Friday, April 16, 2010

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

One of the lessons I’ve had to learn is to not sweat the small stuff. This is a good lesson for everyone to grasp, but for a parent with a child suffering from a mood disorder, it’s mandatory. Seriously, you have no choice but to let go of your expectations and embrace what you can.

If you know me personally, you may be laughing and say... “yeah, she really needs to learn this”, but I’ve honestly come a long way in this area. Just a few weeks ago when my son was kicked out of the children’s church, he was forced to join us in the “big” church during the sermon. At one point, my husband and I looked at one another with a look of “oh well” as our son was crawling under his chair and doing who knows what down there. There was a time when I would’ve scolded him for not sitting in his chair, being a visual distraction to those around him, but in that moment, my husband and I were thinking...“at least he’s quiet and not causing a problem like he was a moment ago”.

When picking him up from the gym’s childcare after only being there an hour, the teacher said my son had called her a “bitch” and refused to stay in a timeout. Now, I was disappointed and made him apologize and he got his DS taken away for a few days, but I had to let it go. In the past I would’ve been mortified and felt like I needed to prove to this childcare worker that I wasn’t a bad parent and that my son truly wasn’t a delinquent, but I’m learning that I have to let these things go.

I have to let go of the fact that I have holes and dents in my walls and that my son screams hateful words at me. I have to let go of my pride as my son wears dirty sweats to school because he doesn’t like how the clean ones feel. I have to let go of my guilt when my son is once again late to school because he was fighting us at home. I have to let go of my standards as my son refuses to eat well balanced meals (something our doctor advised us to do since we had bigger issues to battle). I have to let go of my expectations since typical fun events often turn out sour. I have to let go of my desire to be judged a “good parent” when the outside world is watching me handle outrageous situations. Can you relate?

Now, some of you may be thinking that we shouldn’t stop parenting, even if it’s a challenge, but I promise you we aren’t. We’re working with our son everyday, it’s just that we’re working on much bigger issues and we can’t spend all our energy focusing on the small stuff. I was relieved to see that in every book I’ve read, doctors address the fact that typical parenting methods don’t work for these kids and as parents we have to change our expectations, we have to let go. We’re also reminded that if children can do better, they do.

So instead, I enjoy the good times, even if it’s just a moment. I’m thankful to be in our home, dents and all. I kiss my son goodnight right after I’ve been attacked. I make his favorite “green pasta” (Garlic chicken pesto pasta) and green apples all the time since I know he’ll eat well, with no complaints. In general I’m learning that I’m not in control of all that happens around me, a hard lesson for a type A personality, but I have control on my attitude about it. So I’m working on that, putting my expectations aside and deciding not to sweat the small stuff! It may take me a lifetime to master this, but every time I do, it’s so worth it.


  1. i was thinking this very thing today while dragging my screaming BPer out of home depot while everyone stared and one woman even mouthed "Oh my God!" i would have been mortified a few months ago. especially a year ago. but today i said to myself, why should i be embarrassed? my son has a neurological condition. it's not my fault. it's not even his fault. so i let go of my self-consciousness and guilt and just dealt with it the best way i could.

    anyway, it's a process. and we go one step at a time. we don't sweat the small stuff either. name calling, spitting, i hate you's...we ignore. there are bigger issues to enforce.

    keep at it! and i'm so glad to have found other parents in the same boat. i feel inspired by all of you!

  2. Those who know you know you are a great mother.
    Love you,

  3. Our son used to get very agitated in restaurants and other crowded places. The more we tried to get him to "sit still and behave himself" the worse it got. We finally learned that he was trying to tell us that the environment was overwhelming for him, and he needed to get out. When we finally let go of our expectations and listened to him, things were so much easier. He could stay with us until it was too much, then he could go wait in the car or wherever was safe and not stressful for him.

  4. I know what you mean, I swear, I feel like your writing about my life, except I have a BPD daughter. I am in tears on how much I can totally relate to everything you say. Like your theory on "don't sweat the small stuff", like I always say "we need to choose our battles". If my daughter wants to wear too much make-up and look like a clown, then so be it, it doesn't hurt her, she's not drinking or doing drugs, so let her experiment w/ make up, its much safer.
    ps I found out about your blog on MdJ. I am Lovespurple...thank you so much. Your blog is inspiring, and helpful...

  5. Is there any advice for a step father who just won't let me drop the small stuff? He thinks I should punish for everything and I can't. I feel like I am constantly being pulled in different directions.

  6. That is a good question. I think that when people are encouraging strict discipline as a way of handling these kids, they don't believe or understand that the child is truly sick. I think in a case like that, they think it’s the parent that is the problem. If this is the case, trying to educate people about your child may be helpful. You can share the following pages from the book listed below to your step father, heck, even have him read the whole book to gain an understanding of what is really going on. Also, I’ve heard of parents video taping behaviors to show doctors and family to help give them a better idea of what your child is struggling with. Unless your step father is there all the time, he can’t truly understand how to handle your child. I know I wouldn’t know if I hadn’t seen it for myself. And my last suggestion would be to share with him the parenting techniques that your therapist has instructed you to use (if you are in therapy). If he knew you had an actual plan for disciplining your child, maybe he would relax a little.

    In the book "The Bipolar Child by Demitri Papolos” on page 252-253 the authors address the fact that these kids can’t be raised with typical parenting methods. They discuss how asserting authority leads to rages, it’s how their brain reacts. So punishing for everything is actually unfair to this child, just as the book says that parents of a blind child can't expect their child to play basketball on the school team, parents of children with mood disorders have to change their expectations. The book says that we need to become the parent that "our child" needs us to be, not the parents that society wants us to be. The books says that this requires superhuman love, we have to modify our parenting skills and be brave, very brave. We are warned that we won't win ”Parent of the year award” and that we'll be met with criticism that we are spoiling our child.

    So in the end, if you can’t change your step father's perspective, you’ll have to do the even harder thing and ignore your step fathers criticism. (I know, easier said then done!) In the end what really matters is that you’re doing what’s best for your child and only you can know what that is, trust yourself and know that you are not alone in this.