Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Take back what you said in my imaginary conversation!

Do you ever do that thing where you argue with people in your head, and then turn all sorts of hostility on the actual person when you see them, all the pent-up anger from that argument, and of course they have no idea why you're so steamed since they were not, technically, there inside your head? Bad habit, that, and one I have a hard time breaking.

It's easy to have that sort of inner wrestling match with someone on an internet e-mail list, because if you blow off steam at them inappropriately you never have to see them again. But I'm doing it lately with a couple of real-world combatants, particularly one woman who works with my son and has been pushing my buttons lately, and I'm starting to lose track of whether the hostility I'm feeling is based on actual behavior or virtual behavior. I think it's kind of a vicious circle: She seems a little snippy to me, and so I fight with her in my head, and then when I see her, I'm a little hostile, which makes her a little snippier.

It's bad for my son all around, and I should probably find an appropriate way to iron things out with this person so I can stop being vaguely mad, but then I might find out for sure that she dislikes me as much as I imagine, and hmmm, maybe I can do without that.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Don't do me any favors

Is there such a thing as party favor etiquette?

My son had a perfectly nice birthday party yesterday, everybody seemed to have a good time, there were no behavior problems from either the birthday boy or his friends, and I should be feeling all successful about the whole thing. But something keeps rankling me: When we handed out the party favors -- a little plastic car filled with candy, because my son loves cars, tied to a "road" of a flat pack of gum -- one of the moms came back to me, said her daughter didn't play with cars or eat candy, and since my son likes cars I should just give it to him.

And ... well ... okay. I know I'm taking this too seriously, and why should I care. It's not like I went to huge effort and expense on these favors, or that the mom did what she did in a particularly rude way. It's just ... you don't do that, do you? Give back a party favor? Maybe you take it home and throw it in the trash, or maybe you "accidentally" leave it behind at the party site, but to go up to the party-giver and specifically reject it? Am I oversensitive (YES!), or is that bad form? Hmph.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

New-style birthday

It's my son's birthday today! Happy birthday, guy! You're a teenager now! And your mom won't be sleeping well for the next ten years or so. But today, we celebrate. Then we celebrate again on Sunday, when he has his birthday party with friends -- a dozen kids from his special education class descending on a bowling alley. Fun times, for them. For me, it's making sure that boys do not go into the men's room together, because they'll certainly do what my son is constantly crowing about as "the new-style flush," which involves hitting the handle with your foot. This is, of course, ever so much more fun when you have an audience and can show off your extreme prowess at kicking plumbing. Are teenagers supposed to find such things so overwhelmingly hilarious? He's thirteen in years, but still a kid at heart.

Monday, March 20, 2006

If you have a lot of it, it must be a collection, right?

My son has been loving keys since he was a teeny tiny little guy and still loves them now when he's a big heavy almost-teenager (tomorrow, yikes). You could call it a collection or you could call it a mess on the floor of his room, and I've done both. But for the purposes of the Collectibles site, which just ran a nice little article about my guy and his keys, we're calling it a collection. Does your child have a collection, or a mess of something that you could call that on a good day when you were trying to put the happiest possible face on things? Take this survey and let me know whether I'm the only one readying a pile of junk for the Smithsonian.

Friday, March 17, 2006

C is for cookie, that's good enough for me

I seem to be on a cookie kick with my kids these days. I got a nifty standing mixer for my birthday last June, and it's been sitting there on the counter looking all cute and underutilized, so all of a sudden I'm making cookies every weekend, and eating cookies every week, and wearing cookie-fat now and forever. It would be great if this was some sort of bonding exercise in which I helped my kids learn to bake, but I'm way too much of a control freak in the kitchen. What they mostly are learning is how to get things out of the closet for me. But the cookies are yummy. Mmmmmm, cookies.

This weekend, we're doing oatmeal raisin. Not the nut-free, egg-free, dairy-free, wheat-free recipe that was on my site this week, but if your kids need any of those -trees, you might give it a try. We'll be making the one printed under the lid of the Quaker Oats box, with vegetable oil subbing for shortening since I'm transfat-free. Let me know how yours turn out.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

What's scarier, the movie or who's watching it?

What's with young kids going to scary movies and playing scary video games? Lately I've had a few young classmates of my kids talk about their favorite R-rated movies like watching this stuff was the most normal thing in the world for a 12- or 13-year-old. When I say something unbearably fuddy-duddyish like, "Isn't that rated R? You shouldn't be watching that!" they seem genuinely bewildered. I can't quite decide if their parents don't know what they're watching or don't care, but man -- kids that young just do not need that stuff in their brains.

I was explaining this to a sixth-grader at my kids' school, a big fan of the movie "Training Day," who was appalled that I not only did not let my son play violent video games like "Grand Theft Auto," but that when a friend had brought it over, I made them stop playing and remove the offending game from the machine. "Wasn't your son embarrassed? Couldn't you have just waited until the kid went home?" No. And no. One viewing of that stuff is too much. And a boy like my son, who regularly sucks his fingers, jumps, and flaps, is probably beyond embarrassment. But it's true, too, that his friends know me, and know what Mama don't allow. Am I the last nay-saying mom around?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The miracle would be me staying awake

I tried to watch ABC's new reality show Miracle Workers last night, since it featured two stories that were right up my Parenting Special Needs alley: a child with scoliosis and a teen with Tourette syndrome. The show features two "host" teams, each with a doctor and a nurse, who find specialists to make miracles come true for people who need dramatic treatments. I made it about halfway through, to the point when the girl with Tourette's had had a hole drilled through her brain and some sort of probe inserted, and the boy had weathered an operating-room crisis that started with, "Oops! He's paralyzed for life!" and ended with, "No, wait, never mind." I really wanted to see what happened -- wanted to see footage of the boy walking straight and tall instead of leaning leftward, and the girl speaking freely without constantly hitting herself in the head. But I nodded off, as I tend to do whenever I sit still after 9 p.m. (Oddly, though, I was able to stay awake for the entire episode of "Grey's Anatomy" on Sunday night at 10 p.m. Maybe if "Miracle Workers" included some subplots about the complicated romantic lives of those doctors and nurses ... no, no, that would be wrong.)

Friday, March 10, 2006

Uneasy rider

I was reading a lot of discussion today on a parenting e-mail list about riding bikes, and the terribleness of your child not being able to manage a two-wheeler, and it made me wonder if I'm deeply scarring my kids in some way by really not caring much about bike-riding one way or the other. I didn't ride a two-wheeler until I was 16 years old, my husband never learned, and so it's hard for us to feel real tragic about our son's failure to launch. Our daughter learned to ride fairly easily, but since we don't encourage constant and energetic bike riding, she doesn't get much practice. And the little guy just can't manage without training wheels, and we can't manage to get out there with him and work on it.

Is this bad parenting? Some sort of oblique child neglect? I don't know. When I was a kid, bikes were a major form of transportation. Kids rode bikes to school (me, too, on those training wheels, well past the age at which it was social suicide to do so), but today my kids' schools forbid that. I needed my bike badly for college transport, but I don't think that'll be an issue for my two. My son's friend needs his bike to do really dangerous stunts involving stairs, but we're not going there for gosh-darn sure. Exercise is important, and I'm trying to get both kids to walk more, but bikes? Seem like an accident waiting to happen, to me. But then, I'm not a biker. And passing that down, apparently.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Sure it's dangerous work, but no IEP meetings

Pop quiz: What's tougher, leading the police force in a war-torn nation, or teaching special education in middle school? Beatrice Munah Sieh is in a position to say. She left a career in Liberian law enforcement when she fled the civil war in her native country and found work in the U.S. as a special-ed teacher in a Trenton, N.J. middle school. Liberia recently elected its first female leader, and she called on Sieh to come home and become the West African nation's first female police chief. Sieh's fellow teachers had no idea they were working with a trailblazer: "None of us knew she was involved with law enforcement in her country," one is quoted as saying. "We just thought we were all educators together."

This whole story just amazes me. Can you imagine your child's special education teacher all of a sudden, one day, announcing, "Sorry, can't finish out the year, I'm going to go back home to lead the police force." I mean, you have to be tough to deal with some of these kids, but that tough? 

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Does somebody really READ all this stuff?

My daughter has state standardized testing next week, and boy, it makes me long for the old days when standardized testing involved filling in bubbles with a Number 2 pencil and not much else. These days, the kids have to write essays, and long ones, too, if the amount of pages listed in the sample book is any indication. I don't think I had to face four blank lined pages in a test exam booklet until I was in college, and even then it sent cold shivers. Even if I didn't have kids with learning disabilities, I'd think the folks behind all this testing have gone a little nuts. As it is ... well, I'd laugh, if so much importance wasn't placed in this stuff.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

No gambling in my blood

I went to my first big-time Tricky Tray on Friday night, and boy, was that a trip. For those of you who've never been to a Tricky Tray -- and up until I moved to the Northeast, I'd never heard of them -- it's basically a super monster mega raffle for which you buy a lot of little tickets, drop them into containers in front of a variety of fabulous, semi-fabulous, and really-not-very-fabulous-at-all prizes, and then sit around for a few hours listening to people read numbers to see if you won anything. Some folks get heavily into this, spending hundreds of dollars to buy tickets to invest in winning what is mostly, essentially, junk. My husband and I just aren't in the spirit, though. We bought some tickets because it benefits the school, played them fairly half-heartedly, and lost everything. Not even the smallest basket of potpourri or paperbacks did we manage to bring home. I'm happy that the school made money, less happy that we spent one of our very rare evenings out together in such boring circumstances. As with so many fund-raisers, I'm left thinking: Can I just write you a check so that I don't have to participate?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Eye contact? Don't push it

Luke Jackson's "Freaks, Geeks and Asperger's Syndrome: A User's Guide to Adolescence" is one of my favorite first-person accounts of dealing with neurological impairments, told as it is by a kid dealing with the puzzlements and not a parent trying to solve them from the outside. There's a passage about eye contact that validates everything I've ever felt about not wanting to force my son to do it -- I'd rather he listen and not look than look but not listen -- and I'm excited to have gotten permission to post that excerpt on my site. You can also read my review of this entirely nifty book, and my own advice on eye contact.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Me and my big mouth

Yesterday, while we were in the car driving to Ash Wednesday services, my son popped his fingers out of his mouth and said "Oh, no! I broke my contract with Mrs. B!" What contract is that, I asked? "I'm not supposed to suck my fingers." You have a contract about that? said I, blood pressure rising. And he confirmed that he had indeed signed a contract with the classroom aide, and that the teacher knew about it. And I probably should have remained calm and kept my snark to myself and not immediately complained to my husband that people at school cannot just set up behavioral goals at whim and institute contracts and this is something we need to discuss as a team and I had just talked at the last IEP meeting about why finger-sucking was not a good behavior to target, and ... and ... I've been through this kind of thing before, you know. I've had aides take this kind of thing in their own hands before. And I gear up quick.

By the time we got home, though, I had calmed down, and I wrote the lightest-possible e-mail to his teacher, leaving the largest-possible margin for this being a misunderstanding, and hoping that I could get some information without stepping on toes. She called me shortly after, and we had a nice long conversation about the fact that the "contract" was a joke that my boy took seriously, and there was in fact no stealth behavior modification program being employed. And I felt all good and happy and skillful to have dealt with the situation without having to throw weight around or burn bridges. Just the way it should be, no?

Except that this morning, my son marched into his classroom, went right up to the aide, and said, "My mom said I don't have to do what you say! I don't have to listen to you!"

The teacher called to let me know, because I've asked to be notified when he says inappropriate things, and I declared that I never said any such thing, because I didn't, exactly, though sort of, but not to him, but in his earshot, but not in those words, but ... oh, man, if I'm going to live with this little parrot boy, I'm just going to have to get myself a soundproof room, or learn to speak in code. If I can't even rant in the privacy of my own home, wherever shall I rant?