Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Grant Me the Serenity to Not Destroy These Children

My sister moved out the other day. She’s lived with us on and off for years. But she’d been living with us now for about two years- her longest stretch. It wasn’t a surprise when she announced that she was leaving. I was expecting it.

For the past couple of years the kids have been used to her room in our house being off limits. I admonished them numerous times to stay out of her belongings.

She has a collection of gothic dolls. One in particular I consider creepy- A small fabric doll wearing a little black dress and a face with one solid black eye and one solid white eye. I’d noticed it while on the treadmill that also occupied her room. I kept glancing at it just to make sure it wasn’t getting any closer to me.

One evening WC had started up a video in their bedroom and when I reminded him that they didn’t have time to watch any before bed- he told me that they were trying to get their mind off of Aunt’s creepy little doll.

My sister stated that if they stayed out of her room then they wouldn’t have to worry about her creepy doll. I theorized that going into her room is the equivalent to a dare to stay in a haunted house. I bet you can’t stay in for three minutes. She wasn’t amused.

The boys were all a flutter while she boxed her things and packed her car. As her room emptied they continually checked the progress.

On Saturday morning I woke to discover the formerly emptied room had been filled with my things that were previously stored neatly in the closet- yoga mat, exercise ball, hand weights, the linoleum sample from our flooring, etc. They also had their small indoor play tent setup. They’d pulled the fan from their room. And to top it off, the little buggers had managed to unhook their tv and dvd player and move them into this room. Now this is a 12 inch tv but it’s an old school, foot and a half thick television, not a small flat screen.

Small bottles of paint that I’d kept on the bookshelf were scattered on end table left in the room. There was the cup CJ uses to rinse his mouth when he brushes his teeth, filled with paint infused water and soggy paint brush. Water puddles scattered the table top and seeped into the graph paper they’d found. Then top it off neither of them actually painted a picture.

I’m standing at the threshold to hell. The only room in the house that had not been cluttered is jammed full. Anything they could have pulled out is in the middle of room. In the middle of it all stand two slack jawed little boys who are wearing facial expressions similar to one I would have in a class on theoretical physics.

Meditation breathing comes in handy at moments like these. As well as a short prayer to ask that I have the restraint to not destroy these children.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Trouble With Being the Younger One

He merrily stomped his way down the muddy path. The rest of us were in a group, taking a tour, but CJ was yards head of the group. Not a clue where he was or where he should go, still not content to follow.

My concern grew that he’d barrel off the path into the trees and he did. The brush, up to nearly his knees did not deter him. But the thought he’d disturb a snake or a spider or pick up a tick led me to leave the group to retrieve my concrete headed four year old who can’t see the possibility something might go wrong. No knowledge that the early warm temperatures might bring these woodland critters out. All he knew was it felt good- he loved the wind and freedom.

Until Mom grabbed him by the arm and issued a warning of having him go back and wait inside the building and brought his freedom to a halt.

Even then, he ended up playing with the tour guide and racing her. His constant need to be in the lead is still a mystery- is it rooted in his SPD or his stubborn nature? Maybe a bit of both.

We toured the prospective camp where WC will possibly spend the first week or two of summer vacation. But you’d think this was something for CJ. While CJ is at the first in line our more reserved WC is bringing up the rear.

The boys went to the car while I had a conversation with the camps director.

Back in the car I discovered a very unhappy CJ and inquired what was going on.

Seems he was unhappy because he discovered it was not him who would be attending camp.

I attempted to explain that he was still too young.

He folded his arms across his chest and huffed. “You’re fired.” He angrily exclaimed.

“Who is,” I asked in amusement.

“Both of you,” he shot back.

I shrugged. “It doesn’t matter who your parents are. You’re still going to be too young right now.”

He huffed and grumbled until the sights of a horse standing on the side of road urinating made him forget his troubles.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Joy in Chaos

I sat slumped on the couch, the day mostly done. Up before the sun, a morning routine flown through- the rush to get everyone where they spend their day. Then the full day at my desk and the rush to retrieve everyone and get back home only to pack in the afternoon requirements- homework, dinner and bedtime routine. They need to get in bed, so they can get enough rest to start the whole thing all over again before the sun comes up.

