People Are People

People.  They can be amazing, extraordinary, beautiful, and sometimes mean.  This week in our house, it felt like those mean people were swarming around us, just waiting to sting when we least expected it.

It started at the state fair.  While in one of the millions of lines for food at the fair, a bright-pink-lipstick-wearing fifty-something lady behind us looked at me at said, “Excuse me,” in a clear, demeaning, snarky voice.  I had no idea why she said that so I gave her my dead-behind-the-eyes look (behind sunglasses, mind you) and awkward smile.  She must have sensed my confusion, because she sarcastically said, “That’s what you usually say when you bump into someone,” while looking at Cameron.

Mommy defensiveness kicked in and I said, “Oh.  He has sensory issues,” to which Cameron, on cue, growled loudly because he didn’t really want me telling fair-goers about his business.  I turned away from her and quietly said, “Sorry, Cameron, I had to tell her because she’s being a ‘B.’”

“She’s being what?” he asked.

“She’s being mean,” I responded with light-speed thinking. “And when you bump into people, you really need to say, ‘Excuse me.’”

“I didn’t bump into her!” he said.  And honestly, I believe he didn’t realize he had.

I was ready to let it go, but my husband Jon was not.  “Are you really that upset about that?” he asked the grump.

“Move along,” she snapped, while dismissively waving her hands to move him forward.

“You must have some life,” said Jon.  Ouch.  We waited uneasily for another five minutes or so that felt more like 30 minutes, while Jon turned redder and redder, fuming from her ridiculousness.  I told him to relax, that Cameron really should have said, “Excuse me,” and that it’s not that big of a deal, but he could not get past that someone would be that irritated at a fair where you can’t take two steps without bumping into some person or animal, and who would be so angry with a kid for being a kid.

The next day, my kids were playing at the YMCA indoor play area.  Cameron and Amelia were screaming and laughing loudly, which made me feel anxious.  I am forever worried about bothering other people.  When I’m driving, I rush to get out of the left lane when other drivers are behind me, when I’m shopping, I always make sure my cart is out of the way.  This may sound just like manners to some people, but it makes me feel extremely, heart-racingly uncomfortable when I know I’m in the way or bothering other people.  So when my kids were screaming like kids do, I tried to relax and let it go, but found that it was too much for me to handle.  On my way to quiet them and give them the two minute warning, I passed two kids sitting at a table watching the play area, and I heard one of them say, “That’s that weird kid in there.”

With a broken heart, I looked at him and said, “That’s my kid in there, so… you know… that’s cool (sarcasm font needed here).” He didn’t say anything, but I heard him and his friend continuing to talk about Cameron while I neglected the two-minute warning and ushered my kids out of there as fast as I could before I said or did something I would regret to those little… word-that-you-should-never-use-to-describe-children.

So, my kid is the “weird” kid.  I looked at those kids, and thought about how “coolness” seemed to be naturally oozing out of them with their long, shaggy hair, awesome eight-year-old swag, and general ease of life.  I thought of Duckie in “Pretty in Pink” and how that could be my son.  I thought of myself and how I struggled with my lack of cool in school, and how I’m still uncomfortable in my own skin more than a grown-up should be.  I am quirky.  Why would I expect my children to be anything but that?  I certainly LOVE that they are “odd.”  They both have imaginations that could rival Steven Spielberg’s.  They love nature, they collect bugs, rocks, shells, wood, or whatever other artifacts they think are interesting in the given moment.  Cameron loves his stuffed animals, his precious yellow blanket, cars, and Playmobil, but he’s not a big fan of Legos- of course, since that’s too much fine-motor for his fingers to handle.

But I think I really know why those kids said that.  When Cameron plays, he is loud, he makes crazy, loud (annoying) noises, he is too touchy-feely, and he is a forever-bossy rule-maker.  He makes up rules for everything from how to go down a slide to how to play kickball.  Honestly, it’s annoying.  I am his mother, and I know these behaviors are due to the fact that he is not physically feeling things like other kids.  He is loud because he gets over-stimulated and his energy comes out through his mouth.  He is touchy-feely because just watching people around him isn’t enough for his senses; he needs to feel them.  He is a rule-maker because he feels so out of control of his senses, he needs to have control of everything else.

Jon and I have talked to him about these things.  We’ve been blunt, frustrated, embarrassed for him, understanding, patient, impatient, loving, and any other way we can be.  Cameron does not change these behaviors.  He cannot control himself when he’s in the moment, even if he knows that kids will think he’s “weird,” because I have literally told him that before.  So, now what?  It’s happening.  Kids think he’s weird.

So now, I pray, I use “The Secret,” I hope, I send positive juju into the universe, for Cameron to find friends who see him for who he is and not his surface reactions to things, and for him to keep the good friends that he already has.  I want to protect him from the self-consciousness that was my childhood, but I know that’s impossible.  While I don’t really like the bossiness he exhibits, I don’t want him to change, and I don’t think the resilient and stubborn Cameron will change.  I just want him to embrace the “weird” and continue to find others who do the same, just like I did.


