Blink

Today is my son’s eighth birthday. Call me dramatic, but I’m reposting a piece I wrote a few years ago. This is in honor of Joe and his daddy and eight magical, terrifying, and joyous years together. I banged this story out very quickly and now that I’ve been in grad school for a year, it does make me cringe a bit. As I recall, the meme had a limit of 350 words or something.

 

She lay there completely drained, unable to speak, but also not feeling the need to.

Exhaustion had stolen the strength necessary to keep her eyes open. She fought hard throughout the night but, by the third time the staff rushed in, summoned by blaring alarms, she felt herself slipping. Wearily, she turned her face in his direction. In the rush of doctors, he had been driven to the far corner of the hospital room. Tears shimmered in his blue eyes. He rubbed his hand over the top of his head then pulled it down his face, wiping the moisture to the floor. He blinked and pressed his mouth into a hard white line. She’d never seen him this way before. He looks so sad, she thought.

Through her new calm, she felt only briefly sorry for him. She grew detached and he grew dim as she began the exquisite surrender. The hands of the people working on her body became weightless, their voices distant…tinny.

There was no fear and that surprised her. How many times had she begged for death but backed off, fearful of what lies beyond? With a growing sense of disengagement, she thought, how ironichow peculiar that my prayers would be answered now, when I’m not begging for escape anymore. Be careful what you wish for.

She vaguely felt her body moving, lifting from the bed. Her eyes blinked open to her doctor’s hovering face, asking questions she couldn’t respond to. They blinked open to lights flashing past overhead, then open again when a mask was placed over her face. Finally, they opened to him, his forehead resting against hers, his eyes full of worry. He squeezed her hand and she felt that.

On the verge of surrender, the first cry of their son touched her ears. She thanked God for his life, grateful for that piece of her that would remain with her husband.

Then she closed her eyes.

This week The Red Dress Club’s Red Writing Hood prompt was for a flash fiction piece inspired by the word LIFE. The story needed to be told in 300 words or less. Mine is precisely 300 words and based on the birth of my son. Every single word is true, except for the part where I died, of course.

Freakin’ June Cleaver…

There’s this game we play in the car. Well, not really a game, I suppose. It’s more like this thing where my daughters ask me to be completely obnoxious and I comply.

“Hey, Mom, do that New York talk again,” Gwen calls from the back seat. “You know, the one when you tell us you’re going to flush our head down the toilet?”

It all started innocently enough. You see, I’ve tried very hard to rid myself of that tell-tale New York accent. I’ve stopped saying cawfee and dawg and mawl. I’ve tried really, really hard to remember the “g” at the end of any word ending in “ing” but I’ve failed miserably. I say things like, “Hey Hon, we’re goin’ to the mawl later” then stop and repeat the sentence, “Excuse me, Darling, but I am planning an outing to the mall this afternoon.”

As I repeat my properly enunciated sentence, I think I sound like a robot. Slightly more Niles the Butler than Fran the Nanny. No, that’s not right… I sound like some kind of weird Stepford Wife, but one who actually chose to remove the evidence of my prior existence. Dave would never dream of turning me into some sort of June Cleaver-ish robot clone of my former self.

Anyway, let’s face it. June Cleaver, I am not. Most definitely not.

I still drop my g’s and I have a hard time not swearing.

Sometimes it feels good to be New York and sometimes, as much as I don’t miss it, I just can’t help myself. I want to hop on 95 and head south. I want to walk into a deli and order pastrami on rye. I want a bagel. A real bagel. I’d kill for a hard roll. I want a mani/pedi from the Korean ladies on the corner and I’d happily pay $30 plus tip for the pleasure. I want to block to the box and flip someone the bird while I do it. I want to slide my freshly painted toes into a sweet pair of Choos and hail a taxi cab because there’s no way I’d walk more than four blocks and risk mangling my heels.

But I can’t.

So instead, I entertain my children with the “New York Deli Guy” on random drives.

I’m a cross between Robert DeNiro and Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny. Joe Pesci on 10.

And Gwen freakin’ loves it.

“Hey, kid,” I say, “Why don’t you shut your pie hole n’ give me a break, huh?”

So she goes, “Oh, yeah? Well I’ll punch you in the nose!”

