Raising Boys and Girls: The Differences

My boys were born in 2005 and 2006. I thought I’d never have a daughter and felt a small amount of sadness.

A small change occurred in 2008 in the form of a little girl, Lily. She even got her own post, My Dream Girl

I didn’t think there were many differences between raising boys and girls- at first. I must have been in a sleepy haze or serious denial. Now that I’ve caught up on a few years of sleep, I’m much wiser.

Ladies First…

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Lily at the Louisville Zoo, Summer 2018

I was once a little girl. I couldn’t have been that difficult to raise, right? I asked my mom if I was as dramatic, loud and messy af as Lily is. We call her room “the kid version of “Hoarders” because it’s never clean for more than a day. My mother told me yes, I was loud (I’m still loud at 35, no shocker), dramatic, but not quite at her level of messy.

THANKS, MOM.

Puberty has come for us and the current situation is buying bras. I had to get her a real bra recently, not just the cute sports bras. Yikes. She’s 10. Is this a thing? I skipped training bras and went straight to regular ones.

We’re a bit gentler on Lily. She’s more sensitive than her brothers and still may be developmentally delayed. (She is getting evaluated very soon.) That requires a different mindset. I have to teach her different things- to know her worth as the woman she will become, how to say “no” and not feel bad, caring for others (as in a family, should she have one) and many other things. The boys will get the same lessons but obviously slightly tweaked.

Lily loves clothes and has shown interest in makeup which is a great thing. I can’t wait to see this develop. This is just a glimpse into the fun parts of raising a daughter.

The Boy Brigade

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Cameron and Julian in the cart at the Arch

These guys have been full of adventure since birth. They have really lived up to the hype of “boys get into everything”. Once Julian was able to walk and talk, the joint adventures began. They have rode in laundry baskets down our stairs, made a slip n slide on the kitchen floor, slid down the driveway on sleds, gotten injured together (Julian ended up with staples in his head) and many more things.

Now they team up to see who can annoy Lily and Mom the most.

Most of the time, the boys are low-maintenance and I appreciate this. Sometimes. I don’t appreciate them wearing the same socks for four days in a row, using their bed as a trash can or any of the other many gross things they do. Ew. My boys have shared a bedroom since Lily was born. They’re cool with this, probably because they can stay up late, talk and plot to take over the universe.

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Julian making a bubble at the Louisville Science Center

Being the mom of two boys has lowered my shock factor. At this point, if someone isn’t bleeding, broken a bone or the house isn’t on fire, I’m good. As of writing this, two out of the three have occurred- no worries, my house has never caught on fire. Boys have been much easier to raise- they do get mad, they cry, but with a lot less drama involved.

Well, with one. Julian and Lily participate in what I call “The Petty Olympics” to see who can fight over the smaller things. This, of course, is when Mom is done for the day, maybe even the week.

We feed them, keep them clean, medicate them (both are on meds- Cameron takes one for migraines and SVT and Julian has his ADHD meds) and love them. I think they’re doing pretty well. Keeping them clean is a bit interesting- their showers are destroying our water bill. Lily needs a bit more to keep going but some kids do. We’re okay with that.

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Cameron at the Magic House in St. Louis

I’ve been very lucky to been able to have these kids. All jokes aside, they complete my life.

Do you have kids of both sexes? What differences have you seen? If you don’t have kids, what do you think?

Twin Mummy and Daddy

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The Dangers of Ignoring Mental Illness

Mental illness can lead to difficult situations if left untreated, but yet millions do so. Why?

