Monday, September 21, 2009

"Happy Birthday To YA"

     Fourteen years ago on September 18th, I delivered my first child.  My son has grown from 5 pounds 13 ounces, 20 inches, into a young man who stands 5 feet and 8 inches and over 180 pounds. When he hugs me he swallows me up, his arms feeling like sandbags. I believe that I am the one person in the world who knows and understands him like no one else. I am his mother, my blood runs through his veins and he will always be a part of me.  I feel every bit of pain and whatever little joys that he feels.  I am in many ways his voice, his advocate, the one who fights the battles that he has not learned how to fight for himself.  I am the one who nurtures him and loves him -even when he isn't very lovable, which is often.
     Of course his father knows, loves and understands him, but fathers are not the same as mothers.  His father has the task of showing him ow to be a man and how to survive in the cold harsh world -a job that I could never do.  However crazy it may be, I feel inclined to try to protect him from the harshness of the world, even if that doesn't make any sense or isn't based in reality.  As we have seen with our older child, you can only raise them up and show them the way.  Once they grow up they have to make their own decisions, even if often they are the wrong ones. He has to make his own way.  We can only pray that some day they will finally stop and read the map that you have spent your life drawing for them.
     On his birthday, in true Asperger's form, Kendal opens his gifts from us and shows very little expression other than perhaps -confusion.  I had wrapped up this software program we bought him, in a new t-shirt and pair of jeans.  It wasn't the exact version that one he actually asked for. He asked for the 'professional' version to the tune of $600, which was so not happening.  We bought the consumer version of the video editing program for less than $100, which is more than what he needs to upload his movies to YouTube.
     He gave us a half-assed smile and thank you, but he had to play it all out in his mind and get the facts before he gave the appropriate thankful response.  He had to investigate to see if the program would actually do -what he wanted it to do.  Once he figured that out, he gave us words of thanks and gratitude -but it was a little to late for his dad.  He saw it as being ungrateful -not as being a socially immature, inappropriate, Asperger's response.  When I remind dad of this, he tells me that I am making excuses for him (like I always do) -setting him up to be just as ungrateful and spoiled as the one that has already left the nest.  The 21 year old who continually makes selfish, stupid decisions, such as throwing away his first year of college and our fourteen thousand dollars of tuition right along with it.
    The way '21' has turned out so far, makes us both question the parenting decisions that we made when raising him.  Should we have bought him that car when he was sixteen? Did we give him too much? Sure -we probably made some mistakes, but I don't think our mistakes are the reason our eldest continues to make dumb choices.  God gave us all free will and his adult life so far is a series of  bad choices that he has made. They have absolutely nothing to do with our parenting.  There is something to be said about nature versus nurture.  We gave him our love, support, a safe home, a good education and opportunities that we never had. It was his choice to squander them.   Unfortunately, there isn't a lot we can do about that. That doesn't stop our hearts from aching or our heads from throbbing every time we find out that he has done something else completely assinine.
     With the two children we have left at home, we have to try to find balance in the way that we raise them.  We have to consciously make them aware of how cruel the world is, and stress to them how hard they will have to work in order to make their lives a success.  We have to meet the challenges that they face head on as African-American boys who have Asperger's Syndrome.  The world will not be kind to them.  But does that mean that we can't be? We have to teach them and process through to show them the appropriate response when someone goes out of their way to do something nice for them.  We also have to understand that they are who they are, although that may not be who we want them to be.  14 is an infuriating age for most teens, even more so for one who is socially clueless.  Both of our boys do however, have special gifts, talents and abilities.  We have to try to hone those gifts and turn them into skills that will create a career whereby they can share those gifts with the rest of the world, while creating, financial and personal independence for themselves.
     We put a lot of energy into raising our children, including the one who has left the nest.  And although he has disappointed us so far, we have to remember that his life is just beginning.  We have to cut the strings and ties and allow him to make his mistakes -pray that he learns from them and that in a few years we will look back on his knucklehead years and laugh.  Right now, we have to laugh to keep ourselves from crying. Or perhaps we should cry in order to cleanse ourselves, release, take a deep breath, let go and let God...  
    As for the 14 year old -we made it through the birthday weekend without taking him to SixFlags which he things is synonymous with his birthday.  He complained and repeatedly asked if we could go, but we didn't.  That was an effort to let him know that we don't "owe" him a trip to SixFlags just because it's his birthday.  In life, we don't always get everything that we want.  We have to be grateful for what we are blessed with. For us parents, that includes being grateful for our ungrateful children.

Friday, September 11, 2009

      Instinctively Cole knew right away that he didn't really like his 2nd block teacher. She put on a big smile for me when we first met and seemed nice enough -not exactly my cup of tea, but I don't expect every teacher to be. The first week he came home every day saying, "I don't know if this is going to work Mom. She's the type that gets on you for every little thing and she doesn't give you any chances." Well, I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt.  I told him that he isn't going to like every teacher.  Next year in middle school he will have six and inevitably, he won't like at least one of them. We are just going to have to work it out.  
     He goes into class one morning and tells some kid, "You should take a stupid shower!" In his mind, it was a joke -something he'd heard on a cartoon. The problem is, he's not really good at jokes.  He has Aspergers, a mild form of high-functioning autism and one of the traits are a flat affect. His facial expression doesn't change much.  He wasn't smiling when he said the "joke" so it didn't come across as such.  Now the kid who he was joking with, is an old friend.  They go way back to preschool, and this kid is a joker! He's so funny in fact that I think he'll be the next Jim Carry.  In this teachers mind -Cole was being mean.  "You should have seen the look on his face. He did not look like he was joking!" Well -he wouldn't.  He doesn't know how to make his facial expressions match his feelings. 
     The next incident: "Accused the teacher of stealing his pencil." She had a pencil that looked just like his. I bought him special silver pencils and they keep getting lost. He saw one on her desk like his so he asked her, "Is that my pencil? or Did you take my pencil?" Now he probably should have put in the words "accidentally", but he really just wanted to know -so he asked.  Another wonderful trait of an Aspie -they are brutally honest.  They say exactly what they mean with out a filter.  They don't have the filter.  It doesn't mean we can't process through this and teach him the proper way to pose the question to a person of authority. I don't think she cared to try. 
      I send an e-mail to his Special Education tracking teacher.  I tell her that this woman needs some "Cole Training".  She doesn't get him. Over the past three weeks she has had countless conversations, has gone into the classroom to process through things and she still just doesn't get it. The last straw was her writing him up for "making faces at the teacher." Well -he won't even look at her directly, so how could he be making faces at her. She took his pencil away because she felt he wasn't listening. He was pissed and his face showed it. He didn't say, "Hey Bitch, give my freakin' pencil back." He clinched his teeth indicating that he was holding back from saying what he was thinking.  
     It all came to a head when I stop to chat with her about what's been going. "Cole is mean. Kids have told me that he's been like that for years. I am not going to allow him to run my classroom." I was like OMG -she has formed an opinion of him from what kids -10 year-olds have said. I was livid! I have never in all of his school years ever heard any teacher refer to him that way.  He has always been everyone's favorite student. They may start out challenged, but they end up coming to love him, because he is so honest and endearing. I told her that whatever she's seeing must be a reaction to her! It has never happened before. She was obviously not willing to accept his disability as such. "We can't make excuses for him because he's autistic." She's one of those teachers who wants to treat everyone the same -even if they are different and not by choice.
   Well that was the end of her. I could see in he eyes and hear in her voice that Cole would never win with her and what's more -neither would I.  She was done for. I took measures and by the end of the school day, administration removed him from her class. No one treats my children that way.
    I don't even think I'm done with her yet.  I will be putting my feelings in writing and forwarding it to the Principle and Vice Principle so that hopefully another child will not have to put up with this in the future.  Maybe her training needs to come in the form of disciplinary action so that she recognizes the disability of child and makes the appropriate accommodations. Sorry dear -you've messed with the wrong kid and the wrong neurotic mom!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Quote of the Day

     After one week of school -we're still in the heat of summer. My 10 year old son comes home with the flu!  I'm like -great! When he woke up yesterday appearing to feel a little better I asked, "How are you feeling this morning?"
   He replied, "I feel like my brain wants to be left alone." He went on to explain that he still feels achy and his eyes hurt.
     His regular doctor is a very tall, handsome, well dressed guy, a fellow democrat I found out when I took my "Dreams of my Father" by Barack Obama into his office one day.  He's an extra 15 minutes away, but I've stuck with him partially because he's a really good, understanding and informative doctor and partially because he's really good to look at. Well he was all booked up, so I took him in to the more local clinic to see another pediatrician who's schedule was wide open. So he runs a lab to find out that he does indeed have strain A of the flu. Then he's like "Well, I could subscribe Tamiflu.  It could cut the illness by 24 or 48 hours, but it may not. A lot of people complain about it bothering their stomach and then they stop taking it.  Also, it's kind of expensive."  I'm like -well could you be anymore on the fence about it? I mean your just so definitive.  I really know what to do based on your recommendation. Geez!  I go on to ask him about the flu shots and the swine flu coming this fall and winter.  He's like, "Yeah you can get the shot.  He may or may not still get the flu. We're not really sure if the vaccine will cover the strain that's coming." I'm like, Wow! If feel so reassured! 
     I left there a little pissed at the whole situation.  I confess -when I got home I called the school nurse and told her that Cole definitely has the flu.  I also told her that in hindsight -I was disturbed the other day when I was sitting in the cafeteria watching the teachers instruct the students to take their dirty trays and pass them down the center of the table. These are trays, that they have all touched with their hands and put their hands in their mouths to eat.! Gross! I don't think that is the best way to pick up the dirty trays.  Someone should be wearing latex gloves as they pick them up,  and then wash their hands afterward! No wonder he has the freakin flu a week after school started!
     I have to admit -this was one of those days when I feel blessed to be at home to take care of my sick child, to take him to the doctor.  On this day, I am happy that I don't have a job to feel guilty about calling in to because I have something more important to do.