4C, 4 Momma, 4D, 4A, and 4B

4C, 4 Momma, 4D, 4A, and 4B
Most of the Four me (and you) fam

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Hodge podge

Life over here has been hectic, to say the least. Everything seems to pile up in the spring, doesn't it? Dance recitals, promotion ceremonies, teacher appreciation, planning out summer camps and trips, wrapping up Girl Scouts and sports and classes. It's been a whirlwind.

I've been meaning to post about a few things, and here they are, in no particular order...

Dentist reminder
My littlest one had her 6 month checkup at the dentist. She went, sat in my lap on the chair, opened her mouth wide when asked, and quietly sat there for her exam. Reminded AGAIN of the joys of typical development. It's still remarkable to me, after all these years. If you remember, that was NOT our experience with 4A.

The joys of typical development
4C is getting ready for her dance recital. I had attended the last class to see the routine, and I bawled my eyes out, seeing her following the teacher's directions and participating just because she wanted to...no social story, no reinforcement, no talking with the teacher. Last night, she and I showed up to the strange and HUGE auditorium for the dress rehearsal. She put on her rather scratchy outfit, climbed up onto that stage, stood in the HUGE and BRIGHT and LOUD space, and did exactly what her teacher told her to do. And, she was overjoyed to do it! Damn my crazy ass, but I bawled AGAIN. Seeing that typical development, that enthusiasm, that WANTING to do and be a part of something just because it feels good to do it, still trips me up. Still. Probably always.

Helping rescue amazing kids in need
If you haven't had a chance yet to visit the Hidden Treasures Auction blog, I encourage you to visit in early June. You'll find lovely handmade and other treasures, and 100% of your payment goes to help a family bring an amazing kid home to a loving family. You can learn more about the horrific and inhumane treatment of these beautiful kids here. Some of you have been moved by Katie's story and have asked how you can help. There are so many ways, and I thank you for asking!

  • Make or buy something to donate to the next auction. 
  • Donated a gift card to a national chain (Target, McDonalds, Starbucks). Got one as a gift that you won't use? Great...pass along to this great cause.
  • Purchase two of the next birthday gift that you buy for a child and donate one to HT. 
  • Purge your gently-used book, children's toys, and DVD collections; donate items. 
  • Log on and BID (and bid HIGH) on these great items. 
  • Print out a picture of the next child up to come home, put it on your fridge with a baggie, and encourage your kids to fill that baggie with change; match their contributions and donate to that child's loving family.
  • Post a link to the next auction on your Facebook page; encourage your friends to bid.
  • Share the story of these amazing kids and their families with everyone you meet. Tell them about these auctions. Spread the word and the link.
Recovering from spring break
4A has had a hard time recovering from Spring Break. This happens every year. The week or two before break, the kids are wild and the teachers are tired. Things slack a bit. It's natural and normal and okay. When the kids come back from break, the hammer comes down, and things get back to business. Natural and normal and okay again. Most kids enjoy the heck out of that slack before break and get their shit together quick after break.

4A does not. The slack before break doesn't trip her up too much any more, but the hammer post-break makes her NUTS. In her Aspie mind, the rules changed before break. When she returns from break, she expects the slack version again. Makes her nuts that the slack is no longer the rule. We get her back on track every year with extra reinforcements and hyper-viligant use of the behavioral plan. But, there's the extinguishment burst (meaning that the behavior is worse before it gets better because she's trying her darnedest to make the teacher go back to the slack). We're just about back to normal, and it feels good.

I am reminded this year, though, that I need to be better about reminding the teacher of this pattern in the month before the break. Add to 4A's rule book for fall...check!

I'm also reminded how tricky 4A is. She gets a LOT of support and has for a VERY long time. That's a great thing, and it allows her to be super successful. But, because she is so successful, often times, the folks on the team (myself included) start to forget. She starts to do so well that I seductively think that she's finally "getting it" or turning the corner. Supports disappear, and she's a mess. Ipso facto, the success is support driven. I know she has autism. I'm in complete acceptance (and adoration) of her. But, I think I still hold out some hope that she will "learn" her way out of it. This was another good reminder of the permanancy of her wiring.

So, 4A had been FAILING her timed math fact (multiplication) quizzes. This is despite early intervention math twice a week before school, 5 minutes of flashcards or math fact iPad games each day, and a trial test each evening. She was wearing my (and her teacher's) ass out!

The brilliant Dr. Steve came up with a plan. Revised it when she outsmarted the plan. Revised it yet again. We have now successfully closed ALL loopholes, and she is earning her way out of doing the practice tests by proving to us that she knows the facts. Five days of a correct answer on a given fact means that fact disappears (replaced with a new one that she doesn't know). Once we are confident that she's learned the facts, then we can work on increasing speed.

