Parenting

Escape

I remember being in a group of parent peers of children with a vision impairment, and we had all been asked what we did for ourselves – to relax, enjoy, be active etc.

One parent described their preferred activity when there was no particular requirement of them by life, and ended with, “But that’s really just escape!”

The first thing that stood out for me, was that shame had been attached to their preferred activity, which they found revitalising and enjoyable.

 

Now, though I can read and research as much as anyone (and usually enjoy doing so), I am not qualified in medicine, psychology, or research beyond the overview one gets from Community Service training, my professional and personal experience. Having said that, my fifty plus years of living has been amongst and in the support of folks and families from multiple walks and experiences of life.

My observation through my own life and the lives around me is that we need ‘escape’ and encourage it in many forms. We all need relief, rest, change of position, direction, focus, activity and community…but there is a difference between that which is sought out to refresh and enable re-engagement, and that which is pursued to consume and thereby inhibit connection, intimacy and purpose.

We encourage ‘date nights’, family getaways, blokes/girls weekends, solitude, meditation, exercise, visiting a café, festivals and milestone celebrations (e.g. birthdays etc.), producing art, enjoying films and books.

Many times these things are used as an escape, and I’ve made use of multiple versions of these activities myself. They have been deliberately incorporated into my life as healthy, enjoyable, necessary, desired, hoped-for, and as a means of realising hopes…and as a regular provision of space or as an escape when overwhelmed.

As parents, we can sometimes forget that we are also carers – a lot of extra stuff comes with raising a child who is not ‘mainstream’. Time out (or escape) to recharge is taught and encouraged. Among other things, Carers Victoria suggests finding “out what relaxes you and take regular time out to recharge. Try to do something that you enjoy every day and spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself.”

 

A couple of the things I believe we were built for are connection, “The energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship” and purpose (Brené Brown). But when these are being broken down and impacted on negatively,  repeatedly or over a lengthy period of time, we become less healthy versions of ourselves. So, these are two of the aspects of life I look to make/keep developing if I’m to be a healthy me. Doing those things which revitalise and refresh me, and inspire desire, motivation and direction for purpose, is part of being a healthy me.

I like to go for long drives or walks through the bush or in the mountains – long because it can take an hour or two before I am relaxed enough to attain the benefits of this ‘escape’. I enjoy photography but, this too can require something like a long drive or long walk to bring my mind, soul and body some unity/peace to ‘see’ what I want to capture. Other times, the act of ‘seeing’ to photograph is the means of aligning my inner person into a whole again. I also just sit…sometime with a cuppa; sometime with music; often just sitting or laying down in quiet (for some of us, or in some seasons/circumstances, this can take some getting used to).

Often, I’m looking for escape because I don’t want to do life anymore. I don’t want connection or purpose. I’m sick of responsibility and tasks to complete. I am replete with working to be a healthy participant in my relationships. I don’t want to read, or write, or paint, or photograph.

I have small moments where I ‘top-up’ my need for escape – a massage, a coffee alone etc. But I have to plan in fresh scenery, protracted periods without responsibility for what others require. I also know the difficulty of no finances, seasons of busyness (seasons is not the same as life pattern, but that’s another blog post I feel), being in the role of carer…therefore I need to plan to replenish, even if that means asking for help to do so.

Help may be available in various forms:

  • Someone to share in your caring role – even for one meal time
  • An acquaintance who has property where you can stay
  • A vehicle to borrow
  • Venues with free cuppas/meals that have been “paid forward”
  • Someone who already offered with help or finance that you turned down

 

Escape is not necessarily a word to be ashamed of, in my opinion.

But an escape can be used in an unhealthy way.

Particular ways of escape may be healthy for some, and not for others.

So…escape, refresh, re-focus, re-engage.

We all need hopes that can be realised – go realise a hope this week, big or small!

Mother’s Day Reflection – 2019

Mothering

A journey long

Facing challenges head on

Learning as you go along

Make mistakes, then sing your song

 

Mothering

Of those from me

Recognise the family tree

Tuning in, uniqueness see

Encourage, teach them how to ‘be’

 

Mothering

Of those who came

From another mother’s frame

Take care, on loan, though all the same

I love and send you back again

 

Mothering

Sons and daughters who do not fit

The mould, the world does force a bit

Give space, belonging, wings to flit

About as who they’ll be, as built

 

Mothering

Though some will leave

By choice or to eternity

Speak their name, release but keep

The truth that moth’ring does not cease

 

Mothering

Will be to leave

Your loves will long, though, still to cleave

To your memory, with sigh and heave

And take you to the one’s they lead

 

Gina Marie

11/5/2019

A Private Conversation with a Fellow Parent – Some Reflections (with permission)

Sometimes we parents get to guide our children through learning experiences which are unfamiliar to us, outside of our current comfort zone, and seemingly not within our perception (or another’s) of the mainstream gig of ‘growing kids’.

One way to tackle these moments might be to chat with someone who is further along the parenting journey than we are…so, I recently got to have a great chat with a go-getter parent.

As my adult children have all been blind since birth, this chat was essentially around having a conversation with a child younger than mine, about the differences between a parent/child relationship, and the parent/parent relationship. It came about, though, because the child had heard mum and dad during intimate moments.

Many of us have had the experience of walking in on dad and mum during sex, many of us have had our children walk in on us, and many of us feel either uncomfortable or unsure about how to respond. Some of us also have the consideration of what our children can/can’t see, hear or comprehend no matter what the new experience encountered.

After hearing the parent’s story of what had been happening with their child, how the parent themselves felt about the kind of conversation they may need to have, and the child’s vision impairment coupled with some level of communication/comprehension difficulties, we brainstormed some strategies for the immediate, and some suggestions for in the future.

The child had been repeating sounds heard from mum and dad’s room when they’re alone, and those sounds were beginning to be repeated at particular times. The parent believed that the frequency was increasing and wondered what, if anything, they might do about it. Since there was perceived future negative impact for the family and their relationships, and seeing a potential learning opportunity for the child, these are the strategies we worked out together:

  • Talking with the child about their own special relationships (e.g. with a grandparent or sibling)
  • Discussing something that the child does only with that person
  • Explaining to the child that the sounds heard from the bedroom were only for mum and dad, as their special times with another family member are theirs alone

Because of one of the diagnoses the child has been given, it was recommended that a chat with the educational psychologist that the family already connect with might be a good idea to talk through some of the possible related experiences they may have with the child as they move into teen and adult years.

For the parents, I suggested that the bedroom may not be the only place for physical intimacy. This might reduce or eliminate the child associating what was heard with that room, and the parents. It also brings with it some new interest for the couple relationship…nothing wrong with that!

Who could never say that we don’t have anything to learn by being a parent?

And thanks to the other parent for trusting me with their story, and wanting to share some of their own journey so others may have a few more tools to work with.

A Heart Pierced

Assumed I, you would not see me

This, for us, not the pain to be

But stabbing, piercing agony

At tries to sever the heart and soul of thee

 

Eating, sleeping, snuggling you

A people’s person; loyal, true

Though you will seek to please, retain

They will puncture you, to stay the same

 

Affection will your offer be

To those who will not ever see

Your insight and your contribution

Dismissed, unseen, is your confusion

 

Loving, you will love complete

But many will not save a seat

A pierce-ed heart with bloody stain

Like mine, you will sometime sustain

 

4/12/2016

A Heart Squeezed

Revisit a potential loss

To manage, will expect of course

With loss confirmed, it’s no surprise

This time ready, more the wise

 

Feeding fast, though sleep eludes

Enthusiasm, but holding wounds

No praising, hugging, teaching for

This one, will even any score

 

Assured of self, from day of birth

At home assured of all her worth

But other’s insecurities – and need for all conformity

Will squeeze, compress my heart with ease

 

To know your value and your worth

While others doubt, you yourself birth

Your own heart knows compression’s squeeze

As stifled, thwarted you’ll not be pleased

 

4/12/2016

A Heart Pricked

My heart was pricked; a short, sharp sting

My first-born, as I looked at him

Would not, in turn, behold my face

My gaze of love, he would not trace

 

It’s true, there was a heartfelt ache

This path of life I would now take

The ache did not, though, linger long

But late in time, return in song

 

The latter song of long lament

Came with fever, a nightmare sent

And seizures; vacant, empty gaze

Salivate, then sleep for days

 

Lamenting long, and spent of days

To fight for teaching, what a maze!

Some would try to empathise

But weary soon of compromise

 

And now the sting, it lingers on

As time now brings you, your fight song

A world not used to other wise

Lamenting sting now your sweet prize

 

4/12/2016

Talking with My Child About Being an Exception from the Mainstream

I must confess that this is a question I had to consider for a while when first asked, particularly as it was a question of ‘when’ to talk about it. After knowing that my first child was not able to see, there had never been a moment where this was not now part of our life – so it was talked about.

I realise though, that this is not everyone’s experience.

Acceptance of change into our lives is part of the course toward a new ‘normal’; as is denial, resentment and embracing the change. You may not be ready to talk to yourself about your child’s experience (or your own), let alone talk with your child about it. Also, your child may not be ready to talk about their experience, which limits any talking you may do as well.

From my life’s experiences generally, my degree of acceptance determines not only if, but also how, when and with whom I will talk about my life’s experiences – generally or specifically.

 

My experience was that my children were blind from birth. Though my eldest was not diagnosed until 5 months and my two other children could not be until after birth, they have always been blind and we have known no other experience of each other. When I consider unknown vision deterioration or sudden vision loss of a child or young person, I recognise so many differences to my ‘normal’. Having said that, acceptance of the new ‘normal’ (even a still changing ‘normal’) by parent and child, will still be a determining factor around talking about the vision loss.

My children were unfortunate/fortunate (you’ll have to ask them) to have a mother who talks about everything and anything – can be a hindrance with teens and young adults but that’s another post – but I was also taught by early childhood educators and speech therapists that I needed to talk about everything; describe everything; provide opportunities to experience everything (that we could anyway); encourage a developing understanding of all that was experienced and described. This included explaining that I could see what they were doing through the glass of a window, but not a timber door, and that they could not ‘see’ through either of them; that we were walking up stairs and counting them, then down stairs and counting them; that I could see the trees in the paddocks (fields) through the car window, and as we drove past them it appeared as though they were moving because we were (actually, that took a lot more explaining); reading print means my eyes can see the words without them touching the page like their hands do when reading braille…If the fact that they do not see, and I do, was not discussed and described then they would have had a limited view of the world in which they live, and the people with whom they live.

It was also important for my children to know that there were many others who did not see, sometimes in a similar way to themselves and other times in a different way; that I wear glasses to be able to see things clearly; that glasses wouldn’t help them (and why – glasses don’t help a retina which isn’t working properly, what part of my eye benefits from glasses); to meet braille readers, children and adults; using canes; meeting dog guides; riding with people in their wheelchairs (which requires someone else who has accepted their own ‘normal’ – also, the rides were offers not requests, looking at someone’s wheelchair is something I would have requested though)…

 

Much of our fear and resentment in life comes from not knowing, from the unfamiliar, the unrecognizable (difference). Knowledge isn’t every thing, but it is a very important thing. As parents, the more we embrace and pursue our own knowing and learning, the more we will pursue opportunities for our children’s own knowing and learning – of their own, they will not and should not be carbon copies of us.

My hope for you, is that you will embrace who you are and who your children are – each individual, valuable, worthy one…whether these children are your own, your class, or under your training of any other description or timing.