Tag:

parenting with depression

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Everyone Has Something

by Heather Loeb
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This month my son will be evaluated for ADHD, as previously mentioned. We filled out Vanderbilt forms and the pediatrician said the forms were suggestive for ADHD, but my husband wants a formal diagnosis from a psychologist, which is understandable. My son is only 5.

I’ve had a lot of time to ponder this situation. I won’t lie, when Eli’s teacher first suggested he has ADHD I felt so guilty. I just knew it was my fault somehow. I went home after our parent-teacher conference and googled whether there’s a link between mothers having mood disorders and kids with ADHD. And there is.

But I don’t think that’s helpful. It doesn’t matter that there’s a link or that it runs in my family or anything else. It’s not my “fault.” It’s just something he may have, like I have depression and anxiety. Will we have to adjust some things if he has it? Yes. We’ll do behavioral therapy and look into medication if the doctor suggests it. We’ll do what we need to do to make sure he’s on equal footing with his peers. He’ll be in Kindergarten next year and testing for the gifted and talented school, so we’ll help him with that, too.

Still it’s hard not feel guilty, but there’s nothing to feel guilty about. This isn’t something I did to him — nothing is wrong with him. He’s not broken or flawed. He’s my beautiful, sweet, bright boy who loves to laugh and cuddle with his mama.

I’ve always considered my various mental conditions as an albatross around my neck. But I don’t want Eli to feel that way about his possible diagnosis. Everyone has something, whether it’s anxiety, depression, addiction, problems at home, etc. We’re all dealing with some sort of issue or problem. Such is life.

That’s why we need to be kind and compassionate — you never know what someone is going through. We’re all in the thicket, and we all need support

I’ll be there for Eli, and we’ll navigate this diagnosis together.

It’s nothing more than a bump in the road, but we can do hard thing

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I’ll admit it: I yell at my kids. I don’t like to and don’t mean to, but holy hell it’s hard not to lose it when they’re fighting, whining and screaming at me. Yes, they yell, too. I don’t like that either.

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I’ll tell them something three or four times, and when they don’t listen, that’s when I raise my voice. But I don’t mean to pin my problem on them. I don’t think I should be yelling as much, and as loud, as I do.

Research shows that yelling and harsh verbal discipline can have similar negative effects as corporal punishment, according to MedicineNet. Children who are constantly yelled at are more likely to have behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, stress, and other emotional issues, similar to children who are hit or spanked frequently.

I don’t want to do that to my kids, but why is it so hard for me to not yell? My husband never yells. It pisses me off, although I do acknowledge that the kids are around me more, and they don’t treat us the same way. Why is that? I have so many questions but not a lot of answers when it comes to parenting. Especially when I consider that I’m parenting with several mental conditions. It’s hard and my depression and anxiety often dictate how I parent. I feel so out of control.

At times it seems I’m more frustrated with myself than them, and that’s not fair. And sometimes they cry after I yell, and that breaks my heart into a thousand pieces. I always apologize, but I fear the damage has been done. I talk to my therapist (who also works with children), and she helps me with parenting issues, but it never feels like enough. I’m not enough, not when it comes to my kids.

All I can do is just try not to yell. Practice my breathing when they throw a tantrum or are fighting. I used to count to 10 before I responded in those situations, but my short fuse can make me snap at anything. I can step away from the problem, start acknowledging my triggers and find solutions to them. I’ll do my best to talk with them about bad behavior instead of responding with fury. All this is easier said than done, but I’m desperate to try.

And I’m desperate that they don’t develop depression or anxiety over something I’m doing. They’re already genetically prone to mental conditions (on both sides of the family), so I refuse to take a part in causing it myself.

I can’t stop thinking about their faces when I’ve yelled. I hope I’m only imagining the fear in their eyes. I pray that the good in me as a mom outweighs the bad.

A lot of parents feel like they’re failing when it comes to their kids. We just have to do our best and remember that we’re not raising kids, we’re raising healthy adults.

There’s nothing I want more than for my kids to be healthy adults because I’m not one. Even at almost 38 years old. Even after a stint at a psychiatric hospital. Bad habits and behavior are hard to change, and if you don’t do it early, it’ll be so much worse as an adult. Trust me.

