Monday, July 01, 2002

July 1-5, 2002

JULY 1, 2002

I don’t know how many times, while struggling with my son at Mass or at a restaurant, I’ve thought about how hard and endless these things can be with him there, and how peaceful and stress-free they would be if his dad and I were doing them alone. Not for a minute that I’d wish him away -- he’s a charming boy with many wonderful qualities, but calm, patient and controlled behavior during outings isn’t one of them.

So it was appropriately instructional to see, when my husband and I attended a wedding yesterday, how completely bored we were without the constant distraction of the jumpy small boy. Mass dragged now that we didn’t have to be using our wits every moment to keep the kid quiet; every time I stood up -- actually stood up! which I rarely get to do when we attend church as a family, because I’m busy holding my son down -- I reached back as if to quiet the boy who wasn’t there. And I missed him.

And at the reception -- well, I guess I always knew that all those walks we have to take with the little guy to keep him from melting down out of boredom relieved our boredom, too, but again, it’s good to be reminded. Oh, what we wouldn’t have given for some reason to stop just sitting there. My boy never just sits there. I alternated between missing his action and worrying about whether he was giving his babysitter too much of it.

Family outings are looking better and better.

+ + +

JULY 2, 2002

The other night at dinner -- the one time when my language-challenged daughter can be counted on to be chatty, because it keeps her from having to eat her vegetables -- she asked, apropos of nothing, whether her birthmother drank alcohol the way her brother's did, and if that's why she has so much trouble understanding things sometimes. It completely floored me, because it showed that, signs of disinterest at the time notwithstanding, she had absorbed all the adoption language I'd been giving her, and all the information about her brother's fetal alcohol effects. Comprehension of abstractions is her weakest suit, but somehow, over time, she'd come up with this thought. If there's a developmental milestone for "processing serious talks from parents," maybe she's finally made it.

It's pretty gratifying to me, anyway, because most of my "serious talks" are met with probing follow-up questions like "What's for dinner" (from my daughter) and stray snippets of dialog from Sponge-Bob or Scooby-Doo (from my son). I talk because talking's what you're supposed to do, and I want things like adoption and learning challenges and neurological differences of all sorts to be pretty normal and easily explored topics 'round here. And maybe it's paying off now, just a little. Maybe after years of absorbing, they'll finally start having things to say about the major facts of their lives, and maybe they'll be comfortable enough to say them. At least when there's spinach on the menu.

+ + +

JULY 3, 2002

A wonderful thing is happening at our house in these early days of summer vacation: We're seeing a temporary cease-fire in the ongoing Sibling Rivalry Wars. Against all odds, my daughter and son are acting downright friendly, playing on the computers together, playing with cars in my daughter's room, agreeing on which cartoons to watch, asking to sleep over in each other's rooms. The last two mornings, my daughter has woken her brother up, made sure he got dressed, made his breakfast, and generally genially run the morning for me. And lest I fear there's been coercion or bossing involved, I've heard him ask her to do it again tomorrow. It's altogether too good to be true.

And it is, I know it is. The peace will pass, as it has in the past. They'll be back to pushing and making faces and calling names and feuding in no time. But that doesn't mean I can't appreciate the truces whenever they come along. It's a nice way to start the summer, anyway.

+ + +

JULY 4, 2002

Can't write much today, because we're having a party at noon, and it's going to be about 100 degress outside so everybody will have to stay in, and I have to figure out what to do with seven kids, at least one of whom enjoys finding things to mess up around the house and messing them up. (No, see, I mess up things around the house all the time, but it's not deliberate.) Do you suppose setting them all up in the laundry room with papers and markers and glue and then locking the door would be a bad thing? They'd probably find a way to get glitter into every nook and cranny of the washing machine.

It will be an appropriately international gathering for Independence Day, anyway. Out of seven kids, we have two from Russia, one from China, one just arrived from Guatemala, and three homegrowns. I never appreciated my country so much as when I came back from adopting abroad, and having all these little adopted Americans around is a good reminder of how very lucky we are to live in our one nation, under God. Happy Fourth of July to all!

+ + +

JULY 5, 2002

This is the time of year when most people are piling up fluffy novels for beach readings, but parents of children with special needs -- please, tell me I'm not the only one -- tend to be bogged down with weightier fare. Here's what's on my list of hot summer reading:

* A Mind at a Time by Mel Levine. I'm about halfway through this relatively easy reader now, and the man makes sense. I'll admit, though, that I'm always a little leery about case studies in which every learning-challenged child is Really Brilliant, once you compensate for his or her weaknesses. Isn't anybody just average anymore?

* Synaptic Self: How Our Brains Become Who We Are by Joseph Ledoux. After months and months of dipping into this one I'm only about a third of the way through. What a slog! I started reading it to gain an understanding of brain chemistry, since everybody's always going on about that, but the material activates whatever chemical in my brain is responsible for putting me to sleep. It's engagingly written for hard science, but perhaps Dr. Levine would say that, with all kinds of minds, mine isn't the kind that can easily take in stuff like this.

* Should I Medicate My Child? by Lawrence Diller, author of Running on Ritalin. I haven't started this one yet, but have skimmed a bit. His discipline suggestions (and this seems to be the new tack on ADHD: It's all the parents' fault) aren't really appropriate for my fetal alcohol effected guy, but the listing of psychiatric drugs and their intended and unintended effects should be helpful whenever doctors start telling me that giving these meds to my son is no more dangerous than popping a Tylenol myself.

* Strategies that Work: Teaching Comprehension to Enhance Understanding by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis. I started this one only to find that it's remarkably similar to another book I recently enjoyed, Mosaic of Thought by Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmerman. It comes well-recommended, so I'll wait a bit until the earlier book is significantly faded in my memory and come to it fresh. I'm reading it for my daughter, but maybe I could use a little extra comprehension work too.

No comments: