Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Just wanting to fit in

Watching The Boy try so damn hard to make connections, belong, and fit in is physically painful for me. When he was younger, I could step in, help guide him. Now that he is older, playing football and being increasingly involved in peer to peer social situations that don't always involve an adult presence, I fear these differences are going to isolate him and batter his self esteem. To other's he is sometimes "weird" and "annoying". But he is only doing the best he can do in what must feel like an alien world.

Football is my way of trying to help him to belong. It's not his passion, and it is evident on the field. He does try, don't get me wrong. But he doesn't LOVE it. Dad and I have told him REPEATEDLY and emphatically that if he doesn't want to do it- it's FINE! We won't be disappointed, mad or even upset. Getting a kid on the spectrum to try new things, and step away from the video games is like pulling teeth. Just the simple fact he completed the whole season last year and is attempting another year is absolutely amazing, and awesome and I couldn't be happier! But I don't want it for me, I want him to want it. And if he doesn't, well, OK then, let's step away and find something else. But he insists he wants to play, promises to do better and it breaks my heart. Because no matter what he tries, no matter where his niche is, be it sports, music, art, WHATEVER- I am proud of any effort. And the last thing I want is for him to feel that if he doesn't do it I will feel like he failed.

I read all sorts of uplifting articles, "Teen with autism wanting to get fit finds success on football field", "Autistic football player an inspiration to many", "Autistic football player’s dream comes true" All very uplifting, inspiring stories. I love to hear these success stories, but have accepted that The Boy will probably not go that far, at least in football. But the last thing I want him to be is a "mascot" or a charity case, or a way to make an organization look good. "Look at us, we have an autistic player, aren't we great". Give him a chance, coach him, treat him like the rest of the players, INCLUDE HIM, and help the other players and coaches understand him. He will probably never score the winning touchdown, or maybe he will. The only way to know for sure is to give him that chance.

Every parent of every child has their own dream for that child. My dream is inclusion. I want my son to FEEL included. I want him to FEEL like he is valued and there is a place for him. So as long as he is making it to practice every day and putting in effort, I will expect the coach to FIND that place for him. Doing anything less is doing The Boy a disservice. I will never try and tell you how to coach football. I will tell you how I think you can coach The Boy, and how it can help not just you, but your team as a whole. At this level, every player is valuable and there is a place for them all.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Are we still in middle school? Parent cliques SUCK

Cliques are not limited to school playgrounds and junior high hallways.   They also appear at "back to school night", PTA meetings, sports, even drop off and pick up for school. One dirty little secret of parenthood is that it comes with a pecking order.  We don't leave cliques or peer pressure behind when we grow up or when we become parents. We just graduate to a new level with adults now playing the roles.

If you take an active role in your child's school or activities then you already know this can be  an issue. And just like a clique can be hurtful for a child, it can be hurtful for an adult. Even if you think you left all of that kind of stuff behind when you joined the "grown up world" it can still come bite you in the ass when you are least expecting it. 

It is often the loudest, pushiest parents who seem to be setting the standard on what it looks like to be a caring, attentive, involved mother or father. There is certainly no one standard of "correct" parenting but many adults behave like assholes while pursuing it.  This often becomes most obvious - and obnoxious - as children reach school age or begin extracurricular activities.  

Enter SPORTS. I have been a part of many groups since my kids started school. Volunteer groups, class parents, Girl Scouts, you name it , I probably volunteered for it. I was also teaching at a local preschool, so a lot of people knew me, or at least knew who I was. Then Teenzilla started cheer for the local little league. She had played soccer, and basketball, but never had I encountered such closed ranks as I did within this Football/Cheer organization. after her first year I became an assistant coach- and I loved it! Not only did I get to be around cheer, I was now part of this "Cool Kid Club" filled to the brim with doctors, lawyers, teachers and well known people in the community. The next year I took the head coach position and did that for 3 more years.

This year I am not coaching. I get to be a MOM. I get to watch The Boy practice and sit in the stands for ONLY ONE GAME!!  Teenzilla is all done cheering and is now junior coaching. It is so much more relaxing now at practice.   

But now I am a nobody. The coaches that I worked alongside, cheering victories and mourning losses act as if they don't even know me. I am just another parent at the field, and not a part of their exclusive club any longer. And it stings. I don't expect to be right in the middle of all the action anymore, but damn! To be treated like a virtual stranger, all of the time spent together apparently forgotten, yeah it kinda hurts.

I have tried to become as involved as I can so far- asking about helping the Team Mom and offering to fill in as a sub for the cheerleaders if one of the coaches has to be absent, only to be pretty much blown off. 

