Dancing My Heart Out

By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT

I danced my heart out last night. Dancing is like therapy for me, expressing pent up feelings, revealing my true self, being the truest me I know how to be. Last night was our annual holiday party and we spent two hours dancing. But the dancing comes at a cost. A cost that only hit me when I was walking down the steps after getting off the train at 11:00pm last night.

This was the first time I have gone out, on my own – without my wife – in probably about a year. I did play basketball for three nights last spring but that is about it. My wife probably goes out a few times a month. But it’s easier for her to go out. One, she spends much more time with our three-year old twins than I do – she is home with them everyday while I am away at work. Two, after we get them ready for sleep her day is over; I put them to bed every night. It is supposed to be my special time with them, though it can be challenging. So if she isn’t home when they go to bed, it doesn’t really change much for them, but if I don’t come home at night, it changes their routine. It’s bad enough I am away all day, if I don’t come home at night and don’t put them to bed what kind of message does that send them? As a result, I have been coming home every night for months and months and months.

I’m good at seeing my physical health as vital to the health of my children and to my role as a father. If I am physically well, I can better take care of them and am less likely to bring home a bug that would get them sick. I can see that I have to fight the fight against depression which dominated my life for so many years, but has only been a memory for the past seven years or so; if I am depressed then I can’t be the kind of father that I want to be. I can even see that my wife and I need special time together – even if it means leaving our children for a night or two – because our marriage is the core of our family; if our relationship is not well, our entire family suffers. But when it comes to seeing the importance of time for myself, of having fun, of doing the things I love and enjoy, it is a different story. For instance, I have made exercise a priority in my life, but I will not take time away from my children to do it. I have placed my practice as a priority in my life but I see clients at lunchtime and I write on the train so I don’t take time away from my children. I haven’t made having fun, doing things I really enjoy as a priority and thus, they don’t happen. Somehow, I’ve never been able to convince myself that it is ok to miss time with my children to do something fun. I’ve never been able to convince myself that I can place my own pleasure, enjoyment over being the father my children need. Of course, I understand on some level that if I am not a whole person, if I am not taking time for myself to have fun, I won’t really be a good role model for my children. I am so driven to prevent them from dealing with all I dealt with in my childhood that I have swung too far in the other direction.

The thing is, I desperately needed to dance, to release my emotions in a positive, healthy and enjoyable manner, to express myself in public. Being the kind of Dad I want to be has been more challenging, more exhausting and more draining than I ever imagined. I really do need some time for myself, to let go. Yesterday morning I had told my wife that if there wasn’t dancing I would probably be home in time to put them to bed myself. But if there was dancing, I wasn’t coming home until the music stopped. There was and I didn’t.

For some reason, my focus had been all about whether or not I would be home in time to put my children to bed. This is a responsibility and a pleasure I take seriously. I am their Daddy and I get to put them to bed every night – not many fathers are anywhere near as lucky. My wife is incredibly understanding and supportive about my desire to build a strong relationship with each of my children, to spend as much special time with them, to be the primary caretaker for them whenever I can. When I am not able to fulfill this role, to be the kind of father I expect from myself, I feel very badly about it. But in focusing on whether or not I would be able to put them to bed, I forgot about something even more important, the real reason why going out at night is so hard for me.

Yesterday morning, like most mornings, I crept out of the house while my entire family was still asleep. I didn’t think much of it because it happens almost everyday now. At 5:00pm, the time I usually go to catch my train to be home in time for dinner, I started getting a little anxious, but pushed it away and went to the party. At 6:30pm, I called my wife to let her know I wouldn’t be home in time to put them to bed. From 7:00 – 9:00pm, I danced and danced and danced. I caught the 10:07 train home. At 11:00pm, I was walking down the stairs after getting off the train going through the same motions I do everyday until I remembered what time it was and then it hit me. I wasn’t going to see my children tonight because they were already asleep. A whole day of not seeing my children and I stopped walking for a moment. Somehow in my worry about whether or not I would be able to fulfill my responsibilities as a father, I lost the fact that my children wouldn’t see their Daddy, and just as bad, I wouldn’t see them. It feels like a high price to pay in some ways and I found myself torn about going out and having fun.

Fortunately, this morning my kids woke up earlier than they have in months and I got to see them. I walked into their room and my son, Lucas, screamed out in excitement, “Daddy!” and Dorit started getting out of bed to give me a hug. I had missed them so much! And they seemed so happy to see me, it felt so good. Maybe my being away doesn’t hurt them or disrupt their routine too much. Maybe it allows us to miss each other, to realize how much we love each other.

Maybe, just maybe, there is room on the dance floor for me after all.

Is This Really the Best It Can Be?

By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT

My wife, Gem, and I were trying to catch up after long days at work. After school she had taken our kids, eight-year old boy-girl twins, to get some clothes for the Spring (even though it snowed this morning) Concert.

“Dorit had so much fun trying on clothes,” she told me. Our little girl really does enjoy being “on stage” (just like her Daddy) whatever the stage happens to be.

“Imagine what it will be like in a few years,” I responded, thinking of my wife and teenage daughter going clothes shopping together, trying them on for each other, and cleaning out the store.

“No, this is the best it is going to be.”

“What do you mean?” I asked in shock. How could this be the best it could ever be for my Sweetie Girl?

“She’s not looking at her body. She’s not staring at the things she doesn’t like about herself, any imperfections she may see. She’s just enjoying playing dress up.”

“Oh God…” And I felt such sadness. My little girl is…I don’t know how to explain it.

She’s not perfect and, in fact, sometimes she makes me insane, seriously out of my mind crazy with the way she can so easily ignore me or blatantly lie (or as my wife likes to say “reframe the truth”) right to my face.
But God I love that girl with every fiber of my being. I love the way her smile lights up her face and reminds me she gets her beauty from her mother. I love how witty and smart she is and how she is the most emotionally intelligent girl I’ve ever met. I love how much fun she can be and the look she gets when she is focused and committed to doing something she has never done before.

And while it terrifies me, I love the way she looks at me as if all the love in the world begins in my face. I am her first love and I take that honor quite seriously.

I tell her every day how beautiful she is and how much I love her. I don’t just tell her when she is dressed up. I tell her when she is in her PJs and especially when she is naked getting ready for or just coming out of her shower. I hug and kiss her and tell her I love her every day before I leave for work, when I return home and when she goes to bed (please don’t worry, I do the same for my boy…promise).

In fact, I have read the research that shows that girls with involved fathers, girls who feel their fathers are invested in their relationship can actually begin menstruating older, start having sex later and are at a lower risk for teen pregnancies. Girls with involved fathers are also less likely to have eating disorders, to have low self-esteem and to actually be happier as adults.

I ask my little girl frequently if she knows how much I love her because the research is clear; she has to feel my love, my commitment to her for these benefits to come into play. If she doesn’t know how I feel, what I feel doesn’t matter very much.

But maybe I’ve been deluding myself, thinking I could somehow stop single-handedly what happens to so many young girls in America. Maybe I can not love her enough to prevent her from seeing herself as not good enough. Maybe society’s message of the unattainable model perfection is too powerful, maybe my little girl can’t escape that unscathed.

But I know I have a power of my own. The way she looks at me as if the sun and moon rise because of me is one of the scariest things I have ever experienced. How easy it would be to abuse that power, to hurt my little girl, and I am sure I have hurt her unintentionally. But as long as I am her Daddy, I vow to use my powers for good, to give her unconditional love that, if it can’t stop the inevitable, can maybe mitigate enough to lessen its impact.

And even if that doesn’t work, she will always have a hug and kiss waiting for her because she’s my Sweetie Girl. Society can’t take that away from us.

Loving Him At School

By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT

I had the privilege of taking my kids, eight-year old boy-girl twins, to school the other day. It’s funny because I do it enough that I know what to do, but not enough that I have gotten good at it. It takes me 15 minutes to get their lunch ready though I know my wife can do it in less than five. I worry so much about getting to school on time because I don’t remember how long each “step” takes for my kids to do. Getting dressed is how long? Eating breakfast? Brushing teeth and hair? I never remember so it ends up being a bit stressful.

But the walk there is usually quite nice because I already know how long that takes and it always feels like special time, the three of us (Los Tres Amigos), being together. Often one or both of them will hold my hand. When it is cold we do this thing we started at the zoo a couple of years ago. A perfect example of how something so little and seemingly meaningless, can have such weight in their lives.

The zoo was very cold the day we went and my kids’ hands were cold. I am a short guy, always have been, and the sleeves of my jackets are always a bit too long. I offered to let my kids put their hands in my sleeves so we could hold hands without them getting too cold. Now, every time it is cold out and we’re walking together, they ask if they can do it again.

We got to school and we stopped and they each gave me a hug and a kiss and I told them I love them and I watched them run into the school with their friends.

But then my son, Lucas, turned around and said, “I love you, Daddy.”

“I love you, too,” I replied and immediately wondered how much longer he’ll be okay with me telling him I love him outside school with his friends around him.

For however long he lets me do it, I am happy to do so.

Our Ten Days of Decadence

By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT

I am relieved to announce that our Ten Days of Decadence, oh so similar to the Twelve Days of Christmas, is finally over. Our Okapis (twin four-year olds) are completely spoiled now and we have 50 weeks to deprive them until next year.

Our Ten Days of Decadence (TDoD – kind of like the sound of my head hitting the wall over and over again) started Friday, December 15th and ended Monday, December 25th.

My family is Jewish and we celebrate Chanukah, which started Friday the 15th. In celebration of Chanukah we get our children small gifts for each of the nights. To give you a glimpse into how decadent the TDoD was, we didn’t even have a chance to give them most of the gifts we bought because they had received so many! Let’s see, they got Chanukah gifts from their grandparents, two sets of great grandparents and from their aunt, my sister, visiting from California. They got so many Chanukah gifts from family that we didn’t really need to buy them anything at all. We just only seem to remember that AFTER we buy them new gifts. Next year, nothing, I tell you. We’re buying them nothing!

But, in case you’re thinking, so what’s the big deal with that? Eight nights of presents, sure that sounds wonderful, but not all that decadent. Was there anything else?

Why yes, yes there was, thank you for asking. See, while the 15th was the first night of Chanukah, the 16th was their birthday party. Yes, their birthday is on the 17th. Since they were turning four years old (can someone please explain to me how that happened?), we decided to do things slightly differently this year – we held a party at our local recreation center for our Okapis to play in the gym with their friends and have pizza and ice cream cake. Their take from that party, the number of birthday presents they received was overwhelming to me, to everyone who saw them. We had about fifteen kids attend, with each one buying one gift for each of our Okapis (15 X 2 = 30 for those struggling with the math at home). That doesn’t include ALL of the presents from our friends and family who often give them more than just one gift. And they have a lot of family; grandparents, great grandparents, uncles, and aunts – they barely all fit into our house! With all of the presents some people had to stand outside. The cops came by to see if we had a license to run a club out of our house, there were so many people. Next year, I think we might hire some bouncers to handle all of the traffic.

Afterwards, we did what we normally do, we invited some of our close friends and family over to continue our birthday celebrations. Why do we need two birthday parties for our Okapis? Well, the first party was just for them to have fun with their friends and enjoy being the center of attention that you often only get to be on your birthday when you are a kid. The reason we continued the party at our house is because not only is it Chanukah, not only is it their birthdays, but it is also my wife’s birthday (the 18th).

And my birthday (the 22nd).

