Posts tagged ‘child’

Mother’s Day and Delayed Rewards

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Mother’s Day is a wonderful time to appreciate moms, step-moms, birth moms, adoptive moms, wanna be moms and women who love children. Bless you for making a difference in a child’s life! Don’t you get joy from seeing the joy in a laughing child, the shy smile of a child with twinkling eyes, and the serene look on their faces when they are sleeping?  Ahhhhhh……..what sweet little rewards of being with a child…

Most of us know, however, that it is VERY difficult to be a mom and sometimes the REAL rewards are far apart….

When my son Steven was in nursery school, it was a real challenge because of his autistic and ADHD problems. He had been born addicted to cocaine and heroine and his nervous system was “messed up” (my professional diagnosis.) Bringing him was a real challenge as he would kick and scream and cry, yet I did it because he could not hide out safely at home for his entire life with me vacuuming around him. At first, he would  spend most of the time in school hiding out in the “quiet tent”, playing with his plastic reptiles, sometimes soaking in the information from the teacher. Eventually, he sauntered out of his safe space to see what was going on.  He did not join the other children, but he was with them…a huge improvement.  Eventually, nursery school became normalized for him; part of his routine.  He would come home with his little projects; a paper flower, a painted snake, a play dough alligator.  I had learned not to make a “fuss” over these things, but to quietly tell him they were wonderful while his head dropped to his chest, eyes closed.  (He was not a child who could tolerate excitement of any kind.)  He survived two years in that classroom, and I wondered how he would act on “graduation day”, a celebration seemingly out of his tolerance level.  All of the children stood there in their little paper graduation caps, tassels dangling in front of their noses so they had to keep blowing them away.  All of the children except Steven.  The children sang a song, and thanked their moms and generally wowed the crowd with their antics.  All of the children except Steven.  The children walked in a nice, straight line to get their nursery school diplomas; all except Steven.  When all but one diploma had been handed out, the teacher walked over to where Steven was hiding under a chair, butt facing outwards. (If I had been smart, I would have sewed a smiley face on the butt of his pants, but, alas, I had been unrealistically hoping that he would join the other children in the graduation ceremony.)  The teacher bent down with the document and Steven’s  little hand reached out to grab it.  He quickly pulled the diploma out of sight.  Calm and cool under the seat, he had made it! Steven had graduated from nursery school without a tantrum, yelling or screaming.  He graduated in the manner he felt most comfortable, but graduate he did!  What a reward that was for me; I was a proud mother, indeed!

Diagnosed in elementary school with Dissociative Identity Disorder, Angel, has been very carefully placed in specialized classrooms.  Although intelligent and able to do grade level work, he frequently changes “parts”, (his word for his alternate personalities.)  His teachers and teacher aids, bless their souls, understand him well, and manage to educate him, even if it means repeating the same lesson because a different “part” was out that day, or giving his the test over because the “part” that studied for the test is not the “part” that took the test!  He has a baby part which necessitates him to just “veg out” in a large mushroom chair.  On those days, nothing was learned.  His condition has been kept top secret and no unnecessary teachers or others in the school know about it. Fortunately, he has been living a very “normal” life.  I have found one surprising benefit…he has a “Game Show Host” part.  I work with a recreational group of adults with disabilities, and every now and then we play Bingo or Family Feud. Angel, as have all of my children, regularly comes with me.  One day, he asked to be the moderator for Family Feud and his “performance” was beyond hilarious.  Usually a reserved child with groups, all of a sudden he channeled Richard Dawson! He went down the rows of “contestants”, gave each of them a peck on the cheek, and, while holding their hands in his, asked their names and a little about themselves.  The older women, who probably have not had much attention in their lives, giggled and smiled and blushed.  Then, Angel read each question with gusto, and made a “ding” noise when they got it right, and a loud buzzer noise if they got it wrong.  It was sooooooooooo funny because it was so out of character of the Angel that they knew.  This group of adult with disabilities, many of whom live alone on a minimum income with this once a week outing their only time out of their houses, were laughing hysterically that evening. Ever since then, they look forward to Family Feud and “Gameshow Host” Angel! What a reward for me to see Angel’s  give such joy to these wonderful people!

As a graduation present, my daughter, Dinora, and I took a trip back to her birth country in Guatemala.  She had done fundraising to assist with the opening of a soup kitchen in Antigua, and we were there for “opening day”.  We went shopping that morning, taking a little “putt putt” (2 wheeled open air taxi) into the village, giggling all the way as it bounced along. We bought flowers of all bright shapes and sizes, which stuck out of the putt putt on the way back, narrowly bopping passers by on the head. We spread the flowers out in front of  the  alter where a mass was to be said in honor of the opening of the facility. An overflowing crowd of people filled the make-shift pews, and it was a beautiful, emotional mass. Even though it was all in Spanish I seemed to understand every word, and I could certainly feel the emotion in the songs which the Indigenous Guatemalans sang.  After mass, people lined up for the food in their brightly colored clothing. There was my daughter, a young adult, behind the counter, dark hair pulled back into a pony tail, serving food with a beaming smile on her face showing dimples I never knew she had, (or perhaps she had never smiled so brightly.)  She was old enough and cared enough to give back something and help “her people” as she called them. I will never forget the sight of her…sweat on her brow, wiping her hands on her apron, making pleasant conversation in Spanish while smiling that amazing smile…   How could that sight NOT be a reward for a mom after years of raising a difficult teen?

Raising Marie has been the most difficult because of her many serious challenges.  When she came to us, she was street smart at the age of seven.(See post “All She did Was Scream and Say No! No! No!) She had no thought of danger and no social skills.  Although this may sound silly, one of my concerns was the fact that she would litter.  Get a drink; throw the bottle on the ground.  Have a piece of gum; throw the wrapper on the ground. Popsicle; stick thrown in the grass.    Repeatedly, I would have her pick it up and throw it away, explaining that we don’t litter in our family.  Marie could not have cared less…she did not want to be in our family anyway…  It took many months with us before she learned not to litter.  That’s why it shocked me when we were at the mall one day and she casually flicked the paper from her straw onto the ground.  My eyes widened, and just as I was about to ask her to pick it up, she bent down and picked it up, signing to me “I was just teasing you!  I know we don’t litter in this family!”  What a reward it was to hear her say that!  Finally, she felt part of our family!

My most favorite reward I saved for last.  For all of you parents, especially parents with children with disabilities, I will share that there has been no greater reward in my life than seeing my son, Francis, become a successful adult. Despite being legally blind, he has a college degree, is very successful in a job which he loves and through which he is benefitting others, and he recently married a great woman who not only loves him for the wonderful person that he is, but can also drive a car so he won’t have to take public transit to work any more!  There IS no greater reward for a parent; to know that the problems, fun, hard work, love, difficulties and dispersed joys of childhood have come together in a positive way. My son has officially “made it” to adulthood.  Now he can look forward to the rewards he will experience in raising his own children. Then I get the extra rewards of grandchildren!

To all of you mothers and others out there, Happy Mother’s Day!  Beyond the handmade cards, the flowers, the breakfasts and dinners out, and the gifts of the day, so many more rewards await you.  Sometimes you just have to be patient…

Aside

I Saw the BEST MOVIE EVER with my Daughter…and It had Nothing to do with the Title of the Movie!!!

Yesterday my daughter, Marie, and I went to the movies.  The name of the movie isn’t important, (except to say it was  a Pixar film.)  The reason it was so great was because, for the first time since we adopted her nine years ago, I finally got to sit and relax and enjoy the movies!

Marie is profoundly deaf and communicates in American Sign Language.  The movies we tend to see are movies such as Shrek, Finding Nemo, Ice Age, Madagascar and so forth. The negative thing about these wonderful movies is that there is no way Marie can lip read what the characters are saying.  “I love you so much” can look like “Go jump in a dump.”  In order for her to enjoy the movies, we have long sat in the last row, underneath the single emergency light in the far left corner, and I have “signed” what the characters are saying.  Although my signing isn’t fluent, she laughs in all of the appropriate places, so I am happy.  (A happy child makes for a happy parent.)  The bad part of all of this is that I don’t get to really enjoy the movie.  I am so busy signing that I don’t get to see what is happening on screen. PLUS, (major disappointment…sob…sob….) I don’t ever get a break to eat any of the popcorn Marie happily munches away on.

Then came rear window captioning.  It sounds like a great idea. It is basically a screen of plexiglass that sits in the cup holder and it has to be positioned JUST RIGHT in order to reflect back the words that are coming off the projector at the far end of the auditorium.  The problem with Marie is that she also has ADHD.  She fiddles with it and fiddles with it until it is covered in popcorn butter and it is impossible to read the words. Plus, it must be damn annoying to the movie patrons sitting anywhere near us.

Well, yesterday the heavens opened up and dropped down a device only God could have made to relieve me of my signing duties…a small device that also sits in the cup holder but has closed captions.  Marie positioned it perfectly to fit her view of the screen the same as she watches closed captioning on television.  To her it was no miracle.  She’s used to closed captioning, and it probably didn’t mean all that much, because she gets to enjoy the movie either way.  But for me, it WAS a miracle. For the first time in NINE YEARS I finally got to enjoy that delicious (?) movie popcorn and I could watch the movie and actually enjoy it.  It was the BEST MOVIE EVER!!!!!

 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t remember to mention my e-book available on I-Books, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, etc.  The Apple Tree:  Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane.

Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities: THE BOOK!!!!!

The six-week-old infant boy, with gorgeous blue sparkling eyes and blonde hair does not make eye contact with his mother who is trying to nurse him because he cannot see. The five-month-old infant girl from Guatemala with happy brown eyes smiles easily, but cannot hear the voice of her mother. The six-year-old boy with dark skin and gorgeous black curls hides behind a large, fake plant rather than join his family at the table for Christmas dinner. The Hispanic boy’s joyful smile at his mother turns to a smoldering stare, holding the darkness within him. The seven-year-old girl with beautiful blue eyes and blonde hair, does not love her mother, and tells her so every chance she gets. She tells her in American Sign Language.
Are these snapshots of five troubled families?
No, these are the children of my family. My name is Linda Petersen. My husband RAYMOND and I have five children with five different disabilities. Our first son Francis was born blind and we later found that I carried the same gene that had left my brother blind, deaf and multiply disabled. So we adopted our second child, Dinora. Declared healthy, she turned out to be malnourished and deaf and suffering from attention deficit, post traumatic stress and anxiety disorders.
Still we coped. I worked part time and drove my pair to numerous medical and school appointments, while Raymond pitched in admirably on housework and cooking.
But when Francis and Dinora became teenagers and my schedule eased, I ached to do more. Raising children was great fun and I had the time, emotions and ability to give. Raymond adored children, so our only dilemma was how to add to our family.
Since we lacked the money to adopt again, we became foster parents and requested only infants. Caring for and watching babies grow and develop has been an awesome and humbling experience. Although most were returned to their parents or adopted by relatives, we wound up adopting three of these children ourselves.
Each, it turned out, had serious disabilities as well. As they grew, horror stories emerged from their family backgrounds: beatings, sexual abuse, severe neglect, cocaine addiction, and neurological damage.
Our family is a walking dictionary of medical conditions and psychological syndromes, some so severe that you would never expect that child to live a normal life. Yet our children have survived and thrived.
I hope to share with others the approach that has worked for us. Acceptance and humor ease life’s burdens. Patience and understanding trump even the greatest disability.

After ranting and raving about my lovely life raising 5 kiddos with disabilities, the book has finally been published as an e-book;  “The Apple Tree:  Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane”, on Amazon.com, I-Book, and Barnes and Noble.

The Apple Tree; Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane

Publication Date: May 12, 2012

Please consider purchasing one. It’s only $8.99!!!

I Smell a Skunk

When Francis was three years old, his teacher in pre-school told the story about how her dog had been sprayed by a skunk and they had to give it a bath in tomato juice.  Francis thought this was the worst thing ever because he HATED tomato juice.

With both a severe vision impairment (legally blind) and obsessive compulsive disorder, Francis began to worry about getting sprayed by a skunk.  Obviously, taking a bath in tomato juice would be the most horrible thing ever.  He refused to go outside to play in our backyard because he was so afraid he would step on a skunk which he couldn’t see. We put up a chicken wire fence to keep the skunks out.  (Up until this point, we had never seen a skunk in our yard, but Francis was sure there was a skunk out there just waiting to rush up to him to spray him!)  He was still leery about going out and had a few more questions.

“What happens if the skunk jumps over the fence?” he asked, and we reassured him that skunks don’t jump that high.  (I don’t know if this is a fact, but it served the purpose of reassuring him a skunk would jump.)

“What happens if a skunk digs under the fence” he asked, and again we reassured him that skunks don’t dig under fences. (?)  It would have to be one motivated skunk to go through all of that work just to spray Francis!

His next question sealed his fate.  “What happens if the skunk sprays me THROUGH THE HOLES IN THE FENCE?”  I had no answer except to say that that was absurd, which would not do anything to allay his fears!  I gave up.  He didn’t go outside to play for the rest of the summer!

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