Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sojourn Through Parental Types

The end of the year is always tough for HSB. As I mentioned in earlier posts, he usually decides by the end of April that the year is over. This year has especially been hard for him. Not only did he have tremendous problems in two major classes, all around math, but he had to study for his college boards (which he did great on), was dissed by his best friend of 8 years and even though he did join the bowling team and was befriended by several of the members he still sat alone every weekend and could not move beyond the lost friendship. So he is done. Totally done. But unfortunately the school is not done with him yet. Just another two weeks before finals. We are holding on for dear life.

But what this episode reminds me of is how we parent our special needs children. I think that there are two types of parents in general; those that allow their children to grow with the appropriate support and the other type of parent where it is all about them-their children are not individuals but extensions of the parents. For those parents we can always look at the moron on the little league field, the parent who takes over the science fair project, the parent who always has to plan very class party or be on every class trip. There is the parent who stresses popularity and sports at any cost, but doesn’t necessarily lead by proper example. Of course there is also the parent who refuses to give up their “lifestyle” to buy their child medication. Yeah, heard those stories too. We aren’t going to talk about them; they belong in the category of vermin altogether.

In fact, this reminded me of a conversation I had with the Vice Principal of HSB’s school about the lost friendship. She explained to me how it is such a common occurrence, that children change lifelong friendships in highschool that it really is part of the coming of age story. Of course, it doesn’t make it any easier for your child or for you to watch your child go through these painful episodes, but at least you know that it is not an aberration. Of course, it would be nicer if the typical things that happened to HSB were a little more positive and little less mean but “you can’t always get what you want.”

Now I understand that children change and they may not want to be friends with your child anymore. OK they are asshats but that doesn’t help your child’s situation. I also understand that learning to deal with rejection is an essential skill that needs to be learned. We are rejected throughout our lives, either by friends, employers, charity committees, and credit card companies (yes we would all have probably been better off if they had done more rejecting in the last decade rather than accepting, but hindsight is 20/20) to name just a few situations. We need to learn to “pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start in over again.”

But I think the hardest part about HSB and his former BFF, was that the parents didn’t tell me anything. I continually ran into the mother everywhere I went and I would ask should HSB call, and she would just answer “sure if he wants.” Now one thing you have to understand is that the BFF was not one for the phone so the fact that he didn’t come to the phone or call back is not apparent right away that HSB was being blown off. The mother should have said something. It would have been kinder and quite frankly classier. But the Vice Principal told me that too many parents either don’t interject in their children’s social life or truthfully are totally socially clueless. The truth is I would have never done that to the BFF if the shoe was on the other foot.

I also don’t understand how parents can’t be involved in their children’s social decision making, especially when they are teens. In today’s world where there is so much bombarding your child, how could you just decided that your child will learn to navigate the world on their own? This is why so many of our children’s generation are in so much trouble. These children are making life effecting decisions and some adult input, whether wanted by the child or not, is warranted. Is their disaffection because they need to be their child’s friend and not their parent? I remember an old adage that I had read in a parenting column one day in the New York Times (yes there was a time when I would read that paper everyday and do the crossword puzzle. At least today I still do the crossword puzzle). The old adage was “if your children do not tell you they hate you at least once a day, you are not doing your job as a parent properly.” It stuck with me and to this day, when the boys tell me I am mean or they hate me and can’t wait to move out. I say to myself YIPPEE. They are on the right path. The school also knows that if they are having a difficult time with HSB to threaten him with a call home and that usually helps with the attitude adjustment.

Another type of parent that just gets my goat is the person who their child’s childhood is all about them. The child is an ornament or window dressing to show accomplishment. They are the ones who had to constantly compare milestones and pre-school abilities every time you sat down to coffee or the sandbox. I remember sitting in on a CSE meeting, in my capacity as a parent member, a woman had requested her son be tested because he was well being a typical boy and she decided he need to spend more time studying and learning instead of playing. She thought that he had a disability because he preferred to horse around with his friends and not practice the piano or read a book or study a foreign language. This child, by the way, was all of 6. Oh yeah, she was nuts, big time nuts. When we were going over the boy’s scoring from the testing, he scored off the charts, over the 99 percentile in everything, the CSE chair and I kept looking at each other and rolling our eyes. She kept insisting that there had to be something wrong, since he stuttered when he talked to her. The CSE chair in his delicate way, basically told her, that he stutters because she scares the crap out of him and he is frightened of her. After the meeting she and I did have a little heart-to-heart about her son. I tried to emphasize that she needed to let him be a child and that horseplay and being ridiculous were part of being boys and growing up. For that child’s sake I hope she listened.

