Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Being Irresponsibly Responsible

After years of struggle, I have came to the conclusion that some things are bound to happen beyond my control. I can do my best to put the odds in my favor but it doesn't guarantee that things will work out the way I envision.

I drove myself nearly insane the first three years of Jaycee's life trying to make sure she was educationally and developmentally stimulated. When you are told, your child is "behind" other kids starting at birth and will always be behind, it is a hard pill to swallow. There was always a skill she needed to master to move her forward or make her more independent.

I'm almost afraid to admit what I did, but I will. At the beginning of the week, I looked at my schedule, her therapy appointments, and wrote out some skills I wanted to work on each day. I usually worked with her 5-6 days a week. When she was a toddler, it was things like practice body parts, practice straw drinking, work a puzzle, complete oral-motor exercises, etc. I felt like I HAD to do something almost everyday in order to help her get the best start in life. There were a few things I enjoyed doing with her like sign language but most of it was "work." I put a lot of pressure on myself. I felt if she couldn't get something, it was somehow a reflection on me and what I was or was not doing. I felt responsible for her developmental progress. Even when Jaycee started attending preschool full time at age 3.5, I still worked with her a few afternoons a week and on the weekends.

Some of this was due to having early intervention therapists in the home early on giving me ideas or tips to help her. They were doing their job and I learned so much from them. But, it also felt like a never ending to-do list. Some of this responsibility I felt was because I am an early intervention speech-language pathologist. I felt that her lack of speaking or signing or learning things may be a poor reflection of my professional skills. Plus, I had been engrained with development and teaching activities. Then there was the common saying some parents say, "Teachers can tell which parents work with their child." Another thing I heard a parent or two say was, "Of course, my kid can do that, I work with them." (As if that applied to all situations!)

It was a combination of things really that all added up to me feeling completely responsible for things that I didn't need to feel responsible for. Yes, doing activities with her was necessary but the motivation and the attitude that came with it was wrong. It made me feel so overwhelmed and burdened.

It really wasn't until Jaycee started kindergarten last year that I didn't try to sit down and teach her anymore. (Except for the summer, but I really scaled down then!!) I finally let go and decided to be her mom first. I realized that I was not completely and solely responsible for her learning skills. There are things she may never be able to do and that's ok. It doesn't mean that I messed up or was lazy. It doesn't mean she didn't try hard enough either; her body has limitations just like everyone else. Hey, that's why I didn't study mathematics!

Then, there's the whole thing with Jaycee's health. In 2011, I drove myself nearly insane again trying to find a reason why Jaycee kept getting sick. She went to the intensive care unit two months in a row for pneumonia, and I became a little obsessed with finding out why she was sick so I could avoid it. Again, I felt responsible for keeping her healthy. Maybe I felt that way because my brain tends to overthink things. Maybe it was because a nurse commented on her high oxygen requirement and said, "Someone needs to reeducate you on your asthma action plan." (I think I said something like, "I know the action plan and I have a master's degree, that's not the problem.") That accusation hurt. Maybe it was all the questions like: is she around smoke (no!), pets (no!), sleep with stuffed animals (yes-but come on!) that got me thinking about how I could help prevent her asthma from triggering.

Whatever the reason, I felt responsible whenever she got sick. (As if I could give her pneumonia.) If she was admitted in the hospital, I would mentally retrace my steps for the days prior and figure out what I did wrong that may have contributed. Since 2011, we have avoided smoke in any form like bonfires or cook outs. I started keeping my windows shut nearly all year round. If someone is burning leaves or mowing the grass, I don't let her go outside. If it's too hot or too cold, I limit her time outside and try to have the shortest route in and out of somewhere. I started doing some sort of dusting every week. You get the idea... Some of these things were based on reality and knowing her triggers like the hot and cold weather and smoke. Some of these were based upon possibilities that other people informed me about.

It's a hard way to live when you are constantly finding things to blame yourself for. It caused a great deal of stress and anxiety in my life. It wasn't until earlier this year, through prayer and introspection that I learned that I am not responsible for everything that happens to Jaycee's health. If she gets sick, it is not necessarily because I did something wrong. Sometimes a germ is to blame or her body's weakened state. I have come a long way in my thinking. However, I still have flare ups when I hear her wheezing for days. I find myself doing things like cleaning my vehicle of all dust and dirt. I have to check myself once in awhile. In the past few months, I have had moments of self-blame when she's been in and out of the hospital. But, I try not to allow myself to dwell on these things too much now.

I hope in the future I can have more "irresponsible" thinking. I hope I can really believe that some things that happen are beyond my control. I hope I won't beat myself up and overanalyze situations that come up. And I hope this entry can help someone else too.

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