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the world through rainbow eyes


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The Herd of Gazelles at the Bus Stop

Pi and Phi are 5 now. They attend Kindergarten (two different classes so they can both shine their stars individually as bright as possible). They both insisted that they are old enough to ride the bus to school, and because the bus is actually available to them now that they are in Kinder, I agreed. So they ride the bus to school every school day morning. 

I drop them off and watch them interact at the bus stop with the other kids. They’re the only Kinder kids in our little neighborhood, so mostly the big kids are leaving them alone and letting them run around like animals waiting for the bus. 

Run around they do, too. Every single day, they drop their packs in the bus shelter and then have races from one sign to the other. About 200 feet of a race they do over and over until the bus gets there. Squealing, rambunctious, and overall dorky. Phi runs with his hands clutched high to his sides, a bit like a T-Rex. A smile of pure happiness. His feet hit the ground with the strange, awkward, delicate gait so familiar to other parents who have children on the spectrum. Toes pointed down, still somewhat clompy somehow. Like an elephant doing ballet. So happy.

Pi’s arms are thrown back and her clomping hits whole foot down, her face also has the same smile. So happy. She is a gazelle. 

The other kids are mostly silent while Pi and Phi enact these daily races. Pi and Phi encircle them, run between them, around them, near them. You can see the other kids pull back, stare at them. I want to tell Pi and Phi to chill. Be cool. The kids are judging them. I keep my mouth shut. One kid does a mock tiptoe of Phi to his other friends, and they cover their mouths to smile behind their hands. They know better than to laugh where parents can see them. Phi doesn’t notice, just keeps running. Keeps being happy. 

I want to scream at these kids. You think it’s awesome that you can run better than him? Running is hard for him. He’s a different animal. You are gazelles, and he is an elephant. His squealing trumpet of glee comes from a differently shaped throat than your own. Is it such a point of pride that yours was shaped different? Do you work for hours to make your gazelle throat shape the sounds that all the other gazelles make? 

No he does not have grace. What he has, instead, is hard work. He has perseverance. Thank goodness that’s part of the package with Autism. The same thing that makes him line up puzzles for hours is what makes it possible for him to make words that others understand. He works past the point of wanting to stop. I am furiously proud of his words. 

I remember his testing, and them asking us for a list of his words. For a week we tried to put together even ten words that he said at the age of 18 months. Duck. Ball. … Umm.. Daddy? We struggled to find any words that he had actually said. Now, at age 5, his vocabulary is huge. He inherits the wide breadth of spoken word that his father and I use daily, and it shows. 

But the kids at the bus stop don’t see that he is a hard working elephant stuck in the land of the graceful gazelles. They see that he is not part of their herd. They close ranks. 

So he runs with Pi. Pi who doesn’t care, yet, about gazelles and elephants. All animals are different to her. She takes it in stride. 

I want the other kids at the bus stop to see what she sees. I want them to feel the pure joy that he feels. 

I’m proud of my mismatched animals, and so furious at the herd that closes them both out. I know that in their classes there are other mismatched animals, and they find them and befriend them. The herd at the bus stop is not their whole world of experience, but only a small window onto it. 

I also know that the herd at the bus stop is going to grow. That as they get bigger, it will become more and more evident how different they both are to the herds they encounter. Him for his everything, and her for her acceptance of these things and for her own differences. That the ruthlessness of peers will run their world for the next fifteen some odd years. There is not a thing I can do to change it. 

I know that they are going to spend their lives collecting their own herds of mismatched animals. I hope they do not spend too long trying to assimilate into herds that are not their own and do not accept them. I also feel sad for the limited scope of the herd of gazelles at the bus stop. They have not yet learned the value of the different animals. I hope they learn it someday. 


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You Aren’t Doing It Wrong

I’m tired of all of these mommy blogger posts about how I’m doing it wrong. Or how you’re doing it wrong. Or, really, when it comes down to it, how the blogger seems smugly sure they are doing it right.

