Monday, March 18, 2002

March 18-22, 2002

MARCH 18, 2002

It's Monday again, and again I'm going to urge you to watch "Once and Again." The show airs tonight at 10 p.m. on ABC. Last week, it got a good ratings bump and some good publicity from a storyline that involved two teen-age girls kissing. The episode even got pulled by an affiliate in Virginia, and as we all know you can't buy that kind of press. Interesting that the great outrage seemed to center around the teen lesbian storyline and not the other major plot thread of the episode, which involved a teen-age girl's intense relationship with her English teacher, which almost but not quite ended with a kiss between the two. I guess as long as the teacher's a guy, that's okay.

Tonight, as is this show's often frustrating habit, those plots will be on the back burner, if they're mentioned at all, and completely different characters will be in the spotlight. This week, it's Judy, sister of Sela Ward's character; her off-again, on-again boyfriend, Sam; and Sam's son, who has some sort of non-specified neurological/psychological/behavioral impairment. On the only other episode he's been on, his father said only that they'd been to lots of doctors and tried lots of medications, and nothing works. Whether this means that the writers are lazy and haven't researched these problems, or the father is so self-absorbed he's taken in only enough information about his son's challenges to make him feel sorry for himself, remains to be seen. However, these writers have handled storylines on anorexia and schizophrenia with impressive accuracy and verisimilitude, and this character has never shown himself to be anything other than a self-centered lout, so I'm thinking it's the latter. Tune in tonight to see where they're going with this kid.

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MARCH 19, 2002

On Sunday, I did something I've been imagining myself doing for years: I chewed out somebody who shushed my son in church.

All those times people would give us the look -- the "why can't you control that child" look, the "what a bad boy you are" look -- I would dream of them coming over after services to reprimand us and me going into all the reasons my son can't be quiet and all the reasons they should be ashamed to call themselves Christians. Oh, I've run through those delicious conversations in my head again and again. But nobody ever actually said anything. And neither, of course, did I.

But this past Sunday... To start out, I was sick, dragging myself to Mass with about my last ounce of energy. For another, I was on my own; although we almost always attend church as a family, this weekend work schedules and illness schedules had made it most expedient for me to take my son to our church in the morning and my husband to take our daughter to another, less-kid-friendly church in the evening. I figured we'd sit in the back, in the "cry room," so my coughing and his acting up would disturb no one. When we arrived, there was no one in the room but one woman, sans children. We picked a pew, my son said something to me, and the woman turned around and gave him a stern "Shush!"

Blame it on the codein cough syrup, but I gave her what for.

I told her that this room is specifically for children who can't stay quiet. She walked over and said, sternly, "It's for crying babies, not for little boys who want to talk." And I started babbling. I don't remember what I said, but it included stating that we come back here specifically so he could make noise without bothering anybody, and what was she doing there, anyway? She said defiantly that she was sick. And I said that I was sick, too, and that this child (putting my hand on my son's head) had neurological impairments that made it hard for him to stay quiet and that's why we sit back there and just let me shush him and leave us alone and mind your own business and whatever all else. She went back to her seat, and my son, my sweet boy, started stroking my face and smiling because he knew I was upset.

And maybe that tipped this gal off, because she came back over to explain why she had taken it upon herself to shush in the first place and admonish me so: She thought I was a boy, too. She thought we were two boys. And so she was teaching us a lesson about being quiet in church. I admitted to being a mom, and not a boy; and she admitted to being kukoo, and that was that.

I don't know what I feel worse about, here: getting into a quarrel with a fellow churchgoer during Mass, or being mistaken -- a 42-year-old mother of two -- for a boy. At least now I know that, if I ever get those brochures printed up that explain all the reasons why my son behaves the way he does, I'll have to add at the end: "And by the way, the person giving this to you is his MOTHER."

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MARCH 20, 2002

And once again, we have famous adopters in the news. Newlyweds Liza Minelli and David Gest have proclaimed their desire to adopt four children, "of all races." And, well, golly, good for them. Raises the profile of adoption, you know. Nice for kids to get homes. Nice especially for kids "of all races." Good for celebs to share their bounty. Good, good, good.