Reasons To Not Find Help

  1. Shame. This leads many to hide symptoms. In many minority communities, mental health issues aren’t discussed very often, if at all. Those who do have issues are made to feel that something is “wrong” with them. You can read about this in Men and Mental Health and Breaking Down while Black.
  2. Poverty. Many don’t have money and/or health insurance to cover the costs of therapy and/or medication. This can be another major stumbling block. I was very lucky in that I had insurance to cover two years of therapy for a very low co-pay. Julian is on state health insurance. It’s hard to get help when you can’t afford it.
  3. Embarrassment. This is still a big reason that people avoid treatment. I’ve been very open about my struggles with mental health, drinking, and loss. Many people, however, want to hide that they have a drinking problem or anxiety. It makes them “look weak”.
  4. Side effects from medications and/or not feeling comfortable with a provider. Side effects from psychiatric medications are less than fun. Some are so bad that people simply stop taking them. It’s recommended that they don’t without speaking to the prescribing doctor, but this is not always done. It also helps if you feel like you can open up to your mental health provider. If you can’t, it makes you less likely to want to go back. It’s okay to want to switch. There’s someone out there for you.

The Dangers Below the Surface

When you leave your mental health unchecked, things can go very bad. The things on this list are possibilities:

  1. Worsening mental health status. As time goes by, your mind can go into some dark places if left unchecked. It may become harder to treat the issues. Longer and more intensive treatment may be needed.
  2. Unexplained physical symptoms. Sometimes our bodies begin to show wear after a certain amount of time of not being cared for. Our muscles stay tense, sleep becomes restless or harder to come by, eating may become irregular.
  3. Job and home instability. During a severe mental health episode, it may become difficult or even impossible to go to work. This can lead to losing a job and/or home.
  4. Incarceration. During episodes, there may be behaviors that lead to arrests, like indecent exposure, assaults, etc. These would not occur otherwise but in an altered state, people may not think clearly. There are millions sitting in jails and prisons with mental illnesses, many with severe mental illness (SMI).
  5. Victimization. Sadly, some with mental illness are more likely to become victims of violence than others due to past incidents and/or altered levels of functioning.
  6. Suicide. Many suicides are attributed to untreated mental illness. It’s not a failure or a lack of coping skills. Sometimes you get stuck in a moment you literally cannot see yourself getting out of. That’s when tragedy strikes.

Mental health treatment is well worth the time and money. You are worth the time and money.

Have you had problems with accessing mental health services?

For more information on accessing online therapy, please see Better Help

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

Information courtesy of Psychology Today

Medicating ADHD: Pros, Cons and Alternatives

My mom once told me that had ADHD been widely known about when she was a kid (she’s 61) she would have most likely been diagnosed. This, in part, explains why she and Julian get along so well. She understands him more than almost anyone else in the family. My mom is the oldest daughter of four kids (she has an older brother, a younger sister. Her youngest brother died when I was nine.) and was constantly in trouble as a kid. She hated school and had problems concentrating.

I asked her if she had been diagnosed, would she have been medicated?

“Probably not. It was the 60s, so I’m pretty sure my parents wouldn’t have thought about it.”

The medication debate continues 50 years later.

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The Julian Perspective

For the record, Julian is medicated. He was diagnosed with ADHD (severe, combined) when he was 5. He was very aggressive and destructive- his siblings wouldn’t play with him and he almost broke my nose while headbutting me during what I now know was a meltdown. He also barely slept, and for a 5-year-old, that can cause a lot of issues.

It was a tough decision for me- my husband barely gave input, so I made the decision on my own. I did a lot of research. I didn’t want to make Julian a “zombie” but I did want him to stop tearing my house apart and be able to play with his siblings again. It broke my heart that Cameron and Lily were afraid of him. I was also worried about his education- he was barely able to sit in school long enough to learn anything.

Vyvanse didn’t go so well- it did what it was supposed to, but it also stunted his growth. He was off it in six months. Julian barely ate, and as a result, he didn’t grow at all. This medication also irritated his stomach. Even now, at 12, he’s still small for his age.

At his last checkup, he weighed 101 lbs and was 4’9″. Don’t let the small size fool you- I feel terribly for the first kid that tries to mess with him at school. Julian watches wrestling and is strong for his size.

We also tried Tenex for sleep, and this worked for a couple of years until it caused an uptick in aggression, which it is known to do in kids on the spectrum, so we switched to Clonidine. He has done wonderfully on this and is currently taking it. He takes it nightly and everyone is glad to see him sleep. A cranky Julian is not fun. When he’s cranky, he’s more likely to have more behaviors, and I know it’s not his fault.

