A Tale of Two Mommies

…because more seems excessive…

Category Archives: parenting reflections

New beginnings and loose ends…

Look at me all diligent with my blogging! Like countless parents this time a year, my first entered Kindergarten. I’ve been generally anxious about this, mostly because my son is a unique gent, and the world doesn’t not appreciate neurodiversity. On the one hand he could be part of a wonderful group of children…on the other he could have my experience as a kid. Horribly bullied to the point that I didn’t really have a friend until high school, and most of my teachers treated me poorly because I was so weird and annoying. I’m desperately trying to push these fears down. There is nothing I can do about it. He is who he is, and I hope others appreciate him.

Little Man is about five-and-a-half at this point, and newly potty trained. For a couple of weeks I was hesitant to say he was potty trained instead of describing him as still in the process of this delight in parenting adventures. And, this process had been in some kind of swing since the spring. My son is Autistic, so the notion of this milestone is weighed differently than neurotypical kids. I don’t have firm data for this, as most of what I read is created by ableist parents and practitioners. I’ve been educating myself on Autism by reading information provided by those who are part of the community. Consequently, I’ve been trying my best to center around Little Man, and attempting to assess his shtick and what he responds well to…or not.

Up until the spring he wasn’t willing to entertain toilet use whatsoever. It turned into him waving his hand in my face and telling me to stop talking. But, as much as I want to respect his process, I was becoming increasingly nervous he would be wearing diapers in Kindergarten. It isn’t the diapers themselves that were a problem for me, but Little Man easily looks like he’s entering the first grade, maybe even the second. My concern is that he would become the target of other children. Once that happens, there isn’t anything I can do. I expect such a thing would not follow him throughout his entire elementary career, but I also don’t want to see him sad or hurt. Generally, my son is indifferent to kids acting like a bag of dicks toward him, but it is possible for him to be bothered. It’s also hard to predict what would push him over the bothered threshold, and I frankly don’t want to find out.

The process started with me having blunt conversations with him about my concerns. I knew there was a shift in him because he listened to what I had to say. I didn’t want to be too hopeful, though, because we’ve had several false starts over the past couple years in this realm…a dynamic I’m acutely aware of, but don’t want available for public consumption. This time, however, things felt different.

This is one of my favorite calming images. Standing at the foot of a tree and looking up…or seeing the changing light going through the canopy of leaves. If there is a subtle breeze on a perfectly overcast day, I just might manage to reduce my internal raging for a few. As Little Man was allowing me to speak to him about using the toilet, I immediately felt myself transfer to the zen of these exquisite trees with the calming currents of air brushing my face and tousling my increasingly gray streaked hair.

After our conversations that eventually amounted to guilt trips for not shitting in the toilet, we started on the charts…MONTHS of charts. Little Man earned his prizes…so did Warrior Queen because it’s lunacy to give Big Brother a doughnut and deprive her. Not surprising, my son was more interested and invested in the checks on the charts themselves than working for the reward…whatever, it was working.

Below are the charts I generated in Word documents in the event such a thing is helpful for someone else. All of them can be edited, and if anyone has specific questions after my spiel, I’m happy to share whatever tid-bits of things I’ve not outlined here. Most of these follow a kind of linear path of increasing expectation, but note there are outliers from when I experimented to see what might work best for Little Man. Toward the end of diaper use, I would write in how many times he decided he wanted to poop in the toilet for the chart cycle or use the facilities outside the home. That probably isn’t evident in the below documents, as such adjustments were hand-written in. For a long while I was able to reuse the same templates. And, by the end the charts were becoming specific to situations he was avoiding…like using the bathroom at school. He wasn’t having accidents, but holding it in for the duration of his four hour school day and bus transits.

I tried to keep Little Man as involved in the planning as possible, which worked as I threw it back in his face when he didn’t feel like using the potty…I’m not ashamed to say that sometimes I was not entirely easy going with this. I wasn’t crazy abrasive, but I wielded a heavy hand to keep him on track at times. In the end we had all kinds of carrots going on. There were the general “potty charts,” but eventually he was slacking on the dump end, which yielded another chart (the last document below). The reward for pooping in toilet was (and still is) an extra 30 minutes of television at night. That wasn’t always an effective incentive…mostly it’s how I knew he wasn’t remotely ready to go through this process. There isn’t much this kid wouldn’t do for some extra television, but apparently a visit to the porcelain bowl was a bridge too far in expectation. The poop chart gave him that extra nudge he needed. We would determine the time span of the chart…with every chart actually, and I’d have him decide how many times or the span of the chart. The only requirement I had was with each new chart: he had to do more than he was doing in the previous one.

Final note, I designed these charts to absorb bad days. For example, if he decided he wanted the chart to cover seven days, there was not an expectation that the days had to be consecutive. That said, more times than not he was whipping through these things…and both my kids seemed to be in a constant state of consuming doughnuts.

After my third or fourth successful diaper and accident free outing, I stumbled upon these marvels of kitchenware designs…clearly whoever created these mugs was potty training their five-and-a-half-year-old a breath away from starting Kindergarten.

By the end of the chart designs Little Man managed to transition to underwear full-time, and easier than expected. If he decides it will be a good day, then he won’t have an accident. Most of the time he won’t need to be prompted to use the restroom. There is usually a point in the day that he gives me a hard time about it, but that hard time is not as challenging as what this process used to be. The longer he’s been in underwear full-time, the more natural the process for him, and the more I trust his judgment…that’s yielding significantly less to no nagging. And, here we are…a couple weeks into school; my little man is growing up! He’s been so proud of himself…telling anyone and everyone who will listen how good he is at “pottying.”

Advertisements

Weighs and Means

As an educator Autism was described as this extreme, unreachable thing…grueling and heinous. I’ve had friends working with the population of extremes that cemented my belief system, even though I’ve encountered variations. The Autistic adolescents in my classrooms and schools have had complex profiles, the Autism piece fading into the background in some respects as other mental health issues and aggression became more worrisome. I suppose it’s all linked, but we were never in the game of “fixing” their Autism. Looking back, I’m glad I stumbled onto that small piece of an appropriate belief system.

Aspberger’s no longer formally exists, replaced by the umbrella of “spectrum.” I’m not opposed to this change…maybe? I don’t really get Autism still, though following disability Twitter with the throngs of testimonials has my immeasurable depths of gratitude. It truly is a spectrum, though I suspect the people charged with describing it don’t comprehend the term as they should.

Mr. Man is a marvelously unique gent. I’ve never worked with these little ones, so it’s hard for me to understand what’s part of a dominant neuro pattern, and what diverges. But, I always knew Little Man was different, and I almost tear up thinking of his wonderful ways that sets him apart from so many others.

At some point last year I began wondering if my son fit somewhere on the spectrum. I’ve never been sure if he would meet the criteria for a formal diagnosis, but certainly some of his behaviors had an Autistic feel to them. As he’s aged, even in such a relatively short span, the behaviors more pronounced. Doubt seeping away watching his individuality draw its distinct lines. But, I’ve been the only one in his life who believed Autism is a part of him…nothing new. My own neurodivergence yields that I see the world differently; I’m used to doubt, but within my wheelhouse of assessment of people and situations, I’m seldom wrong. My little man is no exception.

My son’s evaluation concluded some months ago, and it was a very gratifying experience. He’s young, and his presentation borderline for a diagnosis, so we will have him reassessed in the fall. But, no other diagnoses applied. As I listened to the results of his assessment, and the recommendations the psychologist listed, it occurred to me that Little Man’s borderline levels of Autism are because I’ve been busting my ass to intervene in the areas he struggles. For example, my son is not so great a reading facial expressions, and initially he couldn’t whatsoever. I’ve been working with him for years now in understanding social cues and reading expressions. He’s still odd in some respects, but because he has the capacity to do unexpected things, the assessment did not register an area of need. That said, he’s clinically significant in four areas with a moderate level in two more. As his world becomes more socially complex, I’m guessing his Autistic profile will evolve even more.

When we attended his yearly physical, I think his very skilled and knowledgeable doctor was hovering in the neighborhood of my son existing as a different and interesting kind of kid that no label would accurately describe. But, as the appointment unfolded his doctor saw some telltale Autistic behaviors, and I watched as he sat back and smiled. I could read on his face that Little Man is simply a delightfully interesting kid who happens to have skills most people don’t associate with Autism…unless one reads commentary among the Autistic community on forums like Twitter.

The last several months have been a whirl of stakeholders and the cacophony of life…my son becoming more rigid, but also better at interacting with his peers. It’s been an expansive behavioral give and take, but all within the scope of what I would expect Autism to be.

My husband initially uneasy with the label and its implications; I outlined a context of difference I don’t think he realized. I’ve been progressively more out there with my disability, at least in the flesh and blood of my life. Disability is a balance of stigma and strength, and I’ve learned there is power in embracing difference…taking pride in the attributes disability provides. I explained neurodivergence in terms of my own skills and achievements, and framed other more meaningful examples for him as well. We never discussed it, but I feel the impact of my words. My husband no longer takes issue with Little Man’s diagnosis or the behavior criteria it entails. Our son is simply marvelous for who he is…most of the time.

But, it’s been difficult to catch a glimpse of the future harassment from peers he might experience for his oddities. It’s reassuring to watch his strength and good humor about it, even if some of it is accidental. It’s been hard to see myself and aspects of my life in him, though so far we don’t share a diagnosis. As proud and content I am with myself and my path, I’ve cried privately on several occasions considering the prospect that more of me develops in him. I have no choice, but to stumble along that bridge in the event it manifests at some point.

But, for now I consider how we measure a person’s brilliance, and while I never had too much faith in cognitive measures, witnessing Little Man’s growth I very personally appreciate the deficits in how we as a society understand such things. Until now my focus as been on the inability for such intelligence indications to measure future success. But, sometimes Little Man startles me with something in his brilliance that can’t really be collected in a meaningful way. It’s almost always something pretty cool, and the coolest aspects to who Little Man fundamentally is I can wholeheartedly attribute to his Autism.

Life Lessons

I’m trying to consider where my head is these days…other than a mess, which is a hyperbole. I have a lot of things swimming around, but mess probably isn’t a great description. I’m struggling with some things…I feel like I can log that tid-bit under the: “What Else is New” file. Besides, once middle-age is reached, isn’t there always shit going on?

20190309_172537

I purchased another much-too-easy puzzle for Little Man. He enjoys them as a soothing exercise, appearing to almost impact him the way my fiber crafts do me. This is a good thing since he’s increasingly having trouble managing the intensity of the emotions he feels. This latest puzzle is a pretty cool image. I enjoy looking at it. I enjoy sitting on a cushion by the coffee table with Warrior Queen on my lap as Little Man and I piece it together. I do not, however, enjoy that these puzzles always seem to have one piece that walked away. This had me thinking. No matter how well my shit could be together or how spectacular the product, there is always a piece missing that I wouldn’t otherwise notice other than the context of everything else is relatively put together.

20181224_180001

Another story of my life…sometimes the crusts are SO terrible that only a nibble from each sandwich piece is manageable. I periodically have too many crusts in my life, and although such things are temporary, I will squander whatever I can to avoid having to deal with them. And, at the end of the day when I managed to choke them down, the crusts were tolerable. I will never rejoice in them, but sometimes the avoidance of them becomes sillier than just scarfing it down and moving on.

Life as Pictures…and needs for life

It’s winter. Climate change dictates that we consistently have these random warmer days into January. Certainly it wasn’t super warm,  but not the frigidity one might expect this time of year. This never lasts, only about a day or two before the erratic plunge back into expectation.

I wasn’t thinking of sitting outside; I will use just about any excuse to get out of it, even if I seldom regret the decision to confront the sun. My husband suggested it. Little Man was vacillating between outside on our driveway and going somewhere we weren’t going to go regardless. The driveway won out, though not taking a walk as my husband urged. We hustled outside in a dervish wind. I snagged our vaguely uncomfortable, but better than standing or sitting on wet pavement, chairs. And, my husband and I simply sat in the warmish sun while our kids entertained themselves and made us laugh. Thus prompted a theme I identified for the last year, and what I hope to nurture in the next.

20181229_110640

These are ridiculous cars, yet everyone seems to have one. Little Man wasn’t interested in it until he became much too big for it. When he was younger, he loved sitting in them provided I was pushing him around. I’m a solid pusher…running around with jerky turns and sudden stops. My endurance for the exertion is pretty good too. I’m usually surprised how long I can prolong the effort without feeling as though I want to pass out. But, in the pushing days he loved it; Warrior Queen loves it now. I love that they love it, but my zest for their enjoyment pales with their desire for me to run around the area pushing around this ridiculous car.

20181229_110839

It was a joint pretend play…Little Man filling the gas tank that turned into Warrior Queen’s expectation at a later point. One of my favorite things is to eavesdrop on their pretend play. They both create these stories I don’t understand, but they are always completely engrossed in whatever is happening in their minds. That’s a trait…or habit I’ve always possessed, which makes a part of me nervous that they inherited my brain. But, as they grow into more distinctive people, I’m learning that it is less about genetic matter traveling as following modeled behavior…at least to some extent. I spend a good deal of time considering nature and nurture, and I find myself landing in interesting places on the matter.

I’m never comfortable. Mostly it’s my mental health that dictates my homeostasis. Best likened to chronic pain, my threshold to just be is different allowing me to function. But, I’m not ever comfortable. My life is in a constant state of pushing my limits or I’d be paralyzed in a small windowless room unable to escape. I suppose that’s the reason why there are some things I simply won’t do because it’s exhausting to exist and do something interesting with my life outside my head.

Spending the time outdoors would have been one of those decisions, but I followed my family’s flow. My husband usually the one nudging us outside. It occurred to me suddenly that I inadvertently surround myself with people who know what is best for me with the minuscule, nothing events in life; and push me into decisions I wouldn’t make on my own. Big decisions are all me, but the small enjoyments outside of chocolate and cookies that disappear into my memory are almost exclusively other people…like my husband. I enjoyed watching my kids while sitting in the sun because he knew experiencing this brief warm day in winter was a worthwhile effort. I need that in my existence, and I don’t know if I formally understood that until this particular moment sitting in my vaguely uncomfortable chair.

20181229_113521

A brief walk down the street to the festival of the fire cisterns that have captivated Little Man from toddlerhood.

20181229_113641

Paw Patrol has nothing on rocks.

I’m part of activism groups, and I’ve found that I collect similar nudging people. Little by little I find myself taking on something I never thought I would do…tiptoeing into things that make me nervous, and suddenly my tolerance for scary things shifts.

I will start postcarding when Warrior Queen begins school. I don’t know my exact schedule, likely not weekly. But, I plan to regularly attend groups that do this sort of activism. I don’t really understand how it works, but for a couple of years now I’ve seen marvelous posts of this effort…my longing to participate, but I froze not knowing how to start…what to do. The women I’ve met in my political network groups give me access…nurturing sentiments…and an abrupt push to start something new. I don’t understand how it happens, but I end up committed to something that I never regret…even if the venture doesn’t flourish into my hopes. These women have the connections, so I just dive in! I’m terrified, but I know I’ll be okay.