That’s right. All four of our birthdays and Chanukah fell in the same week this year. At the party at our house, we had four birthday cakes, one for each of us, of course. Everybody sang Happy Birthday to all of us and everyone, as they do every year, has no idea what to say when it comes time to use our names. “Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday Dear …” Some just use our last name, some try to fit all of our names into the tiny space, some just have fun and mumble nonsensical things since no one will know anyway. It is quite hysterical and I hope we never figure out a specific way to handle that, frankly.

Of course, after the birthday party, there were still several nights of Chanukah left – not too mention ALL OF THE FOOD!! We had leftover ice cream cakes (2), cookies, the other birthday cakes and so much other food. There was so much dessert I was barely making a dent in it all – and that’s not a problem I usually have, I got to tell you.

During Chanukah, we only had one night with just ourselves. Every other night, we either had family or friends over or we went to grandparents or great grandparents houses, with always so much food to eat and more presents to be had. This year, Chanukah ended on my birthday (Friday the 22nd), which we celebrated at my wife’s parent’s house with more cake and more presents for everyone. At one point during that Friday night my wife turned to me and said, “Thank goodness the presents are over for a year.”

“Uhm…Monday.”

Did I mention my wife’s family celebrates Christmas?

“Oh right! Monday is Christmas.” Which, of course, meant more presents! I actually had done the same thing a bit earlier, thankful it was all over and then remembering about Christmas with a slap to my forehead.

So this year Christmas ended the Ten Days of Decadence with a bang. More presents, more candy, more chocolate and not a nutritious meal to be had.

Now that it is all over. Now that there are no more parties, no more family events, no more chocolate, no more presents, I am looking forward to the next 50 weeks where we can remind our Okapis once again not to expect presents with every meal, not to expect candles every night or birthday cake or anything good for that matter for another 355 days.

How long do you think that will last? A week? Maybe ten days?

Los Tres Amigos Veterans Day

By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT

Another Los Tres Amigos Sabado (Saturday), another happy day! After my delightful evening Friday night, I woke up bright and early to get the Okapis dressed and out the door to iHop for breakfast. They behaved very well and we had another nice time.

As this is the second time we’ve really gotten to listen to Shabbat music together, they really seem to be enjoying it. They are beginning to have their favorite songs (Dorit’s favorite is my favorite and Lucas’ is a song that has both Hebrew and Spanish in it). It was all we listened to during our travels and it was very enjoyable and felt so good that they are beginning to really connect with it.

After iHop I had a surprise in store for them. We spent a lot of weekends at the beach this summer, but obviously haven’t been back. Since it was such a lovely day, I was thinking we would go down to the beach, see the ocean and the sand again, and take a little walk along the boardwalk. They were very excited to see the sand and ocean again and even knew about the boardwalk (which I didn’t think they did). At one point, we were walking along the boardwalk, hand-in-hand, and I just thought this was the life. Enjoying the sun, the ocean, holding my Okapis’ hands. To me, that’s a pretty damn good weekend.

After the beach we went to the library, which I didn’t know was closed (it was Veterans Day). Bummer. But we recovered quickly and went to the playground where they had a ceremony for Veterans. It was pretty short and I brought the Okapis over to it near the end. I explained to them about the flags, showed them the eagles on the flag poles, and pointed out soldiers, people who had fought in a war.

“You know who else fought in a war?”

“Who?” they asked.

“Uncle H. Uncle H is a veteran. This is his day.”

There we were, in a tiny little playground in the middle of Long Island and they were having a small ceremony, talking about the sacrifices they made, the honor and respect they paid to this country, to its people and to the flag. They talked about those who didn’t come home to their families and I sat holding my Okapis, hoping they never have to experience anything like that in their lifetime – though I know it is inevitable. They didn’t understand the seriousness of the ceremony, but they understood something was going on and they were very quiet and well-behaved. Fortunately, we got to see the flag bearers walk right by us with their flags held high and I think they really enjoyed being so close to these huge flags.

Afterwards, we went to the playground and played for almost an hour. It is always a challenge to have both of them at the playground, trying to keep one eye on each of them without going cross-eyed. At one point, Dorit ran off and I couldn’t see her. I looked all around but to no avail. For a brief moment it was terrifying and I had to yell out her name. Lucas didn’t see her either and I was beginning to feel panic. But then I spotted her out of the corner of my eye. She and I had a little chat on a bench about staying where she could see Mommy or Daddy. Eeessh.

All in all, however, another incredibly enjoyable Los Tres Amigos Sabado.

Jealousy at My Children’s Laughter

By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT

As I was leaving the house this morning, I heard one thing above all else; the sound of my 6.5 year old children’s laughter. And I felt one thing in response.

Jealousy.

Here I was walking out the door to go to work and my wife and children are cuddling and laughing upstairs without me. It left me with a knot in my stomach.

What about me? A little voice in my head wondered. What about me?

The ironic aspect of all of this is that I was drained, utterly and completely wiped out (and probably why that little voice sounded louder than it normally would). I had spent much of my Labor Day weekend taking care of my little boy who was terribly ill with what turned out to be a nasty stomach virus. But first we had a scare that it was appendicitis, him writhing in pain with a fever, doubled over crying his little heart out.

I took him to the emergency room on Sunday and we spent four hours waiting between various tests and x-rays to find out that they just weren’t sure, but suspected it wasn’t appendicitis. As you parents know, the challenge of being in that situation is you want to be connected enough to your emotions to be there for your child, to be what he needs you to be, but you also need to be disconnected enough to not get scared and anxious yourself because he will feel that and feel the same way. It is a difficult balance and one that takes quite a bit out of me. Making sure he understood each test that was going to happen without getting him anxious about it. Making sure he had something to do (or a hand to squeeze) when the pain was bad or when he was scared. Trying to help him learn how hospitals and all of the tests work so the experience – and hospitals in general – wouldn’t be scary. For instance, the one thing he kept telling people about that day was that he got his first x-ray! He was real proud of that.

Keeping the balance in check was difficult because there were times when I just looked at him and felt the tears welling up. I was so proud of how he was handling the doctors and nurses, all of the different tests, everything, that every time I tried to tell him how proud I was I started to tear up and had to try to hold my emotions in check so as not to freak him out. My job was to keep him calm – not to get him agitated and overwhelmed.

And maybe that’s why the sound of their laughter felt more painful than joyful. I had just spent three days taking care of my boy at his worst, screaming in pain, doubled over and upset, frustrated and whiny, but my wife got him at his best, laughing and adorable.

I wanted some of that, too. Hopefully, when I get home I will have that chance.

Do They Love Me?

By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT

You know that line from Fiddler on the Roof when he asks her after being married for 25 years??? “Do you love me?” They had an arranged marriage, but have been together so long they have grown to love each other. He knows it. She knows it. But he wants confirmation, he wants to put it on the table so to speak.

Lately, after 7.5 years in my life, I’ve been asking my twins if they love me, but for all of the wrong reasons and it is not working out so well for me…or them.

My kids do the same thing every night – or at least they are supposed to; eat dinner, take a shower, brush their teeth, put their clothes in the laundry, etc. And every single night they fight us on that – especially me it feels like. Inevitably, they start getting upset and crying and inevitably I get frustrated and start yelling, becoming the man and father I least want to be and most despise in myself.

I’ve been wondering why I am losing my patience so much. Certainly work is stressful, though much less so than it has been in the past year. I am not sleeping as much because I am waking up earlier to go bike riding, but shouldn’t exercising make me feel better? And our life is stressful, but no more so than it has been in the past several years. Basically, I don’t think I have a good excuse for behaving this way.

Except that I’m not really feeling like my children love me. My wife’s sister is staying with us and all of a sudden I feel like I’m ranked third or even fourth (sometimes they would rather be with themselves than with me) in my own house with my kids. Before I know it, they start acting out and I start getting so angry.

Even on the nights when I come home from work determined not to yell at them, something always seems to happen. It makes me feel so helpless, so hopeless, and I become so hateful of myself. Aren’t I a better man than this? I had always thought so.

Fundamentally, I think the problem is I don’t seem to feel loved by my on children. Maybe it is because my wife’s sister gets so much more attention and they would rather be with her than with me. Maybe it has a lot to do with my own childhood and not feeing loved there and it carrying over to my present – especially when you factor in Mother’s Day, one of the hardest days of the year for me because my own mother hasn’t talked to me in decades I can see how I would feel not loved and that when they pay less attention to me, it makes me feel less loved.

To make matters worse, when they behave badly it is confirmation to me that they don’t love me, that they don’t care about me. If they loved me, they would be behave better. If I loved them, I wouldn’t yell at them they way I do. It is becoming a vicious cycle with neither of us winning. If someone yelled at me frequently, I wouldn’t want to be with them either.

Not When I Wear Dresses

By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT

This morning the Okapis woke up ridiculously early and I went upstairs to get them dressed and ready for school. I had already put Dorit’s tights and skirt on her and was putting her shirt on when Lucas said, “She’s going to look so beautiful.”

“She always looks beautiful doesn’t she?” I said.

“Except when I wear pants,” she responded.

It is so amazing how these things just pop up. Everything seems fine and then all of a sudden…

“Dorit you always look beautiful – even in pants. You’re beautiful without dresses, Dorit. You don’t need dresses to be beautiful.”

But I know she doesn’t believe me and this is why she gets so upset when she doesn’t get to wear a dress/skirt, I suspect (though the fact that she is immersed in the Tortuous Threes is also probably a factor).

Somehow us letting her wear dresses has fed this belief that she is only pretty if she wears them, that if she wears pants she is not pretty. Is she already experiencing the societal expectations of beauty? Are we somehow sending a message that makes her think she is only beautiful in dresses?

If we stop her from wearing dresses will we be punishing her and only make things worse?

One of my nicknames for both of my Okapis is Beautiful. I think they are both beautiful whether they are wearing dresses, pants, jeans, sweatpants, or pajamas. When she wears pants we shower her with extra compliments because we know it is a big deal when she wears them.

I know how important fathers are in girls developing high self-esteem and confidence, and a healthy self-image. I have been paying extra special attention to this and yet…she’s not even four and already thinks her beauty is dependent upon whether she wears a dress or not.

Before we went downstairs I tried one more thing.

“Does Mommy wear dresses?”

“No,” she said.

“Is Mommy beautiful?”

“Yes.”

“Mommy is beautiful and she doesn’t always wear dresses. You are beautiful without dresses, too.”

I feel like that had some impact, but I think I’m going to need to come up with something else to help her really believe me.

Because my little girl is gorgeous.

Codeword Strawberry

By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT

I can’t explain how frustrated my wife and I were with our 6.5 year old daughter. It was a feeling of helplessness like I had never known before. Her…I don’t even know what to call them they were so beyond tantrums. It was almost like she had a mental breakdown and she just became this screaming, yelling, out of control being. And once she started there was no way to stop her or bring here back from the ledge. Gem and I were exhausted, drained, and losing hope.

We tried so many different things. We gave her timeouts. We took away privileges and toys and books, anything we could think of that she likes. We tried to reward her good behavior with treats and toys. Nothing really worked. We tried to cut her off at the pass, to prevent her from “losing it” but that worked inconsistently at best and was exhausting. We tried teaching her about her emotions, about “articulating” (a word she really enjoys saying), and while that had potential it also came up short.

After a particularly terrible couple of days when her behavior escalated to “losing it” for the first time in front of friends we had over, we sat down with Dorit and had a little chat. I’m extremely fortunate in that I have a very special connection with my little girl; she is truly a Daddy’s girl and I love pretty much every minute of it. We have always been able to communicate – especially about complicated emotions. But I had no idea she could communicate enough to help us help her.

‘Sweetie Girl, what’s going on with you?” I asked trying to keep the desperation out of my voice.

