Monday, August 12, 2002

August 12-16, 2002

AUGUST 12, 2002

My friend and I went to see Lyle Lovett and Bonnie Raitt in concert on Saturday at the same venue as the Aaron Carter concert I took my daughter to last year. The two concerts couldn't have been more different, or made me feel older by comparison. The contrasts between then and now:

Then: Teenyboppers
Now: Baby Boomers

Then: $3.50 bottle of water
Now: $6.75 Jumbo Draft Beer

Then: Nickelodeon, extreme sports, up-and-coming teen idols
Now: Hybrid cars, alternative energy, green tea

Then: Aaron Carter, filled with preteen pep, bounced around the stage doing energetic and elaborate dance moves.
Now: Lyle Lovett, recently injured by a bull, sat throughout his performance; while Bonnie Raitt did stand and walk, the greatest activity in her set was the changing of the lights against her gauzy backdrop curtains.

Then: Getting to play basketball with Shaq; getting a date
Now: Getting older; getting out of a bad relationship

Then: Lots of scantily clad dancers
Now: Lots of aging studio musicians and Large Band members in shirts and ties

Then: Dancing, jumping, screaming
Now: Tapping out of rhythm on knees, hearty applause, the occasional “Whooo”!

Then: Big cheers whenever Aaron removed an article of clothing
Now: Big cheers for particularly well-executed cello solos

Then: Ritalin
Now: Viagra

+ + +

AUGUST 13, 2002

Yesterday I made the mistake of asking my daughter too many questions about what she does during her summer days home with her grandmother. I should have kept my mouth shut, and just imagined her watching wholesome PBS programs and having chats about family history or something. But I had to ask: “What did you watch on TV this morning, sweetie?” And she had to say, “I watched a show about ex-boyfriends and ex-lovers. They killed people, but then the people were on the show. And after that, there were these really fat ladies taking off all their clothes.”

Thank you very much, Maury Povitch.

My daughter didn’t seem particularly shaken up by her peek at the seamy side of life. She reported all the glorious details with a big grin. When I asked her what her grandmother had said about this -- hoping for a pearl of moral wisdom from the older generation -- she reported that “Grandma said those people are jackasses!” Well, it’s wisdom, anyway.

+ + +

AUGUST 14, 2002

I've been keeping an eye on the new detective show "Monk" with some amusement. It's good, I guess, that we've come far enough in mental health awareness that OCD is so familiar it can be used as a TV-show hook. "Obessive Compulsive Detective" is a pretty good pitch line, though I'm not so sure about the other line the ads often use -- "Defective Detective." Would we have used that line to describe, say, "Ironside"?

Monk's mental illness is generally played for laughs, or at least mild wackiness, and while I'm guessing the reality of the disease is not quite so cute, I do like the way in which the thing that is wrong with Monk is often also the thing that helps him do his job well. I've been trying to convince people for years that my son's hyperactivity and hypercuriosity may be keys to his intelligence, not road blocks to it. It's interesting to see some acknowledgment, even in the shallowest of TV terms, that the aberrations of our brains are rarely universally good or bad.

Seeing OCD become such a household term -- the show is moving from the USA Network to ABC, at least for four weeks this summer -- makes me wonder if "Monk" will inspire a wave of new diagnoses. I also wonder if the concept's success will spawn a whole bunch of new shows that use disability as a wacky jumping-off point. Shall we expect, say, "ADHD M.D."? "Bipolar P.I."? "ODD D.A."? Stay tuned for Alphabet Soup TV.

+ + +

AUGUST 15, 2002

I made that mistake again this morning. The one where my son just doesn't seem quite right, but there's nothing I can put my finger on, and so I send him to school, and he throws up. It happened a few months ago at school, and then a couple of weeks ago when he seemed out of sorts, I kept him home, and nothing -- no throwing up, no problems. So this morning, when he seemed off but couldn't quite tell me what if anything might be wrong, I let him go to camp at nine o'clock. And got a call around 10:27.

It's not unusual for any kid to have that "nothing's wrong but nothing's quite right" disease, but I do think there's a particular challenge with kids with fetal alcohol exposure who really don't feel pain the way the rest of us do. My guy is unlikely to come out with something so direct as "My throat hurts" or "My stomach hurts" or "My head hurts." He's gotten to the point where he can act hurt when he can see the problem -- he knows if you fall you're supposed to say "Ow!" But internal things ... I don't know that he can really articulate those aches and pains. When he was little, he went two months with an ear infection without saying a word, and I don't think he's all that advanced from there now.

And so I'm left figuring out possible internal ailments from external behavioral clues. Sadly, in my son's case, it turns out that when he's quiet, calm, obedient and especially well-behaved, that means something's wrong. He was up early this morning, got dressed on his own, ate all his breakfast without quarrel. Man, I should have known.

+ + +

AUGUST 16, 2002

Is it rude to shush somebody else's child in their parents' presence?

I ask because an usher did that to my son and I at church last Sunday, and I still haven't quite forgiven him. He succeeded in making me feel unwelcome in my own church, and I don't honestly think that's part of an usher's job description. Nor is enforcing complete and mandatory silence in the narthex while Mass is in session.

We had retreated to that back area of the church, my son and I, because the cry room was too crowded and there are some benches we can usually sit in at the corner of the narthex so that we are still in the church building, but out of the way of bothering others. This week, though, two ushers were sitting on that bench chatting while the homily droned on, and when they saw us coming, my son babbling as he will, they shushed us with such vehemence that it drove me outside. As I sat on an outdoors bench with my guy, I couldn't help but wonder: Who says you can't make any noise in the narthex during Mass? And why doesn't that rule apply to chattering ushers?

One time when somebody shushed my son in my presence at church, she later admitted that she thought I was another child, and therefore equally due for a lesson on staying quiet in worship spaces. Maybe this usher thought the same thing, I don't know. I do know that, while I may not look my 43 years, anybody who thinks I look like a kid needs to get their eyesight checked. And I did see the same usher shush another family, clapping his hands at them and driving them back in the cry room, and I doubt he thought the father was another child. Maybe he just thought everybody should shut up and let him finish his conversation.

I know I'm overreacting to all of this; the problem is, I think, that I spend so much time worrying that my son migh be bothering somebody and arguing with people in my head that he has special needs and a very hard time being quiet, that when someone actually does make a comment they get the full force of twenty or thirty minutes of internal debate.

But I can't help but feel that the constant shushing of children -- and, for that matter, the relegating of them to a little glass room in the back, where they'd just better stay -- is endemic of a lack of welcome of little ones to the church. Surely our faith is not so thin that a whoop and a holler here and there will tear it in two.

And I also can't help but feel -- the crux of the problem, I know, and one I try to bury under lots of nice rhetoric about welcoming noisy children into worship -- that shushing a child in his or her parent's presence is more a judgment on the parent than on the child. And you know what? I'm trying to keep my kid quiet as hard as I can. If anyone's going to shush him, it will be me. Don't give that look, you. Just pray for us, and for your so judgmental self.

Myself, I maybe need to work a little bit on forgiveness.

No comments: