Monday, July 08, 2002

July 8-12, 2002

JULY 8, 2002

It's high dudgeon time for a lot of adoptive parents these days, with several perceived offenses to the honor of adoption turning up in the media. Specifically causing mouths to foam at the moment are a Disney commercial in which a father asks a mother if their bratty son might actually be adopted; a commercial for the upcoming Disney film "The Country Bears" in which a bear boy looks around at his human family and asks, "Mom, am I adopted?" (Mom replies, "No, of course not!"); and the movie "Lilo and Stitch," which apparently touts the advantages of living in a neglectful home with a birthfamily member over having a (shudder) social worker find you a loving adoptive family. Many are also still rattled by an episode of the sitcom "My Adventures in Television" that depicted the adoptive mother of a Chinese baby as shallow and shady.

Of all these offensive depictions, I've only seen the "Country Bears" ad, and while it certainly pricked up my ears, I didn't find it particularly offensive. Honestly, I felt more bristly about an "It's a Miracle" episode I watched with my daughter that depicted a woman's search for her birthparents while barely mentioning her adoptive ones. I hissed under my breath every time host Richard Thomas referred to the birthfather as "her dad." When my daughter asked questions about who exactly they were talking about at any given time, I carefully supplied the proper terminology. Even so, I can't say I was actively offended. The show was certainly positive about adoption, with emphasis put on the birthparents making a plan for their daughter and everyone being pleased with how things had worked out.

Maybe I just spend so much time being worked up about school issues with my kids that it sucks up all my potential for offendedness, but I really can't see too much reason to seethe in all these allegedly incorrect adoption references. I suppose I'm of the "There's no such thing as bad publicity" school, but my dream is that one day adoption will become so commonplace and unspectacular that we will be allowed to laugh about it. Apparently we're not there yet. But at the very least, depictions that we perceive as unperceptive can open doors to talking with our children and presenting our own more enlightened views, and giving them language to use when they're challenged by uncharitable attitudes off the TV and movie screen. That’s not such a bad thing, is it?

+ + +

JULY 9, 2002

I’ve written here before about what a conversational stopper childbirth stories are for me, and how I wish women with graphic tales of such would stop to consider, when launching, whether infertile or childless women in their company will be entirely happy to listen to how darn hard it is to birth a baby. I’ve learned to tune those out pretty well now, but at a party recently I found another topic I am now unable to gracefully accept: and that is, “Aren’t parents today just awful!”

You’d think that people would hesitate to bring this topic up in front of people who are, as a matter of fact, parents today. You’d be wrong. There’s a “present company accepted” understanding that we’re not talking about parents today who are of our acquaintance, but that big pool of parents today that we do not personally know, but know with certainty are driving the country to hell in a handbasket. Not teaching their kids manners. Not supporting their schools. Standing up for cheaters. Blaming the teacher for misbehavior. Can you believe how misguided some people are?

Well. Ahem. On that misbehaving thing. I’ve, um, sorta done that. I’ve sorta done that a lot. And, you know, standing up for cheaters? I have to wonder, in situations like that, whether the parents might know something we don’t. Most parents I know support their schools, but schools don’t do a heck of a good job supporting parents; one school my kids attended pretty much shoved them out the door if they tried to set foot beyond the threshhold. And about manners, and the general way “kids today” don’t measure up to the glorious specimens of youthful decorum we once were? Check back with me, folks, when you have school-age kids of your own.

I floated some of these opinions during party conversation, and I’m afraid I was a bit of a blowhard about it. But you know, most of the folks with whom I was conversing have no children or very young ones; it will be interesting to check into these same topics eight or nine years down the road, when I’m not the only one with school-system-fighting, behavior-managing, older-child-nagging experience under my belt. It’s interesting how efficiently life changes your perspective.

+ + +

JULY 10, 2002

I'm rushing off to a meeting this morning with the new director of special education in our district. I don't expect anything much to come of it, but it will be a pleasant change to be stonewalled in person instead of over the phone. I'm still waiting for an answer to the question I started asking about my son's aide in March, so answers on any new business would be very unexpected indeed. But my campaign to be a constant, politely nagging presence continues.

I've spoken to this new director on the phone a couple of times, and he's expressed the opinion that the parents are the consumers of special education and so if they're not happy, he's not happy. Wouldn't it be wonderful if that were true -- if special ed was a product and we were the consumers and somebody actually cared very much about what we wanted? Focus groups would beg our opinions and manufacturers would jump to get as many different flavors out there as possible. And, of course, we could always switch to another brand if we didn't like what we had.

Not so easy in the special-ed universe, I'm afraid. Not so easy for us, and not so easy for those in charge, who have to listen not only to the "consumers," but to teachers and principals and local politicians and all manner of discontented opinion-holders. So really, I'll be happy just to get an answer to my five-month-old question. But I'm not counting on it.

+ + +

JULY 11, 2002

Nobody told me that when I became a parent, I'd have to be an impressionist. But that seems to be the case these days, as my ever-imaginative son presses me constantly into roles of cartoon characters and imaginary adversaries as a requisite of play participation and even as a tool of behavior management. I'm not half bad at it, I think, but sometimes I wonder what eavesdroppers must think.

I've been having to be Scooby Doo (Rooby Roo!) for quite some time, both to provide voice for his stuffed-animal versions and to hold conversations as "invisible Scooby." I do a pirate that sounds very much like the crab from "SpongeBob SquarePants," and lately, I have been called upon to be DeeDee to his Stu in "Rugrats" recreations. Best of all has been his demand that I come on like Big Bob Pataki from "Hey Arnold"; ever since we saw the "Hey Arnold" movie a week or so ago, the bossy voice of Big Bob has been able to order him around in the way the voice of mama often can't. I need help getting the small boy to do as he's told, I call in Big Bob. Works like a charm.

That's actually one of the really interesting and fun things about parenting this particular fetal-alcohol-effected boy, and that is: humor almost always works to distract him and change his behavior. Humor as a disciplinary tool! You gotta love it. When I find something funny or imaginative or surprising to grab his attention away from unproductive behavior, I get such a look of admiration from the little guy that it makes all the silly voices and cartoon reenactments worthwhile. But I'll admit: I'm getting tired of having to think up answers when he asks Scooby where the gang's at tonight. He never lets me go with a simple, "Ri ron't row!"

+ + +

JULY 12, 2002

Rushing off again this morning, this time to help set up for and attend the final ceremony for my kids' religious-ed camp, finishing up today after two weeks of half-days. My son made it through just fine -- hiring a grown-up aide for him rather than relying on the program's teen-age volunteers seems to be the ticket for getting him to sit acceptably through hours of lessons. His aide reports that he knows the answers to questions when asked, that his behavior has been fine, and that there are in fact two other boys in the class who have been acting far scoodgier than he.

Of course, they don't have aides gently nudging them into focus; if my son was aide-free, he would be the Scoodge King. But as it is, the only time he displayed his full repertoire of wild, tic-y, out-of-control activities was when his class had a Mass and I made the mistake of sitting next to him. He saves all the good stuff for me, the dear. Today, for that closing ceremony, I'll be hiding out in the hall.

No comments: