Tag - feelings

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Flexibility, Feelings, and Fun
2
Words Like Nets
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Weather Extremes
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Sam’s Credo
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Knotless
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Loving You
7
Moving on
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Don’t Know Much, But I Do Know Some
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Back to School
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My Boy, He Has Some Skillz!

Flexibility, Feelings, and Fun

Ihave been combing through the past of late, sitting with my boys and watching videos of their early years. This is Sam when he was just three years old. I first posted it back in 2008.

I realize that John is doing now, at nine, what Sam, at three, insisted on every single morning: A schedule.

autismtwins.com“John’s schedule?” he asks, after fetching orange construction paper and a crayon and handing them to me — a demand. He is eager to see the regular things: Get Dressed, Eat Breakfast, Go to School, but he is waiting for his favorite activities to appear too: The Library, DVDs, The Beach. It is very important that I think this through — what new activity will I need to ask of him today? How must I couch it between his favorite things in order to avoid upset if we have an unscheduled stop at the grocery store? I must be precise as well as build in room for the unexpected, and so I will add a question mark or two or indicate a time and underline it. For example: Walk on the Beach IF IT’S SUNNY. Or Go to Library AFTER SCHOOL, and just hope that he can go with the flow.

Sometimes we are successful and sometimes, well, we are not.

On Sunday he woke up at 6:00 a.m. and asked for the days’ events. I pondered (because I had just brewed my first cup of coffee and was in no hurry to leave the house) and slowly I wrote: Wake Up, Sit with Mommy, Eat Breakfast, Watch Sesame Street, Read a Book, Draw a Picture of Elmo, Get Dressed, Go to Library. He ran to his room, emerged with clothes in arms and said “Get Dressed. Go to Library. John’s Schedule.” — all before 7:00 a.m. “LATER,” I said. “Library is CLOSED,” I said. “Leave for Library at 10:30,” I sighed. Meltdown.

Not always successful.

When Sam insisted on these schedules, he did not wait to see his activities for the day appear like magic. I took dictation — it was his schedule, his order of events and I dutifully captured it as he ordained (within reason because he was only slightly more agreeable to alterations). Obsessed with the weather (extreme and otherwise), his daily schedule usually starred current conditions, along with any books or DVDs in rotation at the time.

Coincidence? John is watching the same DVD on a loop, Family, Feelings and Fun. I think his favorite part is the Feelings Song, mostly because he puts his elbows on the table and presses his face near the screen while it plays and sometimes I actually hear him hum. Probably because of that and the fact that he pauses and rewinds to it over and over.

“What are you feeling?
Don’t keep it bottled up inside
Try try try
Try to tell me what’s inside —side —side
Don’t keep it bottled up inside
Try try try
And tell me what’s inside

Do you feel EXCITED?
Do you feel SILLY?
Do you feel SCARED?
Do you feel GRUMPY?

What are you feeling?
Don’t keep it bottled up inside
Try try try
Try to tell me what’s inside

Do you feel SICK?
Do you feel SURPRISED?
What are you FEELING?”

Exactly. I ask this question of John countless times a day. In an effort to get a spontaneous response, I sometimes make my voice rea-lly LOW and I intone: “JOHN. Do YOU. Feel. MAD?” and he’ll mimic my facial expression and say “MAD!” Or sometimes I’ll make my voice high with sadness and say, “Boo-hoo, Mommy cry,” and then turn it over to him: “John cry?” He’ll mimic me down to my last inflection and say “Boo-hoo! John cry.” I get up, take his hands in mine and we twirl around until I stop suddenly and say “Woah! SURPRISE!!” He startles then laughs. I tell him it’s his turn and he makes his eyes big, rounds his mouth and says, “SURPRISE!” What a mimic, he has a gift.

I love that he is studying and exploring, just like his brother did so long ago, because in addition to being able to tell others how he feels, he is learning about how others sometimes feel and that is a link to community, to empathy, to a bigger world.

Words Like Nets

This. This at the end of a long, tiring day. This, when you simply want to put a period on it, as in, THE DAY IS DONE.

This, when the goal is to slide into the evening with your thoughts and a glass of wine, your children at last asleep. Let’s be honest, looking forward to these moments is what keeps you going some days.

So when one of your children refuses to cooperate and instead keeps getting out of bed after lights out and you see no discernible reason other than he quite possibly does not want you to have alone time, you will sigh heavily and say “Alright, then. Come here. Sit on the couch with me.”

The truth is you are just too tired to keep walking him back to bed.

You ask him, of course you do: “John, what is it? Why can’t you sleep?” You ask him, knowing that it’s futile, knowing that answering requires too much and tools he does not have. And then you spot your laptop. You open a blank word doc and you type:

John, why are you sad? Because… ?

You don’t expect an answer, you don’t expect much, which is why when he leans forward you still don’t realize.

a take to bed

“Take you back to bed?” You tell him you still don’t understand. You try again.

WHY is John sad? 
no sad
Okay. Is something bothering John?
Yes or no?
yes

And you tell him you want to help, can he please tell you more, can he type more?

neat mom sat on bed
sleep mom sad wake up mom
back ward school

What does it mean? Backward school? Go back to school? And he continues:

dad grandma house train
dad number 012345
dad grow plant
home mom
dinner
movie popcorn
bath time
bed time
brekfest
dad no hi
dad air up
dad chikfil a
the muppet show season 3
sesame street surprise watch
moo bow elmo puppet
fair boat
hot air balloon
lunch
fair boat home
dinner movie bed
back to school
lost home ant jt
go home
nose
watch to baby da vinci
jelly fish

This. All of this. You need to de-code and you need to alert the press. This is the longest conversation you’ve ever had.

The day you discovered Sesame Street’s “Divorce: Little Children, Big Challenges” downloaded on his ipad without any help you knew that he was taking it all in and processing. And today you see, god how you see, just how much he has to say.

Words

Weather Extremes

Nothing like a downpour to slow you down. The boys are at school and I sit here while the rain pounds. We are nearly six months in to our new life where there are extremes in weather: sunny skies so blue you are certain no color exists to do it justice. And then there are the days like today. If I close my eyes I really could go to sleep — no joke. The rain pounds but it’s also hypnotic. If Sam were home and not at school, he’d fret “It could flood! What about the wind? Those clouds are low, Mom!” He’d see menace in the benign.

That’s what happens when you absorb every book you can find on wild weather systems. I believe that it’s important to be prepared, but perhaps it’s possible to be too prepared. For some things.

I was not prepared to be a single mom even though I essentially was just that while married. The fact is I did 90% of everything from day one. It’s the little things that remind me how rough the road is solo. It’s their new fascination with their, ahem, bodies. And it’s how their little boy frames are filling out, their legs stretching impossibly towards their future height. It’s how each of them pushes back trying to redefine the lines between us, necessary to emerging into themselves — I know. But it’s rocky and terrain I neither know nor get — hey, I’m a girl.

Soon they will tower over me. I will be their little mama. John will bend down when he throws his arms around me each morning. That’s good, I think, I’ll be little by comparison — better than a diet.

IMG_rain1Yesterday, unlike today, was mild and breezy. All the windows were thrown open to catch it and along with it, perhaps possibility. Their weekly phone call over, Sam sat sprawled on the couch next to me and we talked again about the divorce. We do this from time to time — he wanted me to feel it from his point of view, he said.

“You think it affected you 100 times, well, it affected me a billion times!” and then explained how when IT first started (the fight that ended with his dad leaving) IT was like an asteroid hit his head and then IT (the separation) turned into a cyclone in his body where tornadoes and hurricanes flooded him, his heart, and then IT (the divorce) traveled down to his legs where earthquakes and fierce winds landed in his feet.

“It was tremendous,” he said. It felt like he was alone in a desert — did I know that?

“I did not,” I said, “but I suspected.” I thanked him for sharing how it was for him and asked if it’s hard to keep all of that extreme weather inside.

He admitted it is. “It’s hardest for the kids.”

This boy is 8 going on 30.

And then, “Mom, will you get married again and give me some more siblings? Please?” I explained how 1) that would require non-existent candidates and 2) someone who already has children (“A sister, I want a sister”), because my child-bearing years are finito.

I didn’t think it the right moment to say I can’t imagine ever wanting to do that again, so instead I took the easy path: “Who knows?” The way his face lit up, I would do just about anything for him. (Just about.)

There is no manual for this life, no guide for getting it right and it makes me sad that my boy can lay it out for me like this: he is prepared for the extremes: he knows firsthand the havoc that can be wreaked by that which is bigger than him. He did not see the low clouds heralding his parents’ divorce, he did not know he lived on a fault line, that the earth could move like that or tornadoes form out of thin air.

And now he does. He is prepared for the worst and I suppose I am now too.

IMG_rain3

Sam’s Credo

I came across this scribbled drawing as I gathered the dozens of pages Sam leaves strewn across the house. Our house is on the market, have I mentioned this? That we need to move? and life on the market means keeping it in showing condition always. An impossible feat in the best of circumstances — really really, difficult with two 8-year-olds. I vacuum, I dust, I hide things in drawers and closets as I shoo the boys closer and closer to the door. Some days I just order them to the car with iPads and tell them to sit … it’s the only way to do it. Otherwise, I spend 15 minutes in one room only to return 10 minutes later to destruction.

Anyways, I digress.

So I was cleaning for a showing and piling Sam’s drawings into a pre-recycle bin — the one I use BEFORE I dispose of his scribbles into the actual recycling bin, when I came across this one. It struck me as simple, direct, a credo.

I  think we need happiness and trust too. Don’t you? And love like this…it would be a good start.

IMG_5270

Knotless

We are off at the beach, sandy and sated by the sun. Being here is healing me day by day, even if this place, like most, is riddled with memories of a life long gone. How do you summarize 14 years of your life, what kind of burial do you give it? I sit by the water and offer chunks of it to the sound. The sunlight ripples on the water and I imagine my old life drift away, dappled and unrecognizable.

Later I lie in the hammock under a canopy of trees, the sky immense and clear. John races around me, up and down into the garden, while Sam reads in the grass (The Evolution of Man!). So much is possible but still impossible is to forgive in the absence of remorse.

I think about what I knew and what I know and the two blend together into one big knot and all I want is to be knot-less, to be stripped of all I knew and all I know. You can’t stay away, you’re drawn here. He’s no prize, I want to tell you. Who does what he did and for so long. Who does what you did and for so long? Well, then. I guess you’re each other’s prize.

In the meantime, I hold my children close and try to love the hurt out of them. Some days I think I am that powerful. Other days I know the truth. What else is there to do then, but to work this knot, worry and work and pull it. Try to untie it, turn it over and over, until the knot is undone, until I am undone and in the undone-ness, done with you.

Knotless.

So here we are at the beach, sandy and sated by the sun. We create new memories. John runs barefoot through the tall grass, his long legs wet with dew. He stops and turns his face to the sun, does finger puppets in the air. Sam goes fishing with my dad and despite the frustration of waiting… waiting… is so happy when he catches his first tiny fish. I watch my two long-legged boys, so full of love and joy and know that even if undoing this knot takes days, months, years — they are my prize.

Loving You

We sit here and talk about your day. New camp, new experience, new fears. And you whisper, Her name is Mimi, your smile shy. She cried at drop-off and I ask if she did better as the day went on. She was sad, you say. You were relieved you weren’t the only one anxious about a new experience. You tell me about her long yellow hair and how she wears it pulled back in a ponytail. I ask if you and Mimi became friends.

Not yet, you say. You tell me that you’re both getting used to each other first — in your minds. That tomorrow, perhaps, you will be ready to move forward — that tomorrow, perhaps, you’ll be three quarters there. We’ll smile then speak when it’s time. I see how earnest you are and am impressed by your insight: this is how it can go, after all.

Then later, Mommy can I marry you one day?

No, sweetie. It doesn’t work like that. And I tell you how one day when you grow up, you will meet someone who is just right for you, who you will love and who will love you too. And you’ll get married and maybe have kids and Mom will be here (Down the street? Next door?) and I’ll also be known as Grandma if I’m lucky.

But I’m worried. I think I’ll lose you when that happens. Impossible, I say, and tell you about all the many types of love in the world and the love you have for your mom (and the love she has for you, dear Sam) is Forever.

Mommy is forever here loving you.

