Parkland: What Am I Allowed To Feel?

Man hold up his hands like a gun and takes fake shots.  He laughs maniacally at the video he’s watching.  It’s one of those silly kid’s videos where guys are using Nerf guns to shoot each other in idiotic places.  He thinks it’s hysterical.

“Turn that off right now!” I say curtly. 

“What’s the big deal?” He asks innocently.

“You know daddy and I don’t like guns or shooting or when you watch videos of shooting!”

“It’s just a Nerf gun mom, it’s funny.”

“Well, one day it could be a real gun!” I say as I rip the iPad away from him.

He looks at me, his already giant doe eyes even larger.  “Mom, I was watching that!!”

“Well, now you’re not.” I spit back. 

I take a deep breath; my emotions are running high.  I have just read another article about the Parkland shooting and I’m sad, scared, angry, defeated…

“I have to talk to you about something, buddy.”

“Ok.”

“One of the reasons daddy and I don’t like you playing with guns or thinking they are just fun toys is because one day, it might be hard for you to tell if someone has a toy gun or a real gun.  One day, someone might start shooting and it won’t just be pretend.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Well, you know all of those lockdown drills you guys have?  It’s because someone with a real gun might come into your school and start shooting and they want to make sure you know what to do.  That happened today at a school in Florida.  Some people even got killed.”

“Stop saying that mommy, you’re scaring me.  I don’t want to hear that!!”

“I know little buddy, and I don’t want to have to tell you this, but I do.  It’s important that you know that guns are dangerous and that they are not toys and they can hurt people.”

I’m crying now, and he looks at me a little lost.  He continues to back away from the conversation, scanning the room for his iPad so he can remove himself from this discussion altogether.  He can’t handle what I am saying and, quite frankly, I can’t either. 

A million thoughts are racing through my head: “He needs to hear this stuff, it’s a matter of life and death.” “He’s only seven, I shouldn’t be scaring him like this.” “Am I doing this right, because I’m not sure how to have a conversation like this with my seven-year-old?”  “I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO HAVE THIS CONVERSATION WITH MY SEVEN-YEAR-OLD!!!”

This morning they read the names and descriptions of the 17 killed on NPR.  I began to cry again.

Then, just now, I read some of the text exchanges between parent’s and their children.  I began to cry again.

Then I began to feel guilty, am I allowed to cry?  Am I even allowed to feel this way?  It wasn’t my school, or my children, or even anyone I know.  My sadness cannot take away from the sadness and distraught felt by the friends and family of whose lives were taken.

My emotions are so confused and disconnected.

I don’t know what I am allowed to feel; but I do know that I am heartbroken.

I don’t know what I am allowed to feel; but I do know that I am angry.

I don’t know what I am allowed to feel; but I do know that I am helpless.

There is so much I’m feeling, but mostly, I don’t feel it is my right to have any feelings on this matter at all, not until it happens to someone I know.

And there it is… “Not until it happens to someone I know.” 

The likelihood of it happening to someone I know is significant, it’s only a matter of time. 

That fact alone gives me the right to feel!

To feel angry!

To feel that nothing, NOTHING is being done!

To feel scared because we are all just sitting around waiting for it to happen again!!!

This didn’t happen to me, it happened to every single parent and child in this country and somewhere along the way we’ve been told to accept the fact that there is nothing we can do. 

In the end, why feel at all if those feelings aren’t going to amount to anything.

If These Walls Could Talk

It’s impossible not to feel overwhelmed with sentiment and emotion as I pack up my family and ready us to move out of the first home we ever owned.  A decade ago, a young, excited engaged couple made the traditional migration from a thrilling life in the big city to settling down into quiet suburban living.  In the years that followed, we filled this home with a marriage, two children, pets, ups, downs, and in betweens- moments of love and laughter have bounced joyfully off these walls, while times of sadness and regret have seeped deeply into its cracks and crevices.  I can see the memories in every corner of every room- from smalls scuffs left on the baseboards from tiny kicking feet to art projects depicting our happy family taped lovingly to bedroom walls.

I go through the house daily, methodically emptying drawers and clearing shelves.  In this endless quest, items that were once thought to be gone forever begin to resurface.  I come across a bag containing the clothes Man wore home from the hospital- I had put it away for “safe keeping” in his closet over seven years ago and then, naturally, forgot it existed.  I inhale deeply, it has since lost its newborn baby smell, but the memories of that day come flooding back as though it were yesterday.  He was so small, a mere 5 pounds and 13 ounces, that he didn’t fit into the newborn sized onsie we had purchased for him and we had to fashion an outfit out of clothes the hospital provided.  A smile breaks out on my face and a tear streams down my cheek as I am swept up in the joy of the memory.

