Couch Conversations

On Friday night I let the Roc stay up and watch the latest episode of The Biggest Loser with me.  He likes to watch the contestants try to complete the physical challenges and see how they’ve changed over time.

I like watching with him because he gets so excited for the contestants and he cheers them on.  He sits next to me and says, “Come on!  You can do it!  Keep trying!” as they struggle to complete obstacle courses, grueling physical tasks, and puzzles.  He doesn’t like it when they cry and worriedly looks to me to see what I look like.  He often asks me, “Why does your face look like that?” as I hold back tears.  I can’t help it, watching the contestants transform is uplifting and sometimes their stories are heart wrenching, so it’s hard for me not to cry.

Watching with him has led to some interesting conversations on the couch.

This season there is a contestant who has trouble controlling his emotions.  He freaks out and yells when a challenge is something that makes him really uncomfortable.  I often feel uncomfortable watching this man get angry, and his man tantrums remind me of a certain someone who lives in my house.  I’ve wondered if the Roc would make a connection to his own angry outbursts and this man.  A couple weeks ago the Roc whispered, “Come on Rob, you can do it.  Come on!” as Rob got over his freak out and mustered up the courage to rappel down a waterfall.  (For the record, I may have freaked out if someone told me to do the same!)

“Yes!  He did it!  That looked so scary!” the Roc exclaimed while Rob celebrated his accomplishment at the bottom of the waterfall.

“He got pretty mad at the top didn’t he?” I asked the Roc.

“Yeah, he got mad like I do sometimes.”

I didn’t say anything else at that time and the Roc started talking about next challenge as the show moved on.  During last weeks episode Rob started to lose control again when he was presented the challenge of vertically jumping onto a box and the Roc said,

“Oh no, there he goes again!”

“He gets really mad a lot doesn’t he?” I asked the Roc.

“Yeah….maybe he has autism!” the Roc exclaimed, his eyes lighting up.

“Hmmm.  I don’t know, no one has said so on the show, but you never know.  Either way he really needs to learn to control himself doesn’t he?”

“Yeah, I’ve been working on that.  He should too.”

Later, during the weigh-in the Roc said the before pictures of the contestants “looked scary” and I asked him to clarify.

“Their bellies look scary…so big like that….that is not good.  Is that unhealthy Mommy?”

I agreed and then we talked about what the show is about:  How the winner is the one who has lost the most weight, and how eating poorly and not moving around enough had led to their weight gain in the first place.  By losing the weight they would be able to do things they hadn’t before.

“Like that lady who said she could be the fun Mommy now!” he said.   “Exactly,” I agreed.

Sitting next to him on Friday night I realized that he had been watching the show without any judgement or criticism.  He is all about the facts and never had anything bad to say about anyone on the show.  In fact, I don’t ever hear him say anything bad about anyone.  He doesn’t work that way.  In a world where we so often hear people around us making judgements and being critical of others, when they don’t know anything about them, it is absolutely refreshing to see that those thoughts do not come naturally to my child.  It’s not something I did, a way I did or did not parent him, it’s just part of who he is.  Though I would hope that some of the our conversations about negative experiences he has had with peers and the right way to treat others have sunk in…it’s just not in his nature to be judgmental or critical of others.

I love that about him.

Car Conversations

GC took the Roc to his weekly social skills class yesterday under the agreement that I would take the Roc to his hippotherapy session in the afternoon.  I savored the empty house while they were gone.  With GC working from home, I am rarely alone anymore and when I get the chance to be alone in our house, I realize how much I enjoy being by myself…and not talking about plants vs. zombies.

When they got home GC mentioned to me that the Roc got hit at class again this week.  It was news to me that another child hit him last week, but I didn’t ask the Roc any questions about the incident(s) right away.  I knew he wouldn’t want to talk about it.  He already had it in his mind that he would be having a smoothie and then playing plants vs. zombies on his iPad during the forty five minutes he would be home before he had to get back into the car to drive to the barn.  I knew I could ask him about it in the car.

