Posts tagged ‘parenting’

Just a Mom

     In my days as a mother to this particular child, I wear lots of hats. I’m often playing special education teacher, doing my best to impart whatever skills I think C might need to make it in this world. Or I’m playing manager, helping him organize his weekly homework into a calendar so it will all get done. I’m really good at being an occupational therapist, working with him on how to put away laundry so his muscle memory will overcome motor planning challenges. And I try very hard to be a good behaviorist, facilitating a playdate so he learns in real time how to be a good friend.

     All too often, these roles overpower the most important one, the one I feel like I get to do the least. Whether it’s just hanging out with C with no agenda whatsoever, or playing a game without trying to make it a teachable moment, it’s rare I get to be “just a Mom.” Those times of no extra hats on my head are too few and far between.

     So tonight when I realized I had been in my home office, working alone for quite some time, I wondered what was happening in the rest of the house. I wandered out into the living room and saw Husband and C, side by side on the couch, watching last night’s Super Bowl on the DVR. I backed quietly out of the room and left them in peace. I’m hoping Husband is enjoying being just a Dad.

February 2, 2009 at 10:39 pm 7 comments

Sibling Revelry

     We have a pot on our front porch in which a desert quail pair have made their nest. Eagerly we watched as one after another egg appeared. With a grand total of 15 eggs, Momma Quail settled in to sit on them day after day. We left on a 10 day trip figuring we would miss the hatching, but much to our delight, Momma and eggs were still here upon our return.

     Yesterday, when C cried to me because no one has invited him over all summer, I wondered again about our choice to have only one child. A choice made for a variety of reasons, and a decision made largely before C was born. Husband and I each have a brother, and while there were many times in my young life I would’ve paid someone to borrow my brother on a permanent basis, I now consider him the closest of friends. I regret C won’t have any siblings, nor any cousins, and wonder if someday he’ll feel all alone in the world. 

     Yet I knew, deep in my heart, that I only wanted one. Our early and later struggles with both C’s health and developmental challenges further solidified this decision, as we felt it imperative to give C our full attention. I look at large families with both admiration and awe for the energy Moms and Dads seem to have. Husband and I both recognized our own fatigue, partly due to our starting a family later in our lives as well as due to the issues we faced with C.

     I know families with lots of children, and they parent their brood with a grace, patience and skill I simply do not possess. A friend and her husband, after giving birth to 5 biological children, decided to foster, and subsequently adopt, a child with extreme bipolar disorder, fetal alcohol syndrome and asperger’s. Another friend and her husband have adopted 5 children, all on the autism spectrum, and are raising them off the grid with homegrown food, homeschooling, and the constant love and attention they need so desperately. In my book, these people are saints.

     As we watched this evening, another large family was born. A number of the 15 eggs hatched in our pot, and Momma Quail kept reigning the hatchlings in with her wings and ensuring they didn’t make the jump to the ground before they were ready. I reflected on what must be the joy of having a large family at the same time I reminded myself that having another child simply for a playmate for C would not have been a good decision. As he watched the pot through the window for glimpses of the babies, C announced he’d like to be a quail, and when I asked him why, he replied he’d like to know how to fly. Although I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t just that he’d like 14 playmates to call his own.

July 6, 2008 at 8:42 pm 4 comments

There is no off switch

     There are two times when I don’t feel like I’m “on” with C. When he is somewhere with Daddy, or when he is somewhere with Ga (that would be Grandma, a hangover word from when he couldn’t say “Grandma”). The rest of the time I feel like I am “on” in some way. Even at night, given our continued use of a baby monitor.

     School is no different; I dread the ringing of the phone. He is sick, he has eaten something he’s allergic to, or he’s finally sung “Brick House” (one of his favorites) to the principal and has been kicked out of school.

     This child is a constant. I suspect, like my mother has sometimes gently suggested, that I am at times a bit too wrapped up in C. I freely admit to losing any sense of self after having C, and am now working very hard to regain it. Yet my answer to that comment, and to myself when I start to think about it, is “How could I have done it any other way?” As parents, we all just do what needs doing, and I firmly believe C needed my full and undivided attention. It’s not a sacrifice, it just is.         

June 26, 2008 at 7:35 pm 3 comments

Bad Mommy

     Today was one of those days…you know the kind – where nothing seems to go right? From the moment I woke up, at 6:15, to the ear-splitting scream (via baby monitor, which apparently sits WAY too close to my ear) of “MOMMY!!!!!!!!!”  to this moment of going to bed, typing hunt and peck style due to the bandaged and very sensitive finger, it has been a rough one.

     After hurling myself out of bed and running across the house expecting giant aliens to be coming through the windows or at least some blood, I entered C’s room and found him sans UFOs or major injury to life or limb. “What?” I asked, not altogether nicely, yet still expecting some unseen disaster to appear before me. “Ummmm, I can’t sleep. Will you snuggle with me?” Now, darn, if this isn’t just adorable, and sometimes might even work, but not today. After a brief, few sentences with choice words about when it’s appropriate to yell at Mommy in the wee hours, I went back to bed. It was short lived, however. Only mere minutes after I fell back to sleep, came the next most pleasant way to be awakened, which is “I NEED A WIPE!” This one is a constant occupational therapist’s nightmare as it’s particularly difficult to teach a body unaware, fine motor skills challenged, can’t place hands on something unseen even if it is part of one’s body, and still doesn’t wash hands very well little person how to wipe his own bottom.

     This was day two of C staying home with a cold. He’s not particularly sick, but if he overdoes it, he will be. So he’s been home hanging out with his humidifier and doing his best to drive me to drink. Today, however, determined to do something productive with him, I decided we’d do a craft together. We searched the Highlights magazine craft pages, and I picked out two crafts that seemed doable and for which we had supplies. Naturally, when presented with the two options, C picked out a third. I reiterated the two choices and he picked yet another one on the page. This went on until he had chosen every single craft on the page except the two I said we could choose from. At that point, I left him in his room.

     Once he decided to participate, I asked him to get four pieces of recycled paper. Predictably, he said he wanted new paper, and I repeated the request for recycled paper. He went and picked out new paper anyway. Then he went back to his room. This went on for quite some time, during which I had the usual argument I have with myself while in the midst of these episodes. I recognize the need for bending to C’s idiosyncrasies, but I also recognize the need to have a child who is capable of completing a task I request. This is a difficult balance, and one which causes great struggle for me. C is so high functioning that at times I wonder if I’m too hard on him and am forgetting the challenges he faces; that recycled paper (with printing already on one side) likely bothers him on a deep sensory level. It sounds silly, but I suspect it’s true – the writing on one side probably distracts him, catches his eye, annoys him. And the constant need to debate, discuss, and argue is probably not only resultant of his feeling crummy, but also an effort to exert some control over his environment. So I feel like Bad Mommy lady, but I know giving in at this point will make all future debates and discussions far more difficult, so I hold my ground.

     When he does come around, we happily sit down to make our cut out butterflies, and my punishment for being Bad Mommy is quick to come. I promptly send the scissor blade right into my index finger, and while the blood is dripping down my arm, I am reminded of this morning’s worry. It has come full circle, and I expect the UFOs to be landing out in the backyard any moment now.

May 14, 2008 at 11:35 am 6 comments

Another few moments in time

     Leave house 20 minutes before school is out even though we live 2 minutes away from school to ensure spot in front of pick-up line. Be glad C and what loosely could be called “friend” B have stopped bickering over whose mother comes first which always ends up in tears for C because either B’s mother came first or because B is upset because I came first. Be annoyed that the newest pick-up obsession is that I have to be in first 10 cars in line. Be annoyed at self for giving into this neurosis but know that picking up a crying child is not a good thing and know that this obsession, too, shall pass. Worry about what next obsession will be.

     Arrive at school, am car number 7, breathe sigh of relief. Turn car off and listen to radio to try and catch up on day’s news. Be reminded that many, many millions of people have stresses far worse than ours, resolve to be happy, positive, thankful person. Feel blessed. Wait for bell to ring. Watch for C to come out of building and know simply by the way he waves before approaching car will explain tone of his entire day. Be happy when wave is appropriately jubilant and resist opening door from inside as newly found independence in opening door is a good thing as long as fingers don’t get slammed. Encourage him to get in car before starting to tell about his day as there are approximately 10 zillion cars behind us waiting to pick up their kids. Remind him to be careful closing door and silently chuckle remembering the time when door was simply too heavy and he fell right back out of car onto sidewalk. Revel in fact that he’s socially aware enough that he actually felt embarrassment at that incident, and marvel at how quickly I got out of the car and around to the other side to see if he was okay (he was). Wonder if I could ever move that fast again.

     Get door closed, pull away, stop once past the pick-up line to buckle into 5-point harness mentioned before. Ask about day, about special, about who sat by at lunch, who played with at recess. Listen to recitation of school announcements, lunch menu, which classes had perfect attendance and wonder if anyone else in the entire school even listens to that stuff half as carefully. Wonder about streaming text TV they have in classroom and be amazed that C ever tears his eyes away from it. Wonder if they’re putting subliminal messages in there somewhere because if anyone would have them sink in it would be C. 