So be it. A chapter in my life has come to an end, more abruptly than I would have liked, but I did have a great time while I did it.I am beyond proud that The Boy wants to play again this year. One of the girls wrote an essay last year about a person she admired- and she wrote it about me..pretty damn cool! I made the decision to "retire" as it were, and now I will fulfill my mandatory volunteer commitments and call it good. I have made some good, true friends, and am very happy for that. I will be just as encouraging to all the players as I have always been.   And I will  be the loudest mom in the stands! 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

It's time to Blog Hop!!

Welcome back to the TGIF Blog Hop, hosted by Funny PostPartum LadyOverworked supermom and You know it happens at your house too!

TGIF Blog Hop is a great way to gain new followers and bring more traffic to your blog.

It's also a great way to meet other bloggers and get great tips, ideas, and read cool blog posts.

Easy....Just follow a few simple rules:

- Add your blog link to the linky and read cool blog posts.

-Follow the three hosts (You know it happens at your house too Overworked supermomFunny PostPartum Lady) and our featured Blog of the Week-Mom, running on empty

If you leave us a comment we will know to follow you back.
- Visit as many blogs on the list as
you can and leave a comment. Let them know if you've followed them so they can return the favor. Also, if someone from the blog hop follows you, you should return the favor!
- Post our button on your blog....remember, the more people that find our hop, the more followers you can gain!

Featured Blog of the Week

Every Friday we will put up a new linky, so be sure to
stop by and add your blog. Each week we will randomly choose one participant
from the previous week’s blog hop to be the Featured Blog of the week.

Holding on to summer

The Boy is back at football. Teenzilla is coaching pee-wee cheerleaders. This signifies that summer is pretty much over for us.  But I am hanging on for dear life. I LOVE summer- especially when I don't have to work and can be home with my kiddos. I was just getting used to summer when I realized that it's nearly over. And it wasn't even a productive summer- a lot of hanging out, pool time and Nerf gun battles. I don't want to go back to the real world of hectic mornings, busy afternoons and flash by weekends.  I will also be embarking on the next phase of MY education- finishing my degree in Special Ed. It is definitely a big year for transitions.

When they were younger I was counting down the days until school resumed. I guess having a freshman and a 5th grader makes me keenly aware of just how fast time is going by- and these summers of hanging out with them are dwindling. If I needed any further proof- I just need to chat with The Twenty Something- the fact that he is a grown man still boggles my mind.

The bliss that most parents feel knowing that for at least 8 hours a day someone else is in charge of their kids is lost on me this year. I am only thinking of the reasons why I am desperately holding on to  summer.

1)NO MORE SLEEPING IN!! - Crazy mornings, getting everyone packed and ready- especially since I leave before the kids do, so dad is Team Leader. Rest assured- mom has gotten all of the important stuff done, lunches, library books, homework and permission slips all ready. His job, make sure they eat SOMETHING brush their teeth and get to school on time.  Simple, right? Probably, but my OCD is in overdrive, and my worry level is at DEFCON 1. The Mister does a great job, but a mom always feels she could have done better.

2)Back to school shopping- This activity fills me with dread. The Boy- he's EASY. But I have a 14 year old Teenzilla who is starting high school. The mere thought of walking around the mall being bombarded with offers to straighten my hair makes me want to hide. My Teenzilla has a very unique style- no Abercrombie or American Eagle...nope. We will be hitting Hot Topic where my ears can be assaulted with  heavy bass  DubStep and thrash metal, and trying to casually count all the piercings on the girl who is helping us. The fact that the store itself is narrow, makes me have to LITERALLY rub elbows with the unwashed masses...UGH.  And worst of all, trying to explain to my beautiful Teenzilla that our budget has been downsized (thank you car problems) seriously- where is my wine?

3)Piles of CRAP- You know, all the papers, notebooks, books, backpacks, never ending piles of CRAP that the little darlings bring home. It was mid July before I even got through LAST YEAR'S crap! Now I get to start all over. I have already received the first giant envelope full of shit to fill out for Teenzilla...My wine?

4)Extra Curricular Activities- In summer, things aren't really planned. We go somewhere if we want to, not because we have to (most of the time). Then school is back in session, and the HAVE TO BE THERE never ends. back to school night, practices, football games, rehearsals, PTA meetings, is endless. And while I am not one to over schedule my kids, there are still A LOT of things to get them to.  The gas money alone costs a fortune, especially with gas over $4 a gallon. I will be lucky to have wine money.

5)Pay for this, buy that, volunteer for something else- The amount of work I do writing checks adds up to a part time job, but not getting any money in..just sending it out. Music Boosters, PAT dues (our district is Parent and Teacher, not traditional PTA), school pictures, material fees, fundraisers. Then there is the volunteering. Class mom, car pools, field trips and on and on and on. And you are hardest hit in that first month- when cash is already tight and you are robbing Peter AND Paul to pay Tom.  Seriously, where is my wine?

6) IEP Hell- The joys of the beginning of the year IEP meeting. Finding out new and interesting ways the school is failing to comply with The Boy's current IEP, (or how they are going to try to slip bullshit past me) and the IDEA law interspersed with hyperventilated exclamations from me, especially as I am still not thrilled with how last year went.   Let’s face it, the entire process is extremely intimidating and nerve-wracking to a parent. And I am not one of those meek and mild parents. NOOOO! I am vocal and demanding- just call me PITA mom. This is my kid's education after all.  I try my hardest to work WITH the team- but damn- it feels like swimming upstream with weights on my legs.  WHERE IS MY WINE?!?

It doesn't matter how many reasons I have, time marches on, and the kids will be marching to the bus in a little under 3 weeks. Now is the time to start shooing them to bed earlier (THAT is a definite perk!)  cleaning closets, and making lists of all the essentials and trying to stretch the already stretched to the limit budget.  I have been doing this for a LONG time- you would think I would get better at it, right?

Ahhh- there is my wine. Cheers to Back to School, and the best of luck to all of us!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Back to school- hopes and fears. Hope 2012-A Blog Relay

"I can assure you there is no more powerful advocate for children than a parent armed with information and options."
Dr. Rod Paige, U.S. Secretary of Education (2001-2005)

When I read Slice of Humble's blog about hope this week, I was so inspired!  So here is my inspired blog, and my take on "Hope" 

It's August- which means school is just around the corner! There’s a buzz in the air that’s almost palpable. Parents all over town are humming with anticipation of what, for many of us is the most wonderful time of the year. That first day back to school!

In our family, it has been a constant juggling act between two very different age groups, dealing with no car, dealing with financial instability, and trying to keep The Boy engaged and throwing learning opportunities at him as well. It's not easy, and I should be glad that someone else gets to take over his education for the better part of the day in a few weeks.

But I am worried- because although he was supposed to be mainstreamed last year, the teacher decided "he wasn't doing as well as she would like" i.e. I can't handle him or give him the extra 5 minutes he needs on certain tasks. So he was put into a "categorical classroom" or "cross categorical classroom" or special ed to you and me. I wasn't happy about this turn of events- at his other school he had managed being completely mainstreamed, and had a wonderful teacher who worked WITH him, while also integrating him into the classroom. This has not been the case in the new school.

The "categorical/cross categorical classroom" is supposed to take a teacher with a certain endorsement, such as LD (learning disability) EI (emotionally impaired) CI (cognitively impaired) or HI (Hearing impaired) AI (Autistic impaired)- you get the picture- and put them with students who fit within their endorsements. Because most of these classrooms are "cross-categorical" a teacher with an LD endorsement will probably be teaching a classroom of kids with impairments across the board. Which means that in order to meet IEP goals- these teachers must work a lot harder, and these students will be missing support classes and specials like art, music etc. I think this cross categorical idea is crap. How does this best meet the needs of kids with disabilities in the least restrictive environment?

To top things off, after going all year with "he's doing good" I get his end of the year report card- and while he did pretty good in most areas - he didn't in others and NOTHING was ever said. And I pushed and pushed- wanting to make sure he was mainstreamed fully next year, AND with a certain teacher. I was told that yes , yes, of course- we agree with you. Then it was "oh well, we will see" and mama wasn't having any of that!

So next week, the phone calls and emails will start. Making sure he gets the teacher I want him to have, and that the "cross-categorical" classroom will be only used for support- NOT as a main classroom situation.

So what does this blog have to do with "Hope"? Everything. We all hope our children do well, make friends, and are happy, right? I am a parent who has to work her ass off on a DAILY basis to make sure these things happen. I am a parent of an autistic child- so I work, and advocate and fight for every little thing. Not that I didn't do the same for the other kids- just not on such an intense level.

I have discovered strength and patience I never knew I had. So much so, I am finishing my own degree in Special Education so I can help those kids so many schools just ignore.

Step 1: Write a blog post about hope & publish it on your blog.
Step 2: Invite one (or more!) bloggers to do the same.
 Step 3: Link to the person who recruited you (me, in this case) at the top of the post, and the people you're recruiting at the bottom of the post.
Melanie Crutchfield will be holding "Closing Ceremonies" around August 10 and will gather up little snippets from people that wrote about hope, so make sure you link back to her as the originator of the relay

My picks are: