Stumble; fly; keep going

I know I keep saying it, but I really cannot fully express how much I’ve loved this summer. This is our fourth summer in Georgia and the first one that’s felt like everyone is okay and life is good. The stress level has been relatively low and the kids are happy and mostly healthy. Basically I never want this summer to end, ever.

But it’s going to end in a couple of weeks, and we’re starting to brace for impact.

It’s funny; I had a post planned, yesterday morning. It wasn’t anything earth-shattering, but it was going to be about how good summer has been for everyone, but most especially for the kids. Just the day before, I’d taken Monkey to meet up with a new friend for ice cream, and we’d ended up waiting for them for over half an hour (unavoidable problem, and they didn’t have my cell number to let me know) and I had finally, gently, told him maybe they weren’t coming, and let’s get some ice cream anyway, and then they showed up and everything was okay, and he didn’t bellow “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?” or anything awful, and I thought to myself: Man, this summer has been great for him. He’s really growing. He’s getting there.

But I was wrong.

I sat down to write that post, yesterday, and was interrupted by the unexpected and early return of Monkey and Otto from Monkey’s summer social skills program. Monkey had been asked to leave.

Take a moment with that, if you will. My son is attending a social skills program run by his therapist, because he experiences significant deficits in this area, and he was kicked out.

I sat with the shock of it as Otto filled me in, and I said something on Twitter and my wonderful, beautiful pals who have my back were all outraged on my behalf. Because isn’t that why he’s THERE, to learn this stuff? How can they kick him out? I love it when the Internet gets all indignant for me. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

But the truth is that I take no issue with the doctor’s decision. With basically no warning, Monkey attacked another kid. And just as we experienced last year in school, he had to be restrained, he fought like a feral animal, and in the immediate aftermath was completely unrepentant. By the time they got him out of there, the entire group was in tears. Because of my child.

Later, at home, he was my Monkey again—deeply ashamed and sorry. Self-loathing and frustrated and asking me, “Why do I always do this? Why do I ruin everything?” And we cried together and I had no answers.

School starts in two weeks. My careful optimism about sending him to the middle school took a giant hit, yesterday. None of us are sure, now. I worry for his safety—always—but I also worry how much erosion his self-esteem can take. Each incident like this steals a piece of him. I can’t take another year of watching him disappear.

As Otto and I lay awake last night having our eighty billionth “What does Monkey need and how do we get it for him” conversation, Monkey was off with his dad. Yesterday Chickadee came back and Monkey left, and now we have one Monkey-free week to try to convince ourselves that he’s okay.

What a contrast: yesterday morning’s meltdown vs. the return of the teen. Chickadee is taller and lovelier and more grown-up every time I haven’t seen her for even a few days. Last night was a flurry of preparation for this morning, and we got up early today and I french braided her hair for her (I keep promising to teach her how, but the truth is that I rather like that she lets me do it) and she headed off to her first day of band camp.

Only a handful of eighth graders are joining the high school marching band this year, and just as I felt on her first day of middle school, I had an oh-my-God-they’re-so-tiny-next-to-these-giants moment when I dropped her off this morning.

The truth is that Chickadee decided to try marching band even as her best buddies scoffed and derided the notion, and I stand in awe of her resolve. Once again, she’s breaking off from the pack. This may be a one-year thing, or this may be the start of something that stays important to her for a long time. We don’t know. She doesn’t know. But she decided to do it, and off she went. This year she’ll do marching band along with a couple of high school courses, all in preparation for hitting the high school for real, next year, where the countdown to launch really begins.

Sometimes it feels like she’s flying away just as Monkey falls down with a resounding *SPLAT* one more time.

The advantage of that, I guess, is that it’s easier to let her go. Even though part of me misses her and wants to keep her little forever, I’m all too aware of the alternative. So I cheer for her a little louder, feel a little prouder.

I know Monkey will fly, too, just in his own time. I know we have to be patient.