I move on to my bedroom closet with a broom stick in hand to help knock down items stored long ago on it’s very top shelf.  A white, pleather bowling bag falls and almost hits me in the head.  I rifle through its contents and find Madonna style 80’s lace gloves, handcuffs, edible underwear, and other kinky goodies.  Holy shit, the gag bag from my bachelorette party!  I am inundated with more memories; a bonfire on the beach, lobster dinner al fresco, and penis shaped shot glasses filled with too much tequila.  Suddenly, I feel old and tired; I’m so far removed from that young and carefree bachelorette.

All this mess, all this purging and packing, it has been an emotional roller coaster.  I am tense and exhausted.

I have spent months endlessly scavenging furniture stores and websites for new and fabulous items, vowing to fill our home with beautiful and CLEAN couches and rugs that have not been stained by children and gnawed on by pets.  Countless hours have been devoted to choosing the perfect wall colors to compliment the new and attractive “big-girl home” I am determined to have.  Walls filled with color that have not been marked up by crafting projects or dirt stained little fingers.

All this time, all this effort to create a new, improved, beautiful home, a home that is nothing like the dirty piece meal house I live in now.  I am anxious and feel undue pressure.

There has been so much time and effort dedicated to salvaging what we can still use, tossing the old and searching for the new, that the meaning of the move has been lost on me entirely.  This house, no, this home, wasn’t born out of “stuff” it was created by the people who dwell in it.  I have completely overlooked, or quite possibly just ignored, the fact these walls have seen the growth of family.  To avoid the overwhelming emotion that accompanies leaving my home, I have placed more value on the items inside of it than on the feelings, sentiment, and memories that it holds.

I became a wife in this house.  My husband and I were just three months shy of our wedding day when we moved in.  I can see us as newlyweds, glowing with love and enthusiasm, unmarred by the life that was to unfold before us.  I can feel the love that we had for each other, new and eager to please, carefree and wildly passionate.  I learned how to be a wife in this house, how to be a partner.  I learned about communication and compromise and how to come to resolutions together as a team.  I hear the fain echo of words spoken in times where we both thought we would never make it, where we were ready to give up on our marriage and go our separate ways.  I sit now in our bedroom and see the spot where he stood when we decided that we loved each other and our family far too much to give up and decided that we were worth fighting for.  I feel surrounded by the love we share now, as we have come out on the other side stronger and even better than before.

me and jord 2

Wedding day!

I became a mother in this house.  I can see the spot where I peed on the stick for the first, and second time.  I still have the same garbage can that I tossed those pregnancy tests into after they gave me the answers that I was hoping for.  I sit, right now, in the very bed that I napped together with my babies, desperate for some shut eye.  I can see the chair I sat in as I pumped my milk, praying that just one more ounce would come out.  I can feel the relief in the room where I decided to stop pumping and just feed my child formula, because I wasn’t a failure, I was just doing what I had to do.  I can picture the messes made and the floors littered with clothes that my then undiagnosed ADHD Man created in his tornado phase.  He moved swiftly and with purpose destroying much of our house.  I can sit at the table where he used to feed his little sister and speak the words, “Millie’s talkin to me!!!” I can relax on the couch where he first held her the day we brought her home.  I can return to the spot in my closet where I would hide and cry because motherhood was not what I expected and it stunned me to think that I was not as happy as I “should be.”  I can feel the warmth and the love of all the moments of laughter, triumph, fun, enjoyment, first times, and continued successes that this house has brought us.

I became a sober woman in this house, deciding once and for all that I could no longer successfully drink.  I see the spot where I crumbled in fear and desperation as the realization took hold that I needed more help that I had been willing to admit.

I became a student in this house.  After picking myself up and dusting off the remains of my unhappiness, I sit at the very computer where I filled out the applications and the wrote essays that would take me on this next journey in my life.

fam school

 

I grew up in this house, becoming a woman that I am proud to be- a happy woman, the woman I always knew I could be.

every-mom

 

We became a family in this house.

family 6

If my walls could talk, they would tell me of failures and triumphs, of sadness and successes. They would share with me the pride with which they have surrounded me and my family.  There is no new couch or new rug that matters more than the growth and the memories of the home that I have built with my family.  I will cry when we leave all these memories behind, having safely stowed them in my heart.  I will open the door to my new home with excitement and eagerness for the new memories we shall continue to forge together.

 

 

The Perfect Holiday Gifts for Your Kids… That are Really for You!

Tis the season of gift giving – that incredible time of year when you can force your children into good behavior by threatening to cancel Christmas or Hanukkah. Nothing beats a snow-covered morning at home, sipping coffee quietly while your delightful children beam like angels…because they’re scared half to death that you’re going to give all their toys away. 😉

But it’s also a challenging time of year.  All. That. Holiday. Pressure!!!!!  All that work to create the perfect holiday ambiance inside your home and spread the happ-happ-happiest holiday cheer outside the home.

I scroll through my newsfeed every evening thanking God that I was born a Jew – I would crumble into dust under the pressure that is Elf on a Shelf.  The hours of time and creativity that people put into this tiny little stuffed elf… I’m in awe, truly I am.  Someone recently told me I should purchase the Mensch on a Bench for my kids (because it’s not really a holiday until there is a socially acceptable Jewish Hallmark spinoff item) and I literally turned and ran away from the conversation as fast as my feet could carry me.  In my house, if the dog didn’t manage to grab it first and claim it as her own, that Mensch would just sit and wait patiently on his bench while his furry little brown beard turned Santa Claus white.  Eventually he would be covered by all the mounds of crap that I let pile up all over my house…until the following year, when I would find him the day after Hanukkah ended, and silently curse at myself for buying a new one after my yearlong search had failed. Stupid Mensch.  If he were smart, he would run off with the elf and they would live out the rest of their days sipping Pina Coladas on the beach.

As I was heading for my room this evening, my daughter’s latest Hanukkah gift caught my eye, a Light Bright wrapped in the same classic 70’s packaging as mine was when I was a little girl.  A little thrill filled me, “I can’t wait to play with that with her tomorrow!”  (Full disclosure, I strongly considered opening it up and playing with it right then.)  But it really got me thinking, when was the last time I was excited to play with one of my kids’ toys?  Um… never!  I’ll be honest, I find dressing and putting baby dolls to sleep mind numbingly boring.  And no matter how many times Man attempts to engage me in lively conversation about Minecraft, I really just “yes” and “uh-huh” him to the point where he could be asking me to buy him a horse and I wouldn’t even realize that I had agreed to do so. My big question is, why don’t we get our kids presents that we want to play with- that we would enjoy partaking in ourselves?  Wouldn’t that be so much better for everyone!?

I say, down with gifts that are torture to parents!!  No longer do we have to stand for painfully stepping on that random tiny LEGO piece stranded in the hallway from the Millennium Falcon that is taking your child forever to finish!  No longer do we have to follow our daughters around with the vacuum cleaning up tiny beads and glitter from our daughter’s art boxes.  I’m here to say, I will no longer pretend that Barbie is strutting the fashion runway!!!!!

Here are the perfect gifts for your child… that are really for you!!

The Easy Bake Oven:  Not only is this a classic from your childhood, but you get to enjoy the tasty treats of your efforts.  Even if baking isn’t your thing, who wouldn’t want an excuse to snack on a bite size, full fat, full gluten, full sugar, full flavor brownie?

easy bake oven

 

Nintendo DS or Atari: Yes, I say bring back Mario and Luigi in a big way!!!  Go to town with your kid while you try and save the princess and battle the Kublai Khan!  Have a blast while you achieve your lifelong dream of finally getting Frogger across the street safely!

SONY DSC

 

Tickets… to anything: Whether it’s tickets to the movies, or, if you can swing it, a show, this is the gift that keeps on giving.  I don’t know about you, but I spend most kid’s movie outings taking a quick snooze, or catching up on e mails.  If you can make it to a show, double bonus!  Now you get the pleasure of being entertained while, simultaneously watching your kids be dazzled!

 

DVD’s: Need I say more…?

 

“Spa Day”: This is a great one for the little ladies in your life.  They can get their nails polished up like a rainbow while you enjoy a pedi and a quick 10-minute back rub!

 

Mail Order Mystery: Once I convinced Man that there wouldn’t be a pirate curse descending upon us if we didn’t figure out the clues in time, this proved to be fantastically fun!  I was just as eager as he was- and my husband would likely tell you that I was even more eager- to break that code and figure out the next clue.  I go to the mailbox every day hoping to find another envelope from International Office with my, er, Man’s name on it.   https://www.mailordermystery.com/

 

A Deep Space Planetarium: Just picture it, you snuggled in bed with your kids at night while they are entertained by simply gazing at the ceiling.  That sounds like a little slice of heaven… literally.

Deep space

 

Books from your childhood: Even if your kids can read on their own, how nice would it be to sit and read Harry Potter with them?  I eagerly await the day that I can read Anne of Green Gables to Lady.  To be able to share the love of your favorite series with you kids while enjoying it again yourself, there is really no better gift!

Anne of Green Gables

In this season of giving, I say it’s ok to be a little selfish.  Go forth, and gift the gifts that YOU will enjoy as well!!

In Defense of the “Problem Child”

Yesterday evening I read an article in the New York Times entitled, “The ‘Problem Child’ Is a Child, Not a Problem.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/24/opinion/collaborative-problem-solving-children.html) It discussed how the appropriate method of behavior modification should be used by teachers to help “problem” children fare better within the classroom, especially in the earliest, most fragile years of their education.  The article itself was fabulous, and extremely validating to parents of children with emotional and behavioral challenges.  It suggested that teachers receive more training in adequate techniques to prevent situations like the one highlighted in the article—the case of an eight-year-old child having long-term emotional effects, subsequently resulting in educational challenges, from preschool teachers managing his behavior improperly.  It emphasized that poor behavioral management in early childhood can have lifelong consequences.

Unfortunately, I made the big, no HUGE, mistake of reading the comments.  I have never been so blown away by a lack of empathy, and sheer ignorance about this population.  I am so angered and sad, but mostly, I’m disappointed and fearful.  I’ll be the first to admit that much of the challenge with children like this is their behavioral functioning.  However, another significant challenge is that the driving force behind such behavior is completely misunderstood.  Here, right in front of me, was the glaring proof of such stereotypes- and not just any proof, but proof presented in well thought out and intelligent comments in the New York Times.

I am ashamed to admit it, but often, when I am out in public with Man, I find myself making justifications for his behavior in one way or another- An eye roll to a person here to indicate, “I know, I know, I can’t believe he is doing that either!”  or a harsher than necessary talking-to so others around me don’t think that I’m just ignoring such behavior—a behavior, mind you, that he likely cannot control and that my stern warning will do nothing to deter.  I then find myself feeling terribly guilty- why did I feel the need to defend anything my son is doing to anyone, nonetheless a stranger?  Well, the comments section of this article just reinforced exactly why I feel such a need.

The comments fell into a few horrendous categories:

1)      The “bad children come from bad parents” type of comments.  I hear this often, that a child’s behavior is the direct result of bad parenting.  While yes, it is true that sometimes my seven-year-old simply acts like a seven-year-old and, in that moment, I probably don’t handle it to the very best of my abilities—I mean seriously, who parents perfectly all the time?  This is NOT what is going on for a child with ADHD.  Most of the parents that I know personally—and the thousands that I interact with regularly as part of the vast support networks on social media—work tirelessly on their child’s behavior. We use behavior charts, talk to doctors, use family trainers, send our kids to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and are just generally on their cases about every move they make all the time.  We are stellar parents who have literally tried everything, including medication in many cases, and we still come up short.  Why?  Because our children are just wired that way and no matter how hard we work, we cannot completely deter the behaviors that come along with ADHD and other similar disorders.

 

2)      The “parents should help the child, it’s not the teacher’s responsibility,” type comments.  Most parents are doing all that they can with the resources available to them to help their child succeed in and out of the classroom.  This is true for both the parents of special needs children and typical children.  Even the mother of the child in the article stated that she would leave her child at school and then go and cry with worry.  It is overwhelming to have a child like this in a way that is unimaginable to others unless they are going through it themselves.  Diagnoses that largely manifest themselves behaviorally are incredibly challenging to treat.  Like a medical diagnosis, it cannot be treated in isolation; for behavior modification to be successful, every person that works with that child must be on the same page and CONSISTENT.  I often say that “consistent” is my least favorite word- you try getting teachers, coaches, babysitters, grandparents, etc. to follow a specific plan on how to reinforce positive behavior in your kid.  Any slight deviation in the behavior plan can have dire results.  Something as simple as you attending to your other child and not providing the proper, immediate reinforcement can set you back days or even weeks.  A child is at school for a good portion of their day; if the teacher does not understand the behavior plan then the child might as well not have it.  Additionally, many of these behaviors directly impede their learning, and therefore require the direct attention of the teacher, the person who is responsible for educating them within the classroom.

in defense of 

3)      Which leads me to the next grouping of comments, the “children like this shouldn’t be in class with regular students,” type comments.  These were the most hurtful comments of all.  I completely understand where the parents were coming from; the comment was always based in the idea that these students take away from the learning experience of other, more typical children.  That’s just disappointing and short sighted.  Let me be clear; I am hyper-aware of how Man’s behavior affects others, especially his peers, but separating him is not the answer… for any child.  My son teaches others empathy and understanding.  He shows them that not all children are alike.  He demonstrates daily how one can overcome struggle.  He provides his classmates with a true cooperative learning experience, as learning to work together with a variety of different people is vital to lifelong success.  He is a good friend, and a kind hearted and genuine child.  He adds to the educational experience of other students by requiring their help with reading and handwriting—when students become the teachers, it is excellent for their development.  He also adds to their educational experience by helping them with anything STEM related.   Many of the comments also expressed concern that these children take up too much of the teacher’s time.  I get that—I want both of my children to get the time they deserve from their teachers and some days they are going to be the children that require the time, and other days it will be someone else’s child.