It’s all pretty ridiculous. You’re just not. I’m not. Hell, they aren’t either, likely.

Here’s a pretty horrible idea, if you have enough time and energy to fight online about the best ways to raise kids, it’s likely your kids are going to do just fine. There’s a lot of privilege that comes along with that kind of time, and the statistics show that it’s privilege that makes “the difference” as far as a child’s future financial success.

There’s no one-size-fits-all that works. No two families that are the same. No two moms. No two dads. No two kids. No two job situations. No two financial situations. When you add up the strange arithmetic that is the equation of your parenting situation, it’s likely going to come up with a unique answer that works for you.
If you try to apply that answer to another parenting situation, it’s going to be a false sum. The numbers are different. The children are different. The parents are different. The needs are different. The cultures are different.

These things really do matter.

People get heated about their answers, though. People like Stephanie Metz over at The Metz Family seems to get heated about her answers.  She wrote a blog post that’s getting some attention about… well really about a whole lot of different stuff. She started with the statement that her children are not the center of her world.

Tell that to the mother of newborn twins when she is clusterfeeding around the clock, as has happened to many other twin moms I know. Tell that to the mother of a child with profound special needs who has to set her schedule by her child’s medical needs. Tell that to the parent of an Olympic athlete who works hard to get her child to practice meets and competitions, sacrificing much of their own for their child’s extraordinary talents. Tell that to the parent who doesn’t have enough money or assistance to feed the whole family enough that sacrifices their own meals to make sure their children somehow aren’t left crying twenty minutes after every meal because it was so meager. Or how about the abusive parent that decides to seek help before hitting their child? Should that parent not have their child be the “center of their world?”
Tell that to somehow who lives a different life than you.
I’m sure that’s not what Ms. Metz meant. I’m sure she was talking to the “general” parent, but there are times in every parent’s life when their child is the center of their world, generally speaking, and that’s okay.

One of the horrible problems with blogging with such an authoritative voice is that the blanket statements end up covering far more than you ever intended to cover. So I’ll give Ms. Metz the benefit of the doubt, just like I give the benefit of the doubt to all the other parents out there just doing the best they know how.

Speaking of the benefit of the doubt, I doubt Ms. Metz knew how horrific bullying has truly become when she seemed to state that the only real bullying was physical assault in her screed.

30 years ago I was horrifically bullied in school. So much bullying I can’t even begin to stomach recounting it all. Only the smallest portion of it was physical. Maybe one or two physical assaults a year at most. The rest was whispered (or shouted) horrors. It was all so much that one day one of my bullies sat next to me and tried to talk to me as the person he had never treated me like. He asked me how I could handle all of the constant verbal abuse. He asked me, sincerely, why I didn’t kill myself, as he could see no other option if he were me. He was not being a bully at that moment, I can assure you. It was a strangely human moment wherein we were separated from our normal school environment and peers. We were forced to relate as peers in this environment and the situation forced him to assess his behavior and my own perseverance. He wasn’t telling me to kill myself, he was asking how I managed to not.
It was a fairly valid question.

That was 30 years ago. Before social media made it possible for the bullies to always follow you. Even if you switch schools. To make fresh starts impossible. To make escape impossible.

I doubt Ms. Metz truly understands that it’s not just Facebook, it’s also Instagram, and Twitter, and Snapchat, and a thousand other avenues into a child’s head, where hours and hours every day can be spent telling a girl she is ugly. She is a bitch. She is a whore. She is stupid. She is, in short, unacceptable, and always will be. I doubt Ms. Metz knows that the global village that children are a part of now means that all the people those bullies know, all the virtual friends, have also been told that the bullies’ targets are unacceptable. They have laughed and escalated it to a culture that is so lockstep that Anorexia is hitting as young as 6 now, with girls (and boys) dying to somehow achieve acceptable to their peers. To achieve acceptable to the face they see in the mirror.

Should that child not be the center of their parents’ world? That child who peers into a mirror and sees unacceptable because that is what is pinged at them from when they wake up to when they go to bed, should they too not be the center of their parents’ world because that will somehow ruin them for future success?

That’s not the end of Ms. Metz screed about how everyone else is doing it wrong, either. She talks about guns for a while, and about how her boys like to play good guy vs. bad guy. Okay? Does she want there to be more gun acceptance at schools? Is she living in the same country as me? As the Pozner’s?

The Pozner’s aren’t really into there being more gun acceptance at school. Despite the NRA making a concerted effort to get the parents of the Sandy Hook children to speak up about wanting more armed guards or armed teachers or armed anybody, they pretty much all stood up and spoke for less arms all in all.

I’m sorry if that makes your children pause before choosing a toy to bring to show and tell. I really am. I wish things like that had never happened. I wish we didn’t live in a place where we would have to worry about guns – toy guns or real guns – in schools, but we do. Perhaps your own wish to shelter your child from a world where he has to choose a less loved toy is really more at issue for you than the collective pain of people hoping to shelter their own children from a world where guns on a school’s campus may very well mean dead children.  I assure you, for the rest of us, it’s that these calamities happened.

She then goes on to randomly rail against proposed grown-ups who have been so horribly raised by their parents that they are now gibbering in hallways after every random proposed encounter. As the internet likes to say, cool story, bro. It’s an interesting take on the psychological affects of attached parenting that is grounded on… not a whole lot other than smugness from what I can tell. I say smugness because she then goes on to tell the proposed story of her own two children and their proposed encounters in the world. She peers into her crystal ball and sees true, y’all. You can tell, because, hell, she speaks with authority. She said it! It must be true!

And hell, it probably is. Her sons will likely grow just fine. They’ll suffer the slings and arrows that people have been suffering for aeons, with new twists provided by new technology. They’ll have success and they’ll have failure. Maybe not in equal measure, because that’s just the way the old ball turns.

They’re likely to mostly be successful, though, by whatever terms she deems acceptable. She has the privilege to think hard about her parenting choices, and that means she’s getting to actually make parenting choices when a lot of people simply have their back to the wall as far as choices.

That’s really what I take exception to in her screed against other parents Doing It Wrong. The smugness she inadvertently comes across with (hey, benefit of the doubt, again) in her summation of all the ways she’s Doing It Right rubs me wrong. I’m sure that’s not how she meant it. She was just writing some thoughts out. I’m sure she has a lovely family, and beautiful boys who are a delight to be around. I’m sure she is a wonderful person with a lot of compassion.
I know I screw this blogging thing up all the time, too. I don’t always speak with the most compassion, or insight, or all the facts in place. Much as I try, I fail. I’d want someone to speak up when I fail. So, hey, I’m speaking up.


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You Be You

My friend Darlena over at Parentwin posted this today.  It’s basically a response and a plea to a great post by Hands Free Mama about how she learned to stop worrying and love the bomb time she spends with her kids. Which is great. I mean, great that Hands-Free Mama has worked that out, but, damn that’s a lot of pressure.

In the mommy blogging world (which somehow includes Pinterest, for reasons that mystify me) there’s all this pressure to “keep up with the Joneses.” The Joneses in the year 2013 aren’t just middle class American House Beautiful cover stories any longer, though. Not only do you have to have a well kept house and garden, beautiful clothes, and cook exceptional meals. Now we all have to be the best mom we can be, the best cooks, the best birthday party throwers, the best crafter, the best educational supervisor, the best organizer, the best social justice warriors, the best eco-warriors, the best feminists, the best at everything, really. Not to mention that we either have a career to prove how self fulfilled we are outside the role of parent, or fill up every moment with emotionally satisfying and rewarding activities to prove how fulfilling and worthwhile it is to be a stay at home parent as an equally worthwhile choice also.

It’s too much pressure.

This life thing is not a competition. There’s no awards and no real recognition of the hard work put in.

And another truth is, this job, this parent thing, it sort of sucks sometimes, and it’s sort of joyful sometimes, but mostly it just is. It’s common and everyday and blasé and sometimes even boring, or unpleasant, or, yup, rushing and harried. It’s not that I don’t want to do it. Put that aside. That’s not it. It’s that when one is tired from taking care of a house full of sick people, or just trying to get the daily stuff done, it’s not sustainable to always be worried about if one is enjoying it enough in a am-I-doing-this-right? sort of way.

What is that even? Are you doing what right? Being you? Hell, Boo. You’re doing it just right. You’re being the best you, and frankly, that kicks the pants off of being the best imitation of someone else’s idea of what you should do to be fulfilled and be a great person.

One of the first lessons I ever got in being a parent was in being a failure. See, Pie refused to nurse, and P refused to bottle feed. Unfortunately for P, I never produced more than an ounce or two of milk in a whole day. Ever. We tried everything. We tried the cookies, we tried constant nursing, we tried the medicines, but many combinations of factors put P in the hospital at around 3-4 weeks with a diagnosis of Failure to Thrive (he was far below his birth weight at that point), about to get a g-tube installed so he could actually get some nutrition into his quicky failing body.

We were lucky, and had doctors that were willing to try to do a lot of weird things to avoid that. By the end of 24 hours in the hospital we had found a combination of nipple types that worked for him (fast flow, orthodontic shaped), and a specially made nutrition-dense formula that helped bring him back to birth weight within a full 72 hours of being at the hospital.

Those hours were something of a nightmare of round the clock feedings, changings, reportings to doctors and nurses, and very little sleep. My husband had to work, and no one could take care of Pie, so she came with. Which meant that I was taking care of two newborn babies in a hospital room where only one of them was a patient, about 40 minutes or so away from home. There was no time off for meals or sleep or showers or just about anything. Add that on top of the fear that one of my babies was in such precarious health, and it was nightmare fodder for a new mother. Add in that it was my own fault because my own supposed-to-be-working, not-supposed-to-fail, ready-made feeding system known as my breasts simply didn’t work? Oh lordy. I won’t say I felt guilty, because I didn’t. What I felt like was a failure.

So I built a foundation of parenthood on that. I said to myself, “you know what, self? You’re going to fail. Anything worth doing is going to be a lot of failing. That’s okay. The work of it is to keep going. To keep doing, and to not get down on yourself for what you can’t do, or what you don’t get right every single time.”

Many of us, I’d hazard to say most of us, but I intuit there must be some people out there who felt they had idyllic childhoods, well the rest of us didn’t. Our parents failed us. Now many of us have arrived here in parenthood and we’re scared to death of failing our kids in the same ways.

All I can say to that is: hey, guys, calm down. Cut yourself some slack. Yes, get help if you need it. Don’t abuse your children or neglect your children, sure. But failing to stop and smell the roses every time you are running the morning gauntlet of getting the kids dressed, fed, and out the door on time to get to school when one of them is dawdling over ladybugs on the sidewalk to the car or bus, and frack, you just told them to rush, and crap, isn’t it great that they notice the ladybugs on the sidewalk? Yeah. Totally, but they really are going to be late, and frankly the school does not care one bit about what it was that made the child, your child, late. So. Yes, you told them to stop dawdling, and hurry up.

You’re not a failure for that. Just try to not be an jerk about it, okay? If you were? Buck up, camper. Say sorry, and do better next time.

One of the actual lessons we need to impart to our children is how to fail, and then how to keep trying anyway. How to say sorry. How to be wrong. How to change. How are they supposed to do that when we don’t accept it within ourselves? I repeat, how are we supposed to teach our children that failure is not the end of trying if we don’t accept failure as part of the learning process in ourselves?

We can not actually function at a level of accepting nothing less than an outwardly dictated level of perfection as outlined by someone else in a different set of circumstances than ourselves and simultaneously accept our children as the beautiful messes they are.

You want to stop telling your daughter to hurry, Parentwin? Start by stopping telling yourself to be Hands-Free Mama. I’m pretty sure she’d say the same thing.