When Harry Met Sally. And if you haven’t seen the whole movie, what’s wrong with you? But it’s the scene in the restaurant where Sally convinces Harry that maybe, just maybe, not all of the girls he’s been with have had actual orgasms. That maybe some of them were faking it. She proceeds to show him how they might have done that. Right there in the restaurant. Now that part of the scene is hilarious but immediately afterward, a sweet little old lady-played by the director Rob Reiner’s mother in case you didn’t know-delivers one of the best lines of the film. To give you a little Monday giggle and make sure you read the rest of today’s blog, here’s the clip.
The point of that little story is jealousy. We’ve all felt it. That little (or big) green monster has reared its ugly head probably more times than we want to confess. There’s always times when it seems a relative or a neighbor or a friend or a co-worker has it all together and you just can’t measure up. When you’re a parent with a RAD kiddo, it seems like it’s happening ALL THE TIME.
When August started having school trouble, my jealousy stayed in check pretty well. I mean, shouldn’t people feel sorry for me and my sweet injured boy who is struggling so? Then we had to hold him back a year in school and then the run-ins with the law started and somehow his sweet injured self wasn’t so cute anymore. And as much I tried to keep myself from it, I started to feel jealous of parents in church and in my neighborhood who didn’t have to worry about taking their child to his probation meetings on Saturday mornings or the alcohol diversion program at 13 years old. And fast forward to today, I have just in the last month shared with my new church family that August is in prison. I’m watching friends from high school become grandparents and announce their children’s college graduations and weddings. And here creeps that large green monster once again who robs me of being able to feel true joy for them in the midst of my grief.
Not surprisingly, today is again an attempt to provide you all with some helpful tips that just maybe by typing them I will get some help for myself in the process. Here are five ways to handle jealousy when it whacks you upside the head (which may not be what it feels like to you, but does to me!)
- Be a copycat. When something wonderful happens to a friend and you are immediately jealous, use that. Follow your friend’s example. Maybe you walked into your friend’s house and she’s completely renovated her kitchen. You may not be able to do that but you can change something that will make you happy. Buy new hand towels or a new curtain. If a friend is going on a luxurious cruise, plan a fun weekend getaway. Do something similar enough to make you happy.
- Practice gratitude on social media. Holy moly do NOT compare your life to someone’s life on Facebook! That is for sure a recipe for disaster! Studies have shown a direct connection between depressive symptoms and the longer time people spent on social media. So use social media, but spend some time using it to be grateful, do some “Today I’m grateful for…” posts. It might lighten your perspective and you might enjoy the responses!
- Focus on your strengths. One of the things I have to keep reminding myself through everything with August is that he’s alive. And he’s healthy. Everything else feels like a hug parenting fail, yes. But now I’m trying to turn my experiences into something useful for other people and hopefully over time I’ll have more lessons to share as August and I continue to grow and heal. Spend time doing what you are good at and what makes you feel good when you don’t feel like you measure up in some other way.
- Wallow-briefly-then move on. Be a good friend to yourself. A friend wouldn’t let you stay in a negative space; so follow your friend’s advice. Have a little pity party then get up off the mat and get back to thinking good positive thoughts. Thinking positive is a much better space to operate from and it will serve you much better in the long run.
- Don’t hate, congratulate! There’s enough happiness on the planet for everybody. My favorite saying is, “It’s not pie.” If you stay jealous and angry you will miss all the good things waiting for you. And you will miss out on good times with those friends and your kiddos and they will miss out on the wonderful that is you. Let them have their moments and be first in line to applaud.
I’m not for one moment going to say this is last time I’ll ever be jealous now. I will say that even writing this makes me feel lighter about how I feel about my own situation so I hope it might be helpful to one or two of you. If so, let me know in the comments, that’s what they’re for!
Till next time,
“If your heart is broken, make art with the broken pieces”
So what do we do? Where do we get our fuel to continue day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year? It takes resolve and training to be resilient to the blows that just keep coming and find some way to see hope and something positive in the midst of all that seems to wear us down. Here are a couple of tricks doctors say will help:
- Let yourself feel sad: I know, right? So here’s the deal. It’s OK to feel sorry for yourself. When something awful happens, cry, scream, eat a pint of ice cream, binge watch Netflix. Feel hopeless. Because if you don’t feel hopeless, how can you know what hopeful feels like? You don’t have to be stone-faced and strong all the time. But watch that it doesn’t last too long because that can be a sign of depression.
- Control what you can: If you’ve read about having a child with RAD this may sound like a page right out their playbook! But it’s true. If you do just one thing you can to affect your situation, you will be amazed at what it can do for your mood. If your child is destroying his or her room, clean your room and put a lock on the door. Just one little thing, however small, will make a huge difference.
- But be flexible: There will be times when there is nothing going right. You know it. We’ve all been there. At those times, you can’t expect to be able to do what you had planned, go where you want, wear what you want, maybe even more dire consequences. But the key is to be able to find a way to make choices that are the best in a bad situation. Don’t be afraid to take that sharp left or right turn.
- Find resilient role models: We have all been through tough times. Maybe you know someone who has been through health problems and survived and thrived. Someone who had financial struggles and started a business and got on their feet. Use these individuals as motivation that you, too, can survive your trials.
- Be a role model: We are all as parents working so hard to provide the best, safest, most loving homes for our children. They are hurt and we didn’t hurt them. I am so angry that my son is paying for what was done to him that he couldn’t control. But now I want to pay it forward and help others with what I’ve learned and what will hopefully help other children. You can do that too. Wouldn’t it be great if all RAD children could learn from our knowledge and care?
- Talk it Out: Having a support system when parenting a child with RAD is so valuable. And it doesn’t have to be other RAD parents, though I found that helpful. There are groups on social media, adoption groups if your child is adopted. Maybe it’s just a close friend if you’re not very outgoing. Me, I’ll talk to anybody! But sometimes when it doesn’t feel good in your heart, hearing it out loud can help!
- Know that You’re Already Doing It: Did your child wake up this morning? Did you feed them? Will they wake up tomorrow? Are you reading this? Then you are doing the work to help your child and be the best parent of a RAD child you can be. You are getting it done. Pat yourself on the back and cut yourself some slack.
That last bullet is the most valuable. You are already doing it! I would love to hear your stories of resilience. Please feel free to share as you feel comfortable.
Till next time,
Say nothing at all. Sometimes a lot of help is…well, too much. Particularly in the early days of a RAD diagnosis, there is a lot of confusion and chaos as decisions are made about what is best for the child and the family going forward. And with RAD being so unknown, many well-meaning friends and family can offer a lot of unsolicited advice. Being the friend who offers to talk about football, music, cooking, books or anything that reminds us of the happy things in life can be invaluable. Or maybe offering to just come and sit in the quiet. You have no idea how amazing quiet can be.
Fall back on a heartfelt cliché. Here’s the honest truth, not a fan of this one. Anyone who’s ever been in my life knows I hate birthday cards that rhyme so naturally clichés wouldn’t work for me either. But in a pinch, they work. A sincere, “I’m sorry for what you’re going through,” can go a long way for tired, sad parents. Don’t be afraid to reach out even if that’s the most you’ve got to say.
Acknowledge specific pain. Parents of children with RAD didn’t ask for this. And they didn’t cause this. And neither did their child. They are dealing with the results of either early abuse or trauma prior to the child’s adoption or early medical issues which prohibited infant bonding. But quite possibly the behaviors their child exhibits may cause shame as if they should be “better parents” and that they should be embarrassed over how their children are acting. This pain over feeling this way about their own children can be overwhelming. Listening to your friend or loved one and helping them take away its power will help it dissipate.
Open the door to conversation. When a family has a child with any kind of special needs the instinct is to hide away. It’s just easier. So as a friend or family member, one of the nicest things is to keep them in the light. Don’t let them go down the rabbit hole of being consumed by the child or crisis of the moment. Giving the opportunity to talk of successes or accomplishments will help keep the balance and remind them that it’s not all chaos and disaster.
Say (or text), “Dinner is on your doorstep”. So not everyone is a social butterfly. Some people would rather pull off their fingernails than initiate a conversation. If this sounds like you, but you’d still like to find a way to help out those families with a child with RAD, consider trading words for deeds. Taking a meal is a great option. If you have children of a similar age, offer to take the non-RAD kids for a movie or overnight. If you are a neighbor, shovel the walk when it snows. These may seem like small efforts but you have no idea how much relief they bring a family who is in crisis mode 24/7.
I’d love to hear other ideas you may have about what has helped you when you’ve needed it most. When you’ve got a child with RAD it can feel very isolating because the disorder is not very well understood. Thanks for reaching out. We love you friends and family!