Time and growth have changed so much for the Roc.  I can clearly remember driving down Rt. 13 in Delaware and pointing out the farm equipment and big trucks to a silent Roc.  The fluttery panic I felt when I glanced in the rear view mirror and couldn’t catch his eye.  Now he is rarely silent, but many of our conversations are monologues from the Roc about plants vs. zombies, a place we have been, or a movie the Roc has watched.  Or a series of questions of which he already knows the answers.  But that too is slowly changing and I know that he will sometimes talk to me on the many car rides we take.

So while I drove out into the country I asked him about his social skills class:

“Buddy, I heard that you got hit at social skills today.  What happened?” I asked.

“Not hit, pushed.  L pushed me.”

“Oh, that’s too bad.  What happened right before she pushed you?”

“She yelled, ‘This isn’t going fast enough!’ on the obstacle course and she pushed me!  That was so rude!”  His voice rising in indignation.

“She was behind you on the obstacle course and you weren’t going fast enough for her?”

“Yeah, I guess I wasn’t going fast enough for her and she pushed me.  I got so mad I had to go around the corner to calm down.”

“Well, it sounds like you made the right choice.  I’m so glad you didn’t freak out and scream or push her back,” I told him, knowing that he probably wouldn’t have touched her since he doesn’t like to touch people or be touched.

“I don’t like that she pushed me!  Why did she have to do that?”

“I know buddy, she shouldn’t have done that.  No one should push.  But you did the right thing by walking away.  I’m so proud of you for making the right choice.”

“Ok…but I’m still kinda mad about it.”

“You know that you can tell someone not to touch you right?  You can stand up for yourself.  No one has the right to put their hands on you.”

“Well!  I did!  After she pushed me I got mad and told her not to push me!  And!  She got even madder and she threw her stuffed animal down really hard and screeched at me!  That was when I went around the corner.  Why did she have to get more mad at me!  SHE screamed at ME!  SHE pushed ME!” he yelled from the backseat.

“Roc, I’m so glad you stood up for yourself and we are talking about this now.  You made the right choices.  You are growing up and learning how to handle yourself.  I think L will learn the things you are learning too.  It might take her awhile.  But you showed her the right way to react today.”

“I thought that would be my best choice.  I didn’t want to get in trouble.”

“Well, it was.  It sounds like L was having some problems making the right choices today.”

“Yeah!  You know what?  M showed us the smiley face he drew and L just said, Nobody cares, and that was rude.  She has a problem being rude.  And then M grabbed a couple pictures off the schedule and ripped them into pieces and said, There!  That will make it go faster!  And I thought, Man! What is up with these two today?'”

“Wow.  It sounds like social skills was pretty interesting today.”

“Yeah, I didn’t say that last part.  I didn’t let it out of my head.  I didn’t know if I could say it out loud.  So I didn’t say anything…”

We pulled into the parking lot right at that moment.  I put the car in park and turned back to the Roc.

“I am so proud of you Roc.  You are growing up into a very nice young man.”

“I’m proud of me too.  If we gave gold stars I would definitely have gotten one for that!  I would have gotten TWO purple sticks if that had happened at school!”

“Yup, you would have,” I told him as we walked into the building.  He immediately changed the subject to what makes him nervous about riding and we went through our familiar pep talk about the noises horses make and how it is important to learn all the steps of taking care of a horse, not just how to ride one.

A few minutes later, after he had gone off to brush and help saddle his horse, I started scribbling down our conversation, knowing that I would want to record it here.  When the young therapist came over and sat down I relayed the conversation to her and she said,

“He is growing up into such an awesome person.”

I wholeheartedly agree.

Awesome indeed.

 

Say Yes

*

“Mommy, do you hear that noise?”

“Oh the drain isn’t pushed down far enough.  That’s the water going out.  I”ll fix it.”

“Mommy did it stop?”

“I don’t hear it.”

“Did it stop?”

“Do you hear it?”

“Did it stop?”

“I don’t hear it anymore.”

“Did it stop?”

“I think so.”

“Did it stop?”

“Yes.”

*

“Mommy?  Did I have a long bath?”

“I don’t think so Roc.”

“Did I have a long bath?”

“Do you think you’ve had a long bath?”

“Did I have a long bath?”

“You’ve been in for 10 minutes.  Is that long enough?”

“Did I have a long bath?”

“Are you ready to get out?”

“Did I have a long bath?”

“Are you done?”

“Did I have a long bath?”

“….Yes.”

“I’m ready to get out.”

*

“Mommy, where are my cousins?”

“I think they are at tennis lessons.”

“Are they at tennis?”

“I think so.”

“Are they at tennis?”

“Probably.”

“Are they at tennis?”

“If it’s not raining they sure are.”

“Are they at tennis?”

“It’s 9 o’clock, I think they are.”

“Are they at tennis?”

“Yup.”

“Are they at tennis?”

“…Yes.”

*

“Is Matthew going to come with us to the park?”

“He said he would.”

“Is Matthew coming to the park with us?”

“I think so.”

“Is Matthew coming to the park with us?”

“If he wants to.”

“Is Matthew coming to the park with us?”

“Probably.”

“Is Matthew coming to the park with us?”

“…Yes.”

*

“Look Mommy, I drawed a water slide.  Look at it, is that what I am going to have at my birthday party?”

“Hmmm..we’ll have to see ok?”

“Am I going to have that water slide?”

“I don’t know, I have to call a rental place and find out what they have.”

“Am I going to have that water slide?”

“Maybe.”

“Am I going to have that water slide?”

“Something very similar I’m sure.”

“Am I going to have that water slide?”

“It’s possible.”

“Am I going to have that water slide?”

“…Yes.”

*

5 conversations from today.  Recorded while I happened to be sitting at my computer.  I’m sure we had 20 more just like these during the course of the day.

When will I learn?

Just say YES.

Nighttime Mothering

Sometimes it’s in the middle of the night when I feel the most motherly.  It’s during those nighttime crisis that I get to use the mothering skills I squash down during the day, those skills that bubble up, eager to be used whenever the screams of pain or the whimpers of hurt erupt from the Roc.  During the day if I hear an anguished cry I prepare myself as I follow the sound to the source, pin my arms down to my sides, still the fingers that ache to brush away tears, swallow the “it’s okay baby” and “oh sweeties” that gurgle against my teeth, arrange my face and voice to utter calmness instead of the loving concern that wells inside my chest.  If I make the mistake and let loose those skills the screams get louder and shriller with frustration and sensory overload, eyes cloud with anger, and little arms push me away.  During the day.  I’ve made those mistakes, it’s hard not to, what mother doesn’t want to dole out comfort to her hurting child?  Gather them up, band aid the boo boos, kiss the tears, snuggle the wet face and rock the pain and hurt away.  It’s what we do.  It’s what we remember our mothers doing for us.  But I keep myself in check during the day, because I’ve learned that nighttime is a completely different story.

Those skills that are not wanted, not useful to the Roc during the day, are accepted, wanted even, in the dim haze of an owl nightlight with sleep a fingers grasp away.  When a nightmare rushes the Roc to the surface and he awakes scared, sweaty, with tears on his cheeks nothing short of my body next to his, my hand providing a soothing deep pressure up and down his spine, and kisses to the forehead will do.  When sickness strangles the air he breathes I can climb into bed with him, stretch my legs alongside his, wrap my arm around him and read enough stories to ease the annoyance of the “breathing machine.”  As we wait for the magic of motrin to bring a fever down I can lay face to face, mere inches from the Roc and watch his eyes roll back into sleep as I sweep my fingers through his hair and across his forehead just as I remember my mother doing for me when I was small and ill.

This week has seen my feet skittering down the dark hall, only the glimmer of streetlights to light my way, as I rush upward towards the sounds streaming from the Roc’s room when everyone should be sleeping.  On Sunday night I spied empty sheets as I swung his bedroom door open, and as I rounded the bed I found a disoriented and distinctly upset little boy on the floor.  After convincing him to get back in bed I rubbed his back while he drifted away, then I honored his weepy request that I stay the night right there next to him.  We both slept the rest of the night peacefully.  Monday night found me rushing toward screams and a dreadfully disturbed Roc, who must have had a nightmare due to his incoherent mumblings about “not wanting to paint.”  He did give a very clear but pathetically sad “Yes” when I asked him if he wanted me to rub his back.  He quickly fell asleep again and I lay watching his eyes move behind his eyelids, wondering who and what in the world he had been dreaming about.   Last night it was a fever.  As I lay in bed with the Roc waiting to feel his skin cool under my fingertips I sighed.  I hate that he gets scared, or disoriented, or sick, or startlingly uncomfortable in any way…but I do love that I can mother him at night.  I love that I can free my arms to squeeze and hug, loosen my fingers to smooth sweaty hair, let my voice flow with love and concern, shush and sooth the monsters (or painters) away, bring comfort and ease when he needs it the most.

It is what I always ache to do during the day, but during the day it is not what he needs, and so I am strangely grateful for slippery sheets, bad dreams, and slight fevers.

I hope that doesn’t make me a bad mother.

The Catch-up Post

A lot has happened in the last couple weeks and I’ve just been out of touch with blogging about it.  I have many draft posts in my dashboard and I just can’t seem to find the creativity to finish them and hit publish.  I have a post about the first conference of the year, the annual IEP, My get away weekend (bliss), the roller skating birthday party, and I even started the obligatory “thanks for everything” post on Thanksgiving.  Now too much time has gone by and other things are happening and I’ve decided to combine them into a catch-up post.  I’ll try to keep it brief…

The Conference:

I went to the first conference of this important Kindergarten year a couple weeks ago.  I woke up early on that morning with a bit of a pit in my stomach.  Most likely I will be forever anxious about this child.  Is he learning?  I know he can memorize, but are things clicking?  Comprehension?  Is he coping?  Is he making friends?  During open house a couple months ago I was relieved to hear that he was adjusting to school and had been doing well.  I knew I would get more detail about his day and how he was doing academically at this conference.  And just like at the open house, I was relieved to hear that he is adjusting both socially and academically.  He is learning to regulate his behavior and use his words when upset or frustrated instead of lashing out.  In fact, his aggressive behaviors are almost nonexistent!  He is starting to interact more with his peers, though the adults have to help him initiate conversation.  He is following directions and is listening.  He is answering questions.  What amazed me more was that academically right now he is in the middle of the pack.  Last year when he had his four old year school psychology evaluation I was devastated when she showed me where she placed him on the bell curve and explained his IQ scores to me.  I held out hope that she was wrong, and that as his language increased he would show everyone just how smart he is, and am so glad I did.  I know that he is behind many of his peers in many areas, but I was pleased to hear that he is actually above some in certain areas!  That was something I didn’t expect and while I try my hardest not to compare it was nice to hear that he was good at something.

Weekend Escape:

The break was lovely.  Christa and I had a wonderfully relaxing weekend during which we got massages, shopped the outlets (and I only looked at stuff for me), ate lots of good food, watched 3 chick flicks (and realized just how predictable they are after watching so many!), chatted and generally relaxed.  It was wonderful and I had much more patience to deal during the Thanksgiving marathon week when the Roc was home from school.  We will definitely repeat the experience.

The Party:

While I was away on my mini-break GC took the Roc to a birthday party at a roller skating rink.  Hello sensory overload!  According to GC (who is always a little short on details for me) the party went fine.  The Roc tried rollerskating but it was more like him hanging from GC’s arms while GC slowly pulled and pushed him around the rink.  The end of skating came quickly after the Roc got his leg tangled in GC’s and they both tumbled down.  He shed a few tears and wanted to watch from the sidelines after that.  The birthday boy came over a few times and sat with the Roc, which was very nice of him.  Apparently this little boy figured out that the Roc likes to be tickled so he kept coming over to tickle him.  I wish I could have witnessed those interactions.  The rink was loud and busy with no less than 6 birthday parties going on at once so lots of people, movement, noise, and flashing lights.  Basically a sensory nightmare for someone with some sensory issues.  The Roc coped and GC said he did seem to shut down toward the end, but he held himself together long enough to get his cupcake.  I’m so glad he went, and that GC took him despite his reservations, and that the Roc tried rollerskating!

Annual IEP:

We had the Roc’s annual IEP meeting last week and it went well.  His teacher had given me a list of goals she wanted to add to his IEP during the conference and I thought they were written well and was pleased to see some academic goals being added.  He has met, or almost met most of the goals written while in preschool and his current teacher kept many and just altered them to reflect the next phase of development for him.  Following one step directions was expanded to following two step directions, working on a non preferred task was expanded to working on task for 5 minutes, responding to verbal cues to interact with peers was expanded to sustaining conversations for 5-6 turns, etc.  Overall it was a good meeting.  Only at the end when we briefly touched on getting together again in the spring for a placement meeting to decide which setting will be appropriate for next year, and that short conversation started my anxiety about whether to have the Roc repeat a grade.  I mentioned that I was told that he could do this more supported Kindergarten this year and do a regular inclusion Kindergarten next year.  The special ed administrator firmly stated that if the Roc is still doing so well academically at the end of the year there won’t be a valid reason to hold him back…I’m going to try to shelve my fears about this for a little while and see how he progresses by spring time.  Maybe he will be ready for 1st grade by then.  Last year I certainly didn’t think he would be ready for Kindergarten at 5 and he’s doing well, he may surprise me again.

Thanksgiving:

I started a Thanksgiving post that morning and planned on taking pictures throughout the day to emphasize what I was thankful for.  I photographed the pie I baked that morning, our annual “Harvest Pie” (apples, pears, & cranberries —  sooo yummy!), but I just didn’t continue taking them throughout the day and I abandoned that idea.  We did have a nice day and we have a lot to be thankful for.  In the interest of length I won’t list them all, it’s the standard stuff anyway.  Instead of just the three of us we had one other person attend our Thanksgiving meal, GC’s friend Greg who started medical school in Washington D.C. back in August.  The Roc had lots of fun playing basketball with Greg and he commented on how much the Roc has changed since the last time he saw him during the summer.  It was nice to have company during a holiday.

Odds & Ends:

The puppy comes home in two weeks!  They are getting their 6 weeks shots today and GC and I are going to see them on Friday morning after getting the Roc on the bus.  I’m so excited.  What the heck are we getting ourselves into?!

We have decided to rip up our carpet on the first floor and put down laminate wood.  The “wood” is scattered about the house now and I’m supposed to be unloading the entertainment center and getting stuff out of the way today.  Instead I’ve been talking on the phone, reading blogs, and writing this one.  I’d better get to work.  The carpet is coming up tomorrow night!  Yikes.

Did you read this whole thing?

Yes?

Well, you must have lots of time on your hands or you’re my mother (or both!)

White Clay Creek State Park…One year later

We took the Roc to White Clay Creek State Park on Saturday.  The weather was perfect and we had a great time.  We played on the playground,

had a snack,

went for a hike,

(which involved some shoulder-riding)

and the Roc peed in the woods!

Ha!! He will probably hate me for that picture one day!  Of course we couldn’t get him to pee standing up once we got home–but now we know he’s capable!!

We were walking in the woods when GC and I realized that we were here around the same time last year.  Last year the Roc wouldn’t go on any of the playground equipment, he only wanted to pick up the wood chips and watch them fall, and he had an absolute MELTDOWN when we tried to get him to go for a walk with us.  I was in tears when we left.

What a difference a year has made.