“Yeah?” I ask. “Well how ‘bout I flush your head down the toilet two, tree times, huh?”

What’s the point, you ask? None really, except for the raucous giggles New York Deli Guy elicits from the back seats. Also, there’s that whole socially unacceptable method of stress relief thing. Because I’ve discovered that, at least half of the time, I actually mean it.

Parental Laments and Humiliation Part Deux

     Periodically, the inadequacies of certain household members need to be addressed. Admittedly, it’s been quite some time since I last covered the rules and regulations, but now that summer is upon us and the youngest people in  the house have aged slightly, it’s clear that the Parental Laments and Humiliations require some updates and tweaks. You know, to reflect our current state of affairs.

Let’s dive right, shall we?

1.  When I told Daddy that our new chickens were an excellent means of natural pesticide, I was referring to the insects located on the exterior of our home. At no time should any chicken(s) ever again be herded into the kitchen in effort to remove a pile of tiny ants clustered on a Wheat Thin. Leave the pest control to your parents. Please.

2.  Undergarment removal should only be performed in one of the rooms designed for such purposes. Those rooms are as follows: one of the three bathrooms and/or the privacy of your own bedroom. In light of recent infractions, it is clear that I must now reinforce this rule.

I cannot stress enough how utterly distasteful it is to drop trou in the dining room and hurl your skivvies onto the table. Furthermore, underwear with skid marks, odors and other contents or attachments should either be disposed of or placed in the laundry room. In the future, please refrain from stuffing these sorts of messes between couch cushions, inside seldom used drawers or the gerbil’s cage. That’s nasty.

3.  Please stop licking pickle chips and cucumber slices and sticking them to the French doors. This is not art and no, I most certainly do not think it’s pretty. Not ever.

4.  If you love your grandparents, please don’t con them into purchasing boxes of rainbow-colored glitter glue. Grandparents are suckers. We all know this but most of us take the socially correct route and try not to take advantage of their increasing senility.

Clearly, I'm exaggerating here.

Also, as you should recall, glitter glue was banned in 2010. Grandparents, please take note. So, Middle Child, one who has mastered the fine art of manipulation and eyelash batting, you and I both know that you were fully aware of the illegality of said glitter glue, yet you took advantage of the grandparents and conned them into supplying contraband.

Shame on you. That’ll be five days in the hole and two servings of anchovies for my trouble. Mommy doesn’t like scraping glittery gobs of super-glue off the kitchen table, woodwork or French doors.

5. The word “idiot” is not usually one a person might equate with terms of endearment. Especially not when hollered from the highest window in our house…that sits on a hill…overlooking a handful of neighbors who can hear everything we say up here.

 While gleefully calling, “I love you, you idiot!” to Daddy was a lovely gesture, might I suggest substituting “Daddy” for “idiot” or, maybe “dude” or “man” or anything even slightly nicer. You little freak.

6.  I’d like to take a moment to congratulate our youngest family member, Kate, for her recent mastery of the toilet. It was a long haul, but she finally relented and knocked the monkey off her back. Kudos to you, Kate and thank you for finally putting an end to our nearly eight year run of diaper use.

Now, this part is important. Please pay attention.

At no time should the contents of your potty seat be removed from the potty and dumped onto the driveway. Furthermore, repeatedly driving your new bicycle over a fresh-from-the-source turd is both disturbing and, well…idiotic. Poo splatters just like mud on a mountain bike trail, so your pretty pink butterfly shirt will be coated in stench and no one will want to play with you. Including me. That’s no way to treat your new bike either. Your father spent a long time picking it out at the town dump, silly. But I do love you, you idiot.

7.   If you happen to pee on the floor please don’t try to wipe it up with a fleece neck-gator. Fleece is not absorbent and you angered your five year old sister who was planning on using the gator as a neck cowl in the Fall. You know how Gwen feels about her fashion choices. Watch your back.

8.  If we’re swimming in the pool together, please don’t don a pair of goggles and submerge yourself for a close inspection of my ass. If you do, do me a favor and keep it to yourself because your announcement to the world that my “butt is like Jello except it doesn’t come apart” was mortifying. Not cool, Dude. Not cool.

9. Please allow me to reiterate that if I am holding your hand in the mall/grocery store/parking lot or other public place, it’s really shitty of you to loudly complain that I’m hurting you while I’m trying to make sure you won’t be killed/abducted or otherwise annoying to the general public.

You suck. Mostly because you’re very believable in the role of the beaten child, you and your squeaky toddler voice and that cute little bob. Frankly, I’m tired of old ladies giving me the hairy eyeball. Please, cut the abused child act.

10. How many times to I have to tell you not to pinch Joe’s weiner? Stop. Not only is it weird, but sometime in your future that memory might resurface at a really awkward moment. Granted, I’m completely guessing about this, because I never grabbed my brother’s junk. But still…I’m fairly confident you’ll want to scrub your brain with bleach should you ever recall the summer you spent tweaking your big brother’s bits n’ pieces in the swimming pool.

 

11. Singing in the bathtub is lovely, isn’t it? Fact is, we love the sound of your tiny voice. However, might I suggest that you stick to age appropriate lyrics. I’m not entirely sure Barbie would really sing, “Up my ass, up my ass, I got water up my ass…”

12. I rented Matilda, that fun movie based on the classic book by Roald Dahl. Of all the possible lessons you could have walked away from that movie with, you all latched on to Trunchbull’s use of the phrase, “Piss Worm.” Seriously? Is nothing sacred?

 

"For this newt, you piss worm!" Trunchull

This is just so me. I couldn't resist.

 

 

The Night the Waitress Forgot to Place Our Order

It all started innocently enough. You know, one of those rare family nights out. One that doesn’t require me to cook but also subjects us to the wrath of Gwen after we (once again) refuse to dine at The Outback Steakhouse. I’m not  quite sure what her deal is with that place. We’ve never been. Maybe she’s going to have a thing for Aussie men when she’s older…or Bloomin’ Onions.

Anyway, we wound up at a place called Sea Dogs because that was our only option. Evidently everyone in the greater Portland area decided to go out for dinner that night. We couldn’t find a table anywhere else. Not even at The Outback Steakhouse. Plus, we were able to talk Gwen down by showing her the giant white dog wearing a yellow fisherman’s hat that literally covers the right-hand side of the building.

Whatever. They sell beer. Big pints of beer.

Well, Sea Dogs was packed and our waitress was slightly swamped and/or didn’t give a shit about our family of five squeezed into the booth the back. In the end, we were in that restaurant for nearly three hours. I was able to document the entire travesty with my smart phone’s camera. I’m fairly sure the old lady next to us was disturbed by our behavior.

We haven’t gone out for dinner since.

 

where the hell is our foooooood?

Gwen...I'm gonna shank you and this time, it's not a toddler knife.

It's no wonder the kid swears like a longshoreman!

Fatigue is setting in and it's about to all sorts of ugly.

I'll stab you with this skewer!

Happy mood swing

Mad mood swing

They dressed themselves. Is it obvious?

TMI… Even For Me.

I believe we’ve determined that I don’t have a weak stomach.

I spent five years working for a law firm that specialized in medical malpractice defense and personal injury cases. Somewhere along the line I told you about my ability to peruse photos depicting bits of what was once a person’s leg before it traveled through a wood chipper. It was surprisingly surreal. Rather more like the set of a gory slasher film than some dude’s right leg.

I saw surgery photos, post-surgery horrors and read detailed medical records about a man who ignored a cyst for so long that, after it was drained, it left a cavity the size of a grapefruit requiring gauze packing. Ultimately, that neglected cyst robbed him of his ability to poop. (Attention: If you have a large cyst – especially on or near your anal cavity – run, run, I say – to your physician, because the last thing you want is some broad pouring over your medical records and highly graphic photos of your anus while she noshes on falafel.)

Are you still with me? I realize it’s highly likely that I lost a considerable number of potential readers with that last paragraph…

The reason I provided that bit of nasty background information was simply to prepare you for what is to come. I am about to share my circuitous adventure through the darker regions of the internet. That scary, horrible place you stumble across when you make the grave mistake of combining the idiocy of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills with Google searches.

Last Wednesday night I was reading a book. For some odd reason, I like to read/write/think to the soundtrack of whatever morons Bravo or E! is airing at any given moment of the day. Turns out that on Wednesday night, I was listening some woman named Alexis yammer on about her sinuses and the reason she wasn’t having a “nose job.”

So…after her nose job, she brought a camera crew to her follow-up appointment. She was attired in the requisite post-plastic surgery uniform – a Juicy sweat suit, fedora and a giant pair sunglasses resting upon her heavily bandaged nose  – when she informed her doctor that he “beat the hell out her.” Needless to say, I completely dropped my book when I realized the surgeon whipped out a picture showing exactly what he “pulled out of her nasal passages.”

Of course I had to look, but because I was actually reading and only semi-listening, I missed the picture!

I wanted to see the photo showing a giant gob of slime that her doctor called a “nasal mucus plug.”

So immediately this woman’s nasal mucus plug became all about me because, in addition to my stomach of steel, I’m self-absorbed and obsessed with my own on-going sinus issues. I’ve been avoiding surgery for two years. As I type, the left side of my face feels like someone is repeatedly plunging a knife into it. It’s been that way all week so Alexis’s mucus got me wondering about my own potential sinus mucus plug.

I Googled “sinus mucus plug.”

No, I didn’t find any photos of nasal mucus plugs, but I was lucky enough to stumble across a Google image of what I initially believed was someone’s nasal mucus plug.

Silly me…turns out some over-zealous pregnant gal wanted to share what her pregnancy mucus plug looked like. You know, for all those people who are just dying to know.

Seriously? You swiped a gob of mucus from your hoo-ha, took a picture of it and posted it on the internet?!

As if that wasn’t enough insanity for one pregnancy board discussion thread… after that brave gal posted her plug, it began a trend. Now it seems that proud passers of plugs from all over the US of A want to show off their mucus. And no two are alike.

I know this because I looked at them.

I don’t know why. Call it morbid fascination. Shock and awe. Disgust. Disbelief.

I shook my head and wondered what type of person would post photos of her….her…mucus plug?

Then I remembered that I filled the world in on Cheeseburger Crotch. Sans photographic attachments of course. I tend to limit my over-sharing to descriptive phrases versus photographic displays.

So, a few nights later Dave and I sat down to eat and, for some reason, I decided to share my internet discovery as he took a bite of his dinner. I was still in shock. Apalled that women thought it appropriate to share photos of this stuff. I was embarassed for them – as if anyone perusing that freakish board would see through the screen names and be able to identify a person by her secretions.

“Oh, hey Sally! I saw your mucus plug pictures this morning. GORGEOUS…”

It’s truly hard to express these types of observations and opinions to a man. While he’s eating dinner.

I need a few more girlfriends.

Used Booby Traps

Sometimes I feel like this has become a blog about my three year old, Kate. All Kate, all the time. Kate and her potty mouth. Kate not using the potty. Kate mortifying me. Kate being Kate.

I’ve actually hesitated several times, fingers poised over my keyboard, pondering whether or not I should really write yet another play-by-play of Kate’s ability to drop salty words like a world-weary sailor. Really? I thought. Should I? People must be tired of this storyline by now. I know I am.

Whatever. In the end this endless cycle of blog posts dedicated to Kate will become part of her history, her moments of naughtiness preserved future consumption. Maybe it’s because she’s the baby of the family, or because she’s so petite, or because she’s so petite and now sports a saucy little bob. She insists on pulling her own crazy outfits together each morning and she’s just so.darn.cute.

She has the best comic timing.

She makes me laugh when I know I shouldn’t but I just can’t help myself.

Part of her charm comes from her vast range of facial expressions.  She also punctuates her words with her hands. As in those open-handed chopping movements while she impatiently reminds me, “I toad you I don’t wike hot dogs, Mom!”

A few weeks ago I decided to kill some time while Gwen was at preschool by hitting the local Goodwill. Kate loves Goodwill. She finds Beanie Babies like a champ and, during this particular visit she discovered an unopened package of SpongBob paper cups. Her excitement was infectious. I understood her joy at having found an unexpected treasure in an unlikely place. After all, that’s why we hunt at the Goodwill, always searching for white American pottery or vintage oil paintings. I didn’t score that day, but Kate sure did.

She loves the tactile experience of touching things I’d rather she didn’t touch. Though this particular Goodwill is clean and lacking that musty thrift store smell, I have a slight problem with her diving into a rack of ogre-sized bras. I mean, are they used? Who the hell buys a used bra?

“Oh.My.God,” I heard her say, “Wook.At.Dis. WOOK AT DIS, MOM! It’s a gweat big booby twap!”

“Jeeeesus, that is big!” I breathed, and was momentarily hypnotized by a set of bra cups the size of my head.

I shook it off and said, “Kate, put that back now and let’s walk over that way,” pointing to anywhere but the vicinity of potentially used undergarments.

“Wait, wook at dis booby twap. It’s got polka bots!” she screamed, holding a giant black and hot pink polka dotted bra up to her chest. She gave a little twist back and forth and admired herself in the mirror.

“Pretty!” I cooed, “Okay…let’s go this way now.” I began leading her away from the booby traps…erm, used bras.

Reluctantly, she hung the bra back up and began to follow me, the heels of her yellow rain boots thunking against the floor. As we neared the checkout, the thunk, thunk of Kate’s boots abruptly stopped. After a moment of silence, I turned to see what distracted her. The moment we made eye contact she shrieked, “Oh, no! I weft my SpongeBob cups! My SpongeBob cups!” She took off, her boots thunking at a high rate of speed as she retraced her steps.

I couldn’t see her anymore, but I followed the sound of her boots and the heads of other Goodwill shoppers who looked down as she ran past, their faces breaking into a smile. Eventually, her boots came to a stop and I heard her little voice say, “Oh! Dere dey are!”

On her way back up the aisle, and once more in my sight, she triumphantly held the SpongeBob cups up and called out, “Don’t worry, Mom. I got the ficken SpongeBob cups!”

She must have noticed my wide-eyed look of horror because she immediately said, “I said ficken not fuck. That’s okay, right Mom?”

A woman perusing winter coats began howling with laughter and turned to look down at Kate as she passed by. Then she looked at me and said, “She makes a good point!”

Damn You, Pinterest!

Okay, okay…so I got all high and mighty about Pinterest last week. I couldn’t help myself. I was stuck in that weird time-sucking vortex. I was beginning to believe that, by myself, I could build a pole barn out of recycled wood pallets. I’d construct it using a hot glue gun and organic paint which I’d mix by hand and apply with a horse hair brush. Of course, I’d pluck the horse hairs individually, thus taking months to fabricate said paint brush.

Then I’d pin it.

I’d pin the shit right out of it.

And so it was that I needed to step away from my laptop. I forced myself to click that little x in the upper right-hand corner and bid Pinterest a fond farewell.

Then I remembered there was that cute little girl’s room that inspired me to make some changes to the bedroom of my own cute little girls.

 

It’s true.

And in the height of my Pinterest-induced frenzy, I couldn’t locate the exact wallpaper I wanted Stateside, so I ordered it from Great Britain. That’s right. I am the idiot who ordered British wallpaper for my daughters’ bedroom because, evidently in the midst of my psychotic state, Great Britain was the only country that had the exact pattern I required. (Is it necessary to point out that I’m being sarcastic and basically calling myself a complete moron?)

Anyway, I found the paper and it was super-expensive so I hit eBay and I found it for $11.00 a roll. Plus $20 shipping via Royal Airmail. (Say it with me… Moron!)

So while we waited for the royal paper to arrive, I began pulling the room together…

First, I came up with the palette. Thankfully, I already had a lot of items in these colors lurking around the house in storage bins or linen closets, so I basically just went shopping in the attic.

Then one day I showed Dave a picture I’d pinned. The one that inspired my grand idea. This one, to be exact:

There happens to be a huge beam running across the ceiling in Gwen and Kate’s room which, in my humble opinion, screams for a swing. However, Dave thought that was a horrible idea. He started yammering on about broken bones and windows and head injuries and I had to nix the swing.

Despite refusing to install a swing, he did agree to rip up the carpet so we could get a look at the floor underneath. The prior owners told us it was wood and we knew it was painted, but we hardly expected this:

So we sanded and vacuumed and painted three coats of floor paint over the orange and flourescent green mess. It took three days.

 

Kate was not at all pleased about this. Until she found out that she’d be bunking with Mommy and Daddy while the paint dried. Then she was thrilled and we, well…we weren’t. They don’t mention those kind of details on Pinterest, do they? The late night kicks in the gut and tiny elbows poking into your temples. No, Pinterest does not say a damn thing about that.

Then one day Queen’s footmen delivered the wallpaper…Okay, not really. It was just waiting in the mailbox one afternoon.

We began wallpapering last weekend.

Dave is the best paper hanger in the house. I can’t take any credit for this at all… You know, other than buying such gorgeous paper all the way from England. Those Brits sure know how to make wallpaper!

And today we found this cute little wagon ($2.99) at our local Goodwill. The dresser that the wagon is sitting on was once picked up off the curb in Boston on garbage day. Yes, I said garbage day. I made my mother pick it up that so the neighbors wouldn’t see me do it. After she came back around the block with someone else’s garbage dresser, I painted it, distressed it and added those cute little bunnies and some glass knobs.

Sadly, I think Gwennie is getting to big for this little chest of drawers now so I’m on the hunt for a bigger piece to put between the two beds. Thus my never-ending Goodwill visits.

And there you have it. Proof that Pinterest continues to suck my time even when I’m not on the computer. I should be writing, but instead I’m decorating, Goodwilling and painting floors.

As soon as we’re done I’ll post more pictures but I have to tell you, it KILLS me to say that. It sounds so Mommy Blog-ish.

Maybe…

I’ve never been very good at female friendships. Never. I say what’s on my mind. My humor is twisted and sarcastic. Sometimes I just don’t get other women. As far at female relationships go, I’m pretty bad at being a girl.

I don’t typically like to ask for favors like, “Hey, So and So, can you give my kid a ride to school today because my other kid’s leg is hanging off and I need to get in an ambulance now.” No, I’m more likely to call the school and tell them the non-maimed child won’t be making it to class today. It’s much easier than running the risk of putting someone out to ask for help.

I am aloof. I am aloof because I spent my formative years living on a 200-acre farm with no neighborhood children to play with. I am aloof because I was born this way. I was born with a tumor on my eye and looked pretty weird as a little kid. I was a target for questions, stares and nasty little girls. As an adult, a simple eye-roll, dismissive gesture or turned back brings those little girls right back into play.

I’m kind of a loner. I don’t like talking on the phone. I rarely think about texting other people. I don’t like to gossip and I’m pretty bad at small talk. I tend to seek friendships that are real, deep and lasting. People who don’t mind if I forget to call or text.

These traits don’t mean I’m unfriendly or bitchy or that I don’t like you. I don’t decline invitations because I want to. It’s because I have three children and, sometimes I can’t be in three places at once.

Sometimes I write on a stupid blog. Mostly, I write what I hope will be a not-so-stupid book. A book about a little girl and a ghost and some sad memories of bitchy little girls and a whole lot of loneliness.

Not one of the qualities I’ve mentioned is conducive to building new friendships or getting invited to join the PTO.

At my last residency, I was slightly shocked and surprised when another woman asked me to come help her pick an outfit out for her reading. Shocked and surprised that another woman thought I was “normal” enough to do such a thing! On some level, I know how dudes must feel when wives and girlfriends start grilling them for opinions. I was honored but found myself waiting for her to realize that she’d asked for help from a woman who’s really bad at being a woman.

Here, in my every day life, I’m sure there are mommies who think I’m snobby. That I’m brushing them off. They might believe that I actually enjoy saying, “Sorry, but I can’t make it,” and that I never feel guilty about it. And that’s my problem I guess, because I’m the one who chose to follow a dream. Maybe, on some level I am a failure as a mother and as a woman. One who has chosen to pursue a master’s degree while her children need her to do things like bake cookies and plan birthday parties and playdates and sell wrapping paper. Maybe some of those women are right and I should have waited to get my degree.

Maybe. But I don’t think so. Maybe I’m just bad at being a girl.

 

 

 

 

On Guilt and Whining

I feel much better today. When I pressed the publish button on “Sometimes,” I was clearly feeling sorry for Joe…and myself.

I felt both guilty and stupid for having shared my moment of weakness with the world. I felt silly because I know there are people out there helping their children through issues far greater than what we’re dealing with.

But there’s guilt about the other side of our story. The one where sometimes I wish I had a little boy who ran head long into a rough and tumble game of football. One who wanted to join in on a game of baseball or run with the pack of children chasing a soccer ball. Those wishes make me feel awful.

Or I wish that when we did have a friend over – usually the brother of one of Gwen’s friends –  I didn’t feel the need to explain Joe’s ADHD/social anxiety or maybe Asperger’s Syndrome or maybe just social anxiety or maybe all three. I wish I didn’t have to spend an hour trying to facilitate interaction while trying not to hover. But I have to because Joe feels safer if he escapes into a video game rather than play with another child. It takes him a while to warm up. It takes him an hour to make eye contact and sometimes, consistent eye-contact doesn’t happen at all.

These are aren’t exactly social behaviors that other seven-year-olds understand. They certainly don’t feel comfortable hanging out with the kid who seems to ignore them.

I get anxious. I get sad and I feel guilty for feeling frustrated. I feel awful for wishing for something different. I beat myself about it because I love my son and I see that confident, happy side. The one that does make eye contact and who is developing a razor-sharp wit and sarcasm. He goes to Jukado and after school kid’s clubs and he’s now part of a social skills group at school courtesy of an IEP.

I get tired of explaining that I can’t hang out at one of Gwen’s many weekend preschool engagements because sometimes these group things get overwhelming for Joe. Sometimes I just can’t stomach the idea of 2 hours trying to help Joe socialize, listen, make eye contact and respond to people while I also deal with his little sisters. I don’t want to deal with the quizzical glances of other parents wondering if he’s a brat or if there’s something wrong. The parents that attempt to reprimand him for not sitting still or not looking them in the eyes (yes, people do that.) I get tired of feeling like I’m probably viewed as the anti-social bitchy mom because I stay home with Joe while Dave brings the girls out to parties and carnivals.

Yes, sometimes I avoid birthday parties and let Dave go. Mostly because I just can’t go through the pain of watching Joe choose to play by himself. Thankfully, there have been a few birthday invites this year, thanks to Gwen’s friends.

I get angry. I force my fingers to dial the telephone numbers of his classmates and face the possibility of more rejection. Because at this point, it hurts us both.

I want to scream at the school counselor who suggests that Joe likes to play by himself because, “that’s just who he’s going to be.”

And then, on the day I was feeling so sorry for us that I published a sad blog post, my beautiful boy came home wearing a smile. I heard his little feet running through the house while he searched for me, bursting with smiles and happy news. He played kickball at recess. He was invited to play with two classmates and his smile spoke volumes. His entire spirit seemed lighter. Happy.

All in all, it’s been a good week. Thanks for letting me vent and for sending such kind words of encouragement, advice and support.

No. 7

Sometimes

Sometimes I don’t feel like being funny.

Mostly, when I’ve been robbed of my humor over the past two years it’s because I’m thinking about my son. I’m thinking about his experiences at school – the difficulties he’s had as we try to figure out how to help him through a maze of possible issues.

ADHD, Asperberger’s, ADHD of the Inattentive Type, low self-esteem, anxiety…all of these?

Personally, I don’t care what it is. I just want him to be happy. I want to help him.

I want him to walk into a room full of children and feel like he belongs. I want him to know that he is liked. I want him to have a friend.

It’s tough when we’ve made it to March and he hasn’t had a single invitation to a birthday party this year. He hasn’t been invited to any play dates and our playdate invitations have gone largely ignored.

How do you explain to your son that the other kids do like him when this is happening? How do you explain to your son that sometimes, the other parents are too busy to call back?

I watched him at school last week, standing in front of me with some children from his class. We were sharing stories about the dogs in our neighborhoods and when Joe began to speak, anxiety caused him to stammer. He began to take too long with his story and he rewound when the others began to interrupt. One little girl rolled her eyes and walked away. That’s what seven-year-olds do. They don’t know any better. Their level of patience and empathy is still developing, but Joe sees it and it hurts.

I hurt.

We’ve been going to weekly therapy appointments. Last week he broke down and told the therapist that none of the other kids like him. He told the therapist that he doesn’t have any friends. He got up from the floor where he was coloring and curled against my side on the couch. He turned to me with a look of desperation on his face as the tears began to flow, his eyes pleading, wondering why we were making him talk about this painful subject.

Later, I cried in the car while he happily chatted about Legos and spelling words.

This morning I left some messages, inviting children over for playdates after school. I really hope that this time, someone’s mom calls me back.