Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Birthday Brandon!! 7 years old!

This year Brandon's birthday was tricky - we had only been in our home for a week.  We had little to no energy to have a birthday party.  Then there was the challenge of knowing what to get a little boy who has everything, truly, everything!  Fortunately we are learning that it really does not take much to make a child happy.  We had a simple family dinner at home with the extended family who could make it, and Brandon got a movie, some marbles, a best of all a giant stuffed crocodile and a bow with arrows to share with his brothers.  He loves his crocodile!

 Brandon had a very good birthday and he really enjoyed having his class sing to him happy birthday, once in English and another time in Spanish.

 Our family had a lot of fun testing out the bow in the back yard during his birthday party.  I am sure happy we have such a large backyard for these kinds of activities. :)

Brandon continues to be a joy and a challenge rolled into one.  Brandon is a wonderful brother to Grant and Trent.  Brandon and Grant have such a wonderful friendship - I love listening to them narrate their imaginative play.  I am so grateful that they have a friend all the time.  Brandon is also a very caring, protective and helpful big brother to Trent.  He will willingly dress, change diapers, feed and play with Trent.  And little make Brandon as happy as when he is making Trent laugh, he comes up with some pretty interesting antics to entertain his brothers.  Brandon is also very sensitive and loving, with me and with the rest of our family.  But the past year Brandon has become increasingly challenging.  Brandon has always been blessed with a strong will, a very strong will.  Jared and I are both strong willed in our own right, but Brandon has us beat.  And being the parent is exhausting.  At the end of Brandon's kindergarten year he began acting out more and more.  His temper would flare up daily, even multiple times a day and his temper became more and more violent.  There were even times when he threatened me with a tire iron and steak knives.  It got very scary.  Jared and I were both at our wits end trying to discipline, teach and raise him.  I was brought to my knees in tears several times wondering what was to be done.  I remember well praying and getting a distinct answer that we needed to start counseling with a specific counselor here in Heber, but I resisted.  Counseling meant being humble, it meant sacrificing a lot of time and money, both of which were in very short supply and I really couldn't see how it would help, even though I had good friends who had been to Dr. Monson and enjoyed great results.  Close friends and acquaintances were diagnosing him with bi-polar disorder, Asperger's Syndrome, and even Turrets, that was equally scary.  So I started searching online everything that fit Brandon and I finally reached the conclusion that Brandon had Oppositional Defiant Disorder, ODD.The Mayo clinic describes it this way, "Even the best-behaved children can be difficult and challenging at times.  But if your child or teen has a frequent and persistent pattern of anger, irritability, arguing, defiance or vindictiveness toward you and other authority figures, he or she may have ODD"  When I read that it was like a light bulb - yes thats it, then I read through the symptoms to see if he had any of them and nearly everything was a yes.
*often loses temper
*is often touchy or easily annoyed by others
*is often angry and resentful
*often argues with adults or people n authority
*often actively defies or refuses to comply with adults' requests or rules
*often deliberately annoys people
*often blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
*is often spiteful or vindictive

All of these fit Brandon on a regular if not daily basis.  I felt like a terrible parent, and it was exhausting getting "advice" from others about what I was or was not doing that was the problem.  I was sure all of Brandon's problems were directly my fault, the guilt was horrible!

I continued to try and put up with it and work on the problems on my own, but by the time June came is was only getting worse.  Because Jared is an lawyer with the Utah Bar he qualifies for free counseling, so long as you go through their counselors.  Brandon was also included in this benefit, so we thought it was worth a try to hopefully save some money.  Our first visit was a NIGHTMARE!  It was everything I feared about going to counseling.  It was awkward and uncomfortable, I went in first to give the counselor some background and tell him what I was hoping to accomplish with counseling and then Brandon and Jared joined us.  The counselor would ask Brandon a few condescending and vague questions and then just stare at him waiting for an answer.  Brandon could see right through his objectives and was shy and near tears through the whole thing - it was such a huge step backwards - I'll never forget the pleading look Brandon would give me of help me, get me out of here, please don't make me sit here.  I knew right away that I NEVER wanted to go back to him!  Finally in August after we had moved into the Boudwins home we began meeting with Dr Monson.  What a contrast!  I went for the first visit alone, and realized that this counseling would be as much for me (maybe more so) than for Brandon.  I was so comfortable and at ease.  It was wonderful.  Then the next time it was just me and Brandon - Brandon was nervous, but he was quickly put at ease when he learned that he was simply going to play and then play some more.  Brandon learned to love Dr Monson as a Dr - after all, he didn't even give shots. :) For the rest of the year Brandon would go on his own for two weeks on Tuesday night and then Jared and I would go in without Brandon, two weeks Brandon, one week parents.  I loved our visits, and the learning that took place each time we went.  I also loved that we were getting support, encouragement, and real constructive advice, not just advice and accusing looks or comments.  We were being validated!  There were changes that we needed to make and it was hard to change bad habits, but the rewards were so worth it.  By March of 2015 we were done with counseling, knowing that we would be welcomed back anytime if needed.  This was such a blessing, because at just shy of $100 a visit and no help from insurance it was a great expense which we were happy to not have to pay, but we would gladly pay it again if or when it is needed!  Brandon is still not perfect, and we are still far from perfect as parents, but we learned some wonderful tools and I can now happily answer no to many if not most of the symptoms of ODD.  This has been a growing year for Brandon, but I sure do love seeing his progress.  I am constantly grateful and amazed at my Heavenly Father for trusting me with my children, and then being readily available to support and guild me in my efforts, if I will only remember to turn to Him and then trust and head the guidance I receive.  Being a mother is hard - but it is so worth it!!

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