Human condition can be measured without scientific, in-depth studies. It can easily be assessed when three, preteen boys have too much time on their hands.
Not realizing their idea was of the psycho-sociological nature, they took several rolls of plastic wrap and attached their willing brother to a pole on our road purely for reaction. He willingly complied since he had watched one too many episodes of Impractical Jokers. (Thoughtful as the perpetrators were, they left plenty of room for him to breathe.) The other two hid nearby in anticipation of stranger’s reactions.
Apparently, they had only two passersby and only one vehicle slowed down long enough to check he was actually breathing.
From a scientist’s perspective, the study was a bust. Not enough participants and the results were skewed. But to the boys, at least two hours had gone by and they got what they wanted- their own laughs.
I always thought tattoos were interesting. I have no idea why, but I would look at them and think to myself, “What does that mean?” and “Why do they have that?” I was inexplicably drawn to them and could only imagine the story behind the ink. I even researched what the Bible said about them. However, I was raised by a father that said a tattoo was a “permanent reminder of a temporary feeling.”
Throughout history, tattoos have sometimes had negative connotations. My husband had a grandfather who was a merchant marine that was embarrassed of his – so much so, he hid his with long-sleeved shirts in sweltering heat. Cher even had hers lasered off. Yet they seem more ubiquitous and socially accepted now than ever.
To me, tattoos are interpretive, personal art. The only thing that stopped me from getting one was the fact my intuitive husband said I’d want to change mine out after a month like an accessory. His opinion was correct in that I was easily bored with decor and fashion. In those areas, he had me pegged.
There were, however, nonnegotiables in my life: my devotion to my family and my faith. To explain, it takes supernatural, God- equipped strength to raise (much less live with) 4 teenagers. So, when I hit a particularly difficult, rough patch, I decided to take a personal “break.” I have no clue how to define or what constitutes “a break,” but I will say it was the healthiest choice. No kidding, I hit a very high, hard wall in parenting. So, I separated myself to avoid perpetuating anymore negativity and to gain perspective. I went to the beach and started praying fervently. I had no idea what to do, how to do it, or what could come of my quandry. I just kept seeking divine guidance. I knew God was there and would help me but I didn’t know what that would look like. The more I prayed, the more God drew closer. I felt His comforting presence and sensed my job was to back off and let Him do His work. I felt without a doubt that God was telling me to “Be still” and just “Be Thankful.” That message, after days of prayer, was all I needed to stop trying so hard to force change. My role rather, was to rejoice and be thankful for all God’s blessings. This was new for me: I was to stop micromanaging everything and just “be.”
After contemplating this reality, it dawned on me that I felt a permanent reminder was in order. It was like I was driven by an external force that sunny weekday to go to the beach tattoo parlor. Yep, a middle aged, mother of 4 had an unwavering plan to commemorate this “God moment” in ink.
With their high-tech, graphics design program, and medical grade equipment, the artist created a light- hued, grey scripted message on my inner wrist. It was and is my permanent message from God to be still and be thankful.
It has induced hilarious banter from some like, “Did you get that in prison?” I also find it humorous that I am the only one in my family with one- none of my college kids do. Interestingly, it has also been the impetus of deep conversations with strangers regarding faith. I don’t regret it and haven’t for one moment wanted to change it out either.
Howie Mandel had it right when he said, “ADD, ADHD, OCD…I wanna buy another vowel!” He was referring to the multiple diagnoses he had been given.
School-aged children tend to be stuck with the most vowels. Once they start school, their obvious differences in learning, self-regulating and temperament begin to emerge. Of course, when you put 25 children with one teacher in one room, there will be issues. Asking tiny people to be still and be quiet can be like asking social media users to post only kind remarks. It’s the impossible, yet we continue with this style of teaching, continuing to force squares into circles.
When a child’s behavior stands out exponentially is when the real fun begins. From the notes sent home, to the red marks on their schoolwork, to the teacher’s conferences (I must hold the world record for those), the message sent is “something is wrong with so and so and needs to be corrected.” My heart aches for children in that predicament. When possible, changing the environment, trying different schooling options is a luxury. More often than not, the parent is forced to send their child to a losing environment.
I’m guilty myself. By God’s good grace, my children got through it. It was ugly at times and painful at others but they did it. In hindsight, I recognize I nearly lost my mind obsessing over their behavior, grades and if their teachers liked them and what their diagnoses were. To medicate or not, switch schools (but to which and what kind?), and find therapies to correct our issues, were all consuming. After many MD appointments, we finally found a local specialist and he helped tremendously. However, it wasn’t a cure-all but another tool instead.
