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Tag Archives: parenting

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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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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A backpack of one’s own

9 Jun

“That’s mine!” I stated with some resignation mixed with frustration. Because once again, Maura nabbed something I bought for myself and claimed it as hers.

This is an ongoing problem. Maura doesn’t differentiate between the stuff that is hers, and the stuff she wants to be hers – to her, it should all be hers. I buy myself new shoes? She’s trying them on. I get a maxi skirt at Target? She’s wearing it before I’m done unloading the car. I spend three months searching for a good backpack for myself to haul my writing gear in because she took the last backpack I bought? She’s got it stuffed with tutus and on her back without me even realizing she’s taken it from the place I thought I had hidden away.

It’s not just my stuff. She gleans from everyone. Collin was missing his wallet. We started searching. I found Miriam’s wallet in one of Maura’s backpacks before finding Collin’s in another of Maura’s backpacks. Sean was missing keys on a lanyard. Maura had them. Josh didn’t even know when Maura nabbed $120 in cash from his bag. No, that one, I got an email from Maura’s teacher with “So Maura brought in a Dooney & Burke purse with $120 in it. I’ve locked it in a cabinet until you can come retrieve it.”

The purse came from the thrift shop. I’ve yet to use it because every time I turn around, it’s in Maura’s room.

It’s frustrating, and something that we’re still trying to teach her, to make her understand. Our stuff is our stuff, even if she wants it. Other people’s stuff is other people’s stuff, even if she wants it. Just because she wants it doesn’t mean she can claim it as her own.

But she doesn’t get this. Which is why, as Maura and I were leaving my friend’s house, I searched her backpack. And found two things that didn’t belong to Maura. Once home, I found two more things that belonged to my friend in Maura’s backpack. It was disappointing – because Maura choose to steal books when I know my friend has a fantastic jewelry collection. Luckily, this friend also has a fantastic sense of humor and applauded Maura in her choice of books (an art history book and “The Agony and the Ecstasy”).

It’s not easy though when you live with this every day. Every day, she’s swiping a sibling’s possession, sometimes one they need, like their wallet or their cell phone. Maura has two of her own wallets, but she wants her siblings. She wants to take Miriam’s sketchbook, even though I have given Maura her own notebooks. She wants my legal pad full of notes, even though she has her own legal pad. We can provide her with things, but she wants more, she wants the new stuff that comes in. She has little self-control over it at times.

Which is why, despite owning several backpacks of her own, Maura last night swiped my new backpack again. Even after I explained that it was mine, and she understood that explanation enough to be unhappy about it. I didn’t see her swipe my backpack, Josh found it tucked away in her room this morning. He quickly hid it while she was in the bathroom and made her choose one of her own backpacks.

I don’t know if this is a phase or not, but even if it is a phase, I am braced for the fact that it is a long-term phase. Maura goes through phases slowly, so this compulsion to take other people’s stuff? Could last years. Some days, I’m okay with that. Other days, it’s just really tiring.

But for now, I’m just going to stake this one claim on this one backpack I bought for myself.

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