 

4)      The “children like this are just bad kids,” kind of comments.  No, no they are not.  If a child is acting out, it’s for a reason.  One person even went so far as to say that children like this were all psychopaths and that instead of teachers being trained in behavior mod, they should be trained in the early detection of such a disorder.  I mean… really?  When Man can no longer sit still or his hand is aching from writing due to his poor hand strength, he acts out.  He’s tired; he’s seven; he’s being asked to do something that he simply cannot do.  He is not bad; he is just a child who is challenged daily by his ADHD.

in defense of 2

 

The amount of parental blame in the comments was just startling.  Attitudes and ideas like that only serve to alienate the most fragile of students and their parents.  Instead of looking at the parents, we need to be looking at the public education system in its entirety.  We are failing all students, typical and atypical.  Increasing the number of teachers per school and per classroom, allowing for a smaller student to teacher ratio, would do wonders to allay concerns of all parents.  Creating programs that allowed for more flexibility in learning modality, instead of just focusing on the direct teaching method, would also benefit all students.  Pouring money into our educational budget instead of slashing it to its bare bones would benefit all students.  We need to stop looking for the simple excuses and start focusing on better, more effective long-term solutions.

 

I Would Die For My Children, But I don’t Just Live For Them

I don’t often begin writing a post with its title.  Most of the time, I have an idea that I want to express, so I sit down at my computer and within about 45 minutes, it’s gushed out of me with the emotion, power and force of Niagara Falls.  I then go back and spend an inappropriately excessive amount of time trying to come up with a catchy title that screams “click bait.”  A few weeks ago, I read a comment on a friend’s post. A mother had—and I’m paraphrasing here—stated that she lived for her children and that they were her absolute everything.  Reading such a comment left my stomach in knots and my brain reeling.  With my body tingling and tightened with angst, a realization formed: I just don’t feel that way about my kids.  Of course, as a parent, I was immediately flooded with guilt—this line of thinking just felt all wrong, it felt selfish.  I’m a mother, damnit, I’m supposed to live for my kids, aren’t I?  I hesitated to add my own comment, sheepishly returning to the post multiple times throughout the day and reading what other parents had written before finally deciding to comment myself: “I live for myself,” I wrote, “and my kids benefit from the happiness that I exude because of this.”  I left this provocative statement hanging on that page for all the world to see.

There it was, a perfect blog topic.  A controversial feeling that only the boldest of parents would express publicly. Parental condemnation click bait!!!  However, I didn’t know what exactly I was feeling and couldn’t yet quite put it into words.  A million false starts of a post in my head never made it onto the computer, and then, this week, two things happened. I heard the incredible Brene Brown speak (if you haven’t read her books, get them) and we attended a back-to-school picnic at my children’s elementary school.

Brene, in all her glorious wisdom, talked about the concept of “belonging”.  She began with the following quote from Maya Angelou: “You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all.”  Was she talking about me? Has she been following along on my journey this past year?  This quote, stated so simply and eloquently, encompassed the very journey of soul searching and self-actualization that I have been on lately.

This is what the journey of motherhood has been for me; trying to find out where I, both as just Laura as well as Man and Lady’s mom, fit into this complicated world.  And the answer was right there in front of me in 1000-pt font and illuminated on a giant screen: nowhere, but also everywhere.  To belong doesn’t mean to “fit in,” to perfectly fit some mold; it means to always be your most authentic self.  When you’re authentic, real, and true, there is no place you don’t belong.  Honestly, most of my life, even before having children, was spent attempting to achieve this.  I essentially thought that having children would accomplish this very goal for me.  I would finally belong somewhere concrete, I would belong to motherhood.

I was wrong.

From the time Man was born, I lived and breathed for his every need and want.  As he got older and the demands of his ADHD took hold, my mood, my sense of self, my very being, revolved around his various successes and failures.  If he had a play date where he didn’t destroy a friend’s home, I was thrilled for a month.  If he pushed a child down the slide at the park, my week was over.  Everything he did dictated everything I felt.  Add the fact that I had another typically-developing child just 18-months his junior who also needed my love and attention and by the end of the day I had nothing left but my congratulatory glasses of wine and my misery.  I wasn’t belonging; in fact, the opposite was happening, I was losing myself more and more with each passing year.

Last year I decided that I had had enough. I stopped drinking, returned to school to pursue my dream degree, and again begin the lifelong pursuit toward finding my most authentic self. I have never been happier or felt more of a sense of belonging.  Furthermore, my time with my children has become more meaningful, fun, and contented; I am able to be present for them in a way I never was before.  In allowing myself to accept my truth, that I needed more than just motherhood to complete me, I have become the best versions of both Laura the person and Laura the mother.

 

fam school

Family back to school day!

 

Yesterday, at the kids’ school picnic, I was reminded of just how significant this journey is and how important it is to be steadfast in its pursuit.  Usually Man shies away from big events like these. They are too crowded for him and very overstimulating.  However, due to the way the day’s events unfolded, I unexpectedly found myself standing on the school playground watching my kids play, feeling miserable – a feeling which had become all but foreign to me in the last year.  Instead of adopting an attitude of belonging, I let my worries and fears about Man get the best of me.  I watched every move he made, I saw every social success, every stumble, and everything in between.  Instead of allowing myself to see what a HUGE step and triumph this was for him, or to even enjoy some time chit chatting with lovely ladies who I don’t often get to see, I was an emotional mess.  My mood was, once again, tied to his every move, and ironically his moves were mostly absolute perfection.  I was transported right back to a year ago and it was a harsh reminder that that person no longer belonged on the playground.

There is no doubt of how much I love my children. I would take a bullet for them, donate a kidney, and if it was possible, painstakingly remove every obstacle and hardship that this world will throw their way.  I love them with every fiber of my being.  I would die for them, but I can no longer just live for them.

mothers day

 

Back to School With ADHD

Even before I had children, I always knew that the end of summer was near because of one specific commercial. I can see it now: a dad glides gleefully down a store aisle, gingerly tossing school supplies into his shopping cart as his children follow behind him.  “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” plays in the background as an announcer plugs the great sales on all things school-related at Staples. 

As a student, I always loved purchasing school supplies. Putting dividers into new colorful binders and filling my pencil case was always so exciting.  With each new year, came new possibilities and I truly looked forward to all of them.  Even now, in returning to school as an adult, I get a little thrill each semester when purchasing textbooks and fresh packages of erasable pens.  Dorky? Absolutely!  However, completely true. I love being a student and assumed that my son would as well.  How could he not?  He is brilliant and always interested in learning.  Most of our time together is spent answering questions about obscure subjects or listening to theories on even more abstract concepts.  I mean, his hobbies include learning all about sharks (do you know what ovoviviparous breeding means?  Because he does.) and building Rube Goldbergs.  The very idea that school would not appeal to this child’s brain never even crossed my mind.

Like the dad in the commercial, I figured that back-to-school shopping for Man would bring me the same joy.  I would relish in the excitement that he would get from a new folder covered in hammer head sharks and a new 12-inch ruler, as that meant he would get to measure things all day, another favorite pastime.  I would meet him as he came running off the bus on the first day and listen intently as he eagerly told me all about his new teacher and all the fun they were going to have that year.  A little unrealistic?  Maybe, but in those early years especially, much of school should be relatively enjoyable.  They should instill a joy of learning and an understanding of the importance of school.

 This has not been the case for my Man and me. Every item purchased on the school supply list means just another thing that he must maintain and keep track of.  And getting off the bus for those first few weeks, even months, I’m met with a child who is deeply saddened and frustrated by the day’s events.  In that initial period, I get almost daily phone calls from the teacher and the vice principal, listing his challenges for that day.  In those early months, every morning, I hear a little boy ask why school can’t be more like summer camp—an engineering-based camp that does hand-on, academic-based projects, mind you – and ask the question, “Do I really need to go today?”  Every day, in these final weeks before school begins, I am filled with worry; will this year be the same as the one that came before it? 

ADHD causes specific academic and behavioral challenges in students.  Man has difficulty organizing and executing tasks, making in-class assignments very challenging.  Once he feels like he can’t do something that every other child around him appears to be doing with ease, he does what he does best – runs off and does something else he knows will bring more success.  For children with ADHD, their classroom challenges often manifest as poor behavior.  Most of the time, they don’t even know where the challenge lies, or how to say, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing right now.” What they do know is that causing a disruption will get the attention of the teacher.  It takes a savvy, patient teacher to understand this fact and to have the capability to find the root of the behavior and not just dole out immediate punishment.

Because children with ADHD are wired differently, their intelligence doesn’t present itself in the same way as their neurotypical counterparts.  Man will never, EVER be the child that can complete classroom assignments with little to no assistance.  He does not learn like other children do – lecturing from the front of the room and then expecting him to complete an assignment quietly at his desk is pretty much out of the question.  He has already lost focus on what the teacher is saying by the second sentence; his thoughts began running wild with what was expressed in the first one.  Therefore, he requires a lot of repetition and asks a lot of questions.  Unfortunately, this can make him seem just average, or even slightly below.  Thus, he is treated accordingly by all who must educate him and he misses out on the opportunity to learn on an appropriate and stimulating level.

Many things come easily to Man, however, when something is a challenge, he wants no part of it.  Challenges for other children are 100 times more difficult to a child with ADHD.  It’s like hiking up a steep mountain with an extra 100-pound backpack on.  This is what ADHD does to my child, especially in a classroom setting.  When he is tired and just can’t take on the extra work that each day brings, it makes him look defiant or like he cannot follow simple classroom rules.  He needs a teacher who is going to understand this, look past it, and make it interesting for him to want to attack the challenges head on.  Will this be the year that he gets such a teacher, I wonder? 

Just like neurotypical children, atypically developing children are all dissimilar as well.  A diagnosis of ADHD means different things for different children and the educational strategies are not one size fits all.  When someone tells me that they have experience teaching children with ADHD, that means almost nothing to me.  The most important thing that a teacher needs to understand is that they must look beyond the diagnosis and assess my child’s needs based on what they see, not what they expect to see.  This was not the case last year and he suffered greatly because of it, and as his mother, I suffered right along with him.

Public school, it seems, is not designed well for Man, or any child with ADHD and other learning disabilities.  It’s no one’s fault; they must teach to the masses, and I totally get this – the entire school system does not need to turn on a dime for my son’s specific needs. While I appreciate that the district trains the teachers well and makes accommodations for my son, ultimately the expectation is that as a round peg, he adjusts and fits into their square holes.  In fact, every accommodation he has is to help him function better in a classroom designed for neurotypical students.  They have nothing to do with helping him use the brain he has, to learn to the best of its own ability.  They have nothing to do with teaching him how to use his strengths and overcome his weaknesses to simply learn the information that is vital to his education. 

I stress again that this is no one’s fault; it is just how the public education system is designed.  They do their very best to help with the resources available to them, but the end goal is always the same, to make sure every child is “on grade level”.  It doesn’t matter how much potential the child has, simply whether they meet the national standards for their grade.  Man did 50% of the work that the other students in his class did last year, 50%, and at the end of the year he was on grade level.  While only doing half the work as the other students in his class, he still came out on grade level.  Yes, while I’m thrilled he is on grade level, am I not allowed to expect that he could possibly be doing better if his educational environment was more conducive to his learning style?  Should I just ignore the fact that he no longer qualifies for certain accommodations because he is on grade level, even though the challenges within the classroom are still the same as they were the previous years?  Am I not allowed to be upset that my son already feels disappointed in himself every day because he sees the other children able to produce more than him while trying half as hard?  It’s not pressure that I put on him, it’s simply what he sees going on around him daily. 

So yes, I worry every day.  I worry that this year will be the same trying year as the last.  He does not deserve that, nor does any child who is like him.  Going back to school, it seems, isn’t the most wonderful time of the year for every family.

 

Handling Domestic and International Terrorism in Two Different Ways: The Unpopular Opinion

Terrorism, n.- the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.

 

I have written many blog posts in reaction to the violence and terrorism that plagues our planet.  Years ago, “Man AND Lady Vs Mommy. Written in Memory of Those Murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary,” (Man AND Lady Vs Mommy. Written in Memory of Those Murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary) was crafted following the unthinkable shooting at Sandy Hook, “Bombs of Kindness” (Bombs of Kindness) was published following the senseless attack in Paris, and “Will Someone Tell Me How I Can Do More?” (Will Someone Tell Me How I Can Do More?), came out after the horrific shooting at Pulse nightclub.  While these posts might have made me feel better, allowing me to express my own disheartened and confusing thoughts on each of these incidents, they didn’t really do anything to stop the violence that continues to escalate worldwide.

This week, we witness two horrendous acts of terrorism; one domestic and one international.  While these attacks were both very different, they elicited the same responses from people- outpourings of vigils, deafening cries for change, and the memorializing of those who tragically lost their lives.  I’m here to say that these reaction, in part, must change. That’s right, I am about to express an unpopular opinion; only one of these acts should elicit an outpouring of love and a rally call for change.  As a student of mental health counseling, I have learned a lot about the feelings and motivations behind a person or group’s actions, and with that knowledge, I implore you to react accordingly to what we have experienced this week.

Whether our leader wants to say it publicly or not, the attack that took the life of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville last week, was indeed an act of terrorism.  It fits the very definition provided by Webster and written above.  It was a violent act in pursuit of gaining political clout for alt-right, KKK, and neo-Nazi groups.  The very purpose of their increasingly visible presence in society (after being hidden away for many decades), their marches, and their rallies, is to spread their message of hate, bigotry, and violence. A message that they truly believe, to their core, is the right message.  Their desire is to eradicate all members of society that are not like them.  Let’s just call a spade a spade people, if you are not a White Christian, you are not welcome.  Their drive is, at the very least, to push our country back to the 1950’s; but in their black, unfeeling hearts, it’s really to return this country to a pre-Civil War state.  Sure, would they love this to happen internationally?  Absolutely.  But right now, they would be thrilled to just get rid of all African Americans, Jews, and other minority groups, right here on “their own” U.S. soil.  The sole reason for their existence is terrorism, to spread their hate filled message, gain political power, and make a shift in America that will erase the centuries of arduous work done by those prominent leaders who understand the wrongness of their beliefs.

The fact that I am about to quote Arnold Schwarzenegger is not lost on me, friends, but in the words of Arnold himself, “The only way to beat the loud and angry voices of hate, is to meet them with louder, more reasonable voices.”  Combatting these groups means creating larger gatherings that spread words of love and tolerance.  It means teaching our children to be good, kind, and accepting adults.  It means standing strong in the face of bigotry and hate.  I was watching Heather’s mother, Susan Bro, eulogize her daughter.  She made this speech with a level of dignity and composure that is unmatched by any other mother in her situation- and if we get real, we know there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other mothers in her situation. She beseeched the crowd, and the nation, to stand strong against racism, like her daughter did.  She begged us not to turn a blind eye, but to lean into the uncomfortability that is standing up to injustice.  We cannot look away from this, we must face it head on and call it out immediately upon seeing it.  We must be louder, stronger, and more eloquent than any hate group.  And this must happen from the smallest levels of injustice- like witnessing an act in your grocery story, to the greatest heights, like the marches we witnessed this week.

The second act of terrorism we encountered this week, was international terrorism.  Again, we see the same vigils, FB posts, memorializing and eulogizing of the victims that we see following every international terrorist attack.  I watch this on television and think, stop, pick up that flower and that card and walk away with it!  I know, you’re probably thinking, “What an unfeeling bitch, this woman is!”  But please, read on and understand why I say this.  ISIS performs these acts to create chaos and garner a colossal reaction, and that is exactly what we give them.  Their desire isn’t the same as the alt-right.  While yes, they would be happy to take over the world, their main purpose is to kill as many innocent people as possible, to create mass hysteria, and punish the nations that stand for freedom and democracy.  We cannot continue to give them what they want!  I’m not saying we shouldn’t fight them, the opposite in fact- we should fight them behind the scenes, quietly, secretly, and cause them the same unrest and fear that they cause us.  We need to elect officials that are strong enough to do this, without feeling the need to play a game of “whose dick is bigger.”  For every act of terror, we need to stop changing our profile pics, stop laying wreaths at the site of the act, and start donating money and time to anti-hate groups.  If you feel the need to show support following a tragedy so to stand up and show the terrorist that you won’t stand for this.  Guess what?  They already know.  It’s what they count on.

If you think that the timing of the attack in Barcelona is a coincidence, I ask you to take a closer look.  During a week of U.S. turmoil, of day after day of our citizens begging our morally incompetent leader to rally against our own domestic terrorism, they strike, bigger and harder.  They watch our every move and understand that this act would have more emotional and social impact because our country was already being torn apart.  No, this is not some crazy conspiracy theory, this is the way these psychos think.  They want mass destruction and horror, and after the week that the U.S. had, a week that was visible and commented on by the entire world, they were primed to get it.  They knew that our “leader” would take the bait and call them out, thus causing further unrest both internationally and amongst our citizens.  We need to stop publicizing our outrage.  We need to stop feeding the trolls.  The minute they see that they have affected us, it fuels them in a most unimaginable way.  It gives them exactly what they want.  It means they have won.