What truly mattered was how they, individually, developed as human beings, not if their teachers liked them (a few did), if they could read on time (a few did) and what diagnoses they had. Hilariously, I got the vowels myself seeking their’s! My point is that it’s great to decipher what issues are at hand, but not to get bogged down with them.
The point is to help your child navigate the process of growing up into a productive, self-regulating, caring adult. The world overall won’t accommodate because of a diagnosis. He or she will still have to perform and be expected to conform to the world around them. Focusing more on their positive nurturement is much more helpful. I wish I had done that instead of trying to “fix” them.
Once hyperactivity and impulsiveness were identified, I read every book available (not many back then) and made appointments with every expert I could find. I even flew to New York City and paid $400/hr to talk to the author of the only book I could find on the subject. For that costly hour, the doctor didn’t give me the secret tools of success or the magical cure, he simply spent the hour telling me to take care of myself first, as their caregiver, and to love and praise them! That was it! My $6.67 per minute consultation was spent learning self care and to cheerlead my brood. I was sure he’d give me something tangible and he did, he gave me a book about people who turned out famous with, and despite, their ADHD.
You can wear yourself out procuring knowledge on learning disabilities and the like. I did. But I’d suggest perceiving treatment as a tool or partnership, a more light handed approach. In the end, it’s most important they feel loved, supported and cared about. In the end, isn’t that what everyone wants?
One morning, one of our sons told us he was too sick to go to school. Knowing there was no immediate sign of illness, I decided to take him to the pediatrician to squelch any lingering questions of the contrary. We saw the doctor who gave him a clean bill of health and a direct pass back to school. (When you have 4, you have to be creative to avoid future endeavors.). But being the softie parent that I was, I decided to ease the pain of returning him straight to school by detouring through the local Sonic. In the drive thru, he ordered and we could audibly make out sniffles and a crackling voice through the speaker. When we arrived to the window to pay, the worker had red eyes from obvious crying. I asked her what was wrong. She said her family member was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma and had a short time left to live. Eyeing our son, I said that we would pray for her and her family member and that we were so sorry for her bad news. She thanked us and we waited for his order. Once we were alone, I remarked to him how important it was that no matter where he was or what he was doing, he needed to be ready for God’s call to intercede and pray for people. Without missing a beat, he turned to me and asked, “Do you think they need any prayer at Burger King?”
It began in 1997. It was a beautiful, spring day and I was headed less than a half mile away to the local hospital for a scheduled ultrasound. Now, mind you, this was when some OB/GYN offices did not have their own machinery. Thus, we little folk herded into the waiting room to be seen by the local ultrasound tech. Being that I had a napping 1 year old, my husband came home from work (100 yards away) and ate lunch while I meandered to that appointment. Once there, another couple I knew had an entire waiting room full with them for their ultrasound appointment. I was alone. I had no idea how prophetic that would become.
After pleasantries with the other large family, I sat and waited. Luckily one of my former students from the exercise class I taught was my tech. She and I happily yapped about everything as she proceeded with my routine ultrasound. Once started she paused and said, “Oh my! Katie, you’re having twins! You can cry now.” I was mute and completely blindsided. (I wasn’t one to fantasize about children, number of children or desire for ANY sized family.) I was in shock and my mind went blank. Then, she said those words, “Wait, uhm, I think there’s one more, uhm, wait, uhm, let me get the radiologist to look at this.” As I lie there asking, “What!?!” (And this was before the meme portraying WTF!?!) my mind raced. I was completely freaked out with the possibility of multiples. I wasn’t the ideal candidate for motherhood. I didn’t really enjoy babysitting, had few child care skills and honestly, felt disliked by most kids I came in contact. My mother wasn’t available to equip me as she developed Alzheimer’s disease in her late 40’s. Let’s face it, I was NOT who you’d want to be your mom. But, as fate would have it, God calls the least equipped to show His strength. So, as I lie, my friendly tech comes back into the exam room where I finally ask, “Are there any more??” That was my first spoken thought…four children, what? How do I do that? I have an 1100 sq.ft. house, a two door car and no income myself. (My husband and I had tried to go it on one salary. Little did we know what was to come!)
So I drive my two door car back to our tiny house where my husband simply asked, “What?” when I mutely looked at him in desperation. I truly couldn’t speak. How do you tell someone they are about to go from one to four children nonchalantly? I just started handing him stuffed animals. One, two, three, four I handed. He only said one word, “Cool!”