I just never knew it was possible to feel this proud and this sad, all at the same time.


  1. JennyA

    I wish I could give you non-creepy internet stranger hugs. Whatever this year brings, you’re doing good work.

  2. Brigitte

    Hugs for you. And some pats on the back with vague cooings of “it’ll be OK”. Unbelievable now, maybe, but I know that one day, it will be.

  3. Rachel

    Ditto what JennyA says… virtual hugs to you.

  4. elz

    Oh man, I wish I had words. I don’t. I know that Monkey will surprise us all and turn out better than anyone hopes. But, well, I have nothing concrete to offer you. You’re right thought, that girl of yours is going places. Good luck. I’ll be sending good karma your way.

  5. Katie in MA

    Sometimes I think that is the beauty and magic in having more than one child: one of them will always keep you humble, keep you guessing, and trying to do better, and one of them will always cheer you up, make you feel as if “Yes! I know (I think, maybe) what I’m doing!” One to make you laugh, one to make you cry. And constantly shifting those titles, swapping back and forth so you never know what to expect. It’s exhausting, but it feels right too, on some semi-masochistic level. The yin and the yang of parenthood. Blesses and possessed all at once.

    You’re doing great, dear. And your perspective is pitch-perfect.

  6. Hally

    Mir, You are so pretty. Pretty in spirit. Because you DO worry about your choice for Monkey and Chickie. Because you sit there, and instead of casting about blame, you have the ability to internalize and question motives.

    You, Otto (and maybe sometimes ex?!?!) know what’s best for the family. Maybe at times it can be harder than others to make those choices, but you make them instead of shirking your decisions.

    Hang in there, as a former band geek ( I actually went to university for FREE just for being in the marching band) and a former teacher, both your babies will be amazing, because they have an amazing family structure supporting them.

    Ps – is it wrong to want to start a ‘Team Otto’?

  7. Nichole

    Non-creepy internet stranger hugs from me, too.

  8. Arina

    Oh, Mir, I’ve got tears in my eyes. No answers for you, just wanting to tell you that you’ve touched me today. Hugs to all of you.

  9. Eden

    Gah… My monkey is 7 and heading into 2nd grade. I read your blog in hopes of getting some clue as to what lies ahead for him (and us). Sending virtual hugs and hopes that with maturity comes better self-reflection, increased impulse control and a magic pill to make our boys OK.

  10. jennifer

    oh, gosh. Poor Monkey. Poor you and Otto. Yay, Chickadee! oh gosh.

    So many emotions before the second cup of coffee. I wish it were easier.

  11. birchsprite

    Oh Mir, I wish i had some insight that could help in some way but I have no idea. I only know you all through your posts and having been a long term reader, I feel sure that however tough it is at the moment, you will all do well and end up coping, however hard it is at the moment. You have a wonderful family and have achieved so much through many hard times so all I can say is ‘this too will pass’ and you shall all be stronger and more wonderful for it. Big hugs to you all.

  12. MomCat

    I’m sorry that Monkey’s going through rough patches, especially with regards to his class (I missed that Tweet, so may I just say now – Did they maybe think there might be kids in the class who need a little extra help, so they should, you know, PREPARE for some melt-downs??)
    All you can do is vent when you need to, be Monkey’s safe harbor and keep going. We are here to listen and sympathize.

    And to cheer Chickie on – You go, Girl!

  13. Becca

    Sort of a weird, off the top of my head question/thought.

    Does he stim? I didn’t growing up, because the “do not act differently than your peers” lesson was banged into me early. I had to learn how to do it, after I got diagnosed. Stimming is self-soothing, essentially, but it can also be a signal to the people around him that they need to get him out of the situation, before it erupts into this.

  14. Megan

    More hugs. More wishes there were more that total strangers (total strangers who care deeply and worry and hope and wish) could do.

  15. dad

    Both the “proud” and the “sad” provide incentive to keep doing what your doing.
    Patience Tulip!

    If it were easy, life wouldn’t be the big deal it is.

  16. Heather Cook

    I feel for you, I do. I have the same sort of issues with my son. He starts middle school in September and I worry about his ability to handle it all the time. I still wince when I think about how he was suspended three times in grade three… and grade four was only better because of medication that had side effects … we’ve discontinued the medication for now. But how will this next year be?? And this is the year my daughter starts kindergarten. She is SO ready… and so different from her older brother.

  17. Julie

    So glad you have had a beautiful summer, and I have every confidence that you will make all the right decisions. Isn’t all this parenting gig just putting one foot in front of the other, and hoping not to step off the cliff?

  18. Tenessa

    Hugs to you and your family. In the end, you will do what is best for Monkey, even if that is pulling him out of public school and into home school. YOU are the best thing for him. That’s why he was given to you.

  19. s

    My heart breaks for you, Monkey, and Otto. I gain so much perspective from your posts as I’m fortunate not to be in your shoes but have experienced these things from the other side – from a son who comes home crying because a certain girl keeps bothering him and the teacher (and I) try to explain she doesn’t have boundaries and we need to give her some extra grace because we can and she can’t, and I get frustrated that my son’s education is impacted by this (he has a hard enough time focusing) but totally get that education (and life) is not just books and such, but also learning to navigate in the larger world and give grace and understanding where its difficult sometimes to do. And yes, this girl and others with obstacles also deserve the same education. My son’s fidgeting and non focus impact other kids in his class, so I get it.

    Hearing your stories about Monkey, I feel guilty that I’ve not reached out (for total lack of knowing what the heck to say) when I’ve seen a mother struggle with an out of control child. I feel bad the one time I stuck up for my son during a sports practice only to find out his persecutor has very extensive emotional baggage, is monitored in school highly by a school psychologist, and frankly that his overwhelmed and tired mother probably saw this sports practice as her time to take a breathe and let the coaches monitor her son’s behavior for once, not herself (vs my thought of how can you as a mom let your son say these awful things to my BABY) – I don’t think i was wrong to stand up for my son, but I did it without thinking about her side so was likely harsher and less understanding than I could have been. I know I’ve stood mouth agape at times and I like to think of myself as evolved and understanding, but frankly I’m not sure what is helpful from others. How do we convey sympathy without pity, understanding even though I can’t think of how to put myself in that mom (or dad’s) shoes? Besides talking to my kids about their responsibilities and the fact that we should never sit in judgement (easier said than done) or assume someone’s life is perfect (greet everyone you meet with kindness as you never know what’s struggles they are experiencing), I have no idea what the “right” or “helpful” thing is, so that we don’t take a piece of the imploding child and their desparately struggling parent.

    I hope you have blue skies ahead and I hope that middle school doesn’t prove to be the negative catalyst you anticipate – I am sure my nails would be bitten to the quick, as I’m already fearing this for my (non aspie) child. I hope you can balance the tough times with the wonderful memories of summer to see its not all bad all the time. And know that you have readers who pray and hope for all the best for you and for your son, for your whole family, for always.

  20. Christy

    I hope that this is the year that the magic happens for monkey. That things change; things improve; things get better. That he discovers coping mechanisms and impulse control that none of you ever dreamed would be possible. That he would make friends and be confident and proud of himself.

    But no matter what happens, Mir, you are doing a good job. Please don’t take that lightly. You are doing a GREAT job and you are the best mother in the entire world for that little boy. You are EXACTLY what he needs, and you have the grace and the wisdom to deal with this.

    Hang in there.


  21. sue {laundry for six}

    I missed have your back on Twitter, but I do! My daughter also attacks. She’s starting kindergarten at a regular school this year (instead of kindergarten the the very open, loving nest type school she went to last year). I’m honestly wondering how long it will last before I’m called in to take her home.

