Archive for the ‘parenting’ Category

Differences

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Occasionally with my morning tea I play on the website Game Duel. This international site has all of the regular games for free; solitaire, Crazy 8s, Yahtzee and so forth. After waking up, I enjoy playing against other players as a semi-introduction to the social world, (before I actually have to be wide awake and sociable in the real world.) This morning, while playing Crazy 8s, my other two opponents were texting in Russian. Although they were surely texting trivialities such as “good morning”, “here comes a bad card”, and “nah nah nah nah nah nah”, my heart was immediately struck with fear. In this era of terrorism, and growing up in an age when the Russians were our enemy, I was irrationally frightened they were planning an attack on the US or something else negative. Worse yet, that they could tell who I was through my computer.

Prejudicial.

When driving through the Deep South in the early 60s, my father would take Route 302 instead of the highway, (which may or may not have been built at that time.) As a child, I was frightened at the attitude towards African Americans. There were “white” and “colored” signs above the bathroom doors, with a significant disparity between the two. I heard the local folk call the African Americans the “n” word, and talk down to them. Their attitude frightened me, and I could not understand why they would do such a thing.

Prejudicial.

When my brother was born with Rubella Syndrome with a massive cleft palate, developmental delay, hearing impairment and vision impairment, my four-year-old little self loved him to pieces. Not being familiar with all of the intricacies of babies, he looked just fine to me. As we grew, other people’s reactions to him upset me. They often recoiled as though in horror and I would wonder why. Other children called him the “r” word and point and laugh. Through the eyes of my love for him, I didn’t see anything funny about the situation. His mouth may have looked a little funny, but didn’t they see the glorious gleam in his blue eyes?

Prejudicial.

When my great aunts would visit from Michigan, they would sleep in my room on the big double bed and I would sleep in a cot in my parent’s room. They were elderly, but still had a lot of spunk. My mom would take them dancing at the senior center where they would dance with gusto to their favorite line dances. They were very affectionate women with my family and between themselves. I thought nothing of their holding hands while watching tv, but others talked in hushed whispers. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that Aunt Mina and Aunt Betty were gay, and that they had to hide their “gayness” in the confines of our home because others in the community wouldn’t understand, thinking there was something wrong with them.

Prejudicial.

Fast forward to our adoption of Marie at the age of 7, who was deaf and had been severely abused. She was a wild one; untamed, disrespectful, destructive, stealing things at the store, and begging from strangers when given the chance. (I learned to stay by her side and intervene before she even got close to anyone unfamiliar.) She refused to wear girl clothes, insisting on wearing boy’s underwear, pants, shirt, shoes and socks. (This caused a slight problem at McDermott Pool, which had a strict “no shirt” policy 15 years ago. Because she insisted on wearing boy’s swimwear, she obviously needed a shirt!) She would tell everyone, (in sign language,) that she was my son. At her annual check up at the age of 8, she tearfully asked her pediatrician if he could sew a penis on her. As a very sympathetic doctor, he understood that her needs were different than other children’s. He gently took slim her hands into his big ones, and looked into her deep blue eyes, (which darted back and forth between his face and myself, who was interpreting what he said in ASL for Marie.) He said that it was possible to sew a penis on her, but that she had to wait until she was fully grown to make that decision. Relieved that at least it was a possibility in the future, she was consoled. In the meantime, she could continue to be a boy without the extra attachment. Since that time, with intense counseling, she confessed she only wants to be a boy was so that men wouldn’t hurt her. She continues to dress and profess to be male, but is not interested in getting the proper anatomical equipment. Her choice of male attire, now plumply filled out in the bust area, has been cause for concern for many. For her, and many other actual transsexuals, life is met with stares and disapproval.

Prejudicial.

My ever-optimistic brain would like to think that people have such negative reactions for the same reason I was fearful of my Russian opponents this morning; because they don’t know any better. If only everyone would just accept people as they are; to be valued and respected for their uniqueness….

 

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The Ice Prevails

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It snowed another 5 or 6 inches last week, and I dreaded going out to clean off my car. The fact that I waited until the day after to clean it promised that an icy mix would be glued to the car, almost impossible to get off. Leaving the house 10 minutes early, all bundled up in winter coat, boots and gloves and brandishing a broom, I made my way through the glistening snow still piled untouched on the front lawn. Taller than my boots, the snow crept in over the top, slid inside and coated my socks, causing instant panic in my feet. I hate to be cold!!

Daringly approaching the car, I pointed my broom expecting ice and frozen snow to be waiting. With one swish of my oversized weapon, the snow fell to the side like tiny cotton balls, sliding off the car with gleaming ease, taunting me with the juxtaposition. Who ever heard of fluffy, lightweight snow, especially the day after a storm? The car was cleaned in a record 4 minutes, including getting all of the snow off the top of the car. A full 6 minutes ahead of schedule, there was plenty of time to stop at Dunkin Donuts for a tea!

Later in the week, frozenness returned as though we were surely visited by Elsa (from the movie Frozen.) I walked taking tiny steps like a ballerina in training, careful not to hurry and slip. Holding my granddaughter’s hand to cross the street, she looked at the street and exclaimed, “Look, Mimi, the street is a big ice cube!” Although her laughter was catchy, I had to be careful not to let mine cause unbalance. Too late…laughing caused me to change my center of gravity and…boom…I plopped right down in the middle of the street. Not injured, I crawled on my hands and knees towards our front yard while worried Rosy repeatedly asked me if I was okay. Because the rule was she had to hold my hand when crossing the street, and she couldn’t due to my positioning, she dutifully placed a hand on my head, grabbing onto my hair like she was grabbing onto a horse’s mane. I was very glad to reach our front door, for several obvious reasons.

Living on a small pond, we have had a long winter of frozen ice. Hockey skaters regularly played their favorite game, and fisherman somehow enjoyed sitting in the cold catching fish. It seemed like a lot of work just to catch one and throw it back, but I am probably minimizing the joy of it.

One thing I learned in Science was that ice expands as it freezes. (The ice in my ice cube trays always used to overflow, causing more difficulty in finagling them out of the old metal ice cube trays.) The ice in the pond is no different. Very often at night, awakening me from a sound sleep would be a loud, guttural groan coming from the pond, unlike any other earthly noise.   Although intellectually I knew it was from the expanding ice, my rapidly awakened brain would immediately think it came from an underworld, (much like the one depicted in the Netflix show Stranger Things.) I would then stay awake, alert, listening for any additional noises that might be supernatural, until drifting back into a troubled sleep.

Looking out the window today, my granddaughter gasped that the ice in the pond was melting, represented by many areas of open water. Typical toddler, she thought it was hilarious. Myself, I was relieved…relieved that maybe the cold weather was abating and the eerie groans from the ice and the ice cube streets were history for 2018. That is, until I caught a glimpse of the weather forecast. Freezing temperature and more snow was yet to come.

 

 

Come On, Friend!

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One of the joys of being a grandparent is spending fun time with my grandchildren. Sometimes on Saturdays my granddaughter, Rose, and I go to the Play Place at Burger King. She has so much energy that the climbing, jumping, crawling, swinging, hiding and chasing meets her activity level head on. However, the most amazing behavior coming from this innocent little tot is her ability to consider everyone her friend.

Rose, whose speech is delayed, is very large for her age of three, chunky and sturdy, but not overweight. She has a head of wild, curly hair that overwhelms her face. When other children talk to her, she cannot answer questions about her name, how old she is, or other ordinary questions children ask. Instead, she will gleefully look them in the eye, motion to them, and say, “Come on, friend,” as they inevitably run off to play together.

Rose adjusts her behavior to the age and temperament of her friends. Older boys, who would not generally want to play with a toddler, will play “tag” with her, thinking they can outrun her. Giggling, she runs beyond their speed limits with her long legs, chasing them into a corner where she tags them, and she steps back so they can run off and the game can begin again.

If Rose is playing with someone smaller than herself, her whole demeanor changes. She smiles and gently motions them along, skillfully helping them up to the next level, patting them soothingly on the back, and encouraging them with “Come on, friend.”

Rose has the most fun playing with someone her own size. They generally take turns playing “follow the leader”. Laughter streams from the Play Place as everyone is having fun.

Rose does not discriminate between friends, and merrily plays with anyone. One day a boy with obvious ADHD was running, skipping and jumping in a disorganized manner throughout the play area. Rose joined him, step by step, copying the same things he did, laughing uproariously.

Another day, an older girl who was non-verbal with an obvious developmental delay, became her friend. Rose joined her, playing on the outskirts. She copied her; jumping and twirling like her new friend. Every now and then, this girl would make a pleasant noise and Rose would repeat it in a singsong manner, taking her friend’s hand and saying, “Come on, friend,” as they did their dance.

