Instead of whether, the question should be when and how

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Photo by Joel Overbeck on Unsplash

I was sitting on the sofa, computer perched on my lap, when my daughter burst through the door. “Learning disability?” she said. “Apparently I have a learning disability?”

She’d been to the doctor for her annual physical and when the visit was over, he offered to let my daughter hold the printed summary of her visit. It’s a sheet I can give to her school, which lists her allergies, vaccinations, and medical conditions. We are a pretty open family, and nobody thought anything of it. …


A label paves the way to understanding

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Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pexels

Years ago, when my husband and I were first trying to piece together the different aspects of our daughter’s developmental delays and emotional problems, a friend recommended we seek an assessment from my area’s Early Intervention department. We filled out the paperwork and scheduled the assessment, but in the back of our minds was a worry.

We both had grown up in a time when learning disabilities were poorly understood and kids who had them were usually educated in the LD classroom with the other “dumb” kids. …


Learning differences don’t just affect school performance

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

I always knew there was something a little different about my daughter. Looking back, I can trace a line from the earliest age — when she was unwilling to be cared for by anyone besides me — to today, when despite all the growth she’s made over the years, she still struggles with a wide array of skills on both the academic and social sides of life.

Family members and friends shrugged off her idiosyncrasies. Kids are all different, they’d say. She’ll catch up. And, kind of, she did. It never failed: As soon as I called in an expert…


Short answer: yesterday

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Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

Content warning: This story involves discussion of suicide in minors.

Over drinks one day, long before I had children, my friend casually mentioned some people he knew back home in England.

“Lost their daughter this weekend,” he said, shaking his head. “Suicide.”

“Oh, my God,” I said. “How old was she?”

“Twelve,” he responded gravely, and all the air left the room.

Twelve. What?

A family finished dinner. A twelve-year-old girl went upstairs. Her parents went up sometime later to tell her it was bedtime. And they found her.

I can’t even write those words without reliving the horror I…


Observations from the inside

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Photo by Paul Garaizar on Unsplash

I opened the cabinet to get a tea bag and I saw the pistachio clusters there. I’m not hungry, but I can’t stop thinking about them. I took out a serving, ate them standing up next to the cabinet. Took out some more and ate those, too. After awhile I stopped counting servings.

I was at the store earlier — the one with the long checkout line full of impulse purchases: gadgets and candy and those little hand sanitizer bottles. I didn’t have to buy the salted caramel, but I did it anyway. Along with the mini cookies.

I needed…


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Photo by Tomas Anunziata on Pexels

“I should be able to do this by myself.”

“I was in such a good place. What happened?”

“Why can’t I just get better and stay better?”

If any of these thoughts seem familiar to you, then we have something in common. Anyone who’s attempted recovery has likely had similar thoughts at some point. The problem is that the road to recovery is often unclear, usually winding, and most of the time washed out in places. You can’t get there with a map, and once you’ve found it, it might disappear or stretch further into the distance like a mirage…


We talk about mental health issues because it helps us — and others — to know we’re not alone

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Photo by Wallace Chuck from Pexels

“People who go on and on about how messed up they are seem like they’re just looking for attention or sympathy.”

“At some point you have to grow up and get over it.”

How many times have you heard these arguments used against survivors of childhood trauma?

After all my work recovering from my own childhood and speaking out about trauma recovery, it will come as no surprise how close to home these comments hit every time I hear them. …


This seemingly unusual practice can help you get to know your child better, and the results can last a lifetime

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Photo credit: Kate_Maleva.

Like other bumbling new parents, my husband and I quickly became mired in the fog of diapers, bottles, nursing sessions, and unsatisfying attempts at naps and bedtime routines that came with our first daughter. We found parenthood inexplicably overwhelming, as we could never figure out what she needed. Was she hungry? Sleepy? Wet? Gassy? The answer was always a mystery.

When she was a few months old, however, I stumbled upon the idea of diaper-free time. …


Social disconnection has preyed on everyone’s vulnerabilities, and our children are the silent victims

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Photo by Sven Brandsma on Unsplash

In my house, quarantine began after my first- and third-graders came home from school on March 12, 2020. We all saw it coming, but we had no idea back then that as we came up on American Independence Day nearly four months later, we would still be holed up together in the three rooms that currently make up our home.

I had a baby. Two family members died, and one moved to a long-term care facility. Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, my birthday and my daughter’s. My husband’s 40th. …


Other people’s trauma shouldn’t become yours

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Photo by Mikail Duran on Unsplash

“You know, your mother’s childhood was pretty awful,” said a relative who would know.

It’s a comment I’ve heard more than once, and I usually interpret it as a defense of my mother from someone who has seen a side of her that I never got to know.

Just how awful was it? I wonder. My mother seldom talks about her childhood and my grandmother, who lived until I was 31, never did either. It’s hard to even imagine my mom before she met my dad at age 19, and I tended not to try when I was younger.

Considering…

Nikki Kay

Words everywhere. Fiction, poetry, personal essays about parenting, mental health, and the intersection of the two. Check out my column at Invisible Illness.

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