Sunday, November 19, 2017

Is, uh...is this supposed to get easier?

On Friday at 3:15 I dropped my conference evaluation into a box, recieved my free conference gift - a combination pizza cutter/beer bottle opener...maybe I'm not the only one who occasionally needs food-and-alcohol comfort sessions - and drove away from my state's gifted and talented conference. It was good...I talked with other people from the city and heard some good information. I developed a healthy sense of gratitude for the wonderful system my kids are being educated in. But as I traveled a mile a minute along the freeway to get home, I little thought kept pushing its way into my consciousness.

Is this supposed to be easier?

I heard a lot of information meant to make me a better and more effective parent, but a lot of the information was old news. Dabrowski's overexcitabilities? Yes, I know them. Gifted kids are prone to intensity and perfectionism? Yep, heard that too. There's an amazing book out about parenting gifted kids? Yes, I've read it a few times and still refer back to certain chapters once in awhile (and yes, I highly recommend it!). Online resources? How about Hoagies' or SENG or NAGC? Oh, and gifted kids should be in a school where they're understood and challenged? Well, my kids' schools aren't perfect, but they're trying to accommodate my kids and my district has a very active Gifted & Talented department that educates and advocates for gifted kids. I know I have it good in that regard.

If I have all of this information and all of this support, why do I still feel overwhelmed?

Maybe it's because I have three kids. Maybe it's because P is 2E, which is just double the fun. Maybe I'm just lazy and expect life to be easier. Maybe the nature of this is just that it's HARD.

Maybe it's a combination.

I do think it's gotten somewhat easier since P was first labeled. I feel less alone and I feel like I have more direction. And parenting in general is not easy-peasy. But at the same time, I don't think this will ever be a walk in the park...more like a hike up a mountain. I guess it's time to strap on some boots and get used to the scenery.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Awkward

You want to talk about awkward moments? How about that awkward moment when your kid gets invited to another kid's birthday party, and when you call to RSVP the mom says, "Oh, I feel like I'm meeting another member of my family! I've heard SO MUCH about your son!" and all you can think is, "I know nothing about your kid."

I guess my son is the quiet sort when it comes to his social life. At the beginning of the year another family met me very excitedly and talked about how much their son liked P. I had NO IDEA their kid existed. I know that P has trouble with the other kids...he isn't as socially aware and his teacher has said that the other kids tease him. I kind of wish I could just follow P around for a day and see what his social life is really like. That's my biggest area of concern for him right now, and the thing I wanted to learn most about at the gifted conference this week. I want him to have friends.

Maybe he already has them.

All I know is, I'm looking forward to Saturday with that usual mixture of hope and dread that prefaces any social outing for P. Maybe with a little more of the former than the latter this time.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Conference

This week I'm going to my state's gifted and talented organization conference. I'm going with a slight amount of guilt - it will be my first overnight trip away from my family, and also I have some work responsibilities that I needed to shift onto my co-workers in order to have the day off. But now that it's all arranged and settled I'm moving away from guilt and toward anxiety.

Emotions are fun!

For some reason the idea of going and doing this by myself is really throwing me for a loop. If I was taking a kid or two with me I'd feel a lot more at ease. But the idea of just being on my own and doing my own thing feels so strange. When did my identity shift so far away from "Christine" and come to rest so firmly on "Mom?" Also, the conference has a listing that shows who is attending, so I was able to scan it and see how many people I might be acquainted with so I'd know how many people I have to avoid. What I lack in small-talk ability I make up for in social awkwardness, so I hate running into people I know.

Sorry son, I think you get your lack of social ability from me.

Still, I've heard the conference is really good and the breakout sessions I'm going to are all part of a special track just for parents. I'm hoping for a lot of good information because every year I feel like I need more good information. Just like I need a night of watching what I want on TV and not having people interrupt me every ten minutes in a hotel the night before the conference.

This might be a good opportunity on a number of levels.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Just typical

A friend of mine noted this weekend that when she needs to talk to someone she always gives them something to do with their hands, like playing a card game. It allows them to fill in the pauses in conversation, and keeping their eyes on something else helps them open up and drop thoughts and feeling they wouldn't ordinarily let go. Maybe that's why she's always inviting me over to knit. And maybe that's why, while I was struggling with my new sock project complete with fine-gauge yarn and double-pointed needles, I let go more than I had intended to about my frustrations with P's struggles with math and my own feelings of inadequacy as his mom.

At one point I said, getting worked up, "The thing is, this will never be fixed. Never. There have been so many times where I thought it was done, that everything was just going to be great, but it never will be. There will always be another challenge or another thing going wrong, every single year. I've been hanging onto the hope that someday he'd be typical, but he never will be."

She rolled her eyes and waved her hand. "What's so great about typical? Who wants their kid to be typical?" she asked.

"I DO," I said. "There are some SOLID BENEFITS to being average."

"Well, yeah," she demurred. But we both knew what she was thinking...he'd never get there, so why dwell on it.

