Mother Knows Best

“Hey, Mom… you know who you remind of?” Gwen called from the kitchen.

My seven year old daughter has developed the habit of calling out her random thoughts, expecting whomever she is addressing to be instantly available. She’s a lot like me that way.

When I poked my head into the kitchen, she was sitting at the counter in front of my laptop with Kate. Together, they were watching YouTube videos of Disney Princess songs. Those catchy sing-alongs accompanied by a bouncing ball to emphasize the lyrics. Of course, I was instantly curious. I’ll admit, maybe even a tiny bit flattered to think that some princess evoked fond thoughts of me, their Mommy.

“Who?” I hopefully asked.

“That mean old witch in Rapunzel,” she said. “What’s her name again?”

“Mother Gothel,” Kate answered.

The song they were listening to reached my ears at the same time her declaration registered in my brain.

Mother knows best, take it from your Mumsy…

Have you seen Mother Gothel in Rapunzel? She’s a narcissistic bitch sporting a mane of dark curls. She feeds off Rapunzel’s magical golden hair, engaging in the intimate, maternal act of brushing those locks until the golden glow restores her youth and beauty. Without access to Rapunzel’s hair, she’s a withering mess of gray hair and wrinkles.

What the stuff? Really? This is how my middle child sees me? I most certainly don’t live vicariously through my daughter! Do I?

Panicked, I asked, “Kate, do you think I’m like Mother Gothel too?”

Don’t judge me; I was desperate for a second opinion. I needed someone to tell me that Gwen was wrong.

“Yup,” Kate declared. “You wook wike her.”

Mother gothel 3

Go ahead and leave me, I deserve it…

mother gothel 2

The most disturbing part is, Gwen made this very accusation three years ago. It’s true. We were in a jam-packed movie theater enjoying a girl’s day out and as Mother Gothel said, “Great, now I’m the bad guy,”  when Gwen, in her most inappropriately loud movie theater voice announced, “She’s just like you, Mommy!”

After the insane laughter of our fellow movies goers subsided, I sat in my stadium seat, face burning. Oh, I laughed too, in my lame attempt to appear cool. I mean, four year old kids say the darndest things, right?

On the bright side, they didn’t compare me to Ursula the Sea Witch or worse, Maleficent, because that would have been just plain more awful.

Skip the drama, stay with Mama…

mother gothel

Procastination and Self-Loathing

Truth is, I’m mired in the worst writer’s block I’ve ever encountered.  First, I was just taking a month off.  Just a simple one month break. Thirty days post-graduation to catch-up with my family. I suppose it all began as some lame attempt to assuage the guilt that had built up over two years of placing grad school deadlines before my children. But somehow, that August break crept into September, bled into October, and has now begun to ooze into November. The Break grows increasingly vile by the day, slowly morphing into an insidious hole that now threatens to erase my very need to write.

In September, I wrote just one rough piece. Something I hastily cranked out in order to meet the deadline imposed by my writers group. A  group composed of my amazingly talented friends. These are the people who have, over the past two years, become some of the best friends I have ever made. They are people who are actually doing something with their talent, like Penny Guisinger whose amazing work appears here, and Kerri Dieffenwierth whose fabulous words have been published here.

Truth is, despite the insightful (and patient) comments of my highly respected peers, I haven’t revisited that rough piece I submitted since we met via Skype a month and half ago.

Excuses don’t excuse my lack of inspiration.

Truth is, I have a memoir that is 90% finished and I’ve been too chicken shit to finish my book proposal. I’m in full avoidance.

I’ve been home pre-schooling Kate this year. Mostly because the cooperative preschool we belonged to for nearly four years turned out to be rather uncooperative and less parent-run than I’d come to expect.

So I’ve been focusing on things like kindergarten readiness and dance classes to make up for Kate’s lack of social interaction. Because things like boogers and dancing are important to my youngest child’s development. Right?

boogie

Then there’s that yearly Halloween party… the one that helps me avoid what I’m supposed to be doing by assembling things like this:

kitchen

                        And by making these:

  candy apples

 The worst part? I feel like I’ve lost my funny.  Mostly because I’ve been mired in writing a memoir for two years and it covers some rather un-funny personal history. These days, I find myself over-thinking what used to be silly blog posts.

So instead, I’ve been doing important things, like sitting on a king-sized bed piled high with laundry and watching the Kardashians. Because someone has to commiserate with poor Khloe and her camel toe, right? Gravity sucks, man.

khloe-kardashian-camel-toe hermes bag

I’ve been avoiding things like submitting my work to journals or contacting Word Portland, a local event created by Emily Young, a fellow Stonecoaster, that would allow me to read my work at a really cool public venue.

So this blog post is my official return to silly parenting horrors, random thoughts, and my commitment to writing something. Anything. This is me forcing myself to get off my ass and write.

And it feels good.

Pain and Fist Shaking

Joe had a fantastic summer. At the exact time his child behavioral specialist was confirming he exhibits behaviors “of concern for falling within the autism spectrum disorder,” Joe was making a connection. At the end of second grade, he finally made a friend and he blossomed. There were play dates and sleepovers and beach days and water parks and Joe was just another kid. Most signs of Asperger’s and anxiety took the summer off and ADHD isn’t a huge issue when school is out.

Joe took a summer off from his medication. He needed to gain weight. That medication that helps him focus in class and get through a day at a desk also suppresses his appetite. He was falling behind on the growth charts.

By August, he had gained 8 pounds and put on an inch and a half.

He’d also gained confidence. A lot of confidence.

By August, that old enemy called anxiety began to show its ugly face. The thought of returning to school, the intimidation of crowds of kids, and the reality of unfamiliar faces began to make him nervous. His new teacher graciously suggested he come in to meet her, to help alleviate some anxiety… to see his new room.

His new teacher is wonderful for Joe and to Joe.

School started with no issues. Besides the kid on the bus, who on the first day, asked Joe for his name, then declared to the boys around them, “Joe’s my ass.” Confident Joe got off the school bus wondering why a kid he didn’t know would say that to him. He told me what that kid said with a smirk on his face and confusion in his eyes. I brushed it off and told Joe it sounded like that kid was pretty obnoxious. That he shouldn’t sit near that boy again. That he should let me know if the name calling continued. It didn’t.

For the first few weeks, he came home with big smiles on his face, thrilled to report that he’d been playing soccer at recess. Dave and I were happy. We saw it as Joe finally climbing over a major social hurdle. He had become confident enough to join in on a soccer game and play with group of boys. To finally show those kids he could play too. He was having fun. There was a glimmer of Joe becoming one of the boys. We hoped he was letting go and telling his anxiety to take a hike…maybe outgrowing it  and applying some of the coping mechanisms he’s learned in therapy.

Then one day he didn’t play soccer.

He didn’t tell me why he stopped playing. This is typical of Joe – when something happens, when he’s rejected or confused or hurt – he doesn’t talk about it. He doesn’t ask for help. He just pulls away. Sometimes, he might tell us what happened, but it usually takes at least a month… sometimes up to four months.

For the past week, Joe has gotten off the bus looking glum. I know him well enough by now to know that something has happened. I see him pulling inward, know the look of my son shutting down and closing the door on social interaction with kids outside of our house.

But I can’t ask him about it. If I do, he pulls into himself even more and I’m forced to watch him wage a battle with some horrible pain inside. So big and so overwhelming that he won’t speak. Instead, he buries his face in a pillow or turns to look out the nearest window and he fights tears. He refuses to cry. And my heart breaks. I’m helpless. How can I help my son work through something if he can’t talk about it?

So, yesterday morning Dave and I casually suggested that Joe start playing soccer again.

“It’s recess,” we said. “You can play a quick game of soccer if you’re bored with the same old stuff.”

“Mix it up,” we encouraged.

You see, he’s been a kick. One where he’s hyper-focusing on practicing handstands at recess. In reality it’s his avoidance of the group. It’s Joe protecting himself from the crowd by throwing his all into an endless stream of handstands that cannot be interrupted. It’s Joe’s safe zone. After a while, it’s awkward. And we had no idea why he was suddenly regressing after such a strong start to the year.

So, after we innocently suggested he give soccer a shot for the afternoon, he said, “I’d “rather not.”

“Why not?” we said, remaining upbeat. “You’re good at soccer!”

“Well, they were fighting over which team I should be on,” he said. “I didn’t like the fighting.”

Dave and I shared a glance over Joe’s head.

Pain and frustration for Joe bubbled to the surface again.

“I’m fine with playing by myself,” he said.

Later, as the bus pulled away, I began to cry. All of the hurts of his school experience came rushing back. The birthday party invites that never seem to come. His birthday party invites that are rebuffed and the little girl in last year’s class who said, “I’m not your friend, why would I go to your party?” What that little girl didn’t know was that Joe invited the whole class because he didn’t want anyone to feel left out. His act of thoughtfulness was met with complete rejection.

The girl who would sweep his things off the lunch table last year…the kid who punched him in the stomach in first grade…the kid who punched him in the stomach in preschool…

I sat at the table rehashing four years of painful moments and I shook my fist at the sky.

I wrote a Facebook post damning the situation. I damned ADHD and Asperger’s and anxiety. I damned an 8 year old soccer boss, not knowing that somewhere, there was parent at my son’s school who might actually consider his or her child the recess soccer boss. My fist shaking, painful moment – one where I directed my anger at a hypothetical child – a faceless, nameless child who my  imagination had painted as the Don Corleone of schoolyard soccer – rubbed someone the wrong way. Someone, Hell…maybe a group of someone’s assumed I was talking about their kid. Someone believed I specifically pointed my finger at a particular child, rather than God and behavioral disorders and the (normal) dynamics of the playground hierarchy.

Late in the afternoon, as I regrouped and readied myself to smile when Joe got off the bus, I learned that there might actually be a real “Soccer Boss.” That my comment was seen and assumptions were made.

And for that, I am sorry. I am sorry that someone who doesn’t know me or my son well enough to know his struggle, assumed I was actually pointing a finger at his or her child.

I took the kids to the movies at 4:40 yesterday. Dave was in New York. We came home, and I tried to ignore the drama unfolding because I’d shared a painful moment. I fed the kids, I put them to bed and then I cried. I cried for Joe. I cried because I felt guilty for complaining. I felt horrible that someone thought I was attacking their child. I tried to tell Dave about it over the phone. Dave who was in Manhattan and trying to understand me through my sobs.

Yesterday was a bad day. Next time I need to shake my fist at something, I’ll make sure I don’t assign that something an identity.

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.

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.