I’ve made my peace with the anxiety of postcarding…the nerves numbed, and now I’m so excited I practically vibrate. I feel as though these mornings to myself have been too far away to consider in any meaningful capacity, yet I’m now at the edge of somewhat wide open time…to waste…to be productive…I hope to actualize it all!

The plan for postcarding mostly set, my newest focus at the moment is text-banking. I’ve been circling the perimeter of such an effort for a while. To be fair, the candidate text-banking for the 2019 elections doesn’t seem to be in full swing quite yet, which reinforces my anxiety induced procrastination. Candidate text-banking that is a back and forth type of deal might be too much of an effort for my first crack at this kind of thing. But, as I responded to a post about my pride for the past year and my hopes for the next, I lamented my concerns to the fairly massive group of mostly women. I’ve decided to table the candidate work for the moment and start with some environmental issue texting that is more about guilting people to the polls than a specific issue or person. This effort provides polling information, which isn’t such a huge deal in my state, but in areas with voter suppression knowing where to vote, what is needed, and other logistics is crucial. This environmental group will be good training wheels for me. There isn’t an expectation of reciprocity for this first venture. That’s good. I can meander in my haphazard, catawampus way through how these things work; it’s all so foreign to me at the moment, and too many new things at the same time makes my ability to process strategy impossible. At some point I hope to become more involved with the group I initially contacted…when some of the aspects of text-banking are no longer new, and my learning curve will almost exclusively focus on the issues and candidates I’ll be supporting.

20181229_121545

I’ve heard it before…that you fall more in love with your partner watching them with your kids. I wholeheartedly agree, but the notion is beyond something I could’ve ever possibly fathomed. We’ve always had a strong relationship, but the level to which our connection has transformed defies anything I could coherently communicate. Not only can I watch the kids for endless hours, but time stops when my husband is interacting with our children. I might meet very specific and important needs for our little ones, but certain things Mommy can’t do. Those Daddy activities and interactions enrich their lives in ways that deepen my love for him, and the more mundane the instance, the more I melt seeing it. And, then there is the way my husband’s face lights when our little people enter a room or greet him in ways unique to him. I often wonder if he’s aware of how his stature and presence transforms looking at Little Man and Warrior Queen. It doesn’t matter that an entire day could be spent yelling at our precious cherubs, I’ve never seen my husband quite so light and enamored.

I’m a little nervous about the spring semester as well. I will teach two sections of my college class provided there is enrollment for both, a likely scenario. I will be entering the prison in the morning as well as the afternoon for the first time, and have a significant increase in college students as well, not that it’s all that many in totality.

The two sections I’m teaching are old hat, though the afternoon is a different group of men…different gangs with different prison functioning. I’m not sure what to expect, but probably much of the same. Having a sitter for my kids all day is a transition I’m feeling better about, but still uncomfortable for completely irrational reasons.

I offered to donate my time to the university with another program I was planning to run anyway, should it be approved, also a likely scenario, but one never knows until the process is complete. I’ll be running my Education Seminar one evening a month at our women’s maximum facility. I offered to bring some college kids in to observe if it’s permitted. The seminar, however, is a bigger process than it might seem. I’m still attempting to learn of its approval, which I believe is more of a rubber stamp than anything else at this juncture, but since I’m not employed in the Department of Corrections, I can’t know these things for sure. This program was at the request of the prison director I’ll be working with, so I expect everything is fine. But, I always feel uneasy until something is on the books and I’ve started. An additional nagging thought in the back of my mind is worry that the administration turns before this program is established. While this effort wouldn’t necessarily be squashed, a significant delay in an already long process is highly likely…unless I’m already in with a session or two under my belt. Having a relationship with people, and a face for a name is a pretty huge deal with these kinds of things, and I have other ambitions for the programming at this particular prison. I very much want to get started there.

Then there is the added college contingency. I would’t have offered such a thing if I thought it to be a long shot, and it isn’t as though there are committed promises. I merely suggested that I’d explore the possibility if this program is approved. My hope is that I can expand my usefulness with this university, and other opportunities might grow from it.

There are several additional moving parts with having college kids come with me into the prison. Certainly the logistics, which are not all that problematic because I understand the system expectations and am efficient. But, I’ve never run this kind of program before, and new things are always hard for me…probably for anyone. I have high expectations, and tend to fixate on failure that usually doesn’t materialize. Given the nature of this program, a complete crash and burn probably won’t be the case. My creation will be helpful for the incarcerated women; I’m just not sure what to expect from the program itself, and that’s swimming in my mind. It isn’t fear, more getting my head around planning, and just wanting to start already.

The university director I’m working with thinks this is a solid opportunity for his department. He’s planning for it as a noncredit option for the students. I assume credit can’t be awarded because it meets once a month as a single session entity, but I’m not certain if there is something additional I will need to create to make this a thing on his end. Some kind of assignment or written structure isn’t a problem, but a collision of other things I’m trying to organize in my mind with everything else. That isn’t a complaint. This kind of stuff is exciting for me.

20181229_112420

Little Man has always been about the mechanics, cherishing the non toys as toys…the sprinkler bric-a-brack no exception. My husband begged our son to keep the parts in the shed where they belonged, but Little Man simply cannot switch gears once an idea is in his head. My husband decided quite wisely it wasn’t worth the fit that would ensue for absolutely forbidding the activity.

20181229_121943

Watching Daddy do house work is also much more fun than any kind of toy he could be offered.

I relish having all of these pieces to consider with the flurry of other time occupations I’m pursuing, as I watch my children toil with various objects and each other on a warmish day in winter. I value my husband ushering the kids in a ridiculous toy car before he transitions to figuring if any of his various ladders will allow him to accomplish some kind of household task he keeps forgetting about. It was a hard couple of years, and my baseline is never particularly easy; but increasingly I’m convinced that I attract the people I need at various moments in my life. Too much of the time my closest relationships end, often jarringly so. It isn’t always a death or injury. Sometimes we naturally drift…sometimes I’m a shitty friend because I’ve struggled with intimacy my entire life. But, I suppose the nature of life is temporary, so in the next year I’ll take more time to bask in the people who force me to sit outside in a vaguely uncomfortable chair, or press me to do new things they don’t realize are terrifying. And, maybe if I plunge often enough into disquieting unknowns, the world can become a better place in some impossible to measure way, and I can make some new friends while honoring the people I’ve lost.

Trying…

It’s Thanksgiving again…

I’m thankful there are so many establishments around me that make unbelievable chocolate chip cookies. I’m sure they have other confectionery marvels, but I guess I’m a traditionalist…not that I would decline any kind of cookie, but I have my preferences. Along that same line I’m grateful to have a friend that periodically bakes me chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. They always turn out perfectly soft, and the oatmeal makes me feel like I’m doing something positive for my body. On impulse I tried making cookies from scratch a few weeks ago. The baking soda was a relic from quite easily a decade ago…the cookies were flat, but I still managed to eat most of the batch in one day. They didn’t come close to my friend’s cookies, but morally I will not leave any cookies feeling unwanted or unloved…I’m generous in spirit that way.

I’m thankful almost all of my pregnancy losses the past couple of years have been so early that holding weight is the only real bodily disturbance. I’m thankful that my weight gain allows me to look like a drawn 1950s pinup. While I would prefer to fit into things more easily and buy a bra that fits, there are worse outcomes in life.

I’m thankful that I was so close to someone that even a year after he shuffled off this mortal coil I can still envision perfectly how he would respond to my various antics. I often craft texts and emails to him in my mind; before long there is a vivid exchange. I don’t believe in an afterlife. He’s lost to me forever, but I like to think that his memory isn’t. I had another successful class at the prison; perfect attendance once again despite some really screwy lock-ins lately that yielded one random student arriving. I can practically hear his responses to my stories…his laughter. I’m indescribably grateful for that, but I miss him. It isn’t much of a substitute, but I didn’t have these kinds of things when I lost my best friend at sixteen. I wasn’t able to stomach those thoughts, so I pushed everything down trying to escape the effects of losing someone so vital to my existence and happiness. I didn’t though…not really.

