My Daughter Doesn’t Brush Her Hair, And It Drives Me Bonkers

It’s a scene that’s all too familiar in my house—my two kids huddled over their iPads in the few minutes before they start school, desperate to get a few seconds of screen time in before they’re forced to do something besides mindlessly watch YouTube. Neither one has made their bed. Neither has packed their school bag. And my daughter’s hair is in a ball of knots at the back of her head. I’m annoyed.

I’m annoyed that their obsession with their iPads means they aren’t ready on time, but even more, I’m annoyed at my daughter’s complete and total apathy when it comes to her hair. She got dressed and brushed her teeth, so why didn’t she brush her hair?

Growing up, I used to sneak into my mom’s room after school to use her makeup without her knowing. She owned only a powder compact, blush, and blue shadow, but I’d carefully spread, smear, and brush the makeup onto my little kid face and primp and preen in front of the mirror. It brought me endless joy. As soon as I got old enough, I bought my own makeup, along with a blow dryer, hair sprayer, and mousse—and never left the house without being “done.” For too long I cared about what I looked like to other people.

Fast forward 30 years and I have a daughter who couldn’t care less about being “done.” She does not care one iota about what people think of how she looks. She has no interest in my makeup or a curling wand. I not only love this about her, I admire it and often wish I was better at channeling it. As a result, I support her choice of clothes, her choice of footwear, her choice of jewelry and accessories. She can wear what makes her happy and look the way that brings her joy. I believe in her bodily autonomy. I believe she should be allowed to make choices about her body without my coercion.

And yet—she’s sitting on the couch with a rat’s nest the size of a bowling ball in her hair, and I cannot keep quiet.

Because—why? Why has she resisted brushing her hair for so many days in a row now that the knots have tangled together and need their own zip code? I don’t understand. When her hair gets to this point, where I know brushing out the knots will be somewhere between time-consuming and painful, I have to say something to her, and I have to step in, despite all that space I want to give for her bodily autonomy.

I’ve tried everything to encourage her to brush her hair at least every morning to prevent this situation. I’ve nagged. I’ve given her gentle morning reminders. I’ve bought her countless special brushes—wet brushes and tangle brushes and have no doubt single-handedly kept the children’s hairbrush industry in business. And still—her apathy to brushing her hair remains, and the rat’s nest grows, and my desire to give her full bodily autonomy is thrown out the window when I see those knots and do not give her a choice about letting me brush them out.

The truth is those knots drive me absolutely bonkers, but my response fills me with guilt. I worry that if I push too much, I’m going to give her a complex, or worse, slowly erode that amazing ability she has to be wholly herself, unbothered by what anyone else thinks of her. She’s knocking on the door of her early teen years, where self-consciousness flourishes, and do I really want to start making my daughter anxious about how she looks right now? Do I want to put my voice in her head like that, for the next few years…or, possibly, even for the rest of her life? I don’t. I really don’t. I don’t want to turn her into me as a teenager. I want her to rock whatever look she wants to rock, whatever makes her happy.

And yet, I also want her to care about taking care of herself enough to do the basic things—like wearing clean clothes and brushing her teeth. Brushing her hair should be included in that basic self-care, shouldn’t it? So maybe it’s okay if I nag and coax? Maybe I’m not snatching her enviable ability to move through the world without caring what anyone else thinks.

It feels like walking a razor thin line, and I’m not sure I’ve found the right balance yet.

I suspect what bothers me is less that she’s making a choice about her hair and her body, and more the very apathy involved. She’s not choosing, for example, to wear a messy ponytail everyday, and I’m annoyed because I want her to have a sleek bun. She’s not choosing a center part, against my wishes that she wear a side part. The problem is, it seems, that she’s not choosing at all. She’s cutting corners to get a few more minutes with her iPad, and it drives me bonkers. I want her to care enough to choose—because I am sure if she chose, she wouldn’t choose wild knots that require a fair amount of pulling to untangle.

The truth is that I may never find the right balance—I will probably always be the voice in her head reminding her to brush her hair, the voice she rolls her eyes at. But hopefully I will also be the voice in her head reminding her that the part of her that is wholly comfortable in her own skin, regardless of all the rest, is amazing and special and should always be nurtured.

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I Didn’t Expect My 15-Year-Old To Break My Heart

I am a proud mom of an 11-year-old, a 14-year-old, and a 15-year-old. I am consistent and confident, yet flawed in my parenting. I am proud of all of these things. The flawed parenting gives me an opportunity to learn and grow and meet the needs of each child as appropriately as I can. It’s my lot in life, like the majority of moms, and it is my life’s purpose to be the mom each of my children need me to be. Another thing I am is human. I am caring. I am loving and I wear my heart on my sleeve.

My oldest, my 15-year-old, the one who made me a mom and showed me that I was capable of loving someone so deeply, had broken my heart. I believe it was always unintentional, although in the moments I was never so rational as to believe so. Around age 13, she became dismissive of me. She became passive when it came to me and therefore it seemed nothing I did or said really affected her. I no longer mattered and although she never was so disrespectful as to say it, her actions certainly spoke loud enough.

