Modern parenting: high school threat edition

21 Apr

In February, Josh and I got to go to Barcelona.  My sister came to watch the kids, and we went off on our well-deserved holiday.  My sister was fabulous, sending updates and pictures and texts about harassing the teens, and I could relax knowing all was well.

Until I got an email from our 16 year old son’s high school, stating there’d been a “threat” and the school was on lockdown.

It was evening in Barcelona, but morning in Seattle.  The threat was detected during first period, and everyone was locked into their first period classrooms.  As time ticked away and the police searched the school for the threat, we waited half a world away for an update.  My sister had plans on going for a hike – instead, she waited at the house in case she had to go get the poor boy released from the school.  Time ticked, and I was getting annoyed that there was no update.  Josh texted the boy, who texted back he was fine.  The teacher ended up turning on “Star Trek: Into the Darkness”.  Eventually we got word that the school would be closed, students released one classroom at a time, escorted by officers off campus safely.

And just when I could breathe again, I got an email from Maura’s school, which is close to the high school, stating that they went on a form of lock down as well.  They have a policy that if the high school goes on lock down, so do they.


But all was well, it was a hoax, we were able to chat with our son through it all.   He wasn’t phased at all, and I tried to remember accounts of my high school days, where people would set fire to bathroom trash cans just to get out of class on a nice afternoon.

It was all behind us.

Then yesterday evening, I get an automated call from the school, telling us that there was a threat of a school shooting the next day scrawled in a bathroom.  My first thought was something like “Oh you have GOT to be f***ing kidding me!”.   The principal went on about how they were working with the police, would have extra security on campus, but school would go on the next day. If students didn’t want to come in that day, they would get an excused absence.

Dinner conversation was a bit like “So Sean…yeah…hear anything about the shooting threat?”

Sean “Yeah, a few friends texted me about it.  Some aren’t going to school tomorrow.”

“What about you?  What do you think?”

Shrugs as only a teenage boy can do.  “Eh, I’m going.”

Meanwhile, Miriam was all “No one’s going to mess with Sean – he’s tough.  Well…tough looking.  He’s actually a big teddy bear.”

Sean grinned and said “Yeah.”

I polled friends on Facebook – because that’s what a modern mom with anxiety issues does.  All my mom friends were all “Aw hell no he’s not going to school!”  My childless friend said “What does the boy want to do?”  Dammit voice of reason!  Which is what I actually needed to hear.  The mom in me was screaming “Keep him home!  Keep him safe!”, but the rational part of my brain was thinking “These are high school kids being stupid.  They have no clue what a scribble like that does to us parents.  The world is an inherently dangerous place, and there is no way to protect them from everything.  Bad things happen. And they have cops there right now.  Really, if anyone was planning anything, it wouldn’t be for today, not with all the extra security wandering about.  Besides, do you really need to pass along your anxiety of all things down to the boy who’s feeling okay about this?  Not really.”

So my son’s at school, and I’m at home, not fretting.  Much.  I’m slightly cursing modern parenting and the special anxieties it causes, definitely cursing flippant teens who think it’s hilarious to scrawl threats in bathrooms, and saying a prayer that today and the rest of the school year goes smoothly.

I’m also considering sending a case of wine to the staff room, because they could probably use it by now.





I’m still just a mom

20 Apr

I blog about our life with special needs.  But it doesn’t make me an expert.  You may know a woman who’s daughter has Down Syndrome, or a dad who’s son has autism, but that doesn’t mean they understand what life is like with a child who is tube-fed, or who uses a wheel chair.  You don’t expect someone who has cancer to understand what it’s like to have schizophrenia, or a person born without legs to understand what it’s like to be born deaf. Yet somehow, as soon as you say your child has special needs, there are those who assume you know everything about all kinds of special needs.

It doesn’t work like that.

We’re not medical experts, we’re not therapists or special educators.  Well, most of us aren’t, and it’s usually a fluke if you are.  Myself personally, I had no desire to be either a teacher or a nurse.  I didn’t want to work with kids or be a doctor.  I didn’t really know anyone with disabilities growing up.  Honestly, I don’t know where kids like my own went to school, but they didn’t go to the local one.  There was one girl a bit older than me at our church, who had Down Syndrome – she was lovely and bright and always had a smile on her face, as did her parents.  Honestly, I think I was the oddest kid I knew, what with my psoriasis coated arms and legs, and massive speech impediment (which today I can diagnose as a phonological disorder paired with an articulation disorder).

I didn’t grow up with the idea that someday I’d have a child with disabilities.  I never prepared for that, getting a degree in nursing or occupational therapy.  Nothing in my obnoxiously healthy family ever gave us that idea that this was an option.

I was just a mom having another baby.  The baby who was going to be our last, so that when she went off to college, we’d be in our late 40’s and still able to go travel the world.

Needless to say, that plan has changed.

I was just a mom who knew what it was like to have babies who were overachievers, who crawled early, walked early, talked early.  I didn’t know what normal development looked like, so Maura’s late development was chalked up to being a late bloomer, and not something to be worried over.

I was just a mom who had to learn about blood draws and geneticists and therapies.  Just a mom who was thrown into the world of special needs with no guidebook except that stupid “Welcome to Holland” essay that did nothing but piss me off.

I was just a mom who spent hours at night scouring the internet for some clue as to what was causing my child’s problems, making lists to take to doctors, scared of both getting an answer and not getting an answer.

I was just a mom thrown into the world of special education, who had to learn the ropes as they were being set on fire, trying to decide which hill to die on, meeting amazing people along the way who did chose these particular professions that helped my child.

I was still a mom to three other children who needed me, who had their own things to overcome.

I am an expert on Maura.  I am an expert on our own issues.  I know a lot more than the average joe about constipation and seizures, about milestones and delays and genetic tests.  I should get a friggen honorary speech therapy degree for all the time I spent in it for myself and my kids.

I still don’t know what it’s like to have a child with mobility issues or severe autism.  I still don’t think I’m capable to be a teacher or therapist.  I still have no desire to be a nurse.  What I do know is all peripheral knowledge, because having Maura has opened up my world to more of these issues in the way of friends and their lives, because I’ve gotten to know other moms and their kids.  Moms who have questions and hurdles of their own, who still have dishwashers that need unloading and Halloween costumes to come up with and morning fights over clothing.  Dads who juggle the normal and the extraordinary on a daily basis, taking it all in as their own normal.  Moms who have said to me “I don’t know what it must be like, not to have a diagnosis.”.  Moms who are always open about talking about poop or tween attitudes or the struggle to find flattering jeans that aren’t mom jeans. Dads who sing along to “My Little Pony” and “Frozen”.

Because we’re still parents.  We’re experts on our own journey, but we’re still just parents.

I’m an expert on Maura, but I’m not an expert on all special needs. I’m still just a mom. I know a bit more than the next person, and you could too by just listening, by learning.


What happened this week?

17 Apr


This week started first thing Sunday morning when I woke up to two loud booms and the power going out.  Yep, transformers blew.  We managed to survive the crisis by lighting the gas stovetop the old-fashion way, and putting a kettle on for coffee.  Oh Starbucks Via packets, you never let me down!  (Okay, that’s a lie, you’ve tasted of bitter disappointment a couple of times.)

Then Maura woke up and spent an hour wandering about the house saying “Teebee?  Teebee?” as she pushed on every screen and button she could find.  The power was returned to our house and soon there were giggles coming from the family room accompanied by some cartoon creature talking.  It went downhill quickly when she got mad at one sibling, so threw a shoe at the other.  But I’ve talked about that already….

Monday was the day the crew came to tunnel under our driveway and through the yard to replace the broken water line.  The tunneling only took an hour tops.  Connecting everything back together took a few hours and a trip to get a part.  I told the plumber it was really our fault – nothing can go smoothly in our lives, and we’re used to that. But we have water again. And a big hole in the yard until the city inspects the job.

Tuesday I tagged along with a friend who had to drop off a bathtub at a house – as you do.  We rode the ferry and I found the most photogenic seagull ever.

Ridiculously photogenic seagull

Ridiculously photogenic seagull


On Wednesday, I kidnapped another friend and we went to Target, where the lovely Starbuck’s barista made me a ridiculously good vanilla bean frappacino with caramel drizzle.  Seriously so good.  And he had some leftover and made my friend a small cup of happiness as well.  We just wandered about the store sucking down our 4000 calorie drinks.  Because that’s how moms relax on a Wednesday evening.


Oh Thursday…

Things got weird yesterday.  Maura was in a mood because I wouldn’t allow “teebee” (trying to wean her off it again).  I got her cheered up by tickling her…only to notice a car pulling over across the street from our driveway.  The young man got out, crossed towards our house, but then stopped and crouched down.

I wondered – is he interested in all the spray painted signs and notes on the street from the water line crew?

He stood back up, let a couple more cars pass, then went back to the middle of the street, smiling a little, crouching down again with his cell phone out.

“What is he taking pictures of?” I thought.  Is this a geocache game of some sort?  Did he find the right street marking?  What is so interesting???

He got back in the car, tapped on his phone a bit, then backed around the corner and went the other direction.  I went outside to see what he just had to take a picture of.

People – it was a dead squirrel!  Fresh roadkill! I know b/c twenty minutes before all this, I got the mail, and there was no squirrel carcass in the street by my driveway. He was taking photos of a dead squirrel!

What the heck?  Why?  Did he hit the squirrel, kill it, and then Instagramed it?  Saw it in its perfect but freshly dead state and just had to have a photograph?

As I walked into the house, Maura went by, holding a motorcycle helmet.  “Poopy.” she stated, as she headed towards the bathroom.


So now it’s Friday.  Thank God.  Somewhere in Seattle, a semi carrying millions of bees rolled over.  Yeah, that’s our headline for the day.  I’m outta here!


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