• Dana L. Butler

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I’m sitting in Starbucks (a luxury I haven’t allowed myself much lately, so it’s way more fun now) this morning, and when I initially planned to come here during the kids’ school time today, I dreamed of reading and journaling and intentional self-care.

My heart’s raw today — a few different painful spots right at the surface — and some of what’s painful I’m not yet able to share freely. Suffice it for now to say that there’s a profound sense of loss, accompanied by this fear that, if I cave to it for a sec, will grab onto my throat and not easily let go.

Pardon my vagueness here — I’ll share more when I’m able. For now, if you pray for me, would you ask Jesus for peace that surpasses understanding? For a continual, profound sense of His companionship with me? His carrying me?

*****

Isaac’s struggling more lately. Have I told you that? I’ve recently spent unprecedented hours of what would normally be my “me time,” trying to come up with various ideas and solutions to help him better cope with life.

His imagination is unbelievable. Literally. Which is both a great strength and a massive liability. Bless his heart — in any situation that has remotely provoked any anxiety, the kiddo cannot distinguish between reality and imagination.

Classic example: this ongoing conversation about two boys at his school who’ve been verbally unkind to him maybe a handful of times, but the story grows and morphs in his mind into the boys having “attacked” Isaac, choked him, kicked him, stomped on his feet. It’s not real, but it’s real to him, as is the resulting fear.

So I spend hours in conversations and emails with his morning Kindergarten teacher, his Tuesday and Thursday afternoon enrichment teachers, his vice principle, his school psychologist.

We talk back and forth about ways to help him distinguish fact from fiction, me trying to convey trust in the teachers’ ability to handle these kinds of situations, while simultaneously trying to get the point across that Isaac isn’t your “typical” kid, that he’ll respond to you one way, give a particular explanation for his behavior, and an hour or five minutes later give a completely different explanation or response, totally not remembering what he said a few minutes before. That though the vice principle spent time with Isaac yesterday, discussed with him the difference between true and imaginary stories, and felt like she came to a point of clarity and understanding with him, said clarity won’t last longer than an hour for him. Or, realistically, longer than 10 minutes.

Much of my thought energy these days goes into finding ways to help Isaac experience success in arenas where success has been on the elusive side for him. Music class, his in ability to keep his hands to himself, and his struggle to sit down, focus, work with me on his songs at home. Tae Kwon Do and his nearly constant distraction/annoyance of other kids in his class. His relationship with Maia. His struggle to settle down and go to sleep at night. His moments of borderline hysteria — his laughing in our faces when we ask him to calm down, to be respectful… this complete inability to settle down and find a shred of self-control. It’s essentially impossible to connect with him in those moments.

His psychiatrist recommended that we put together a “toolbox” for him, containing things he can use to help himself calm down. I’ve been trying to develop a new habit lately — strongly suggesting that he go upstairs and find his toolbox, that he take responsibility for calming himself down before we have to take that responsibility and he earns a consequence.

It works sometimes. He heads to his room, plays with his rubix cube, his slinky, his necklace that he can chew on when he needs to bite something, and more often than not, if he can get himself up there and sit with that stuff for a few minutes, he’s learning to kind of reset himself.

It’s the little breakthroughs that bring the most profound gratitude.

A day’s passed since I began writing this post. Last night’s Tae Kwon Do class? It was epic. Isaac did massively better. Hands-to-self issues were minimal. Self-control was markedly improved. His attention span was greater.

I could’ve cried.

Wednesdays are our crazy days — Tae Kwon Do is followed immediately by music class. His attention and coping skills were markedly improved in music also, and the half hour after music class found us at Target looking for a new toy — a reward he’d worked hard for, having done a much better job focusing in our music practice sessions over the last week. His excitement and tangible sense of success was such refreshment to my heart.

*****

My heart’s been tired lately. More so than usual. I know

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