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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Updated Supplement List

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As I limp toward the final chapter of my book and procrastinate promised, I have updated my supplement page! Based on feedback from several of you who have issues slogging through all the blog’s info, I created an individual Supplement Page here.

In addition to that page (which will be updated as Stink’s needs change) I have also created new pages for book reviews, media events and more. I will plug in the information a bit at a time, but meanwhile, look around and tell me if you think this is helpful or over-optimization.

In closing, most of my blogs will be found right where you always find me – here! If I add anything new, I will always link from here to the page, such as this from the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome

Check out more posts about Tourettes at the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome where this blog is syndicated.

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I Screamed And Then I Cried

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Well, I didn’t really cry today at all. I just screamed. I mean, SCREAMED.

It was only an unmade bed. It wasn’t like my kids committed murder. But it was one unmade bed too many. How many friggin’ times do I have to ask them to do the same thing over and over and over? And really, I don’t buy the “it’s developmentally appropriate for kids to forget” argument because they never seem to forget how to turn on the video games or open the fridge when they want to. Instead, it’s just what they don’t want to do that causes all sorts of selective hearing.

I am well aware that I have a lot to be grateful for, and in the long run when I’m old and gray, I’m going to miss the times my sweeties were in the house. In fact, I’m pretty sure they KNOW I am aware of it which is why they have been taking advantage of me more than usual lately. You know, because they can.

So today after school I apologized for being a harpie over some fries at cheese Wendy’s. I didn’t care that they weren’t organic, GMO, dairy free. I was just glad that my husband – although he lost his job three weeks ago – was with me.

I was grateful that, while my son cried yet again outside men’s room, I was able to give him a hug and remind him that fifth grade anywhere is just no fun.

I was relieved to hear that he wasn’t crying about being bullied so much as he was upset about being bored.

But most of all, I was grateful because we didn’t bond and eat junk food in the kids room.

Because that bed is still not made.

And that would really piss me off.

Helicopter Parenting Alert: When Do You Step In?

I’m not a fan of helicopter parenting. Part of that results from the fact that I was always too busy socializing with other adults than to actually pay attention to my son freaking another three year old out about some Scooby Doo zombie mystery. (Or spitting with bulls-eye precision down a plastic volcano at an indoor play yard. That went over really well with the yuppie parent in the Ugg boots who called Security on me when I told her to buzz off and stop acting like a Nazi.)

My flaws aside, I do believe that our kids have to fight their own battles or we’ll end up with adult babies who cry the moment their boss tells them their perfect presentation actually was more of a bomb than Miley Cyrus’s latest performance. It’s up to us to teach our kids how to navigate tricky waters – not row the boat for them.

But when does the boat get so full of water it’s time to call in the rescue? I know that with my son and his “bully” situation, we’re far from calling S.O.S. on the P.O.S.’s.  But, truth be told, I went behind his back and confided in a fellow mama (whose kid is friends with one of the bully kids) to have “the kindness conversation” with her son.

Is that too sneaky? Stink specifically asked me not to talk to a teacher or Principal Jay, fearing I’d make it worse. Citing the many times Stink negotiated with my terms, I am telling myself I didn’t, inherently, violate his trust. But did it? Would you have done the same?

And furthermore, do you think I was too hard on my son when I told him that those kids just didn’t like him, like in the last post? A few of my friends had looks of “ewww” on their faces when I told them the story. I saw it as being practical and enlightening. They saw it as a bit harsh.

Would love your opinion.

PS: One of you wants my vitamin supplement list for tics. I will do that next post for you. I will say for now, however, we are off the focus pills. Intuniv was great for 1.5 years, but my kid wanted a break from feeling tired and sleepy. He said it made him feel less like himself. So far he’s doing fine with moderate exercise, great diet, good sleep and moderate computers. My motto is always to go more drastic when a kid’s social, emotional and academic life are threatened. (Maybe I need to remember that advice with the bully situation also!)

Sorry, Kid, They Just Don’t Like You

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For those of you who read my post a few weeks back, you are aware that Stink had a rocky start to school. It got a bit better, but then it kind of went downhill again.

Turns out the same kids who have been giving him a hard time since kinder are back at it again. This time, instead of making comments about his tics, they are just doing the passive aggressive “we don’t like you” dance. Actually, they might have actually said the words “we don’t like you” at one point, but since our school does not allow for this sort of talk, it progressed into silent avoidance.

For whatever reason, I am not falling apart emotionally over this. Part of the reason is that Stink really knows who he is and it doesn’t define him. Also, while I’m not a fan of the mob mentality, I also know that not all kids are going to get along all the time. That’s just not reality.

Of course it bothers me – enough so to write a post about it – but the way I see it, there’s a balance between teaching your kid that the world doesn’t revolve around them and teaching them how to stand up for themselves. And, since I’m such a big fan of an upgrade, this balance always includes transformation, both for my kid as well as the child who is hurting enough to lash out at my kid.

Here’s a conversation we had last week on the subject. Pick and choose what works for you and feel free to give suggestions!

Stink:  Linus and Chuck are being mean to me again at lunch.

Me: What is the problem exactly?

Stink: Whenever we play handball, they don’t want to do the “trampoline” which is a cool move I made up.

Me: Maybe they don’t like that rule. Sorry, dude, but you can’t control everything.

Stink: I know that. But I have to play their rules, like the “rainbow” and the “snowball slider.”Plus, they go out of their way to pick me last.

Me: Oh. (Starting to bristle.) Well that’s not cool. (Insert new approach.) Why don’t you play with your other friends at lunch instead?

Stink: Why would I do that? I like handball. Why shouldn’t I be able to play that?

Me: Good point. Why don’t you talk to them about it?

Stink: I did, today.

Me: And what did they say?

Stink: Nothing. (His eyes fill with tears.) They just went to the other side of the handball court and ignored me.

Me: Oh. (Now I’m mad.) That must have hurt your feelings.

Stink: It did.

A tear rolls down his cheek.

Me: (Putting on my therapist hat) Well, you know that kids who talk to you like that are lashing out because they have a hard time at home or they just feel bad about themselves.

Stink: I know. But that doesn’t make me feel better.

Me: Of course not. So this is where we need a plan.

Stink: (Eyes lighting up.) Like what?

Me: I go in dressed like a Mama sumo wrestler and squash them like a bug. It’s entirely up to you. 1. You can decide you don’t want to play there. 2. You can talk to them.

Stink: I already told you I did that.

Me: I know! Congrats – you’re half way there! So now we’re at #3. You can talk to someone on yard duty. If that doesn’t work, #4 is to talk to your teacher and suggest a PLC. (Translation: A PLC is our charter school’s hippy dippy language for Peaceful Learning Circle. The kids sit on the rug Pow Wow style and talk about their feelings with the teacher acting as moderator. It implements communication and fosters connection. It’s actually quite helpful. I find when I employ a similar technique with my husband – as opposed to falling on the floor and pounding my fists into the hardwood because we disagree over the price of organic asparagus – it proves quite effective.)

Stink: I can’t do a PLC because one of the kids is in the other class. Besides, the teachers talk about bullying all the time. It doesn’t make a difference with Linus and Chuck.

Me: You can talk to Principal Jay. He just told you last week he’d work with you if you had any problems.

Stink: I know. (Arms crossed.) But if I talk to Jay, and he talks to the kids, then those boys will hate me even more and I don’t want that!

Me: Then that leaves you with Option #1 – Don’t play with them. Avoid them. Move on.

Stink: But I want to play handball!

And so, like the many looping conversations in my brain from a few years back when I was trying to figure out how to solve Tourettes, around and around we go for ten minutes.

Until I’m exhausted and can’t take it anymore.

Me: Sounds to me like you really don’t want a solution to this problem. You want to complain, but you don’t want to take the necessary steps needed to rise above it.

His eyes light up as he lands on the Lottery Ticket solution.

Stink: I know! You can home school me!

Me: No way. That’s me fixing the problem. I won’t resort to that until you have done everything in your power to fix it yourself.

Stink: But I can’t fix those kids, Mama. They won’t change.

Ah, now we’re where the magic happens. As a mother, I find myself teetering between pride and enthusiasm for internal growth and wanting to vomit on kitchen tile.

Me: I get it. I know what it’s like to want to change something so bad but no matter what I try, I can’t. And so I must fix myself. And so must you.

Stink: How?

Me: Acceptance. You must accept a few core things.

Stink: Like what?

Me: Well, you can start with the one basic truth which, as sad is this sounds, is this: They don’t like you.

Stink: You really think so?

His face is sinking. I look him straight in the eye.

Me: Yup. (I shrug my shoulders and say it slowly for emphasis.) They. Don’t. Like. You.

I give him a second to let that sink in.  If this were a movie, it would be the equivalent of taking a machine gun and blasting my kid to bits. But, since magic happens in the movies, my kid would also miraculously rise up from despair thanks to some healing words.

Me: The fact is that you are smarter than them. You are kinder than them. You are funnier than them and, in the long run, you will be far more successful than them. But for now, you just have to get through fifth grade and hang out with the kids that do love you.  There are so many!

Stink: I know. But I just don’t understand.  Why they would act like that?

My son is looking at me with such concern – my beautiful boy who, despite being relentlessly obstinate and stubborn at times, doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. He is caught between being a child and being a teenager. I take a chance and tell him a few more core truths about life.

Me: Some kids are really broken, baby. We need to extend kindness and grace and forgiveness.

Stink: But what if that doesn’t work?

I finally admit defeat and go for the jugular.

Me: Just remember that they’re assholes.

I’m pretty sure I’m not going to win Mother of the Year for my choice language. But given the huge grin that spreads over my kids face and the conspirational nod of his head, I’m pretty sure he finally got the point.

This Is All I Have for Monday

The End.

 

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A Rocky Start To School

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My kid did not like the beginning of fifth grade. To start with, his best friend moved to San Diego. For seconds, his other two buds are in the other class. For thirds, as part of a “responsive classroom” technique, all kids were put in groups of four or five and told to go to lunch and recess together. I’m certain this was done as a way to eliminate cliques and get clashing groups of kids working together in an Odd Couple meets Kum Ba Yah Seratonin Rainbow Connection sort of theory, but it wasn’t flying with Stinker. Sadly, he was put with a few kids who weren’t exactly in his fan club last year. (Those issues were resolved, but some hurts remained.)

After talking briefly to his teacher, I decided to write a letter to the principal. For five years I’ve played “Nice Mama” while I befriended every mean kids’ mama in an attempt to have all parties learn: one to show grace, one to show flexibility, all to show forgiveness and kindness and all that Good Samaritan crap.

This year, I didn’t have it in me. My husband was undergoing major work stuff, it has been hotter than hell, the pressure is up to finish my book and I was worried about my upcoming Baptism where I would be forced to make my “declaration” as well as go into full body submersion for Christ. Or, as my best friend’s husband likes to put it, “Go into the Dunk Tank for the world’s holiest wet tee-shirt contest.”

I caught the eye of the principal the third day of school, a kind man we’ll call Jay who has more fashion sense than Nate Berkus and a bigger heart than Oprah. He gave me the “I’ll set up something tomorrow” walk by confirmation. “My son wants to be homeschooled,” I interrupted him.

“Meet me in the office in twenty.”

And so I did.

With my son – who was not so happy to be sitting in the Principal’s pad on the third day of school.

Picture a lovely gray wall, arty table with elegant striped slip covers, Jay in a fabulous purple checked Oxford and my son – slumped with his Mario shirt and size nine feet tapping the floor.

Jay: So, Stinker, I hear you’re having a rough year.

Stink: I guess.

Jay: Let’s start with the positive. What do you love about fifth grade?

Stink: I don’t know.

Jay: What do you not love?

Stink: I don’t know.

Jay: What do you love about your teacher?

Stink: I don’t know.

Jay: What do you not love?

Stink: I don’t know.

This continues as Jay patiently looks at him with eyes as blue as marbles and kind as water.

Jay: You know, Stink, I got an email from your mom, and she says things aren’t amazing, but if you can’t talk about it, I can’t help you. And we all know your mom can talk, but you’re a big boy. In the fifth grade. So how about we shelve this…(Jay looks over at me with a confidential nod) until you feel you can get straight with me.

Suddenly, tears well up in Stink’s eyes. He’s trying to hold back the emotion, but one of them pops right off his cheek onto Mario the Plumber’s noggin.

Stink: Well, there is something….

Jay: Tell me, Stink.

Stink: Well…. it’s not my teacher…

Jay nods in empathy.

Stink: And it’s not the work…

Jay continues nodding.

Stink: And it’s not the kids….

Stink’s voice is really starting to crack now as he trails off.

Jay: What is it, Stink?

Big sigh from Stink, who finally, in a rush of held back emotion, explodes: It’s my MOTHER.

If a principal could have whip-lash, I am pretty sure Jay got it. As the victim of my son’s unexpected driving maneuver, I caught Jay’s glance with 1/3 horror, 1/3 fear, and 1/3 laughter. This was gonna be good.

Jay: What, exactly, do you mean?

Jay shrugged his shoulders at me. Is it okay to go on? he seemed to ask. I gave him a look back that pretty much said What the Fuck. We didn’t need words. If every gal needs a gay husband to understand her, I was pretty sure at this moment I had found my mate for life in that principal.

Stink: It’s just… well… my mom lets men service her on weekends to pay for my school shoes doesn’t let me play computer games like all my other friends’ mothers. It’s just not fair.

Jay: You mean, that she limits your time?

Stink: YES! You see, I have plants on Toon Town that I need to water every day. But I’m not allowed on the computer during school time. (Starting to well up with tears again) And it’s all I can think about all day long because my plants are going to die!

Jay: (Straight at me) I didn’t see that one coming.

Now I’m laughing out loud. I can’t help it. But Stink is not amused.

Stink: You’re not listening, Mama! I’m really scared about my plants! AND. YOU. DON’T. CARE.

Jay: (Pointing out an orchid in the center of the table.) Stink, I have a real live plant here you can come in and water every single day if you want to.

Stink: It’s not the same thing!

Jay: No, it isn’t.  (Then) And you know what else?

Stink: What.

Jay: I used to have that pouty faced look down pat. And my mom was like your mom which meant sometimes she got played. But not for long. And I’m going to call you out on this one. There might be something else other than plants going on here, but either way, my door is always open for you when you want to talk. Do you know that?

Stink: Yeah.

Jay: You are a bright, beautiful, loving boy who is going to have an amazing year. And I’m here for you. Okay? (Stink nods) Now give me a hug.

Stink gives him a half embrace.

Jay: What kind of hug is that? Give me a real hug.

So he does. And then I do, too. If I could, I’d have hugged that man all day long. And then I’d have licked his shirt because it reminded me of the world’s prettiest sherbert popsicle.

Folks, I don’t have the answer for why my kid likes virtual plants more than real ones. I don’t always know what to do when kids are being mean to my kid. When does he fight his battles? When does Mom step in? But I sure know this: Fifth grade is hard for lots of kids, not just ones with T.S.. I can’t break down over every little “I want to be homeschooled” threat. I will keep a close eye on my kids’ love for computers – is it addiction (doubtful) or just his wiring (likely). But I will always be grateful to a wonderful educator named Jay.

To prove it, the next day, I left Jay a little something in his office. It was a real live plant with a card. The card read: “Thank, Jay, for all you did. Please water this sucker every day.” Love, Andrea