Success!

10 06 2014

 

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“Success” is obviously measured differently in every situation, especially for kids with SPD, NLD, ADHD, or whatever other label with our without a “D” you may have heard of. Some people are perfectionists and never really feel successful. Some people are constantly waiting for someone else to notice their successes because they don’t feel real unless someone else acknowledges them. I’m a little of both of these kinds of people. This makes it difficult to parent a child with the struggles that Cameron has. I take his ups and downs and my reactions to them very personally, wondering what I did to make that situation happen, what methods of behavior or diet I haven’t yet tried, what books I haven’t yet read that may help, how my tone escalated the situation, how I didn’t spend enough time with him today, how his routine changed and I should have done better at transitioning him… I make myself crazy with all the things I feel I should have, could have, or would have done differently if only (fill in the blank), making it very difficult to stop and enjoy successful moments.

My favorite parenting book, Raising Happiness by Christine Carter, Ph.D, is all about steps for happier parents and kids. The first chapter is about putting on your own oxygen mask first. That is essential for parents with kids who have any sort of challenges (and for those who don’t) because if you don’t take care of yourself, then you’re not able to cope well enough to take care of anyone else. This is why I plan one date each month for just my husband and me. This is why I get together with friends as often as I do, even though the over-scheduling I do to myself makes me overwhelmed. This is why I spend more time than I should on Pinterest. This is why I occasionally go to ridiculous dance clubs and dance satirically in the style of 1990’s boy bands.  It’s all to have some semblance of who I really am when I’m not attempting conversations without arguments, making homework modifications at home that really should have been done at school, or watching my son start another argument in the neighborhood without realizing he’s the cause. Without taking care of me, I am less successful taking care of my children.

Today, though, I want to put myself first in a different way– by putting aside my own feelings of inadequacy and congratulate myself (and my husband) on the parenting successes we’ve experienced. One success we had this week was that Cameron was invited to a birthday party for a friend at school. A really nice friend! Score one for Team Cameron! Another success from this week is that he has brought home good behavior notes on his modified check-in sheet he does at school every day so far. Also, there were one or two times this week he admitted he was wrong about something, which is a HUGE success since it almost NEVER happens. Cameron had a really great sleepover with a family friend last weekend, who went on and on about how polite he was and how he was all “PSA” on the kids about why violent video games are bad.

However the biggest success of all, which literally brought my husband and I to tears, happened this weekend. We picked up a new puppy this past Sunday, so spent Saturday preparing for a puppy. We cleaned, puppy-proofed, and visited the pet store, where my husband said it was time to choose a name. You see, the naming of the puppy was a big deal in our house. A slew of names were thrown into the ring, including Frank, Fletch, Mr. Bojangles, Cricket, and Cameron’s very favorite, Klaus. Cameron really wanted a German name (because we were getting a boxer), and was obsessed with the name Klaus. He would not let it go. He told us a million times that “Klaus” was his favorite name. I really didn’t like the name “Klaus” at all and wasn’t a huge fan of most of the other names that made it into the final choices, but surrendered my favorite names and explained that Cameron needed to do the same with “Klaus.” There were tears. Several times. But he did let it go, and eventually we whittled the list down to “Felix” and “Clyde.” Cameron’s obsession moved from “Klaus” to the only other German name on the list:” Felix.” Due to the fact that I’ve not been able to make a solid decision ever (seriously… my first grade teacher even said that’s something I needed to work on), I couldn’t pick between the two names and the vote stood at Felix: 1; Clyde: 2. Naturally, “Clyde” was my daughter’s first choice, so I felt as if I was choosing a favorite child if I picked one name over the other. Eventually, though, in the middle of the pet store, I admitted that I preferred “Clyde,” which left the vote three to one, with “Felix” losing. Tears again. I looked at my husband and said, “See! This is why I can’t decide! I’m going to break one of their hearts!”

To which he responded, “Well, you put yourself in this position! If you would have just decided at the beginning, then the vote wouldn’t be left up to you!”

