Good Enough

I’ve been a little quiet recently. Two weeks ago my husband left to do two weeks of service in the Air National Guard. He’s been out of the military for several years, but recently we decided that the Guard offered some advantages we couldn’t ignore–mainly their super-cheap and generous insurance plans.

So, for the first time ever, I’ve been mothering three children by myself. I’ve had a lot of help in and out, but the truth is that it’s been tough. Sleep has been hard to come by, and I am very glad to be done with the single parent gig. By the time you read this, Hubby will be back and I will mostly likely be fast asleep in my bed.

But tonight I sit back and make a little toast (with water, sadly) to Good Enough Parenting.

To kids who spend the whole day in their pajamas.

To dirty floors with a blanket thrown on top, so the babies can play.

To peanut butter sandwiches for dinner.

To uniforms that aren’t “that” dirty.

And putting kids on the bus in my PJs.

To eating dinner with the TV on.

To picking a bedtime story based on how short it is.

And to food that comes in a box.

I raise a toast to good enough parenting because some days good parenting just isn’t an option.

Cheers.

Look--they're still breathing and everything.

Hard to Know

Two days ago I was killing a little time before picking up a friend at the airport. I have a new-found love of old clip earrings so I thought I would stop in at a thrift store near in the area and see if they had anything good.

Charlie was riding nicely in a cast-off grocery cart, but was getting a little tired as we headed to the check out. As I stood at the check out line, a woman walked up and started engaging Charlie. She smiled and talked to him and started touching his hands. I’m wasn’t exactly loving the situation, but I was standing in a line, so what could I really do?

After what felt like an eternity, she asked, “is he handicapped?” Well, I put on my brightest smile and said yes, gave her a few sentences of explanation and then just let it go. She kept playing with Charlie and I kept waiting for her to go away. She got Charlie’s attention, though, and he started grabbing her hand, which is his version of hello. I warned her he might try to put her hand in his mouth and she quickly withdrew it and said, “I don’t want his slobber on me.” That pretty much felt like being slapped in the store. I was so upset that I immediately took out my phone and tweeted my frustration.

She walked off after that and  I continued to stand there glancing secretively at the woman who had so quickly ruined my day.  As she walked off I spotted some tell-tale signs of disability–a shuffle in her walk, an arm held close to the body and bent at the wrist. I’m no doctor, but I would have bet cerebral palsy.

I felt pretty bad about being so irritated. Actually, I  felt like a jerk.

And while I definitely need some sensitivity training, I also thought about how you would go about teaching your disabled child about the fine art of being mannerly. I could tell him not to touch people, but at this point that’s one of his primary ways of communicating with others. I’m sure there are times when I let him get away with things he shouldn’t–just because I’m proud he can do them. Who needs to be reined in–him or me?

I know that physical disability and social awkwardness don’t necessarily go hand in hand. There are plenty of socially-adept people out there with physical limitations–just ask Oprah.

I ‘m not even sure where I’m going with this. Just hoping out loud that when the time is right I’ll figure out the sweet spot–pushing him to be his best, but accepting him as he is; keeping expectations high, but acknowledging his limitations. Really, it’s the same goal that every parent has, right?

close up of boy looking at the camera

Over Protected

I love Law and Order. When I was in college my roommate like to watch Wheel of Fortune every day at 6:00 p.m., so I went out and bought a TV to put in my room so I didn’t miss re-runs of L&O. Yes, I was that sad–I didn’t want to miss a single re-run.

So now that I don’t even have TV, I get my fix with DVDs from the library or streaming on Netflix. You would think I’ve seen every episode by now, but apparently the re-run people only show certain ones and every season has a few I’ve never seen before.

There’s this one episode–I’ve seen it before–but the was BC (Before Charlie) and I never really considered the issues involved the first time I watched it.

The gist of the story is that a woman with Down Syndrome gets pregnant, but since she knows nothing about reproduction, she can’t tell the police how she got pregnant. They, of course, catch the bad guy, and even tie the story up with a nice little bow, but there was some moralizing in there about the mom being over-protective and not giving her child a chance at a more normal life.

And that’s just another thing to add to the recipe that is parenting a special needs child:  Over protection. It’s not just a Britney Spears song.

boy looks at camera

It sounds simple in theory, but reality always seems to be a wee bit different than the theories. For example, I worked with kids with learning disabilities in regular classroom settings. I know that many of them made good gains and probably learned more than if they’d been in a resource setting. I know all that and I still have no idea how I feel about putting Charlie in a regular classroom–even with an aide. There’s a boy at Charlie’s school who is two years ahead of him and who has a very similar condition. He can speak and his wheelchair is green, but other than that, they are very similar. His mom fought HARD to have him placed in a regular Kindergarten class for most of the day. Would I have been that brave? I’m not sure. The idea of letting Charlie sit in a regular class with a regular kids–away from the warm cocoon of his special needs classroom? Yeah, that makes me feel squirmy inside.

It’s easy to spot it when other parent’s are doing it, but when it’s you? Not so much. That floating outside your body this is tough when you’re not in the movies.

I’m not keeping myself up at night or anything, but like I said, it’s just one more thing to think about: am I holding my child back? Is my need to keep him safe keeping him from doing everything he wants?

Ahhhh. . . because just being a parent isn’t hard enough.

boy looks away and smiles

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