But I can do this. I can do hard things. And I start now. Day 1.

Short-term effects of yelling at your kids

  • Aggressive behavior
  • Symptoms of anxiety
  • Behavioral problems (for example, boys are more likely to lose self-control, and girls may react with anger or frustration)
  • Withdrawal from the parent

If you want the long term effects, go here.
Source: MedicineNet

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Roll With It

by Heather Loeb

Today my husband and I had a teacher conference about my 5-year-old son. It was no shock when the teacher said he’s fine academically, that she’s not worried about that department, but she did mention some behaviors that need to be corrected. For instance, Eli will walk around and get in the kids’ faces and annoy them. I mean, he does the same to me. He gets up a lot, doesn’t always finish his work and he rushes through everything.

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As soon as the teacher (who is amazing) started detailing these behaviors I knew where it was headed. A couple months ago I took Eli to be evaluated for his stutter. I got to stay in the room during the assessment and was stunned. Here he was in a classroom setting (minus the other kids) and he was squirming, not listening, playing with things he wasn’t supposed to, etc. The speech therapist made a note of it in her paperwork, and I remember thinking, “Wow, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an ADHD diagnosis in his future.”

But I put it out of my mind until this morning.

I’m trying (as always) to not put the horse before the cart. We don’t know if he has ADHD. He’s 5 and lots of 5 year olds are like that. We have to do this one step at a time.

Having said that, it’s really hard for me not to catastrophize and assume he has it. Of course I Googled it and couldn’t help search for a correlation between kids with ADHD and parents with a mood disorder. There’s a link. For a moment tears gathered in my eyes. I felt like it was my fault, that genetics have wronged my kids. That I have wronged my kids with not only bad genes but also my behavior and parenting style which is dictated by my depression and anxiety.

I stopped Googling and then thought, “So the fuck what?”

ADHD — and any other mood/behavioral disorder — is not the end of the world. If my son does have it he might need behavioral therapy or medication. Also not a huge deal. We’ll do what we need to do, and it will be fine.

And aren’t I the queen of adapting? There was a time when I thought my life was over because of depression and anxiety., but here I am highly functional, volunteering my time, writing for the paper, and managing the kids and their activities. I’m a different person. I’m not cured; I’ll be living with depression, anxiety, a personality disorder and an eating disorder likely forever. But I roll with it. Any diagnosis he may receive doesn’t define him or ruin his life, just like mine don’t.

He’ll adapt (if he does have it), and I’ll adapt.

He’s still an amazing, loving and sweet boy, and I wouldn’t change anything about him. Not one thing. Through my mom glasses, he’s perfect. Perfectly imperfect.

So we’ll just roll with it and do the best we can do. That’s all anyone can do.

Note: I want to be clear that I don’t have any experience with ADHD and don’t mean to discount anyone’s feelings or experiences. I don’t mean to trivialize the diagnosis. These are merely my musings and do not reflect what it’s really like to live with a child with ADHD.

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I don’t like getting out of routine. I plan things, I never fly by the seat of my pants, and I can be rigid with my schedule. I blame my anxiety on all that; I just can’t handle change, and I hate the unknown. It can really send me in a tailspin.

For instance, Eli has always had a super early bedtime. When my kids were babies, I got them into a bedtime routine, and his just stuck, even though he was going to bed at 6:30 p.m. at 4 years old. It wasn’t a problem until the pandemic hit and he inexplicably started waking up at 5 a.m. Family members and friends told me to put him down later and he’d wake up later, but that was not the case. It didn’t matter what time I’d put him down, he always woke up early. Eventually I got used to waking that early.

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But then Eli started waking up in the middle of the night or earlier than 5 a.m.

I knew I had to change his routine and get him down later, but I procrastinated. The idea of changing it up was so daunting. If he went to bed later it would affect my chill time, which is sacred to me, and also my bedtime. It would change when David and I ate dinner, usually right after Eli went to bed when I could enjoy it and not worry about him.

The more I fretted about it, the more impossible it seemed. So I kept doing the same thing, and Eli kept waking up at all hours, and I kept ignoring the problem until we went to see my parents a week and a half ago. My dad, trying to be helpful, nagged me to push his bedtime back and to do it consistently until he stops waking up early.

