Wednesday, January 02, 2002

January 2-4, 2002

JANUARY 2, 2002

Whew! Made it through another holiday season intact. Against all odds, my son actually behaved pretty darn well. Made me feel guilty to read of all the folks on the various e-mail support lists I belong to whose children made the holidays so hellish, when in fact my kids were pretty heavenly. Got to remember to thank God for these blessings -- the blessing of unexpected good behavior, the blessing of serene and boring days, the blessing of toys unbroken and spirits uncrushed. It was the best of times.

And now they're back at school, and the new year begins in earnest. I have taken my resolution this year from the TV show "Once and Again," and from the most unlikely character thereon: Tiffany, the airheaded former girlfriend of the ex-husband of Sela Ward's character. On a recent episode, when faced with the fellow's endless negativity, Tiffany declared: "You can't bum me out. I'm unbummable." And so I shall resolve to be in 2002 -- unbummable. Child study teams, learning disabilities, behavioral glitches, know-it-all relatives, stupid social studies textbooks -- to them shall I say, "You can't bum me out." I shall test the powers of positive self-talk. And maybe, for a change, I'll be a mother with a good attitude. (But what fun would that be?)

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JANUARY 3, 2002

The gymnastics school my kids go to has a little glassed-in room off the main floor for parents to watch their offspring flip and fly, and I have been enjoying my time there mainly because it gives me an uninterrupted hour-ish segment to actually sit and read a book. Today, though, as I was desperately trying to finish the very excellent "Mosaic of Thought" (about the techniques used by good readers and how to teach them to struggling readers), my attention kept being hijacked by a conversation a couple of rows away. A dad was talking to a mom about vaccinations, and how his family's refusal to give them to their younger children had caused his daughter to be rejected by a private school. I tried to tune them out, but I wondered if their reason for the vaccination ban was the supposed link between vaccinations and autism, and sure enough at some point he mentioned that his oldest child was autistic.

Part of me wanted to chime in, and part of me wanted to go to another part of the building to get away. There was something irritating about the whole conversation, and I think I know what it was: It was the man's tone, his "let me explain everything about vaccinations to you" tone. Although I agreed with some of what he was saying (certainly any possibility of a connection between vaccines and autism needs to be explored, and not blatantly disregarded by doctors as it mostly seems to have been), and disagreed with some (flat-out not vaccinating your children seems extreme, and if you choose that route you need to accept that there are places your kids will not be welcome), it was really the tone that rubbed me the wrong way. And I know why: It's the kind of tone I would use if I were talking to a stranger about one of my kids' hot-button issues, and I don't want to think about myself sounding like such a know-it-all. Because I don't. Know it all. Nobody does. But it's easy to let yourself think that, and easy to write like that, and easy to talk like that. Embarrassing, later, to think about, when you realize you misspoke or hear somebody else expounding so.

In the end, I didn't leave the room. But I did put my fingers over my ears.

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JANUARY 4, 2002

I got my daughter a very cute pair of Sketchers sneakers for Christmas. After she squealed and slipped them on, she hesitantly informed me that although she loved them, she would not be able to wear them for gym because the gym teacher said "No Sketchers." Now, I'm pretty sure she meant "no" to the funky Sketchers with high heels or other fashion accoutrements, and not to these sporty Sketchers that were indistinguishable from the shoes she'd been wearing since September save for the brand name, but my daughter was uncomfortable nonetheless. And since I believe in teaching kids to follow school rules even when I personally think they're stupid, we bought another pair of sneaks for gym days.

While we were there, we bought another pair for my son, too, in case the rubber-soled but decidedly loafer-like shoes I'd picked out for him were insufficiently sneaker-like for gym wear. And sure enough, the gym teacher spoke to me after school today about the fact that what he was wearing would clearly be classified as a "shoe," and therefore not acceptable for sports action. He'll go to school on gym day tomorrow more athletically shod, but for goodness sake, if there are going to be all these sneaker rules, couldn't she put out a memo? Tack those shoe specs to the school dress code, at the very least, so parents don't innocently shop for something unsportsmanlike.

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