Getting in the Boat:
The start of my parenting journey was full of optimism and dreams. Visions of what I thought it would be like. If you have ever been white water rafting, it feels like when you are gearing up. You start envisioning the fun and the thrills. The guide then gives instructions and a safety speech and what to do if you go overboard out of the raft. I always listen but I never really think it will happen. I am more excited about the fun adventure that lies ahead! I am dreaming of the laughs that will be shared and the new things to explore. I had this same attitude with parenting. I was dreaming of all the fun snuggles and adventures that we to come. I knew there would be challenges; you are raising a human, but like potentially falling out of the boat, nah it won't get that bad! However, I had no idea the challenges and journey that was mine to endure and navigate when my first son was diagnosed with developmental delays, both physically and mentally at an early age. At nine months of age, I found myself being the only one in my "mommy playgroup" whose child was receiving ECI in-home treatments. I felt alone, insecure and sad. Sad for my son’s struggle and sad for mine. This is not what I pictured motherhood to be like. It's like when you are on that rafting trip and you hit the first small rapids and you think oh that was a little surprising, I'm not so sure I really like this. Is it all going to be like this? Maybe I don't want to do this anymore. I didn’t know how to process the emotions that were flooding over me, and my fears. First-time mothering comes with insecurity...you are doing something you have never done before. You read the books and ask others to learn. But my child needed more than those resources provided and I felt lost, unsure of the future and alone.
The Rapids Knocked Me Out:
At age 3, my husband and I were called into my son's preschool because of his behaviors, and they admitted he was beyond their scope of how to handle. The large rapids had arrived. Rushing loud, swirling and terrifying. Tears poured down my face, and I felt so afraid and ashamed. If a preschool (who works with small children all day long) is saying they don't know what to do with him, then I'm doomed because I for sure don't know what to do! I was failing, or so I felt, at my one job. I am the mother. The one that stays at home with him teaching him, and it wasn't working! I felt so alone, so scared, so confused and so helpless. There is not a guidebook that is handed out at your baby shower like the ones "What to expect when you are expecting, or What to expect during the First Years", that is titled "What to do when a preschool can't even handle your child". Playdates were disasters, Chick-Fil-A play areas created chaotic scenes for us because I had "that kid" that all the other kids tattled on! I lived in constant shame, feeling inferior in my parenting, and not a good enough mother. Discipline didn't change anything either. The parenting books: all of them. I tried it all! My son's unique brain did not follow the mold and went against the mainstream. All I knew and accepted at the time was mainstream. The raging rapids had knocked me out of the boat, and I felt all alone and struggling to stay afloat. We started play therapy and sensory processing therapy with my son. I began a deep dive into learning all about this new way of navigating a child's development. My other friends who were new parents at the time did not have a child like mine. Longing for connection with other parents that too were on this road, I would talk to whoever was in the waiting room. We all were there for a similar reason, right? Was there a membership for the "other parenting club"? If so, how do I join I wondered? Days on end were exhausting as I navigated life with my sensory seeking, anxiety ridden hyperactive son. To add on top of that a second son was born and then a third. Parenting three sons is enough to rock you, but having my oldest attend therapies twice a week and require unique ways of parenting had me drowning. Out there alone in the raging cold water.
At age 6 came the diagnoses of ADHD, Anxiety, Sensory Processing Disorder and ODD. This gave some formal answers to explain all his behaviors and brain, but it also created a lot more questions and fear. Different therapies were added and medication. Watching my son at school be different from his peers was so difficult because I saw his desire for friendship. I questioned what his future would be like, and ours as a family. Homework battles and meltdowns, emotional outbursts, and difficulties following directions were the norm. More grief came as he didn’t participate in certain activities that I envisioned he would. His kinder teacher opened up to comfort me with her own story of her son with neurological differences. Hearing her words of "me too" "I understand" and "you are not alone in this" soothed my soul. I confided in her and cried in my exhaustion, fear, and embarrassment over the behaviors my son exhibited as well as the feelings I was processing about myself and my mothering. I felt confused and afraid of the future for him. Having someone validate me, and who truly understood and lived it as well was so helpful. It was as if she was the life ring tossed out to me in those cold rapids. I grabbed and held on with thankfulness.
Getting Back in the Boat:
Life rings are not meant to save in and of themselves, just as people aren’t. They are a tool intended to help you get back to the boat or dry land. As I built connection with my son’s teacher, I realized that her friendship was helping pull me towards the boat. It was a relief and very much needed. Connection with others! But if you have ever tried to get back in a moving boat you know that you have to do some work as well. Hard work. I reached out to my counselor and began a journey unraveling what I believed about myself and my parenting and the source of shame. Parenting my neurodivergent child was creating a situation in which I had to come to terms with my weaknesses, shortcomings, lack of control and lack of self-acceptance. "You cannot give away what you don't have." I could not fully embrace even the hard and messy parts of my son's brain because I didn't like to embrace the hard and messy parts of myself. So many years had been spent getting my son's therapy and resources, but it was my turn. I spent the next years deep diving weekly into my shame, my irrational fears, my thought patterns and rules I put on myself, and learning to accept and love all the parts of who I am....not just the ones that I prefer ;) My child’s neurodivergent brain was not something I could control or change. Acceptance was the answer. I had to get healthy so that I could parent my sons from a healthy place. I had to put the oxygen mask on first. This hard work got me back in the boat. I began to ride the rapids without panic and enjoy the fullness and chaos that they can bring. Parenting a neurodivergent child, just like white water rafting, is exciting, full of adventure, and unpredictable. The journey is all the more sweeter when taken with community and from a place of acceptance.
Why Mosaic Connection:
I believe there are parents out there that need connection with others that are on this same journey. You are confused and unsure of how to parent your child. This child is different than their peers or siblings and you need someone to share and support you and give you hope. I believe there are parents that are frustrated and grieving and desire to move to a place of joy and acceptance and peace with their child’s diagnosis. My heart and vision in creating Mosaic Connection are that parents will collectively find a community to remove their isolation and shame. That they will find resources for their child to remove the confusion of what to do. Parents will become more whole by connecting with themself by acknowledging and working through what is stirring within. How parents and caregivers shape the narrative for the neurodivergent child can make or break the child's spirit. We all want our kids to believe the best about themself. It starts with us! Sign up for weekly email encouragement. Book a Call with me or Jump In and Join the Community!