And yet... ack! I'm trying to be a person of good will unto all prospective adoptive parents, but... geez, have you seen these two? They look like they just escaped from Madame Tussaud's. She's 56, on her fourth marriage; he's 48, and marrying for the first time. How easily do you suppose most regular folks with her particular history would be able to score a homestudy? And hey -- Michael Jackson was their best man. Suppose they'll ask him to write one of their letters of reference?

But really, really, you never know about these things, it will probably be perfectly okay, I'm sure they're upstanding and good-hearted people, and adoption is good, it's good for adoption to be in the news as something fabulous people do, it's good for kids to get homes, it's good, good, good. Good?

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MARCH 21, 2002

Today is my son’s ninth birthday. It’s hard to believe he’s 9 -- partially because he’s still such a little peanut, 45 pounds and 4 feet tall. If you saw him a store, and he asked you for your keys and proceeded to tell you what kind of car you have, you’d take him maybe for a precocious kindergartner. You’d be shocked to hear he’s 9. But 9 he is, and todays’ the day.

It’s also hard to believe he’s 9 because I’m a mom, and “Sunrise, Sunset” automatically plays in my head on my children’s birthdays, and I remember how we brought him home when he was 21 months old, not walking or talking, thinking the metal piece that went back and forth on top of a swing in his orphanage room was the most fascinating thing in the world. To say he’s come a long way is like saying cars have gotten a little fancier since the Model T.

Now, I work at the library at my kids’ school, and I see what 9-year-olds look and act like, and I know my boy’s not there. But when I think about how much he’s learned and grown and shown in the past seven years, and what a delightful fellow he is, I gotta tell you, I think he’s about the most wonderful 9-year-old there is.

Happy birthday to him.

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MARCH 22, 2002

My daughter, as I may have mentioned, is a Disney Channel fanatic. She'd watch it from morning to bedtime, and, come to think of it, has on a couple of vacation occasions. She begs to do her homework in front of "Even Stevens" and reruns of "Boy Meets World" (and speaking of the latter show, who knew there were so very many many many episodes to re-run? I've watched Corey and Topanga go from grade-schoolers to newlyweds back to grade-schoolers again the next day. It's sort of surreal to pass through the TV room and see what age they are on any given afternoon.)

She of course HAS to watch the Disney movies -- HAS to, because the desperate need has been programmed into her brain by the endless commercials the channel runs pumping its product. We've watched the movie where "Malcolm in the Middle" is a sick kid who only wants to race in a soapbox derby. We've watched the movies about the boy who finds out he's a leprechaun and the boy who finds out he's a mermaid and the girl who finds out her stepsister is an alien. We've watched the one about the twin basketball stars played by non-twins and the one that's like a junior-high "Private Benjamin." My desire to not even see these films once is thwarted by the fact that they are on pretty much every five minutes.

Next month, though, there's one I might actually want her to watch. Called "Tru Confessions," it's about the way a young girl comes to terms with having a developmentally disabled brother. Maybe it will give my girl some insight into her own brother and why he does the things he does. At the very least, it stars Mare Winningham as the mom, so there will be at least somebody on screen who I can watch without wincing. At any rate, since I haven't yet seen five million commercials for this one, here's a description from a Disney Channel press release for those who might be interested:

"Tru Confessions tells the story of Trudy "Tru" Walker (Clara Bryant of Disney Channel's "Under Wraps"), a precocious teenager who dreams of becoming an investigative reporter. When a local public access station has a "Win Your Own TV Show" contest, Tru jumps at the chance to show her stuff by putting together a video documentary about her twin brother, Eddie (Shia LaBeouf of Disney Channel's "Even Stevens"). After Eddie was deprived of oxygen in the womb, he was left developmentally disabled. Although she loves her brother dearly, Tru is constantly guilty that she is healthy and growing up normally while Eddie is not. However, she has no one with whom to discuss her feelings; her father has become a workaholic to keep from having to face his son's disabilities, and Tru doesn't feel as though she can open up to her mother (Mare Winningham). The documentary, then, becomes a perfect outlet for Tru to express herself. Through the process of making her film, Tru comes to appreciate Eddie for who he is and to understand that his situation is not her fault. Further, Tru's film helps her father come to terms with his son's disabilities and, ultimately, becomes the instrument that brings the family closer together."

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