This week’s Meet A Mom Monday features Jerin. Jerin is a mom of 4 special needs kids and just recently got married and is starting a new chapter as a blended family. Below you will find Jerin’s answers to the same questions I answered last week. You can find my answers here.
- Tell me about your family.
Our family is like most American families, I think. We have a mom, stepdad, biological dad, stepkids, and my kids. As a mom of kids with special needs (my words for their needs and extra care) I found that it was difficult to find someone who would be willing to parent with me. His kids are all adults, though his youngest two come and help with my kids quite often. My kids are now twelve, ten, eight, and seven years old. With all four of these kids having their own special needs, sometimes our life is in complete chaos. It is getting better as they grow older.
My oldest boy is a great help to myself. We use his need for structure and rules to help us around the house a lot. Like most first born children, he strives with being the one next to the adults in the house. He needs a little more reminders than most twelve year olds. I don’t mind giving it, but it frustrates his father a lot. He loves learning to cook, and he rushes through his school work everyday just to play on his electronics for most of the time. He likes being alone, for the most part, and also goes into full body imagination play at times. His diagnosis is Autism Spectrum Disorder (high functioning) and ADHD. I love watching his videos on his phone that he has made, and he helps a lot when I have sick days. I just have to keep reminding him that he has the stove on.
My second child, also a son, is ten years old. He is stubborn and loves to tease his siblings. He has convinced many of the others to break rules just for fun on his part. With all of this, though, he is kind hearted down inside. He wants to become a veterinarian when he gets older, and I see it happening. He is the one who loves sports, but is quiet and calm enough to be with his grandma during sports programs every week. Even with his love of sports, though, he is only in taekwondo (one belt away from becoming a black belt). His needs are physical, and he often doesn’t like to admit when they are becoming a problem. He hated school right away as a preschooler when he realized that his teachers couldn’t understand him, and he struggled to follow along with the hearing classroom. He has Central Auditory Processing Disorder, and this means his ears work when his brain just can’t hear correctly. He did years of learning to hear sounds and to talk properly (we still struggle with new words and he uses lip reading very often). He also has an intestinal and colon issue which leaves him many times during the week in a diaper. His dream to care for animals, though, isn’t going to make his physical problems any issue.
My oldest daughter is eight, but emotionally about the age of a two or three year old. She is very cuddly most of the time, and she wants to be a “boss” in the Marines when she grows up. She loves doing her school work, too. Most of the time she wants to be with the adults. Her special needs are due to Childhood Depression, and now she is being tested for other behavioral problems (looking into severe ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, or an aggressive anxiety disorder). She is also the only child in this house that is on a prescription medication for her problems. She is on anti-depression medications that we found she is doing very well on. The chaos that surrounds her makes our family outings sometimes non-existent. Then other days she is doing so well that she can go with the others to the park and be an eight year old. We have to gauge her every hour in this house. I have had to turn the car around and just return home instead of going someplace fun due to her behavior. This doesn’t help my oldest and my youngest who need strict rigid structure and expectations every second of their days. I am sure, though, that we can find her help as we get to more medical advances in our country. One day she may be able to go to boot camp and become a Marine
Then comes the youngest, but she certainly doesn’t like being last in anything. My seven year old can seem very bossy. This is actually her anxiety coming into play, though. Even with anxiety, she told me that one day she will be a princess on TV. She already loves acting, play acting, modeling (she was in an advertisement for our local museum with my eight year old), and loves dressing up. Currently most of her wardrobe that she will wear are costumes instead of the drawers of “regular” clothes we have for her. She is diagnosed with many types of anxiety disorders, but her therapy is doing wonders as she is growing. Anxiety in such a small child can be easy to miss, but we caught hers early enough that she may never need medications to help. She still has random crying moments, shaking times, or just blank staring when she becomes overwhelmed. She sleeps with a light on during the night, too, because she wakes from nightmares often. Still, everyday, I can see her being in front of cameras all grown up and showing the world that even anxiety can’t keep someone stuck inside.
3.What does the world not understand about your child?
With having so many different children, I know our family can seem crazy when we are out in public. I promise you, though, I have learned many ways to keep them from harming you or themselves.
4.How can a passerby help you during a challenging moment? (Example open a door when your hands are full, help with other children during a meltdown, keep walking and don’t stare etc.)
Even the other day, while we were in the mall, I could see people staring at us. I could see the questions as I tried to keep the eight year old from running off on a whim. The eyes followed as my seven year old teared up with worry that someone would kidnap her sister if she took off too far. My oldest ran into a few people, as well, because he just was in his own little world while walking. I know my second child needed a diaper change (I promise that is exactly where we were headed to do, but the “family” bathrooms are only in one place in the mall and so far from where we needed to be.) If I am not trying to battle a child into a hold, then feel free to ask me. Please just stop staring and judging. I know it is hard (I was that young person once without kids who would have the most well behaved kids once I had them). It isn’t easy on us, either. I may not seem to be punishing them or trying to correct them, but I know what works on them. I have had adults come up and start yelling at me for my kids “unsocial” behavior, and I will not just yell back, “HE HAS AUTISM!” or “SHE HAS ODD!!”
5. Would you prefer curious people come up to you or your child and ask questions or mind their own business?
If you see a family struggling, come and ask us. Give us a knowing smile. I cry late at night after bad days and remember the people who give me the “it will be okay” smile. If we are out of the crisis mode of whatever just happened, then I would love to inform you of their diagnoses’. It does help when we go out to have a large group of people rooting for us to be accepted. I think my kids will all gain their own strengths in this world with more people cheering them on.
6. What is your biggest hope for your child’s the future?
In the future, I just can hope that my children acknowledge that I wasn’t perfect. I hope to see myself with them still, and doing family gatherings together. If I could ask my future self anything, it would probably be, “Did we do a good job?” I hope that my future self could smile and say back, “They have grown up so well.
7. What do you wish you could tell yourself at the beginning of your special needs journey?
If I could go back to the beginning, back when my 12 year old was a baby, I think I’d tell myself to stop being such a judgemental prick. I was so bad that I blamed myself for his crying everyday, as well. Being already judgy of others, meant that I also could not accept that my children were just who they were. I struggled a lot. I cried a lot. I think, though, that seeing them grow to where they are now would have helped when they were babies. Even just eleven years later we have all grown here.
8. Do you have any words of encouragement for other special needs moms?
The biggest thing I would tell a mom dealing with children that have more needs than most would be, “You’re not alone.” I know it can seem like we are crying by ourselves in our rocking chairs at night, but really we are a lot bigger community than we realize. From dealing with ADHD to medical issues, I think we can work together to become each other’s sounding boards and cheerleaders. We need to stop judging and criticizing, and just hold our screaming kids while laughing about life together. It is hard when cleaning up messes or sitting in the Emergency room, but together we can all get through these tough moments. As parents in this world, we need to have more understanding coffee dates instead of locking ourselves in the bathroom for crying sessions. Reach out. We can all come together if we did.
In addition to being a mom to the 4 kids,new wife, chef, dishwasher, laundry doer, and head owie kisser, she is also a self-published author. More information about her books can be found on her website here.