I am a firm believer that children should be children. They should be allowed to take their time growing up and enjoy the younger years of carefree, joyful living. Playing in the mud, making up silly songs, climbing trees, exploring nature, catching bugs in jars, popsicle stains on t-shirts and faces, hunting for hermit crabs at the beach, and waking up every morning to a new day full of exciting adventures. That is what I remember from my childhood. If the sun was shining, I was outside morning till night. If it was raining, we watched movies, made forts in our bedroom, and played board games. That's not to say we didn't have worries and fears, sadness and anger. But they were small and insignificant compared to life in the grown up world. We were kids. Kids should be sheltered from grown up problems.
With mentally ill children, it's a whole other world. A childhood of doctors appointments, being poked with needles, taking medication that sometimes makes your belly hurt, assorted therapies, having unpleasant and sometimes scary emotions that you don't understand, getting in trouble much more than other kids, feeling bad about yourself, feeling out of control, night terrors, being frustrated almost constantly, and knowing there is something different about you but not understanding why.
And that's my question.
It's not fair!
Childhood should contain memories of care-free inhibition, adventures, and treasured friendships. When Taz looks back on his childhood, I don't want him to think of blood draws, psychiatrist offices, and rages. That's why I feel compelled to over-compensate by creating as many fun memories as I can. Going to museums, swimming, vacations, Disney World, car shows, going to the movies, gymnastics class, etc. I plan on spending all summer at the beach, teaching him how to swim, building sand castles, and hunting for crabs. Now that he's older, and I don't have an infant anymore, we can take long nature walks and collect bugs and leaves to identify. We can spend hours at the park climbing the jungle gym and making friends.
But most of these ideas that occur in my head work out so much more pleasantly than the real life event. In my head, a beach trip is filled with laughter and learning. Nature walks are peaceful and educational. Playing at the park is adventurous and fun.
But in real life, at the beach, I will try to build a sand castle, Taz will freak out about sand being in his shoes. I will jump in the waves, Taz will cling to me in fear. I will hunt for hermit crabs, Taz will complain the water is too cold. Getting two kids changed into dry clothes for the ride home will make me irritable and tired, especially as Taz fights me because he's hot and tired and irritated too. I'll lose my patience and yell. Chica will get scared and start to cry. We will all be frustrated and hot by the time we get to the car. And I will silently swear never to do this again.
We may go for a nature walk and I'll put Chica in the stroller. Taz is highly energetic so I will assume he can walk the whole way. Half way through he will want to go in the stroller, leaving Chica, just learning to walk, to slow down our pace. The nature walk will last much longer than intended and Taz will complain that he's hungry and thirsty. After he drinks the only juice box I brought for him, he will scream and cry that he's so thirsty and wants something to drink right NOW. I will pick up Chica and carry her while pushing the stroller where Taz is crying, all the way back home. I will silently swear never to do this again.
We may go to the park down the street and I will be ready and eager to make new friendships. I encourage the kids to run and play and be free. But Taz doesn't like the way one boy looked at him and so he's out to get him. Every time he gets a chance he will spit at this boy and call him "stupid". He gets so obsessed with this one child he has decided, for whatever reason I can not discern, that he is his worst enemy. I tell him several times to leave the boy alone but he does not stop. He can not stop. It's a compulsion driving him, like an engine, to hate this child. He will tell me over and over "I hate that boy". I will start getting looks from the other boy's mother. I try to get Taz interested in something else. He may play for a few minutes but is always back to the boy. Then he tries to kick him. And so we leave, while all the moms and dads give us dirty looks. I will silently swear never to do this again.
After this, I will learn that going far from home is never worth it.
It's not fair. Not for Taz. Not for me. Not for Chica.
But it's not all bad.
I may swear never to go out with the kids again, but I go anyway. Because I'm bound and determined to create those childhood memories for Taz and Chica. Even if it ends in disaster. Even if it turns into a nightmare. I will keep trying.
But it's not fair that it has to be so hard.
Next post will be about the good parts of being Taz's mom. It is hard, we all know, but sometimes you have to appreciate the good instead of dwelling on the bad.
What about you? Do you have "delusions of grandeur" and fantasies in your head about what raising children should be like? Are there times you just want to have a normal family outing and it turns into a nightmare? Have you learned to make the most of the fun times you do have?