But T had a loving stable first year of life with just one foster family – adopted children often go through multiple homes before finding their forever home (and sometimes not!) – who were just incredible.
I was also blessed to take a 30-week adoption leave and spend those key months building a bond with T. How I miss those early days.
I would say that attachment was, for the most part, not a big issue for us but there was certainly a period for me of feeling insecure as a parent.
When T was 2, about a year into living with us, we went through a period where he went back and forth in favouring Daddy (the hubby) over Papa (me).
Not that it was ever a competition, but I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t nice or enjoyable when I was the centre of his attention.
Vice versa, it was never fun when I would try to console him, pick him up, carry him, or play with him and he’d scream loudly, “I want Daddy!”
It was the absolute worst when it was always in public or in the company of family and friends.
I remembered feeling so annoyed whenever my mom would make comments like the hubby seemed like a better parent. Again, Asians have that no filter bluntness!
It is a healthy and normal part of a child’s development to favour one parent or another.
So our kindergartener is done with carrots and said as much during lunch at school!
T had a great first week back at school and we hope the momentum continues.
But on his first day back, we got a note in his daily log that he dropped the F-bomb after he opened his lunch and got frustrated we packed carrots after he said he didn’t want them anymore.
His child and youth worker heard the incident and put him in timeout for five minutes.
The hubby’s eyes widened when he read the log and told me about it as I chopped vegetables.
“He must really not like carrots,” I said and wondered if I should pack a bar of soap with his lunch the next day.
The F-word was the bane of our existence last year. He picked it up from a kid in his class and although he didn’t know what it meant, he knew it got a reaction out of people when he said it.
Our behaviour therapist advised the best response is planned ignoring. Thankfully, we haven’t heard the word again since last Spring nor have we heard it again this week!
To be safe, it was cool cucumbers for lunch for the rest of the week!
And I’ll probably wait a bit before I introduce Brussel sprouts. Who knows what kind of a verbal reaction that’ll get out of him!
Our T is a very picky eater.
I know it’s not uncommon for kids to be picky eaters, special needs or not.
In T’s case – and for other kids with similar prognosis – I wonder if it is a taste, smell, and/or texture issue. I’m not sure!
I miss the early toddler days when we could just shove anything in his mouth.
These days, all he will eat is toast. He’ll gladly eat plain toast for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sometimes, he’ll tolerate butter and if he’s adventurous, he’ll have jam. No peanut butter or deli meat though!
He’ll eat instant noodle ramen without the broth or spaghetti without sauce.
Don’t even try meat. There was a time when I could pulverize ground beef into pasta sauce until it’s unnoticeable, but those days are behind us.
There was a time when he loved to eat cheese and yogurt and that’s where he got his main source of protein. Thankfully, he still drinks milk.
He loves fruit – all kinds of fruits, so he gets his main source of vitamins from fruit as well as his daily multivitamin supplement.
The only vegetables he’ll eat are carrots (not anymore), cucumber and corn on the cob.
So the hubby and I resort to giving him a bottle of Pediasure – or vanilla milk as T calls it – once after breakfast and once after dinner, so he gets the key nutrients each day. Boy, do we ever feel judged when we tell people about this!
T has very slowly become a bit more willing to try meat. He went through a recent phase of wanting protein-rich eggs every day, but he’s over them.
He loves his McDonald’s nuggets and chicken tacos from Taco Bell. We try not to do fast food too much but we also recognize it means he’ll eat “meat” and something other than toast.
As the hubby points out, there’s lettuce and tomato in a taco. So there you go – judge away!
I long for the day when T can have an adventurous love of food like the hubby and I.
It’ll be fun to share our love of food with T one day – not to mention, it’ll be nice to not have to prepare two different meals!
The hubby and I like to explore all kinds of cuisine and we are lucky to live in a part of the city that is very diverse in cuisine and the prices are cheap compared to the downtown core.
During the current lockdown, we look forward to every Saturday night being a night to get takeout and try a different restaurant.
It’s a nice break from having to cook and to eat our own cooking.
It’s also a nice way to support local businesses during these challenging times.
Some highlights from the last few weeks included Caribbean…
… And last night, we tried Malaysian.
I’ve also been cooking a lot to pass the time and as a wellbeing and therapeutic exercise.
I recently made a Hong Kong style Tomato Beef on the Instant Pot that was a hit with the hubby.
Every time we have these meals, we always ask T if he’d like to try some.
Raising explosive children like T is hard but ultimately rewarding.
One of my favourite verses in the Bible is 1 Corinthians 4:13 which states that “Love is patient, love is kind… it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs…It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
It’s the belief that love is unconditional.
In T’s trying moments, I can tell you I ain’t reciting feel good Bible verses. Rather, I’m praying for restraint not to strangle him. I’m calling to heaven to exorcise my hell spawn.
The thing with T that I want everyone to know is that his great moments far outnumber his explosive moments. He is such a bright, funny, caring, gentle, sweet boy and he tries so so hard.
I’m always mindful to point this out, because I don’t want people to form a certain impression.
But the thing with impressions is that people remember the explosive moments.
It takes a real special person to see beyond the explosive moments.
In our journey with T so far, we’ve been blessed with these special people. So it hasn’t been all bad!
Remember, it’s Brain Not Behaviour.
One virtual schooling moment I can now laugh at was during virtual gym class.
T’s teacher was teaching the class about mindfulness to help calm their inner “Angry Beast.”
T was off camera having a full-on meltdown. He was screaming, pushing chairs down to the ground and yelling at us to shut up because we kept encouraging him to participate.
I looked at the hubby and joked that we should go on camera and turn on our mics so the class could see T getting an A+ for his angry beast.
FASD is a spectrum so every individual is affected differently. But there are commonalities.
For T, it manifests in hyperactivity, difficulty in focusing, challenges with regulating his emotions and extreme impulsivity.
In the past few months, T has started to have explosive moments of rage.
A little thing can set him off and he’d go from 0 to 60 in seconds, often times screaming loudly and storming off into his room. Doors are slammed, followed by intense bursts of screaming.
He is often able to calm himself quickly but just like a real explosion often only takes seconds, T’s moments leave behind emotional debris.
For an already stressed out family dealing with the challenges of virtual schooling, working from home and lockdown measures in a pandemic, T’s moments throw our day off track.
I do not always react in a calm or measured way. I’m trying to do better but we’re all human.
One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned – and one that I am still trying to internalize – is that it is brain not behaviour.
Because of the effect of prenatal alcohol exposure to T’s brain, there are certain things that will be lifelong challenges for him.
When he has a meltdown, I remind myself that he is feeling overwhelmed and he does not have the executive functioning to calm himself down.
Similarly, when he is having an explosive moment, I remind myself to not douse the moment with gasoline by trying to lecture him. I ride it out, because they are often short lived. Then I try talk to him.
Kids like T are not intentionally explosive. They are triggered by something and they are not wired to deal with it in the same way a neurotypical child is able to.
It is every bit as challenging and hard to deal with as you are imagining!
But we are working on it. We are thankful to have an amazing team supporting T and our family.
It is not going to be easy. I envision harder days ahead. I am prepared to meet people who will make life hell for T simply because they do not understand his condition.
As always, we are taking it one day at a time.
I love our T for who he is.
T is the complete opposite of who I was as a child.
He was probably the kind of kid I would never have hung around or would’ve been irritated by.
But I love him for who he is, even though he can be irritating as hell at times.
And that, I think, is what he teaches me every day about love: to embrace the imperfections and to always persevere and to hope.
We all got into the Valentine’s spirit.
After I gave T his Valentine’s gift, we went out for a morning walk.
The sun was shining so beautifully and felt so rejuvenating and he sled in the park.
When we got home, the hubby was up and shoveling the driveway.
“Happy Valentine’s, Daddy!” He shouted and ran down the sidewalk to him. The hubby scooped him up and gave him a big hug.
When we got inside, I gave T a heart-shaped box of chocolates to give to the hubby.
Then the hubby gave T a Valentine’s card the two of made together at class to give to me.
Then I asked T to give the hubby the card we made together earlier in the week.
I love how his hearts have smiley faces, arms and legs! And lately, he’s been adding very pronounced eyebrows to all his faces!
We relaxed at home all day and then went for a family walk together in the afternoon. I couldn’t get enough of the sunshine.
It was also Chinese New Year, which my family celebrates, so I picked up takeout for dinner.
Meltdowns, daily battles, frustration with getting T to sit and focus, embarrassing moments of T throwing a fit while I’m leading a work meeting.
Nothing says team building like a 5 year old having a full on rage moment in the background and screaming “Shut up, I’m going to kill you!”
But we survived!
As with everything in our journey with T, it is important to look at the big picture.
I choose to focus on the gains T has made. I will celebrate the positive moments, because these are what I look back upon one day with rested eyes.
Our Bright Little Boy
Currently, T is doing well academically. It’s true the hubby and I spent most of the last six weeks playing catch up with him on a one-on-one basis, because it was a fucking nightmare to get him to sit still through a lesson.
But when we got his focused attention – often shortlived – he demonstrated he understood the concepts and completed the work quickly: beginning and ending sounds, counting, simple addition, patterns, graphing, symmetry.
His Amazing Teachers
We are so fortunate to be with a school that gets T and supports him. His teacher and dedicated Child and Youth Worker are so organized and structured each day with the same schedule, because routine is so important for kids.
Using tools such as Google Classroom, they made it easy for the hubby and I to follow along and if needed, to catch up with T afterwards if he was unable to sit through a lesson.
Starting in Week 4, the Child and Youth Worker scheduled 20 minute one-on-one daily check ins with T.
While our check ins were not always successful, we’ve had more wins than not.
She did simple activities with him – virtual scavenger hunts were always a hit – and it allowed T to continue that important relationship with her, because she is such a key person in his academic life this year.
Trying Not to Sweat It
The hubby and I really tried our best to not sweat the small stuff, because our family’s mental health was equally important.
As annoying as it was for T to walk away from the lesson or to storm off in a rage and slam his bedroom door because he didn’t want to do the lesson, we tried to take a calm approach and to try again later.
Mind you, this was not always the case. I’ve lost count of how many fights we had with T and how demoralized we felt – especially when we saw every child in his class sitting down, participating and doing the work.
Building His Confidence
It was very obvious to us from the last six weeks that T did not like to participate in class. He got very testy when we asked him to share and his Child and Youth Worker and I theorize that it’s related to confidence.
So we are working as a team to build his confidence.
The hubby and I often tried to get him to share his work – because he did such great work when he was focused – and the times that we did get him to share, even if it was just a few words on camera, we could tell he felt proud.
I’ve repeatedly told his teacher and Child and Youth Worker that I wished his class – and the other parents – could see what we saw when T was on mute and off camera when he had clear but shortlived focus.
He often shouted out the answer quicker than his classmates and he zipped through the language and math worksheets quickly and correctly.
More importantly, we wish T could see in himself what we see in him. But life is a work in progress and we will get him there!
Finding the Humour and Joy
Drawing is not T’s forte but we’re working on it.
I tried to build his confidence by sharing his work with his class like it was the second coming of Picasso. But T was not having any of it when I asked him to share his wonky looking owl above.
“I’m not sharing it because it looks ridiculous!” He said with a bemused frown on his face. I admit that I burst out laughing.
I don’t want to give the impression that every single minute of the day was painful, because it wasn’t.
Nor do I want to give the impression we’re raising a psychopath. His bursts of rage are very real and are uncomfortable to experience but we are working with him on it and we know at his core and his best, he is gentle, sweet and caring.
It’s just that the 25% of the challenging moments often overshadowed the 75% of the good stuff, because they just consumed so much mental, physical and emotional energy.
But we had a lot of fun along the way too.
I loved our Friday morning art classes – don’t you love the Valentine’s bear I drew this morning?
And really, you gotta laugh at the shit we had to deal with. Like when I stepped aside for 5 minutes to respond to a work email and I looked up at T and he had a banana peel on his head, making funny faces at his class.
You have to laugh, because the alternative is to commit yourself to an asylum.
And I looked forward to the end of each work day when I logged off and T and I went for a long walk in the fresh air!
The Challenges and Potential Are So Clear
The one nice thing about virtual schooling is that it provides parents a rare and up close look at how their children are doing in school and learning, because that world is often separate from us.
For us, it allowed to see upfront T’s behavioural challenges, how easily frustrated he gets when he doesn’t understand something or when he refuses to do an activity, his challenges with regulating his emotions, his inability to sit still and focus on a task for too long. The list goes on.
I worry about how these challenges are going to affect him when he moves on to Grade 1 next year, when it is a less play-based environment and more of a you-have-to-sit-down-and-listen-and-do-your-work.
But the hubby and I are going to take it a day at a time. That is all we can do and there are still 4 months of school left and for a kid T’s age, that is a lot of time for growth still.
Let’s just hope there’s no more disruption, please!
As our final days of virtual learning came to an end this week, I caught T walking around our living room with a marker.
I asked him what he was doing and he told me that he was putting a check mark on all his worksheets that I had put up on our walls.
I stood there for a moment and realized that we had filled up the two long walls with his completed work and were starting a third wall.
Some times, you get so caught up in the daily grind that you forget to take a step back and see that despite the frustrations, T got a lot done these last six weeks!
And I told him that we were proud of him.
On our last day of virtual school today, I sent his teacher an appreciative note to thank her, T’s Child and Youth Worker and the rest of the school team for how awesome they’ve been.
And she sent back a wonderful note to the hubby and I. I’ve shared an excerpt below:
“… Thank you to both you and (the hubby) for joining us and persevering. I know it was hard during the best of times. (T’s Child and Youth Worker) kept me posted. You are amazing. How easy it would have been to walk away and say T didn’t want to or feel like it. I am truly amazed at all you accomplish with him…”
I teared up when I read it – not because I was looking for praise or an award for doing my job as a parent.
But it felt nice for someone to understand just how hard and exhausting it has been the last few weeks.
I wrote back to express my gratitude and I’ve shared an excerpt of my response below:
“Thank you… your kind words mean a lot to us. The last six weeks have been so so hard… (The hubby) and I really try to remind ourselves to look past the frustration, the meltdowns and his behaviour (which is a result of his brain disorder), because there is such a great kid underneath there with a lot of potential. It’s not always easy, because there are moments when he really pushes everyone’s buttons! … So thank you to you all at (T’s school) for seeing that potential in him – because that is half the battle in helping him achieve it.”
While it was a quiet lockdown birthday, the hubby and I still found a way to celebrate.
When T woke up on his special day, he stepped out to a hallway and staircase decorated with red and green balloons – a colour coordinated coincidence with his beloved Mario and Luigi.
Our dining room – aka space for work, virtual school and eating – was decorated, including a large gold 6 helium balloon, along with two wrapped gifts we promised T could open following his school day.
T was excited all day. Aside from school and bedtime-related meltdowns, it was a great day.
We started the day with a pancake breakfast and ended the day with Taco Bell for dinner and a Mario ice cream cake gifted from his Ama.
Earlier in the school week for language class, T learned about making lists.
Each student brainstormed a list of 7 items that make them happy when they see them.
T came up with a list on his own and I helped him write them down, as he still doesn’t know how to spell, and he practiced his handwriting by tracing over my writing.
Here is T’s list of things that make him happy when he sees them:
1. My family
2. Birthday cake
3. Ice cream truck in the park
4. Stuffed animals and an owl
5. Swimming Pool
7. Christmas tree and decoration
This is definitely our Christmas, birthday and celebration obsessed T. I was surprised Halloween was not on his list!
But most of all, I was so touched he said our family first.
It’s been a very challenging last few weeks, but I see an end in sight with in-person learning resuming on February 16.
Speaking of things that make me happy when I see it. I nearly cried when our Premier made the announcement on T’s birthday!
For our 40th birthdays, the hubby and I gifted ourselves the creation of our wills.
It does feel morbid to think about life after death as we celebrate this wonderful milestone; the hubby last fall and me later this Spring.
But we are pragmatic and recent events have emphasized the need to plan for the future.
We worked with a lawyer with expertise in estate planning and the process was straightforward. We had scheduled this process before recent events and noted the ironic timing.
Creating a will and related documents, such as a Power of Attorney, gives special needs parents the peace of mind that there is a plan in place for your child’s care if anything were to happen to both parents.
For the hubby and I, it all comes down to ensuring there is a plan for T’s care should something happen to both of us.
As the hubby and I know that individuals with FASD, of which T has an at risk prognosis of, often struggle with managing their finances even as adults, we opted to set up a trust for T, to be managed by an executor, instead of giving everything to him all at once.
The last few weeks have been so chaotic with Ma’s unexpected situation and virtual schooling that I was tempted to cancel the lawyer appointment. But we went through with it and now we have peace of mind it’s done.
Cuz I gotta say, if this pandemic doesn’t kill me, virtual schooling will, if it keeps getting extended.
During a recent bedtime, T and I were chit chatting to pass the time before he fell asleep.
I asked T, “Will you take care of daddy and I when we get old?”
He replied without hesitation, “Yes, I will do everything for you.”
Well, that was reassuring. I almost asked him if he could put that in writing.
Thankfully, Ma is stable and on the long road to recovery at rehab.
Nonetheless, I entered this last week of simultaneous work, homeschooling, parenting, and keeping an eye on Ma with a deficit of rest and a surplus of stress.
Everyone has different ways to manage stress.
I believe in doing what works best for you – so long as you deal with it.
My strategy is to compartmentalize – to deal with each stressor one at a time, rather than trying to deal with everything all at once.
I visualize each challenge as a box. I take one box out at a time and deal with its content and then put it away before I take the next box out.
In contrast, multi-tasking is like trying to juggle several balls or to keep multiple plates spinning on sticks. At some point, you’re gonna drop balls or plates are gonna fall and break.
When I was in the emergency ward doing the overnight shift while Ma was sleeping, I reminded myself this is a marathon and not a sprint. I have to pace myself across 2021 and leave space and time for balance and rest.
I had a total of 1 day to myself during my two-week vacation.
On that day, I put Ma in a box in my head and stored it away. I had full trust that she was in excellent care.
I tuned out and did not respond to text, email and social media.
T was at daycare and the hubby was working. So I spent that glorious morning on the couch binging a fantastic Korean series called Sweet Home. I worked out, went for a walk and took a long nap.
Similarly, for this week’s return to homeschool hell, I took a compartmentalization approach to face what felt like an overwhelming week.
I had boxes for work, homeschooling T, parenting, checking in on Ma, house work, and self care.
The hubby – who is the best tag team partner anyone can ask for – and I divided up the 5 online learning sessions.
When I was online with T, I put work out of my mind – and vice versa.
I scheduled time each day to check on Ma, reminding myself to trust the care that she’s in.
Although the hubby and I worked longer days, to compensate for homeschooling, we made time each day to have fun with T, like taking him outside or to just be silly at home.
Mind you, this all sounds neat and tidy in writing. But it was anything but orderly or chaos free.
T’s meltdowns and resistance to sitting down for virtual learning and requiring a lot of hand-holding made it a trying and tiring week.
But the week flew by thanks to us doing our best to take a one-task-at-a-time approach.
It’s important to take the time to unpack and deal with your stress.
Critics of compartmentalization will say it’s just a way of avoidance and denial.
I’m not a psychologist and can only speak from my experience.
It’s about creating space and time to take out each box in a timely manner to deal with its content.
For me, I visualize it as making sure each box in your life doesn’t gather too much dust.
It’s more challenging for me to do that these days, because time is at such a premium.
But I make time for it in a few key ways, including check-ins with our child psychologist – a wonderful service we’ve been able to tap into thanks to T’s prognosis.
Processing my thoughts through this blog is also helpful.
The hubby and I binged the latest season of Cobra Kai over two nights.
The Netflix hit series continues the story of The Karate Kid movies 35 years later.
I never watched the films but the show resonates with me, because it tells a compelling coming of age story.
The aspect of the story that resonates with me is when the youth characters – often troubled but full of potential – find a new path through the mentorship of the adult characters, who are also looking for redemption.
Thinking about T, a boy with great potential and challenging needs, you can see how I think about my hopes and fears for his future when I watch the show.
Every youth can benefit from a mentor.
A mentor is described as a caring and responsible adult who can help improve the well-being of a youth by serving as a role model to support their academic, personal and social wellbeing.
In T’s current daily life, he has many mentors – teachers, child and youth worker, daycare staff, and of course, the hubby and I.
Even at age 5, the hubby and I already see and anticipate some of the challenges he’ll have as he comes of age – emotional regulation, academics, maintaining friendship, etc.
A mentor is not a fix-all solution but they can help guide T along the right path, to occupy his time in meaningful and purposeful activity, and to also serve as someone he can look up to and model his behaviour after.
I think about the mentors in my life. One, in particular, gave me a chance when I graduated from university at 23. I can attribute the wonderful blessings in my professional life thanks to this person giving me an opportunity and mentoring me.
I wish for the same in T. Because I do see it – and as evidenced by our painful first day of return to homeschool hell today (more on this later) – that he is going to need hands-on support in the years to come.
I believe that everyone has potential and that one key ingredient in helping one maximize their potential is having someone believe in them and guide them.
Thankfully, we live in a city with wonderful programs for youth, including mentorship programs.
I’m aware of programs specifically for youth with special needs. By the time T is a youth, these programs will likely be even more widely available.
I’m thankful T already has great mentors in his life and I hope for this in every step along his life – especially during the challenging times.
And maybe we’ll get T involved in karate as he gets older too! He certainly has the energy and angst to burn.
The wonderful thing about a new year is that it presents an opportunity to reflect on the steps you’ve travelled and to aspire about the steps you will take in the year ahead.
2020 has been filled with slithering snakes – the pandemic, lockdown homeschooling, family health crisis just to name a few.
But it’s also been filled with many uplifting moments. And these are the moments I choose to carry with me into 2021.
As we depart 2020, I’d like to say thanks to the ladders that helped us along the way:
Thank you for Team T – a wonderful group of teachers, educators, and health and social service professionals – who supported T, the hubby and I through a challenging year. The tremendous gains he’s made and big life changes, such as starting medication for ADHD, were made possible with their support.
Thank you for public outdoor pools. The 4-5 days a week of swimming in the summer heat – and seeing T’s joy and confidence being in the water – are among my most treasured moments of 2020.
Thank you for the quiet moments with T – the countless walks in the sun, the puddly rain, the radiant colours of fall, and the snow. Life with T is often loud and frenetic, so these quieter gentler moments are always a welcomed balance.
Thank you to family, friends and colleagues for helping us get through the speed bumps.
And thank you to the lovable little pest T, for continuing to teach the hubby and I valuable lessons every day and giving us the drive to keep heading forward and embracing life for all its good and bad.
Despite the unrelenting challenges that keep coming at us, the hubby, T and I enjoyed a quiet and peaceful Christmas.
T’s excitement was palatable. The last two weeks, we counted down the number of days till Christmas.
“What’s 9 minus 1?” I asked him at one point last week.
“I dunno,” he responded.
“If there were 9 days until Christmas and 1 day has passed, how many days left until Christmas?” I rephrased the question.
“8 days! 8 days until Christmas!” He exclaimed with unbearable excitement.
The trick with teaching kids math, you see, is about putting things into context for them!
Before bedtime on Christmas Eve, T put out a glass of milk, cookies and carrots for Santa.
After he passed out, I took out the gifts Santa (aka the hubby) had bought and meticulously wrapped for T and put them under the tree and wrote a note of thanks to T from Santa.
Childhood is so short and T will one day outgrow Santa, so might as well have fun while we can.
T gave us the best Christmas present by letting us sleep in till 9. Then he charged into the room and said, “Time to wake up. It’s Christmas!”
We put on our Santa hats, took a few family photos and then opened gifts.
T got a whack of gifts from his parents, grandparents, family members and our friends who either mailed or dropped them curbside.
We’re so blessed with an amazing support group of family and friends. Since learning about my Ma’s stroke, friends and cousins have dropped off lasagna, fried chicken and other care packages.
They all understand that time is even more of the essence and gifted us time for the coming weeks.
“What do you think the chances are of someone dropping off a cooked turkey?” I asked the hubby jokingly.
Ma and my aunt each gave T a red envelope, a Chinese tradition of putting money into a lucky red envelope.
Ma is always the first to admit she doesn’t know how to buy gifts, so she gives money to help invest in his future education instead.
I will admit I felt a bit embarrassed and a tad appalled at how many gifts T got. It probably was more than I ever got in total as a child.
I strongly believe in trying not to spoil a child, because they will grow up not appreciating things. But then I let that feeling go this year and I allowed the hubby to go over the top with Christmas, because of how shitty of a year it’s been.
The hubby and I don’t usually exchange gifts but this year we did, again cuz, you know, pandemic.
I asked for Junji Ito’s horror graphic novel, Remina. Because nothing gives hope and cheer like a story about a planet-eating planet.
The hubby and T then dropped me off to visit Ma at the hospital. It was so nice to see her.
She is doing so much better but we still have a long recovery ahead. But we are thankful for every day that she gets through.
I got back home in the late afternoon and just relaxed – alternating between quiet time by myself and playing with T and his new toys.
Whoever invented self-flying drones for little kids must’ve really hated their parents. Jokes aside, it’s actually a really cool toy!
We wavered back and forth between having family over for dinner but we ultimately decided to respect lockdown restrictions and kept it to our family, because we didn’t want to risk anyone getting sick.
The hubby prepared a delicious turkey dinner, his specialty.
I’m not usually a wine or alcohol drinker, but a friend gifted us a nice bottle of rosé – and cuz, you know, pandemic.
2020 has tested our family like no other but the holidays remind us that a family endures and perseveres.
I am hanging onto that hope as we look ahead to a brighter new year.
Wherever you are joining T, the hubby and I from, we want to wish you all a Merry Christmas!
This Monday, Jupiter and Saturn came within the closest distance to each other in 800 years, forming a Christmas star.
It lit up the sky like a white diamond on the shortest day of the year. It was a symbol of hope that brighter days are, quite literally, on their way.
2020 has been such a rollercoaster year. While it’s nearing its end, the challenges continue to come at an unrelenting pace – whether it’s our province re-entering a full lockdown or unexpected family hardships.
Despite this feeling of dark heaviness, I am so thankful there are reasons to feel gratitude and hope.
Firstly, T is in daycare this and next week – so it takes the pressure off us to look after him, as I had originally booked these two weeks off from work to recharge.
I’m spending the free time just relaxing when I can, because my family is about to embark on a marathon as Ma starts her recovery.
Part of my wellbeing regime is listening to music. Australian pop star Kylie Minogue’s music always cheers me up.
I listened to her song “White Diamond,” written a decade ago when she was facing cancer. Its lyrics resonated with me in a new way.
I reflected about diamonds. They are beautiful jewels that are formed deep within the Earth’s darkness from carbon being subjected to intense heat and pressure.
That’s really what this past year has been all about. This is what adversity is about. These moments take us – as individuals, as a collective – and subject us to such incredible pressure, while burying us within a deep darkness that we feel like we’ll never get out of.
But for those of us who get through it, we become richer and brighter because of these experiences and we radiate with a renewed sparkle because of the valuable lessons we’ve learned.
I don’t quite know what will happen in the road ahead, but I know we will get through it somehow and be all the better for it.
White Diamond by Kylie Minogue
I know that it’s getting too much, baby But you don’t need the words to say Sometimes you feel you’re at the end of the line But tonight it’s gonna fade away
You’re looking out from the darkness Feeling so alone and you need a flare Well, I’ve got the light that’s gonna treat you right And illuminate what’s already there
Understand I will be there for you Understand I’m a diamond for you A white diamond for you
And just like a burning radio I’m on to you Your spell I’m under In the silver shadows I will radiate And glow for you
What you see and what it seems Are nothing more than dreams within a dream Like a pure white diamond I’ll shine on and on and on
Life can change in the blink of an eye: our Ma had a stroke on Friday.
Yesterday, Friday morning, was a normal one. By the evening, I was in the Emergency ward receiving quite the unexpected news.
Thankfully, she is awake and seems to understand what’s going on. But her speech is slurred and mobility impacted.
My sister and I are taking turns watching her as we want her to be with family 24/7 during this critical period. Due to COVID, only one guest can be with a patient at a time.
We’re thankful we have such a supportive family. This morning, my mom’s siblings and our cousins around the world joined together for a short Facebook video chat. It made my mom happy and we were relieved she recognized everyone and knew it was Christmas time by greeting them.
