Monday, June 24, 2002

June 24-26, 2002

JUNE 24, 2002

Regular visitors to this site have read more than once about my son's struggles to be good in church, be quiet, be still, be respectful, be anything but the demon-possessed imp he seems to turn into when he enters that hallowed hall. I may have mentioned the way he starts singing the hymns full-voice immediately after everybody stops singing; lays down on the pews and then pushes off with his sneakers to slide down, down, down as far as he can until Mama grabs his ankles; pokes and pinches his sister whenever he's in range; talks and wiggles at will. I do believe he tries to be calm; but for a boy who needs to move to stay alert, and for whom impulsivity is a given, an hour of enforced stillness and quietness may still be beyond his capacity.

And so I was all the more amused when he represented himself yesterday at Mass as a model of rectitude for other children to emulate.

We were sitting in our church's "Cry Room," a glassed in area at the back of the sanctuary where families with small noisy children can see but not be heard. We've been hanging out back their lately because it takes a lot of the pressure off for perfect behavior, and lessening of pressure often makes his behavior better. The downside, though, is that if there are enough kids back there, it can be a horribly noisy place, and horribly noisy places often make his behavior worse.

Yesterday was one of those horribly noisy days. There were two very little boys playing together, chasing, shouting, stacking hymnals. Every now and then their moms would yell at them to be quiet, and they would just keep going. My guy was laying stretched out on a small pew, trying to take a nap or quietly read one of his car magazines, two of the ways we've developed for him to keep it together, and finally he got up, walked over to one of the moms, pointed to the noisy boys and said: "I listen to my mother. They don't."

The mom smiled, thank goodness, and said that the boys were younger, and it was good that he listened to his mom, and (as I rushed over to grab him) didn't that make me feel good to hear him say that. And it sure did, though I know how far that will take me. This week, he's the soul of churchly decorum. Next week, he'll be back to not listening. But I'm happy to thank God for small favors just the same.

+ + +

JUNE 25, 2002

One of the nicer side effects of having a child with special needs is that it teaches you to see the bright side of anything. We become conditioned to be so encouraged by such small things that, while we can certainly worry and obsess like champs, we also tend to try to interpret things for the good whenever possible.

That's my explanation, anyway, for my utter lack of concern over my son's recent behavioral downswings. There have been some complaints from school (although those mercifully will end when school does tomorrow), an extra wildness to his demeanor, more yelling of inappropriate words, more tic-like behaviors, more instances of out-of-control silliness. And maybe I should be worrying that this is the beginning of bad times, that our ability to manage his behavior may be slipping, that drastic measures need to be taken pronto. But I'm not. I'm thinking: You know, he always falls apart like this before he makes a big developmental leap. I think he's growing, too. We're going to have a hard few months, but he's going to come out of it really great. I'm so excited to see what my little butterfly will look like when he comes out of that bad-behavior coccoon.

Maybe I'm dreaming, I don't know. But I'll tell you: Worrying about how the special education department is going to screw up my kids' programs for next year takes up so much of my mental energy that I have no time left over for this. For this, I'm willing to be an optimist. And I've been right before.

+ + +

JUNE 26, 2002

My husband had one of those nightmare experiences yesterday, where you're late to pick up your child and they're nowhere to be found. This time, he got to the kids' school well after pick-up time, and while our son -- who waits at the door with an aide until we come to get him -- was hanging out by the office with his teacher, our daughter -- who walks out with all the other children onto the street in front of the school and then has to fend for herself -- was not. Not in the office. Not in the classroom. Not on the lawn or sidewalk in front of the school. No one in the school had seen her since her teacher led the line out of the building.

Where was she? Had she tried to walk home? Gone to a friend's house? Wandered far away, upset and confused? Been picked up by a dangerous kidnaper? We were always there waiting for her when she came out of the school, and she's a girl who doesn't do well with unexpected situations. Where would she go?

As it turns out, she had walked to the sidestreet where we usually parked our car, stood on the corner waiting and worrying with a couple of kids from her class, spoken to a few concerned moms driving by, and finally agreed to get in the air-conditioned car of one of them, the mother of a classmate and one of her "class moms." That's where her dad finally found her; he was running panicked up the street, dragging our son behind, and saw some strange woman waving frantically at him. All was, in the end, well. And we've now drilled our daughter on what she should do in the unlikely event that we're ever late again: Go to the office. Wait there.

And I know we shoud also be drilling her on the fact that she should never, ever get in the car of somebody who is not an immediate family member or close family friend. We're supposed to be teaching our kids that anybody you don't know really well is essentially a stranger, and strangers are dangerous. She admitted she felt unsure about getting into her classmate's mom's car, so the message they're presented with relentlessly at school is getting through.

But although I know it's for the best, I hate it. Surely the percentage of strangers who are truly dangerous is tiny compared to the percentage of strangers who are good-willed and want to help. I like the idea of moms looking out for each other's kids -- I would certainly have done the same as that mom if I had seen her daughter standing, hot and confused, on a street corner -- and I hate to make my child afraid of that. The world may be too dangerous these days to allow our children any shades of gray, but there's certainly something lost when we feel wrong if we don't rebuff the kindness of strangers.

No comments: