Wildflowers for Jade: 2014

Monday, May 5, 2014

Letting yourself drown

and learning how to breathe. 

Some time back I wrote how getting the diagnosis and learning to live in this altered universe was like


Maybe I should take you into my own (strange) head because I want to explain. 

In the movie Abyss there was a scene (which was also about where I stopped watching it) where they had to fill their helmets and breath in this amniotic fluid stuff to go out into the deep. Obviously, their bodies fought the unnaturalness of it at first. 
This was the analogy I was really thinking of when I wrote those words. This is what goes on in my head. 

Or (and a more lovely thought) that we have gills, the inherit ability to breath in the deep, we just have to learn how to use them. Either way, living with or parenting special needs is a different level. This isn't the white picket fences, all-American Brady Bunch or Leave it to Beaver. This is no level of perceived normal. This is our strange Atlantis. 

When I read about struggles where it seems to turn the darkest, the grimmest - I can see many of these parents still trying to find the surface. They're still gasping for air. They're still trying to find normal instead of breathing in that this is their normal. 

They still care about what people think when they get "the look" or (don't ever) read the comments. They care too much what the neighbors think. Or their family. They haven't got a community around them of people who live

and breath

under the surface of normal. 

I'm going to tell you something - 

Trying to pull a struggling, drowning man to surface will get you killed. 

I was the unfortunate non-volunteer that this was demonstrated on as a child in swim class at the YMCA. It was etched into me that day. Every drop of drowning water. 

I see people struggling, striving to swim with one arm flailing on the surface and the other tugging their child's collar trying to get his head to the surface. And they drown. 

What do you do then, when your child is down there, in the depths? 

You take a deep breath. 

And let yourself sink.

Take their hand.

And learn to breathe in their world. 


Their world. 

Because what does it matter 

what the Jones' think, how June Cleaver is keeping her house sparkly with one judgmental eye slanted your way, that they're praising Jesus in the church (that their kids are "normal") while you run out with a child who's screaming or praising Jesus too loudly, that the old lady in the mall remarked in your hearing that misbehaving kids should be spanked, that your uncle or brother or cousin or all of them give you a lecture when you feed chicken nuggets to your child at Thanksgiving, that your child isn't keeping up in school, that you have to drive to your child because he gets bullied on the bus, that your husband walked out the door because he couldn't handle the stress, that that that

it doesn't matter. 

What does it matter when that's your child standing in front of you? 

When it's your child that's distressed. 

When it's your child waiting, hoping, screaming for you to "fix it" and you DO whatever tiny, little anything you can to make it as better as you can even

if it just means

Taking them out of the crowd. Sitting with them in the dark. Pulling them out of school. Holding them as they fall asleep. Hugging them when they rage. Crying with them when they melt. Learning to understand them. 

Drowning with them. 

And if you're lucky they will teach you how to swim in it. 

And search for treasure. 

And nothing, nothing, nothing up there is worth breathing 

more than breathing your child

's world. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Children should be seen and not heard

The clerk at the gas station listens with wide eyes and a whisper of a smile as Jaden spits out what seems to be my life story with 100 mph words. The line behind us builds with semi-patient and rapt listeners. Once or twice the clerk's eyes flit up to mine with an "isn't he cute?" smirk. 

Yeah, yeah, lady, he is. Please just let me pay and get out of here. 

"Shhhh(ut up, kid)!" I think, because I don't actually talk to him that way. In front of people. 

Back in the car I hand him his M&Ms but he's still talking at full throttle. 
"That lady was really nice. And I don't think she was faking nice, I think she really is." We've been learning about people who pretend nice on the outside but have bad intentions on the inside. An especially difficult lesson for a person with ASD, but all the more important. 

All the while I'm thinking of T-shirt slogans like: 

While other parents were trying to teach their 5 year olds their home phone number, I had tried and failed. I couldn't say I was sorry about that. I determined that I would just watch him really close anyway. If he was kidnapped - God knows what he'd tell them! 

All a clerk at a hotel front desk had to do was say "Address?" Jaden would launch into a loud and drawn-out history of "Mom and Dad's deeborce," explaining to everyone within a half-mile radius the details of why "dad doesn't live with us." 

Honestly, if he'd have known my address and phone number at the time (which I would practically whisper in a much more discreet voice under his diatribe,) he would have been a walking, talking business card. 
"Hey guys, my mom's single! Do you want to know her number and the address to where we live - alone?" 

At those times I was especially glad that I was raised in the deep south. I know how to use a gun with accuracy. 


I think of the old adage "children should be seen and not heard." For the first time I consider that it might not only have been a sign of times when children were under-valued minions. Perhaps it was their best option to keep their kids from spilling family secrets. It was a time when a speck of dirt could irreparably harm your good name. Thank goodness television came along to distract us. 

I've tried to explain to him the middle ground between public and secret. "By the way, you don't need to be discussing  ____  with other people." 
"Is that a secret?" confused, because it doesn't seem like "secret" kind of stuff. 

No, son, you're not growing up in a mystery house full of boring secrets. 

"Not secret, just private. It's like when you go to the bathroom and everyone knows what people do in a bathroom, but you don't have to TALK about it. Because it's private." 

And that's really a useless analogy on a 7 year old boy. He thinks the funniest thing in the world is bathroom humor. 

So back in the car I acquiesce and let him enjoy his moment. 

"Wasn't she nice, Mom?" Jaden asked for the tenth time. 

"Yes, honey, she's very nice. Did you give that cute guy my phone number?" 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

I love homeschooling, but it's not what you think

I love homeschooling, but it's not what you think.

I ran across a post recently about 'reluctant learners' and mothers who subsequently feel like they are failing in homeschooling. I could relate to it. Then it made me wonder if I've been sending the wrong message to the world. 

OK. Not the whole world. But at least the handful of people who are paying attention. 

I don't do it on purpose. But I can see that when I say "I love homeschooling!" and you think Oh but that's because you don't have my kid, or obviously you have more patience than I do, you've gotten the wrong idea. I am not a patient person. I just love my son enough to send him to his room for his own safety when I've reached my limit. And I'm supplied with whiskey. And no, I don't have your kid, but I have mine and that's more than enough. 

I don't really love fighting him to get to the table and fighting him for every page that I know he could finish in 5 minutes but we have to go through a half hour of drama first. I don't love the drama. 

A little note about me: I hate, hate, hate whining. Aside from all the little buttons it pushes in me, I watch the clock and think 'so much time wasted on this DRAMA!' Hey, I have other things I could be doing as well. I often think about all that I could be accomplishing for myself if he was in "real" school. I just finished my first novel. I did it on the weekends, while he was away at his dad's house. I daydream about all the books I could write, the cleaning I could get done, the relaxing I could be doing. I don't homeschool because I have no other life-goals for myself. 

But these are fleeting thoughts. In reality I am assured - by many, many reasons that I'm not going to list here - that this is the right thing to do for him. Motherhood isn't about me and neither is my decision to homeschool. 

Not just in spite of all of the struggle, but partly because of it, I love what I do. He challenges me in ways that another human wouldn't be allowed to. He challenges my intellect with his insightful and philosophical questions. He challenges my creativity - how can I teach him this concept in a more interesting way?  He challenges my life philosophies - why do we do what we do? How can we look at things differently? He challenges my patience and sense of self - why does this bug me so much, and how can I be a better person? 

I don't enjoy being constantly challenged. It's exhausting. But I need to be challenged. 

More than anything, however, is that when all the drama is finished, my struggling learner has learned something new at the end of the day. He does this in spite of himself. I understand him. Part of the fighting is because he lacks confidence. Every accomplishment adds another piece of confidence back to himself. He goes in fighting and walks away smiling, and a little prouder. I listen to him read now and I'm blown away every single time, because every time I flash back to the difficult years it has taken to get my dyslexic child here. His accomplishments are my accomplishments. I think of the research and the articles and the statistics that bemoan the poor academic performances of children with learning disorders and the national question of 'How can we stop failing them?' and know that we are ahead of where he would have been conventionally. 

At the end of the day, what's not to love about that? 

Crosspost from Homeschooling Aspergers