    It’s hard to see the long view in situations like this. We had our worst day ever with her earlier in the summer and I thought we were really spiraling down, but it was actually more of a deviation. She has good days and bad. I’m hoping that there are more good days in a row and the bad days are less frequent. I’m certainly throwing as much money at the problem as I can.

    Hoping for lots of good day for Monkey that more than balance out the bad. He is a lucky kid and you are doing a great job.

  22. JennaMom2Boys

    Oh Mir. I’m so sorry y’all are going through this. Faith and grace, baby. Keep the faith and somehow the grace will be there. (I still say you need a double batch of cookie dough/Oreo/brownie stuff in thera time though!)

  23. JennaMom2Boys

    *the mean time* not “Thera time”. Stupid autocorrect.

  24. Tracy B

    {{{{{hugs}}}}} Keep your head up. The proud times often come with sad times. It’s reality and sometimes…reality sucks! Monkey WILL fly in his own time. Just keep the faith!

  25. Crisanne

    Keep your mind open to different possibilities, and listen to your gut. Your intuition is better than any degree out there.

    I will continue to lift you all up in my prayers as you make decisions-that you will have wisdom beyond your limited eyesight and WON’T be kicking yourself in hindsight! :)

    Much love and hugs to you, Mir.

  26. Anthony from CharismaticKid

    Um… obviously this ‘social skills program’ is full of a bunch of clowns and doesn’t like children. Have you MET me? Mir, the least I can do is send you my book. I could not read a post like this and feel right not doing this.

    Please email me.

  27. Jessica

    You have two amazing kids, and they both have their own struggles. The only thing that doesn’t change is that you know your children well. You don’t throw up your hands and claim defeat. Instead, you keep fighting for each of your children in the ways that they need. And in the end? That’s what a great mother does: holds her children tight when they need it, cheers them on when they fear failure, and lets them fly (even scraping the ground a little bit here and there to learn to take off on their own) when they are ready to learn. The fact that Monkey can come home and feel safe enough to admit to you his sorrow for what he’s done and the fact that Chickadee can fly off and do her own thing, even if her friends think it’s dorky, mean that you are doing something wonderfully right.

    I hope you know that.

  28. meredith

    I can kind of understand…My future 8th grader is brilliant, the best in her grade, the principal’s favorite. And my future 6th grader (mild dyslexia) is entering middle school on the heel of her star sister. I’m so hoping that no one teacher starts comparing her to her big sister when they find out that my youngest will not be getting the great grades her sister did.

    I hope that all goes well for you Monkey.

  29. Kristine

    Hugs to you…. Keep the faith.- life is hard and sucks!!!!

  30. Lisa in NJ

    Hi Mir
    I’m so sorry to hear about Monkey. I know where you are coming from and I know the hurt you feel. My son is a lot like Monkey. He has ADHD and ODD plus a few other letters. I’ve asked myself so many times what my son needed to get help and to be honest, I went outside the box. I started to look at alternative things that might help. Heck I figured modern medicine wasn’t doing all that great let me look at something else. I’m not here to sell you something but to give you another treatment option. Have you thought about Biofeedback? I’ve been taking my son for months now and I have seen a WORLD of difference in him. He’s able to hold his temper where before he never could. He’s able to hold his impulses a lot better. His social skills have come up to almost his age level. I know as a mom we search and search for help for our children, I hope this might help you some. ***hugs***

  31. TC

    I know how you feel, because I have the older, flying amazing girl and the younger, often-staggering special boy. But I don’t know how you feel, because I’m not you. Still, I hurt for you.

    What I want you to know is how much your writing these things out helps. It makes a difference. N’s made what may really be his first-ever friend-on-his-own in his own social skills camp this summer. From what I can tell, the boy is sweet, but explosive. While trying to set up a playdate, his mother mentioned to me–casually, but I know not casually–that her son can get physical at times. And because my son’s disability is about disappearing into muteness (or under his shirt or under a table), that scared me at first, because it’s not what I “know,” and I wanted to back away from those plans we were making. And then I thought, “No. This boy could be Monkey. And Monkey’s a great kid, who sometimes loses it. I would love my kid to have a playdate with Monkey. And not JUST because that would mean I’d get to hang with Mir.” And we continued to make plans.

