I felt that distinctive wetness settling into my eyes. My throat struggled to create sound around the choking sensation. I was at a work event and determined not to cry.
My friend truly cared, so I wanted to give her an honest answer.
But what was the truth? And could I say it out loud without tears?
The truth is that epilepsy sucks.
My sweet boy has moved from slightly defiant to full-blown defiant. He grows faster than his epilepsy medications can handle and has break-through seizures because of it. He developed ADD, after being a kid with incredible focus.
His teachers are frustrated. His older brother is frustrated. We are frustrated.
I moved from functioning pretty well to seeing a therapist and treating depression.
The other truth, though?
I am blessed to be the mom of an epilepsy kid.
Of all the disorders and exceptionalities a family can deal with, we were more prepared to deal with this particular one.
My husband and I studied memory, learning, and child development when we earned our undergrad degrees in Psychology. I have an M.Ed and a teaching certificate and taught school for several years. For most of my career, I was a lawyer for kids, focusing on education and juvenile law.
We understand the tremors that come from the medication and realistic expectations for a child struggling with this disabling disease, in a way that other parents, without the education that we have, can't.
We have a stable marriage. We are mature (in our early 40s) but young enough to be energetic.
It's almost as if God created us to be this precious child's parents.
We could have been parents of a child with a heart transplant (like my inspirational cousin) or who is wheelchair bound (like one of my very dearest friends).
We aren't in the medical field and weren't prepared for that.
But a memory, learning, and behavior problem?
That is in our bag of tricks!
Since we are becoming pros at dealing with out of control behavior (including tantrums that are not supposed to come out of a seven year old and total shutdowns/refusals to speak), I've discovered something that actually calms my kid down.
The 5-Step Parenting Trick
STEP 1: WALK HOLDING HANDS
I grab his hand gently and whisper, "let's walk." We walk around and around. Once he is calm, I whisper, "we'll sit down, whenever you are ready." And then we keep walking.
STEP 2: SIT ON THE FLOOR
Eventually, he sits and I join him, right there on the floor.
STEP 3: KEEP PHYSICAL CONTACT
I keep some physical contact, either holding hands or a light touch on a shoulder or knee.
The touch is calming for both of us.
STEP 4: LET THE CHILD SPEAK FIRST
I invite him to tell me what he is feeling. I promise to listen. Then I get silent.
I don't say, "what's wrong?" as he might not even know. I don't preach. I don't explain my point of view or the punishment.
I just listen.
STEP 5: FIND A RESTORATIVE CONSEQUENCE
Once I listen and acknowledge his feelings ("I hear you are sad because you could not choose dinner"), I set out the reasoning for the rule, followed by a restorative consequence.
A restorative consequence is one that will fix things or fix the harmed relationship.
For example, I might say, "in our family, we sometimes choose our dinner, but not on days when Mom cooks. You don't have to eat it, but your only other options are not to eat or to choose from any fruits or vegetables in the house.
Now, you need to rejoin the table peacefully."
I keep it simple. The consequence is always the last sentence, as ADD kids should always get the explanation first and the instruction - a single instruction at a time - last.
Some things, like being rude to a teacher, get a more serious consequence.
"No more electronics tonight." "Write a note apologizing to your teacher."
So far, this is working amazingly well. I truly hopes it helps someone else.
I managed not to cry at the work event, by the way. It ended up being the most refreshing conversation I've had all week.
If you enjoy what you read at Giftie Etcetera, please share on social media. Click here to join the Giftie Etcetera Facebook group.