I’m thankful my husband is so funny. I’m not very good at communicating things. He sometimes reads this blog, but doesn’t tell me when or comment about the content. He knows I’m having a hard time, but probably not the details. I’m better at sharing things these days, but I never reveal the complete picture to anyone. But, my husband has always loved me for my faults, and no one makes me laugh as he does. I’m grateful that he provides me one of my life’s greatest pleasures: laughter.

I’m thankful for middle-age…really. I love the feeling of what this point in my life quest reveals. I now suddenly have this impenetrable armor I had spent my youth unsuccessfully trying to mold. For so long there were all of these notions I internalized as weakness, but as a middle-aged woman these vulnerabilities and my humanity are what make me strong…less fearful…more joyful. There is no better shield from a foe.

I’m thankful my kids are so snugly. I’m grateful for their chatter and smiles. I’m thankful that they have the capacity to remind me of the best parts of myself. I’m thankful that they will eat my cookies happily even though they are nothing more than a smear on the baking sheet. I’m thankful that while they will eat them, they won’t eat too many.

Oddly, I’m thankful to feel loss in it’s lonely grasping pain. I’m finally ready to attempt justice for the memory of such remarkable people. In my middle-age I’m secure enough to preserve the most hallowed parts of who they were, and continue the legacies I’m sure they never considered. I’m thankful I can give them such honors, and hope it offers me peace at some point.

Life as Pictures: lessons in saving myself

Where has the time gone? I had been allowing myself rare copious praise for everything I’ve accomplished in the past few months…and then I noticed the last time I posted something. Ugh. Life just escapes…

But, I will detail my excuses because I’m quite proud…for the most part. I always find something that isn’t good enough, which is a torment as much as a driving force. I managed to finish a FORTH program a couple of months ago. It was a request from a director at our maximum security prison. I didn’t think I’d manage it quite so soon since I’d just finished three others at a gruelingly slow pace. But, it’s done. I’m pleased with the content. If the powers that be like it, then I’ll finish the application, and, tah-dah, the DOC will have a social skills program designed for younger gang involved men that I structured around respect. This population is steadfast in the issue, but their notions of respect are not always compatible with societal expectations. This, of course, does not intervene with the allure or complexity of gang affiliation, rather expands their communication skills beyond those directly connected to their culture. When choosing the content and general approach, I hailed back to my time working with gang involved adolescents in a clinical capacity…the conversations on this topic that seemed to have the greatest impact. Though I can’t speak to long-term success of my interventions, at least they didn’t scoff at what I said in the moment…that’s usually the way it goes. I developed a curriculum that standardized my approach; maybe it will do some good.

My education seminar is progressing up the DOC approval chain. I look forward to its blessing. For the most part things are more rubber-stamped the higher up the signature tree. I think it’s in the final stages now. I don’t really work with female populations…there are many more men in prison systems, so it’s easier to get administration in male facilities to respond to my inquiries simply because there are more of them. I have my programming dreams for incarcerated women that focus on children and pregnancy, so it will be good to have an in. When people have a face to requests, it’s easier to make progress. I don’t usually have such a luxury, but this one is particularly important to me on several levels. The seminar I created has value in and of itself. I can’t remember if I described it on an earlier occasion, but I will be providing information about special education, interventions, and policy as it pertains to the education of struggling children. Over the years I’ve run into consistent issues that are challenging to navigate for even the most high functioning family system and professionals. So, I’ll be outlining those various issues for the women incarcerated in our only state facility. Things like transportation, homelessness, truancy, general resources out there and process…a slew of issues that are more common than people like to admit, consequently ignored by larger educational systems. I’m pleased that I can provide some expertise to caregivers who usually don’t have access to it.

My college/prison class hybrid is going well. Two sessions in the prison have been solid. I have an entire group of writers, which has never happened. I almost laughed during my intro the first day. In the overview packet I include a nothing piece I wrote. I mentioned it, and every hand began to vigorously flip through in search of the sample. I don’t know if any of them ended up returning to the piece back in their cells, but it’s new to have men take interest in reading my work. Having such a large collection of writers for the first time; the discussion has a very different feel. Cool is probably a lackluster term, but it is.

I’m not calling Congress as much, which is disappointing to me, though my political bitching has thrived on social media. I’ve met a collection of interesting people very unlike myself and my experiences. I’m trying to surround myself with as many marginalized people as I can, and I can say that’s it’s nurtured compassion and a more appropriate view of the world…I also get better access to what’s happening in the country and world. Most interestingly is that I’ve found peers on social media who are like me. I cried the first time someone sharing my diagnosis found me. I can’t say I’ve met someone else with my mental health issues, and access to disability Twitter allowed me to feel pride in my own learning shtick. So, it’s been good. I’m certainly dancing with the ugly side of social media, but can appreciate what these forums add for those marginalized without a voice beyond screen perimeters. I’m grateful to sample their voices…that these individuals take the time to share their worlds not always well received.

Another new experience, I’ll be working in my town’s polling station for this election. I also signed on to work a morning shift for early voting. That’s exciting to me.

Our volunteering at the assisted living is also going well now that we join a woman who works at the facility. I don’t know what I’m doing, so now most days we just show up and sit there. Last week, though, was the first time I saw the power of having my kids do this. Little Man was playing some kind of weird catch with a gentleman who adores both of my kids, and the feeling is mutual. A man I hadn’t seen before was next to their activity kind of scowling blankly. I was starting to feel bad that maybe my son was bothering him. But, then I saw the corner of his mouth begin to quirk. The small squishy ball rolled to him. He gingerly retrieved it from his wheelchair, half toss, half rolled it back to my son who jumped on it as he tends to do. Little Man isn’t much of a catcher, but he makes up for whatever clumsiness with enthusiasm. When we left the man was smiling. It was subdued, but there and because of Mr. Man.

It continues to be a hard time I can’t quite shake, but at least it’s easier than it was. The first anniversary of a very good friend’s death rolled through the calendar recently. I have yet to hear news of another who was seriously injured over a year ago. Other than no obituary online, I don’t know how he is. I send a brief text update about every ten days or so. I don’t know if he reads them…or can read them. I don’t know if I’ll hear from him again. That’s hard, and I’m not sure if I should hope, so I just kind of numb it out like I’m practiced at doing. But, each time I sent my words there are these moments of holding my breath for a response I know won’t come. And, there are some other losses too that I don’t want to get into. Mostly it’s too painful at the moment to put it to explanation. But, I’m trying to be as positive as I can…more pragmatically than anything else. I have a Warrior Queen and a Little Man to tend to. I can’t afford to live in my funk any more than I already am. I’m good at numb…a lifetime of necessity nurtured my ability to push away inconvenience of emotion for the most part. But, it helps that I have healthy outlets these days. It helps that I’m more connected to others than I’ve ever been.

The deeds that I mentioned above are a double-edged sword of an outlet. Corrections stuff, which are more of an ambition or professional passion for me than anything else, are compartmentalized in a different space in my mind than the other occupations. The more random tasks I volunteer for drift into penance too often. I regularly grapple with unhelpful feelings of what I deserve and personal worth. Too much of me holds that if I give enough of myself, maybe I’ll stop losing friends…or babies. It’s the toll of a lifetime of loss and other kinds of trauma. Intellectually I get that the universe doesn’t work that way, but it’s a compulsion. I think it’s always been there in some form. But, I’m a middle-aged woman now, so I have more options of what to do. I’m letting myself feel bad these days, which is long overdue and good, so I channel those feelings into something else to scrub whatever internal stink I might possess. I genuinely enjoy the charitable work, but I’m well aware of the other role it plays. It’s effective in giving me a needed lift, but my worth does not rise with it. Not so much a self-esteem thing, but it comes from another place, guilt maybe? I have many blessings in my life. On some level I’m trying to deserve the good things, and make the painful ones stop…at least for a little while so I can regroup. This is a textbook trauma response. I get that, but it’s unhelpful nonetheless.

20181005_180153

My newest afghan is enormous, and a lesson in baby steps getting a job done. I might get a row in, but often less…ten minutes to work on it. But, little by little it grows, and another color wraps…then another. I look forward to the day that it warms my legs as I work the stitching. That’s still some time away, but with diligence that time will arrive before I know it. I’ve also found that something this massive and colorful is an exceptional conversation starter. I was raised in an area where people talk to anyone and everyone, even if we don’t really like them. There are many reasons why it’s hard for me to get my conversation act together sometimes, so it’s helpful to have a prop that makes me significantly less awkward. I’m a bit too blunt at times. I’m not necessarily mean, but I don’t have much of a filter; and years of working in a field consisting of events off the beaten social path at every turn, I’m extraordinarily desensitized about pretty much everything. I lost my North Star of propriety a long time ago. Now that I’m middle-aged I mostly just embrace it. I look forward to the adolescent years of humiliating my kids by simply existing.

20181004_125936

Little Man’s preschool is housed on the property of a newly renovated church. After drop-off, Warrior Queen darts over to the stairs beckoning me to follow her. I love her thrill at my chasing her down that very ramp. She giggles as I look like a lunatic to the teachers and children who can watch me running with waving arms outside their window. Eventually I’m able to shepherd her into the car with the promise that after school she can plan in the leaves. The people who tend to the exterior rake them in piles around the tree, and the kids wade in almost waist deep every afternoon. Fall is often wet in my area, but there have been several perfect autumn days. My son in his 90th percentile stature and expansive arms collects a mass of leaves to throw on a friend who is unhappy that his collection is so paltry. Those two have had some discord. My son is not quite a rough and tumble, though he can certainly give back. At the end of the day, though, he’s more silly than aggressive, often confused when peers become mad at him. He much prefers a little girl in his class, and both have asked for a playdate. I like her mom too, so that’s definitely a win. While Little Man doesn’t seem to have the same issues in school as last year, I’m seeing more defined spectrum characteristics. In a couple of months he will be evaluated. It will be good to have more tools added to my belt.

20181009_102930

There is the pretty fantastic exploration pace for kids near us. We were gifted a membership, so I took Warrior Queen while her brother was at school. This picture taken just after her visit to the water area, which nurtured some of my fierce girl’s hair spirals coming to life. My sprite is about two-and-a-half now, so I can no longer just head home and do nothing every day with a baby doing her baby thing around the house. While I don’t make spectacular plans for her, I like to think she enjoys herself and has the opportunity to socialize with other kids until her school program begins in January. She looks rapt at this magnet thing, but Warrior Queen kept returning to the area with the large bin of sand and construction trucks to push granular loads…little girl here loves her trucks, and had a fit when it was time to leave the building to collect her brother.

20181009_100050

Warrior Queen and I worked on an art project…really. It was the two of us, and my role was to ensure the glue didn’t end up sculpting her eyebrows or hair. She chose all of the various adornments. Stickers are her favorite, so I watched her study the pile of them as she delicately pealed them from their backings. She would look up at me and name the sticker picture or ask me for details. Generally my daughter is a chatty one, but at the moment I studied her face in concentration. After about fifteen minutes she suddenly slides off her stool, headed to the next diversion without any thought to our masterpiece. Sniff…I was forced to leave the project, unhappy that it would not find its home in our trash bin…like all of Mr. Man’s artwork that consists of two scribbles on paper and a line of tape stuck to it.

20181009_100559

The same establishment has a diner area. Warrior Queen fed me…this…and coffee…lots and lots of coffee. Then she remembered I don’t drink coffee, and offered me tea. This place has all of these delightful details…like the spices. The shakers are sealed from opening, but the kids can smell their contents. I love to cook, and started this activity with both Little Man and Warrior Queen. We rummage through my collection, open, and smell the various spices. Mr. Man asks what each one is and what it’s for. He will sometimes offer a story about the spice that he pulls from somewhere in his creative mind. Little Man is a marvel with his stories. Much of the time I can’t really follow his train, but I could stare at the twinkle in his eye and listen to his giggles as he makes himself laugh uncontrollably all day. After a final sniff, he holds the container down to his little sister requesting that she smell it as well. As she tries to inhale, but doesn’t quite get the task; my son tells her what she is smelling, and she looks at him adoringly. These moments are almost worth Warrior Queen going into our pantry at random points, snatching whatever spice (usually paprika), and dumping it on the floor. Naturally, these events occur when I’m in the middle of something that can catch fire.

The Lessons History Tells…and how to ensure it ceases

I have this random worry…part of the worry is that it shouldn’t be that random. I worry about my children’s education in a very big picture sense. We live in a relatively affluent area. I hear rave reviews of teachers from the parents of other, older children. My concern isn’t about access or resources. We mostly fulfill the appropriate bullet points of what should be considered quality education.

But, I’m an educator. More specifically my world consists of the children or adults who didn’t fall through the cracks. People…policy makers…professionals created cracks and pushed them through. With such a reference in mind I worry about my children’s notions of the world once public education begins. I worry about the forces that perpetuate the narrative of oppression, eventually yielding the status quo that those receiving its advantage are unwilling or unable to see.

I’m not bringing vague liberal ideology to this party. My notions have very real evidence. I worry our district uses McGraw-Hill or other similar publications for textbooks. Texas based companies produce most of our country’s learning material, and for quite some time on a concerted mission to “deliberalize” our history. As I write these simple notes, students throughout our nation regardless of origin or heritage receive an education that completely removes slavery as though it never existed. In its place is “triangular trade” or some random immigration label completely devoid of meaning or accuracy. For the moment our society embodies throngs of individuals in power who have a notion of this singular issue, but what happens when a generation passes? I don’t want my children to understand that reality. I don’t want my children to ever know the harm and hurt something like that will perpetuate on others who are already at a disadvantage regardless if such a belief is widely accepted. As is there are scant notes of notable White women in history, forget about the other remaining melanin or belief spectrum. And, even if White women are mentioned, the entirety of the legacy is suppressed.

I worry that my children will be witness to the false history that the North was good and the South was bad; it was all bad. Allowing any of us to be cushioned from possible guilt keeps us stuck in the same cycle of exploitation. I want my children to be taught and to understand the slavery in the North…the medical experimentation…dubious notions of consent. I want my children to hear and see the words of the Black suffragists whose role much mightier than their White counterparts if for no other reason than their steady endurance despite the hatred for existing as a perceived lesser. I worry that my children won’t learn the endless tales and strengths of those forgotten to our past saving a random Google search from something whispered from somewhere unknown.

I worry my children will endorse more wars overseas because our education system does not provide the most basic of narratives as to why others do not trust us. How much longer will we be in the Middle East? Forever. We have been there forever, and will likely always be…interfering as western powers do best. I don’t want my children to grow a dismissive hand that an entire swath of people are animals because our history bloats our exceptionalism and nurtures righteous indignation. I want my children to learn how Israel came to pass, and decide their own judgement of our Jewish state. Will it give them comfort or will it be a guilt-ridden burden that plants seeds of ill ease because of its possible illegitimacy and questionable governing? I want my children to understand the complexity of existence over time…that history in and of itself establishes reality, and we cannot move forward without understanding how we arrived to this point.

