I have been wanting peace. Needing peace. Our whole family has. But we’ve been going through a rough patch around here and things haven’t been particularly peaceful lately. Awhile ago I shared a bit with you about Bracken’s speech challenges. There was a possibility that he had something called apraxia of speech. At this time we are sure that he does indeed have apraxia of speech and our speech therapist agrees. We didn’t know anything about it and only found some information here and there scattered on the internet. Since then Jeff and I have been doing more research and are getting a better understanding of what we are dealing with. Basically apraxia of speech is neurological damage in the brain that makes it hard to coordinate the muscles in the mouth and jaw area. There are different kinds of apraxia and some people have other areas of their body affected. Bracken only has apraxia of speech. There’s so much to know and more to it than I’ll be able to explain in today’s post, but if you’d like to find more information about it, this site explains a lot.
I came across a blog recently where a mom was talking about her daughter with apraxia of speech and how hard it was for her to nurse when she was a baby. Bells went off for me!! Bracken had such a hard time latching right from the beginning and breastfeeding was hard for us. I didn’t understand why. Why was breastfeeding so hard for us? Why was it so difficult for him to latch? Now I know. It was hard for him to control those muscles in his mouth. We worked and worked together and he was able to successfully breastfeed. I’m so grateful for that, more than I can say. What this realization tells me is that Bracken’s apraxia either started when he was still in the womb or during labor. My intuition tells me while he was in the womb. But what caused it? We don’t know. There’s still so much that people don’t know about apraxia of speech. General information says it is lifelong and that it isn’t something that you just grow out of. They also say speech therapy is very important. I’ve read that it’s related to autism, a branch of it.
But the general information we’ve found hasn’t been enough to satisfy us. We wanted to know more. What causes the neurological damage in the brain? What can we do to help children with apraxia of speech? Jeff came across an online group for parents of children with apraxia. Other parents have shared the best information we’ve come across so far. They share from their personal experience what has helped them. What has made a difference for their children. And they are the most passionate people on the planet about that topic because it has to do with their children. We are deep in learning right now. Jeff ordered some supplements that studies have shown to have incredible results. Once we learn more and try more, we will share whatever we find to help. There’s not enough information available, just parents sharing with other parents, and I want to make more information available for everyone. To make it easier for parents who are first finding out and had never heard of it, either. I’m hopeful, with some of the information we’ve found, that we can help ease Bracken’s frustration. I’m praying.
Practicing speech is so important to make improvements when it comes to apraxia. Sometimes Bracken is really reluctant to practice and it’s hard for me to get him to cooperate. Our speech therapist says “we are asking these children to do something that is extremely hard for them so it’s understandable that they would feel that way.” Can you imagine how frustrating it would be to know what you want to say, but not have your muscles cooperate in the right way for the words to come out how you want them to? I can’t imagine the frustration that Bracken feels sometimes. Lately his frustration has increased. He’s been known to throw a good fit in his day, but lately the tantrums have reached epic proportions. There have been days I’ve been in tears because I’ve reached my threshold of how many tantrums I can handle in a single day. (I couldn’t do it without Jeff! And my mom’s daily calls of encouragement!) When the day starts with one and ends with one and there are many scattered in between, it’s just too many. I’ve read that apraxia of speech also has behavioral issues that go hand in hand. This is understandable since tantrums usually have to do with communication.
Sometimes his tantrums are so odd to me and don’t make any sense. For example, he’ll go across the house and then demand for me to come and get him. Nope, you can walk, come on over. And then he loses it. I would just let him tantrum and leave him be until he cools down, but there have been times he’s been so upset that he has banged his head against the floor and hurt himself. It can be tricky to know when I need to step in to keep him from hurting himself, but also not give in to his demands so he learns he can get his way if he throws a big ol’ fit. It’s frustrating for me when his tantrums seem to be about things that are just plain silly (he liked to see the toilet spin and got mad when I flushed it when he was in the other room) and at times I feel like I’m walking on eggshells to avoid triggers to keep him from blowing up, but I need to remember that what’s on the surface is not usually what the tantrums are really about. At the root, they’re about communication. And he’s just so darn frustrated with it. We want to find out all we can to help Bracken, so he can enjoy life to the fullest. We all want the best for our children, to give them magical childhoods and wonderful lives.
Not long ago we were around other children and Bracken wasn’t playing with them, he was sitting next to me. I encouraged him to play. He loves being around other children, craves it, needs it. And I do my best to provide it as often as possible. He said he didn’t want to play and I asked him why. He said it was because the other kids couldn’t understand him, didn’t know what he was saying. It broke my heart and I almost cried right there. I’ve tried to help translate to the other children so he can still play. And then sometimes, though I feel selfish, I just talk with the other moms because I need the support and connection so much after a hard stretch.