Not wanting to hear any more about it (no offense, dad), I let Eli stay late every night while we were visiting. He didn’t wake up at 5, but around 6 or 7. I started to think it was doable.

When we returned I kept him up later than normal, putting him to bed around 7 and 7:30 p.m. This made it easier for all of us to have dinner together, which the kids were first excited about until they learned they had to put away their phones. It was nice, though, once we got past the crying over the phones.

I started to realize that it wasn’t so bad changing things up. We still need to perfect the new routine, but I’m trying to be okay with that. It’s a big step for me, but my whole point with telling you this is that people with anxiety, like me, can build up problems or situations and make them into seemingly impassible mountains. Usually, I have to think everything over, analyzing everything to death and then wait until conditions are right — which is hard because if you have anxiety, you never think conditions are right for change and stepping outside of your comfort zone.

But I was able to do this. Usually if I let the kids stay up past their bedtime, I became tense and punchy. I worried about how much later it was and what was going to happen in the morning. I’d stay tense, which led to no chill time once the kids actually went to bed. And see, I need chill time everyday. I have to take breaks and practice self-care because I get very irritable when I can’t relax and the children (as well as my husband) pay for that. And that’s not fair.

But letting go of the rigidity was so freeing. It was amazing not freaking out Eli’s routine, and even though I have some work to do to get the new routine right, I’m happy I did it. Plus, I don’t have to hear anymore nagging from my dad, lol (I love you and I’m grateful to you, dad).

So my friends, the next time you’re facing a problem, I urge you to buck your anxiety and just do it — make a decision and move on it. I know it’s hard but sometimes you just have to say screw it and make the rules as you go, especially if you’re a parent.

Will I do this the next time a problem occurs? Knowing me, maybe, but I’m going to work on letting go real hard.

If all else fails, I’ll just call my dad.

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I was playing Roblox with my 7-year-old this week when she started to describe someone as F-A-T. I can’t remember what or who it was, and I started to say, “Don’t use that word.” Then I just stopped. Why was she spelling it?

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The truth is I don’t like the f-word, and she knows that. I’ve been called fat too many times, and the memory of being made fun of for my weight still lingers and burns. It has helped create lifelong struggle with disordered eating and body dysmorphia.

But what am I teaching her by not allowing her to say it? She’ll still (like I did) think that it’s not a word that shouldn’t be used, that there are negative associations to it, and that she wouldn’t want to be called fat. I’ve tried so hard not to use it and promote body positivity that I think I’ve swung from one extreme to the other. She should be able to use it but use it the right way.

What I think I should’ve done is not ever given the word any power. I should’ve said fat is something you have, not what you are. And left it at that.

My heart is in the right place, I think. As a mother, I don’t want her to experience any of the pain that I did growing up. I don’t want her to be anxious or depressed, and I definitely don’t want her having an eating disorder or obsession about weight. Like all parents, I want to protect her, and I want better for her. I’m just not sure I’m going about the right way to do it.

I can bend over backwards to try and prevent her from having mental anguish but genetics will play a starring role in how her body looks and weighs and whether she’ll have mental illness. I get that. Maybe she’ll be smarter (and kinder to herself) than I was — that she’ll see only beauty when she looks in the mirror and she’ll have so much confidence that she won’t care if she’s ever called a name. Maybe she’ll be the one to break the cycle, although I’m trying very hard to do that myself these days.

One of the most defining lessons from my childhood was that being fat is the worst thing you can be. That was confirmed through the adults in my life always dieting, unrealistic beauty standards and the terrible treatment of bigger people. So many people still buy into this crap, though. Hell, it’s still hard for me, and I’m almost 40.

We need to do better. And I know it’s difficult challenging ideals that were introduced when you were a child — ideals that are still circulating and doing harm. But we can do it.

We can work out for our health and not to lose weight. We can eat healthy to fuel our bodies. We can stop looking at our “flaws” with nothing but a critical eye. We can say no to toxic dieting culture.

Know better, do better, as I like to say.

It’s very much possible that I’m overthinking my daughter’s innocuous comment from last night. It’s possible I overthink everything when it comes to my kids, but it’s okay to question yourself and intentions. It makes you a good parent. It’s very much okay to challenge your thinking on things like this.