Anytime one of her playmates leaves, Rose runs over to wave and say “Bye, friend,” then looks around for another friend to call her own. If no other children are in the Play Place, she will come and sit with me to have a drink of water and relax a little bit. Sometimes she will stand up and look into the Burger King dining room to see if any potential friends are eating their lunch. “Friends?” she says quizzically, putting both hands up in asking the question. As soon as another child enters the play area, Rose jumps up, runs to them, pats the child on the back saying, “Hi, friend!” as they go off to play.

This past Saturday, I heard screaming coming from the upper level of the play area. Not screaming as though she were hurt, but screeching that affected everyone’s eardrums. The boy with her was screaming also, in unison. Standing on my tiptoes, I saw the boy hit Rose, and Rose hit him back. This screaming and hitting went back and forth a few times before Rose heard me calling her to come down. Generally obedient, Rose was soon by my side where I reminded her that she should not hit or scream. She looked at me with her innocent, big brown eyes, pointed up and said “Friend?” who had continued screaming while his dad sat nearby and played on his cell phone. Reinforcing my rule for Rose that SHE could NOT scream or hit or we would leave, she wasted no time in darting her eyes around the room to find another friend, and soon ran off to play with someone else.

I learned two very important life lessons from Rose that day. She could learn proper behavior, and choose not to engage in misbehavior, even if it was hilarious fun for her at the time. More importantly, she was accepting of all children, and modified her behavior to deal with their differences. What a wonderful society we would have if we all could accommodate those different than ourselves; not just “accepting” them, but actively interacting with them and providing a positive relationship.

Come on, friends, we wait to greet you!

Time Flies in New Hampshire

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We went to New Hampshire a lot when the children were younger, staying in a tent and sitting around a blazing fire, roasting marshmallows and laughing. I loved poking at the fire, which I favored when traveling with my family. Finding a big “poking stick” was mandatory, a green one so the wood wouldn’t burn too fast.

Francis and Dinora were fine with a tent, but when Steven and another foster baby or two joined our family, we had to move up to renting a small “cabin in the woods”. We had tried tent camping with Steven, who displayed symptoms of ADHD from the moment he started to walk. A campsite was too inviting for him, and we spent the entire time chasing him from among and in the trees. Either that, or he would sit motionless, fascinated at wildlife, watching an ant hill for hours on end.

Our conquests of nature were invigorating. To see Ellis Falls, we had a spirited hike down into the woods to view the magnificent wall of falling water, sunlight brightly sprinkling off the cascade. Hiking back up was just enough to make us “feel the burn”. Even though it was a short distance, to us it simulated a hike up a long mountain, including the sense of euphoria when we reached the apex, (the parking lot with our car.)

The children liked Lower Falls best, an area where the water gushed over large rocks, smooth from the years of abrasion. It was fun to crawl among the rocks, often falling into the river, a cold and a welcome respite from the warm sun. When the children aged, they dared fate by sliding down the natural water slide into a small pool of water at the bottom. Hubby and I would bring a cooler of lunch and sit in webbed lawn chairs on the side, closely watching the antics of the children. Steven especially loved this area, as there were many potential wildlife attractions to keep his attention. One year, we hit it right at pollywog season, and Steven and his net were kept busy all day catching the amazing little squiggles of black, (which were, of course, set free before we left.)

We would often take the children out into the lake in our small motorboat. They would go tubing off the end, as Hubby would drive the boat back and forth forcing the tube to repeatedly cross over the wake. They would fish; catching huge, squirmy, samples of fish, which would be released back into the water. It was so funny if they caught a similar fish, thinking it was the same one, as though the bounty of fish in the water sat by just so that the worm could trick that same fish again. There was a small island where our boat would stop and tie up, allowing the children to enjoy a huge rope swing which would send them flying into the water. Joyous fun would be had by all.

The years have gone by and last weekend Marie came along to NH. Did she want to go out on the boat, go fishing, catch frogs from the nearby pond, or swim in the lake? No. Her choice, as was ours, was to lounge around and watch old DVDs. She and hubby especially like The Three Stooges as their brand of slapstick humor requires no ASL interpretation. I never heard so much laughter as last weekend, including a chuckle or two from myself. Then, having withdrawal from Wi Fi and “talking” to her friends, we drove Marie to Starbucks where she could order a smoothie and use the free Wi Fi while sitting in a comfy chair. As we drove away and left her there to go grocery shopping, I had a strong urge to join her instead of schlepping things around the grocery store. Keeping Hubby in mind, however, I was reluctant to say anything, knowing that he would be hurt if I chose Wi Fi over spending time picking out the gourmet ingredients he would use to prepare meals.

We were too lazy to start a fire at night, using the excuse that the mosquitoes would be awful and who wanted to put on the foul smelling spray to keep them away? Instead, we watched more Three Stooges and ate s’mores made in the microwave. Ah…New Hampshire never fails to entertain us. What a great family weekend!

 

Inconsiderate Moi

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Sometimes people are not thoughtful!  I am embarrassed to say that this category fits me.  Just in the past week, several mishaps have occurred which have demonstrated that my mind is just not aware of my surroundings all the time. Thoughts of life, work, and children, or just daydreams about what else I would love to be doing, (lounging on a beach in Florida, or getting a massage), have interfered with my ability to do 2 things at once.  That is, think while paying full attention to what is going on around me.

One day last week I joyfully went into the bakery to purchase Marie’s graduation cake.  Being thrilled with the way it came out, I felt lighter than air and, with a whiff of happiness, I opened the door to the bakery and let it close behind me, smacking an elderly woman with a huge tray of cookies, almost knocking her and the cookies over. Of course, I apologized immediately, but with the cake in my hand, I couldn’t offer much besides “I’m so sorry.”

Another morning, driving near the junior high school, my line of traffic was stopped so students could cross the street in the crosswalk. There were many students, and I was anxious that I would be late for work. With that single thought rattling in my brain, as soon as the students were safely across the street, my car lunged forward.  As I drove by, the crossing guard, who had not yet fully returned to the sidewalk on the other side or officially let traffic “go”, looked at me with anger and hatred.  Little ole me!  Hated by a crossing guard.  I’m so sorry, it was a mistake!

Then there was the time at the mall that Marie and I had to stop in our tracks so I could focus on what she was signing. There is the joke about a person who can’t walk and talk at the same time. For me it is I can’t walk and “listen”, (i.e. pay attention to interpret her signing) at the same time. This caused much annoyance from those behind us who were walking at the same rate of speed as we were with the purpose of getting somewhere. When we stopped suddenly, the pedestrian flow of traffic stopped, resulting in people bumping into each other, surely NOT a pleasant experience for them. Sorry gals and fellas, didn’t mean to do it. I tried to get Marie to wait to talk until we were somewhere less crowded, but she is a teenager and she has ADHD, so there wasn’t much hope for that.

The worst thing I did was on that rainy day last week when my car was whizzing (speed limit wise) down Warwick Avenue. Being careful to stay in my lane, my front tire hit a puddle and a deluge of water sprung into the air…and landed on a person who was standing at a bus stop, drenching them from head to toe. I was mortified, and too shocked to know what I should have done.  If that person is reading this, I am SOOOOOO sorry!

The only safe solution is for me to stop thinking unless I am safely seated and nothing is expected of me.  At all other times, my eyes will be on the environment, scanning for possible areas of disaster I could cause.

 

His or Her Graduation

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My youngest child, Marie, will be graduating from high school at the American School for the Deaf in Hartford this week. When she came to live with us at the age of 7, her wild child behavior was so bad I never thought either of us would live to see this day. But here it is! She surprised me, this child of mine who prefers to look and dress like a boy, for which with her abuse history, her justification has always been “if you look like a girl, someone will hurt you.” She has chosen to wear a dress for graduation, the very same dress she wore uncomfortably as a junior bridesmaid at her sister’s wedding. Even though that was several years ago, she is determined to squeeze every ounce of flesh into the dress. It is fortunate she will also be wearing a graduation gown or I am sure something would get flashed somewhere!

Although she insisted on wearing her work boots with the dress, I convinced her to wear something “less hot because the day will be warm out.” She agreed to a slide on sandal, and I have chosen a pair that could be used by any sex, (once you take the bows off.)

But my choice of shoe for her makes me wonder if I have not totally accepted her for the person she feels to be. I know many parents would have great difficulty understanding if their son or daughter were gay or transgendered. Marie insisted for many years that she was a boy “inside” and even begged her pediatrician to sew a penis on her. He was very sweet with her, and suggested she wait until she was a teenager before discussing that issue again. After much counseling, it was determined she felt that way only out of desire to be safe, to no longer be abused as she had when she was a young child. Being a boy is still a façade she wishes to project, but not one she innately embraces.

