Everyone Needs to Get Messy, Especially Kids

My kids love to make messes. They’re not as enthusiastic about cleanup. At my most stressful, I tend to stand in the midst of their disaster area and say, “Well, don’t want to clean it up either! What if I decided to stop shopping for food and making dinner and cleaning your clothes??”

But those are not the sort of messes I wish to talk about today. Instead, I want to talk real messes, messes like: mud, water, dirt, homemade slime, and toasted marshmallows.

My 8-year-old came home from his Cub Scout Day Camp this week, his first time going. Covered head to toe in dirt and holding what he’d purchased at their little store, he glowed. They’d spent all day doing fun activities. They watched skits, shot a B.B. gun, and crafted. He had so. much. fun!

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Nothing warms my heart more than seeing deep, satisfied happiness on my kids’ faces. I see it when they are proud of something they worked on. There’s a flash of it when I laugh at a joke they told. There’s an almost tangible feeling of it when they’re arm-deep in sand at the beach, making castles or forts or whatnot.

We parents tend to think that fun has to be expensive. We buy gaming systems or children’s museum passes. We plan expensive vacations. We fork over cash for opening night at the movies and their overpriced concessions. We pay to attend the trampoline park, amusement park, waterslide park, or fun center park.

Why not just go to a park park?

Even if you’re not near a park or a backyard, you can still look up homemade crafts for home. I know slime’s extremely popular. Or Play-Doh. Or -even better- cookie dough.

Hands-on, tactile activities are more important for brain development than ‘strategy’ in a computer game. Interactions with physical materials help ground children (and adults) in reality. And, as I mentioned earlier, creating something with your own hands brings a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Besides, who doesn’t like to get messy?

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Here’s what I wrote this past week:

Sunday, July 14: Advised everyone to go jump in a sprinkler in “When the Summer Gets Hot, Get Sprinklers.

Monday, July 15: “Bedtime Routine Haiku.” If only they’d stay in bed.

Tuesday, July 16: Shared a quote by Ewan McGregor.

Wednesday, July 17: Recommended hitting after-holiday sales with “Shopping Tip 1.”

Thursday, July 18: “Guess I’ll Keep Him” -a snippet about my second son.

Friday, July 19: When life gets overrun with weeds, “Stop and Smell the Bindweed.”

Saturday, July 20: Shared Batman’s Mom‘s tweet about her snarky son.

Sunday, July 21: That’s today!

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

Thank You, Businesses, for Free Events

We’ve hit our bi-annual Family Depression early this year, perhaps due to the combined costs of a surprise pregnancy and the final failing of our faulty water heater. I’d say to let the latter rest in peace, but honestly wanted the plumber to leave it behind so we could axe it in pieces.

At these times I start seriously considering rice and beans for dinners. I start examining the dryer lint and dropped hairs for re-use projects. I snap at the kids for running the water, the bathroom fan, their legs, and the lights.

Candles might be good…

This also means that any summer plans start involving internet searches for free events. I love free concerts, free splash pads, and free movies in the park. “Kids eat free” is another great one, though adding “…with paying adult” limits those of us who are not living polygamist lives.

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And I know hosting such money-less ventures is messy. When kids are involved, things get noisy and broken. Weird problems arise, like a rubber life-sized Transformers doll stuck in the drainage pipe.

Which is why I am grateful for those companies and public facilities that run them. I am.

Someday, long after they’ve retrieved the Transformer and cleaned up all the wrappers, I’ll return with a more mature crew. Maybe when the city is voting on increased funding for public parks I’ll recall how great the parks we went to were. I will definitely eat at restaurants that catered to us and were nice, and stay away from those that were not.

Even today, I leave an extra tip after my children leave behind a whirlwind.

So thanks, businesses and peoples. From one poor, grateful parent; your efforts mean a lot.

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

A Return to the Dentist

Last week I wrote about our first visit to a pediatric dentist. I was, as is evidenced in that post, less than impressed. I felt rushed, pressured, and frustrated. Above all, I could not believe that an office specifically keen to cater to special needs would not take simple steps that anyone working with children ought to consider.

With trepidation, therefore, we returned this week in order to fill my son’s cavities.

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The difference was night and day. I went back to sit with him and no one said anything about my being there. The assistant explained everything and tried to ensure my son actually heard her. She let him hold a few instruments and explained the process. She answered his questions and did not come across as impatient at all.

When the dentist arrived to begin the numbing procedure, I immediately apologized for how dopey I’d been. You catch more flies with honey, true; but I also felt I may have been a bit short-tempered and told him so. To my surprise, he laughed and apologized in return. He said he’d been tired, due to adjusting to sleeping with a CPAP, and hadn’t realized how grumpy he was that day till later.

Mutually apologetic then, we had several good conversations throughout my son’s procedure.

The dentist was patient, happy, outgoing, receptive, and attentive. He was everything I intended to lecture -er, gently suggest. I was so happy. My laughing gas-influenced son was happy.

Heck, the dentist was happy. He’d hesitantly agreed to try filling one cavity but successfully filled three. We scheduled the more-invasive crown procedure with confidence all around.

And my son, proud of how well everyone said he’d performed, got to pick a popsicle at the store.

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Photo Credit:
Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

No One Likes the Dentist, But Some Kids Have Special Needs

Two of my sons are more reactive to life than the other two. The older has an official diagnosis of ADD/ADHD and the younger has ADD and OCD. Both also, whether related to those conditions or separate, have a few autistic tendencies.

How do I know? I’ve talked to their pediatrician about it. I’ve talked to the special education coordinators at their school. I have also read other parents’ experiences online. Two, in particular, are Robyn over at Autism in Our Nest and Gary at Bereaved and Being a Single Parent.

They write about events in their family’s lives in an open and honest way. Robyn has shared how her autistic son and daughter react to what some people consider ‘normal’ life situations. Gary has shared his son’s stresses with ‘normal’ challenges, especially at school. Both have been a wonderful source of information, especially since many websites that list common symptoms only list them -they don’t talk about how, exactly, that symptom plays out somewhere like the dentist office.

Ah, the dentist. No one likes the dentist.

Unfortunately, the scariness of fillings and cleanings and lying back with your mouth open is all compounded with the anxieties of kids with more special needs. Kids like my sons. Kids like my younger son, in particular.

The first time he needed cavities filled (six!!), he panicked. He fixated. He refused to open his mouth and thrashed about and would not even do it for all the things I kept promising him he could have.

(You wait, non-parents: when an entire dentist’s office is getting more and more frustrated, just wait and see what size of free ice cream cone you will offer.)

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Because of that, my son’s first experience with fillings was one he did not experience. We paid extra for a pediatric anesthesiologist to sedate him. (By the way, the guy who came and did that for us recommends it as a great career. He goes around from office to office and only has to monitor relatively healthy children instead of potentially obese adult patients in a high-stress hospital environment.)

But, I digress.

The next time my son needed dental work I was naturally anxious. We couldn’t afford to put him under every time, nor did I think that was good for him. Fortunately, he did much better. He loved laughing gas. He loved the ice cream sundae afterwards.

Okay, okay: I bought him a popsicle.

Fast-forward to just last week. We needed to go to a new dentist. I chose one my neighbors had recommended as good for working with special needs kids. Despite doing well the last time we’d had fillings, I knew my son needed patient explanations. He needed reassurance and friendliness. If he were rushed into anything impatiently he would clam up and refuse to come back.

…And so I was somewhat fuming after the appointment.

Why? My son needs fillings. Again. The dentist wanted me to consider a “liquid relaxant” just before the next appointment. I refused. The dentist cited that my son had been “somewhat difficult” during the cleaning. He also used the word “frustrating” and that he was “not comfortable trying” the fillings without the recommended sedative.

I am morally against giving children a liquid sedativeI have a panic attack when I take Valium, and personally witnessed a young girl pee herself in the waiting room of yet another dentist’s office when my oldest son went for his first time. The poor girl’s mom was mortified and shocked. She told me her daughter was acting drunk and she didn’t know that was what the sedative could do.

Yes, I understand the position of the dentist. Yes, I know he can refuse service to anyone.

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But no, he cannot phrase things so that I feel pressured. No, if he’s that good at working with special needs, he cannot tell my son that he’s “difficult,” when they didn’t even tell him they were going to touch his sensitive tooth with a poky instrument.

I’m not an expert like Robyn or Gary, yet I know some things that should have been done:

  1. Extra time! Spend just a few extra seconds explaining things till he is comfortable to proceed.
  2. Sensory: provide sunglasses for the bright overhead light, and headphones so he can hear the movie and tune out the other noises.
  3. Knowledge: let him handle the tools (when possible) and explain what they do before sticking them in his mouth.
  4. Explanation: tell him what the sucker does and how it feels. Say, “This is a toothbrush. Here, give me your finger and feel how it spins around.”
  5. Provide a way to communicate and LISTEN: give him a sign to lift up when he wants to talk. Stop all activity until you address his needs.
  6. Sensory in terms of tastes and textures: provide a variety of flavors for toothpaste and allow him to taste a bit of one.
  7. Fun: have a friendly and engaging office, maybe with toys or a movie.
  8. Love!! Everything you say needs to be friendly and relaxed, not terse and impatient.

Out of all of those options, they did about two-and-a-half. In terms of a dental scorecard for working with special needs, that leaves them with 31%. Last time I checked, that is not high enough to pass dental school.

Given that, one might think I am ready to write this place off. I’m not. Everyone is human, even dentists. Instead, I plan to meet with the dentist and bring this list along. I plan to see if they can change and adjust. After that, if they are still not willing to work with us, we most definitely will look elsewhere.

…Which is another thing I’ve learned as a mother of children with special needs: I need to be their advocate. I need to speak up for them and tell their caregivers what’s what. Otherwise, we’re all set up for failure; and no one wants that.

 

Photo Credit:
Pexels
Image by renatalferro from Pixabay

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

Rainy Days and Mondays Don’t Have to Get You Down

My husband took all the boys out of the house last Sunday. Their destination: a man-made “beach” and “lake” they’d heard about in the next city over. As soon as they got there, I received this text:

Well, we got here and it’s raining. The little kids ran around outside in the rain for a bit; now we’re waiting for the clouds to pass so we can go out and hopefully enjoy some sunshine later.

They then sat in the car for 15 minutes, waiting.

When I read the text, I remember thinking that I would have just told the kids to bag it. “Well, kids,” I would have said, “Guess we’ll try next week.” A lot of that is that I’ve had them every day all day for summer and am a little lot tired.

My husband, on the other hand, was patient. He had a book to read and a car to sit in and the boys had each other to hit for a few minutes.

The result? They came home nearly four hours later. They were sandy, muddy, and happy. They’d even had a better time for the rain, because they got to play in mud and didn’t get sunburned.

The moral? Sometimes it’s okay to stick with plans and not take a rain check. The kids don’t mind; they even prefer it sometimes.

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Photo Credit:
Photo by Victoria Borodinova from Pexels

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens