February 1, 2013 at 10:12 am | Posted in Battles (aka: toddlerhood), doctor, Mama Bear | 15 Comments

Lucky saw the pediatric urologist this week.

I don’t post much about the accidents anymore, because that’s just our reality and what we deal with. Some days it’s bad – we’ll have 2 or 3. Some days, nothing. His issues at school have gotten MUCH better since the fall – he rarely comes home in his backup pants. The weekends here are hit or miss; Charlie and I have to remind him to use the bathroom (and yes, we still bribe with the iPhone) for him to stay dry.

Basically we can’t trust him to stay dry if left to his own devices. Which kind of sucks, but it is what it is, and we’re working with it.

So. The pediatric urologist. There’s one of them. When I looked him up on the hospital website, I found him in the “pediatric surgery” department. Which made me think that it wasn’t going to be the best of appointments.

A surgeon can only do so much with managing accidents in children. He is not a behavioral specialist.

I did like him; he asked a lot of questions about Lucky, about my pregnancy with him, about his habits and potty training and all of that. He spent time with us, did an exam, and was generally really good.

But he told me that, if this was a congenital and physical issue, we’d be dealing with it 24/7. But he noted Lucky’s funny ear – he was born with it – and told me that he wanted to get a renal ultrasound in order to completely rule out physical issues.

We went for the ultrasound on Wednesday, and though I haven’t heard back from the doctor yet (I’m calling this morning), I could tell that the kidneys were the same size and had blood flow in and out on both sides. I’d be surprised if there’s a physical issue.

What the urologist DID tell me, which I knew at some level but never really paid attention to, was that some kids hold their anxiety/stress in their bladder. Sometimes it’s their stomach – they get stomach problems. Sometimes it’s their heads- they get headaches. Other kids wet their pants. He asked me if things between me and Charlie were okay, and told me to talk with his teachers and see if there was stress at school which he wasn’t telling me about.

Now, to be fair, he also told me that this could be regression (which we’ve been dealing with, too), or him not wanting to use the bathroom and waiting too long. Basically developmental stuff – not necessarily related to stress or anxiety.

But when I spoke with Lucky’s teachers about it, they both thought that there might be something to the anxiety/stress thing. You see, he’s been having trouble with outbursts in class; he’ll get so worked up about something that he’ll lose it and scream and yell and cry, and even once he’s calmed down, he’ll be sensitive and touchy for the rest of the day.

He does this at home, too – has outbursts, where he screams because he’s so mad, his voice hoarse with tears.

And it was bad this past fall. It’s gotten better over the past month, his teacher told me. But it was bad just before Christmas.

I will be honest: spent the day after hearing this feeling like shit. I took all the blame. He must have been picking up my anger at the infertility stuff, the dark hole I’ve been in after my miscarriage. The anger I had at Charlie, myself, our life.

I said when we first went back to the damn doctor that I didn’t want this infertility shit to take away from the kid I DO have. And here I am, making my poor kid anxious because I can’t have a baby. Awesome.

Thankfully I have friends – and a therapist – who told me that I just don’t know, this could have happened if we had a baby (you know, if we weren’t infertile), too. And Charlie was traveling, and who knows how Lucky felt about that, really?

And honestly, we’ve had pee issues for a year and a half now. Not just this past fall.

So I’m taking a step back. At the very least, clearly Lucky feels things strongly and doesn’t seem to have a good handle on figuring out how to handle them. We need to help him learn how to release his emotions in an appropriate way, or at the very least, how to soothe himself when he gets worked up. They seem to have luck at school with a ‘safe place’ where he can read, or snuggle with Bear, or just take a break, so we’ll do that at home, too.

But really, I’ve always felt that parenting is about TEACHING. I can’t expect Lucky to handle his emotions if I don’t show him how *I* am handling my own emotions. I need to be better about showing him that I’m taking deep breaths to calm down, by repeating my mantra (“May I be happy. May I be free from pain. May I be healthy. May I live with ease.”), by really letting go when I’m angry.

Which I’ve been working on. It means this: I need to be better about handling my own emotions. It is really important to me that I be a role model for Lucky by DOING what I expect from him, too. I hated that about my parents – the hypocrisy. I do NOT want to be that kind of parent.

And this is where I ask for input: I’ll take any words of advice you’re willing to offer about helping your kids better handle their emotions, what’s worked for you, what hasn’t, if you are willing to share.



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  1. Oh hon, it’s so hard. Some of it is just aging — as they grow up, they find a way of dealing with their emotions and it gets easier to deal with problems as they arise (sort of).

    I’d talk to him about self-soothing, sharing with him what you do to self-sooth. Do you deep breathe? Take yourself away from the stimuli? Snap a bracelet? Twirl your hair? At one point, I knew that their polartec blanket was a soothing thing, so I let them go around with a circle of polartec fabric in their pocket to touch if they needed to feel like they were home. Just remember to take them out of the pockets when you do laundry 🙂 We have a lot of those “if you miss me” things still.

    My doctor also told me that kids who have migraines don’t have headaches when they’re little. We were talking about how chronic stomachaches can sometimes be how little kids show migraines. I wonder if the bladder is part of that too?

  2. Kids do pick up on our stress/anxiety/fears/anger etc. You are not consciously passing along your feelings to him but he is so intuitive he is feeling stress and has no idea what it is, or why he is feeling it. I imagine if you were to ask him what was wrong his answer would be “I don’t know”. After seeing what my anxiety was doing to my one son I decided to talk turkey to him and tell him that I had some things that were bothering me, but NONE of those things were about him or how much I love him. It is good for kids to see that we aren’t perfect and that we can admit when we are wrong/sad/scared etc. (how can we expect them to take responsibility for their mistakes if we can’t admit ours?) They are fragile but not as much as we think. As long as he feels safe he will actually understand that you are sad or angry and he will watch how you handle it and take his cues from your actions. Truthfully I wouldn’t hesitate to tell him that you and his dad had been hoping very much to have a brother or sister for him and that the doctor said he doesn’t think you can do that and it makes you sad and upset. Talk, talk, talk….he will eventually have the words to describe his feelings and what is happening inside his head.

  3. It could be your stress, but honestly, it could be something environmental, even food-related. About a month ago, I came across an article written by a woman whose daughter had horrible screaming fits (and the woman was the oldest of something like 12, and had been involved in childhood development before having her own kids, so it’s not like she was a novice at the whole “normal child” thing), and doctor after doctor dismissed her complaints as being just typical tantrums and such.

    Finally she got turned onto the idea of having her young daughter going gluten-free (I think the girl was 2 or 3 by this time, and still having knock-down, drag-out tantrums over tiny issues). Within a couple of days, the tantrums subsided, and by the end of the gluten-free trial month, the tantrums were only memories. The mother reintroduced gluten for a month — you know, as a scientific experiment, to make sure that the lack of tantrums wasn’t a coincidence, and within hours, the tantrums came back as bad as ever. So, the daughter is now completely gluten-free. Once, her babysitter (who had been lectured about the dangers of giving her gluten) gave the kids breaded chicken strips “as a fun snack”, and within a few hours, she had another blow-out tantrum.

    When I shared that on my f/b page, one of my friends (a man in his 40s) said that gluten does something similar to him — or at least, did so when he was a child — just horrible tantrums, and uncontrollable anger. He said if he had been only a little younger, he likely would have been medicated for them, but removing gluten was a sanity-saver. His son is also gluten-free, though I don’t know if it’s because of anger/emotional issues or if it’s something like celiac disease; his daughters can eat gluten as far as I know.

    So perhaps explore the possibility that Lucky holds anger in his bladder, but the anger may come from the way his body processes (or fails to process) certain foods. I know it sounds unlikely, but it’s worth a shot.

  4. We use a “safe place” to collect themselves, but our first line of defense is counting. When one of them starts having an outburst, I start quietly and calmly counting to 10, asking them to do it with me. If they need a little more, we go to 15, 20, 30. It usually snaps them out of the escalating feeling and when we’re done I can ask what the problem is so we can try to fix it. (We also do counting in scary/stressful situations … dr appointments and the like. Gives them some sense of control if we say “count to 30 and it will be done”.) If they need more time to calm down, they’re always welcome to go to their bedroom and lay down, snuggle their animals, take some time and space.

    And then we always try to talk about it. How they were feeling (mad, sad, frustrated – we give them lots of words to try to help coax it out and explain), what made them feel that way, how we can make it better, and what they can do the next time they feel that way.

    The 5th birthday it was like a switch flipped and the outbursts have gotten much better, too. So … hopefully it will work that way for you too!

  5. It is very true about children and stress and how they pick up on, internalize it and how it manifests itself. Our son has taken to licking the part of his chin just under his lip until it is raw and almost bleeding. It is an autonomic response, he doesn’t even know he is doing it. But, it started when we brought baby boy #2 home and although it was during a cold snap and many kids had chapped lips, I know this was stress.

    it has eased up now as things have leveled out.

    Try not to beat yourself up. Life is hard and we can’t always completely manage our response/reactions to our own stress. And, no way to know for sure that it is stress or even if it is that it is caused by his perception of underlying tension at home.

    At any rate, I hope that it improves if even over time.

  6. Do you read Ask Moxie? (askmoxie.org) She is my go-to when I have questions about E. Somewhere in her archives there is always a relevant post, and I find her community of parents who comment to be very intelligent, thoughtful and supportive. I wonder if there would be something on there relevant to this situation. Her post today was about an older child (7) who still wets the bed at night and to judge from the comments this was pretty much normal for a lot of parents.

    I developed terrible, crippling migraines in late elementary school after my parents divorced and we moved to a new town (where I was bullied). During my undergraduate degree, my stress manifested as borderline IBS. During my masters it was depression. Now it seems to be anxiety/insomnia with a side order of jaw clenching, but I am getting better at recognizing that I can’t treat the insomnia without managing the underlying stressors. I also know that if I internalize stress it will always come out physically. So I have a LOT of sympathy for Lucky.

    I have no real assvice for you since E. is so much younger, but one thing I found that really helped me manage my own emotions and how I spoke to E. and how I modelled my own behaviour was reading “Between Parent and Child” (and then the book by two of his followers: “How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk”). The other thing that helped was reading “Screamfree Parenting” (which isn’t, I feel, really necessary if you read the other two books first), and taking to heart his idea that you are not responsible FOR your child, but you are responsible TO them. So it is my job to manage my emotions when E. throws a fit, but it is not my job to try to train E. not to throw a fit. All of this has helped me enormously (and through me DH as well because he has picked up on what I’ve been modelling) and I am able to do a much better job at voicing my anger/frustration/what have you in more appropriate ways. (This is really important because E., like Lucky, is very sensitive and if I yell he just escalates in his meltdown because he can’t handle me yelling at him.)

    Lots of hugs, hun.

  7. I really have to do a better job with managing my emotions, too. At the most crucial moments, I totally lose it and scream. And today it was over something stupid … we had to go back to school for a shirt that I. left there (after claiming it was in his bag) … and as he went into the school and clearly started crying, I thought, this is NOT good. His teacher came out with him, shirt retrieved, and stuck her head in the window of my car, and offered perspective to try to calm him down. But looking at her, I thought, “shit. This was really not a good way to handle teaching him responsibility.”

    I am completely stressed out these days over multiple commitments, none of which are bringing in any cash. And … dare I say it … I am depressed. (Hey, look at that, I just put it in writing.) Somehow, I need to figure out how to cope so that my sensitive, smart, funny kid doesn’t end up feeling like he’s the damaged one.

    On a supportive note: we are only human. And we get to try again tomorrow. You and me, both.

  8. Just curious…have you gotten him checkd out for possible diabetes? My best friends daughter would occasionally pee unexpectedly and it ended up being the reason they discovered her diabetes…the excess sugar was causing her to drink more and urinate more while her body was getting rid of the sugar.

  9. I feel you. If Lucky is picking up and internalizing emotional vibes from your stress, it means he’s really intuitive and really connected to you IMO. I know my daughter and I vibrate to the same frequency, like tuning forks we tend to feed off each other’s emotional state. Because of all our transitions in our lives in the past 2 years, and as a way of coping with my own anxiety about how this was going to affect the kids, I paid a lot of attention to her non-verbal cues and worked really hard at giving her a vocabulary for her emotions: watching her to read how she’s feeling, and then reflecting it back – “oh, you’re so mad/frustrated/hurt” etc. Even last night when I had to wake my son up from an accidental late-afternoon nap before he wanted to wake up, he was just completely distraught until I started verbalizing how I imagined he was feeling – “you don’t want to be awake, the light is too bright, the sounds are too loud, your eyes don’t want to open, you just want to be sleeping, you’re so mad I woke you up” – and he almost immediately calmed down. He actually drifted back to sleep on my lap for a few minutes, but when he woke up again he was calm and happy instead of screaming his head off.

    That’s my one trick/technique, really. Identifying and reflecting back their feelings, helping them identify what they are feeling, and being there while they figure out how to cope with it. It sounds to me like this is something you’ve worked on a lot with Lucky, too. I guess I would second what Only Half Nuts said, about maybe telling him why you’ve been feeling sad, and explaining it’s in no way his fault – I’ve found that works for me sometimes too, to apologize to the kids for being grumpy and snapping at them, and explaining that I’m very tired, and I love them and I’m sorry (or whatever).

    I also really like Ask Moxie – she gathers a lot of diverse perspectives/experiences from a pretty big group of women.

    It sounds like the potty issues have become sort of a way of life for your family at this point, although still frustrating, and then there’s always the worry that there’s something physically the matter – that could actually be addressed medically. I do hope you can find your way through this together, I really admire your tenacity in working on/through your own “stuff” and your dedication to being the best parent to your son. Hang in there.

  10. We can only do so much to deal to make our anxieties not bleed over to our children. This is true, but I wonder if that is the case here. Sometimes children are oblivious of our issues. Sometimes we don’t realize that they are really in their own little world with their own anxieties.

    Hopefully, like others have said–maturity will fix this on its own.

    Also, and I know this is purely from my own experiences with a child who is quirky–could he have ADHD or something similar? My son always had this problem of going from 0 to 60 with outbursts at school, etc.

  11. I don’t have kids yet but i have been holding stress in my pelvic area since 8th grade (I’m 30). This year I finally made the made body connection after years of taking bladder meds and going to physical therapy for pelvic floor dysfunction and interstitial cystitis. I finally on my own made the made body connection a year ago. I’m using mindful meditation, 7-11breathingnand daily journalist. It has helped! On Katie couric yesterday Goldie Hawn and a dr. We’re on. They wrote a kids book about mindfulness and meditation. It’s only $10 on amazon. May be worth a shot. Im sure everything will work out. 🙂

  12. Im so sorry- Cate, didn’t get potty trained-even bm- for TWO YEARS. She would 70% of the time. I mean, she was almost four. She just-in the last three months quit having a bm in night time pull ups-right after bed-at the same time every night. We’d put her on the potty-same time, after same time dinner, bribing, begging-etc. You know what did it? Rosie, (God bless her heart) potty trained in about a week-maybe two. Rosie, two years younger could do it-and her slightly older cousin-I think she just got embarassed. After rosie-(at age twoish-i’m serious) got potty trained -Cate was 100% awake potty trained pee wise. But she STILL HAD BM IN PULLUP-until age 4.3.

    No-having Rosie as an example didn’t make a difference-it was being a younger kid-cousin, etc that did the trick. The nannys little boy-6 wks older than Cate-who Cate spends more time with than even us-ws potty trained-100% at 1.5. He also walked at 9 months0and stepped over Cate for half a year.

    My assvice and really pulling things out of the sky-like 90% or parenting…(you may have done some of this)

    We did figure out that Cate was so hard on herself re:accidents (sorry to tell you this-makes me tear up every time) because K and I are so hard on ourselves. We really watch that now and she’s since really changed.

    What about (if you haven’t) jut ignoring the whole situation? Ignoring the word “no,” whining, tantrums, demands, sister arguments-most things beside hitting. Within reason, of course. Silently change up-gon on about your day.

    I read somewhere that-to give positive attention where due-like all of us, right? But-with positive and NEVER with negative-touch-pat on the back, etc.

    We have struggled so much with her hitting when she’s mad. Nothing works all of the time but its gotten better-because I started making helping her notcie she was angry/frustrated-and coming up with solutions. So, she’ll stomp-etc. I remember the angry mat with O.

    I hope that helps-sorry its long winded and full of errors-I’m exhausted from sinus infection.

  13. call me if you want. i have too much to say in just a post but we have VERY similar things happening in these parts and have seen TREMENDOUS changes. we still have a long way to go but we are getting there.

  14. Oh yes. We get regressions on toilet training in times of stress, too. When we travel, when Mr travels… before Christmas, just at the end of the school year, the toilet training went awol. It was just getting too much for him. Several days off school and it all went back to being normal. Which doesn’t necessarily help you much…

    Calming exercises, we use them a lot. What works for us is getting Young Master to touch his fingertips together to make a triangle, and count his breaths. I’ve seen a similar one where you get them to pretend they’re holding a cup of hot cocoa and then they close their eyes and blow on it, then smell the cocoa, then blow to cool it again. Basically the same, but more pretendy.

    I think it’s equally important that when they calm down you work to resolve the underlying issue with them. So you’re basically showing them that there is a better alternative, not just asking them to calm down and then that’s job done. If you just do it that way they still end up as helpless as they were before, whereas if you go on to solve the problem they end up empowered, and hopefully in the long run they will feel more secure overall.

    If you catch things in the early enough stages asking questions helps. So you ask questions to prompt a problem-solving response rather than an emotional response. The first question would be to define and describe the problem. I think this makes it physiologically harder for them to have an outburst, as I think it’s difficult to use your brains rational and emotional processes at the same time. So by prompting them to use rational processes you sort of temper the emotional response a bit. Of course, they can still have one, but hopefully it’s more proportional.

    Anyway, throwing things out there in case anything sticks.

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