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19 Dec

Herding Cats – An idiom denoting a futile attempt to control or organize a class of entities which are uncontrollable or chaotic

…like my life.

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My 14 year old graduates from 8th grade today – doesn’t that sound so normal?

26 Jun

It does, doesn’t it?

It’s so ordinary. Everyone who’s had a 14 year old goes through this. Maybe at 13, if they had a late birthday. But we all go through this.

Today, I will sit in a gym, on a bleacher or in a folding chair, and watch 8th graders in their newest dresses and nice shirts and Converse shoes file by and get a diploma. My daughter will be one of them. We will be one in a crowd, a snapshot in time where we shall blend a little. There will be others there, who don’t know my daughter, who won’t know how many disabilities she has or how hard she’s worked to get to the level she’s at.

I don’t know how she’s going to manage this – will she collect her diploma and shake hands and be good with that? Or will she bounce up onto the stage, give people hugs, shout “Woohoo!” to the crowd? It’s an either/or really.

Friday, they had a special ceremony for all the kids in her program who are graduating. A private gathering for students, teachers, peer tutors, and parents. A ceremony of their own, because not every child will be able to get through today’s ceremony (though all are given the option.) They had a party afterwards as well. The teachers went all-out on every aspect of it, and honestly, it was way more than I expected going into it.

The one thing that struck me though, looking at the peer tutors – other 7th and 8th graders – and my daughter, was how different my daughter was. Among her classmates in her program, she blended a bit. But around the other students, the “traditional” students, she just looked…younger. Even though she is as tall as most. Even though her clothes are from similar stores they shop at. Even though she’s the same age or even older than some. She just looked younger.

I don’t expect my girl to blend – because she’s my girl, and we don’t blend. But it was unexpected, to see her next to a typical 14 year old, and to see the differences.

But today – today she’ll be part of the crowd. Will she blend? That’s up to her. But there will be this moment in time where she will just be another 8th grader. And I will appreciate that moment, even while appreciating all the extraordinary that went into getting to this moment.

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The one where no one gets my name right…

22 Jun

Okay, with a name like Phoebe, I’m used to getting my name misheard, misread, and mispronounced. Saying my name over the phone is the worst – “Bebe? Stevie?”. If my name is spelled right on the Starbuck’s cup, there’s a one in ten chance that the barista will yell out “I have a tall latte for Fobe.”

Yeah.

I expect it. I brace for it. I sigh every time I have to give my name over the phone. “No, Phoebe, you know, like on “Friends”?”

“OH! PHOEBE! Do you sing Smelly Cat?”

“That’s not the point of the phone ca- actually, I could.”

One time, a guy called looking for “Foe-bee”. I said my name was pronounced Fee-bee – and he said “Oh! They have your name spelled wrong here.”

“Oh really? How is it spelled?”

“P-H-O-E-B-E.”

*sigh* “No. That’s the correct spelling. You’re just mispronouncing it.”

But there was one time in my life where the mispronunciation of my name crossed over to the absurd.

Imagine it, Sicily, 1918 – wait, wrong sitcom reference…

So when one of my kids was on a local soccer team, I was meeting other moms. Kim, Michelle, Jennifer – you know, other moms with regular names. Then there was one, who must have been very proud of usually being the one with the “different” name. Whose name had two legit pronunciations.

We’ll call her Anna.

I was introduced to Anna, and called her Anna, only to be corrected for using the A-like-ant sound.

“It’s AH-nnah, like Anna in “Frozen”. AH-nnah. Not Ann-a. AH-nnah.”

This wouldn’t have been bad, except the entire time she corrected me, she kept calling me “Foe-bee”.

As in…

“Now Foe-bee, people are always saying my name wrong. It’s AH-nnah Foe-bee, not Ann-a. Do you understand Foe-bee? AH-nnah.”

At one point, one of the moms I knew tried to correct AH-nnah. “Yeah FEE-BEE, It’s AH-nnah, not Annn-a.”

AH-nnah didn’t get it.

AH-nnah continued to call me Foe-bee for two more years. Always correcting me if I slipped and called her Ann-a. While sighing a little, as if it was such a burden to have to constantly correct people on her name’s pronunciation.

I won’t lie – it got a bit awkward. People tried correcting her but she’d always revert back to Foe-bee. We all sort of gave up trying to get her to say my name correctly. She was working too hard to make sure her own name was pronounced correctly to switch gears I guess. Who knows? But it only stopped when I moved.

I wonder if her job now is to teach Starbuck’s baristas how to write names on cups. Because it would all make sense.

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It’s both wrong AND right!

 

 

 

 

 

Yeah, I know you’re judging me

19 Jun

I can feel your eyes watching me. See the frowns, hear the whispers to your mate, feel the weight of your glare.

I know you’re judging me.

You don’t know what is going on, or what the reasons are, you have just chosen to go to instant judgment of my parenting skills. And I’m found lacking.

You can’t wait though to go online and tell people about the person with subpar parenting skills you encountered. You can’t wait to show your superiority by exclaiming you would never do such a thing, because you care about your child. You don’t let your phone distract you. You would never give your child an iPad in public. You only feed your kids healthy snacks. Your child wouldn’t dream of throwing a fit in public. You wouldn’t spoil your child like that.

And when I say “Except we’re dealing with an extraordinary circumstance.”, you’re quick to back peddle.

“Oh, I didn’t mean you!”

Didn’t you?

Because you’re judging complete strangers that you may not have even spoken a word to. Because not every child with a disability looks disabled. Because the things you’re judging these bad parents for are things parents like me go through every day.

“Listen, I know you’re going off about parents making special meals for their kids and that we shouldn’t be short order cooks, but my child with food aversions/allergies only eats 15 things, and I’ll be damned if I’m eating chicken nuggets again in this century.”

“Oh! I didn’t mean YOU! I just meant this other parent I don’t actually know!”

“Yeah I gave her my iPhone to watch a movie on while we were at the coffee shop with friends. I actually wanted to talk to my friend and my kid thought we should leave as soon as he swallowed his last bite of cookie. I was desperately trying to milk out another fifteen minutes because I only get out of the house twice a year.”

“Oh! I didn’t mean youuuuuuuuuuuuu….”

No, you didn’t mean me. Except you kind of did. Because you don’t know, when you’re instantly judging that parent you see in public, the background of that parent and child. Because you don’t know them. You have taken the time to judge them, but have not taken the time to learn about them. That could be my daughter and me you’re judging.

And then you go home, you get on the internet, and you proudly proclaim that you’re totally judging that parent you saw handing their kid a device in a restaurant, or promising their daughter a treat if she’d just stop screaming.

And yet…and yet…if parents like me didn’t do all the things we were judged for above, then we’d be judged for not being able to control our kids. We’d have people in the next booth complaining to waiters that our child was being too loud and annoying. We’d be told that we shouldn’t bring “kids like ours” out into public where other people are trying to enjoy themselves. We are told how “a good spanking” would solve our kids behavior issues. Which is why your judgment of me falls on deaf ears. I stopped caring about what you think of my parenting child a decade ago and just do what I need to do.

I get it – we all judge people. Sometimes, those judgments are spot on. Hitler? Bad. Traffic? Annoying. Puppies? Adorable. Judging me a bad parent because you see my three-year-old in a stroller and feel the need to tell me so without knowing why I needed a stroller for my daughter with low muscle tone? Which really did happen to me? Rude.

Listen, I know not everyone is always going to pick up on my daughter’s differences, because they aren’t on a billboard above her head in flashing neon lights. But she happens to be my fourth kid, and I know I’ve been judged on the behaviors of my other three offspring as well. And people are so quick to judge. They don’t know if the kid is having a bad day because they were up late the night before. They don’t know if mom is dealing with post-partum depression. They don’t know dad is letting the kids ruin their dinner with ice cream because mom’s in the hospital being treated for cancer. They don’t know that those three kids with devices in their faces are only allowed those devices while waiting for their baby sister to go through yet another therapy session or doctor’s appointment, and those three kids are dragged to every appointment because dad’s working and mom can’t get a sitter. And mom knows how boring it all is. So got them devices to play on to make sitting in waiting rooms and hallways easier on everyone.

They don’t know.

You don’t know.

I don’t even know.

How about this? How about instead of judging parents, or defending your judgment, or trying to excuse your judgment…how about you just don’t judge those average everyday parents who are just trying to get through a store or a meal? Or maybe, you can judge them a little in the privacy of your own head, but keep your mouth shut and your fingers still? Maybe don’t broadcast that judgment to the internet.

Because everyone has an off day, and that parent your judging may really really not need that extra crap loaded onto them on that off day.

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