock all the cupboards? Lock him in his room? Lock myself in my room? You can also take your kid to a supposed expert but I’d already tried that and it was inconclusive. He is actually having some counseling about what’s been going on. You see, it’s not just me who’s been sick but his sister’s been in hospital and his aunty has cancer and Grandma was in hospital for tests yesterday as well.

As I said before, you can’t expect kids to cope any better than an adult when they’re submerged in “shit”. It’s to be expected that when a kid is hurting, they’re not going to be smooth sailing. More than likely, they’re going to bite the hand that feeds it and that’s not easy to take.

That said, we all have to get on with it. Keep going. When you’re living with a chronic ongoing situation, you can’t keep dropping your bundle and have any hope of getting anywhere. You have to keep fighting straight through that savage head wind and keep going. Surprisingly, this resistance actually builds you up and makes you stronger and we’re meant to take it on. We’re not designed to slump in a chair and give up. Yet, that doesn’t make the process “fun”.

Anyway, after more downs than ups during the afternoon and a few stern words from Dad who wasn’t happy being called at work or finding the house in such a state, Geoff had a chat with the Mister.

Geoff had Mister on his knee and started asking him questions and talking and eventually, the story tumbled out. Mister was worried that I was going to die. That having a chronic illness means that you’re dying.

Finally, we had something concrete, which made some sense.

It also turned out that he couldn’t get the can opener to work.

Mister spontaneously made a heart with his Incredible Hulk green hands. It really touched my heart!

Mister spontaneously made a heart with his Incredible Hulk green hands. It really touched my heart!

As you could imagine, we’ve had many talks on this subject over the years with the kids. As my health is pretty precarious even though I’m currently in remission, I don’t lie to them and promise some rosy-coloured vision of the future…especially as we’re currently in Winter and a chest infection is the most likely thing to cause me grief. I had pneumonia two years ago and it almost got me so I know life is fragile but it’s like that for all of us. Anyone, could be run over by that proverbial bus and it’s all over in an instant. It’s just that we’re more conscious of the fact.

Mister’s relief was immediately evident, although he still had trouble sleeping last night. These are big concepts for anyone to process…especially a kid who really needs and is still dependent on his Mum. I’ve also heard that having a parent hanging in the balance like this can be worse than the actually loss of the parent. There’s that omnipresent shadow. The knife hanging above my head. The boogey man, in the form of my illness, is always there making faces and scaring us. Yet, as close as it’s been, I am still a few steps ahead. Indeed at the moment, aside from the cough, I’m doing very well. However, the kids aren’t always in synch with my health status and can pick up on some random thing we’d never considered and react, leaving us wondering why they’ve lost the plot.

Also, in addition to living with my health issues, they also have the normal everyday issues kids have, although these can also get magnified when they’re not handling things well.

So, when you see my children mucking up, or other kids for that matter, instead of judging them or their parents’ disciplinary enforcement, perhaps you could ask a couple of simple questions:

Are you okay?

What can I do to help?

Another good idea is to run through all the people they can turn to for support. They can draw a hand on a piece of paper and write those name on each finger. Having a list of contacts on the fridge can also be helpful. Our kids really don’t seem to know important contact numbers other than 000 (our emergency number).

I’ve jotted down a few things here which have helped us get through those really tough times. They’re not an instant fix but over time have helped them and me.

Suggestions for Helping Kids Get Through a Rough Patch

• Some kids appreciate more physical contact such as hugs, sitting on your lap, holding your hand even though they might be older. Physical contact is a powerful way to convey love.

• Go for a walk or bike ride etc (exercise).

• Get a bit of sun. Sunlight helps you cheer up.

• Find a way to have a laugh. Laughter is known as the best medicine. A

• Play with a friend and or a pet.

• Write in a journal and/or draw some pictures.

• Listen to music.

• Having a break from the situation by going to a friend’s house or doing after school activities.

• Become an active member of an out of school community such as Scouts, Church etc where the kids can feel love and support beyond the family unit.

• Having an outlet for expressing anger such as drumming, jogging, boxing. Getting those emotions out is very cathartic.

• Talking regularly with kids about what is happening and keeping them updated. This is very easy to overlook and can be seen as protecting them but kids have good ears when you don’t want them to listen and it’s better to have a more structure conversation, rather than them picking up on bits and pieces and potentially getting the wrong idea.

• I haven’t been very good at this but meditation and slowing down anxious breathing is fantastic and helps keep a level head. The best way for me to do this is to go for a walk along the beach and focus on the water or by doing my photography. Focusing on a point is a relaxation technique.

In the meantime, if you know a kid who is going through a rough time and seemingly spiraling out of control, please don’t judge or condemn them. Perhaps, all they’ll need is a hug or a compassionate ear.

All our children need love, compassion…especially when they might “deserve” it least! Indeed, that’s when we need to push through the pain barrier with that desperate determination of a professional athlete and keep striving with everything we’ve got…including our community, which is so often right under our nose when we just have a look!