After Vyvanse, we tried Concerta but never got to a dose that really helped him. I didn’t like the side effects that he might have faced if he went up to the next dosage (increased aggression, decreased appetite, etc) so we chose to try Ritalin LA. This is what he is on now. He seems to be doing well on this, so he will remain on it.

I’m really picky on changing his medication and dosage. I won’t change the dosage unless I see major changes, or he’s hit a growth spurt. We just increased the Ritalin over the summer because he hit a major growth spurt. I don’t want to mess with what works.

He takes his medication daily- he knows this is not an option. I’m hoping he doesn’t start fighting me on this as he gets older as I hear some kids do. He’s been on medication for so long that I don’t think this will be an issue, but it’s in the back of my mind.

Julian has missed days on his meds- sometimes we forget by accident or he’s been sick, but if we somehow forget, he knows he is still expected to try his best to have a good day. ADHD and autism are not an excuse for bad behavior. Things happen, meltdowns do occur, but it doesn’t give him the golden ticket to do things on purpose. (This is what happens when Mom works in a mental health facility for four years with kids with developmental disabilities.)

When he is on his own, in college, or when he moves out, I can only hope he is either off meds by then or is responsible enough to remember on his own to take his meds. This will be a goal to work on in high school.

Putting Julian on medications was a difficult decision, but it was one of the best things I have ever done for him. As my mom put it, we got Julian back. I have nothing against parents who don’t medicate- every family is different. Every family has to make that choice.

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Pros and Cons of Medications

ADHD meds come with their own set of side effects, like some that I mentioned. They can also include heart issues, upset stomach, shakiness, sleeplessness, headaches, tics, and more. I highly recommend researching and talking with your child’s prescribing doctor (pediatrician, psychiatrist, psychiatric nurse practitioner, etc.) before starting any medication.

Pros:

  • help with the most challenging symptoms like: inability to concentrate, impulse control, low frustration tolerance
  • can be taken once a day in small doses
  • fast-acting in severe cases

Cons:

  • Side effects can be severe (as in Julian’s growth issues)
  • Can be abused (in some situations, like in college students)
  • Are not recommended in children with heart conditions (stimulants) but there are non-stimulants available

This is just a small list of pros and cons, please consider your child and family’s situation before deciding on medication for your child. There are many different medications on the market for ADHD- including pills, patches and liquid medications.

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Treating ADHD Without Medications

ADHD can be partially treated with medications, if that is your choice, but to get a full treatment experience for your child, there are other options to explore. I’m not a fan of the many different diets that I have been told about, because Julian’s a picky eater and I have two other children to feed. It would spell disaster.

I am, however, a fan of therapy. He sees a psychiatric nurse practitioner monthly and spent a year in group therapy for social skills. It was a great investment. Please check with your child’s insurance carrier to see what is covered and if needed, pediatrician, before starting anything new.

Behavior Therapy- This is a structured strategy that teaches new behaviors to replace old ones. This can be effective for kids under 5 and older kids. Cognitive Behavior Therapy can also be helpful- this helps change irrational or negative thoughts that get in the way of getting things done or even staying on task.

Supplements- Please discuss this with your child’s pediatrician before trying this. There are many vitamins and other supplements that have been found to help kids with ADHD. Every child is different, some may work, some may not. Iron, Zinc, Omega-3, Vitamins C and B6 are a few to consider.

Brain-Training Programs- These are relatively new, and they help improve working memory. Some even help increase attention and reduce impulsvity by simply playing games. The games are designed to make parts of the brain that may not be working at their best work a bit harder.

Mindfulness- This helps decrease stress, develop positivity, and strengthens self-regulation. These can be very helpful in kids with ADHD. There are many videos on YouTube to get started with, and can help decrease anxiety.

These are not the only ways that ADHD can be treated without medication, there are many others. This journey is an interesting one, and parents have to stick together.

Were you judged for medicated for medicating or not medicating your child? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

Information courtesy of Additude Magazine

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