Usually Bracken’s tantrums have been at home, but lately they’ve been happening out and about. At the playground Jeff saw that a few children couldn’t understand what Bracken was saying and were not being very kind to him, as can happen sometimes with groups of kids. Then I told Bracken we needed to go and he wasn’t ready to leave, and well… he blew up. (I couldn’t help but think: it’s usually children much younger who throw fits like this!) I carried him to the car while he yelled and screamed and flailed his whole body. Luckily Jeff was there to open the gate for me, and then walk behind picking up his hat and shoes and all the things he was throwing off. Once I finally got him buckled in his carseat, which was no small feat, he took a long time to calm down. Jeff went into the grocery store and came back and Bracken was still at it. He yelled at me: “go away mom!” and told me he was going to throw away his Christmas present. He was very upset. (It reminded me of the time when I was a little girl and was very angry with my mom, but can’t remember why now. All I remember is drawing a picture of my mom as a witch with a wart on her nose. When she saw it she burst out laughing, which made me mad at first because I wanted her to be mad too, but then I started laughing with her and my anger magically vanished.) I talked to him a lot. But when he is in the midst of a fit or even about to throw one, there’s no reasoning with him. Later that night he whispered in my ear “I love you so much mama.” Of course it felt good knowing that he still loves me through it all, that he can go from being so mad to loving again, just as I did as a kid. And he knows we still love him. Always. I know the best thing we can give our children is unconditional love. We love Bracken with all of our heart. Even though his tantrums are not enjoyable, to put it mildly, I’m glad that he knows he is safe to throw them with us, to let out his emotions no matter how unruly. I might get frustrated, angry. But Bracken knows afterwards that we’ll still love them. He knows that our love for him is not conditional on how he behaves. And there is the greatest sense of safety in that, isn’t there?
I remember a blog reader who came to our market booth one day. She had just read a post where I had mentioned one of Bracken’s fits. She said simply “my child doesn’t throw fits.” And then she walked away. I was a little dumbfounded. Perhaps it was just a statement, but I felt judgement behind the words, I could have just been sensitive. (When you put yourself out there so much, especially on a blog, there are bound to be people who may not think you’re doing everything the greatest and they would know how to do it a whole lot better.) If your child doesn’t throw fits, consider yourself lucky! Maybe you have great communication between you and a peaceful rhythm to your home life. Maybe your child has a pretty easy going temperament. But each child is so different. Each situation is so different. And, let’s face it, parenting is just plain hard. No one ever wants to be that parent. You know, the one holding the screaming child while all eyes are on you. You secretly think, thank goodness that’s not me. Or my child would never act that way or get it together! We all want our children to be perfectly behaved while everyone wonders what a magical home life you must have. Right? But sometimes that person holding the screaming child might be you. And you may not be perfect, but you are a darn good parent because you try so hard to do the best thing each and every day and pick yourself up again each time you feel like you’ve failed in being the parent you want to be. (Now we all know there are situations where children don’t have good living situations, but I’m talking about the majority of parents here.) What it comes down to, is that you have no idea what is on another person’s plate. When I put Bracken in his carseat the other day and we drove away in our car, Jeff turned to me and said something along the lines of: “well, that was embarassing.” Normally I would have felt really embarassed too, and I know I did a bit, but what I felt more than that? Gratitude. Because another mom made eye contact with me and she smiled at me and I felt her heart. And I didn’t feel judged. I felt loved. She had no idea how much that meant to me and how much I needed it after all we’ve been through lately. Sometimes we don’t realize how much difference a single smile can make. So if you find yourself wanting to judge someone? Why not love them instead? You have no idea they are dealing with.
You’re probably wondering what all of this has to do with pictures of the ocean. I just really needed to write about all this, it helps me process it all. (I had no idea this was going to be so long!) But the ocean part comes in too. We hadn’t been to the ocean in so long. The ocean always makes me feel better. Always. Jeff and I have been talking about how we’ve really needed to go. Yesterday it didn’t work out that Jeff was able to come with us, but Bracken and I went and met our friends at the park and then drove to the beach together. At the park it was really windy and cold and I thought maybe it wouldn’t be the most ideal beach day, but our friend had extra layers to share. Bracken and I had read a library book about lighthouses and he had asked me about them. I explained and then told him I would bring him to a lighthouse sometime. Yesterday was the day. We went to the Heceta Head Lighthouse Beach. When we got there we realized the little cove kept us sheltered from the wind, which was a wonderful surprise.
We took a hike up to the lighthouse. We saw flowers blooming! Bracken picked a whole handful of them. We watched sea lions swimming in the water and then we got the most incredible surprise of all- a whale!! We got to see the water come out of the blow spout and then part of it’s body come out of the water. It was magical. As if that wasn’t enough, we had our own private tour to the top of the lighthouse. We looked out the windows at the top and admired the view. After our hike back down, we had our picnic right by the beach. To feel the warm sun on our faces for so long felt simply incredible. While the boys played, I chatted with my friend. I really needed a friend. She listened, encouraged, supported, understood. I started the day with a heavy heart, but after the medicine of the ocean and of good friends, I felt so much more lighthearted by the time we left. And I felt peace throughout the day, a peace I’ve been so needing to feel. I was able to step back from my life and get a little fresh perspective. This too shall pass. I know it will. Bracken was exhausted from all the walking and both of us had a peace that can come from being physically exhausted. It helps turn your mind off a bit, doesn’t it?
As I know I’ve said many times before, I don’t know all the answers. I’m learning all the time, like we all are. Sometimes I remember to change scenery as quickly as I can if I feel a fit coming on and it works great and other times I cuss and then feel like a failure (it’s such an icky way to communicate, really.) Sometimes I feel sorry for myself and think I need ten times the patience that parents normally need. (I don’t, we all need a lot of it.) Sometimes I handle things with grace and peace and other times I get fed up and don’t recognize myself. Again and again I am humbled by life. Humbled by how challenging things are sometimes. Humbled in knowing that whatever challenge I’m facing, it could be so much worse and that I need to count my blessings through it all. Humbled in being reminded that the challenges can show us- loud and clear– what is really important in life. Love. Family. Friends. Each other. Humbled in deeply knowing that every challenge in my life can actually open my heart wider. To myself. To my family. To the people around me. And to everyone I come across in this world. Because really, we’re all in this together and we all need each others’ love to get through it all.