Our children, and especially our youth, are too precious to ever give up!

Love & Blessings,

Rowena

This photo was taken when I was on weekend leave from hospital back in 2007, when I was first diagnosed with dermatomyositis.

This photo was taken when I was on weekend leave from hospital back in 2007, when I was first diagnosed with dermatomyositis.

36 thoughts on “Loving the Misunderstood: When Our Kids Hurt.

  1. Norah

    What a tough situation for you all. It must be difficult enough to manoeuvre through your own emotions at times, let alone support your children through the torrents of theirs. I can understand why there would be a greater need of attention if they fear losing you. They want your attention now, while they can get it. But it doesn’t make it easier if you are not feeling up to it, or are in need yourself.
    Unfortunately I’m too far away to bring around a big pot of stew or take your children out for the afternoon, but I send my thoughts on butterfly wings to you all. Take care. 🙂

  2. TanGental

    What a touching portrait you paint – and I love those green arms! I follow a blog – Austin mom – who describes living with a child on the spectrum and she makes a similar and similarly compelling point about the judgement of what appears like unacceptable behaviour when you don’t know the cause. You both have a lot in common in your rational analysis of why something is happening. Have a good weekend with your darling little monsters.

  3. merrildsmith

    I remember when one of my daughters suddenly began to have panic attacks at night. She was about 8 years old, I think. One late night we were so scared and took her to a children’s hospital. I finally realized it was the after effects of my dad’s death and her realization that people die, and that she would, too, someday. We had a long talk, and that was the end of her panic attacks.

    Your comments were touching–and I loved the hand heart. Heart melt time. 🙂
    Wishing you and your family all best, Rowena.

  4. roweeee Post author

    Thank you very much for sharing your daughter’s reaction because it sounds quite similar. I’ll try to have some further talks with the kids and try to reassure them. I found it so much easier before I realised how tenuous life is for all of us and I could believe that great Australian saying: “she’ll be right mate.”
    I was very touched by his heart hands at the time and am pleased I came across them again looking for a different image for this post, which I still haven’t found by the way.
    Thank you very much for wishing us well. That means a lot. You can get through so much more when you are part of a caring community, even if it isn’t in person. We have some great friends and family who help but sometimes things get sprung on me at a bad moment and it can be overwhelming. Trying to pre-empt them a bit better and plan ahead. We are also making some great progress on the house and bought a new second hand car today..a 2013 Nissan Pulsar. It’s red and so nice. It comes home Wedenesday. Can’t wait!

  5. roweeee Post author

    Thanks, Geoff. Have just returned from taking the little darlings down to Sydney to buy a new secondhand car…a 2013 red Nissan Pulsar. The dealership had some helium balloons and somehow the kids twigged about inhaling the helium and getting a squeaky voice. They were falling over themselves in hysterics having a ball. Being the parents, were were a bit concerned that they were being too rowdy but it was closing time and the staff didn’t seem to mind.
    I’ll pop round now and read your contribution for #1000 speak. That was mine but I didn’t mention the blogshare because it was so personal.

  6. merrildsmith

    We used to have a red car–it was when Nissan was known as Datsun, and it was little hatchback. It was the first car my husband and I bought. Good memories. Hope you enjoy yours. Good luck with your home remodeling and have a great weekend with your family (and pets)! 🙂

  7. roweeee Post author

    Thank you so much, Norah. I really appreciate how you put yourself in our shoes and can understand what it’s like. We have some really incredibly wonderful times and some real downers and not so much inbetween. My tratment is fairly stable at the moment and the meds I’m now on are much less intrusive. I used to have transfusion of immunoglobulin every 3 weeks and it really was tricky organising the kids and friends and family helped quite a lot but it’s great we don’t have that concern anymore. I don’t think there is a lot of infrastructure to support families when Mum gets sick and I’ve tried to raise awareness but it’s a slow process. Quite often grandparents step in and they’re not spring chickens and kids are so full of beans and you wouldn’t want it any other way. We live near the beach and have plenty of parks, so we’re quite lucky. I just need to remember that they’re there.
    School holidays start next week and I’m doing up a list. Getting prepared. xx Rowena

  8. Minuscule Moments

    Rowena you are an amazing mum, juggling life and kids is a challenge at best but throw in the extra challenges you face every day and most of us would crumble. Kids are like little sponges and my heart melted when you finally discovered the depth of his worries. My son went through a really tough patch of high anxiety after we lost a really beautiful Auntie he was close too. That realisation of how fragile life is, is a hard one for them to swallow. Hugs to you and hope you get some good days ahead. That hand heart says it all xxxx

  9. roweeee Post author

    Thanks so much, Kath. I have a friend who is a hospital chaplain so I’m going to ask her for a few tips. I have lined up some counselling as well through Carers Australia. The psychologist we have had through there doesn’t get the usual rebates so it gets tricky trying to sort ourselves out in 6 sessions but you can get more each year, which is great. Meanwhile, we have made great progress on the house and bought a new car yesterday, with some help from my parents. We’re getting a 2013 red Nissan Pulsar. I’ll be writing a post about it once it arrives. We bought our current Pulsar a few days before we got engaged and about the time we bought the house so it’s very sentimental. Been through both kids and holidays but the new car is fantastic. May not be parting with the other Pulsar quite yet as we have a very old BMW which is barely being held together with paperclips to go first. Geoff keeps jumer leads and a spare battery in the boot. Once upon a time, it was my Dad’s pride and joy but it’s over 20 years old now so it’s time to go to that car heaven in the sky.

