They look innocent enough right? Yummy, home-made chocolate strawberry cookies. I know, I know, the pic isn't the greatest. But bear with me here, what you may not be able to see in this photo is that these cookies have a diameter of a cupcake (give or take a centimeter) They are perfectly baked, firm to the touch with a super soft center and frosted in a symmetrical fashion culminating to a smooth and delicious peak in the center of the confection.
So what is the occasion? My son's school party. His class worked hard toward a common goal so that they could earn pizza and various other "party" foods. Yay! Good for you, Terrick!
How does this relate to my purpose here at My DBT Life? Well, today's post isn't anything negative, but I also don't have a skill to highlight other than observation. So I guess this is really just an observation of mine about myself at best.
Terrick is my step-son, so there is a lot of insecurity on my part about being the right kind of step-mom. Yes, I notice that I have made a judgment. It should read, "...about being an effective step-mom" - But my feelings run deep on this subject. So, out comes a judgment from time-to-time. Terrick has two full sets of parents who all love and cherish him. He is lucky that way. He came to this world in the middle of a divorce where his father had made some serious mistakes that hurt his mother deeply. (He's not so lucky with that one!) With those dynamics you can imagine that there was conflict. They have since worked it out and that is wonderful, but although Terrick may not have vivid recall of those days, I know for certain he has "body memories" of it in the form of anxiety. I say this with certainty not because "I KNOW...blah blah blah" rather, from what I have learned through DBT about how our bodies remember things that our conscience does not.
Anyways, through all of this, I came to him in his 23rd month of life and have been a solid fixture in his life since. There were some hiccups in his mother and I getting along at first, but again, that has worked itself out. However, again, this is something that no doubt triggers body memories for Terrick and makes it more difficult for him regarding anxiety. Then to add insult to injury to this precious child, he has a few learning disabilities that make school a bit of an anxious experience for him. As if that wasn't enough for this little guy (OK he is almost 10, he isn't quite as "little" as I make him out to be!) He is a "feeler", you knows those types of people that seem to have empathy pour out of them. It seems effortless for him, he sees people in need and immediately feels for them. This is a great quality to have and can be managed quite nicely...for an adult. For a child however it poses specific issues for them. It is wonderful that he has that emotion, controlling it however can be a bit more challenging.
For example, if he sees or hears of people who are homeless he will be motivated to do something for them (this is GREAT), but then it plagues him as he goes to sleep and he has trouble falling asleep and may even cry about it for a bit. Over time this experience puts weight on his mind and heart. There is a lot of pain out there in the world that is plastered all over the news for children to really get their worry bones kicked into high gear. This too however, is manageable if the adults are watching carefully and tending to his anxieties and comforting him when he needs it and giving him the tools to help people when it is appropriate. But the harm comes to him when he sees things that he cannot explain, he cannot help and he cannot digest... I can only speak for what I have added to his anxiety and I know with all confidence that it was hard on him when I went through my hospitalization. Not so much of an "attachment" type issue, rather he was exposed to human pain front and center; watching while someone close to him suffered. He suffered with me. To this day when I am struggling on a bad day and crying, he cries with me too.
I don't put extra weight on him, he inadvertently pulls it onto himself, and we work very hard to be sure and affirm with him when he is not responsible for something to let it go and of course, like I said give him the tools to act when he can. We teach him the difference, all of his parents do. But for me, I feel like I have made his anxieties worse. My Wise mind tells me that, of course I added to his anxieties and I am acting on it now to improve it. See the dialectic? My emotion mind tells me I hurt him. Wrapping all of that mess up into a nice little package of societies stigma's on step-moms; I end up feeling like I have to do my best...and then some.
So what that meant for me was staying up late last night baking cookies I have never baked before and making them P E R F E C T . No flaws. I piled that task on top of a full days work, watching my eldest son half-brother (who is two) and various other things that kept me really busy. My sleep is number ONE on my list of vulnerabilities to reduce. I take my sleeping schedule very serious. That is one of my main ways I manage my moods. Everyone of you readers, I am sure, can relate to the feeling of being up too late, laboring over something that you can never make perfect enough. Every flaw you see, you have to work it out and do it again, and again until you can barely stand to look at it anymore (yes, I am talking about the two cookies in the center of the batch with their frosting holes!!)
I want to take care of Terrick the way he deserves to be taken care of. I know that my cookies won't make the difference. I could have went to the store and bought a package of them and Terrick would have been appreciative that we did it, but because I know I am doing the best that I can for him, if some beautiful cookies can maybe make his smile a little bigger today...then that makes all the difference in the world to me and last night was worth it, hands down.