Monday, April 08, 2002

April 8-12, 2002

APRIL 8, 2002

Watched the Disney Channel's "Tru Confessions" with my daughter on Friday, in the hope that she would see some parallel with her sibling relationship in the story of a girl who struggles with but finally comes to value her bond with her developmentally disabled brother. The family dynamics sure looked familiar to me: mother constantly excusing and protecting her son while expecting more from her daughter; father afraid to acknowledge his son's limitations and yelling too much when things inevitably go wrong; daughter resentful that her brother gets away with everything and she with nothing; son pretty happy in his own world, largely oblivious to the stress he's causing. My husband happened to walk through the room during a scene in which the son again created havoc during dinner (this time by spilling a beverage, which used to be a common occurence at our table), and I know he saw himself in the way the father leapt up and shouted, "Can't we ever just get through a meal?" I know he saw himself, because he laughed and shot me a sheepish look. If we had a dollar for every time he's said those words, it would cover the cost of getting the Disney Channel, for sure. And maybe a DVD player, too. And TV dinners for a year.

Did my daughter see herself in the on-screen sister? Less likely, I guess. The character was hyper-verbal and hyper-aware, and goodness knows my daughter is neither of those. She's never shown much of an ability to apply fictional situations to real-life ones. But she enjoyed the movie, and maybe a little bit of its message of tolerance for, as she describes her own, "crazy brothers" will seep in. And at any rate, it has me feeling all validated -- the mother's practically the hero of the movie; she turns out to be right about everything, and everybody who's picked on her throughout the 83 minutes makes note of that in the end. Now could we just have a little bit of THAT in real life, please?

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APRIL 9, 2002

I'm running late this morning, overslept again, rushing around with no time to write something funny or even lame, but I just gotta say ... This morning, while I was dashing through my shower, anticipating having to yell at my son who would undoubtedly still be in his pajamas, in bed, when I got out -- while I was worrying about rushing him through dressing and eating -- while I was being so very unorganized and late myself, imagining my daughter lounging on the sofa waiting to be served -- my beautiful girl was calmly microwaving omelets for her sibling and herself, and my son was actually getting himself dressed. I tore out of my room only to find them sitting at the table, peacefully munching away, togged and shod and ready for school. Miracles! If I can get my daughter to do this every morning, I can oversleep a good ten minutes more.

Of course, she's got to start making breakfast for me, too. A pot of coffee, at least. We'll work on that.

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APRIL 10, 2002

I'm off to an interview with the social worker on my son's child study team in a few minutes, and am trying to get into the appropriate positive, friendly but firm mind-set that comes in so handy during confrontations ... wait, I mean consultations ... conferences? ... meetings like these. I know there's some parents who go into these things breathing fire, and I generally admire them and wish I could do that, too; but catching flies with honey is definitely more my style. It doesn't mean I don't feel like a nervous wreck going in, though, and don't feel the need to gird myself for the job. Hold on a sec while I slip this armor on, okay? (Clunk. Clunk. Clunk.)

Today's get-together is just to give a social history for my son as part of his three-year review. He's had a heck of a good three years, so there should only be positive vibes in that office today. Right? Right? I'm a little more defensive than usual, because the social worker was the one person on the child study team who didn't think we needed to bother with this whole three-year review stuff for my guy. She proposed skipping it, I proposed not, and everybody else -- thank goodness -- agreed with me. I don't know if she's holding a grudge about that. Guess I'll find out in a few minutes. Oh, don'tcha just love IEP season?

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APRIL 11, 2002

It’s always something. Yesterday I completed my nervously anticipated interview with the social worker on my son’s child study team with flying colors, leaving her the impression of a great kid and a happy family, and when we were done I walked down the hall to drop off some paperwork with the child study team leader. I was surprised but happy to see my daughter’s aide in the office there with her, because I rarely get a chance to speak with the woman and had a couple of things I wanted to mention. But alas, the aide was in that office because she was unhappy with what was going on in the classroom, concerned about the directions the teacher was giving her for working with my daughter and unsure about things she was being asked to do. Plus, now, panicked that it might be perceived that she was taking a secret meeting with me. You know, me, the parent, the one that must by all means NOT be allowed free and open communication with people who work directly with my child. The horror!

We talked for a while, the three of us, with frequent nervous glances at the open door, and I heard things that annoyed me -- requests I thought I had communicated clearly being completely misinterpreted; things that concerned me -- the kind of excess help for my daughter that I had again and again and AGAIN asked that she not receive; and things that made me think that all of this really had more to do with classroom politics, personalities and the mismanaging of inclusion in our district and state than it did with my actual child and self. I’m clinging to that last one, because it’s late in the year and I really don’t want to have to start ticking people off again now. Can’t we just get through fourth grade? Please? I can only handle one set of stressful Child Study Team interactions at a time, and this year it’s my son’s turn. But as we know, in the land of special ed, Nothing Is Ever Easy.

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APRIL 12, 2002

Send prayers or good thoughts our way Sunday morning, 8:45 a.m., as my son receives his First Communion. The First Communion part -- the actual receiving of the Host -- I'm not worried about. I'm worried about him making it through Mass with people watching. I'm worried about him standing up at the altar with the other children all during the long, long Eucharistic prayer, as we found out at today's rehearsal he's going to have to do. I'm worried about him wearing a suit without dissolving in a mass of tactile hypersensitivity. It's going to be a long morning.

To their credit, nobody at the church, neither the administrator of the First Communion program nor the parents whose children will be sharing the spotlight, has said anything about my son's behavior being inappropriate for a First Communicant. There seems to be a good understanding among the people and priests that my child has a neurological impairment, and that he requires more than the usual amounts of understanding and tolerance. After the horrible rehearsal, during which he was whooping and hollering and jumping and running and proclaiming loudly from the altar that he had to go to the bathroom, at about the time when I imagined all the other moms demanding that my son be pulled from the First Communion line-up so as not to disturb their children's big day, a woman who remembered my son from a long-ago gymnastics class she taught stopped us to say how happy she was that her daughter was having her First Communion during the same Mass as my son, and that it really made the day for her. I wanted to hug her.

It's true, I think, that my husband and I are more mortified by his behavior under these circumstances than other folks are -- even though, under general circumstances, we are extremely understanding and tolerant of his challenges. We know that the thing that works best for him is to keep him from situations where he is going to be unsuccessful, and when such situations are unavoidable -- like making your First Communion in front of God and everybody -- I think we panic a little. Okay, we panic a lot.

I'd like to think that praying on this will lead God to bring a little calmness to my boy's wild spirit and help him to behave. But you never know about God -- He may just feel that having a small boy running up and down the aisles or prattling merrily at the altar in a Scooby Doo voice is a fine way to wake people up. Perhaps what we need to pray for is a little calmness for ourselves. At any rate -- 8:45 a.m., people. Send us a little support.

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