That makes you a great parent.

Now I guess I’ll worry about my daughter using the real f-word, but I’d argue that fat is more dangerous and carries more weight. No pun intended.

Stay in the light.

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I Never Do Anything Last Minute

by Heather Loeb

I was scrolling on Facebook yesterday and someone had made a comment that they waited until the last minute to buy a garter for Homecoming, which is coming up this week.

Just reading that post made me anxious. I felt a knot in my stomach, and I felt a tightness in my chest. I don’t have kids old enough for Homecoming. I think I have one mom friend with a kid in high school. I have no skin in the game, as my dad would say, but it freaked me out nonetheless. The words “last minute” were enough to get me ruminating about chores or tasks I have to get done.

I never do anything last minute, ever. I prepare for events months in advance. For instance, I already have Hanukkah presents for my kids and enough holiday decorations to fill a museum. When my kids have a party or start school, everything is purchased and organized in advance. Not only that, but I mentally rehearse every situation I’m in and even practice what I’m going to say (i.e. during a dinner party). Don’t get me started on last minute plans.

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When the pandemic hit we didn’t run out of toilet paper because I had already stocked that, paper towels and hygiene items. I have enough toothpaste to last a couple of years.

That’s anxiety for you. I’m practically a doomsday prepper the way I prepare for things and worry. One, I don’t know when a depressive episode will hit so I make sure my family has everything we need. Two, preparing for things in advance gives me a sense of control. It feels like I’m not in control when it comes to anxiety, so the only thing I can do is just work around it.

I recently read that there’s a purpose for anxiety, that it helps us deal with stress and meant to sharpen our minds to the flight-or-fight response, meaning it protects us from danger and allows us to react faster to emergencies and alert us to potential threats, according to MentalHealth.org.uk

That’s all fine and good, but I feel that’s speaking to normal anxiety that everyone faces, not a condition like 40 million other Americans and I who have an anxiety disorder. Not-so-fun fact: About 7 percent of children ages 3-17 experience issues with anxiety each year. Most people develop symptoms before the age of 21, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). These are also outdated numbers; I imagine they’ll be much higher because of the pandemic.

For those with this condition can be such a burden or hinderance to everyday life. I experience intrusive thoughts along with my anxiety which basically means terrible thoughts invade my mind, and I can’t do much to stop it. I get panic attacks. I worry about stupid things like lightbulbs burning out and the air in my tires. I worry about things I’ve done and said in the past. I worry about loved ones dying and making mistakes in my writing. I worry way too much about my weight and what people think of me. But that’s the “anxiety version” of me. The real Heather doesn’t care what people think. She’s easy going and preps to make sure her family has everything they need — not fueled by anxiety but out of love and diligence.

As I’m typing this I’m starting to see that there are advantages of having anxiety. It does ensure I’m ready for every possible scenario. My house is already decorated for the holidays, and I won’t have to rush to get gifts this year. My family has everything they need and that’s because I work hard to give them the life they deserve.

That and I’m certainly not going to run out of toothpaste anytime soon.

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I didn’t know what hard work was until I had my first child. I was 30 years old and had never stayed at a job longer than two years, so it shocked me to my core how hard caring for a newborn was. I always hated working and the responsibility that came with it, but this was a million times harder than any job I temporarily held.

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I didn’t have much help with my daughter because my husband was dealing with his father’s death just months before Isla was born. I don’t blame him now, because the loss of his father, his best friend, was gut wrenching and tragic. But back then I resented it. My husband also was dealing with serious family turmoil after his dad’s death and that was almost as tragic. My family all lives in Dallas, but my mom would try to come down and help some.

I didn’t get much sleep; I was exhausted all the time. I was breastfeeding, and I think that made everything harder. I breastfed for eight months, which I considered a feat, but I also became severely depressed and believed I couldn’t take any antidepressants while breastfeeding. My psychiatrist told me that. He was dead wrong.

There was nobody to pick up the slack while my husband was at work or at night, which made the depression and anxiety worse. At the time I didn’t have a housekeeper, so household chores fell by the wayside. I wanted to be like my mom friends who seemed to do it all — take care of a newborn, work, clean the house, etc. They all looked like they were handling being a new mom so well; it made me feel like a failure. I felt guilty all the time, too. I didn’t lose the baby weight I had gained, and my self-image went down the toilet.

