Posts Tagged ‘kids’

My daughter – my oldest daughter, I should say – started middle school this year and though it was a rough start and huge adjustment, she is now doing really well. She’s found her stride not just with her classes and subject matter, but also with the getting to all her classes on time, walking to the bus stop, being out there in the world with all her stuff and keeping track of it… which, written down, seems like very basic skills but for her was completely new this year.

She actually gets herself up, makes breakfast, packs a lunch, dresses appropriately, loads her backpack, and heads out the door with no real supervision required. She returns and unpacks her lunchbox, does her homework, practices her violin, and gets her cleats on in time for soccer practice. This is astounding. Especially compared to my son, who, in second grade, would eat maple syrup for breakfast, still puts his shirts on backwards, forgets his underwear, forgets to pee, forgets indeed that he is supposed to go to school without my serious, minute-by-minute interventions.

Anyway. This big kid of mine. She’s knocking it out of the park. And while she is doing really well academically and organizationally and out-in-the-worldly, I am fretting for her on the social front. The hard thing, for me, is figuring out how much of the fretting I should just do privately and how much – if at all – I should act on. The substitute who yelled at her for asking a question and then not understanding his answer. Do I let the teacher know her sub was a douche? Or remind my daughter that the world is full of people who abuse their authority, and strategize how to deal with it next time? Or, the bus driver who yelled obscenities at another driver who got in the way: call the transportation office to complain? Or remind my daughter that people can react inappropriately when frustrated, and if it’s not threatening her safety, try to roll with it?

And then there’s the kids.

Her best friend from elementary school moved away over the summer, and there are a few kids from that school attending middle school with her now, but it’s a huuuuge school and she hardly sees them, and the ones she does see she tries to be friendly with, but it doesn’t seem to me that it is being reciprocated. She says she’ll ask one girl, let’s call her, oh, Madge, she’ll ask Madge to save her a seat at lunch, but when she gets to the cafeteria the table is full and there’s a rule about the number of people at a table so she has to go find somewhere else to sit. Or she’ll text her asking about a thing in a class or if she’ll be on the bus and Madge will text back, “You suck.” And then a few minutes later, “JK, LOL :-)”

And my daughter is confused, because she thinks this girl likes her. Because this girl is the supposed awesome girl, you know, that one who is both popular and nice and talks to everyone and has the best outfits and the coolest bag and compliments everyone else on their slightly less cool outfits and bags and shares her candy and has the latest iPhone and perfect side-swept bangs and knows the words to all the songs. That girl.

We all know this girl, right? She’s super cool but makes a point of being really nice, too. She talks to everyone, even the secretaries and the lunch lady and that weird mumbly guy with the puppet. Being nice is her thing. It’s her brand. Malcolm Gladwell would call her a connector. Everyone wants to talk to her. She sparkles, she schmoozes, she’s got the world on a string and she’d be thrilled to hook you up.

But sometimes we get a weird feeling. She’s still smiling, but it seems a little unfocused, like maybe she’s not smiling right at us. She put her bag on the seat next to her just as we got on the bus, seemingly absorbed in Candy Crush, then moved it off when someone cooler boarded. She forgot to include us at the company presentation, when we had done that whole big Section on the important Thing, and when someone pointed out her omission she said “Oh right, they worked on it too.” She would have invited our child to the birthday party, but the venue only allowed thirty people, so sorry. She didn’t get the three voicemails we left, her phone was being “weird”.

And most of us, I think, receive this unspoken message and move on. We find people we really connect with instead of continually trying to connect with someone who seems “on” but is never actually available. This is what I keep hoping my daughter will do. It’s a school of more than one thousand kids, so I know her people are there, people she’ll click with, who will appreciate and relate to her, goofy quirks and all. People who will want and remember to save her a seat.

I just don’t know if I should say it out loud or let her come to it on her own. Madge isn’t really that nice. She doesn’t really want to hang out with you. Go, find the people who do.