“You’re right!” I replied. So, we decided to flip a coin. Heads would be “Felix,” tails, “Clyde.” One toss. The coin would land on the floor. Rules needed to be established. Cameron LOVES rules. In slow motion, my husband threw the penny into the air and it landed with a loud “tink! tink! tink!” in the middle of the dog food aisle. And the name was… Felix! It wasn’t until that moment that I realized how much I didn’t want our dog to be named “Felix.” Three out of four family members were not satisfied with the name. We realized the coin-tossing was not democratic and was not the best way to make this decision, but that was that. The coin had spoken. Three defeated family members walked like Charlie Brown towards the tag engraving machine.

And then… a miracle. Cameron said, “Fine. We can name him Clyde.”

I really didn’t believe he said that, so I didn’t react until my husband said, “Did you hear that?! I am seriously almost crying right now!” and it really sunk in. Cameron COMPROMISED! Holy s*#t balls. This news was equivalent to the Berlin Wall coming down! Hugs ensued, followed by Cameron’s choice of new toy for the dog, and ice cream to celebrate the biggest success we’ve seen come from the Cameron Camp in a long time.

Were these good moments sprinkled in with not-so-good ones? Absolutely. But I am really trying to change my perspective to celebrate good moments instead of zooming in on the difficult ones. Like everything else I try, I’m sure it will pass, but I wouldn’t feel at all successful if I didn’t keep trying to make positive change by celebrating Cameron’s successes with him and without him, when I “put on my own oxygen mask” which is actually wine.

Epilogue: Our dog’s name is actually Mr. Clyde Bojangles according to me and no one else in the family. But it’s on the Internet now, so it’s true.

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Apples and Oranges

17 09 2013

Family

Don’t compare your children.  That’s what we are told, we read about it, we know we shouldn’t, but I think most of us–if not all of us–do it. I don’t compare my two kids in the way that I think one is better than the other or should be more like the other, though. On most days, I don’t have a favorite child, but due to the fact that I am a human being who naturally looks for similarities and differences between things, I’d have to be completely disengaged not to notice that my two kids are ridiculously different. In fact, it wasn’t until giving them baths one night that I realized how different they are and also how severe Cameron’s SPD is.

First up in the tub was Amelia, who was about three at the time. I was all set to wash her hair when she asked to do it herself. I squirted the shampoo in her hand, she rubbed her hands together, and she washed her hair independently, only needing some help to wash the longer hair at her shoulders. Then, I was about to wash her body, when she asked for the soap so she could do it herself. Again, I squirted soap into her hands and watched as she stood up in the slippery bathtub, with her mom holding her breath and telling her to be careful, threw her leg up onto the side of the tub, and scrubbed her legs and the rest of her body like she had been watching Zest commercials since birth and was waiting to finally emulate what she had been aspiring to do.

Next was Cameron’s turn. Cameron was about seven years old, and prior to watching Amelia, I don’t think I realized how much he could probably do on his own. I’d always encouraged him, but now I knew that if someone that much younger than him could scrub up like Mr. Bubble, then he should have at least been able to do most of it on his own, even if it wasn’t perfect. He got in and I asked him to hold out his hand so I could squirt the shampoo. He was lying flat with only his little head and monkey ears sticking out of the water. He slowly lifted his flimsy hand out of the water while keeping his body submerged. I squirted the shampoo. He turned his hand so it started to pour out. I told him to be careful not to spill it. He continued lying in the water, now with his ears covered too. “You’ll need to sit up,” I said. “What?” he asked, not considering the fact that he couldn’t hear me because his ears were covered with water. I repeated myself. “What?” I started to help him sit up, which was met with whining. “Nooo… I’m cold.” He slowly began to sit up anyway, only after trying to finagle his body in a way that he could stay in the water while washing his hair. Clearly he had troubles with that, since he had one shampoo-filled hand still held in the air—until he forgot that it had shampoo, and put his hand down into the bottom of the bathtub to help support himself, washing away what little shampoo was left on his limp hand. Taking a deep breath, I squirted shampoo into his hand again, and asked him to rub his hands together. With slow, flimsy hands, he rubbed his hands together like he was rolling a hummingbird’s egg- gently and carefully- with most of the friction happening between his fingers. “Wash your hair,” I encouraged. He took his somewhat shampoo-filled hands and he scrubbed his hair like you’d scrub a sunburn—not at all. But he totally tickled his hair lightly with his fingertips, all while wearing a grossed out look on his face comparable to someone who stuck his hand in a bucket of worms. There have been many moments in my parenting career when I’ve seen Mr. SPD staring at me in the face– this was one of them.