Friends who have gone through this would reassure me often that this was all very normal and that she would come back to me in a few years. I had read enough to know that the teenage girl years could be rough. I never expected her to continue to dote on me as she did when she was younger or to even like me a lot but this was different. This was daily behavior that confirmed that I didn’t matter, what I said or did made no difference, and that she could nearly cut me out of her daily life and have zero feelings about it.

My husband would tell me almost daily to try not to take it personally. My response was always that I was trying but that I wasn’t a robot. I knew I had to be the steady and unaffected one but as hard as I tried, I wasn’t successful.

I walked around with a broken heart for 18 months while doing my best to pretend it wasn’t. Still cheerfully driving her to her club volleyball practices and tournaments, to her high school practices and games, and to all social functions. I walked a fine line of interaction and parenting without wanting to upset her or push her further away. I even found myself being my own hype man before some interactions with her. Like, “C’mon Ashley, you got this. Just go in there and tell her the next time you find a wet towel on the floor she’s responsible for washing all towels for the next two weeks. You’re the parent. Don’t be afraid of pushing her further away. Just go in there.” It was absurd, and terrifying, and lonely. Especially for this consistent and confident mom. I felt oh, so flawed, but not in the way I had before. I felt deficient and useless and flawed as a person, not just in my parenting.

One night the three kids and I had walked in the door after I had picked them each up from their respective practices. This was early March, right before everything shut down. My daughter said something as we walked through the door that was just a deal breaker for me. I don’t even remember what it was and it may have been my mood that day where I was feeling extra sensitive with her but it broke me.

She immediately started to walk upstairs and I yelled at her to stop. The other two kids stopped in the foyer. I stood at the foot of the stairs and dropped everything that was in my hands and I sobbed from the bottom of my gut.

She sat down right where she had stopped on the stairs and was just watching me, no expression. I sobbed for a bit before I could even talk and then I just told her that she can continue to hate me this way forever if she wants but it will never change anything within me as to how I love her and will stand behind her ALWAYS. I told her that I will always continue to say yes when she wants to have all of her friends over. I told her that I will always continue to stop at Starbucks before I drop her friends off at home. I told her that I will always continue to be the first parent in the entire gym for every single game, home or away. I told her that I will always volunteer for everything I can at school that helps to support her.

I got in her face, while sobbing, and said I WILL CONTINUE TO SHOW UP FOR YOU FOREVER AND EVER AND EVER AND EVER because that’s what you do when you love someone more than you love yourself. I said that my heart has been broken for a long time and I’ll deal with that forever if I have to, but I will never change those things and I will SHOW UP until I die.

My other two kids were crying. Then my middle, my only son, screamed at her, “I TOLD YOU THAT YOU WERE KILLING HER!” and I actually cried harder than I ever have in my life. His words to her meant that he had tried to talk to her about it and that touched me so deeply.

She calmly got up and walked to her bedroom. I was spent and had said all that there was to say.

The next morning she came in and laid on my bed while scrolling on her phone. She said nothing, and neither did I. That was the beginning of this new chapter.

It’s funny because I really had my guard up when she started being “normal” with me again and I had to make a solid, intentional effort to not have my guard up. I needed her to see and feel that I was open and ready to receive whatever she felt like giving me. My heart had been broken, and as anyone who has had their heart broken knows, it’s an innate response to protect yourself after the fact. As her parent, I had no choice but to fight that and be open and willing. In the end it’s what I had dreamed of. It didn’t take long for the guard to disappear. I believe I can speak for her when I say that that was mutual.

2020 is a year so few people will care to remember. Except for me. 2020 is the year that I got my baby girl back. Not long after my breakdown and her change of heart, the world shut down and our chaotic, crazy life of two schools and four sports teams came to a standstill. We learned to be together again and we had an abundance of time to do so.

My heart is healed and I am grateful.

If you are struggling with something similar, hang in there, mama. Remain consistent and confident. And trust me when I say that you are not flawed in the ways your broken heart may tell you that you are. I promise.

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I Should Be Thankful For My Life, But I’m Struggling

I’m falling.

I’m falling into the dark abyss of my mind, now cruelly echoed by the impending bleak Canadian winter staring back at me through the window.

As my three young sons whirlwind around me, I try to remind myself to be appreciative. I should suppress the feelings of the growing sadness that consumes me because I have an incredible husband, three kids, and a career. I silence my inner voice because I have healthy children and the textbook picture-perfect family.

I close my eyes and take deep breaths.

The path to motherhood was a relatively smooth one, other than a miscarriage that preceded my two pregnancies. My mind shifts to the hard bed of the ultrasound room to confirm what I already knew. My baby was lost. In a cruel irony, the previous pregnancy scan image was still on the screen. The happy couple passed me, and my empty womb felt even more vacant. A few months later, I became pregnant with my eldest son. Two years and three months after, I gave birth to twin boys.

Be thankful for your life.

My mother is an iron-clad woman who raised three kids with a philandering husband who offered little help. When she left my father, he told her she would never make it.

He was wrong.

