Thursday, May 8, 2014

What I Learned from a Pen

I think I've mentioned before that Darling Son #2 is visually impaired, among other quirks like being obsessed with elevators. Because of his vision, we are hooked in with the wonderful Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts. Perkins hosts a conference annually for families with children under age 7. We attended for the first time two years ago. The conference features workshops on many topics, including fostering independent living skills and making multi-sensory toys to stimulate your child-with-visual-impairments-and-other-disabilities (people-first language! No matter how annoyingly cumbersome it may be!)

The first year we went, the conference was titled 'Taking Care of Our Children, Taking Care of Ourselves.' They gave us a pen:

I came home all fired up, filled with ideas on how to better mother my child-with-low-vision-and-other-disabilities-who-is-obsessed-with-elevators (because you need to talk about your child as more than having disabilities. I'm told this is very important.) I decided I needed to let him fall down more and made him a rattle out of an old plastic bubble container and whole cloves. I was going to be a great mother. I was going to use our spice rack to help him reach new heights. Yay!

Meanwhile, I was a mess. I hadn't slept in years. I was so bad at sleeping I didn't even want to go to bed, so I stayed up pfaffing around on the internet. I drank too much coffee, I binged on cookies. I still exercised, but I was so tired I didn't enjoy it and I ached. I hadn't been to any doctor (including the dentist) in years, except for the obstetrician. In fact, I didn't even have a doctor.

One day, I looked at the pen. Taking care of our children; taking care of ourselves. I had the first part down. My children were thriving! Growing like weeds! I even taught Darling Son #1 to read at the tender age of 3! The second part? Not so much, and as a result, I was long on tasks and short on patience. Yes, they were fully-immunized, hale and hearty, and one was even literate, but I was snippy with them. For all the tasks, I was falling short with the most important things. I felt bitter and resentful and put-upon. I was self-care deficient, and in the end, it trickled down to them.

I realized I needed to take care of myself as well as I took care of them. And so I made a list of things I didn't hesitate to do for them:

  1. I feed them reasonable portions of whole, healthy food.
  2. I don't let them binge on cookies.
  3. I put them to bed at a reasonable hour.
  4. I make sure they get outside and run around everyday. Which, by the way, was *play,* not a forced march.
  5. I take them to the doctor for regular check-ups, and I make sure they're up-to-date on immunizations.
  6. I make sure they have social time with their little friends.
  7. I read to them everyday, including Bible stories.
Why didn't I do these things for myself? Partly because I was lazy. Partly because I had bought into the idea that mother = martyr. But taking care of ourselves is not selfish. I've talked about this before. We can't give from an empty cup. A friend of mine, a mother of three young boys, celebrated her birthday recently. Her husband wrote on her Facebook page, 'Happy birthday to my lovely wife. You hold this whole thing together.' How true--that's what we do, isn't it? We hold it together, but we can't do that if we fall apart in the process.

Little by little, I started implementing these disciplines into my own life. I also listed intangibles, like wanting to be more patient, modeling appropriate reactions, keeping my temper in check, and the like. Those became significantly easier once I tended to my own physical, social and spiritual needs.

Are you a person-who-is-self-care-deficient? Whether or not you're a woman, whether or not you have children, would you mother yourself? Would you like to borrow my pen as a reminder?


  1. Wow...Your posts are so empowering! And a huge thank you for highlighting people- first language.

    1. Oh good, I'm glad you feel empowered. As for people-first language, it is a nice gesture, but it can result in quite a mouthful. :)

  2. Dawn K. here again as anonymous: Well done! This should be sent to a parenting magazine.

    1. Why thank you, Dawn. Maybe I'll look into that...

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