Monday, July 26, 2010

Inside out and release...

  'Children are unpredictable. You never know what inconsistency they're going to catch you in next" 
Franklin P. Jones

This weekend, my little town had its annual festival. Every July, The town gets together and celebrates..well..itself for two days.It's a "Yay us" kind of thing. There is a parade and food..people selling crafts and baked goods.   They even have fireworks. In the past, Omar usually took some of the kids to see them-as one or two of them had been too little to go .It was past their bedtime-and I don't mess around with bedtimes. We lived far too long with sleep deprivation for me to do that. I'm also not a fan of crowds. And seeing that Omar was willing-I ecstatically happily let him do the honors.  This year though, I didn't have an excuse reason ...the kids are big enough..I had to go along.

  I was a little bit overwhelmed..surrounded as I was by five hundred or so people who were all eating and/ or carrying various light up wands, hats etc. en masse.  To me, it felt like being an uninvited guest at a dinner party for wizards-as a muggle.  Sigh...this is a very small town..and I am definitely "From Away". Oh, people are friendly enough...until you want to participate in anything-because if you don't know the secret handshake, and can't recite the towns lineage in alphabetical order..while tap dancing you are deemed "AN OUTSIDER" Someone not to be trusted with important decisions like library funding(although donations will gladly be accepted). Thankfully this bit of silliness has not affected the herd. I guess you could call them little Visa .they are accepted everywhere.  For that I am grateful

  The minute we got there, Lily was surrounded by at least ten shrieking little girls, Zoe was included by default.  She sticks to her sister like glue in social situations. Lily doesn't have a problem talking for her..or anyone else for that matter. We are hoping that Zoe finds her own confidence in school this year.  Oscar immediately found someone with a dog. He knows what he is comfortable talking about (right now it is animals-mostly ducks..but dogs work for him too) so he finds the situation that suits him. Sammy was absorbed into a group of his friends. As  I stood there watching him..standing at the edge... so self conscious(as only an eleven year old can be), all elbows and knees..anxiously trying to work his way into the conversation. I couldn't help but think back to an earlier time...a scarier time.

  When Sammy was a year old, his language slowly started did his eye contact.  He mostly stopped responding ..and instead, appeared to be going deep inside of himself.  Away from the sounds and the sights..away from me, and I was frightened.  I had no idea..not a clue. I didn't know anything about autism. We didn't even get a firm diagnosis until he was three. By then he was finding his voice again.  I can't tell you that we did anything special..or adhered to any therapy. We were truly ignorant.  So I did the only thing I could think of.  I talked to him. Non stop..incessantly..I talked and explained and sang..danced and when he didn't answer, I answered for him. I said more to Sammy in that year and a half than I have said to anyone else ever-in my entire life. Sometimes I think that is why I am such a loner now. I have simply talked myself out. Which is o.k., because now-Sammy talks enough for the both of us.  And yet, still..lingering in the back of my mind is the fear.."what if it happens again?"

 I didn't realize that I was carrying this fear around like so much unwanted baggage until the other night when I saw him with his friends. MY fear has been keeping a tight reign on him..MY fear. He ran over to me and said "Mama, my friends want me to go and watch the fireworks with them." I looked at my beautiful boy..standing there so excited and expectant..and yet so ready for me to say "no". It was as if  I was finally seeing  HIM..all that he is..all that he is becoming...and I knew, like it or not, the time had come(had probably arrived a while ago).. I said "Go ahead Buddy, just meet us here afterwards.." And poof..with a quick " Thanks!" he was off and I watched him as he was absorbed into the crowd. I had let him go.   


Monday, July 19, 2010

A Mama by any other name...

Names are not always what they seem. The common Welsh name BZJXXLLWCP is pronounced Jackson."
~Mark Twain

   You know, I have known a lot of people in my forty six years..and I've been called many things-most of them good.  Until my early twenties, I was called "Kathy"..which I hate..always have.  I am so not a" Kathy".  If anyone reading this happens to be one-I mean no disrespect.  It is just that "Kathy" brings up images of perky, sweet, fun loving "gals" of which I am not. No! I am hyperactive and sarcastic..pithy and  Just so you know, Kathleen wouldn't' have been  my first choice of names either-it was the only acceptable alternative that I could think of.  I mean really, I couldn't imagine getting anyone to call me "Queen Cool" or "Wonder chick" (not that I haven't tried) Kathleen it is.

  There are only four people in the world who call me "Mama"..and yet, if there were a count to be is the one thing I have been called more than anything else. Just this morning the word "Mama" has been used in forty zillion different ways.."Mama I'm hungry" "Mama can I have a turn on the computer" "Mama can I have a snack?" "Mama The dogs are doing that weird thing to each other again" "Mama can you get me this?" "Mama can you get me that?" "Mama?  Mama??? MAMA!!!!!" sigh..."Mama why are you sitting in the empty bathtub with clothes on?"  "Oh I like the feel of the cold tiles against my face when my head hurts.." "Does your head hurt Mama?" "No..I'm o.k."  "Then why are you sitting there" "I don't know" "Oh...Mama? can we have lunch?'

  I am really not complaining. I can't.  There was a time not to long ago, when I would have given anything to hear my boys say "Mama". Sammy spoke very early, but at around twelve months his language slowly went away..and was gone completely by the time he was eighteen months old. Oscar did not speak until he was four-and even then it was only with very few words . I wasn't sure if either would ever be able to verbalize. I did not know what the future held.  Should we teach them sign language, use pecs..perhaps a talking machine? We had accepted the idea that they might remain non verbal. We made plans...we would do whatever we could to help them  And yet,.and yet drifting around in the back of my mind was the thought..the WANT.. to hear them just once say "Mama" .So simple..and so complicated. I was ashamed for feeling that way. Acceptance means acceptance..right?  sigh...I have learned since to cut myself some slack.  That motherhood isn't the equivalent of stoicism(at least most of the time). I am allowed to mourn for things that might never happen. It is what one does with those feelings that matters.

  The other night Sammy made a decision..he told us "I'm almost a young man..I'm going to start calling you "Mom" and "Dad" now...o.k.?" I had noticed that he had already started doing this at school..calling me "Mom" in front of his friends..I could accept that...but this?  No!  "Sammy..I am so not a "Mom"..if you want to use that at school is one thing...but at home???? Ick.."  Omar wasn't thrilled either.."Sammy, I still call MY father "Papa"  it is the way we say "dad" in French" ..."But I'm almost a young man..and this is what I want to call you." sigh.."Sammy, can't you think of something else to call us.."Mom" just doesn't suit could call us "Mother and Father" "  "No, I like "Mom and Dad"" ..."How about "Queen cool" ?" "What??" "Or "Princess wonderful" " .."Mama! I'm being serious!" "Fine bud..if that's what you want to call us-go ahead...but then I'm going to have to call you "Son"." "O.K....goodnight Mom...goodnight Dad"  "Goodnight Son....of princess wonderful! hahahahaha"  "Mama!!!"  "That's my name.."

Note: This post was inspired (as most of my posts are) by my kids.  This week, some of what I discussed was inspired by this wonderful post by Kim.  I think it would be well worth your while to go read it. Thanks Kim. :)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Finding the clap at a time..

"I have found such joy in simple things.." from the poem by Grace Noll Crowell

  Someone told me this morning that they thought that there were more horrible things than good in the world. Wow. That really threw me. .Because, that's one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard..and I have heard some crazy things..I mean I do live with four kids, three dogs, a cat and a very patient husband.   Oh sure, I can name a litany of horrible things..war, crime ,greed, pollution .All of them- big things..terrible things...awful things  Don't get me wrong..I don't trivialize them.. But come on-is that all there really is?    And yeah, we all have had bad days..we've all had bad things happen to us..seen awful things.Some people more than others.   But if day after day the only thing you focus on is the horrible...well then maybe you are standing in the wrong place...looking in the wrong direction. Hanging with the wrong crowd . Because there is so much good out much joy. The problem is...that it is up to us to find it and some people...sigh... have simply forgotten how to look.   I blame the lack of applause.

    Think about it.  As a small child everything you did from taking your first step to using the potty has not only been met with happiness but with clapping and boisterous approval.   Now imagine finding that same sort of approval in your day to day life as an adult .What a huge difference it would make!. You wake up one morning running late, your car breaks get caught in the rain..and still you manage to make it in to work.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if you were greeted with applause for having done so?  I know I'd be thrilled if people clapped because I had gotten the laundry folded and put away. Don't you think it would be great? I really believe that we need to bring clapping back.No longer should it be only for children, athletes or celebrities  We could organize..have rallies..make signs..chant... "Bring back the clap!  Bring back the clap!" I do believe it could make a difference.

  But I'm getting carried away. I look at it this way-I have four incredible children..three of which are on the spectrum.  They work so very hard at learning the skills they will need to navigate this very confusing world-and they do this simply because I ask them to. How could I in good conscience ask them to work so hard if I did not think that it was worth it?  If I thought the world in which I brought them was mostly horrible?  What would be the point?   

  There is so much good and beauty and joy in this world.   And although, it might not make the headlines..or be the top story in the evening news.. it is there.  You just need to know how to look for it, and where to look. That the little things do add up... I guess it's all in perspective. But I think that a little more clapping and a lot less booing could make a big difference. Now, I am going to go finish the six loads of laundry that need doing . Please...don't hold your applause.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Heated conversations....

"If you saw a heat wave, would you wave back?"  ~Steven Wright


It is so very hot outside. The kind of heat that makes things that on most days are only mildly annoying-seem exceptionally annoying.  Everything just sticks to you-your clothes, dog hair...children.. My kids are hot as well..I know this because they tell me every thirty seconds or so.."Mama..I'm hot"  "Yeah it's pretty hot outside"..."but I'm hot.." "Yes, I know you are hot.." "I'm hot too".."Me too".."Mama we're hot.."  "..sigh.."I know you are all hot..I am hot..why don't you go sit quietly in the playroom and let the fan cool you off."
"but it is blowing in hot air.." sigh.."If you sit really still and don't make a sound you will cool off" "It's not working.." "Thats because you keep running in to tell me how hot you are.." "But it's not working!"  "Well maybe if you put on a pair of shorts and took off your pants socks and shoes you would feel better?"  "But I don't want my feet to get cold."  "Oscar it is 95 degrees in the house..your feet won't get cold!" "But they might!"sigh... My Oscar is having problems accepting summer wear.  He keeps tugging at the sleeves of his short sleeved shirt-trying to pull them down to his wrist.  But hey, at least he's wearing them-even if it is grudgingly..This is nothing like it was with Sammy-who used to mourn his snow pants in April.  So I really can't complain. And thankfully none of them have a problem with bathing suits..

  Thank god for our pool..It is a life tires the herd out and cools them off-especially my sock clad boys..and it keeps them happy... for about three and a half minutes..until.."Mama!  Lily says my zhu zhu pet is a boy but I say it's a girl!"  "Lil..Zoe can call her zhu zhu pet a girl if she wants to."  "But it's name is Mr. Squiggles!" "I don't care! she's a girl!" "No Mr. means boy!" "But it's a girl!! I don't want a boy!" "Zoe! it's a boy!" ..sobbing now"Mama! Lily won't let my zhu zhu pet be a girl!"...and so it went..for the entire  two hour swim..getting dressed...having a snack.. and through dinner....Oh I tried to be diplomatic ("girls please try to get along)"..tried to redirect the conversation ("hey-who wants to discuss folding laundry?")...tried to distract them ("I have candy!")..but when the shouting became  more than this innocent..and very hot mother could bear-I lost it...went off the deep end... I yelled... "DOES  IT  HAVE  A  PENIS????" shocking my children into stunned silence. Until an indignant Oscar looked at me in horror and said "That is not polite Mama!" " No..It is a FINE word to use in a discussion..DO ZHU ZHU PETS HAVE GENITALS??? NO THEY DO NOT!  THEREFORE ZOE'S ZHU ZHU PET CAN BE A GIRL!"  "Actually Mama, they don't have either..they are only toys...why is your face so red?"  "Because I am HOT!!!" "well why don't you go sit in the playroom and let the fan cool you off?"

 Tomorrow is a summer rec day..and I am oh so thankful.  We all really do need a break from each other-at least until this mini heat wave is over.  Until then, I am just going to have to get a grip on myself. Not let these little things get in the way of my better judgement.. I have learned the hard way, that many things said in exasperation are oft times repeated in the worst of places. And I have a sneaky suspicion that one day in the near future...I will be in the supermarket with them and I will hear Oscar say "zhu zhu pets penis!" and laugh hysterically. And the really sad thing is..well I probably will too. Heat wave or not.