Moving on

Tonight cackles with the past. I walk through these rooms, this house, this shell and remember bathing you side by side in the pink bathtub, rumpling your hair with towels of stripes and frogs. Back then you slept at the other end of the house in beds under tents, the end where the fire broke out four years ago tonight. Such sweet little boys (of course you still are!), but you were only three then. I remember how you piled onto my lap to read a goodnight story, your hair soft and wet — your father on one side, me on another.

We love you if not each other.

I kiss you both goodnight and tell you how very proud I am of you, how independent you’ve both become. Sam, you see my face and say, “Does it make you sad too?” and I tell you that indeed it does, but that it’s happy-sad, a mix.

I realize, with a start, that this is it exactly. “Do you know how much Mommy loves you?I say. [THIS big, as big as the universe…?] you answer with a question. “Even bigger,” I reply and you laugh.

Later I watch you sleep, your faces pressed into pillows, almost eight. I know it’s pointless to ask, but how did time creep up on us like this? The things this shell could share if sharing were possible. Here we are then, a family of three roaming rooms on our way to somewhere new. I am haunted by the memory of who you were, who I was. This shell, this shell that is no longer a home, has many secrets to tell but I’m no longer interested in the telling, just the moving on. 

Of course in the moving on, there is the telling.

Don’t Know Much, But I Do Know Some

Here we sit, you and I, across from a table at the bookstore. I am struck at how quiet and peaceful we both are. I peek over my newspaper and see you engrossed in your new book, “Don’t Know Much About the Presidents” (funny, since clearly you do). “Hey Mom, John Tyler had a lot of children,” you say. “Did you know that? FIFTEEN children! The most of ANY president EVER! Isn’t that amazing?”

I agree that’s pretty phenomenal, not to mention excessive. “What’s excessive?” you ask and I tell you it means an awful lot, a real lot, like he had his own basketball team of kids. You like that and laugh.

Then later, in the car, “Mommy, will you and Dad ever be together again?” I take a breath because it’s time and you are smart and you deserve more than half-truths. No, I say, your dad and I will never be together again. Your eyes fill and you bite your lip. In a flash I see a glimpse of the young man you’ll become — sensitive and strong and so much your own person. I pull the car over and climb in the back seat with you. I tell you it’s okay to cry and you do, holding me tight. I do too because I was you, six not seven, and I know how much this hurts, will always hurt. If I could make this hurt go away, if I could I would, but I can’t I can’t and it’s not fair, so not fair.

You look up at me and say, “But I know there’s something I know. The love. There’s a lot of love. You love me and Daddy loves me.” And I rumple your hair and tell you Absolutely. No question. Yes, always. And then you’re done and you ask if we can get to the library already.

We need more books on presidents, you see.

Back to School

I am alone for the first time in months. Hello silence! How I’ve missed you. Which also means: Hello self! There you are! How are we feeling about being alone? Should we eat some ice cream or should we write. I’ve carried half-written posts around in my head all summer, never finding the space or time to sit down and share them. My boys turned seven. We had a lovely family vacation and I sank into brief breaks here and there — a book on the beach, a stroll on the sand — but nothing quite beats the sound of silence for this weary mom.

Back to school brings with it the familiar angst, the wringing of the hands, the transition to something new. We’re in second grade. The amount of worrying I do as back-to-school ramps up is ridiculous. Ridiculous. It helps when I hear that I’m not the only neurotic mom trying to micromanage every aspect of my kids’ lives. As if I could.

Last year I lost sleep over John’s then-new teacher, so worried was I that she wasn’t going to be as good as his first one. She turned out to be better! You’d think I’d learn from that — and I have, really. It just has not stopped me from fretting anew about all of the things I cannot control. This part of being a mom is the absolute worst — the letting go, the trusting. I do not do it well. The only thing that makes it bearable is that my kids are much more resilient than me.

So here we are: Sam moved up to second grade with not one friend or classmate from last year. Not one. It’s like they went out of their way to isolate him. This, when social skills are paramount on his IEP.

The first week the students line up in front of the school by classroom. On the first day I lead an anxious little boy to his new teacher. He is quiet. He notices several former classmates in a separate line. He waves and says hello under his breath but they don’t notice. I tell him “They just didn’t see you, honey.” If his teacher wasn’t excellent… I think, but she is. Members of his team try to reassure me that this is going to be Sam’s best year yet but I have no objectivity. My head has checked out and given control over to my heart, which by the way, is breaking! He’s all alone! He’s sad!