I was in bad shape, to say the least, but my psychiatrist didn’t seem to care about the issues I told him about. He told me I had treatment-resistant depression and didn’t change a thing in my treatment plan, despite my suicidal ideation at times. I felt hopeless and wanted a new doctor but there aren’t a lot in Corpus Christi. The ones I called had months-long wait lists.

When my daughter was still little, we decided to get pregnant again. Immediately the depression lifted, thanks to a ton of feel-good hormones. I was tired a lot but it was a nice respite from the darkness I faced after having my daughter. But all good things come to an end. After my son was born I had severe postpartum depression. This time I talked with my OBGYN about taking antidepressants, which she assured me was fine to do while breastfeeding.

Things were different after I had my son, Eli. First of all, I had help; my mother in law moved to Corpus Christi and helped out with the kids a lot. And we were able to get a housekeeper, which lightened my load a lot. Despite things being somewhat easier, my depression continued. I started abusing my anxiety medication and was suicidal again.

One night I made a plan to die by suicide. I didn’t make an attempt, but I was close. I was sobbing and hysterical. My best friend told me to go to the emergency room, so I drove myself and was hospitalized for two days. When I left, I didn’t feel any better, but I did find a new psychiatrist from Southlake who could do phone visits.

I was still suffering though, which led me to enter an inpatient program at the Menninger Clinic in Houston, TX. I stayed there for six weeks. My medications were changed, I was introduced to new therapies, and most importantly, I was given hope that I would feel better. And eventually I did.

I know I talk a lot about my hospitalization, but I have a point — postpartum care, well, mental health care in general, is bullshit. I reached out to my doctor and the doctors at the hospital where I first stayed. But it didn’t matter. I was flailing, about to kill myself, before getting actual help. WE SHOULDN’T HAVE TO BREAKDOWN IN ORDER TO GET CARE WE NEED. I know that not everybody can go to a high dollar hospital and stay for six weeks. A lot of people can’t afford to pay out of pocket for mental health care, which I do a lot. My therapist and psychiatrist don’t even take insurance.

We must change the way we care for new mothers. We must change mental health care and make it affordable to all. One in five adults in the U.S. experience mental illness. One in 20 experience serious mental illness. Only 45 percent of people with mental illness get treatment in a given year. About 1 in 8 women experience symptoms of postpartum depression. These other types of postpartum depression include postpartum anxiety, postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), postpartum panic disorder, postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and postpartum psychosis. It’s not a minor illness; it affects a lot of women on a daily basis.

I feel like if it happened to me, it’s happened to many others (especially women of color) who didn’t fare quite as well as I did. The National Institutes of Health reports this: Nine percent of white women initiated postpartum mental health care, compared with 4 percent of black women and 5 percent of Latinas. Black women are more likely to have PPD and are less likely to receive help.

There’s so much more to say, but I’m going to wrap it up. I just want to leave you with this: We need to do better. Mental health care is health care, and it’s absolutely a necessity.

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, go to the emergency room or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

See below for symptoms of postpartum depression.

According to the CDC, symptoms of PPD include:

  • Guilt
  • Fears of harming the baby
  • Feeling angry
  • Isolating from family
  • Feeling disconnected from their baby
  • Crying more than normal

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This past week was a hard one. The kids went back to school, and it’s been an adjustment to have the kids at different schools. But we’re getting there.

Both kids had a great first week, and I’ll get used to the new schedule. We all will. I’m looking forward to having more time for myself, but I don’t know how realistic is because I’ve been asked to be a part of the leadership team for the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). I’m very excited. I’ll be doing their monthly newsletter and speaking at the suicide prevention symposium in September. I’m very honored.

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I haven’t had much time to blog lately, but maybe that will change with the kids in school. You can still catch my column tomorrow and on every other Monday.

That’s it for now. I hope back to school went great for y’all. stay in the light.

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Let Them Be Little

by Heather Loeb

I remember when I was a kid – the summertime was so magical. No homework, project deadlines and no alarm going off at 6 a.m. I try to remember that now as the kids slow down (sloth speed) on their chores and get out of routine.

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But it’s hard for me. I love routine and its cousin, structure. I thrive on both because of my depression and anxiety. The summers are always hard because there’s such disruption to my day as well as vacations and road trips to see my family in Dallas. Even though I enjoy those things, it’s still hard, and I try to cling to routine where I can. I think it’s the uncertainty that gets me — I hate not knowing but with routine I always (almost always) know what’s going to happen and when.

I find myself getting mad about missed chores, Isla sleeping in late in the morning and later bedtimes. I snap at the kids and even my husband, who doesn’t run as tight a ship as I (who are we kidding, our ship’s not that tight), but then reality hits me right in the face. This is Isla’s last summer before starting “real school.” She’s about to start Windsor Park where she doesn’t know the teachers or students. She’s been lucky with JCC, it’s been a second home to her. But next week, she’ll need to wake up earlier, stay at school longer, abide by a dress code and more. It’s going to be an adjustment to say the least.

Then I hear the voice in my head say, let them be little.

So I do.

On the weekends, we stay in the pool on Sunday afternoons until our fingers prune. We float on flamingo floats, sunbathe on a giant unicorn or pretend we’re mermaids. We eat brunch at the Yacht Club, eating more of the chocolate muffins in the breadbasket than our order. We have movie nights where we buy sweets and make popcorn and attempt to watch a movie that never really gets watched. We have dance parties and stay in our pajamas all day.

We have fun because that’s what the summer is about in our house. Our kids are going to grow up no matter how much routine and structure fills their days. I just think we need to add a little fun to their days, too while we can. And a little magic.

What kid doesn’t need a little magic? What ADULT doesn’t need magic?

I know I do, especially right now as COVID cases climb once again. But I’m not too sad to see summer go. I’m looking forward to the fall months, using new fall decorations for the house, buying Halloween costumes, making Thanksgiving dinner, the High Holy Days and more. I’m getting excited just thinking about it. But I won’t get too carried away. I’l enjoy the days of summer we have left as much as I can.

I hope your summer was good. Here’s to a wonderful (and healthy) fall.

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One of the things you hear as a new mom is that it goes by fast — the days are long, but the years are short. And it’s true. All of a sudden I have an almost 7-year-old and almost 5-year-old. They’re not babies, and they’re not toddlers. How did this happen?

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My oldest doesn’t want to kiss us anymore, and she’s very independent. My youngest is entering Pre-K, but still likes to cuddle and give kisses. But he is starting leave his stuffed seahorse at home more instead of hiding him in his backpack every day for school. He’s sleeping with other stuffies at night, too. This is what bothers me the most. I didn’t expect him to go to college with Weerow (the sea horse), but it’s so bittersweet watching Eli not cling to his buddy so much.

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I remember when Eli first found Weerow, he wasn’t even a year old. I originally got the sea horse at McDonalds in a Happy Meal when I was in high school (1999). Beanie Babies were all the craze then and for some reason, I kept it. It was just small enough for Eli’s hands and soon he carried it everywhere. He wasn’t walking that well yet so sometimes he put the sea horse in his mouth while he crawled.

One day he started referring to it as “Weerow,” and that’s the name that stuck. I found a larger version of the sea horse online so he’d have extra We probably have 10 extras in waiting. Boy, do they get dirty fast. Eli chews on the eyes — well, chews on the whole thing. Honesty, Weerow (still) smells like dirty mop water, but Eli loves it. He still takes whiffs of his pal here and there. Weird, I know, but it somehow calms him. I was hoping we’d have Weerow in our lives for a couple more years, and maybe we will.

I know it’s not the sea horse I’m upset about — it’s the fact that my babies are growing up. They’re changing and entering new phases I know nothing about yet. I blinked, and now they’re big (ish) kids.

Next time I’m counting down until the kids’ bedtime (which is often), I’ll try to remember that I need to appreciate my kids and the fact that their childhoods won’t last forever. Time is so fleeting, and we have to make it count as much as possible. I’ll probably still count the minutes some days, I mean come on, but I’ll do my best. I’ll take mental pictures. I’ll take real pictures. I’ll be present and mindful.

Sigh. On second thought, I wouldn’t mind if Eli took Weerow to college.

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