Life has been a little nutty ’round here, lately.
Um, not the “ZOMG Y’ALL I AM SO BUSY” kind of nutty. For one thing, I sort of hate that assertion on general principle, because isn’t EVERYONE busy? I mean, usually? When I have a lot of stuff to do, any spare moments I have for reflective thought tend to take the shape of “Did I remember to eat today?” and “Do I have any clean clothes to wear?” or even “Why do these children keep talking at me and expecting me to feed them?” Even if I had time, it would never occur to me to be convinced that I was eversomuchmorebusier than anyone else. Life is busy for 99.99999% of the population.
No, it’s been nutty more in the MANY FEELINGS and CHANGE IS HAAAARD and HOW DO I MAKE THE THINGS THAT NEED TO HAPPEN ACTUALLY HAPPEN kinds of ways. And while that last item falls, I guess, into the general “busy-ness” category, the other two are much more matters of “May I please be excused? My brain is full.” Only no one ever explained to me as a kid that adults are never excused no matter the fullness of their brains. So unfair.
Anyway. The only thing that ever stays the same is change, right? Right. And I hate change. I am a creature of habit, I have all the spontaneity of your average lichen. I like to know what is happening when, and I especially like to create that sort of predictability for my Sooper Special Snowflakes because the only people I know who are worse than I am at dealing with change are them. HAHAHAHA. (I wonder how THAT happened? It’s a puzzle.)
[Digression, but only sort of: When I wrote a few weeks back about leaving a to-do list for the kids when Otto and I went out for the evening, one of my regular (I think) readers wrote her own piece referencing my post and what a complete control freak I am. This made me feel defensive, at first, but then I had to laugh, because 1) Yes, of course I am, please tell me something I don’t know, and 2) it never ceases to amaze me how bizarre certain things which I’ve come to accept as commonplace/necessary must look to people who don’t understand what parenting adapted to accommodate disability must look like. Because yes, we could absolutely leave our nearly-14-year-old and 15-and-a-half-year-old at home alone for the evening and feel reasonably confident that both they and the house would still be here and in one piece when we returned. In fact, the time BEFORE the list, that’s what happened. We went out, and everyone lived. But only one of them ate dinner and the other one took their meds and the dog was dying to go out and it looked like a bomb had gone off in the kitchen and and and AND… you get the picture.
Was the list I left totally helicoptery? Yes. Yes, it was. Maybe even ridiculous, for a couple of “normal” kids? Probably so. My children are marvelous and brilliant and perfect (just like yours, I bet) but they are also significantly disabled in terms of executive functioning thanks to their various issues. They have the working memory of goldfish. (And here may I just add that once you have a kid go on medication for ADHD the heavens open and the angels sing and everyone goes HOLY CRAP LOOK AT HOW AMAZING YOU ARE WHEN YOU CAN ACTUALLY FOCUS and bluebirds land on your shoulder and smile. But then the medication wears off in the evening and there’s something called a rebound effect that takes your child who just had 8-12 hours of beautiful functioning and renders them approximately 100x more disorganized and distractible than they were prior to medication. FUN!) Both kids are learning to make their own lists to help keep them organized, and on that particular evening I made the list for them. You know what else? They did everything they needed to do in our absence, AND made some funny jokes for us to find when we got home, AND we all had a laugh and didn’t have to have an argument about “But why didn’t you…” or “How come you forgot…” either that night or the next day. It worked, for us. tl; dr: I REGRET NOTHING. I get that it’s overkill for others, though.]
So my point here… I had one, I’m sure I did… hang on…
… oh, right. My POINT was that a lifetime of being a control freak and then becoming a parent to two kids with issues that mean they need a little extra control help, too, has combined to shape me into someone who feels very nervous about change, particularly when it comes to said children.
“But I feel like your strength as a parent is that you’re never afraid to try something else if the current path isn’t right,” my dear and darling friend Kira said to me on the phone a few weeks ago, as I explained my latest crazy idea to her.
“That is an AWFULLY nice way of saying that I never have the slightest idea what I’m doing and so it’s marginally easier for me to pick something else because I figure whatever I picked last was probably wrong,” I pointed out.
She swears that is not what she meant. I am pretty sure she was lying, though.
Just a few months ago I was extolling the virtues of homeschooling to anyone who would listen. “We’re on year three, and I think we’ve finally hit our groove!” I would insist. I wasn’t lying. Monkey and I make a pretty good team, and for perhaps the first time since removing him from public school, I felt like everything was more or less in balance for him. His first year, with full-time Hippie School, he was getting what he needed socially, but not academically (and that was fine with us and a conscious choice). The second year, with part-time Hippie School and part-time virtual schooling, he was back to getting more of what he needed academically. And this year, with full time virtual schooling and just a one-day-a-week co-op AND the fact that he’s discovered online gaming with some other homeschool friends and that same group meets regularly for D&D, it felt like we’d finally found the academic rigor he needs without him being totally isolated.
Except he needs more teacher interaction, because while he’s fine with the level of work, his organization is still completely scattershot and for SOME reason his burgeoning independence (autism achievement: UNLOCKED) means he is not interested in his MOM riding him to stay on schedule, clarify issues, etc.
Except he needs more face time with other teens, because he’s really starting to miss it.
Except for the first time, he sees all of the extracurriculars his sister does and wonders when he’ll be able to do that stuff, too, with other kids, but you know, not necessarily just homeschool kids…?
It just felt like “next year…” was becoming a constant refrain. Monkey was frustrated with me. I was frustrated with him. We were both constantly frustrated with his virtual school teachers. And the control freak part of my brain was screaming NO NO NO NO NO HE DOESN’T UNDERSTAND WHAT HE’S ASKING. Some kids transition seamlessly from homeschool back to public school, but it has never been our assumption that that would be true for him.
So I spent about a month researching and talking to people and working out various options and stalking school administrators and asking Monkey if this was really, REALLY what he wanted. And breathing into a paper bag.
Well, it turns out that “next year” starts in January. Because next month, Monkey’s going to high school. Half days (for this first semester, anyway), but he’s going.
He’s excited. And the parts of me that aren’t Chicken Little-ing are excited for him. Really. I just… need to go lie down for a minute.
I think you will be pleasantly surprised. A friend of mine put her son in high school for the first time this year, and he is doing great, despite his ld-ness. He was ready for the structure, I guess.
Leaving a to-do list for kids/teens is not control-freakish AT ALL. Either that other blogger has all really young kids or she has perfect teens that she (wrongly) takes all the credit for. Or she doesn’t mind doing all the work around the house. I know someone personally who only makes her kids do chores when they WANT to, so things aren’t IMPOSED on them. Because she doesn’t want to make them hate work. Me, I don’t mind that my kids hate chores. That’s why they are called chores and not play, you know?
And can we agree that in general we have our kids do chores for THEIR OWN SAKE? Because I can assure you that when my guys do “dishes” or whatever it’s NOT pretty and I am definitely doing a major checkover, stat.
Whoops, did somebody say “control freak”???
Sorry, you lost me at “burgeoning independence (autism achievement; UNLOCKED).” I’m rolling. And I swear I’m not laughing at you, but with you. My 12 year old is doing the same thing to me, but returning to the public schools here is just not an option AT ALL unless there was some sort of mass firings we didn’t know about and rehiring of all new and improved admin and staff who understands that autism does not equal Rainman. In the mean time, we continue on the virtual school path, and I continue to be right, his virtual school teachers reiterate what I’ve said, I may or may not say, “See, I told you so,” and he begrudgingly does the work because, dammit, all of the adults can’t be wrong.
[laughing uproariously to self]
So – ummmm, I was awake last night writing lists in my head for my kids. For the twice-a-year-babysitter I will have on Sunday for three hours. So this is a timely one for me.
Also, feel free to PM me re school transitions. I come from a family where most kids were homeschooled and always thought i would but it ended up (at this point) not being the best fit for my guys…We have found that the local public school is an IDEAL place for the Full Spectrum children. But the one where we used to live before was NOT (why we moved…). There are so many factors that make one situation work and one not work…GOOD LUCK!!!!!!!!!!
We’ve been able to do work closely with our public middle school to put together a good combination of on-line learning, independent study, advanced work, and classroom time. It took a while – and lots of meetings…but we’ve been overwhelmed by the amazing support at our school.
…and I love your lists.
I’m sorry you had to read a less-than-compassionate response to your post. I know how tough those can be to receive – especially when you are in the midst of a bit of change and turmoil.
We always look for “silver linings” in some of the challenges we’ve been dealt this year, and one of ours is that we no longer, ever, judge anyone who is parenting differently than we are. We now know, deep in our core, that no one truly knows what any other family is dealing with. I feel like we’ve been given a gift of compassion and empathy that we wouldn’t have necessarily been able to feel, before.
I’m sorry, but when did Monkey turn almost 14?!?! I swear he was just a little fella yesterday.
Also, I am a crazy to-do list maker. Even for vacations. I send my sweet husband a shared Google spreadsheet complete with restaurants and their on-line menus and the time of day we should eat at said restaurants. He pretty much completely ignores those and all of my other to-do lists. I need them for my brain to stay intact. Shoot, when I was in college I had hourly to-do lists. At least those stopped :-).
I make lists for my son, who’s about a year and a half younger than Monkey and has ADHD-NOS, all the time, so no judgment here.
Good luck to Monkey in school. Is he skipping ahead to 9th grade?
Yeah, he’s skipping a year. Virtual school let him start high school classes last year, so course-wise he’s ahead even of where we’re starting him.
I skipped from 9th grade to my sophomore year and it was absolutely the best thing for me socially. My peers who were my same grade had long memories and I couldn’t shed the crazy stuff I did from who I was. When I got moved from junior high to high school suddenly I was in an environment where people didn’t have the weird frames of reference, and being with other kids gave me more confidence.
I wish Monkey all the best and hope his experience is similar to mine.
You don’t know that I “stalk” your blog for school posts…because I travel a similar path. You have inspired a number of my actions to make school work for my kiddos…and for that I thank you, and they thank you too although, they have no idea who you are. :-)
I did want to jump in an give you at least some reassurance. My monkey-age child is in grade 8 1/2. He goes to the middle school half the day and the high school half the day, I was very worried about the transition and the workload and the organization and have been pleasantly surprised by how much it has NOT been an issue. He is bussed from the middle school to the high school, no problem. He takes classes with 10th graders, no problem (except when these 20-yr-old looking girls kept saying hi to him who we walked in our little town, turns out they are in his class, and only mom is freaked out)
A new leaf a new chapter and maturing progress. It’s a nice holiday gift. Best of luck to all of you.
PS I loved your list and I thought it completely appropriate and something I would do with my loveable brilliant ADHD nearly-14-yr-old as well. Rock on, we do what we need to do.
He’s grown so much in three years. Your family has been through the type of fire that tempers you and makes you stronger. It may be bumpy, but I highly doubt the bumps will be mountains you can’t overcome. Just bumps. And really, who survives the teen years (parents and children alike) without a bump or bruise anyway. How exciting. Good luck to you all.
For the record
1. Yes I am a regular reader and I am in awe of you still standing upright given all you have had to deal with in the past years, and
2. Although my kids are neither teenagers nor have disabilities of sorts, my point was that I do the same thing, on occasion (because I have trouble letting go of the little things that I feel matter even when no one else thinks they matter as much as I think they do) and
3. I write lists for everyone including the guinea pig (well, maybe not him, but he should have one too!) and
4. I love your honesty, you inspire me, and you’re pretty.
You’re pretty, too. ;) I didn’t mean to single you out (I mean, I didn’t link to your post because I didn’t want to out you if that would make you uncomfortable), I just meant that I realized in that moment how I probably look to normal people. And after I did the knee-jerk HEY WAIT WHAT I had a good laugh at myself because yeah, it IS ridiculous on a certain level.
Like I said, you are inspirational to us. I got issues with my kids and school but for different reasons. We all do what we need to do. I don’t think I would have had the guts to speak out the way I do in my own blog about things if I didn’t have blogs like yours to look to for support/inspiration and great writing! Thank you and happy holidays. I’ll keep reading… :)
Holy eff, and in your busiest time of year, to boot. You go, girl, and massive props from those of us with neurotypical (er, as far as we know) children.
Aww, poor momma. I pray that Monkey’s new schedule is as smooth as possible. I am totally with you on the list thing though. I consider that a well planned house exit, not control freakish or helicoptery. Which led to OMG, aware of my control freak tendencies and generally OK with it but does my thinking your parenting skills are spot on mean that I am far, far worse than I thought? Then I considered grabbing my own paper bag but reality (it’s either a total bitch or more welcome than a strong cocktail on date night) came bouncing back. I am fine, you are fine and lists for teenagers may not be strictly necessary but sure is a good idea.
Oh, so much to say here, but first, Congratulations to Monkey! While part of you must be so scared, I’m sure there’s another part that recognizes how big it is for him to actively want this. As an enthusiastic reader, I’m so proud for you! My child has some challenges of her own that make list-making and leaving a necessity for her. Her school has even the “normal” students use a planner, which is a giant, every-day list. She has a checklist for getting ready in the morning and for what she has to do in the afternoon. Even though it’s the same, every day, she has to consult it, every day. It’s hard for her to know she’s different and “Don’t forget” hurts her, a lot. It’s not like she means to, she really can’t help it and she has to work at it, all the time. It’s exhausting for her and if leaving a list can help that, that small thing, then why wouldn’t I do that? My husband sits down to his desk every day and checks a calendar that reminds him he has meetings or a presentation due and he has no executive function issues. It simply makes life a little easier, and who isn’t all for that?!
Lol, I live with a spouse and a child with poor executive functioning skills, and your lists sounded just about right to me. Then again, I am a control freak m’self, so maybe I am a bad judge of “appropriate.” However, the whole “didn’t eat dinner,didn’t take mess, and became an entropy force field”? Ayup. The thing is, for teenagers without these issues, the first night out might look a bit like that (maybe, a bit). But then they would learn a lesson, and apply it to the next night out. With working memory struggles, it’s not about past lessons, it’s about losing track of what you’re doing. So, yeah, lists FTW!
I too am a stalker of your posts. My PDD-NOS boy (oh wait that doesn’t exist anymore) is 9 and has 1.5 more years before middle school. I am sorry that a reader was less than supportive of YOUR approach to parenting YOUR children (I don’t ever recall you saying that this is what every parent should do, I just wish people would let other parent their own kids they way that they think is best …stepping off my soapbox now). I think you are doing an amazing job and frequently look her for insights into the future.
I wish all the very best with Monkeys transition back to regular school. So smart that he is doing half-days. I think he’s going to do great :)
BTW, wine sometimes can help if you just need to give your brain a break :)
I am a list maker for my kiddos too. It just prevents arguments over who was supposed to do what and other such nonsense.
My previously homeschooled (for 4th and 5th grades) son returned to school this year too. It was the same thing for me in that I finally felt like we had figured out how to homeschool well when he decided, like Monkey, that he needed more interaction. He is doing well, mostly, but I really miss that kid!
I wish him and you well with this change! Half days seem like a great way to start.
Good for Monkey! And good for you for being brave enough to listen to him and give him what he wants and needs. I feel hand-wringy and stressed out for you, so I can only imagine how you feel. You know what though? Him taking control and making the choice is a huge step toward success, right? Your kiddo has come a long way since he left public school. My fingers are crossed!
Ahem. I need you to write lists for me. I totally frustrate my oldest, control freak child and my OCD, anal, CPA husband. They’d love to live in Mir world :)
Good luck with high school! Middle school is deadly, but in high school kids are more likely to find their niche. Does Nerds By Choice still exist?
On lists — I’m laughing because I saw nothing unusual in yours. I have to leave lists like that for my husband if I am going to be out during Cat Feeding Time. Still, even with a detailed list up, I returned home the other night to find the $35 bag of (formerly) frozen raw food defrosting on the counter… While I had a step about putting the portion that was taken out to defrost into the refrigerator, I forgot to add “return the remaining food to the freezer”
Wow! Big change, indeed. But I have confidence that Monkey will rise to the challenge, after a period of transition. Good for you for being flexible, even when it hurts.
Oh I’m glad I’m not alone. The lists that I would be required to write would be at least as extensive as yours, and my husband announced two days ago that he wants the boy to go back to public school next year to try to eliminate some of the fighting and also to see if he can learn how to work in a group setting. It’s going to be a long road, and I’m going to have to go up to the school plenty between now and then and see if I can get ahold of some extra textbooks and make all sorts of plans to ease the transition. I’d love to know how you did that!
You got this.
After years (seriously YEARS now) of watching your kids grow up through your words and watching you take a life that seems so fucking hard and making it work because you will bend it to your will (with help from Otto and your family), I am seriously excited for Monkey.
Bravo Monkey. This is going to be a big and interesting step and I hope he makes it his. I hope it is less strenuous on you guys than you think it will be.
Also, I hope Dungeoning his Dragon is going well. I am starting in a campaign soon myself, and hope to have super fun time.
I started reading your blog when I was asking myself that long aching “Could I ever do this, really?” question about reproducing a set for myself. Of the many others that were on the “Mommy-Blog” list, you stuck on because you were just so much of a fighter and your family is just adorable. As stalkerish as it sounds (although hopefully the bloggy filter will make it seem less so) I have loved the fact that you have shared yourself with us and let us take a small peek into what your family is and how it functions.
I have always been a huge fan of the shoe photos. We shall have to see shoe photos. Please!!!
You know what to many of us hold on to decisions we have made because well it was hard to make and we don’t need another one already. So major props to you for adapting when Monkey needs it and not waiting until the end of the school year.
I am wishing you all the best of luck for this change xx
You started homeschooling in no small part because Monkey’s reaction to the middle school said UH NO THIS WILL NOT WORK. Now, Monkey’s reaction to high school is LEMME AT EM. Methinks that makes all the difference. With your and Otto’s support, that kid can’t lose. Talk about doing what’s best for your child! You go on with your bad self, and know that I am alwaysâ€¦ALWAYSâ€¦impressed with and a little in awe of you and how you handle your kids’ needs.
The literalist in me wants to say, OF COURSE January is next year, right? :) I’m not at all surprised Monkey can skip a year, he’s smart. Hope it all goes well for you. Sounds like a good choice to me, I especially like the half day option at first and the fact that even though he’s skipping a year your kids are still in different grades.
Go Monkey on starting HS!!
One note of warning, if he is disorganized now, wait until he starts at school where papers get dropped in the hallway, left in the classroom or locker, or anywhere else he can manage to lose them between that class and home. I do locker clean-outs almost weekly for my son.
I originally started reading your blog many years ago when I was getting ready to have a sleep-over for my son. I did a search for sleep-overs with an odd-number of kids and voila! I found Mir! I love your writing, it’s always very witty, sometimes emotional (I have been brought to tears), and many times it is informative for me and some of the things I have to deal with for my 13 yo ADHD son.
