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One of my anxieties with moving, a fear of mine actually, was knowing friends and support systems are not a given and often take a long time to form.
We had lived in 3 different communities before landing in Small Town. In none of those first 3 communities did we form what felt were solid friendships; we were in the community but not a part of the community. Perhaps if we had stayed longer, those budding friendships would have solidified into something more.
Once we moved to Small Town, it took over a year to solidify a friendship with my neighbor, even longer to get to the point of canning together or starting the roadside stand. This friendship ended up growing so much, we now refer to them as “aunt” and “uncle”. It took my kids several more years before they asked, “how exactly are we related to Aunt and Uncle?” Blood does not always make a family.
During the years of having small kids, my husband and I were not always blessed with the ability to take time for ourselves, to get away as a couple for a few hours a week, or even once a month. At times it was possible, but at others it seemed like we came back to a situation that was harder than if we had just stayed home. (The idea of a weekend away was out of our realm of reality at that point.)
Often, we had to settle for coffee and a movie at home, hoping to not wake up the kids and not to fall asleep before the end of the movie. Those first months were filled with kids scared to go to sleep, scared that you would not be there when they woke up, scared of … night time was not a good time, which was a shame as the days were filled with hyper-vigilant, hyperactive, inquisitive, take-life-by-the-horns, I-know-best kids.
As they grew a bit older, things calmed down some, but the anxiety is always there in the background. Now we were dealing with official diagnoses of ADHD, and unofficial sensory and trauma related issues, as well as lesser known issues that come with ADHD beyond the attention and hyperactivity issues. (here,too, but there is a bit of language.) (This was a great read for me recently, helping to connect some of the dots to other issues I otherwise could not find the cause of.)
The mere idea of moving brought me anxiety. Not only was I going to have to meet a lot of new people, but my kids were going to be reminded (subconsciously) of times in their early lives, when things were not consistent, when there was a lot of loss, when they had no control. I was anxious about how they would react. However, a move was happening and we would have to deal with the outcome.
My husband was excited to find out the local YMCA had a monthly Kid’s Night Out, where parents could drop their kids off for a few hours of games, fun, and pizza. I was less than excited. Way less. The mere idea made my stomach start to knot up. My husband could not understand why, though he found out after the first night we tried.
See, the time to drop them off, it began about an hour before the kid’s bedtime and lasted for up to 3 hours. Night time is the worst time of day for our kids. Their ADHD behaviors, their sensory/trauma issues, and developmental issues have been a struggle all day, making their brains tired. Their bodies, however, act as if they are full of energy.
Jack gets so overloaded with things (noise, activity, expected social behaviors) that his brain goes too fast for his body. He then runs and hides in a quiet place, or turns in circles (vestibular sensory seeking), or hits, or … he does not handle it well, especially when tired … an hour before bedtime. (Yes, our kids go to bed early, but they also sleep 11-12 hours still.)
We tried it once, was well as a three day Holiday Day Camp where I had to clarify a few things with the director on the second day or risk one of my kids being kicked out, before agreeing this was not working for us. We mentally set ourselves up for a year+ of home date nights and switching off if one of us needed to be gone in the evenings.
Been there, done that, we have the cappuccino mix at home.
(The picture below shows a ‘date lunch’ where we took the kids with us. They sat at the corner side of the table watching a movie, while we were on the other side having cake and coffee; they got some goodies too. They were not allowed to talk with us until the movie was over. Sometimes, you do what you need to do.)
Then … then, we continued to visit a particular new church. George loved the kids’ activities and new people. Jack, well, it was hit or miss at first.
Being a new place, we did not share the unique aspects of our family. For starters, we did not know these people well. Secondly, not everyone reacts the same way when I share things. Sometimes they judge our kids (or us) before taking the opportunity to get to know us. Thirdly, I was hoping our kids would handle the change calmly at first.
In the past, unfortunately, it has often been the case that in these situations, that the adults in charge say, “Sorry. If your child is not willing to act in these socially acceptable, calm ways, s/he can not be here. You will need to come with them or keep them with you. It is too distracting and hard for us.” I have missed quite a bit of church these past few years due to kids not being able to handle/exhibit the expected behaviors.
Much to my surprise that is not what happened at this church. After one obviously trying Sunday morning for the kids’ teacher, I determined to go early the next week and talk to the preacher’s wife. She was one of the few I had met whom I felt would hear me out and could then direct me with whom I should talk.
Keeping things to ourselves was obviously not working.
This talk turned out so much better than I could ever have imagined. As we were talking, she stopped me and said, “I think you should tell all of this ____.” The person she said? The only other lady in the church I knew, the one who had told me the week before that their household is never quiet because she and her husband were such extroverted people. That comment alone made me want to become her friend immediately.
These ladies and I missed all the beginning of church that week as I shared everything – how we became a family, struggles of ADHD, some other learning/developmental struggles they may face. I also stated the fact that if my kids were not adjusting well to the kids’ classes, they were welcome to sit with us.
What I got was – “Well we were just discussing this in our morning meeting and how to handle it … do you think having an older teen with them would help? … I will let the teacher know not to call on them to read out loud the harder passages … we could move them to a younger class, but that might cause more issues (and explained why) … how about we try these out and see how it goes?” They offered a few other options as well. I came away feeling more encouraged than defeated. It was an unexpected change for one.
A few weeks later, I got an email from the teacher asking, “How can I help him/them while in class? What can I do to not make things worse?” WHAT?!?! Not only was this person still willing to have them/him in class, but also asking what to do to make things easier for my child!
Then I put together a response, explaining a few struggles that were probably appearing, how they might manifest themselves, and list of basic things that seem to help me in that situation.
Last week, my husband had mentioned the youth of this church were hosting a Kid’s Night Out this coming weekend, so the parents could have a night to themselves (for Valentines Day). If you had said this a month ago, I would have dismissed it. By now, however, I told him I thought the kids would do well and we should take advantage of it.
- The kids knew the adults.
- One of the teens has watched the kids during mid-week gatherings and did fabulous (actually will try her as a babysitter this month).
- The setting was familiar.
- The group was small.
Though there might be a bounce house (shhh) and other activities, I doubt it will be as loud or chaotic as the ‘Y’ was. (Please do not think we do not like the local ‘Y’; we are actually going there weekly for a kids exercise class and it is going fabulously. Of course, it is a small group and does not last for 3 hours.)
This year, for one of the few times in our marriage, my husband and I will get a chance to “celebrate Valentine’s Day”. Though it is more like – “having a date near Valentine’s Day” as we don’t really celebrate this day any different than other date nights. The first year of our marriage we did our taxes and didn’t even realize the date until we had to sign and date our forms. Yup, we are such romantics.
If your significant other or someone important in your life is as oblivious to the day as my husband and I are, you are in luck. Bring them some coffee (bought with a gift card?) and a cookie and they will thank you for your spontaneous gift.
If they are not so oblivious, you need to get a move on with something beyond a card signed with your name. How about a gift card to their favorite store? Or one to use to take them out for a special evening, while earning points back?
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