What hurts more, hearing the harsh reality in one fell swoop, or months of ambiguity and solitude?

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in the shadow looking on

Well, it turned out I was not pregnant after all, though it took a considerably long time to establish the fact. The odd thing was, so invested had I become in being prepared for the possibility, that when all was made absolutely and finally clear, there was, I had to admit to myself, a little regret mixed in with the relief.

As one part of me kept listing all the many reasons a third child would be a disruption to an already syncopated family rhythm, another grew excited at the prospect of feeling again the flush of new life and all the promise it holds. The possibility of beginning again, reveling – perhaps even hiding – in the uncomplicated newness of an infant, the simple care of love, feed, hold, nourish.

So much of my life now is governed by uncertainty and worry, there is an appeal in retreating to the safety of that warm, post-partum bubble. My many now-pregnant-with-their-second-baby friends would guffaw (if it didn’t put them in danger of vomiting) at my romanticizing life with a newborn, and while I understand it’s not all sweetness and light (particularly with older children still carrying on demanding things), and that things like colic and reflux and sleep deprivation can really rip a hole in one’s sanity, I still think of those early days as beautifully simple.

My oldest is entering the tween years, and my youngest is dealing with a mental disorder. As exhausting and uncertain as their early childhood was, it all seems even more so now. And perhaps all of parenting feels this way, to everyone, no matter their situation: always new and difficult and slightly opaque. Always the questions of what to do, how to navigate challenges, how to help your children grow and learn and love and be healthy, happy, independent people. From here, the diapers and the sleepless nights and the breastfeeding saga, even at their worst, look so manageable. But I have to remember that I was operating far out of my comfort zone then, just as I am now. It felt then there was just as much at stake as it does now.

The difference is, the further along the path you get, the farther your future’s endless possibility recedes. The lens narrows, the children take shape, your faults helping to form them as well as your better aspects. I don’t feel that I have failed my children, but I do see now that I could have done better. If only I could have carried that protective envelope of love forward, that their lives didn’t need to become burdened with such pain and confusion. Naive, perhaps, but isn’t it human?

In wishing, however faintly, for that third baby, I think I was really wishing for a chance to try again with the two I already have. When it became clear there wouldn’t be one, it also became clear that the only steps I can take with them are forward. We are where we are. It’s the curse of the path not taken – you don’t even see it until you have missed the turn.

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wonders in the deep

If you follow me on Twitter you may know I’ve been ensconced in the throes of a drama entirely too comedic and youthful to be my real life. On the evening I was due to remove my Nuvaring, I discovered it missing. Tormented by visions of it floating lazily, Saturn-like, somewhere in my abdominal hinterlands, I phoned the doctor the next morning. Much embarrassing discussion resulted in an appointment for the next day, and, on her own thoughtful initiative, a prescription for Plan B. Which, as supportive as I am of the existence and availability of Plan B and many choices for women and family planning, I elected not to take it. My father always said not to look a gift horse in the mouth, and one may suppose that goes for any prize chute, including fallopian tubes. So, uh.

A rousing game of speculum peekaboo revealed I’d indeed been correct in my assessment of the situation, and even worse, it had probably fallen out a week or so ago, meaning the, ahem, relations I’d had with Monsieur Shriek more recently had been of the very unprotected sort and a biological supernova could quite possibly now be taking place Within. I bought an EPT at the pharmacy on my way home from the doctor, and have been staring apprehensively at the box for the last twenty or so hours.

It’s funny to be on the other end of the stick – in years past, I couldn’t wait to test because my hope of two pink lines was so overwhelmingly great it nearly undid me. I wouldn’t say my hope of a negative this time is in equal proportion, but. We are done. Or – we were done. Our two are so wonderful and amazing and impossible that adding another seems absurd. Unfair, even. With the youngest’s developmental issues lately, even the oldest has gotten shafted in the time/attention department. What would a squalling pooping sleepless infant – even assuming (ptui ptui) a normal, healthy one – do the two who are already here and struggling for secure and happy childhoods?

It’s an infinite loop, this line of worrying. And I am trying to give it up. What dreams may come, et cetera. I cannot know how it would work, only that that we would work, my husband and I, to make it the best it could be. We have our struggles, this family, yet more and more what they reveal to me is that we have enormous strength in love. Even as the world seems to be collapsing around us, my faith in the human heart grows every day. And perhaps even a new heart grows within me, too. I’ll let you know.

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At pickup one afternoon this week, my kindergartner’s teacher asked if I could stay and chat a few minutes. I turned my kids loose on the playground, and followed the teacher inside. She talked about how he has been acting out, how he is so easily angered, how he hits and pushes and yells and threatens. How he’s been sent to the principal’s office because his level of disruption was just plain unfair to the other students. She also talked about his sweet side – how he engages with the work, helps her with various things, asks interesting questions, cooperates in joint tasks.

It was clear to me that she really sees the whole child, and wants to work with me to be his advocate. He’s not a problem, she said, but he does have problems, and we are all going to help him. She’s already spoken with his private therapist, and arranged for him to have regular pull-out sessions with the school counselor. She reads books with the class about feelings. She told me she can see that I’m doing all the right things, that this isn’t my fault. And then she looked at me with such gentleness, such concern, and said, “You must be so worried.”

Of course I started crying. Mostly with gratitude – that she understands, that she really sees him, that she’s not writing him off or giving up on him. She suggested trying some approaches that she has used successfully with autistic kids (“not that I’m saying he’s autistic,” she quickly added), some activities that can be calming & therapeutic for kids with sensory issues. She loaned me a book. She described how she would modify some expectations for him in order to build his confidence and let him experience success. I felt so hopeful about the potential for helping him this year, that maybe, even, with love and understanding and help on all sides, he could become a “regular” happy and healthy kid.

And then at back to school night, several parents accosted me with tales of my son acting out. I couldn’t tell if they innocently thought whatever they witnessed was an isolated incident, just a quirky kid getting all up someone’s grill kindergarten-style, a fun and amusing little anecdote. Or if they truly see my kid as That Kid, the jerky, out of control one, and were uncertain how to tell me this directly so instead relied on a lame, jokey delivery. What was clear was that people were noticing he’s outside the bounds of expected, acceptable behavior, even for 5 year olds. I put my best Stepford smile on and thanked each one for letting me know. “Boys,” they all laughed. “What are you gonna do?”

Good question.

I came home and told my husband, and he reminded me that we have to have faith, that we’re doing everything we can, we have support and professionals on board, and most of all that we love him. He’s right, it’s all true. So why do I feel so sick?


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forever dimly seen

I’ve spent the summer telling myself “he’ll settle in, it just takes time” and while I still believe this to be true, it is now also clear that it will take a lot of time, and a lot of help. He’s been seeing a child psychologist for the last several weeks, and I met with her recently. The nutshell is, I’m not crazy, he’s not crazy, but he has… issues. Problems with sensory integration. Emotional development deficits. It is possible these things are contributing to his rages and his shutdowns, to his violence and aggression. She – the psychologist – is still exploring possibilities. (It is amazing to me what she can extrapolate out of a sand tray.)

Anyway the sensory stuff, even though I know about it, even though I read many of you describing your children with sensory issues, even though he has sensory-induced freakouts on a regular basis… it never once occurred to me that he has sensory integration issues. Not once. Now, of course, the hindsight makes a neat little clicking noise as it all falls into place: the faucet is too loud, the fan is too loud, the socks are too bumpy, the fleece is too scratchy, the sunscreen is too gooey, the light is too bright, the car is too fast, the peanut butter is too smelly, TAKE IT OFF GET IT OFF ME MAKE IT STOP TURN IT DOWN DON’T TOUCH ME I CAN’T EAT THAT. How did I possibly miss this? He was so obvious in his distress, so unable to cope, so much in his world was and is completely unbearable to him and I wondered why he had so many tantrums?

And the emotional deficits… you guys. He can’t recognize emotion in other people. How did I miss this?? I am a feeeeelings kind of person. I always acknowledge feelings, whether they are mine, my kids’, other peoples’. I name them, I honor them in that way only a child of the 70’s can. And he… just never connected with that. Certainly I knew he couldn’t talk about his own feelings, but I assumed that was because he was having such intense and painful emotions that he was unwilling to deal with them head-on.

Right now, I’m trying to identify and reduce his triggers, the therapist will keep working with him and trying to uncover more of the pieces contributing to the picture. I don’t know what it will look like in the end. This feels like a jigsaw puzzle without the box to refer to. I’m stomach-clenchingly afraid of what it will reveal, and at the same time relieved to know we’re in good hands and there will be more and more opportunities to help him. It is agonizing to realize what a struggle each day is for him. But I am so hopeful we will learn how to work through the challenges, that one day he will be happy, and comfortable in his skin. I have to be, right?


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a stronger creature than this

Well hello! I seem to be on a 3.2 posts per year trajectory here, but I’m not going to fret about that and suspect you aren’t, either. Onward.

The nutshell catch-up is: my husband got a job in another city and has been living there for two months. Once school is out and I’ve packed up the house we will move up there to be with him. This is supposedly happening in three weeks but I am not entirely certain I will be able to pull it off. It’s like that tablecloth trick. Only there is an entire house on the table.

My littlest, my boy, my baby is in a pitched battle with me to win the title of Most Freaked Out By This Crap-Assed Transition Business, but I started taking Prozac so I think he is going to win. Seriously, after years — years — of my doctor gently and less-gently suggesting it, I finally filled the prescription because I recognized that my ability to cope gracefully with Life In General is a delicate matter to begin with, and coping with A Difficult And Stressful Albeit Temporary Situation trends even further towards the nonexistent side of the equation. I was becoming a menace to all that is good and sparkly in the world and becoming one of those angry driver people and rude to customer service people and annoyed with everybody for everything all the time people, and man I hate being one of those people.

So anyway I’ve been taking it for five days and thus far can discern no effects whatsoever excepting the inability to open my eyes in the morning until half past coffee and even then they don’t really open all the way or, you know, see things for a goodly chunk of the day.

I fervently hope it kicks in the helpful chemical goods soon though, because my son’s state of freakage is really derailing my sanity and my faith in myself as a parent. I think it would be easier to work through this with and for him if I weren’t completely paralyzed by guilt. I don’t even know how to describe what is going on with him. But that such a wee person, only five years on this earth, could hold such darkness and despair is… horrifying. That he thinks he is bad, and undeserving of love is… I think the worst thing I have ever heard in my life. The psychologist says this is not outside the bounds of a developmentally appropriate reaction to a stressful situation (Dad living away from home, house in semi-packed shambles, mom frazzled and trying to keep up) and that it is certainly not my fault.

I am not convinced. But even so, even if it is my fault, I just want to know what it is. This darkness, this rage, this despair. He says when his brain turns red that he is bad. That he wants to hurt people. That he hates people. That he knows he is bad, that the red brain tells him he is bad. And that no one loves him.

He. Is. FIVE.

I want to go to sleep and wake up in a different world where my beautiful boy does not talk about red brains and hurting people. I want my beautiful boy to live in a world where he knows he is loved. Right now I am living in the world of finishing up at my job, packing up the house, wrapping up the school year, and feeding/bathing/clothing two children who need emotional anchoring in a world that has gone crazy around them. I am trying to get to that other world by being calm and loving and reassuring, but kids are smart and they know when you’re lying.

So, I’m taking it one minute at a time, hoping against hope that the Prozac will help make it true. True that I’m ok, and that things will be ok, and that the red brains are not in charge.

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