Not long after that little eye-opener, Amelia started to make me wait downstairs during her baths so she could surprise me by doing everything herself, down to cleaning up the bath toys and getting dressed and ready for bed. Cameron did take notice of this, and attempted more independence, as well, although to this day there is still a remarkable difference between the two.

What parent wouldn’t take notice of the huge difference between their children in this situation? As you may expect, the differences don’t stop at the ways in which they bathe; they are different in nearly every way, as well, to the point that when one of them says they like a new food, the other pretty much decides not to like it before it enters their mouth. Cameron likes Tom Petty, Bob Marley, and Dave Matthews. Amelia likes those too, with a generous dose of Katy Perry and Pink on the side (which naturally, Cameron detests). Cameron loves sports, Amelia likes them but prefers arts and crafts (which Cameron doesn’t). The more I think about it, it’s pretty obvious that Amelia wants to be like Cameron and Cameron just isn’t like Amelia, nor does he wish to be. Which is good because I don’t think it would be healthy for him to aspire to be like his kindergartener sister.

Now may be a good time for me to admit that my husband and I were not too sure that we wanted another baby after we had Cameron. Cameron was hard and we’d put in lots of work. The idea of putting in all of that work again while parenting an older child at the same time as a newborn, then toddler, was not appealing. However, as Cameron grew, we decided he needed to be brought down a notch. He (and his grandparents) thought the world revolved around him, and we knew he needed some healthy competition. Also, as he got a bit older he got a bit easier to parent and we decided to see what would happen if we threw our hats in the ring for one more go of this parenting thing. Nine months later, Amelia entered Stage Left as if literally, the world was and is her stage.

Sometimes on Cameron’s really tough nights, Amelia watches his tantrums quietly, or goes to her room on her own, or plays independently, or simply says, “I feel sorry for Cameron.” On those nights, we all work to help him be happier or less emotional or more independent. When the tough nights are over, we are thankful to Amelia because she is so good for him in so many ways. She forces him to not be as rigid—well kind of, because most of the time he’s trying to control her actions, her mannerisms, her chewing, her singing, her breathing (seriously) to be what he wants and expects it to be- but she rarely changes who she is to appease him. She adores him, she plays with him, she makes him feel important and smart, and she loves him unconditionally. The one thing that they don’t differ in opinions about is their love of each other and of our family.

So while I admittedly have times of guilt that I sometimes prefer to be around one child more than the other, I definitely do not love them any differently, and I definitely wouldn’t change who they are. I would not even change the fact that Cameron has SPD because it’s made him who he is- compassionate, tolerant, kind, and caring- and I think it’s done the exact same thing for his sister, as well. So while they may be different in so many ways, they actually do have the same amazing characteristics that make them the incredible people they are.





Wiggle Worm Triumphs Over Homework

27 09 2012

Cameron under the table, where his homework lies in wait while he works his core and cleans up the floor (something he’d never do if he wasn’t doing his homework).

I. Am. Exhausted. Physically, mentally, and emotionally, exhausted.  However, tonight I am also triumphant.  Let me explain.  As I write this I am watching Cameron “do his homework” while Amelia is babysat by the TV and dinner is waiting to be made.  I set Cameron up with a yoga ball to sit on while he does his homework, I brought home some “Reading Helpers” which look like a ruler with a colored, transparent line to use while reading to help with tracking, and I cleared the area of distractions. Now, let’s revisit that “do his homework” thing.  At this very moment, he’s actually under the table, lying with his stomach on the ball, using it to reach for a paper that fell on the floor.  The paper that fell on the floor fell because he was bouncing on the ball instead of sitting on it.  Now he’s switched to lying on his back on the ball while rocking and staring at the ceiling.  If you could hear through this post, you’d be listening to this odd high-pitched noise he randomly makes—kind of like when you stretch and make that noise that comes out of your throat because your mouth is closed. He makes those sounds while he eats, takes a bath, reads, writes… pretty much whenever he isn’t talking.  I just said to Cameron, “I don’t think that ball’s helping you.” He said, “Yeah it is.”  Now he’s kneeling on it, bouncing, and writing.  This should really help with his handwriting issues.  Or at least it will help with his core muscles.

Now he’s making an even higher-pitched noise and I’m trying not to let him see me laugh.  I laugh because if I didn’t find ways to laugh, I would cry.  A lot.  Now he’s panting, talking in that weird high-pitched voice, and adding some more weird sounds.  But he’s content.  I’m not sitting next to him to coax him to write every letter of every word.  He’s not arguing with me, or even Amelia.  It’s a precious moment of peace that I am so thankful for.  Now he’s banging his chin on his wrist while it sits on the table, making his teeth snap together like an alligator’s.  So, yeah, he may have some sensory issues.  Oh, and now I’m fortunate enough to be listening to his ever-so-popular mouth-fart noises.

But, guess what?  He just finished his homework!  No tears.  We had a couple of close calls when I made him fix his mistakes, but I had warned him that I’d correct his work, and it seemed to help.  Yes, there was a bunch of fidgeting on the ball, but I am willing to accept the fidgeting, noises, and chicken scratch for a finished assignment in less than an hour.

How did I do it, you ask?  Well, not only can this mom throw impromptu dance parties in the living room, help with intricate Lego building, read with funny voices, and make Halloween costumes out of nearly anything in the house; that’s right, for my next trick, I will predict the mood and melt-downs of the SPD monster inside of my child and avoid them with pre-planning.  Yes, I beat him to the punch today.  I had him start his homework right away after his snack, before his exhaustion set in.  I made it sound exciting that I had a new “tool” for him to use while doing today’s homework assignments.  He got the ball ready to use before he even started his homework. When he said he was almost done, I excitedly said, “Great! Then I’ll check it, you can fix your mistakes, and then you’ll be all done!” and he didn’t seem to notice that meant he had more time left than he’d thought.  I also got rid of his biggest distraction, Amelia, by placing her in front of the TV, which is in a different room.  And I didn’t even sit at the table, cook, or anything except sit in the chair within his line of vision and type this.

Why can’t I beat him to the punch every day?  Because I’m exhausted.  I work full-time with kids who have special needs, which puts into perspective how lucky I am to have a son with SPD instead of the plethora of other things that can happen to children.  However, by the time I get home, I’ve given so much to my students, and then I’m expected–no required (in a good way)– to give even more to my own children because my motto is “I will not put my students before my children.” But it’s really, really hard.  It’s hard to be “on” at work and at home. It’s hard to bring all of my strategies, tricks, and especially my patience home with me.  I’m not feeling sorry for myself, but I’m giving myself permission to be tired.  I’m tired just from watching Cameron do his homework, but I think I’m even more tired from the tactics I had to employ in order to make it go smoothly.

With that said, dinner can wait no longer.  Lucky for me, I am also giving myself permission to make frozen pizza.





Homework; A Mini-Post

20 09 2012

Do you know what really sucks?  Homework.  Copying words for spelling is such a HUGE struggle for Cameron, which ends in tears (because he’s exhausted and over-sensitive and throws fits over things that aren’t that big of a deal).  He’s not even supposed to have this much homework because the teacher gives class time, but Cameron is “falling behind”.  At least that’s what Cameron told me.  But why is he falling behind?  Is he goofing off?  Do we need to look into (gasp) medications?  What other things can we do before we get there?  Does he need an IEP?  What additional accommodations would help him?  Is it his handwriting?  Handwriting is a skill I most definitely have taken for granted until Cameron started struggling.  But O.M.G. does he struggle.  How am I going to make it through 10 more years of this?!  Can you tell I’m panicking and stacking all my problems into one giant pile that makes me overwhelmed and thinking that everything’s way worse than it actually is?  Thank you, lone Berry Weiss, for ending my night on a more relaxed note.  Ahhh… Mommy’s medicine.





Back to School with SPD

9 09 2012

The best part of a new school year is the fresh start.  No matter what happened the year before, you only have to deal for nine months at the most, then you’re on to a different classroom, teacher, and group of students.  It’s kind of awesome when you think about it.

Last school year didn’t start out so hot for Cameron.  About a month into it, I was on the phone with a therapist trying to figure out how to help our son, who had been turning into an emotional hurricane nearly every school night.  Each night was a mystery of what his Sensory Processing Disorder would serve up real nice-and-special for the family.  Sometimes we had “angry frustration over 10-minutes of homework,” with a side of “hit your sister.”  Other nights we were given “bossy controlling rule-maker” followed by “uncontrollable crying for an hour because your three-year-old sister looked at you.”  And when we were lucky, we had “snuggly lover” accompanied by “working really hard to find something to feel sad about.”

Once we figured out that Cameron had SPD, we weren’t exactly sure how to help him.  The few things I did ask his teacher to do were rarely done, and I felt like Cameron was spinning his wheels (as were his parents).  His therapist gave us a nice list of things for his teacher to do to help him, but we were never able to coordinate a meeting with his her to review them.  Before you knew it, it was the end of the school year and he was doing fine enough; so we decided to call it a wash and start fresh this year.

This is the first year we’ve started the school year knowing Cameron has SPD, which is a big advantage for him, his teacher, and us.  First of all, I asked around to figure out what teacher would be best for him.  Then, I did something I’d NEVER imagined I would do… I called his principal to request this specific teacher.  I decided to take initiative, since he has learning needs that can be helped or hindered by the right teacher.  This is kind of against my philosophy because I feel like an important skill for people to have is to deal with learning from/working with/being with people they don’t necessarily enjoy.  However, when I saw his love of school dwindle last year, I decided to take action and request someone who would work with him in a more proactive manner. We’ve now had nearly a year to figure out some tricks that work for Cameron, so when I went into his school on Meet the Teacher day, I had a mental list of things to tell his new (and requested) teacher.  It kind of went like this (written in the play version; feel free to grab a friend and act this out).  Also, if you click on the link, you’ll see the “xtranormal.com” version acted out in a mini-cartoon.

Cameron’s Back to School Act 1

Cameron’s Back to School, Act 1 (click link to view short cartoon movie of this Act)

[Cameron and his sister are playing loudly with beanbags in the corner, imagining that they are a draw-bridge, among other things while jumping and making crazy animal noises.  Katina and Mr. G are on the opposite corner of the room, talking quietly.]

Katina: I just want you to know that Cameron has been diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder.  He is a sensory seeker, which means he’s kind of grabby towards other kids and needs to be reminded to keep his hands to himself.  He has a hard time sitting still sometimes, too.

Mr. G: Oh, do you think he’d like to sit on a cushion? [gestures to blue, nubby, wedge-shaped cushion near where he’s standing]

Katina: Yes!  I also have tried to have him sit on a yoga ball at home while he did his homework, and he did say that he liked that.

Mr. G: There’s actually a classroom in our district that has those ball chairs for every student.  I think that teacher got a grant.  I can’t afford to get those chairs for my whole class, but if you want to send one in with Cameron, he could use it here.

Katina: Wow!  That’s great!  Maybe I will, if Cameron is okay with that.  Also, he has terrible handwriting.  He’s been tested for occupational therapy, and he doesn’t qualify, but it’s been an issue in school for quite awhile.

Mr. G: Can he type?

Katina: No, but if you’re willing to let him do that, I’ll start practicing with him at home.

Mr. G: Well, if that works better, that would be fine. It doesn’t matter to me.

Katina: I really don’t make him practice extra writing at home because I don’t want him to hate to write.  He has really great ideas, and he can get them down on paper, but it’s hard to read.

Mr. G: My goal is to make it so he doesn’t hate writing too, so we’ll do whatever works for him.

Katina: Great.  Another thing is that Cameron tends to lose control when he’s excited and needs to be reminded to calm down. We do brush him with a sensory brush, and it really calms him down.

Mr. G: If you want to send the brush to school, I would be fine brushing him here.

Katina: Well, I don’t know if Cameron would feel weird about that, but if he’s fine with it, I think that’s a great idea.  There’s one more thing.  I am a teacher, and so I was curious about his reading level.  He reads really well, but running records (where he reads aloud and a teacher records any errors he makes while reading)  are not easy for him.  He has a hard time getting his words out in general, which includes while he reads.  I gave him a reading test at the beginning of the summer and asked him to read silently, and then I asked him comprehension questions.  He was at a middle school level when I tested him.  I’m not saying that’s for sure where he’s at, but I feel like he comprehends best when he’s not reading aloud to someone.  When he reads aloud, he’s placed at about a fourth grade level.  I’m not trying to tell you what to do, but I’m just letting you know that happened.

Mr. G [smiling and nodding]: My son was the same way.  After I told his teacher about that, she tested him after he read silently and she said she’d never give him another running record again.

Katina: Thank you.

Mr. G: I’m not the best communicator, so if there’s something else, please just let me know.

Katina: I’m not a helicopter mom; I just wanted you to know about Cameron before you start.

SCENE

I left Cameron’s school thinking, “Oh. My. Gosh. This couldn’t be more perfect!”  I was excited and hopeful for Cameron.  Flash forward to the first day of school.  (You’ll need four people for this act, but one part isn’t a speaking role).

Cameron’s Back to School Act 2

Cameron’s Back to School, Act 2 (click to link to a short movie of this act.  There are only two characters in the movie because that’s all the website allows.)

[Jon, Katina, Cameron and Amelia are eating dinner around the table, discussing the kids’ first days at school.  Amelia is making a mess, has already spilled milk, is playing with her food more than eating it, and has pasta sauce on her face, in her eyebrow, and in her hair.]

Jon: How was your first day, Cameron?

Cameron: It was great!  I was so good I got two back scratches from Mr. G.

[Jon and Katina give curious looks to each other.]

Katina: …Really?  Does he do that to everyone?

Cameron: No, just me.  He said real quiet to me, ‘Your mom said I can scratch your back if you want me to.  Is it alright if I scratch your back?’

[Jon and Katina exchange glances]

Jon: Hmm.  Were you around other people?

Cameron: Yeah, I was at my desk.

Katina: Let me take this opportunity to remind you that if you ever feel uncomfortable with an adult-that they’re touching you inappropriately- you have to tell us.  Even if they tell you not to.

Cameron: I know.  I like Mr. G. because he touches me.

[Jon and Katina exchange concerned, surprised, yet somewhat amused glances)

Jon: What do you mean?

Cameron: Like he touches my arm and my head when he’s talking to me.

Katina: Yeah, you do like that.

Cameron: Can we send my brush to school?

Katina: I’m not sure I’m comfortable with him brushing you quite yet.

SCENE

I know in my heart that Mr. G is not a creepster.  I know that he was doing what he knows works for Cameron, because it turns out that Mr. G’s son is kind of similar to Cameron.  So I am so grateful that he’s being so kind to and understanding of Cameron.  However, due to the fact that I am a mother, I can’t help the weird vibes that this whole conversation gave me.  I was planning on addressing the brushing with Mr. G after the school year was rolling a bit more.

Well, it turns out that Cameron REALLY wanted to be brushed at school, because he “scheduled a private meeting” with Mr. G in the library, where he asked where and when Mr. G would be able to brush him during the school day.  Don’t get me wrong; I am proud of his self-advocacy skills, and I’m thrilled that he clearly feels a strong connection with his teacher.  But still… this is probably something that should be discussed with his parents before taking it to the teacher.  But this should come as no surprise to me.  Cameron is a “go get ‘em” kind of guy.  When he wants something, he figures out how to get it.  I should be happy he didn’t “schedule a private meeting” with the principal regarding this pressing issue of brushing.  Luckily, his teacher told him that he needed to talk to us before the brushing could occur.

So the good news is we have a teacher who is willing to go above and beyond to meet the needs of our son without an IEP (Individualized Education Program). The other good news is that I don’t think there’s a bad news (yet).  Cameron and his self-advocacy have worked towards getting what he needs, and that is a step in the right direction.  Now we need to work on his approach, both when telling stories about being “touched” and when asking his teacher for things prior to discussing it with his parents.  We’re getting there!





People Are People

13 08 2012

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!

1 08 2012

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.








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