2013 was an extremely tough parenting year for Aileen and me. I yelled too much. I lost my temper too quickly. I said no too many times. I got frustrated with her when I was the one at fault.
I wasn’t a bad mom, but I know a better mom is within me.
The one thing I know I did right this year is, I tried my absolute hardest to make it right when I realized what I was doing. There is no such thing as a perfect parent and I have never laid claim to be the perfect parent.
Aileen has been through so much more than the average 7 year old and sometimes, I forget that she is only 7 years old. At this time last year, I felt like I was at the end of my rope. Aileen was out of control. Actually, my handling her was out of control. I yelled at her a lot. And I mean ugly yelled. There was not an ounce of the caring, loving mom I know I am. Aileen had a really rough school year and I could not get her to behave in school or listen at home. She was throwing full-blown temper tantrums. Screaming, crying, kicking, throwing herself on the floor tantrums. I literally got to the point of having to bear hug her to calm her down and then she would fall asleep. I finally decided I needed to do something about it. I chalked it all up to sibling jealousy which was intensified because of Braxton’s special needs. I knew Aileen felt like the ‘forgotten child’ but I didn’t know how to make it better.
I called around to several different counselors with tears in my eyes and barely able to speak. I didn’t even know what to ask. We found a behavior counselor and started seeing her weekly. Progress was slow, but I did see a difference. Play therapy helped Aileen work through some of her issues and if nothing else, it was one hour where the focus was all on her and not her brother.
As part of trying to make things right, I learned new ways to get Aileen involved in activities that didn’t include her brother. I tried to spend more one on one time with her, too. We decided to enroll Aileen in T-ball. Although the first game was a disaster, she loved to play. She loved the game. She loved the girls she played with. She loved that all eyes were on her when she had a game. Our family came to the games and cheered her on. She bonded with Joseph over it as well since he would help teach her to play in our backyard. This is when I saw the most change in Aileen. She was happier and she was behaving better. We were getting along MUCH better.
We found other little ways to give her more attention as well and that really made a big difference. It’s not that we were ignoring her before, but we really made a big deal about the things she was able to do that her brother couldn’t do. As she realized the advantages of being the older sister, she settled down.
Despite the bouts of sibling jealousy, Aileen really has been a wonderful sister to her little brother. She is so proud of him and so excited to see the progress he is making. She is his biggest cheerleader and loves him so much. I love to watch them together and know their bond is very strong. We did a lot more this year that we wouldn’t have done last year. We finally got a break in all the medical stuff going on with brother that we were able to go to movies, go shopping, attend birthday parties, and even go out to eat every now and then. It’s the closest to ‘normal’ we’ve ever been. Despite the yelling and frustration, it was still a year full of love and happiness.
About 4 months ago, I realized that there was something more going on with Aileen than bad behavior. I learned about Sensory Processing Disorder and recognized that Aileen was definitely having sensory integration issues that needed to be addressed. All of a sudden, the bad behavior made sense. It didn’t make it right or excuse it, but I understood. I learned new ways of discipline, new methods of keeping her occupied and meeting her needs. We also started Occupational Therapy which made all the difference in the world. Aileen learned new coping strategies even though she didn’t realize she was learning. She made some really great progress in therapy, but unfortunately, the clinic has now closed so we are looking for a new one. I can see a difference in just the one month break in therapy. Now that the new year is settling in, we will be getting back in to therapy as soon as we can.
Overall, 2013 was a year full of trials and tribulations, situations that taught me more about parenting and listening to my daughter. As always, she has helped me to become a better mom and despite my shortcomings she will run up to me and hug me and tell me that she loves me. She will tell people that she has the best mom ever. She looks at me like I can do anything in the world. Sometimes, she gets on my last nerve. Sometimes, I’m the worst mom ever (usually when she doesn’t get her way). And sometimes I’m just some old lady. A few months ago, she literally asked “Mom, was it black and white when you were born?” WTH?! How old do you think I am!!?! Aileen has the amazing ability to make me laugh all the time. She is incredibly smart and witty. I’m proud to be her mom. I won’t always get it right, but I promise with everything in me, to TRY and to always do my best.
This morning, Aileen randomly said ”Mom, you like how I woke up right when you told me? I woke up the first time because this is the new me. Listening, respecting others always, following the rules, no back talk,and behaving better than the old Aileen.” How’s that for a New Year’s Resolution? My goal this year is to be more patient, more loving, more present, and more engaging. I’m nowhere near the perfect mom, but in her eyes I am. It’s time to live up to it for her.
Cheers to 2014! Can’t wait to see what this year holds for us.