Yesterday when we were riding in the car Eldest Child asked what the word bipolar meant (it was used in a comic book) and we gave a description that combined “in the general sense” and “in the mental health sense” because we are pedantic as fuck.
Then Future Middle Child piped up and asked, “Am I bipolar?”
I said that I don’t know but it is a possibility. I told them that children as young as them are not diagnosed because kids have trouble with their feelings and that’s not necessarily something that will carry through your whole life. But our family has a strong history of emotional imbalances and kiddo does have BIG FEELINGS that change at the slightest provocation so… we’ll see. I told them that if they do we will find doctors and medications to help them cope and it won’t be a big deal. It will be some work, but it won’t change how wonderful they are.
They seemed to accept this response pretty well. We talked about how I *don’t* have bipolar disorder and I know it because I’ve tried the medications and instead of helping me calm down they completely freaked me out and that means I don’t have that kind of chemical imbalance in my brain–I have other problems. If they get bigger and think it is a good idea to try medications to help with mood regulation they will quickly find out if it is helpful or harmful and we will go from there.
Since she was born I have wanted to believe that my daughter represents my idealized self–what I could have been if I were born into a family that wanted me. The more time passes by the more I realize that my sweet kid is much more like the self I would have been. I would never have had the emotional stability my daughter has. She didn’t get that from me. She’s kind of a miracle to me. Instead my kid… my kid is so familiar and like me that I weep for them. I’m sorry dude. It’s probably going to be a rough road even though it will be easier than the road I walked. Your brain is probably going to be kind of bitchy sometimes.
I learn so much from my children. All of my life I have tried to learn from people. I have tried to learn how to cope and behave and process my emotions like other people and mostly I have failed because I just don’t have the background or skills to pull off what other people do. My children teach me what it means to feel stable. My children teach me what it means to be safe.
I think I have learned almost as much from my children as I have from all of my therapists put together… but I wouldn’t have been in a position to learn from them if I hadn’t had all the therapy. The pump was primed and all that.
I learn by teaching them. My daughter is so emotionally self aware it blows my mind. She can talk about her ambiguous feelings and accept contradiction in herself without feeling upset about it. It doesn’t bother her in the slightest that I’m the worst mother ever and the best mother ever. That’s fine. It’s just… what is. (Sometimes when she is charitable she will say that ok fine maybe I’m not the worst mother ever but I’m certainly annoying as shit. So true, dear.)
I learn so much from teaching my emotionally dysregulated child. They don’t feel comfortable with ambiguity. People should be perfect or terrible. But baby… am I perfect or terrible? No. And that bugs the shit out of them.
I love you so much.
I learn from my daughter how to sit and feel calm and feel like everything is ok… because it is.
I learn from my kid how to sit and feel dysregulated and not break everything nearby even though life is frustrating as shit… because it is.
Thank you both for these lessons. I need them very badly.
Yesterday FMC got to have the experience of being A Big Kid and they fucking loved it. My kids were left alone in a room with a 3 year old and a 5 year old for hours and FMC stepped right up to be the Good Example and spent the whole time trying to boss and be helpful with the little kids. “I told them that they needed to follow this rule and that rule and in this house we have to do _____ and…” They said they felt very grown up and responsible and it was really nice.
I think that’s the feeling of competence and mastery that makes oldest children thrive so much. First children tend to do best… across the board. It’s an interesting phenomena. There is speculation that it is in part because oldest children constantly have to master and teach skills before they are truly ready so they just go through life with that approach.
I would like to point out that every successful revolution has been lead by a youngest or only child. Viva la revolucion. Pretend I have an accent mark but my keyboard is being bitchy.
I learn about paying attention to people and placing their needs above my wants and my needs above their wants from my kids.
Do you know that most of the time when my children and I walk into a one hole bathroom situation they both gesture at the toilet and me and say, “Smallest bladder goes first.” I have more trouble with incontinence than either of them. At some point around 3 or 4 years old my kids figure out that they have more capacity to wait than I do without an accident. On one hand it’s kind of embarrassing… on the other hand it’s really awesome because my kids act like my body is important and they’ve paid attention to me enough to know that I genuinely can’t hold my urine as long as they can. I go to the bathroom 2-4 times as often as they do and they know it and they kind of feel bad for me. Usually our rule is “whoever speaks up about needing the toilet first goes first” but if it’s just an “in case” trip they default to pushing me to go first.
The line started when FMC was tiny. When the three of us would walk into the bathroom when FMC was like 18 months old EC would try to race for taking her clothes off faster and I would resolutely say, “No. That’s not cool. Smallest bladder first.”
It’s kind of like how my kids say “Yes ma’am” because I’ve always said it to them and they have internalized that it is the appropriate response to people asking you to do things. It’s not a top-down authority thing… it’s a “we love and respect each other and display that respect over and over all day long” thing.
My kids do feel some amount of fear for me. I feel guilty about that. But I’m not sure that I am capable of never inspiring some level of fear in folks. I’m an intense motherfucker. Even if I don’t do anything. Even if I stand in one place and I just have feelings and mind my own god damn business. I scare the shit out of people because they imagine that I might do something terrible because clearly I have feelings and that’s scary.
I had too many giant football players cower and tell me that I was the most terrifying person they had ever interacted with to try and believe that I’m not scary. Ok fine. I’m scary. What am I supposed to do about that?
I have a lot of sympathy for Black men who “scare” people just by existing. That shit’s rough. It’s not god damn fair. Or hell, Black women get that too. Life sucks.
My kids are some of the most effective teachers I’ve ever had. Because I want to learn these lessons.