I was delirious by the time I went to bed at 11 this morning and I feel more human after sleeping now that I’m back for my second evening shift.
Ma is now sleeping so I’m filling the time as I always do by trying to keep busy.
When I’m stressed out, I try to maintain calm and order by planning.
At 11 last night, I emailed colleagues instructions to look after in my absence.
At 4 this morning, I emailed the hubby to ask him to set me up – clothes, bottled water, etc – in our guest room and to move T’s stuff out of his bathroom into ours and mine into his. I want to semi quarantine myself into that corner of the house as I will be spending lots of time at the hospital over the coming weeks.
I am doing all of this – including writing this post – because I’m trying to distract myself and not to think about more serious matters.
T could sense that something is different. The hubby and I told him that “Ama” is sick and is in the hospital. That’s why I have to be out of the house to take care of her.
He was very calm and compliant today because he is likely picking up on the somber mood.
He left me alone while I slept most of the day but did open the door to see how I was doing at around 5pm.
I started to tell him that Ama was sick and then I started crying. I couldn’t help it.
“Why are you crying?” He asked.
“Because I’m sad and scared,” I said.
“Grown ups don’t cry,” he said adamantly.
I kind of chuckled when he said that.
When we were getting ready to drive to the hospital to drop me off tonight, I didn’t need to ask T 10 times to put his shoes on. He just did it at the first ask.
He also did a short “Feel better, Ama” video that I shared with Ma this evening.
After Ma saw the video, she told me, in a still slurred way, “I want to stick around to see T and the little kids (in our family) graduate.”
I just lost it. I tried so hard not to cry but couldn’t hold the tears back.
Then she said, “I will be fine. Because I am the survivor type.”
We’re not out of the woods and the next few days will be scary. But it is reassuring that she still has her melodramatic flair.
Then one day, S started to play at the park with his dad.
For the first few days, we each kept to ourselves. Then I encouraged T to play with S and to include him with the older kids.
As the days drew shorter, the older kids stopped coming to play. So it was just T and S.
They started to play together. T would initiate his game of tag and S would initiate his own games.
S’ dad and I slowly started to talk to each other and found common interests, like politics.
I learned that S was doing virtual school and was a single child like T.
As with any new relationship, I initially felt on edge about T when he’d have one of his moments; like screaming when he doesn’t get his way or getting into S’ personal space and annoying him.
The worst moment so far was when he took S’ glove, because he felt like it, and was chased by S. S was angry and punched T and then T got upset and pushed him to the ground.
S’ Dad is very understanding and in return, I ask T to apologize for his moments.
But interestingly, it’s not always T who has the moments. I notice S has a strong personality like T and stubborn moments of not giving into T’s demands too.
And you know what, it’s very refreshing to see T get a dose of his own medicine. And to use them as teachable moments.
Recently, while playing in the field, S accidentally threw a hard snowball at T’s face. Cue the crying and tears.
I was just glad it wasn’t the other way around!
But what I’m most thankful for is that it’s been mostly wonderful moments between them.
I love how excited T gets when he runs out of daycare towards the playground to see S.
There was a stretch of three consecutive days when S did not come out to play because of bad weather.
T was sad and cried that he missed S. Then on the day S came out again, T ran so fast to him, screaming, “S!!!”
I am very appreciative the Dad seems like a down to Earth and level headed parent. The fact that T’s hyperactive and loud personality and frequent outbursts have not deterred him from continuing to bring S out to play with T has been a blessing.
He’s confided a few times about his concerns about S. So I openly shared T’s own prognosis and challenges.
Last week, they invited T and I to join them sledding at the park by their house – down the street from T’s daycare. And it was a lot of fun!
I had a chuckle when T’s mom joined us and asked, “Are they friends or enemies today?”
I guess that’s the sign of a good friendship is when you can navigate the ups and downs and still want to hang out with each other.
And I am so thankful for that.
And I love that even during these super cold winter nights, the two boys are still playing in the dark and dimly light playground – having it all to themselves because all the other kids are staying warm inside.
During one recent outing, S asked T if he could go over to their house after the coronavirus goes away.
T then asked if S could come visit our home.
I found that such a sweet moment.
As we left the playground that evening and they walked us to the parking lot, T and S gave each other a big hug.