There comes a point in every mother’s life when she wonders, “Am I raising a serial killer?”
Or maybe that doesn’t happen to every mother, and I just want to feel less lonely. Go with me on this, guys. I might be ever-so-slightly overreacting to the myriad – the veritable plethora of – timeouts I administered this weekend.
(I write this blog because it’s uplifting and optimistic.)
And then I have even darker thoughts. (See?)
Thoughts like, “What if my kid never moves out? What if he’s never self-sufficient? What if I’m still giving my son timeouts 25 years from now, and I have to listen to the Fire-Engine-Siren-Wail-of-Timeout-Death forever? I can’t take it. I can’t take it, I tell you!”
Two years ago, as I sat in my eldest son’s annual educational planning meeting, I had no idea how to answer his teacher’s question.
As questions go, it was fairly run-of-the-mill. Nothing special. Nothing unique. Nothing unexpected after 6 years straight of sitting in special education planning meetings for my son.
But it’s the question that hit me like a ton of bricks and almost laid me flat.
“What do you think, Beth?” Ian’s teacher asked. “Should we put Ian in a mainstream classroom for science?”
Bland question, I’m sure you’ll agree. I mean, it was an important question, but ultimately it was just another piece of the minutia with which parents and special education teachers must wrestle daily.
As soon as she asked, though, the proverbial cat leapt into my mouth and wrestled my tongue to the ground. I couldn’t answer in any way that made sense.
I think I made a few stuttering attempts,
“I’m sorry, I… It’s just that… Well, I think he… I’m sure that…”
before I finally blurted it out. My real, deep-seated angst. My paranoia and myopic fear.
“IS HE EVER GOING TO MOVE OUT?”
Not one of my more awesome parenting moments. Especially considering that my kid was 9 years old at the time.
But, all of a sudden, when faced with whether or not to place my kid in a mainstream classroom for science, I could only think about my end goal… to raise a kid who might, eventually, have some hope at self-sufficiency in the world. Who might have enough social and life skills to hold down a job, make an income, be secure… be content. And I found myself paralyzed, completely unable to answer the question at hand, until I knew what my son’s potential might be.
Where is he headed in this scary world that sometimes abhors those who are different?
Where CAN he head?
And… in that instance… would a mainstream science class help him get there?
I mentally took a few steps back, and I stopped the planning meeting. I laid out my fears to the crowd of teachers gathered to guide us through the paperwork.
I bluntly asked what these teachers, who had dedicated their careers to kids just like my son, thought about his ability to succeed, and specifically at which life elements he might do so.
And they gave me a gift that day, during that silly conversation about 4th grade science. Perhaps the greatest gift that anyone has ever given the Me Who Is The Mother Of A Special Needs Kid. They laughed at the ridiculousness of my question, because of course he will succeed, they said. And of course, someday, he will have the skills necessary to move out of your house and live a semi-independent life.
They laughed, and they gave me hope.
So, when my now 11-year-old, very, extremely, to-the-infinite-side-of preadolescent child freaks the heck out, I remember that conversation.
Because here’s one thing I’ve discovered about hope.
Sometimes, I can’t do hope alone.
Sometimes, when I’m stuck inside of my own head, I let fear rule the day. I let dread take over. I let darkness fall.
I listen to the one hundred thousandth fit my kid is throwing in his room. I sit through the fifteen millionth freak-out. I’m hit with the eighteen gazillionth attitude-laden break-down. And I forget to hope.
I forget to see the best. To break through the dark and shine a light on my child’s virtues. To remember that each and every day, Ian must wade through a mental viscosity that I will never know. To celebrate the fact that my child is kind, compassionate, sensitive and good. To be amazed, with the work he has to do every moment to communicate and be in the relationships that are so core to his very sense of self… amazed that he is able and willing to put in the work to make those relationships happen.
So I thank God for people who help me turn on the flashlight. For people who hold my hand and guide me to the fuse box. For people who hold their candle aloft so I can tip my own wick into its flame.
And the best way I can think to repay their light is to shine my own in return.
Here’s hoping, guys. Here’s hoping.
Update: Giveaway Winner Announced!
And the winner of the I Like Book giveaway drawing is…
Lee! Lee wrote:
“I liked the I like book! And just like my best friend said above I love your blog!! I often have these secret terrifying inner questions about my son. He’s 10 and he informed me yesterday, at the TOP of his lungs, that he DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO SWEEP BECAUSE HE CAN’T READ! Not sure what one has to with the other, but life skills 101 here we come. He may never be an English scholar, but by golly he’s going to be able to sweep, mop and do dishes with the best of them!!”
Lee, email your address to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll send you your book!
I met Amy through this blog, and she recently asked me to do a review of the I Like Book. I wholeheartedly agreed and set about planning a way to do it.
See, the I Like Book for kids is, in short, a very simple way to let your kids know daily what you specifically treasure about them. It seems straightforward because it is straightforward. It seems obvious because it is obvious. And it seems easy because it is easy.
But, the truth is, without a tool that makes this simple, I’m afraid I’m not taking the time to say and record every day the things I like about my kids. Even more, I’m afraid I’m not stopping to pay attention to what I like about my kids. And, when I don’t pay attention, I forget. And, when I forget, I find myself mired in the things that are hard. And, frankly, that’s not the place I want to stay.
The I Like Book is a hope-giver because it’s a hope-reminder. It helps me live into the beauty and blessings that are my children.
You can get your own I Like Books (for kids and couples!) by clicking on this link and using 40% discount code kids2010. Just register during checkout to get the discount code prompt. And, thanks to Amy, I have a copy to give away to one lucky reader in a random drawing via Facebook!
Update: This drawing is now closed. Congratulations to Lee, our winner! But you can still “like” the I Like Book on Facebook by clicking here.
FYI, while you’re hanging out on Facebook, you can also “like” Five Kids Is A Lot Of Kids where I seek to further the Five Kids mission… making other people’s lives seem less insane… by giving you truly essential parenting help and tips. (OK, fine. That’s never happened. The truth is, I just really like you guys. You’re funny, and you sure help a girl get through the day with a smile in place.)
(Psst… other than a copy of the book, which I very thoroughly enjoy having, I was not compensated in any way for this review. That right there’s a full disclosure.)