I feel like it is a rite of passage of the immigrant mother to have come to this country without family support, with little money, and to have still built a successful life for her children. No one discusses the depth of her sacrifice, and mental health was an invisible issue.

Courtesy of Asia Dietrich

Why is this so hard for me?

Parenting in the pandemic has left me painfully grabbing at vestiges of my former life, to no avail. The texting and video chatting fills some void, but nothing replaces physical contact with people. Being confined in a house with three sons without a community has left me in shambles.

I am supposed to have it all.

I return to work soon. This is my catharsis, the socially distanced, mask-wearing, face-shield wielding reprieve when I leave my children to go teach other people’s children. I stand on the precipice of returning to some semblance of my former self by going back to my profession.

The sands are shifting.

I won’t see my twins’ toothy grins and the pseudo conversations that are beginning to unfold. Their little personalities are budding and interacting with one another. Their big brother wants to play with the twins but is intentionally and unintentionally too rough. The subtle nuances of their development slip through my fingers like sand.

I will miss them.

One day I will be the mother warrior who passes on my truths to tearful, overwhelmed mothers. I’ll snuggle their baby to give them the desperate break that I needed in my darkest moments.

My time will come.

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When You’re Divorced And Your Child Doesn’t Want To Live With You

As someone who went through my own divorce, it was excruciating enough, even though all of my children seemed to adjust really well. They were fine going back and forth, and not once in the past few years has any of my kids expressed a need or want to live with just me or just their father.

The joint custody arrangement has worked out well for us all.

It never occurred to me how hard it would be if one of them wanted to live with their dad and not spend time in my home any more. I still have no clue since I haven’t lived it, but I can only imagine seeing how hard it is to not be with them when it’s their dad’s night, or he takes them away on vacation.

But one of my friends hasn’t been so lucky with her joint custody situation; she has a teenager who let her know he wants to live with his father now. While they still see each other, it’s not the same and has been so very hard on her.

She doesn’t want to get the court involved, as she feels like her son is a young man and should be able to make this decision on his own. “He’s not eight anymore and I can’t physically force him to come with me,” she told me the other night when he let her know he would be staying with his father on her night once again.

Every situation is different. My friend’s son seems to want to live with his dad because he’s not made to do chores and has a very long leash without curfew or phone restrictions; she’s always been the disciplinarian. 

I think her son is a typical teenager in that he cares about his social life very much and wants to be where he can do what he wants. There’s no abuse or danger for the child. She feels her ex is a pretty good father who loves her son, but he’s much more lax than she is when it comes to making sure he gets his school work done on time and he lets his girlfriend spend the night.

However, when they agreed to divorce, their custody agreement states he would be with her for half the time — and her ex husband isn’t supporting this agreement in any way, simply saying, “He wants to stay with me for a while.”

In order to file an official complaint, it will cost money, and she was told by DHS that it may be weeks or months before the complaint officially gets filed. Even then, they couldn’t promise they could really do anything about it.

Nationally-recognized mental health expert Ned Presnall, LCSW, told Scary Mommy that as hard as this may be for the non-preferred parent, it might be a time to let them go a bit. “There’s no one right way to negotiate custody issues with teenagers. If we assume that the basic structure and support provided to the teen in each household is equitable, then there should be quite a bit of deference given to the teen in choosing where they spend their time.”

Basically, that is what my friend has decided to do right now, even though it is tearing her up inside and she feels completely dismissed. 

If this is happening to you, or someone you know, there are steps you can take to ease your pain. Again, this is very different from having an ex keep your child away from you on purpose, or you wanting to keep them from their other parent because there are horrible things going on in that household and you feel like they are in danger.

Those are examples when you absolutely should get lawyers and the court involved.

Presnall reminds us the teens years are a time when they really aren’t focused on spending time with their parents in the first place. 

Naturally we want to pursue them and ask to spend time with them, as my friend has. While her son did have dinner with her, he didn’t want to stay at her house. They talk on the phone and text and she continues to ask him to do stuff with her all the time. 

There are times he says “yes” but many times he says “no.”

Presnall says in order to get the best results from your teen, “You should engage in a supportive, affirmative relationship with the teen no matter what.” Be their cheerleader, send them positive notes, have as much involvement in their life as you can, such as going to games and taking them to appointments.

“But when a teen doesn’t live in your household, you don’t need to micromanage them,” he says. “Instead, you can give them the unconditional positive regard that they crave as they grow to be the primary source of authority in their own lives.”

I have another friend who went through this with her son years ago, although she was on the opposite end. Her son only wanted to stay with her and didn’t want a thing to do with his father. Their relationship was nonexistent for about a year, and she told me, “The worst thing my ex did was to stop pursuing him. He didn’t reach out, he didn’t come over, he didn’t call him for a year.”

Looking back, she realizes her son was hurt and rejected and needed his dad in many ways, but as a teenager, he didn’t know how to express it. 

Erik Wheeler is a mediator who does a lot of post-divorce and divorce mediations, and teaches a class on parenting that is required in Vermont for parents going through divorce. He told Scary Mommy, “From a legal standpoint, it’s unlikely the court will enforce a schedule when it pertains to a teenager, since they are relatively independent anyway. The court knows that if they force the teen to visit the other parent, they likely will leave on their own.”

He suggests the best way to deal with the situation with your child is to talk, listen, and try to understand what their objections are to spending time at your house. Pressuring the child isn’t the answer. “Don’t use guilt, as it will not work and won’t benefit either of you,” he says.

Wheeler has seen the most success with parents who give the child some time and space, and “invite her or him to do different activities. Eventually you may find that you’ll either understand better the reasons why they aren’t staying with you, or the child may have more interest in staying with you. At this point they just need reassurance that you will always be there to help and support them.”

These are tools to hopefully make the situation a bit more bearable, but there’s no denying this is a heart-wrenching situation. I’d do anything to make this better for my friend, but she is handling it well and is determined to stay in her child’s life no matter what. It’s all you can do as a parent of a teen who wants to live with another parent.

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I Thought My Kids Would Be Less Messy As They Got Older — I Was Wrong

When my kids were small I remember I used to think (about 100 times a day), how glorious it would be when they could actually wash their hands and faces well and stop smearing their food all over the furniture. I’m here to tell you they are now teenagers and the smearing of food still happens. I just sat down to work and noticed there was yogurt on the arm on my chair.

I hated folding all the laundry and putting it away, so as soon as I thought they were capable, I passed off that chore to them. Now there are falling towers of unfolded laundry falling in my kids’ rooms because they’ve decided life is just easier if you wash and dry your clothes, then ball them up in a pile and set said piles in various places. The chair, the bed, the windowsill, on top of the dresser, right in front of the door so you can’t open it. It really doesn’t matter where it lands, as long as it doesn’t involve folding and putting it away, they are good.

I just wiped a booger off the bathroom wall and it was huge. Then, I threw away a glass that was growing a greenish substance in the bottom. After that, I Googled “How to get rust stains out of the tub.”

I have kids who are old enough to work, drive, and pay taxes.

Yes, they are old enough to clean up after themselves and they do — they put their laundry in the laundry basket and know how to wipe down the countertops after they make a sandwich — but they don’t do it well, and those messes have tripled in size.

Not only that, but the messes are different now that they are older. Like the tuna fish that my son can never seem to rinse out of the damn bowl. He has some every night as a snack and that shit dries into fish-scented cement.

Their aim isn’t any better than it was when they were potty training, and now their pee is super-sized.

There aren’t dirty handprints on anything, but my daughter, who loves charcoal masks and purple shampoo, will leave a trail of black and purple all over the house. I’m still not sure how some got on the fridge handle, but nothing surprises me anymore.

Oh, and those rust rings in the shower are from cans of shaving cream, and no — they don’t come off. You’d think they would after the hours my son’s spent in the shower (ahem) but something tells me they aren’t in there scrubbing those walls, if you know what I mean. I have the high water bill to prove it.

Instead of their rooms smelling like baby powder and fresh air, they all have a distinct stench I can’t place. (I don’t want to, either.) All I know is I ask them to keep their doors closed to contain the smell so I can forget about what might be growing — and, from the smell of things, rotting — under their beds.

And if you didn’t hear this PSA here’s another annoying teen-ism: They don’t really like sheets or made beds. No, they’d rather be free and sleep on a bare mattress and roll around in loose bedding.

They are also masters at cutting their own hair — on their head and other regions — so you should invest in a vacuum designed to pick up all the pet hair, even if you don’t have a pet. Instead of picking up toys from the bathroom floor, I vacuum up hair from various places of their body. And sometimes that trimming takes place in the living room when I’m not home. I’ve seen the evidence, but I refuse to ask.

The other day, I sliced my toe because I stepped on a pile of my son’s toenails that were in a neat pile on the rug. I probably needed stitches.

My house is peppered with nail polish and wax in places that leave me puzzled. Like the trim work in the living room and behind the sofa.

The recyclables are always overflowing because they live for their Vitamin Water and energy drinks.

And just because they know how to use a toilet brush to do away with their skid marks doesn’t mean they will do it. Like, ever.

So, I just wanted to let you know something: If you are looking forward to the time when your child can clean up after themselves and do things like pick up their toys and put their dishes in the dishwasher (they will do that if you make it a rule), they won’t be neater. They will leave messes in their wake that you only have nightmares about.

They can fuck up the inside of a fridge faster than three toddlers and don’t even get me started on the amount of dirt they track in with their big feet, even if they remove their shoes at the door. I literally don’t know how it happens, but I’ve been living in a sandbox since they all hit puberty.

The messes don’t get better — they get worse. I keep telling myself to just go with it because they essentially do what I ask them to do, they just kind of suck at it.

I’ve come to realize teenagers don’t see a lot of things their parents do (like the slip-n-slide my son left on the floor after “cleaning up” a spill) and I just wanted to mentally prepare you if you were hoping things would get neater around your house when your kids got older.

They won’t, they’ll get worse. You’ll have just as many breakdowns over it (or more) and you’ll think about lighting the house on fire a few times each month.

