Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Can You Be Thankful When You're Depressed and Stressed?

Now that 'tis the season to give thanks, I ask myself how thankful should I be?

This morning, I couldn't breathe again. It wasn't particularly stressful but there I go, feeling uncomfortable even though no one is bothering me. Either way, I'm not thankful for this feeling this morning.

Should I be thankful that I'm tired all the time? Should I be thankful that I hate myself sometimes for losing my temper with Logan and that don't spend enough time teaching Spencer anything? Should I be thankful that I'm on the phone half the time dealing with something for them rather than spending time with them when they need and want my attention.

Well, in a crazy way, I guess I can be thankful for some of these things and more. Yesterday, I went to Logan's school for a holiday event. It's a wonderful school full of cheery kids who like Logan have things they need to work on. It's also full of teachers who see the child's true potential and work hard everyday so that the child can be able to do all that he can do.

It was a Thanksgiving Feast and the teacher was smart. She asked us to bring in things that the children would like to eat. There's no denying that special needs kids are picky eaters so why bring in dry turkey, gravy, and cranberry sauce if no one will eat it?

I got to sit with Logan and his friends. He was happy I was there. I was happy to be there and then I realized something. This is the first time this kind of event happened in my family.

When I was Logan's age, my mother worked in a sweatshop sewing who-knows-what for hours and hours everyday. Of course, attending school events during the day was out of the question. That didn't stop her from sending in Korean foods on Thanksgiving day like Sauteed Sweet Potato Glass Noodles with Julienned Beef and Vegetables (Japchae) or Pan-fried Dumplings of Pork, Vegetables, and Tofu (Mandoo).

These foods may sound great to you but you know, kids don't like that stuff. None of my classmates ate my mom's foods except for me but she sent them in every year even though she must have been exhausted from being hunched over a sewing machine all day.

Now here I am, eating hot dogs and "brown sugar butter" carrots with Logan. We are happy and excited. I am talking to his classmates' moms and we are exchanging ideas and information and making play-dates for ice skating. My family finally belongs somewhere and more importantly, I am able to be at this event for my kid. His innocent self can't hide his happiness that I'm there. As for me, I could barely hide my tears thinking of all that my mother did so that I could be here for Logan today.

I guess I am thankful after all. I am thankful that even though I feel a little panicky this morning, I know that I'll feel better soon and I'm feeling so much better than I did last year.

I am thankful for my mom who worked in factories for years and then somehow managed to scrape, borrow, and beg enough to open up a restaurant and make enough money to pay for my private college tuition. I am grateful for my dad for working alongside her when he did and now I am grateful to him for babysitting Spencer when I need a break or have a meeting to advocate for my kids.

I am grateful that Logan is in a wonderful school where the teachers really get him. Both of the children have such great teachers and therapists in their lives. They care so much for them and are great at communicating my child's progress to me.

I am grateful that we've found swimming to be a new way for the kids to develop an "afterschool skill" although they aren't ready to be in a class with others yet. I am grateful to have found an extraordinary and creative swim teacher and community center that understands my children and makes accommodations for them. There are small and great kindnesses given to us everyday and everywhere. My neighbor, a contractor, recently installed a chain lock on my door so that Spencer could not leave our home when my back is turned. He absolutely refused payment.

I am grateful to my friends for still being my friends. I am grateful to my new friends for their companionship and for teaching me to be a better parent to my kids. I'm also grateful for my "internet friends" whom I've never met but send me lots of support. And here's something new: I'm thankful that there are mothers who took the time to write an anthology that takes a fascinatingly bold look at our lives. I hope to write about this book, My Baby Rides the Short Bus, someday in this blog. So far, from what I've read, it seems like a good gift idea for the holidays for any mom.

I am grateful to my husband for being my opposite. He stops me from going crazy pursuing every therapy in the world. Just this month alone, I have made him talk to me about ice skating class, horseback riding therapy, social skills groups, gym classes, and swim lessons and yet, he has still not left me. More importantly, while I still complain here and there, he is a full-time parenting partner when he is home after work and on the weekends. Lastly, I'm grateful to him because he still makes me laugh even though his jokes are kind of dark or corny.

And here is a surprise, even though they throw me in a loops many many times and frustrate the HELL out of me. I am grateful to my government for helping me raise my kids to be strong, smart, and safe. There are so many countries that don't do a quarter of what is done here for disabled children. Today, I am going to have Spencer examined by a city physician to see if he qualifies for a handicapped parking permit. I don't know if every city allows children with developmental delays to get handicapped parking permits but New York City does. If we are approved, my kids will be so much safer and they will have more opportunities to explore this great city of ours. Wish us luck and Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Photo: I am grateful that Logan's school values high quality physical activity and provides it to Logan as much as possible.



I am interested in hearing more about your thinking on the handicapped parking permit for children with developmental disabilities. My son is a runner (as in, runs away from us quite often if we don't have a good grip on him) and as you can imagine, this scares the crap out of me in parking lots. Just the other day I was thinking/hoping/wondering whether our state allows handicapped parking permits for parents of children with developmental would be nice. It's on my list of things to check into.

Jenn said...

Both my kids are runners too and it's like this. If I am with Spencer alone, it can be stressful but if I have a bag and Spencer then it can be scary and stressful. If I have a bag and Logan and Spencer then I need to go home and have a drink afterwards. We deserve these permits. Our children are safer with them. Period.

After I applied I saw the city doctor who asked me how far he can walk and I said half a block because even though spencer can walk five blocks, I can't count on that. In NYC, I have to say that he can't walk far and he needs to be in a private car. Check and Check for us.

Good luck! I am also planning on leaving my kids neuropsych evals in the car because it will help me bypass lines and other things. Our kids never look handicapped so we need proof. When I asked to cut the long snake line at the Department of Motor Vehicles, the security guard asked me for proof. Luckily I had it and I saved about an hour of waiting (plus my sanity and Spencer's)

Karen Griffith Gryga said...


Yes you can be thankful!!! Some times it is hard to do with all of the day-to-day stresses. I am in a bit of a bah humbug mood with the holidays and I am finally giving myself permission to not do everything that I normally do. Slowing down and giving ourselves permission to slow down, I think, helps in the gratitude.

Hey I need your help ... I know you worry about a lot of things as I do ... I really want to figure out a way to help my son really find a hobby that he adores (besides Nintendo DS) ... here is my blog post -- any ideas or am I being too type A?