On this particular afternoon, I had a sinus headache. Thank you Spring for arriving in February. The boys were covered in nectarine juice and running laps around the table. Their hysterical giggles let me know this was some sort of game that I wasn’t privy to the object of. CJ had asked me if he could try a nectarine, so I’d bought one per kid. They’d enjoyed them for their after dinner snack. He’d rubbed it in his hair, even though he hates having it washed.

While they wore an indention in my kitchen floor in the shape of their race track around the table, I wondered what people who didn’t have kids did after work. There are people who could lay down with their sinus headache and not have to worry about nectarine in a kid’s hair.

I began to wonder, if I would ever have a quiet house again.

Then I thought back to the weeks after we first brought WC home from the hospital. I didn’t have a clue. This child ate every two hours on the dot. It could take an hour just to feed him, change him and get him back to sleep. Then I’d have an hour before we had to do it again. 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And that meant I’d only get to sleep in 1 hour increments, even at night. And that included the time it took to fall asleep. Now both Jay and my mom would help, but the sleep deprivation hit.

At one point in time, I believed that I’d never sleep again. This would be my life and questioned why I signed up for such misery.

Some of the misery, I brought on myself. We’d known people who had a child that wouldn’t sleep in their own bed. The child was at that time, 4 years old, and it was causing problems. The child had been allowed to sleep with the parents from birth. I naively believed we’d nip that in the bud by never allowing it to happen in the first place. I’ve since altered my view on it slightly- namely the birth of CJ while having a 3 yr old WC who still needed tending regardless of how much sleep I’d had.

Six weeks into the life of WC, I was severely sleep-deprived and miserable. My mom offered to watch him overnight. She told me to pack his stuff and let him sleep over there. She had a crib- because she would be watching him when I returned to work. She didn’t have to work too hard at convincing me.

I dropped him off and went straight back home, showered and went to bed. It was the best 12 twelve hours of solid sleep I’d ever had up to that point in life. When I woke up, I immediately wanted to go get him. I even refused to wait on Jay to get ready to go with me.

Over the next few weeks, WC slowly added length of time between feedings. And the sleep deprivation faded into a distant memory.

In hindsight, it was only a few weeks. At the time it was happening, I couldn’t imagine that it would ever get better. It wasn’t forever, just a small blip on the radar of my life.

I watched my kids running circles around the table and screaming with laughter. And this too is just a small blip on the radar. One that’s going to fade too quickly. I watch them for a while and treasure the moment. Soon it will be time to stop them and go run a tub of water.

This is my joy in the midst of the chaos.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Why Did God Make Spiders?

It is said that the average 4 year old asks 437 questions in a day. I’d venture a guess that the majority of those questions are the result of the answer to given to their prior question. Let’s just say, I’m glad to not be stuck in a room full of 4 year olds all day, every day.

The one that I have is more than enough.

Sometimes what the 4 year olds asks is not the question the adult brain registers.

The other morning on the way to daycare CJ asks, “Mommy?”

“Yes.” Because I have to respond or he will repeat ‘Mommy’ until I speak, even if we are the only two people and there isn’t anyone else.

“Where do spiders sleep?”

“In their web.” Seemed like a good answer.

“How do they not slide out?”

“Well, its how God made them. He made them with special things on their legs and feet that keep them on the web. And they don’t get stuck, either.”

“Why did God make spiders?”

I think for a minute and then formulate my answer that I thought would be simple enough. I explained basic ecology and how everything on the earth is in balance and everything depends on something else. And I finish my explanation and I’m very pleased with myself. Bravo mom. I knocked this one out of the park.

It’s all quiet in the backseat for a minute. Then his little voice comes back. “No. Why doesn’t He just go to the store and buy one.”

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Life Lessons from the Dojo

The other day, my eight year old, WC came home and asked if he could quit karate. Since he’s been completely obsessed with advancing to the next belt level and never uttered the slightest hint over the past year that he was unhappy (and I just signed a contract for another year). I said no. Then sat down next to him and asked what was up.

During the progression through his blue belt, he’s had to lead a class of lower belt levels. He has a more reserved nature and usually doesn’t like to draw attention to himself outside of the house (yes, this is the same child who ran butt naked across the front yard). The first time he had to lead class, his instructor warned me when I walked in. He hurried over to me and said just to let me know he had WC lead class today because he knew WC would be complaining about it. Leading and speaking up do not come naturally to WC (or me). This is good practice for him and gives him an opportunity to become comfortable.

Sure enough it was the first thing out of WC’s mouth. He complained the whole way home. I advised him that it was good for him. He didn’t buy it.

Then the second time he was tasked with leading class, he told me. “Sensei said to lead class and then he just stood there!” But he appeared to make it through without too much trauma.

The day he asked if he could quit was his third time to lead. He’d taken my advice and thought about how sensei leads the class and go from there. He’d taken the instruction to lead class seriously. He was truly upset with “his students.” He’d told one kid (a friend) that he needed to work on his kata and the kid was angered by the suggestion.

I explained to WC, that sometimes, people have a hard time taking constructive criticism from someone their own age or younger. “But, it was true,” he countered. “I wasn’t mean about it.”

“It’s a whole different thing to teach people, isn’t it?”

“Why do they have to be so dumb,” WC asked in exasperation.

“Whoa, hold the phone there…you don’t call people dumb.”

“Well, if I hold my arm like this (he gets up and demonstrates) then hold your arm like I am. Not back like this (pulls his arm back). How hard is it?”

I gently remind him to remember what it is like learning new things and not everyone learns quickly or even the same way. If they hold an arm wrong, then calmly point out the arm placement needs to be corrected. I don’t even go into it that they might be slacking because he’s their peer.

I explain to him that it takes patience to teach people. And this opportunity gives him a different perspective; he can now understand what it’s like for his school teachers. And while he is leading a class, he can also understand what it’s like to learn. It should give him an appreciation for both student and teacher.

I always knew he expected a lot from himself. This gives me insight that he also expects the best from the people around him. He’s already begun to learn that they always don’t give it.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Dragging out the Soap Box

It’s a big world out there. It’s a beautiful thing with lots of different people and just as many differing opinions. People are free to express their thoughts and beliefs in a variety of ways. And as long as a person isn’t causing harm in the way they express themselves- I’m generally okay with it.

Even if I don’t agree with what they say, the world is big enough. I don’t have to read, listen, watch or pay attention to them. I’m free to change the channel, un-friend, un-follow or take my business elsewhere if I don’t like it. I’ve never had to resort to any of those solutions.

I’m generally not easily offended and have an irreverent sort of sense of humor, myself.

So the other day I was taken off guard by my gut reaction to a posted comment on a social site. In short the comment stated that people need to teach their kids how to sit down in public.

I didn’t respond to the comment- it wasn’t directed at me and the person who wrote it doesn’t know me from Eve. Throughout my evening, I kept thinking about the comment. It had hit a nerve.

It hit a nerve because it goes back to blaming the parent (ahem…mother) for a child’s misbehavior. Why is still assumed that any kid not acting perfect in public has a permissive parent who doesn’t do jack to train up their kid?

While there might be some parents out there who don’t give a flip about how their children act, I can guarantee you that there are more who care and are doing their best.

And don’t assume that just because a kid does not “look like a special needs kid” that there isn’t an underlying condition.

An outsider who is watching a child have a massive come apart in public doesn’t need to be concerned that the mother isn’t doing her job. You don’t know. You have no idea what is going on with that child.

Compassion not criticism is what is needed.

And back to the teaching the kid to sit down in public: I’ve been guilty of allowing CJ to stand up in a booth in a restaurant. He gets to do it when there isn’t anyone in the booth behind us or one side of the booth is up against a wall. I understand his limitations. A stranger looking across the room at us doesn’t have a clue. Would you rather have him standing quietly or sitting down and screaming?

The commenter most likely does not have children. Anyone who has children and has attempted to correct them numerous times knows the frustration behind watching a kid do something for the millionth time that you’ve specifically told them not to do. And that includes all children, not just ones with special needs. A parent can do their very best and a child still go off and do their own thing. It’s what they do. They’re kids. It’s what we did as kids, right. Anyone out there always act exactly the way your parents wanted you to? It’s easy to forget.

I thought for a while then I took to twitter and wrote: Do not judge the behavior of other people’s kids. You don’t know the whole story.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Options Are...

While the possibility of CJ attending kindergarten in the fall is slim, we still have more options than I knew.

After his daycare teacher brought up the idea of Kindergarten Readiness, I looked into it. The focus on social and fine motor skills appealed to me since these are the areas where he most lags. On the school website, I pull up the list of requirements. There my heart sank at the sight of: Student must be 5 by September, 30, 2012. And have a birth month of June, July, August or September.

CJ is a May baby. Crap-o-la. 15 days…really?

So I retired the thought for a few days in defeat. Then it hit me. Every week I take my oldest, WC, to open library night at school. Once a week they open the library after school so students can read and take computerized tests on the books- called AR. This is a requirement for every kid in the school to read and test on books. WC and I have been going since he was in kindergarten-so three years now. My point is that the assistant principal runs open library. So we’ve gotten to know her over the course of going in. It occurred to me to talk to the assistant principal- ask her about the program and how strict they hold to that whole birth month requirement and if they could make exception for a child who really needs it.

Well my conversation with the assistant principal went great. Over the course of the conversation, I let her in on CJ’s delays and sensory issues. She was wonderful. She suggested that I contact the teacher in charge of the Kindergarten Readiness program to discuss CJ with her. Then she told me something else. On Saturday the 10th they are having free screenings for children aged 3-5. If I bring him in and let them run him through a series of tests, then he might qualify for his OT through the school and possibly qualify him for other services and possibly qualify him to start kindergarten with special ed assistance or their pre-k program also admits special ed as 2nd tier admittance. The first ones admitted to pre-k are people who qualify for free/reduced lunch. We do not.

With all the above in mind, I contacted the Kindergarten Readiness teacher- via email. Explained who I was, I already have a child in the school, and I’d spoken to the assistant principal who suggested I contact her. And I explained why I wanted CJ in KR and what his challenges are. To my surprise the replied fairly quickly and we corresponded back and forth several times over the day.

Basically, if CJ qualifies for an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) then he is not eligible for KR program. But if he isn’t, she will be glad to test him at pre-registration. She has to fill her slots with June-Sep birthday’s first, if anything is left then she can admit him. And bringing him to the screening on Saturday should help with finding the appropriate placement for him.

If he doesn’t qualify for any of it, then we will stay where we are. I’ll hold him out a year.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Glow on the Horizon

Last year when life began unraveling around the then 3 year old CJ- his behavior played hopscotch from baffling to infuriating and then heartbreaking and back again. It became apparent at that point even though he would be chronologically ready for kindergarten this year, that emotionally, socially and behaviorally he wouldn’t be able to. At that point, his developmental delay in grasp and visual motor were not yet known and threw another wrench into the mix last August.

At that point, I’d made up my mind that we were just holding him out a year. This is where he is at. I will hold him out and make sure he gets what he needs to be successful when he does start school.

I made my peace with it, in theory, very quickly. The day-to-day reality can prove challenging. Especially during the “rough times.” During the good times, I can pat myself on the back at the great job I’m doing. Then he melts down at the daycare and I almost feel like we’re back at step one. Almost. If I let myself get carried away in my own little pity party, it can last a day or two. Then I remember one very important thing. I’ve done this before- he’s done this before. He will pull through it and calm down. It may take a few days- usually does. Then we’re back to good-times again.

We are never back at step one. Even if it feels like it is, for a minute. Step one was darker and scary. There is a light- it is education, compassion, love and empathy.

I can’t say understanding. Because I don’t completely understand what the world is like for him. I’ve never lived in his shoes. I don’t get why he acts the way he does sometimes. Life would be so much easier if he just fell in line. He’s not going to do that. No point in harping on it.

The other day I was discussing CJ with his daycare teacher. I’ve had an open dialogue with her from the get-go about CJ’s challenges. We were talking about his age and chronologically being old enough for kindergarten in the fall. I was saying that with his lack of writing ability and social/emotional skills I didn’t think he was ready for kindergarten and it wouldn’t be fair to him to him to enroll him. She told me to check out a program called Kindergarten Readiness. A program for young 5 year olds; it focuses on social skills and fine motor.

While this may/ may not be right for him. There is still possibility of school in CJ’s future sooner than I ever anticipated…