Of course I go home, call the husband and sob. He picks up after the first ring, says he’s been expecting my call. He hears my concerns, wonders if this might not be a positive in some ways. But you didn’t see his face! It’s not right, I say. I spend the rest of the day drafting anxious emails to the principal and his team — should we transfer him?

I save the draft and decide to see how his first day went. If he’s sad, I will hit send! I go to the school and wait out front for him. I’m prepared for the worst, my imagination is by now, firmly in overdrive.

“It was a great day!” he says running to me. “I love second grade!”
Resilient. Positive. Confident.

He has already memorized half of the class in alphabetical order, of course. He rattles them off to me, “…numbers 12, 13, 14, and 15 I don’t remember yet, but I will tomorrow. Number 16 is… ” He even found his best friend C. at recess and they played together. Huh.

Letting go… trusting… it’s a process. He teaches me. How I love that boy.

My Boy, He Has Some Skillz!

My little boy is sad. This makes me sad. As I may have alluded to earlier in the school year, Sam is finding it tricky to navigate the social wormhole that is first grade. He actually says, “Mom, it’s tricky.” My boy is nothing but astute when it comes to feelings, his feelings, but has a harder time figuring out his peers.

He had one constant friend, a little boy who is perhaps a little quirky too — but unlike Sam, X seems to be accepted by all the cool kids (the kids that Sam desperately wants to play with). Whereas in kindergarten play date invites were passed out to all like a bag of lollipops, first graders have settled on their favorite flavors and invites are not as forthcoming. Birthday party across the street? Not invited. He was hurt and blamed me for not taking him (I gladly accepted the blame).

This one little boy, though, had been pretty constant.

So when Sam announced that he plays alone at recess now — an unstructured, loud environment that had gotten better (I thought) with intervention from a few adults that were asked to facilitate — I asked him why? What about X? That’s when my little boy said that X has a new friend. And that’s when he started to cry. “He was my one, most special favorite friend, Mom. He doesn’t play with me anymore.”

Help, readers! I’m feeling blind rage towards first-graders! My first instinct is to scoop him up, move far away to a place where he is loved and admired for being such a special, brilliant kid. A place with kids who get him. Doesn’t a place like that exist? Yes, he is quirky. Yes, he sometimes sounds like a 30-year-old when he talks. Yes, he has a hard time modulating his voice. But he is loving and caring and wants to be your friend. He wants you to be his friend. He is a damned good friend.

And just so you know, we have had X over numerous times. They play really well together but lately I hear X scolding Sam: “Why do you talk so loud? You don’t need to yell, Sam.” And while I know he has this tendency — I can’t tell you how many times a day I remind him “Inside Voice!” — I bristle to hear one of his peers, who can be just as loud, lecturing him this way. I hate later, after the play date, when I ask him about it and Sam asks me, “Do you think he’ll still be my friend?” I hate that the answer was apparently not.

Instead I hug him tight and tell him that it’s hard when our friends seem to forget us when they make new ones. I suggest he try playing with both of them — and this is where it’s tricky for me. I know that social relationships adapt and change frequently at this age. That is to say, I know this because I am told this. I have no practical knowledge of this phenomenon. I look around and what I see are pretty solid friendships going back to last year. What I see are kids who once played with him? Now they ignore him.

But then he says, “Mom, it’s okay. I feel better. I’m drawing you a picture of how it goes.” Ten minutes later he brings me this, an “Imformaition” key helpfully written on the back, and he explains:

“1. First I start off with the Happys (they are yellow).
2. Then something happens and the Attack begins (those are the red mixing with the yellow).
3. A Volcano forms and erupts (I yell or make noise).
4. The Angrys come in (they are red).
5. The Smokys are here and they make me very quiet.
6. The Blues, I am very sad.
7. There is a Problem now because I can’t talk.
8. I Rest and then the Happys slowly return.
9. The Betters are here (they are green). And I’m okay.”

He is more than okay. He is way better than I am.

I can’t help but think that if he can so clearly express every stage of every emotion he feels, then he is doing way better than 99% of us. I think how I’ve had my head in the sand the last few months, not really able to deal with much and wonder how it might be different if I could draw myself a map of “how it goes” for me.

Homework.

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