Sounds silly, I suppose, but she knows that there is only one minute of time. If she takes her time, she doesn't have to do all of the problems. She misses the point, of course, that doing it quickly and doing them all correctly yields a "good" grade. A "good" grade creates a happy or proud feeling; that feeling is a social construct. As such, we have to replicate that "feeling" artificially.

We've successfully learned x0, x1, x2, x3, x4, and x5 such that no finger counting or array drawing is involved in those any more. Even on a test with ONLY those problems that she knows cold, it still takes her 90 seconds to complete 16 problems. So, now, she gets a 75% or so because she can at least complete 3/4 of the 16 problems in the minute given. We're getting there.

Hurting and healing a momma's heart
I was picked on a lot as a kid. My family moved a lot, and being the new kid was hard. In fact, in 4th grade, when I was new to a school, the other kids formed an "I hate Hollie and Jenny" club on the playground to gang up on me and the other new girl. Years of therapy later, it doesn't hurt any more, but I VOWED that my kids would NOT bully. Period. No room for discussion. Intolerance was the only parenting option for me.

Well, 4A called a kid a dork on the bus. Poor, sweet little kindergartener...when she would see him each day, she said, "Hi dork," in her dry, monotone Aspie voice. I heard about it from her teacher. I tried to stay calm and rational. I really did. She has autism, I told myself. She doesn't understand that her perceptions are to stay in her head and not come out of her mouth. But, autism or not, name calling is not acceptable in our family; a broken rule has a behavioral consequence, but more importantly than that, when we make mistakes, we try to fix them.

When I asked her about it, she fessed right up. I told her that she hurt his feelings. She gave me that blank look of non-understanding. I told her that her biggest fear is that people think she's a baby; how would she feel, then, if someone walked up to her and said, "Hi baby." Know what? She cried her eyes out. She realized, then, how bad it must have hurt.

Okay. So, to fix mistakes in this family, we apologize and try harder next time. We worked through her apology. Me: Why are you sorry? Her: Because I shouldn't have said it. Me: Why not? Her: Because it wasn't true. Me: Then why did you say it? Her: Other kids call their brothers dorks all the time. Me: (after explaining the difference between name-calling amongst siblings and amongst children who are not related) If you know that our family rule is no name-calling, then why did you say it? Her: I was trying to look cool in front of my friends. My heart broke.

So, we rehearsed her apology a few times. Little sweet boy gets off the bus, and she apologized, very genuinely. "I'm sorry I called you a dork because it's not true and because I was just trying to be cool in front of my friends." Without missing a beat, she then turns to me and says in her dry, monotone Aspie voice, "Can I go now?" CRINGE! I was SO embarrassed.

She made a genuine, honest, real, thoughtful apology, and she had to go and ruin it. Sigh. I then had to reinforce the apology but disincentivize the editorial comment at the end of said beautiful apology. Bigger sigh.

Being a mom is super hard. As a mom, I try my very, very best to teach these kids right from wrong. Not "Right" from "Wrong," but what we consider, based on our values, to be the rules for living a decent life. We talk about it. We practice it. We reinforce it. And guess what? It doesn't always work.

They are still people. People have autonomy. They have free will. They get to make their own choices. They make mistakes. Sometimes, they know the rule and chose to break it.

I have to remind myself that her choices are a reflection of HER and not me. I know I am doing "right" by her, meaning that I am doing my very best to teach her to be honest and kind and fair and decent. Sure, I screw it up sometimes (we all do; even those of us who won't admit it), but I'm doing a good job. And, my "good," I mean the very best that I can given my circumstances. Whether or not I could do "better" is really not an appropriate question. Sure, YOU might do it differently given what YOU know and who YOUR children are. But, given who I am and what I know and who they are, I feel like I'm doing the "right" thing for them.

There are as many ways to parent children as there are parents. There is not an objectively right or wrong way.

It can be really, really hard to lose sight of that when our children disappoint us. Or, more importantly, when someone else's child does something that would violate one of our rules for our children. It is very, very easy (and dangerous) to jump to conclusions about someone else's parenting. "Well, my child would NEVER do that because I ________ (insert your verbiage of choice: teach her not to, spank her so she knows not to do it, won't allow such behavior, wouldn't tolerate it, etc.)." (And, I'm really not talking about myself and my parenting in this situation here; I'm talking about being a parent generally and rushing to judgment about the parental link between or cause of a particular child's behavior.)

A child's behavior is a reflection of them and their choices, not a reflection of that child's parent. We parents can do our level best to teach them the "right" way to do things, and they still get to make their own choice. Sure, some parents don't give a shit. Some don't try. Some don't care. But, I think most of us DO care and DO try, but our kids still get to make their own choices about who they want to be in the world.

That is a very uncomfortable pill to swallow.

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