I must…

be crazy. No, scratch that. I know I’m crazy.

     School registration came up quickly this past spring, and I knew in my heart I didn’t want to send C back to his current school. There’s so many reasons why I felt this way: not the least of which was one of his teachers telling him God spoke in her ear at the bookstore and told her the Harry Potter books were evil; or the fact that based on one test (which “I didn’t do well on purpose because I didn’t want more homework, Mommy”), C was placed in what seemed to be remedial math (despite his being able to do long division in his head); or the fact that several of his specials teachers gave him such useless, meaningless, negative comments – without any context – on his report card. It’s more than that; it’s a feeling that despite getting straight As last quarter, the gaps in C’s education are far greater than they should be. 

     So the great search began once again. C “shadowed” at two schools. We chose one of the two, enrolled him for next year, and settled down to wait. Except I didn’t feel settled. That little voice in my head just kept creeping back in telling me none of it felt right. It grew and grew until I hatched a new plan. All of C’s schools – public, charter, and private  - went sour after a time, and some far more quickly than others. We keep moving C to a different school, either because the current school doesn’t work or because we actually move, and they all turn out the same. Some sour more quickly than others, but they all end up in the same place – the WRONG place.

     Then I saw that quote about the square peg fitting into a round hole:  The problem with trying to fit a square peg into a round hole isn’t that it’s hard to hammer, but rather that you are actually destroying the peg.

     And boom. There it was. It’s not that the schools are wrong (although some of them, frankly, are). Perhaps it’s that C doesn’t belong in school. Perhaps putting him through the stress and anxiety of trudging through school every day, never wanting to go back on Monday mornings, and feeling like the week is one hundred years long is not what C needs. Perhaps there is no school that is right for C.

     So the idea was born. I resigned my job, cancelled his registration at his new school, and started planning. C and I will start our new homeschooling adventure on September 3, 2012. Our journey along the path to what we need continues with this newest chapter, and I hope you’ll join us.

August 16, 2012 at 8:51 am 12 comments

Hoop Dreams

     C is playing organized basketball. Those of you that know him in real life are chuckling at the moment. He’s easily a foot shorter than most of his peers, and he looks far more like a 7 year-old 2nd grader than an almost 11 year-old 5th grader. We managed to get him bumped back to the 4th grade team so he might at least have a chance to enjoy himself. Still, he’s by far the most inexperienced and least skilled person on his team. 

     The only reason we agreed to let him play is that this is an organization (Upward Sports – I’m a fan) that is supposed to be a supportive, less-competitive environment. It sounded as good as organized sports can get for C. We were hopeful. Nervous. Worried. All those things plus some.

     I had to sit on my hands during the first game, trying not to overwhelm C with hand signals and over-exuberance that he was actually staying inside the lines. He had it drilled into his head that he had to guard his guy, and guard him he did – both on offense and defense, and complete with constant jumping to make it harder for his opposing player to actually play. He got the ball a few times and tried to make shots, all failing miserably short of his goal. Still, overall, it was good. 

     C’s team has lost every game so far, and I’m happy to say it’s not completely due to C’s skills or lack thereof. This week, however, C’s team played a team that put all the others to shame. C was guarding a kid who was at least twice his weight, and when C stretched his arms up above his head, the boys were just about the same height. No one had much luck getting inside the scoring zone, and by the last period, we were behind 48 to 20, or something equally awful. Then the amazing happened. With only a few minutes left to go, C somehow ended up with the ball and drove right down the middle of the court. It was like the waters parted, and he made the shot. And then he did it again. And again. And again, ultimately scoring 8 points.

     What became clear to me in that moment was that the opposing team’s coach, recognizing that there was this tiny little guy trying his best to connect the ball with the hoop, had told his team not to guard C any longer. It wasn’t done in the spirit of, “This kid is so bad he doesn’t need guarding,” but rather, “This kid is trying so hard, let’s help him be successful.” The crowd – from both teams – went nuts. The refs were grinning ear to ear. C was so excited he jumped up and down like a jumping bean. 

     I’m not sure of that coach’s name, but I hope that he knows he did a really, really good thing that day. Somewhere, somehow, that karma is going to come back and get him, and I’m hard pressed to think of someone who deserves it more.

February 22, 2012 at 5:27 pm 9 comments

I’m going straight to you know where

     We suffered through the school Christmas pageant last week; happily it wasn’t as painful as I expected it to be. There was definitely no Santa – far too pagan – but there were some familiar Christmas carols coupled with the seriously uncomfortable older kids playing Mary and Joseph with their plastic baby Jesus. C dutifully rehearsed his two lines (he was one of many narrators) and was all ready to speak them slowly into the microphone. “With sheep, cattle, and a manger,” he read, “baby Jesus arrived on a very special night.”

     It was all very sweet and good. But I miss the days when school plays were more entertaining – when some kid knocked over the set, sat down and cried, or stole the show. C’s kindergarten play was priceless. C was a pumpkin in a garden full of vegetables. He hated the hat he had to wear (sensory issues), and try as she might, his teacher could not get him to keep it on. He spent the entire play tipping forward, letting his hat fall, and then picking it up, putting it on, and starting all over again. It was hilarious. At the end of the play, C got stuck in front of the curtain and laughed with a joy and abandon that will forever make that video one of my favorite treasures.

     When I listened to C rehearse his lines for this year’s play and discovered his mistake, I admit to not working too hard to correct it. I probably should have; the mistake was irreverent in its tone, but the innocence of the misspeak was too cute to worry over. We let it go. To draw attention to it probably would have given C a self-consciousness he rarely exhibits, and we didn’t want to stifle any of his enthusiasm. So we held our breath when C proudly got up to the microphone and said, “With sheep, cattle, and a MANAGER, baby Jesus arrived on a very special night.”

     Honestly? I don’t think anyone really noticed. Everyone was so focused on watching their own kid I don’t think people really listened to everyone else’s. But Husband and I chuckled and reveled in the return to the joy that should be a school play. Complete with sheep, cattle, baby Jesus, and his own special manager.

December 12, 2011 at 3:33 pm 9 comments

Mom interactive

     Not that I would ever be a “typical” mother, but I am most definitely not one given this child of mine. While the days of being the only mother at the playground actually up on the equipment with the kids are long gone, I still do some version of this now. Often on these lovely fall days, while the neighborhood moms are hanging out in someone’s front yard, I am facilitating C’s interactions. “He’s doing fine,” I hear on many occasions. “They’ll work things out.”

     And there it is: the grand difference between us – the idea that the kids will work it out. Actually, mine won’t. Yours will – they’ll bicker and fight and be best friends again five minutes later. C, however, will often alienate kids because his negotiating, problem-solving, and compromising skills are significantly less developed than the kids around him. An argument over a ball can have life-altering consequences for C because your child won’t want to be friends with him after it’s over. Or C will lose it and start crying, and the other children will stare and snicker at his socially “inappropriate” behavior. And they don’t forget. No matter how many times you tell me that all kids do that, you simply don’t understand that my kid does it times ten. And the all kids you are talking about are generally half C’s age.

     This is where I get angry. Because if C lived his life in a wheelchair, you would do everything you could to make sure he is fairly included in every activity. But because his disability – and yes, in this area I have now painfully come to conclude that for C it is a disability in many ways - is invisible, no matter how much you talk to your kids about accepting his differences, they still don’t want to be around him a lot of the time. Friends who couldn’t get enough of him months ago can now hardly be civil to him. And he doesn’t understand why.

     Then I feel guilty for being angry. Because you have in fact talked to your children about accepting C’s differences. You have talked to them about being kind to him no matter what. Your kids are nice kids. What I’m asking of your kids is often more than I can do myself; I get just as annoyed with C as your kids do. He doesn’t back down, he won’t drop an argument, and he won’t give you your space when you ask for it. I, like no one else, understand how frustrating it can be to be friends with C, despite his endless kindness, thoughtfulness, and genuine fondness for simply everyone he encounters. You have to work really, really hard to be friends with C, and most kids just aren’t capable of that level of effort.

     Then I get angry all over again, because C is a kid who will play with anyone and include everyone. The same can’t be said for the rest of the world, and definitely not for the rest of the neighborhood. So I soldier on, facilitating interactions and trying my best to help the other kids relate to my own while at the same time trying to teach C how to navigate the social waters of life.

     One Mom summed it up by saying that we are trying to teach our kids tolerance. And while I agree with that sentiment, I’m not sure that I agree that any of us are having any real success.

November 16, 2011 at 4:01 pm 8 comments

He knows if you’ve been bad or good

     It’s about that time of year. I’ve been listening to Christmas carols for a couple of weeks now, which is far better than my usual late September starting date (with apologies to my college roommate, who teases me about it to this day), and C’s Christmas list is long and wide and full of things there’s no chance anyone will get him.

     C has been asking for a couple of months now if he should check his name on santaclaus.net to see how good he’s been. But he hasn’t done it, and last night I found out why. While he soaked in the tub, we talked about our plans for the holidays. “I’ll bet Santa won’t bring me much this year because of my behavior,” he said, his head hung dejectedly.

     My heart broke more than a little bit in that moment. I couldn’t lie and tell him his behavior has been fine. It’s been a challenging year for sure: C’s behavior has rocked our family to its core, and I’ve read more books on defiant children than any parent should even know exists. I’ve collapsed on the floor in sobs too many times to count. And Husband and I have locked ourselves in our bedroom far too frequently in order to escape the wrath of C. Still, there’s nothing more heart wrenching than a child whose self-defeat is written all over his face, and all I could do was give him a big kiss on the forehead and tell him that Santa knows he’s been trying his best.

     Once again I was thrown into both the joys and sorrows of parenting this particular child. In the same moment, I was both impressed C recognizes his own challenges and sad that he feels his challenges are having such a profound effect on his life. It’s times like these when I remember that C carries the weight of the world on his shoulders, and there’s little I can do to help him shoulder the load.

November 8, 2011 at 8:16 pm 8 comments

In case you haven’t figured it out…

…I seem to be on a blog sabbatical. Perhaps a permanent one. But you can always reach me by leaving a comment on any post, and I will respond.

     In the meantime, I’ll be trying to figure out just what we need.

August 20, 2011 at 8:55 am 4 comments

Summer dreams make me feel fine…

     It was with great trepidation that we signed C up for swim team this year. Our club has a program where the inexperienced swimmers can be on a junior team where they all get ribbons and no one gets disqualified. We’ve had little success with these types of experiences before; karate (twice) was a disaster, golf lessons with a large group were worthless, cub scouts lasted one week, and all I can say is I’m glad C has never really wanted to do little league, because the thought of that experience makes me want to run screaming into the outfield. Generally these types of experiences are too unstructured, have too many kids, and are too chaotic for C to handle well. He runs around like a wild child, completely out of control and overstimulated, and then comes home exhausted and out of sorts for hours.

     But swim team. Swim team. Basically, swim team – for me – means summer. I started swim team when I was barely five, and didn’t stop until a college without a swim team sort of forced me to. Swim team defined my childhood. I know better than to think C will follow in my footsteps, but I also know swimming would be good for him. He enjoyed the pool we had in Arizona; that is, once we actually got his little face in the pool. Then he became a fish. He loves the water and moves through it in his own unique way that is both effective and entertaining at the same time.

     The first day of practice, I was dismayed to see 35-40 kids, most of whom were about 6 years old, wiggling around and waiting for the coach to get started. It was chaotic at best, insanity at worst. There was much standing in line and downtime; generally the kiss of death for C. I watched as other boys, years younger than him, somehow managed to gang up on him within minutes of practice beginning. I had to intervene at least five times, and by the end of practice I had decided there was simply no way we could continue.

     I approached the coach after practice to explain why we wouldn’t be back. Too many kids and too much downtime, I rehearsed in my head, so as not to sound as though I thought the coach was somehow to blame for the situation. I started the conversation by telling him C has Aspergers, and did he know what was? “No,” he said clearly sensing that AS involved something that would make swim team challenging. “But what can I do to make C successful?”

     “What can I do to make C successful?” Seriously? I was stunned. I hadn’t even told him of my decision yet, and he was already trying to keep us there. I honestly can’t recall the last time – if ever – someone has said something like that to me. Here’s this coach, basically a kid himself with 35 overactive kids on his hands, wanting to figure out how to keep C on board. I explained a little bit of the problem, and his next comment was even better. “I can rearrange things so he’ll be more comfortable. We will do whatever we need to do.”

     It was only because of this conversation that C happily, and successfully, competed in his first swim meet last Saturday. I have the video to prove it. Thanks, coach.

June 14, 2011 at 1:50 pm 19 comments

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