Wednesday, January 28, 2015

On being Ferdinand's mother

Ferdinand the bull, that is. She's a pretty cool mom, as fictional cows go. She sees that Ferdinand would rather sit by himself under the cork tree and sniff flowers than run around with the other bulls.

His mother saw that he was
not lonesome, and because
she was an understanding 
mother, even though she was 
a cow, she let him just sit 
there and be happy.

That was both a wise and a brave choice. She knew her son wasn't acting like the other bulls, and wasn't fitting in, but she decided not to care and not to push him, because he was happy. 
I try to remember that a lot, when I'm dealing with kiddo. 
When to push him? When not to push him? Is he social enough? Not social enough? Is he listening in class? Is he OK on the bus? Is he learning how to take care of himself? Is he happy?
Sometimes I worry even when he does seem happy. When he's building Legos, for instance.
He's utterly obsessed with Legos. He builds these fantastical things. He's got a how-to book by a Lego artist (yes, there are such things) named Sean Kenney, and he's decided that he's going to have Sean Kenney's job when he grows up (though he, adorably, insists on pronouncing the name "Seen" no matter how many times I correct him). Every chance he gets, he's at the Lego table, itty bitty pieces strewn across the floor, building. He's good.
I'm happy to let him do that as long as he wants. Except when he has to get ready for school. And when he needs to set the table for dinner. And when it's bath time. And bedtime. 
Transitions have always been tough for him. He fights it every time. I've had to talk him into leaving the Legos. Occasionally I've had to take Legos away. It's not an enjoyable scene. But it needs to be done. 
And when it doesn't need to be done?
Kiddette wanted to play in the snow yesterday. Kiddo didn't. He wanted to build Legos. We pointed out it would get dark soon and he'd lose his chance. We said he wouldn't get hot chocolate unless he went outside first. He didn't budge. 
I debated. Ferdinand's mother would leave him alone. I almost did the same thing. And then I thought, he really needs to get some exercise today. And I caved. "Go outside," I told him. 
I'm still not sure it was the right call, though he did have fun once he got out there (and had his hot chocolate afterward). I want him to do what makes him happy. But I want him to be part of the world, too, or at least to remember there is a world once in a while. It's a tough balance. 
He'll probably want to build Legos tonight. I'll probably let him. If his homework's done. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

In the waiting room

Waiting rooms occupy a good amount of our time these days. At the behavioral therapist's office. At the social skills group. At the psychiatrist's office. They're fascinating places.

For one, when there are other parents about, there's almost this tacit agreement not to chat. (Rarely, at the occupational therapy facility we attended, you could get a good conversation going with another parent. But this was more the exception than the norm.) I'm guessing, no one wants to know what's up with your kid. No one wants you to ask what's up with their kid. It's like "Fight Club: Pediatric Edition." The first rule is, don't talk about the diagnosis.

That's OK by me, because I've either 1. brought a book, 2. brought a notebook to work on something, 3. brought my phone to play on or 4. all of the above. But the quiet can be eerie.

Of course, if kiddo is also in the waiting room, that changes things. Because he likes to chat with whoever he sees, and play (not quietly) with whatever toys are available or with whichever Matchbox car or Lego creation he's toting around that day. If there's another kid playing a handheld video game of some sort, he zooms in as if drawn by a tractor beam, and watches over that kid's shoulder, eyes locked on the screen, until it's time to drag him away.

The office of the previous psychiatrist offered a vending machine downstairs, near the entrance. This of course was a perennial draw for kiddo. I could bring all the snacks I wanted, but what he really wanted was something from the machine. Maybe putting money in and watching the prepackaged junk drop into the slot was endlessly fascinating to him. Maybe food you buy is just cooler than food your mom brings from home. Who knows? The new office has a machine too, but I've been able to walk him past it fairly successfully so far.

There is of course no food allowed at the social skills group, on account of allergies. I was betting this was the case, and when I brought kiddo there last time, after his car snack of peanut butter pretzels, I made him use hand sanitizer before entering the office. Sure enough, I saw the giant NO FOOD sign as soon as we walked in, and the word "anaphylaxis." Special needs and allergies, occasionally, go hand in hand. Kiddo was most peeved he couldn't finish his pretzels during group. Eat faster next time, kid.

One of the benefits of our current setup is that one of us can take kiddo to whatever his next appointment is and the other can stay with kiddette. She was spending a lot of time in waiting rooms. She's a fairly self-sufficient kid, perfectly willing to entertain herself -- one time I brought her clothes shopping with me and she sat happily in the dressing room, making one toy talk to another toy, to the amusement of everyone within earshot -- but we still didn't love doing this to her. Bad enough one child has to spend so much time in waiting rooms; there's no reason the other one should too. So she's been granted a reprieve.

Maybe at some point we'll be able to ease up on the waiting rooms. Maybe at some point kiddo (and we) won't need quite so much help. It's nice to think so. But I'm not complaining. Far worse would be if we needed the help, but couldn't get it. And I'm sure that's the case for far too many families.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

In which she reappears

Wherever did I go? Well, first I took a month to work on a novel. And then it was the holidays. And then I left my job. So, how have you been?

I had a few reasons for the move. One was to focus on getting published finally. Another was to actually be around to parent my children once in a while. Have dinner before 7:30. Be awake enough to handle my special-needs kid. Things like that. Because parenting neurotypical kids is difficult enough when you work full-time. Parenting a kid with ADHD, who is physically incapable of brushing his teeth without getting distracted about a thousand times? It takes so much more patience. I'm barely capable of that as it is, let alone when I'm exhausted from working.

So after much strain on the family, I finally made the decision that any number of loved ones had been suggesting I make for, oh, I hate to even tell you how long. I kept delaying because I had visions of singlehandedly bankrupting the family and getting thrown out on the street. I'm a worst-case-scenario kind of thinker. But actually we should be all right financially. And already kiddette is over the moon that I'm picking her up at night and we're making dinner together. She insisted on helping with the chicken pot pie last night, and the salad, and on eating whatever slivers of avocado didn't make it into the salad.

Kiddo? It's hard to say. He's having major issues with transitions again. He's refusing to do things at school. He doesn't get dressed in the morning unless I repeatedly walk into his room to nag him about it. He's defiant when he's upset. "I don't have to listen to you!" That sort of thing.

It's possible my being home has upset his routine, and he doesn't know how to process it. Or just going back to school after a lovely, gift-filled holiday is too much to bear. I'm not sure.

We did finally get our insurer to reimburse for a social skills group, so he's started that this week. He's doing well with his behavioral therapist. Something has to work, right?

The important thing is, whatever happens, I'm here to deal with things. And that should make a difference in the long term, for all of us.