  10. TakingItAStepAtATime

    (The link you left me didn’t work, but I found the post). It really does sound like a difficult situation and even though we are ‘the adults” it is not always easy to be the “smile master”. and….. I just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE those photos!!!!!

  11. roweeee Post author

    Thanks. My son does have some definite issues with sensory processing but the spectrum thing is inconclusive. He seems to be right on the cusp but when he gets unsettled, can get symptomatic. I have lots of friends with kids on various parts of the spectrum and am quite familiar with things. It can be a very isolating experience and it’s great that there are so many bloggers like yourself raising awareness and building an online community because that can be very difficult in the “real world”. Love to you and best wishes, Rowena

  12. TakingItAStepAtATime

    Thank you. Yes, it can be difficult in the real world, but like you I have a group of really good friends – some with children with special needs – at that is so very helpful.

  13. Minuscule Moments

    The best thing we ever did was counselling for our little man, it has been so helpful with his anxiety. We are on the lookout for another car too. My hubs’s car has died and so we think due to the fact he takes three work dogs with him each morning now, he needs a ute. Enjoy the new car and I hope you have a better week.

  14. Norah

    Looking after the children when you need looking after yourself must be difficult. I’m sure you are looking forward to the school holidays as much as the children are, but it will require more effort on your part too, to keep them entertained. I hope they are good at organising some things independently that don’t require your constant full-on attention. Remember that some downtime is okay too. Enjoy, and look after yourself as well as them. 🙂

  15. Ivy Walker

    this was a wonderful post. Full of wisdom. Have you ever heard of Metta Meditation? I am not a huge guru of meditation but I love the concept of this… basically to project love out to those who are trying you the most as they must be suffering in some way to be behaving as they are…

  16. herheadache

    I know it can be hard to know what and when to talk about when it comes to family. I don’t eve want to make my own family feel uncomfortable, like everything they do and say might end up on my blog.
    Sounds like you do your best and try to strive for a balance. You have a lot to struggle with and you do your best.

  17. roweeee Post author

    Thanks very much for the encouragement. The kids have been quite unsettled lately and we’re also coming up to the end of term and they’re tired. I’ve booked them in for a few days of fun vacation care activities to make things more manageable too. I have well and truly identified trouble and have brought in support.

  18. roweeee Post author

    Thank you so much for putting me onto that Ivy. I’ll look it up and give it a go. I am very into neuro-plasticity and they are uncovering all sorts of benefits of positive thinking so it’s certainly worth pursuing. xx Rowena

  19. roweeee Post author

    A very close friend of mine has two children on the spectrum who are special needs and she has an excellent network of other parents she connects with and they lobby for better support and access etc. She really knocks doors down for her kids and I wouldn’t want to be some politician standing in her way. She’s such a fighter!
    I put up another post today, which I think you’d appreciate. My daughter said she wished she could photoshop the future. I am yet to ask her what she meant by this but I managed to write a post about my reflections for a better world. Here’s the link: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/06/23/photoshopping-the-future/ xx Rowena

  20. roweeee Post author

    Thank you for sharing, Sacha. As much as I love having more people visit my blog, it is much more important to me to help people and encourage those who are struggling while trying to make the world a better place xx Rowena

  21. Doug DeBug

    Great post! We can all relate to how the kids will probe the parental fences for weaknesses like POWs with nothing but time on their hands. They just can’t stand not to know where the boundaries are. I glad your little one finally let it out what was really bothering him. Stay strong 🙂

  22. Suri

    It is indeed a very touching post. You sure do know & understand your kids very well. 🙂
    Keep Blogging! 😀

  23. Pingback: Building Bridges Through A Game of Cards. | beyondtheflow

  24. roweeee Post author

    Thanks very much, Suri. I don’t know if other people’s kids are more straight forward or I just immerse myself in the complexity, but I try to walk in their shoes and beiong their Mum and having some similar temperament issues, am hopefully in a good position to help them xx Rowena

  25. lesliesholly

    What a tough situation for all of you! How good of you and your husband to get to the root of your son’s acting out. It sounds like you are perceptive parents.

  26. Pingback: Loving the Misunderstood: When Our Kids Hurt. |...

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