Happy 8th Birthday!

This Sunday will be Cameron’s eighth birthday.  Eight! How did that happen?!  First of all, I’m obviously not old enough to have an eight-year-old child, and second of all, how did eight years go by this quickly?  It can’t be that nearly eight years ago, the doctor put him on my chest seconds after he was born, covered in white goo, with beautiful, dark, almond eyes, and I hesitantly asked, “It’s a… boy?”  I hadn’t heard the doctor’s jubilant announcement after his headfirst dive into the world, and I’d just never seen a newborn baby’s area-down-under.  In hindsight, duh.  In my defense, I had just given birth, so I was a bit tired.  Regardless, the next thing I said was, “He’s beautiful!”  Naturally, I am biased, but he was beautiful.  He still is.  He’s one of the few people on earth who can truly pull off a hipster newsboy cap, even though he says he looks “stupid” and “ugly” whenever we force one onto his head at a store.

It seems only natural that with his birthday coming so soon, I write about what it was like for us as new parents.  To give you a tiny preview, I can tell you that Jon and I were pretty sure we were going to stick to one child until Cameron was nearly three, and we realized he needed to be dethroned.  Yes, as you can imagine, Cameron was a difficult baby.  It all started with a delivery two weeks before his due date, which really isn’t that big of a deal.  However, my water broke and I wasn’t dilated at all, so they gave me Pitocin.  As someone who’d never birthed before, I had no idea what that would do to me.  Plus, I was trying to do a natural birth because I’d put in my head that an epidural might cause autism or something else.  This was not based on scientific evidence, it was based on the fears of a fearful, hormonal, pregnant, special education teacher; I was convinced that it was more likely my child would have a disability than not.  So, I was trying to do it all right.  I failed to consider the fact that I can’t even have blood drawn without nearly passing out, so the entire delivery process was not smooth. While in labor, I accidentally pulled out my IV while trying to relieve pain while on my hands and knees.  Then, they gave me the drunken-stupor inducing drug Stadol to “take the edge off.”  I recall saying, “Take the edge off, my ass!  Mama’s DRUNK!” while Jon laughed and literally took my picture.  Finally I caved to the epidural and was able to relax (as much a person whose mom is sobbing hysterically outside their delivery room can) before the two and a half hours of pushing began.  During the pushing, Cameron’s heart rate dropped, an alarm went off, and they put an oxygen mask on my face.  No one told Jon or I what had happened until we asked.  Finally, after more than 16 hours of labor, my beautiful baby boy was placed on my chest.  He slept so soundly for the first two weeks.  I said to my (now calm and helpful) mom, “I don’t want a good baby first, because then it’ll be so much harder if we have another baby.”  And with those words, I jinxed us.

My loving husband snapped this picture while I was drunk on Stadol.

Breastfeeding put me into hysterics with toe-curling, baby-resenting pain.  When Cameron was two days old, he ate eight ounces at once and the doctor said he’d stop eating when he was full; but for those of you who don’t know, newborns should only eat about two ounces at once.  He was clearly trying to calm an upset tummy by eating and eating. His upset tummy ended up being acid reflux.  Cameron had thrush.  I had mastitis.  I got an ulcer.  A physical therapist worked with Cameron to latch on correctly.  A lactation consultant worked with me to breastfeed correctly.  I surrendered, and opted for pumping for hours a day for months to avoid formula.  Another day, my new baby woke up in the morning and didn’t fall back to sleep until 10:00 PM.

Looking back, Cameron was a sensory-seeker from birth.  He loved being tightly swaddled, slept best after being bounced on a yoga ball while swaddled, loved his pacifier, and slept through a baby food making party with food processors running, people talking, and dishes clanging literally 10 feet from his door.  These are all things that babies can like without having any sensory issues, but these things, in combination with what we know now, make it seem like the writing was on the wall.  Once he grew into a toddler, the sensory-seeking continued.

It was a tough time, but it ended up not being so hard that we didn’t opt to do it all over again with a second child when Cameron was three-and-a-half. Into our family comes Amelia… or more accurately, in shimmies, dances, shakes, and sings Amelia.  All of the behaviors we saw in Cameron that we thought were difficult were confirmed as such with the birth of the quiet, watchful, sleeping, tolerant baby that was Amelia.  It feels odd to describe Amelia in that way, because we now have a loud, attention-demanding, awake, intolerant preschooler Amelia.  What Amelia helped us to see in Cameron is a different story.

Our sweet baby boy

So, happy 8th birthday to Cameron.  We could all learn something from him; he is genuine, kind, imaginative, and nearly always aims to do the right thing, except for when it comes to his sister.