Which brings us to the most recent lifelong dilemma; whether she was going to love boys or girls, a discussion SHE initiated one day. She went back and forth on the pros and cons of both. Bravely, taking a deep breath, I mentioned it would be best to love the person she would feel most comfortable having sex with. Her eyes widened. “SEX?” she asked incredibly, with great disgust. “I never want to have sex with ANYONE!” Too funny! I really jumped the gun!

Despite my desire to buy her flip-flops with bows on them, I really WOULD have accepted her decision to wear work boots, or even to have her doctor sew a penis on her if she was truly transgendered. I have survived my life by learning not to get upset over such matters; it wouldn’t change anything and would only draw us apart, possibly ruining our relationship for years to come. I love my daughter too much and will support whatever adult decision she makes. When she is older and still finding her way in the world, she won’t remember the shoes she wore at graduation. But she will remember my unconditional love and support. What more could a parent ask for?

 

Best…day…EVER

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I was fortunate to be chosen to do a presentation at the National Foster Parents Conference in Orlando last week. Sponsored by my employer, two hours were spent educating professionals on the importance of recognizing and treating mental health issues in children as early as possible, including facilitating school support services such as Individual Education Plans. In an attempt to try to prevent additional mental health issues for undiagnosed teens, (such as depression, anxiety, suicide ideation, and eating disorders,) support and services for mental health issues need to start as early in childhood as possible.

In order to be able to socialize with other foster teens, I brought my daughter, Marie, with me, as it also coincided with her birthday. My presentation was well received, and Marie’s time went swimmingly; the teens congregated in the pool for volleyball, basketball and movie night. (They would have also played Marco Polo, but deferred to Marie’s deafness.)

The day after the conference was Marie’s birthday so she got to choose which Theme Park she wanted to go to, The Magic Kingdom. The last time I had been there was 20 years ago when we had a tragic visit with Steven for whom the park was a sensory nightmare. Since that time, and with 5 children, we had never been able to afford a trip back and the conference offered us the perfect opportunity.

Despite the fact it was Memorial Day weekend, one of the busiest days, and a bright and sunny 98 degrees, we had an amazingly awesome day. Marie was like a young child, soooooo excited about the sights. With a broad smile on her face all day, and lots of laughing and pointing at things she found especially funny, we had the BEST DAY EVER! With the use of the Fast Pass, (free) we were able to book the attractions so we generally only had a 5 to 10 minute wait. (It was astonishing to see how many people were willing to wait in the “stand by” line of 2 hours.)

Marie took pictures of EVERYTHING, including each and every country represented in “It’s a Small World”. (Being deaf, she wasn’t affected by the constant repetition of this song, which is cute for a few verses, but by the end of the ride can be almost unbearable.)

It was our lucky day because an ASL interpreter was provided for those attractions where listening was important; Country Bear Jamboree, Jungle Cruise, Monster’s Inc Comedy Show and so forth, making the attractions much more “attractive” to Marie.

In addition to the rides, Marie was super excited to see the Disney characters all over the park; Mickey and Minnie, Goofy, Cinderella and so forth. (She has pictures of each and every one of them.) She wanted to get pictures of the characters from The Incredibles, but they were leading dances in a dance area and people walking into the crowd to take pictures were not allowed. I told her she had to dance her way in, which she scoffed at. However, with the beats of the song flashed in bright lights all around, and desperate to take their pictures, her body started moving to the tune and she danced her way toward them. She soon was able to snap many “incredible” pictures of the characters as they interacted with her. She was so happy that when the dance ended, her body kept dancing, and danced all the way down Main Street.

Nothing was more amazing to her than the nighttime electric parade. It was comical to see her reaction to the brightly lit floats boarded by all of the Disney characters. As the characters waved into the crowd, Marie enthusiastically waved back, as though they were waving directly at her. “Wow! Look at THAT!” she kept signing to me, giggling.

Fireworks topped off the evening. Although Marie has seen fireworks before, none were as spectacular as when seen over the spires of Cinderella’s castle. Splashes and configurations of color decorated the sky. Even Marie went “ooooh! ahhhhh!” along with the crowd, and clapped heartily when they were finished.

On the ride back to the hotel, Marie gave me the biggest hug and kiss. “I am so lucky to have you for my mom. That was the best day of my life. Thank you for adopting me!” she signed. Yes, definitely the best day EVER!

 

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