Just remember, one of these days it will be their own houses they have to keep clean. And seeing housekeeping karma in action will be pretty damn satisfying.

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To My Other Kids Not On The Autism Spectrum

I know that is how you must often feel, like my “other kids.” The older three siblings of “the one with autism.” You have never said it. But sometimes in the middle of the night, I lie awake blanketed in guilt.

When we spoke on the phone earlier in the day, I told you how excited I was that your little brother had his first non-meltdown haircut. But I forgot to ask you how your day was. I forgot to tell you how proud I am of you. I forgot to tell you I love you. Your younger sibling’s needs are so big that sometimes I forget to fill your smallest ones.

On most days, it takes more of what I am even capable of to parent your younger sibling. The day-to-day mundane tasks I never even stopped to consider when you were growing up, are all enormous challenges for your little brother. We work hard to help him overcome things that, for you, came easy. He needs more of me than you did, and because of that, now you get less.

Courtesy of Amy Nielsen

I remember when each of you was born. It always surprised me how much of my day it took to take care of a newborn that slept most of the time! In the first few weeks, days would go by before I realized I had not showered. But I loved every minute of those early weeks when I could bundle you each up like a baby burrito and snuggle you until my heart’s content.

Then came the wiggly toddler phase. Whew! The days got long and messy. You strew building blocks, baby dolls, and crushed Cheerios from one end of the house to the other. You had bruised knees from those first wobbly steps, and I scrambled to keep up with jotting down in your baby books the words you began to learn rapidly.

Once you hit school-age, life shifted again. You kept me even busier. Three kids needed help with homework, three kids needed to get to soccer practice and dance lessons, three kids needed dinner, three kids each wanted three friends over. Our home was alive! I never realized how much I would miss those days—the joy of leftover pizza in the fridge and piles of sneakers at the front door.

Your little brother was born when most of you were nearly grown—an unexpected blessing. As a baby, my experience with him was familiar, but when he became a toddler, I knew things were much different. He struggled to communicate, which caused him and me so much frustration.

Courtesy of Amy Nielsen

He struggled if his routine was disrupted. Everyday tasks such as mealtimes and diaper changes were giant hurdles. Our family was overwhelmed. After his autism diagnosis at age three, his life and mine would become consumed with therapy and doctor’s appointments.

His progress over the years has been remarkable, and he is now quite the animated and funny little guy. But he still has progress to be made, and it will still require a part of me that you must give up.

As unfair as that is, I believe the trade-off is the amazing people you have become as siblings of a child with autism. When he sees you, his face lights up as if real-life superheroes just walked in the room. I am sure you can tell by how he squeezes your necks as if he will never let go.

He expects nothing from you, but when you show up with the smallest of trinkets, it is as if you have given him the world. His innocence and vulnerability are reminders that we all have a role in sacrificing for those that need more.

To my older three children, remember you are not “my other children,” you are all my children. I may not have equal time for you, but I love you all equally.

Love, Mom

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I Can’t Shake The Fear Of Something Awful Happening To My Kids

When I brought my first child home from the hospital, I either held him all day or he slept right next to me. Those first nine months, his crib touched my side of the bed. When he was four days old, a friend of mine wanted to hold him. I was sitting about a yard away from him, but it was too much for me to bear.

I had to reach over and get him back. 

He napped on my lap, or in his baby carrier which I had on me at all times. 

He wasn’t left with a sitter until he was almost one, and that day I had to cut my date with my husband short because I couldn’t enjoy myself.

I was so overcome with fear something would happen to him, it was all I could think about.

I realized my anxiety wasn’t healthy for either of us but tried to keep my mouth shut about it.

Every time I discussed it with another mom, they didn’t do the things I did or worry the way I’d worry. 

It made me feel ashamed and dumb, and it reinforced what I already knew: I needed to try and break away just a little bit and stop thinking the worst.

The thing was, I was so afraid if I relaxed a bit about it, something horrible would happen to him.

He was one when I moved him into his own room.

That first day, when he fell asleep, I went in about ten times to make sure the window was closed and locked. I kept having visions of someone sneaking in his room and doing horrible things to him — things I don’t even want to say because I don’t know how those thoughts crept into my mind.

That was over 17 years ago. I now have three teenagers and I’ve worked through some of this, but man, that fear has never gone away.

My oldest drives now and I can’t relax until he’s texted me telling me he’s gotten to his destination safely.

If they wake up at night to go to the bathroom or get a drink, I still shoot up in my bed and get up to ask them if they are all right.

There have been days when dropping them off for school has been overwhelming and I wait outside the school, or will do a drive by if I’m out running errands to make sure everything looks normal.

When they were in elementary school, there were days I’d call the main office, claiming I had the wrong number, just to make sure the secretary sounded happy like she always did when I picked the kiddos up. That meant there wasn’t anything bad happening like my mind was telling me there was.

I’ve been called irrational. I’ve been told to “cut the cord.” I lost sleep and was asked why I always think of the worst possible scenario. 

Because of this, I usually keep my fears about something happening to my kids to myself.

Before giving birth, I never worried about bad things happening. In fact, I was always pretty calm, happy and never thought about any of the things that creep into my head now.

This behavior drives my kids bonkers. They say I’m too overprotective and I’ve kept them in a bubble. They didn’t go to preschool, take the bus to school, or ever go to a friend’s house without me until they were teenagers. Even then, I needed to speak with a parent and would count down the minutes until I could come get them.

What if the parents are mean to them?

What if they fall and get hurt because no one is paying attention?

What if they feel uncomfortable and miss me?

What if they are in a horrible situation and no one is there to help them?

None of these things have ever happened in the past seventeen years and yet…

Yet I still go to the bad place so easily and make sure my phone is two inches in front of my face when they are with their dad at night or sleeping at a friend’s house.

I try every single day to try and strike a balance so they aren’t too sheltered and I’m not getting splinters in my feet from pacing the floor because I’m physically sick with worry.

And every day it’s hard. 

I don’t do well with the unknown, and I can’t imagine life without my children in it. They are my world and I feel connected to them in ways I’ve never been connected to anyone.

I know there is an element of selfishness in this. I say really mean things to myself about it and don’t love this part of me.

I want my kids to have a great life. But my desire to keep them safe can make me feel out of control and can rule my days and my mind.

I have to constantly remind myself (in between deep breaths) that I only have control over so much, I can not keep them in my four walls for their entire life, and my parents weren’t like this and I turned out just fine.

The post I Can’t Shake The Fear Of Something Awful Happening To My Kids appeared first on Scary Mommy.

How To Use Books To Help Kids Navigate Death And Loss

Explaining death to a child can be incredibly difficult. While it’s a fact of life, it can often be tough for children to digest. Plus, there are always a ton of follow-up questions. “Will you die?” and “Will I die?” are to be expected.

It’s important to be honest with your kid, but it’s also good to avoid traumatizing them over the topic. Long story short, death is scary. This July, my father passed away. Being out of state, my 3-year-old daughter didn’t see him on a weekly basis, but did get to spend some quality time with him. She’s still trying to figure out what death means. While she knows we’ll go to “Poppy’s House” and not see Poppy, it’s also hard to explain to her that we won’t see Poppy ever again. But he’ll always be in our hearts and live through the stories we tell.

That’s where books come in. Authors have done a fantastic job talking about death on a scale that’s easier for children to understand. It’ll still be difficult (especially if you’re also stricken by grief), but it’ll make the conversation just slightly easier to have. If you’re looking for a few good books that discuss death in a family-friendly way, here are some titles to add to your home library.

"The Invisible String"

The Invisible String by Patrice Karst is one of the most popular titles on the subject of loss and grief. But, it’s not just about death. The themes in the book are also fantastic if you’re going through a divorce or another big change. “I purchased this to help my grandbabies (who live with me) deal with the loss of their daddy (my son). It is now one of their favorite books and we read it every single night,” writes Amazon Reviewer Karen Ludwig. “It does not only deal with the death of a loved one but being separated from those we love.”

$8.99 AT AMAZON

"Where Are You? A Child's Book About Loss"

Even the cover of this book may bring a tear to your eye. The gorgeous illustrations are actually a big part as to why this book is so special. Amazon Reviewer Christopher found that this book resonated well with his two-year-old. “My daughter is two and was having difficulty understanding her father’s death. This book helped immensely — she wanted to read it over and over. She now tells me ‘daddy’s here’ and places both hands on her chest,” they wrote.

$13.94 AT AMAZON

"The Memory Box: A Book About Grief"

Author Joanna Rowland wrote about experiencing grief from the perspective of a child, so it’s a story your children may be able to relate to. This book is wonderful for helping manage grief of all types. It may also inspire your children to create their own Memory Box in honor of their deceased loved one.

$13.19 AT AMAZON

"Something Very Sad Happened: A Toddler’s Guide to Understanding Death"

This book is perfect for toddlers. It’s written in a language that a 2 or 3-year-old will be able to digest, and explains that although they’re gone, the love you have for someone will never disappear. Written by Bonnie Zucker, reviewers like the fact that it isn’t openly religious in explaining the process of death and grief. Amazon user funfunfun even mentioned that this book helped their child cope with the loss of a neighborhood pet. “My son was able to write her a card and give her the best explanation when he saw her. She was blown away, and even mentioned wishing she had been taught what he knew at his age, as her coping skills were never fine tuned,” they wrote.

$12.89 AT AMAZON

"Caterpillars Can't Talk: A Children's Story About Love, Loss and Transformation"

Caterpillars Can’t Talk is a fairly new title written by Kris Fenton Siwek — but in a few months, it’s already racked up a five star rating by those who read it. The book focuses on a young boy named Andy who is trying to process the loss of his father. When Andy meets a very intriguing caterpillar in the woods, he’s able to learn new ways to cope with his loss. While the book itself is new, the story was initially written in 1982.

$21.50 AT AMAZON

"The Invisible Leash: A Story Celebrating Love After the Loss of a Pet (The Invisible String)"

Sometimes, the earliest loss a child witnesses is the loss of a beloved pet. Whether it’s a dog who’s been there throughout their entire life, or even a goldfish who brightened their day, it’s a good time to talk about grief and coping. The Invisible Leash focuses on a boy named Zack who just lost his dog. As his friend states, “When our pets aren’t with us anymore, an Invisible Leash connects our hearts to each other. Forever.” (Uh, is someone cutting onions around here?) In case the title sounds familiar, yes — it’s by the same author who penned The Invisible String.

$14.39 AT AMAZON

"The Day My Dad Turned Invisible"

The Day My Dad Turned Invisible is also a new title with incredible reviews. Written by Sean R. Simmons, the book was released this July. The story is based on the author’s real life story. In it, a 7-year-old named Sean learns that his father passed, and figures out what that means for his future. As Amazon Reviewer Hulania Farmer wrote, “This book was well written and relatable.”

$24.50 AT AMAZON

"I Miss You: A First Look at Death"

This book by Pat Thomas is geared towards children from preschool to grade school. In it, it talks about how death is a sad part of life, and how to cope with your feelings after a loss in the family. The book offers a reassuring view to kids that as long as someone is in your heart, they’re never fully gone.

$7.99 AT AMAZON

"Why Do I Feel So Sad?: A Grief Book for Children"

One of the best parts about Why Do I Feel So Sad?: A Grief Book for Children is that it’s broad enough to cover all types of loss. That means it can be read multiple times as needed throughout a child’s life. Amazon Reviewer Melissa, who’s also a teacher, had nothing but praise for this book. “I have been an elementary school teacher for over 15 years and have come across very few books of this caliber relating to feelings (and I have over 1,000 books in my class library). Grief can be a tough emotion for children to process as many children don’t know how to identify what they are feeling or why they may be acting out or shutting down,” she wrote. ” In a child friendly way, this book explains what grief is, why people may feel sad, how people process grief, and ways that could help people feel better.”

$10.99 AT AMAZON

 

The post How To Use Books To Help Kids Navigate Death And Loss appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Nothing Prepared Me For My Teen’s Drug Addiction

*trigger warning: suicidal ideation

On the top shelf of my walk-in closet sits a shoebox wrapped in striped, metallic wrapping paper. What’s inside are pieces of notebook paper written to my son when he was going through a difficult time. These notes not only have words of encouragement on them, but were also an exercise in letting go and having faith.

According to the American Addiction Centers website, 19.7 million American adults (aged 12 and older) battled a substance use disorder in 2017. It also states that teenagers and people with mental health disorders are more at risk for drug use and addiction than other populations.

I grew up in the ’80s. There were D.A.R.E programs in our schools and “Just say no to drugs” campaigns. We even had after school specials and Saved by the Bell episodes that touched on addiction. I also grew up with a father who battled alcoholism. I knew all about what that looked like. But none of this would prepare me for my son’s addiction.

In 2014, when Michael was beginning his sophomore year of high school, our world crumbled. It began unraveling when he was in middle school. He was struggling in school, had uncontrollable anger and wasn’t making the best choices, nor was he hanging out with a stellar group of kids. When he was in eighth grade, he came to me and said he thought he had ADD. My response? “Work harder.” My thoughts up until this point were that ADD was overdiagnosed and a crutch for parents who were too preoccupied to discipline their children.

It was during this time that I found pot in my son’s room. I was shocked. Sure, I smoked pot as a teenager, but my son? No way! I’ll never forget that fall day. I confronted him after he got out of the shower about the resin all over his desk. “What’s this?” I asked, pointing to the dried leaves.

“It’s marijuana,” he responded frankly.

I couldn’t believe he was telling the truth. He was 14 years old and wasn’t scared of anything. That day I made a bargain with Michael: “If you promise you won’t do it again, I won’t tell your dad.” To which he responded, “I won’t do it anymore.”

I was 35 years old, a single mom, and didn’t know what I was doing. In hindsight, I should have called his dad right away. I knew it was wrong, but I kept telling myself Michael was just experimenting and it was normal teenage behavior.

The next few years are a bit of a blur to me. There was lying, cheating, stealing, cutting and drug use. I’ll never forget the day Michael told me he didn’t want to live anymore. He was 15 years old. We were sitting on my bed and tears streamed down my face. I told him we would get him help, and I didn’t know what it was like living in his body.

That evening, I called his dad and told him I was afraid Michael was going to do something to hurt himself. A week later, following a confrontation with Michael at his dad’s house, we were driving home and again he told me he wanted to kill himself because he knew he let his father and me down.

I immediately pulled the car over and saw the pain in my son’s eyes. We sat in the parking lot of a local pizza place and he cried and I promised him everything would be okay. I have found in my years as a mother that blind faith is better than no faith. I didn’t know for sure everything was going to be okay, and I was scared as hell, but I leaned in and I said it anyway. I clung to those words for the next two years.

A week later, we admitted Michael to an inpatient facility. He was there for a week, and we visited every other day. He was completely withdrawn. However, I truly believe that move saved his life. I learned something about our healthcare system during this time: We do not have the appropriate resources needed to help teens fight drug addiction and depression. Most of the doctors wanted to prescribe medication to fight his depression that was caused by addiction, which itself was caused by self-medicating for ADD and depression initially. It’s a vicious cycle.

We were lucky enough to find two psychologists who were dedicated to treating our son and officially diagnose him with ADD. They were instrumental in helping us realize Michael needed a combination of medication and talk therapy to work through the problems he was facing.

Following his hospitalization, in the spring of his sophomore year, Michael went to live with his father and attend a new school. That was the hardest, yet best decision of my life. That kid was my world, but I knew I could no longer provide for him the way his father could. I felt like a failure, but I also knew he needed to be with his dad.

It was during this time that I started the shoebox. It contained encouraging notes in it dedicated to Michael. His sister and I would write, “We love you and miss you. You are strong. You got this.” It was therapeutic for us, too, as we were grieving not having him around.

Flash forward to 2020. My son is the most level-headed young man you’ll ever meet. Sure, he still has his battles and is far from perfect, just like anyone. But he is strong and he is a fighter. He’s 22 years old now, and living with his girlfriend.

We don’t talk a lot about those high school years anymore; these days, we’re focused on the future. Every time I run across that shoebox, I read the notes to remind myself life isn’t meant to be easy. Sometimes when you’re going through a difficult time, it’s hard to think about the future. But if you ask for help and stay the course, there is hope. My son is a shining example of that.

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I’m Tired AF, And No Longer Care If That Makes Me Look Like A B*tch

I have a case of the grogs every morning because I need some sort of sleep aid to get the amount of sleep I need. If I don’t take anything, and I am able to fall asleep, I wake up around 2am and the mind starts churning, begging me to stay up and have a stress party.

So, it’s either sleep or feel heavy and slightly hungover each morning until the grogginess wears off.

Going anywhere these days feels like the ultimate chore at times, but I need to get out of the damn house. When we do venture out and go grab takeout or something I have to remember to grab masks for everyone and check the level of hand sanitizer in my purse first. Another chore that has been handed over to the moms across the land.

Of-fucking-course.

The daily grind hits me hard every day, and every time I’m trying to work and one of my kids asks me an innocent question, I feel like it hits my nerves in a way that’s too extra for what’s going on.

In my mind I’m thinking, Please don’t. Please don’t give me another thing I have to think about or add to my to-do list. Just wait until my mind is free and clear.

But, mother to mother, we all know there is no time when our mind is free and clear.

When I’m standing in line at the grocery store or rushing into Target to get a new vacuum cleaner because my old one is broken and I really can’t wait for someone to come fix it, I’m thinking about the next thing. And the next. 

I’m in a rush to check it off my list and tend to all the other things I need to do.

Some might call it bitch mode, but I call it survival mode. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m not afraid to say “no” to anyone and I have no problem not responding to a text until I can get to it.

If don’t want to smile at you or I don’t see you wave it me it’s not because I’ve got a case of the cunts, it’s because I’m thinking about my son’s algebra homework and the fact he’s stuck and I can’t help him, but I also need to get dog food because we are out, and don’t we all have dentist appointments next week?

I’m not ignoring your call, I just can’t get it to right now because all I want to do is lie in the fetal position and take a load off but that day will never come, so something has to go.

It seems as though women are put into categories: “nice” when they are doing what everyone else wants, or “bitchy” when they are doing what they need to do, whether it means speaking up for themselves or choosing a different option than what someone else suggests. 

We are also hard-wired to make our kids’ days better — give everything we’ve got to our relationships and our careers. Then, we need to make sure everything is in working order in our homes. The daily tasks don’t get up and walk away.

If there is ever a sliver of time left, the moms of the world think, What am I missing? What did I forget? Why do I feel so uneasy right now? There must be something.

We are running on fumes. We have to keep the wheels turning because if we don’t, then who the hell will?

It’s on us: the thinking, the planning, the doing, the delegating, the noticing.

After I became a mother, my best friend (who didn’t have kids at the time) said to me, “I don’t know, Katie. Lately when I see you, you just seem different. Like really stressed out or something.”

Now she has kids of her own and I think she’s beaten herself up about saying that to me for the both of us. 

I wasn’t being a bitch, but then again, so what if I was? I was, and have been ever since, just trying to keep it all together. Trying to keep it all straight. I’ve been wondering when this tattered, weighted blanket that feels like it’s covering my whole body is going to lift.

But I know now, seventeen years into being a parent, that blanket isn’t going anywhere.

I’m exhausted. 

So, yeah, the load I carry makes me forget to do things like smile to everyone that walks by.

It’s forced me to stop saying yes and acting like things don’t inconvenience me in the least.

I no longer feel like I have to be fake and cheery, because let’s face it, that display would take a special kind of acting, and I’m in no shape to put on a performance.

I simply cannot keep up with it all, and there are times when I’m going to look like a bitch because I’m literally running into the ground and there isn’t a soul around trying to lighten my load.

If that makes me look like a grouch, so be it — because “don’t be a bitch” isn’t going to be added to my never-ending to-do list any time soon.

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