     Get home, greet dog, wash hands, empty backpack, talk about homework, make snack. Wonder when this will become routine enough that I don’t have to prompt, and figure it will become routine about the time school is out for summer. Have snack, do something fun or have in-house therapy session. Start thinking about dinner, plan dinner, get dinner started for grown-ups, make dinner for C. Preferably (for him) something that can be dipped in ketchup. Search shelves of freezer making sure to get proper GF/CF/egg free for C and be impressed with self that I finally gave each family member their own shelf with special food on it. Wonder how we got so many allergies in one family and remind self Husband doesn’t have any allergies and it’s really just self and C who have 9 zillion allergies between us. Eat dinner, stay at table afterward to do homework. Remind C to write slowly and wonder if am striking appropriate balance between Encouraging Mommy, Nice Mommy and Task Master Mommy. Take bath (complete with epsom salts to draw out toxins, baking soda to draw down stomach acid, and vapor bubbles to draw out sneezes). Get out, slather in lotion made of absolutely nothing because absolutely everything causes rashes, put jammies on, make up silly compound words because THAT IS WHAT WE DO after a bath.

     Do bedtime chores, wonder if we’ll ever be able to move box of baby toothpaste closer to toothbrush area (step 4 in the 90 step process necessary to introduce toothpaste, which he has never used), and be thankful he seems to have inherited good teeth. Wonder how he will ever, ever, ever get through a full dentist appointment. Resove to make using toothpaste a summer goal. Remind self to start a list of all these summer goals I keep thinking about and wonder again about being Task Master Mommy.

     Read book together, have a few minutes of hang out time, remind Daddy it’s time for lights out. Watch Daddy get cup of ice water, go into C’s room and sing song. Collapse on couch as Daddy finishes song, turns out lights, turns on noise machine, shuts blinds, and exits room, shutting the door to the exact same spot every single night.

     Breathe for a few minutes and take bets with Husband as to how many times C will call one of us. Try to be Nice Mommy because C going to sleep unhappy does not make for a restful night for anyone. Try to balance patience (when C calls for us 13th time) with certain knowledge that we are completely and utterly allowing ourselves to be manipulated.

     Crash on couch again and laugh at self when I think of how much I thought I’d get done tonight.

May 8, 2008 at 11:32 am 3 comments

You want to take this one, Daddy?

     “Mommy, what does `under sunny skies’ mean?” C asked this morning as he was watching the weather channel, his favorite. Knowing his adherence to the literal, I responded that we are under the sky and the sky is sunny; therefore, we are under a sunny sky today. I’m not sure he really understood, and I consider that my malfunction as opposed to his.

     I’ve struggled to answer these types of questions for years. For a child whose educational goals continually target his inability to effectively answer “wh” questions, he sure asks a lot of them. Starting with “What is justice?” when he was 4 and reading the words on coins, I have answered these questions to the best of my ability, yet I somehow can’t help but think C is vaguely dissatisfied with my answers. Even worse, when I answer, “They just did it that way” (my version of many mothers’ “Because I said so”), I feel like I’m failing him. I’m really not sure why the back windshield wipers on the subaru outback impreza go one way while the ones on a volvo cross country go the other. I could call and find out, probably, but I’d spend two lifetimes searching for the answers to his constant questions about things that seem to have no particularly obvious answer. 

     I feel tremendous responsibility to answer these questions for him, probably much like other parents feel having the loaded, dreaded sex discussion with their children.  Yet I’m pretty sure when that conversation comes along, it will seem completely anti-climatic (no pun intended) after all this.

May 7, 2008 at 6:23 am 2 comments

One step ahead

     I often describe C as high maintenance. He requires a large amount of energy and brainpower on my part, and I compare it to having a 2 year old 10 year old. On one hand, he needs constant attention and supervision. On the other hand, he is very bright and knows things most 7 year olds don’t know (heck, he knows things most adults don’t know). This combination makes for one frazzled mama at times.

     I feel as though I am always trying to keep one (or two)  step(s) ahead of him. How is he going to react if I say this? What will he do if I try that?  Is there any way to avoid the stress he’ll face if we go here? What can I do to make sure this event is successful for him? How can I help him deal with his feelings if it isn’t? The adjustments we’ve made in daily life have become our new normal; so much so, I can go whole days without thinking about autism – until we go to the park, and then WHAM, I remember. 

     I sometimes laugh at myself because I am far from a career I so desperately wanted, and I worry I’m not using my brain or skills. Then I remember I’m using every brain cell and all my available skills to parent this child. I knew C would outsmart, outwit, and outlast me at some point in his life (yes, I’m a Survivor fan), but I never thought it would happen when he was 4. And now he’s 7. But in some areas he’s 2. Some he’s 10. You do the math.

April 11, 2008 at 10:52 am 5 comments

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