I spent Monday feeling sick to my stomach, and between projects at work I looked at adaptive math programs for kids with dysgraphia. There's just so little out there. He's failing and there's not a thing I can do about it. And let's not get started on his social skills or emotions...I feel like he has so many challenges that it's imperative to build on his strengths.

I'm so tired of fighting. I'm so tired of feeling like every new year is a new discovery about what he can't do. I just want him to have good grades and friends and a place where he fits in.

Typical would not be so bad.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Moving forward

On Monday P had his first appointment with a psychologist for counseling. I was dreading it - I felt like I was receiving a prognosis more than a diagnosis. Was this the start of a new label, and a new journey with years of counseling, medication, and hospitalization, like my sister? Or would it head off half a lifetime of self-doubt and worry, like I experienced before I went into therapy?

Actually, as it turns out, neither was true. After the psychologist talked to P she turned to me and said, "Well, if you choose to go ahead, I think we could do this in six, maybe seven sessions." I'm pretty sure my jaw dropped and while I wish I had said something along the lines of, "Well, I appreciate your ambitious timeline and would love to see the change you can make for my son," I'm pretty sure I just blurted out, "Sounds awesome."

I did manage to keep, "You're either very, very good or very, very optimistic" in my head, so points to me for that.

With the spacing of sessions "six or seven sessions" will actually take about five months. P would be wrapping up his therapy right around the time his class takes their huge multi-day field trip, which would be about perfect.

So, we'll go forward with the plan. P had a meltdown at school yesterday and I wished fervently that his next appointment was next week and not two weeks from now, but I'll take what I can get. As much as I love the professionals that I've come to see as P's "team" - his pediatrician, the OTs who work with him in the hospital and at school, teachers he's particularly loved - and would be happy to add another caring adult to his roster, I just want this done with. I want him to be better.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

October 16th

The clock is ticking down to a date I've had on my calendar for two months...a date that I've been both dreading and impatiently looking forward to. October 16th will be P's first appointment with a psychologist.

I have not been batting a thousand in life in general lately. My house is a mess. I'm supposed to make some decisions about changing up my living room, but I'm just as mired down as ever. I had parent teacher conferences this week and I think I'm on rocky terms with one of my kids' teachers. Work...let's not even talk about that. And, of course, on the family front, nothing screams "awesome parenting" like your child needing to see a therapist before puberty.

I've been on the other side of this equation so many times, I know what I would say. "There's nothing about your child having an emotional disorder/autism/intellectual delay/whatever that makes you a bad mom. In fact, what makes you a good mom is the fact that you're getting help for him." But knowing that feels like a token comment thrown into a brass urn, and as it clangs around the echoes it creates just serve to illustrate how vast and empty the void is.

I hate this. And yet, I want this. I want help. I can't control his emotional outbursts, I can't fix his social skills, I can't tell the difference between normal sadness and something more pathological - something more like what his aunt endured. He needs this, and I'm desperately looking forward to the help...and dreading it all the while.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

A change in mindset

Last night I went out for coffee with a friend of mine. She is super bright and has a son who is super bright and even though when we get our families together her kid is doing things like saying hello in seven languages while I'm struggling to make sure all of mine are wearing shoes and not screaming, I still like her.

That night, though, we weren't with our families. We were alone in the crowd at Starbucks, talking about our husbands and our kids and sewing and knitting and our jobs and whatever else. After a couple of hours there was a brief lull in our conversation and I took a deep breath and asked something I had been meaning to ask.

"Do you remember a couple of summers ago when we took that training together?" I asked. "And we read that book and learned all about these unusual traits gifted kids have?" She nodded and I asked, "Do you think those traits...persist into adulthood?" 

She nodded rapidly and emphatically and launched into an explanation of quirky, gifted kids she'd taught and how she saw some those same personality quirks in their parents, and I relaxed, relieved that she assumed that I was asking a general question, or perhaps a question about my kids. 

But she's super smart, and said, "There are traits in your kids that come from you. You all want certain things. And not material things...you want things to be a certain way, or be seen a certain way. E's hunger for social justice comes from you. Or the way P values certain things and understands that they hold a different place in the big picture than most people think they do. You're like that. Your gifts were passed on to them because you are gifted too."

"Ah, it's been so weird," I said, running a hand through my hair. "I mean...I spent so much time thinking that there was something just fundamentally wrong with me because I couldn't fit in. I spent so much time wishing that I could just be like everyone else, and wondering what I was missing that would make me like them. And I spent so much time believing that if I could just stop thinking like this, and feeling like this, and being interested in these things, then I could just be normal. And then my kids come along and I tell them that some of those same traits are okay, and being different is just fine, and it makes me wonder if I was wrong about myself." I caught myself and said, to deflect, "I mean...did you get that way with your son?"

No, it turns out, because she sorted her shit out long before approaching middle age*. But I spent most of my life trying to hide and forget about what I had. I guess the better approach would have been to figure out who are the best people to see and appreciate it. 




* That's 40, right?