Then there is the type of parent that I really can’t stand. The one who makes everything that happens just about themselves. You know the ones who have to tell everyone all about their child’s disability and bask in the sympathy of strangers. The parent who goes on support forums and complains how they have no life because of their child or they can’t even go get ice cream because their child’s OCD prevents the child from making a decision about the kind of ice cream to eat. They whine about themselves and how they had to sit there not knowing what to do, when all they wanted was an ice cream cone. The fact that their child was in so much pain because they couldn’t make a decision is beyond them. It is about what they, the parent, wanted at that moment, and not about the trauma their child was enduring.

I have to tell you that I went on that forum and told the bitch off. The moderator deleted my post but left up the nasty reply to me about what a great parent she is and how dare I berate her. I then got an email from the moderator that sometimes all people need is a hug. (No this isn’t the same forum where the woman was proud about how she spanked her autistic child and everyone kept telling her she was a great parent.) I told the moderator what the woman needed was to be told to grow up and to help her child. That I was tired of the moderators on the forum constantly telling me how not nice I was because I couldn’t see that. I actually had someone yell at me for using the word “hate” during a discussion about the “cure” crap that is so popular with the followers of one particular blond actress. They berated me that “hate” was a mean word and I shouldn’t use that language. I told them that I wasn’t three and I would use any words I wanted to. I also told them that their forum wasn’t worth my time. I think they were very glad to see me go. They didn’t like a lot of what I mentioned to them about supports they were entitled to, and the help they needed to get for their children. They seemed to resent the help my boys received from the district and told me that the law was different where they were. Again, I think they basked in their children’s disability and liked playing the martyr. They especially didn’t like the idea that when their children were adolescents that they would still be living in the world of autism. Oh no, they said, I won’t be doing what you are doing when my child is 15 one said. Good luck I told her, but whenever I responded to a question with information, the information was ignored, challenged or deleted.

OK, I admit I can be a bit of a hard head myself (Ok I have embraced my inner bitch and I can be a bit caustic at times), but you do tend to see patterns in groups. Brilliant-computer-sis told me when I started my sojourn into social media that there would always be the person who disagreed with you and that person may get very nasty because of the anonymity of the internet. Walk away she would say. My problem has always been that I can’t do that, not when there are children involved. Maybe that’s why I get in so much trouble with people sometimes. I have my opinion and I am not afraid to air it.

Throughout my sojourns through social media, I am truly glad that I found twitter. On twitter I can honestly say that I have met (albeit mostly not in person) some of the most supportive and wonderful parents I have every come across. Everyone who I tweet with has their goal to better their child’s life for that child, nothing about themselves. I found many people who think like me in that regard and that is so wonderful. We don’t’ always agree on how to treat autism, or what caused the autism or where the autism community should go in the future, but there is the idea that underneath it all, it’s about the children. People share ideas and accept help and we learn from each other and teach each other and share a shoulder in times of frustration.

I can honestly say too, that I have learned about so many different issues, many non autism related, that I never knew existed; and even if I knew about them I didn’t really know “about” the issues. I learned how to help others in their time of need and of wonderful people who have turned their children’s disabilities into a calling to help others.

I am thankful for my time on @thecoffeeklatch, Marianne’s wonderful brainchild. It has been a coalescing of ideas and needs and support and a wonderful learning experience for me. Anyone who says twitter is a waste of time doesn’t understand the power of such a medium and the help it can bring to those of us who did sit or would otherwise sit alone. So off to twitter I go. Ready to tweet away with persons who think like me and understand that it is about the connections we make in life and that these connections can help us help others as well as ourselves.

Oh, BTW, HSB was invited to a new friend’s birthday party this past weekend. It was just a few boys and girls together watching some TV, eating pizza and birthday cake. But it went well and he had fun. So whether this new friend is long lasting or not, at least HSB knows that he can make new friends and that it is ok and that people do like him.

In the meantime one of the outcomes of my travels on twitter is remembering that there are many quests in this world:

Until next time,