Sister is watching the Princess Sophia in the family room while I’m hiding out in my bedroom trying to pull it together. It’s been a super challenging week as Shep’s momma. Shepherd has been melting down a lot lately, at school, at home, at church. The tears don’t last long, over half the time they are fake, but the frequency is concerning, plus the fact that it doesn’t take much to upset him. Transitions feel nearly impossible some days. Recently, since school started, he’s developed a little nervous tic and it breaks my heart to see him do it.
We saw one of Shep’s brain specialists this week. I am told that it’s entirely probable some of the impulse control issues and big feelings Shepherd experiences are directly related to his specific type of injury. The part of the brain responsible for regulating those things is incredibly vulnerable to anoxia. After more testing, later in the same sitting, I’m also told Shep knows how to manipulate the situation (this I know) and a 20-somthing-year-old counselor (who I’m fairly sure doesn’t have kids) suggests some parenting strategies I have already been doing for months. I would have pursued it further, but by this point, we’ve been there for hours, Shep is whining and performing his fake cry in front of Doctor and her assistant…and I’m sensing I’m not in the best position to dig any deeper into it. I listen hard, take notes, and drive home in tears.
Shep IS sensitive, it’s always been his nature. And it’s also true that for the first 6 months after Shep’s accident Shep melted down ALL THE TIME but Erron and I were barely keeping it together ourselves. We didn’t tow the line as hard as we do now…Shep wouldn’t have done well with such a firm hand and honestly as parents, we wouldn’t have done well cracking the whip so hard and so soon after nearly loosing him.
But we have firm expectations now, and have for quite some time. At least every other day Erron and I discuss how Shep is handling his emotions, what our strategies are, how Shep is reacting to them. Erron has recently started meeting me down in the Children’s Ministry on Sundays to watch how Shep is doing in Big Group while I volunteer. We feel like we are holding our breath a lot of the time. Erron and I can play it cool in the moment, but when the day is done we exhale and then re-assess. In the morning, I brace myself for Shep’s reaction to the fact that we ran out of his favorite drink for breakfast, and mentally work out my game plan for helping him work through his frustration. My instincts say it’s more than just behavior choices, the science it there to affirm it, but owning that means some of Shep’s struggles stem from his accident. And I don’t know which scenario hurts worse, the chance I’m enabling him, or the fact that his injury is making this harder than it would have been otherwise. Not to mention the possibility Shep is just having a rough transition going to school every day and I’m losing my mind over nothing, just a phase.
I woke up today frozen in anxiety which means Sister gets lots of screen time while I work out this pity party. The uncertainly is screwing with me, Guilt is trying to crawl his way back into my head and start a party with Panic who’s already set up camp. The reality is Shep’s struggles are probably a cocktail of all the scenarios I just laid out. Erron called from work later today and reminded me that whatever the reason, our parenting approach doesn’t change, stay the course, tighten the screws. His advice was what I needed to shut of the waterworks and put my game face back on. Raising kids is marathon, not a sprint….I just needed a little water break. Fine, it was breakdown…but whatever, I’m back in the race.