But, I know what our history books say. I know they talk of the West almost exclusively. I know that the Middle East fades away after a brief glimpse of a convoluted Ottoman Empire. I know there is little discussion of colonization boundaries and imperialism which haunt us every day in our military expansion and need for more protections.

I worry my children will grow to be voters without exposure to the truly exceptional Chinese Empire–one of the original and most tenacious superpowers. They pursue questionable tactics, but their culture and innovation dominated most of human history. It seems their momentary fall from grace will fuel their ascendance to dominance once again…with the help of our less than exceptional leadership at a pivotal time.

The ghast cruelty of this situation is that my own education reeked of such heinous misconceptions, and it unwittingly haunted me through much of my emerging adulthood. Perhaps my kids would be thoughtful enough to overcome such things as I commit to do in my own bumbling in life. Certainly how I raise Mr. Man and Warrior Queen has a profound impact on many fronts. But, I worry that I am up against a losing battle of written inaccuracy. I worry my kids will invest so much in their inherent advantages that they will be entrenched as another piece of a faceless mass joining social media completely deluded…convinced their privileged reality is the entire story, and they won’t be strong enough to consider the alternative.

Revelations and Taking Up Space

I feel strange for posting this, but I’ve spoken to enough women to know the internal rantings within silence. Mostly I’m tired of feeling bad, which means that I need to do more to alter how I see myself and pieces of my life. Recently I’ve returned to help on that front, which gives me reliable time to interface with a human and be self-serving. Things are about to return to a slog, even if not quite as bad…at least I hope it isn’t. Frankly the stress was becoming too much, so I began looking for more…different ways to take care of myself because my traditional strategies no longer cut it. But, it’s hard to divine ideas when my brain is consumed by when I can lay in bed…and not be able to sleep. It hasn’t been quite that bad for the past couple of months, but that time erratically comes and goes. I’m pleased…or proud of myself for not wasting moments of internal motivation. I worked hard to find other things…more of what will pull me up to living.

From time to time I post about physical appearance. It’s a complicated issue, as it isn’t just about what lives in my mind. Competing are the external forces dictating what should be attractive or merely acceptable. Part of the issue is that I’m no longer twenty, so while there is an entire world telling me how I should behave and look, I’ve surpassed the years when I’m really part of the discussion…It’s a weird state of being, both liberating and daunting.

So, I’m middle-aged now. I’ve birthed two babies. My body has changed. I’ve maintained a healthy lifestyle on many fronts, and even though things have been quite stressful for the last year, such healthful choices continued. That said, I’m middle-aged now, and I’ve birthed two babies. My body has changed. Parts of me are bigger, but I feel I look good. I feel I look strong and defined. I feel I look healthy and powerful. A year ago I lost my daughter’s baby weight, but since that time I’ve also lost several early pregnancies. I rapidly gained quite a bit, which has bothered me for several reasons least of which has to do with my actual physical appearance. I’ve tried to fully embrace the narrative of feeling that I look good. Feeling that I look strong and defined. Feeling that I look healthy and powerful. I’ve been a successful Weight Watcher for over a decade now, and I credit it for most of the ways in which I rejoice and value what my body can do. I’ve learned to treat myself with respect and balance with all things…much of the time anyway. But, the pregnancy losses and subsequent additional weight has done a number on my positive resolve…pregnancy hormones have their own pacing, even when it does not yield a baby…even if the pregnancy is a whisper. But, it seems that I have an option. If my doctor sees me as healthy at my current weight, then it’s okay to feel that I look good, to feel that I look strong and defined, and to feel that I look healthy and powerful. There is quite a bit I don’t know. I don’t know if I will ever have another child, probably not. I don’t know if I will ever be at the weight before I was middle-aged and birthed two babies. But, I do know that I have so many other things about me that far eclipse the tellings of a contraption at my feet. I know my body can perform miracles and help change the world for the better. My body can laugh and build connections to others. My body can love and be loved. So, I’ve decided to give myself permission to accept whatever extra weight my body has that may or may not continue to take up residence indefinitely. If this is your struggle, I give you permission to do the same.

Judgments

The newly-ish minted four-year-old Mr. Man needs an evaluation…another one. This one, however, is more annoying. My son attended a private preschool two mornings a week this past year. It’s a play-based program, and truly good in terms of quality. I don’t want to rail on about the virtues of this school and the comparisons between private and public. But, fundamentally this school hires and keeps qualified teachers, which is fairly uncommon outside of the public sector. I don’t have hard data about that, but given my experience running private nonprofit special education programs (albeit a vastly different population), it’s probably a profoundly safe bet.

Little Man’s teacher team is good; generally I have no complaints. But, after his mid-year conference, I saw the play for the remaining part of the year. My husband and I assumed we would hear polite niceties about his stubborn, rigid nature. We walked out puzzled. My son has been very sweet and compliant. He’s chatty and funny, but seems to struggle with processing information. His teacher highlighted a few examples of his behavior…his confusion about where and how to get into line well after all of his peers complied…repeatedly asking questions that he seems to already know the answers to (like the name of a common fruit)…sitting with his back to the book during story time, and confused when an adult addresses it. For those familiar with Mr. Man’s story, these behaviors are…odd. My son doesn’t have a processing issue (though I get why his teachers think so). His memory is stunning, and he usually picks-up a routine within one or two renditions…provided he agrees with said routine. At the time I had to sit on this one for a few days because it simply didn’t make sense.

Little Man had a speech delay; not uttering words until two-and-a-half years…not that you’d know it because the kid won’t shut his hole for the life of him. The speech therapists called it “motor planning,” and it would be unclear if it completely resolves or if other traces present themselves. As of his end of year conference, I suspect other traces have become uncloaked, but it’s hard to know for sure. I’m not necessarily concerned; whatever is going on leaves him fairly high functioning. But, I’m left with the distinct taste that I will need to document things because my son does not have a processing thing. My concern is that he’s found behaviors meeting his attention seeking needs, and his education will become a process of him turning into a type of learner he isn’t.

Overwhelmingly my concern with this process and the selection of the right evaluator is that the final product accurately document his behaviors…their motivations and note appropriate interventions. While I don’t think his deal is processing, I can most certainly see features of autism. I don’t know if he ultimately meets the criteria for a type of spectrum diagnosis, but there are pretty obvious pieces to his quirks that are.

I’m not remotely a specialist with autism. The spectrum kids I enrolled came to my school because their behaviors were vastly more concerning than their autistic presentations. Regardless, I’ve done well with the kids I’ve met possessing such a profile. I’ve mentioned in other posts that I’m an exceptional disciplinarian. The core strength of my approach and personality is that I’m remarkably consistent in response to behavior and my personal affect. I’m also black and white with my interventions and communication. Kids generally know what to expect from me at all times, even if they don’t much care for me or my way of navigating their educational experience. While I’m quite rigid, direct…and frankly blunt pretty much all of the time, I provide a stabilizing force for kids who generally feel unsafe in life and internally chaotic.

Little Man is the recipient of my behavioral training and instincts…with a bit more yelling…okay, significantly more yelling. Actually, to me “yelling” is more losing control and reacting emotionally. In that context I seldom yell, but I’m certainly loud and tolerate very little. I’ve been on the receiving end of plenty of stink-eyes from other mothers, but I refuse to beg my kid to behave appropriately. This is not to say that I would judge others for a different parenting style, but for my family the expectation is that my kids won’t be dicks…I’m moderately successful on that front as I’m sloping into the tail end of a day with an unnapping Warrior Queen and a sickly Mr. Man.

But, all kidding aside, my son does quite well with my approach. When I’m with both kids alone, they consistently behave the best for me. Out in public or in school without my influence, my son is sweet and probably the most polite four-year-old you could possibly meet…I don’t even think I’m kidding about that as so many others have noticed and said something. Warrior Queen is too, but this post is about her dearest big brother. The problem with school…and probably my son is that one of the most effective interventions for him when he is doing his stubborn shtick thing is to be quite direct and set a limit. His school doesn’t really do that, especially issue time-outs. Here is another complicating issue, he doesn’t tantrum or overtly misbehave. He manipulates his environment and the people around him. My son learned very quickly in his school that there is no downside to refusing a routine if he pretends he simply doesn’t understand the expectations. I’ve seen it; it’s very convincing so I don’t fault his teachers for falling for it. That said, I sent them a lengthy email explaining his behavior profile after the first conference because I was concerned their chosen interventions would exasperate the problem. Sure enough my predictions came to complete fruition. As a parent I find this annoying. As an educator with a history as an effective boss of teachers, I get it; but it’s still annoying.

There are various other pieces of more heaps of annoying to this story, but that’s more of a vent for friends because ultimately it doesn’t matter. Mr. Man certainly has something going on from at least a couple of angles. While I’m not concerned about his future, it’s something that will require documentation because I know with certainty that no one in education will take my word for it. This school is a snapshot of what I know to be true…because I’ve seen it from the other side. It takes training to really work with a family system. I have a whole mess of educational certifications, but I’m also a licensed social worker trained to work with families because I interned and worked for an agency that pushes such things as its primary belief system. Often places…entities…bureaucracies…whatever make the family friendly claim. It’s been scant occasions I’ve seen it in practice, especially in the public sector. Perhaps it’s an anecdotal comment, but I sure know a whole mess of people who would agree from all spheres of the educational process. If a kid is typical, perhaps a parent wouldn’t notice. My son is delightfully odd in probably one of the most spectacular ways, but that means I need to be aware of how his oddities bump up against conformity. I will need to teach him when to go along, and when to stand out. I will also need to reinforce honesty because I can easily see how his manipulation can turn to a darker character as he grows.

With everything going on I finally managed to get this evaluation process business underway. It won’t happen until early December, which is fine. Public schools don’t usually know what to do with spectrum profiles, so we are paying for an independent evaluation from a psychologist recommended by my son’s pediatrician. Fortunately, she will take our insurance though I’m still not sure what it will cost. Part of insurance is that there is a negotiated rate for such things, so whatever it is should be manageable…should as the operative term.

The psychologist asked for a background of Little Man, all through an email exchange which makes this entire thing significantly easier. But, upon receiving her request I was left wondering what information she wanted to know for this initial contact. I don’t know if I arrived at an answer. I just sort of wrote, and tried to be as brief as possible…which ended up not all that brief, yet I feel I left significant issues glaringly unmentioned. I suppose that’s what the first intake meeting is for.

I haven’t had occasion to speak much of evaluations through the totality of my children’s lives, but it seems that my last reflection on some kind of intervention process was one of my most well received posts. Below is the behavioral background email I sent to the psychologist who will be responsible for my son’s assessment (note I removed his name for privacy reasons)…my apologies for some of the repetition:

Thank you for getting back to me. Your timeline is fine. I’m not particularly concerned about Little Man to the point of immediacy. Next year he will be in his school program (pre-K) longer, so having some time for him to adjust works on our end. But, longer is three mornings a week (T, W, R). We are at this point because his school recommended he be evaluated. He definitely has his shtick, but I don’t agree with his school’s take on what’s happening. I’ll explain a bit more, but my read is that he is presenting with spectrum characteristics, and they think he has a processing issue. I don’t know that he would meet the criteria for a diagnosis, but certainly some of his behaviors are similar to what I’ve seen from spectrum kids. I should note, however, that my experience is with at-risk adolescents. The autistic kids I’ve worked with were referred to my school because that piece was secondary to their behavioral issues. I am by no means an expert in the realm, but there are commonalities I’ve seen. Regardless, my son is high functioning, so I want to make sure that whatever documentation we have regarding his profile is accurate. My concern with going through our town is that Mr. Man has some unique presentations, and my experience is that public schools are generally not as well versed in spectrum behaviors. 

I’m not sure what information you would like up front, and some of it is a bit involved to explain…especially for someone inherently long-winded like myself. But, I suppose the more important notes are from a couple of fronts. I’m not sure what is relevant where, which I suppose is part of the issue. On the one front my son didn’t speak until 2.5 years (with early intervention)…not that you would know that to speak to him. He’ll talk to you about whatever you never wanted to discuss until far beyond your eyes glazing over. He’s generally a curious kid. I don’t have much familiarity about four-year-olds, but he seems to be curious about things my friends’ kids don’t even consider. His latest obsession is the body. I’ve bought some of picture encyclopedias. Right now he is fixated on the skeletal system, particularly red blood cells and marrow. This fixation doesn’t seem quite as intense as “defibrillators” or “compost, recycling, trash,” but I’ve been fooled before. And, I can honestly say that I know extraordinarily little about bone marrow…I always assumed it produced white blood cells, but I digress. I can’t predict what he will decide to tell you about when you meet him, but it will likely be something quite entertaining…unless he’s continuing to ask you about it when you are using the restroom. I suspect that won’t be an issue for you. 🙂 In any case, this is part of the other front. He can’t really let things go…routine or otherwise, but he doesn’t tantrum or seem to get anxious about disruptions. He’s actually a pretty mellow, easy going kid. He will organize and sort all kinds of things and have trouble switching gears to something else until he’s finished, but if his sister wrecks his work before he finishes, he just moves on without issue. He usually doesn’t even react most of the time. That might not be terribly unusual, but I find it interesting. As rigid as he is, he’s not terribly anxious or nervous. Never had separation anxiety or anything.

His school reports that he still does parallel play instead of interacting with peers. He interacts with his sister (two years), and I’ve seen him play and interact with peers, but it’s always been with regard to more gross motor play (i.e., tag or chase) than with something involving objects. I’m not sure if this behavior would be linked to the same mechanism that prompted the delay or if it’s more of the spectrum commonalities. He’s definitely interested in peers, but he seems much more interested in independent creative play than interacting with peers…generally speaking. He becomes quite caught up in the stories in his head. Sometimes he’s vocalizes it, but often he is just playing. To this day he has yet to play with an object how it is designed. For example, he loves building things, but it’s usually with something other than blocks designed for such an activity. And, often he’s building mechanical things like an air conditioner or something having to do with pipes. Incidentally, the air conditioner he built from large Lego-like blocks did not remotely resemble one. 

My son is highly empathic…eerily so, and has been since at least 9 months. He has an extreme need to control people and his environment, and uses his ability to read people as a manipulation. In school it’s usually attention seeking in nature. I don’t think they realize it, and their assumption that he has a processing issue has fed into what I mentioned above. I warned them that the interventions they were proposing would likely exacerbate the behaviors they were concerned about. They decided to ignore me, so here we are… Little Man has an incredible memory, and usually picks-up new routines (that he agrees with) within a couple of renditions. So, for him to not understand where to stand in line or how to sit facing the teacher during story/circle time despite MANY one-on-one interventions is…odd. My husband and I will give Mr. Man multi-step instructions using big words, and he’s never had any trouble understanding what needs to be done. Personally, I think he’s getting lost in the group, and has found a way to get his needs met. That’s probably an issue in and of itself. I’m an excellent disciplinarian…for better or worse. I’m very consistent and black and white. My son responds quite well to that approach. His school doesn’t believe in things like time-out, and it seems like any kind of negative consequence is off the table. Those interventions are quite effective with him, and if he understands a caregiver won’t go with that approach, he’ll exploit that. It’s not even just a school issue. It’s happened in some of his other relationships with caregivers as well, but it presents differently. Those aren’t the only interventions I use (counting down before transitions or explaining expectations before an activity, for example, are also effective…among other things).

Finally (long-winded…), and this is something on his pediatrician’s radar, Mr. Man sleeps on a mattress on the floor of his walk in closet…like a Little Man cave of sorts. It doesn’t seem to be an anxiety thing, more of a control/fort-like thing. He still takes 2-3 hour naps daily. They are easily disrupted when life is exciting, but he might miss a nap every few months. Regardless if he misses the nap, we can’t get him to settle before 10 at night. When things are exciting in his life, it’s exceptionally hard to get him to settle…he’ll keep coming to our door. When times are more low-key, then he’ll bother us a bit, but mostly play in his room until he’s ready to go to sleep. Naps are no trouble at all. As of this week I can FINALLY get him to wear pull-ups. He has virtually no interest in toilet training. Once he started using the potty as school, he virtually stopped at home. I don’t know if this piece is linked to the speech delay. I wasn’t at the appointment, but his doctor brought up speaking to the psychologist for the above issues. In terms of waking in the morning, my son is up in the 6.30-7.30 realm…7.30 is unusual, but isn’t unheard of. 

In any case, that is a fairly extensive snapshot of the behaviors we are seeing and are reported to others…different parties have different concerns.

I probably wrote an overkill of information to the psychologist considering our first appointment will be for collecting background information, but for me it’s hard to know how to communicate or trust what I see at home. For the duration of Little Man’s life (more so than Warrior Queen), I’ve been on the receiving end of a healthy dose of nay-saying. I have almost always been correct in my observations and assessments…ultimately interventions, but find myself in a constant state of second guessing, especially when something about him is not up to developmental snuff. But, as I wrote this psychologist I felt a bit more confident…like maybe I’m not crazy. So, I provided my letter because I don’t know a single parent raising their kid(s) who can’t do the same. Maybe I can assign a fancy word or two, or structure things to have a more report feel to it; but mostly I simply know my kid. And, that’s the point…probably the only one.

Rules for a Happy Marriage

I usually don’t think to mention my husband much as part of this blog. I suppose the reasons are a bit sprawling. Part is that I don’t have permission to tell his story…or stories. This process is about me and my journey through parenthood and finding a balance. This is also a piece of why I provide my children some semblance of privacy…nothing identifying. I want to be authentic, but also preserve their future desires of what is shared publicly as best I can…while meeting my needs through this forum. Hopefully when they are older, I will learn that I was successful…that they aren’t horrified by this particular memory preservation.

I have various complexities to my existence, but probably nothing all that foreign to tremendous swaths of people. But, in the same vein I strive to protect information that might hurt people I love should they choose to read these posts. It’s part of why this blog wasn’t started until Little Man was almost a year old. I wondered how I could note my life while leaving expansive aspects out of my public identity. Interestingly it’s significantly easier than I thought.

I have a good, happy marriage; not a perfect one. That’s the point, and the inspiration for this post as I happened upon various how-tos of marriage in my social media feeds of late. It’s an interesting thing because all these unknowns are experts, yet there is no way they can really offer proof of their happy union…or that their mold would work for me…or anyone else for that matter. I don’t think that it’s only unhappily married people who yearn for advice; I suspect happy people do as well. I wonder if they find themselves questioning if their relationship is the correct kind of happy, but maybe I’m more neurotic in this arena than most. I also wonder what happy really is anyway. What are the expectations going in? How would one manage to operationalize, or define “happy” in a context that held meaning equally for every reader? Maybe I’m overthinking it. Maybe it’s all just fluff to distract individuals from the piles of laundry and littering of dirty dishes.

I think my imperfectly happy marriage has its fundamental base in our imperfections. I’d always known my husband loved me because of my quirks, not despite. And, that was a pretty important thing, as my quirks are complicated. I’m pretty lousy in relationships, at least historically. It’s been fairly recent that I realized to what exact extent. I married in my mid twenties, so it isn’t as though I was all that seasoned in relationships. But, as a middle-aged woman with ample time at reflection at this point, it’s rung true in my world, at least, that we accept relationships as we are willing and able.

I’ve always had this presentation to the world that my husband has never seen, and I don’t think understands. I get my appeal to men; I’ve always had a type. My husband is not that kind of man, and he’s never seen me for what everyone else has. He only knows me for my weaker points, accepts and loves me unconditionally for them; almost seeing them as my strengths. I could never imagine finding anyone else to share my life with. Even in my mid twenties when I didn’t really understand it, I must have known…and clawed myself on, desperate to keep him. I think all we really understood about each other at the time is that it was always so easy to just be together…doing nothing. There are times even now…almost fifteen years later when the television is simply off, and we chat about nothing important.

It isn’t always easy, but the us has been. When things became trying, as they periodically do, it’s been a conscious choice for me to grow towards him. Often I reflect that it feels easier sometimes to drift away…into my own mind…the busy day-to-day hustle…the endless demands of nothing cataclysmic or grand, just the infinite minutiae of decisions that comprise life. So, it’s been daily, ongoing, active choices to grow toward him. I reflect often my history of turning away, and I wonder what it is that had always struck me from the beginning that my relationship with my now husband would be so different. I can point to small known instances early on, but they seemed so random…not something to necessarily build a life on. But, I feel that he’s always simply understood me, and now with such a shared life we have, we’ve reached that delightful point in a union of telling a joke the other was thinking in that very instant. Those moments have to be my favorite times among a long list of other favorites.

Often what I read is the mandatory “date night” all couples with children should have. Little Man is about four now…It would be generous to claim my husband and I have managed five of those throughout the entire span of his existence. From time to time when we have familial visitors, we are on the receiving end of pressure to take such an outing. It’s a complicated reason as to why an evening out together hasn’t occurred. I generally don’t worry the lack until it’s brought to my attention, and then it’s simply awkward; probably because the complications of discussing why we can’t get our acts together to arrange it. We’ve always been a united front…mostly. We’ve never coordinated between the two of us what to say, yet there always seems to be a similar response between the two of us. Regardless I’m often surprised when the issue is strewn before me, though I shouldn’t be…It’s a pretty consistent issue broached. Usually I’m left questioning if we are as happily married as I’d always assumed…surely if we are not properly positioning a date night, then is there something defunct in my interpretation of my life…my husband…my marriage?

The answer is an easy one. No. There is nothing wrong with our us. I’ve come to understand that a date night is nothing more than finding time to remember that we are a pair in this meandering whirled life. My husband and I go almost an entire evening barely speaking from when he enters our homestead in the evening until the day resolves. But, simultaneously we have stolen minutes of connections…of laughter…always laughter even when things are hard, or we try to. It’s an interesting thing because when things are hardest, we become closer. Over time, especially in the last year or so, we linger at dinner a little longer. The kids are finished eating…scampering off to destroy something neither of us want to think about. Perhaps my almost two-year-old fierce girl arrives for moments, but mostly my husband and I just sit. Sometimes the conversation is serious, sometimes it’s silly, sometimes we are simply quiet before it’s time to usher to another phase in the evening.

We have other stolen moments as well. They are in the form of brief exchanges on the endless go. It’s the barely uttered joke or comment. It’s the acknowledgment of appreciation or tushie grab, or some random annoying prank we play that would make life lacking without. More times than not these days we have a brief time in the evenings together watching television in bed as the final event to our chaos. The kids go to sleep entirely too late regardless of what the day told; my husband and I unable to form any meaningful dialogue as we lie buried under the covers. But, before we finally are able to drift to sleep there is intense laughter. I find myself crying at times, subsequently finding it hard to settle no matter how sleepy I had been moments prior. My husband will be annoyed that I’m shaking the bed, but he really isn’t. Sometimes when things are most trying it’s helpful to know that his other half can experience joy, and he is the cause of it.

%d bloggers like this: