To The Rock Star…

Radio City Music Hall in New York City

“Don’t tell Dad I broke the plate, OK?”

“But it was an accident, sweetheart.”

“I know he won’t be mad but I still don’t want him to know.”

He cares what you think about him.

“Mom, I miss dad.”

“He’ll be back before you know it.”

“Can we set a place for him at the table even though he isn’t here?”

“Sure!”

Your presence is missed when you are away.

“Mom, I let her have the rest of my Gatorade even though I really wanted it.”

“Because she wanted it, too?”

“Yeah. It was the right thing to do.”

He is paying attention to the example you set.

So… thank you. Thank you for being such a great dad!

Fatherless

Rose window example, San Antonio

“Can you tell me anything about your father’s medical history?”

“No. I don’t know him.” He shrugged as if it was no big deal but his voice said otherwise. 

Next patient…. 

“What about your father’s medical history?”

She scrunched up her face. “I think he’s still alive? I don’t know for sure. I never knew him.”

Next patient…

“So your mother is alive and has diabetes. Do you know anything about your father?”

“I’m not in contact with him.” The disdain came across loud and clear in her voice. “I hope he’s dead.”

If fathers ever think they don’t matter, they should sit in my seat and listen to the pain they can generate even when they are not there.

The Scales

Communicating effectively with others is the key to success. I want my son to get comfortable speaking in front of others so this year I encouraged him to enter a speech competition through his school. 

He worked hard on it.

As parents we all suffer from delusions of grandeur regarding our clearly exceptional progeny but between the two of us, I had no expectations that he was going to win. I just wanted him to participate. I was fully prepared to just celebrate the achievement of his participation.

But then? He was given a red ribbon with “Excellent” emblazoned across it in gold letters. 

At first I was overjoyed. In my day, a red ribbon meant that you placed second. Excellent meant that you did pretty damn good.

Did he really do so well? 

During our practice he struggled with speaking too fast and was not making good eye contact. Was it possible that he listened to me? That he took my advice to heart? To be honest, that would have meant more to me than the ribbon itself.

Eventually I was given his judging forms. There were three judges. Apparently in this private school league they only score as Good, Excellent, or Superior and the kids are not ranked into places at all. Color of the ribbon? Yeah. Meaningless.

WTF?

Two out of the three judges gave my son a Good. Only one gave him an Excellent. From the judges’ notes, he fidgeted, stumbled, had to be prompted, and did not make eye contact. They gave him an Excellent ribbon for that. We worked on all of those things but it was his first competition and he is a first grader so I am not surprised or embarrassed or upset with his performance. I am so very proud that he was brave enough to get up there in front of strangers.

But how can I reinforce to my son that hard work pays off when mediocrity gets him an Excellent rating and a red ribbon? How can I make the point that he should listen to his mama’s advice about eye contact? How can I help him work through rejection and loosing and the unfairness of life while in the safety of childhood before he becomes a fragile adult who is devastated by the realization that the world does not in fact hand out participation trophies? And what about how this demoralizes and minimizes the kids who really did perform exceptionally well? They deserve to feel the full glory of their achievements, don’t they?

I just don’t understand. 

Show Off

My son finished his piano solo at the Christmas program. Oh Little Town of Bethleham. He played every note perfectly. I was so dang proud of him! I stopped the video I was taking with my smartphone so I could clap like a crazy woman. I *might* have even shouted, “You are so frickin’ awesome!” 

All of the other kids took a bow or curtsied while the audience clapped politely. My son? He paused right there at center stage, a slow grin spreading across his face. And then? 

He dabbed. 

Yes, the boy dabbed. In the middle of the church auditorium in front of hundreds of people, he dabbed. Dabbing, the weird dance move that appears as if you are sneezing at the same time as you are trying to fly off like a super hero.

People laughed. They screamed. They cried. Some whistled. One woman fainted. Strangers were giving him high fives and knuckles as he sauntered back to his seat. Every single boy that followed after him on stage also dabbed at the end of their performance.

And so I was left wondering how on earth did I end up with a cool kid? I was never that cool. I was so square I couldn’t even dream of being that cool. I am still terribly uncool, even in adulthood. Especially in adulthood….

Hovering

Blimp in the sky
My childhood was tightly controlled. Every aspect of my life was minutely scrutinized and managed. 

I was not allowed to ever spend the night at a friend’s house. I went to a friend’s house once in grade school. Only once. My first sanctioned date was to a church to deliver fruit to shut-ins on Halloween night when I was almost 17. The guy who had asked me out was required to participate in a 30 minute interview process prior to being allowed to drive me less than five miles to the church. That interview ran the gamut from current grades, college plans, statement of faith, general health, etc. Physical contact with members of the opposite sex was strictly forbidden, going so far as not allowing me to give a male friend a platonic hug at his graduation. He hugged first. I guess I was supposed to run away screaming. My punishment for that hug back was to write 1,500 times, “I will obey my mother.” I was a junior in high school. My library books were prescreened before I could check them out until I was 18. I was not allowed to learn to drive until I graduated from high school. Dancing, ear piercing, and make-up were against the rules and the Smurfs were not allowed (Gargamel used magic doncha know). 

So when my kids started playing with the neighbor kids, I found myself hovering. It was suddenly necessary to inspect the yard for mushrooms. Rake leaves. Hunt for pecans. Maybe I’ll just wander around looking disinterested while spying on their conversations. 

What am I afraid of?

I’m afraid that my kids will do something offensive, something that will get them labeled as weird or bullied or worse. I am afraid that someone will hurt them, physically or emotionally or sexually.

But I am also afraid that my kids will be judged unfairly because they are *my* kids. That they will be used as pawns in an attempt to get to me. The whole doctor thing. I have been burned before.

Because of the control I experienced as a kid, it is exceedingly difficult to let go of control of my own kids. It is all I know. BUT as I commented to someone yesterday, I am not raising pets. I am trying to grow a couple of independent human beings. 

My kids make jokes about butts and farts and you find that offensive? Maybe it’s your fault for letting your kids play with mine. Your kids are going to pick on my kiddos? My son and daughter are very, very good at karate. You want our kids to make friends so you can say you hang with the doctor? Well fine. I cannot assume everyone has ulterior motives, can I? I will cut you off if necessary. 

So this weekend when they all started playing together again I forced myself to let it go. I went inside and busied myself making homemade marshmallows. I even closed the back door. 

And you know what? They did just fine without me. 

Move Over Childhood…

Trestle bridge through a car window
It happened, folks. 

My son decided that he does not want to wear his PJ’s to go into the donut shop anymore.

“Mom, someone might see me.”

A lump immediately lodged in my throat and has not yet let go. My baby is growing up, entering that self conscious stage where his life will forever be filtered through perceived societal norms. 

Next, he’s going to stop believing in Santa. 

I am not ready for this…

*Please note, I was not driving when I shot that photo and yes, the windshield IS a bit dirty. 

The Knee Jerk

Fall leaves on a tree
“I’m not reading you an extra story tonight.” The extra story happens so regularly it isn’t really *extra* anymore, but I’m not telling him that…

“Why not, mom?” He sounded hurt. 

“Because you’ve been behaving like a jerk.” It slid out of my mouth without even thinking about it.

“Mommy?” There was a tiny catch in his voice. “Why would you say that? I haven’t been a jerk!” A little sob.

“Yes, you have. You’ve been terribly mean.” Now that it was said, I felt the need to justify it so I went on to list his numerous infractions. It took a while… “You were being mean just to be mean. That’s being a jerk.”

Then the tears began to pour and the sobs wracked his body. “Why would you say that? I’m not a jerk. You should apologize! I wasn’t trying to be mean! You don’t know what I was trying to do.”

“OK, then. Why were you doing it?”

“I don’t know.”

He went on to lash out, beg, demand and cajole me into apologizing. It took me aback, his very emotional response to my very matter-of-fact statement. The truth was, though, I didn’t want to apologize. He had behaved awfully and he needed to know it. 

Didn’t he?

Well, didn’t he?

Or was I being the mean one? 

You are behaving like a jerk…

The truth of the matter is that there are times he has made me terribly angry, when I really wanted to be the bully my father was to me growing up. Not that I acted on that feeling, but it would flare up, the anger, and simmer under the surface until it burned itself out. But not this time. I was not trying to hurt him with those words. I didn’t want to belittle him. I just wanted him to know and I wanted him to understand that there are consequences.

But do I want him to do this to someone else, call them a jerk? No. No, I don’t. 

Little words carry so much weight. It is easy to forget how they can wound. I have never said anything like that to him before, never used the term “jerk” in all of his seven years of existence and in his world, at least right now, my opinion matters most. The apology from me was of paramount importance to him. 

So I did.

I apologized. 

Independent motion – can you help?

Why does adaptive equipment have to be so costly? Check out this post about Sue Vincent’s son, Nick Vernon.

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

What would you give to make a dream come true if you woke to find yourself living a nightmare?

What would you feel if you could never again walk on a beach? Or go out alone in the snow…feel the stillness of a wood or cross a field?

And then, you found a way…

In 2009, my son was a successful young man with a bright future… until he was stabbed through the brain in an unprovoked attack and left for dead in an alley.

