parenting · special needs parenting

Screens, Summer and Sanity

Screens are the bane of my existence, yet a necessary evil.  I see people giving their kids “80’s summer’s” and turn every shade of green with envy.  It’s not going to happen here.  We do screens here.  I get grief for it.  I feel guilty about it, but we do them.  More than we should.

The iPads started as learning tools.  What a great resource with apps we could use to facilitate skills for our kids.  Yes we do use them that way, but for the most part, they’re the only way I can get anything done, and actually get a few minutes here and there to check out of parenting.

If you’re rolling your eyes at me, please listen.

My boys need constant supervision.  Alex has mild to moderate cognitive impairment, which means he can read, do math, etc., but it doesn’t tell the whole story.  Today he walked out of the house.  I heard the door shut and followed him.  He was leaving for Disney World.  He loves all things Disney, and wanted to go to work at the park as a cast member in one of the parades.  Had I not been on my toes, I’m not sure how far he would have gone.  Less than a month ago he snuck out to walk to school while I was sleeping.  He made it almost a mile down a road with a  55 mph speed limit.  Thankfully I found him in one piece, but let me be clear, I need to watch him like I would a preschooler.  It’s not hard to parent just Alex without the screens.  In fact, when he’s home and Ben is in school we stay pretty busy together.  He loves to do chores and help out in every possible way, as well as going and doing things.

Then there’s Ben.  In a self-contained special education classroom with 4 staff members per 10-12 kids, Ben has to have a staff member within arms reach at all times in order not to get hurt or hurt someone else.  It’s hard to explain to people who don’t know, but he has multiple mental health diagnoses, and has explosive behavior, frequent meltdowns, and needs constant, undivided attention.  Except when he has his iPad.  During those times I can let my guard down ever so slightly.  When he does play with toys, it’s pretty rare for him to play by himself.  Even in school his teacher reported that one of the things she intentionally worked on was to get him to tolerate doing anything without adult interaction.  We frequently comment to each other that the intensity of parenting Ben is like that of a colicky infant who doesn’t nap.  We’re eleven years into this, and have a lifetime stretching ahead of us.

In my defense, every single day I take both boys out and play with them for as long as they will tolerate in the weather.  We play games, go for walks, play in the water, go to parks, whatever we can to get fresh air and free time. Mike does likewise. But in case it isn’t obvious, I can’t send my kids out to play without parental supervision.  Ever.  At all.  We also play with them in the house, legos, cars, games, you name it, we spend a couple of hours every day playing with our children.

So, what do we do?  We let them use screens when we need a break.  It’s a complicated, love/hate relationship, and honestly, I don’t know what else to do.  What would I have done before iPads?  Good question.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that the ability to sit down and write this is 100% dependent on Ben’s iPad.  And to be realistic, Ben’s survival is a modern marvel.  That 80’s summer?  Ben probably wouldn’t have survived leukemia treatment if he had lived in the 80’s, the statistics for survival even 30 years ago are dire.  So we’ll take our summers, screens, living child and all.

We are aware of the pitfalls of screen use, and we do our best to balance.  And honestly, if you take issue with it, I would love to offer you the opportunity to do better!

marriage · special needs parenting

If I Taught Marriage 101, This Would Be My First Lesson 

Twenty-two years. As of June 10, we’ve been married for over half my life. 

I met Mike when I was 15 and he just turned 18. He let me drive his sports car on my learner’s permit that summer, but I was a bit tricky to nail down. Then he went off to college. Upon his return he asked a friend of mine on a date. I wasn’t about to let that happen, and found out that it was a calculated move to reel me in that worked. 

We started dating when I was 16. We became adults together and got married just a few months after he got his first police job. 

We blew it big time in those early years, but somehow, just before Alex was born we both decided to get our act together, just in time to welcome him into our lives. 

Not too long after that we brought our 13 year old niece home and became parents of a teenager. Then we added Ben. 

It’s been a hell of a ride, but at some point I realized that I needed to let him go.  Since then, I make sure Mike gets to take up every reasonable opportunity to go out hunting or fishing with his friends. 

It sounds ridiculous. With everything we have to manage at home, why would I cut my husband loose like that?  

Because when he’s here, he’s really here. 

He does Ben’s flush and catheterizations every day. He gives Ben his meds and gets the boys outside and sends me out for runs.  I never have to nag him for anything.  Seriously. If I want something I say the word and he makes it happen. 

I accidentally stumbled upon the perfect solution:  When my husband has freedom to do all the things he loves he’s content to be domestic.  That, and he treats me like gold.  

Our day in, day out life is demanding and draining. Neither of us could do it for long without opportunities to replenish ourselves. I learned the value of self care when I didn’t do it, and have become a huge proponent of the practice. Indeed, equally important is spouse care. In taking turns getting breaks, we both maintain balanced, healthy lives in which we can be highly effective spouses and parents together. 

If I taught marriage 101, this would be my first lesson:  love in such a way that the person you love feels free. 


9 Random Observations About Moving 

After a relocation process of over three months, our family is now settling in at our new house…our dream home. 

It’s been a happy process for us, set in motion by a promotion for my husband.  We anticipated many of the changes, though a few managed to blindside us.  But it’s the day to day details that stymie and delight us most. Such as:

  1. It is actually fun to clean a new (to me) house. I’m certain it won’t last, though. 
  2. Shopping at a new grocery store is terribly disorienting, especially when you’re hangry. 
  3. No matter how much you love your new home and yard, you will be compelled to change things to make it your own. 
  4. Having all new places to run will both thrill and discombobulate you, especially when you know exactly how far every possible run in every possible direction from your house is. 
  5. Cleaning and showering with different water changes everything. (Hair!)
  6. All family members (dogs included) will have emotions to process in their own time frame.  
  7. There will be many wrong turns because you have no idea where you’re going. (I just call it exploring and roll with it.)
  8. Figuring out new light switches. 
  9. We walk about an extra mile a day around the house trying to remember where we  stowed things.

It’s been over 15 years since I’ve moved, so this is a whole different ballgame for me. We’re still in the state where we’ve always lived, but an area we haven’t previously explored.  Change is exciting…and disorienting, but for me, mostly a whole new adventure!