    You help. Thank you.

    (Also? Do they not have an alternative suggestion for helping Monkey get to the point that he can rejoin this kind of group? I can see why this particular setup might be too lax for him, but to send him out without an alternative and/or a plan to get him to the point that it’s NOT too lax for him, that to me is just plain wrong.)

  32. RuthWells

    Oh honey. I’m so sorry. It may be of no consolation whatsoever, but it’s my experience that as these gains are won (like, not melting down over a friend’s lateness), there is concurrent … backsliding, for lack of a better term, that seems to me to be the manifestation of the struggle to get to that more managable/managing place. I hope that makes sense, clumsily as I’ve written it, and that it gives you hope that Monkey HAS in fact come a long way this summer. He’s just still trying to find his muscles and sometimes he’s going to give in to old coping mechanisms as he struggles.

    Big hugs to you all.

  33. Jean

    God, I don’t even know what to say. I’m a stranger, just someone out here in the internetland. There’s no way for me to help, or give you a pat. All I can say is that your kids are so blessed to have you and Otto as their parents. Trust your intuition, if you are worried about middle school, look at other options. It’s so hard to do the right thing for your kids but all I can say is from where i stand, you are doing EVERYTHING right by your kids. So here’s non-creepy internet hugs from me.

  34. KarenP

    Hugs to you and Monkey. As for the school thing, I say go with your gut feeling. Don’t despair on the decision you have made. You can change your mind, and your plan. Whatever YOU think best for Monkey. Sorry it seems like you take 1 step forward and 2 steps back. With you and Otto as parents, Monkey knows you are there for him.

  35. KarenP

    P.S.Yay for Chickie doing what she enjoys.Greg was a band/orchestra qeek playing the flute. He got teased a lot for playing a girl instrument. (and look where he is now!)

  36. Sheila

    I have no words of wisdom here, but am sending out some good vibes to you. Also, I love it when your dad calls you Tulip. I hope that’s not weird.

  37. Daisy

    Meltdowns are hard on the child, too. Amigo is exhausted after a meltdown. If he’s at home, we let him sleep. Does Monkey have an intervention plan in place to help prevent meltdowns at school? We insisted on one for Amigo, even as staff said, “Oh, he’s doing fine.” They didn’t notice the potential for trouble; we did.
    In my district they’re called BIPs – Building Intervention Plans. My husband and I call it a Crisis Intervention Plan because it’s used to avert a crisis or (in rare occasions) deal with one.

  38. Anna

    Anthony, you ruin your credibility by insulting other professionals.

  39. Anthony from CharismaticKid

    Anna, you’re right. At the time of reading it I think I was feeling upset about hearing her son was kicked out of a social skills school.

  40. addy

    Remember the great summer you are having – keep talking with each other – and focus on your wonderful family. That is the best you can do. Love to you and your family (in a non-creepy we are internet friends kinda way.)

  41. Heather

    My baby boy is starting middle school this year also. I worry so much. We are having to try new meds for his ADHD as the ones he is on seem to be making him a little sad and anxious. I will keep you in my thoughts and hope that you are able to make the best decisions for your Monkey as I am trying to make the best decisions for mine.

  42. laura

    YAY for band camp and a kid who walks her own path! I am in awe.

    Wouldn’t it be great to have a ‘pause’ button? So for just a few minutes you could actually savor a moment or a thought or a feeling?

    Everything else I want to say comes out all internet weird-o-ish. I am praying for the best outcome for all of you.

  43. Liza

    Oh god. What a roller-coaster.

    I know that you will make the best choice(s) for Monkey, and that in the long run, he will be ok. He has so much love and support. He’ll get where he needs to go.

    But dear god I wish it was not such a hard part of your collective family journey right now.

  44. Andrea

    “If it were easy, life wouldn’t be the big deal it is.”
    Thank you, Mir’s Dad. It IS a big deal, and when it’s your kid it’s the biggest deal IN THE WORLD. Sometimes people have a hard time understanding that.
    I am constantly chided for being overly worried/dramatic/pessimistic regarding Superman’s ADD-inattentive issues. It’s impossible to not have a broken heart for your child when they struggle. That’s what being a mom is.
    I’m pulling for you all. You’re doing a fantastic job, and your strength is amazing!

  45. Jackie

    Can I just say… I love your dad’s comment. :-) ditto what he said.

    Also, wait until they graduate high school. Yes you are so proud but so sad that your baby is now grown. sigh……………..

  46. Brigid

    Because I like to keep things light and fluffy – I have just started french braiding my daughter’s hair and people here thought I was paying someone to do it. Apparently french braiding is somewhat of a lost art around here. Who knew?

  47. Nancy

    Once again I sit at my desk fighting the tears. I don’t have a child with Aspergers, but worked in an agency that provided services and had many friend parenting a child. No answers but that you are doing a great job.
    My son is 26 and going to live in New Orleans in 3 weeks. I’m still worried that he won’t make friends, find his fit, love school, make the movies he wants to make. That he’ll get hurt in that big bad city. It does not end. I suspect my parents feel the same way about me sometimes.

  48. Kathy

    oh friend. I am so sad for you tonight. Poor Monkey. I just feel terrible for him. He is so lucky to have such a wonderful advocate for him in YOU!

    I can’t remember what your stand is on medications. But that doesn’t matter … I’ll tell you this anyway. My son takes Resperdone (spelling?!) (resperidone maybe). He takes it at the recommendation of his psychiatrist for angry outbursts. He seems to have grown out of them now, at 18, and we have racheted back on them (to zero actually), but while he was younger we felt they really helped.

    My own feelings about giving my son these sorts of medications: if he had diabetes, we would treat it with meds. If he had cancer, we would treat it with meds. My son has a chemical imbalance in his brain, and we choose to treat it with meds … and other stuff, too. Meds work for us. Just sayin’!

    Have a good weekend!

  49. Erin

    I, of course, echo what everyone here has said–you’re wonderful, Otto’s wonderful, Chickie & Monkey are wonderful, and we’re with you 100%. Sometimes it’s nice to know you’ve got huge numbers of people you’ve never met in person who are on your side, right? I’m pretty sure that’s the basic founding principle of the internet.

    Reading through the comments, the one from S really resonated with me–I’d love to know what I should DO in situations when I see/know/hear about folks who have kids with these types of struggles. I’m not a parent, but I can imagine (fairly well, from reading so many blogs with these themes over the years) how nervewracking, embarrassing and/or devastating a public meltdown can be–but what should I do if I’m around to witness it? Ignore it completely? Smile knowingly? Offer assistance? I’m so often at a loss, when I really want to be supportive and kind.

    If anyone has any advice on this (not just Mir!) I know S and I would be open to hearing it!

  50. Heather

    Sending love and prayers and positive thoughts <3

  51. Nancy

    Mir- Chickie sounds like such an incredible girl. I hope my 2 year old daughter has the same spirit and sense of self when she is a teenager.

    I feel so bad for Monkey right now. That middle school age is so tough, whether you are an Aspie or not. I love Theresa Bolick’s book Asperger Syndrome and Adolescence and frequently recommend it to families I work with. It has a lot of good strategies and gives really good insight into what these guys are dealing with.

    I’d also like to join in on the non- weirdo internet group hug going on. Hang in there- you will get through this. You have great kids and they have really good parents.

  52. Beth in Iowa

    So many others have said it so well. I just wanted to add that you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers too.

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