He was found almost immediately by passers-by who saved his life. By the time we arrived at the hospital, Nick was being prepared for emergency brain surgery. We were allowed to see him, for a few minutes, to say goodbye. He was not expected to survive…


Over the past couple of years, many in the blogging community have come to know my son and know…

View original post 498 more words

Say Wat?*

Cambodia 041

So, something that I have noticed is this:

Adopted people seem to often carry around a lot of baggage. 

Sometimes it’s obvious from childhood. There are times, though, they don’t even know it is there until they are all grown up.

I have seen this clinically and personally and throughout the blogging world. Even under the best of circumstances, with the best adoptive parents, there is a profound amount of baggage that accompanies adoption.

Who am I, really?

Where did I come from?

Why did she give me away? Didn’t she love me?

Now, let’s say it is an adoption situation where the child was adopted as a baby but the birth mother died and the father was never known. What would be the best approach? When do you tell the kiddo, who has only known you as a parent, about the death? 

It is easier in some ways to simply avoid the topic altogether, isn’t it? There is that temptation to not say a word about adoption and death, let that child go through life thinking they are 100% yours. Decades ago that might have been possible, but in the advent of DNA testing, these secrets never stay buried. I cannot tell you how many times I have had conversations with devastated patients about the seemingly innocuous DNA test done for fun that uncovered a few half siblings or even different parents. 

I have been thinking about this for some time. Maybe the point is not that there is a “right” way or a “right” time to have that discussion. There is no point in time that would make it all OK and would prevent subsequent life turmoil, so much as simply understanding that life sucks… sometimes it really sucks… and when you cannot make it better you just do your best to support them as they work through it all. Working through the grief and anger and abdandoment issues can be a lifelong process and that is OK.

What are your thoughts?

*This is a wat in Cambodia. A wat is a Buddist temple or monastery.

What Is Real Anymore?

hotel ceiling in Las Vegas, Nevada

“MOM! I want an iPad! Can I have an iPad?” He breathlessly scrambled into his booster seat, still sweaty from his karate class.

“No. I let you use mine now and then, don’t I?” I put down my phone and put the car into gear, reorienting myself to my surroundings as I merged with the traffic.

“I don’t want yours. I want my own!”

“No.”

“What about a phone? Can I have a phone?”

“No.”

“Nintendo DS?”

“No.”

“What about for my birthday? Can I have one for my birthday?” 

“No.”

“Christmas! I can ask Santa.”

“You can ask but mommy will tell Santa no way, no how.” A stop light. My hand reaches for the phone and I stop myself.

“But, Mom! EVERYONE at school has one.”

“No they don’t.”

“Yes they do! You don’t know…”

I caught myself about to argue with him. He’s right. I don’t know. Maybe his classmates all own some sort of electronic. He is six, though. He is in kindergarten. He does NOT need any of this.

“The answer is no.”

The conversation repeats itself several times every day like a broken record. Except that he has no idea what a record is…

To be honest this all became an issue when his teacher started allowing those who scored 100’s on their spelling tests to bring an electronic to school the next day. Now my son feels left out. He realizes these things score him cool points. He is allowed to play games once a week for 25 minutes on my iPAD, five minutes for each day of good behavior at school, but he needs to be SEEN with the device at school or it doesn’t matter socialy. 

When he does play, he is like an addict… hands shaking as I pull the screen away when his time is up. It takes him a while to resurface from the alternate reality he has immersed himself in, to return to the normal little boy I know. I hate that the iPad is such a powerful motivator for him. I hate that is brain craves it so much.

This is not reality, even if it feels like it.

Ultimately, I want my kids to be able to use technology, to interact without feeling intimidated, but I don’t want them to lose their identity to it, either. How do you balance this? I have no frame of reference from my own childhood. I was in my late teens when we got our first computer, when I first started to play King’s Quest. The graphics were awful by current standards and it certainly didn’t feel real. That was the scope of my technology exposure. 

Today, technology is ubiquitous and sophisticated and as an adult I am not sure I even have a healthy relationship with it. Do any of us, really? 

Mommy, would you PLEASE get off your phone? 

I watch as zombified adults and teens and kids in my office punctuate their conversations with me by checking out their “smart” phones, lost somewhere in SnapChat or Instagram or Facebook or some other social media that I am too old to “get”. They are not here in my office, not really. They exist on some other plane. 

So do I.

Most of the time, I am a virtual entity, the doctor living inside my clinic’s electronic health record. 

Or inside my blog.

I am not Victo….

I know what it feels like to be attacked online. I know what it is like to not get enough “likes”. I know what it feels like to lose yourself and your identity and it frightens me for my kids and their future. 

My future.