“Daddy, I just have to let it out,” she said simply. And I knew we were on to something.

My little girl’s emotions were utterly and completely overwhelming her – especially when she wasn’t getting what she wanted. Essentially, her emotions were so powerful and had out-developed her development of tools to manage them. When they overwhelmed her, she lost all control. What we needed was to help her be aware at the moment she felt that churning of emotions inside of her and to give her something to articulate easily and quickly.

“You know what we need, Sweetie Girl? We need a codeword.”

Her twin brother went through something similar awhile ago and we gave him a codeword to tell us when he started getting upset, but before he threw a tantrum. It worked and he doesn’t even need to use it anymore. If Dorit had a codeword, a single word she could say out loud to let us know her emotions were getting the better of her, than we could help talk her down from the ledge. In the process, she would hopefully learn to be more aware of her emotions and learn how to deal with them in a healthier way.

After I explained to her my idea, I asked her what codeword would she want to use.

“Codeword Strawberry!” Since strawberries are her favorite food that actually made a lot of sense.

Dorit has been using Codeword Strawberry for over a week now. I asked her last night how it was going and she said, “It has changed MY LIFE!” in that lovingly melodramatic way she has. When I relayed that to my wife, she readily agreed. It has changed all of our lives.

When my little girl starts to get all caught up in her emotions, she almost always says “Codeword Strawberry!” to alert us that she is getting upset. Sometimes that alone, sharing her sense of being overwhelmed with us, is enough to help calm her down. Sometimes we have to talk to her and help her talk about her feelings. Sometimes we just give her a hug. Sometimes we just distract her and she relaxes. If she doesn’t remember to use it, either my wife and I reminds her, but even her brother has jumped in to say, “Codeword Strawberry, Dorit. Codeword Strawberry.” Amazing how two words can empower us all.

Now we have had many more days without her outbursts than with them and all of us feel something we haven’t felt in awhile….Hope.

Sharing His Woobie With Me

By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT

“Like this, Daddy,” Lucas explained to me.

We were sitting on his bed and our heads were close together, looking at his woobie, a little bear with a small blue blanket attached to it. Then he took his woobie, and folded it over his finger so the satin band that wraps around the edge of his woobie was all that showed. The moment was so intimate, I feel like I need to write in a whisper.

Then he rubbed it against my lips, the way I have seen him do it so many times to himself.

“Feels nice,” I told him.

“Or you could put it here,” and he rubbed it against my forehead.

There’s a certain joy he seemed to feel showing this to me and I think I know why. His showing me what he does with his woobie is his way of showing me how he copes at night, how he deals with the dark when he can’t sleep, but doesn’t want to wake us up.

It is a sense of accomplishment, “Look what I did, Daddy.”

But I am slightly disturbed by the whole experience.

On the one hand, I think it is wonderful that he has taken the tools we’ve tried to give him and adapted them to what he needs. It is not just the woobie that makes him feel better, it is the feel of the satin rubbing against his skin. I also suspect it is not only the feel of the satin that feels good, but that the repetition of rubbing it against his skin that must also help calm him down, to relax him a bit so he can more easily fall back asleep.

On the other hand, Dorit doesn’t have anything like this. She does not have any coping techniques to deal with the night, because she is not scared by it. But he is and seeing him teach me, share with me how he uses his woobie to feel better, gives me a vision of him lying in bed, late at night, in the not so dark, but still too dark of his room, looking up at the ceiling, not wanting to bother us, rubbing his woobie against his lips to try not to feel so scared, hoping he will fall asleep soon.

He is that way because of my genes, because of my family traditions, and I wish I could make it so he never had to deal with it at all. But I have to console myself with the belief that though I can’t remove the anxiety from his life, I have done enough to help him live with it. He does go to sleep at night for the most part without any trouble thanks to his woobie, his Happy Thoughts and All The People That Love him. He sleeps through the night most of the time for the same reasons.

Still, I wish there was more I could do.