and boy do I have layers…
I know, it sounds ridiculous, right? I’m not just your typical Club Sandwich. I have my own unexpected layers in my life that has taught me so much.
I’m between children, an elderly parent and older husband, 17 years older to be exact. Bet ya didn’t see that one coming, did ya? If you think being caught in the Sandwich Generation is hard enough, try adding a child with learning challenges to the mix. My Club Sandwich has a whole new definition and I know I’m not the only one. That’s why I really want to share my story. My daughter was born with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and ADHD.
My husband has battled hear disease since his late 40’s and mom suffered a heart attack last September. Ya see I ain’t no boring baloney sandwich. I’ve got layers upon layers of stuff to deal with. My husband and mom both had the same symptoms, the widow maker! Crazy, right? Mom had to go be scheduled for an open-heart bypass a week before my husband’s non-invasive by-pass. Three days before our 18th Anniversary. Yup! Wait…there’s more….the day my husband went into surgery, my daughter started to experience severe panic attacks. She has always suffered from high anxiety because of her diagnosis of (SPD), but I have never seen her like this. No doubt, this all was a result of all that was going. Furthermore, it has always been challenging for me, to meet her needs.
First Layer-Raising a child with learning differences
I quit my full-time, Interior Design job at the peak of my career to become a stay at home mom when my daughter started 1st grade. Once my daughter was diagnosed with SPD and ADHD, I knew I had to become her advocate because, although the school district diagnosed her, they weren’t willing to provide her with any services.
I wasn’t quite convinced she was fully ADHD, because often SPD looks like ADHD. And because there is no medical “code” for SPD because it hadn’t been officially accepted as a medical condition, the school could not provide any services for it. Frustrating, isn’t it?
In short, I was at school with her daily, making sure she wasn’t overlooked, or treated differently or poorly by others and that she got the support we needed for her. I was NOT going to let her be bullied by staff or kids bully or label her.
I was her aid, her mother and her Occupational therapist at home. I’m not sure I did the right thing, but it was the best I knew how. The ugly truth is that I wasn’t great at any of it. I was stressed and I felt judged by the other moms and teachers all the time. The thing with a child that has SPD is that they are unable to self-regulate so they depend mostly on being able to co–regulate with the adults or authority figures around them.
I was anxious and impatient, but I hid it well in the public. When we got home, the mommy monster came out! I said and did things I never should have done and over the years, I’ve learned to forgive myself and I know my daughter has too. But then, in her teenage years, things go worse. My daughter was so addicted to her computer and her schoolwork suffered. We tried everything and anything to get her motivated, but nothing worked. We fought so much, and I felt like I spent two years angry and hateful towards her and her back at me. It was a dark period
However, I could’ve easily gotten her services for ADHD because there are all kinds of medical codes for that but there was no way I was open to medicating my daughter until I have exhausted all other options. I also didn’t feel that the services for a child with ADHD would benefit my daughter with SPD.
All the testing, assessments and Occupational Therapies came out of pocket for us, but my husband and I agreed, that there was no price too high for our lovely little girl. In future posts, I will dive deeper into what it’s like to have a child with SPD so stay tuned.
I was sad and depressed and all I ever fantasized about was having a daughter that was receptive and loving. And then we hit rock bottom.
I took away all of her electronics, because why should she have all these luxuries if she isn’t getting good grades, right? But I did it out of anger and in the middle of our biggest fight ever! I’m sure our whole neighborhood heard us. See, you’re not the only screaming mom.
The result…she ran away. For a few hours. She ended up at some teen runaway center and called my husband to get her. My first thoughts were to leave her there and let her see why other kids run away (abusive parents, drugs, sexual abuse) and realize that her life is not that bad and what we ask of her is not so unreasonable. But of course, my husband disagreed and went to go get her. I made sure not to be home because I was still so angry. I knew it would not be pretty if I was home when she got home. I needed to find peace.
Tough love doesn’t work for everyone. You have to find what works for you and your family so stop listening to what everyone else “thinks” you should be doing. There isn’t some magic recipe and it’s not easy, but you will get there if you focus your energy in the right way. Stop beating yourself up as I did. It didn’t do me one ounce of good. It just kept me from seeing what I needed to see.
Second Layer – Acceptance
It wasn’t easy excepting the fact that I would be mom’s caretaker from now own so I found guidance. When you open yourself up for help, instead of constantly trying to be in control of everything, something shifts.
For me, it was my faith. I spent too much time trying to control my daughter’s every move. Suddenly realized I had no control at all. I don’t know which made me angrier. Not being able to control her, or not being able to control my reaction to her.
Somewhere in the middle, I hear a whisper in the silence of my pain. It led me to search for prayers about mothers and daughters. It led me to prayers for being angry, prayers for a difficult child, you name it, I searched for it! Sucks to feel helpless, doesn’t it? But on the flip side, you can get unstuck. You need to be intentional about it and you will find the journey for you. My search led me to FootPrints of Inspiration. I haven’t stopped my journey yet because it’s one that I will stay on forever. Building my relationship with God is never-ending.
I am guilty of not being the most loving daughter either. At first, I got very impatient with mom during her recovery time. Another rude awakening. I realized that the same negative emotions for mom were the same ones I had for my daughter. Worst yet, it was my own inner-child that needed attention. Here we are, 3 generations resisting love that should come naturally to us. I hated knowing that my daughter and I were right out of a textbook. Words of “Mothers and daughters just don’t get along” taunted me. I cringed every time someone said that.
I promised myself that I wouldn’t have “that” kind of relationship with MY daughter. No matter what. I would love and accept her. We would be friends and share all kinds of great mother and daughter things. It didn’t quite work out that way. Not even close. I longed for that type of relationship. And I was jealous of moms that had all those wonderful connections with their daughter. I grieve for the relationship we didn’t have. With the power of prayer, I can truly love and accept my daughter for she is now. Let’s not waste any more time, shall we?
In my search for prayers, I found a heading that said 7 Ways to Prayer When Your Child goes Astray. The author of this topic also wrote 10 Secrets in Becoming a Worry-Free Mom. And my journey to inner peace began. Finally.
I spent early mornings, praying those 7 prayers (and still do) over my daughter. I can attest to the transformation. Things slowly started to shift. Be patient. It won’t happen overnight. It won’t be leaps and bounds. It will be slow and steady and so worth the wait.
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:6-8
I also spent time meditating for another 10-15 minutes on whatever I was feeling after prayer time; stress, overwhelmed, anger, etc. Any free moment I got, I ate up the book 10 Secrets in Becoming a Worry-Free Mom. I so desperately wanted to be in a better place with my daughter and myself. Shouldn’t we all strive to be better every day?
It’s easy to strive for goodness when things are going our way. But when they’re not, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the madness of our emotions. So, for me, surrendering my madness to God has always been my saving grace, time and time again.
What about you? Do you have a higher power? It may not be the same for you as it is for me. But I urge you to spend some quiet time thinking about it. What would it be like for you to surrender your troubles to someone much bigger than yourself? That someone has always got your back. It is so freeing.
Third Layer- My Wonderful Husband
Everyone questioned my dating an older man. The first question anyone would ask me is ‘how does your mom feel about you dating someone older’? Well, mom and dad were 32 years apart! Imagine their faces when I told them? Oh, and I bet you’ve got that look on your face too! LOL! It’s okay.
I would’ve reacted the same way had I not fallen in love with someone 17 years older than me. But the tricky thing is, I never looked so far ahead in the future. What for? I can’t control it, can I? It never occurred to me that mom and husband would be experiencing major health issues at the same time. However, that is my reality and I know it was all mean to be. God brought my husband into my life. At just the right time. Hence our wedding song “Just in Time” by Tony Bennett (insert adoring sighs). Because in the end, my husband has been so good to mom. He was the one who pushed to move in to take care of my mom. What a true blessing he is! I thank God for him every day. Even when I’m mad at him!
I know that God never gives me more than I can bear. However, it doesn’t’ mean I don’t lose sight of that from time to time. But just when I need it, I find strength in Him, just in time (actually, in God’s time), to care for my husband, as I do my mother while continuously dealing with my daughter’s challenges. Do I wish the circumstances were different sometimes? Sure! But with His grace, I accept the things I cannot change. God never promised that life would be easy, but He did promise to always be there, and He has.
but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.Isaiah 40:31