I used to have a list that I would put on the kitchen table every single morning for my son. It said; eat (and gave his options), shower (reminder to put dirty laundry in the hamper and dry off BEFORE getting out of the shower, etc), brush hair, brush teeth, get dressed, and then get all school items by the door. When the list stopped working we started having some horrible mornings until he got into the routine (and even still have some issues).
ADHD children tend to thrive on routine and structure and in my son’s case, strict rules. I tend to start every school year talking to all of his teachers to tell them, he has ADHD. No, this does not mean I want you to be easy on him. It is quite the opposite, be hard on him and set your expectations from the very beginning. Follow through on punishment/rewards every single time, because if you don’t, he WILL disrupt your class EVERY single day.
The teachers that have the most issues with him through the school year are typically the ones that are not strict and don’t follow through.
I don’t know a thing about these issues, but I know from reading you for years that it’s not a decision made lightly or without commitment. Happy for Monkey of it’s what he wants, and cheering you on, as always!
How do you make the worst of feelings so funny? When I write, I say, like most people, O! It was a hard day! Parenting! when will it get easier? Relationships! I hate ships!
Love to read you.
Wow, big step. Fortunately, high school tends to be less feral than middle school.
Hell, my DH is super, super smart, sexy, great at his job as a software engineer, etc…and he has ADHD. I totally make him detailed list all the time and he LOVES it. He can just check things I/we need done off and doesn’t have to worry about remembering anything.
I too make Grumpy Cat faces at the idea of change. So I understand how this can be hard and complicated for you guys, but I have no doubt that you’ve worked out as many angles as you can manage and are going in with all fingers crossed and eyes open. I wish Monkey all the luck in the world, with his New Year/New School adventure.
It’ll be ok – my grandson, who is on the spectrum, struggled with middle school, but is LOVING high school – just take it a day at a time and keep that paper bag handy..
One of my biggest pet peeves, and I admit to several, is when parents of complex kids are accused of helicoptering. Really? ‘Cause if I don’t provide extreme structure and scaffolding it all hits the fan, and frankly I’m sick of cleaning up all the crap.
That Monkey is heading back to brick and mortar gives me a measure of hope. I have a lot of problems with the education system, but I do want my kid to return at some point, even if just part time or to the tech high school where he can teach the teachers about computers. ;) At some point he will need the kind of structure that is imposed upon someone, now just isn’t that point.
I can only imagine. Now, as a reader of you for the past couple years, my initial reaction to this post is this:
If Monkey is saying yes he wants to try something new, my guess is he’s been mulling this over silently for a while. It doesn’t seem like he makes rash decisions. It might feel rash to you, because he’s only recently been expressing it, but five bucks says it’s been in the corner of his brain for a while.
My other reaction is that if HE is making the decision to try a different schooling, it can only mean HE is aware and ready to handle it. A whole different world when they are 7 and have no choices about their world (school, chores, etc). Unless I’m wrong here, Monkey has always done better when HE was in charge (at least in his mind). Amiright?
What’s the worst that can happen? You have to pull him and homeschool? Or that he succeeds and you’ve done well in preparing him to be in formal school setting again? Sheesh, Mir…two AWFUL options there :-)
Oh, and helicoptering? If your kid is 14 and you’re not brushing his teeth for him or doing his homework “with” him, then you’re not helicoptering.
Kira is right. You’re doing your best to adapt to Monkey’s current needs. I hope it works out wonderfully. If it doesn’t? You’ll adapt to that, too, and figure out something that does work. That’s your strength. :)
well… granted, I’m not the one hyperventilating through the transition, but I think it’s an awesome idea. And I only have experience with Aspies through kids that went to school with my children… but it seemed that their interactions with other kids and blending into ‘normal’ got better as the years went on. He might do just fine, mom. May this be the year of all good things.
Mir, I’m a diagnostician in Texas, not Georgia, but if you have sped questions you are welcome to ask me. I know this is scary, but Monkey has made leaps and bounds progress over the years I’ve been reading your blog and I bet he will do awesome!
Oh! Oh!! I would squeeze your hand in hope & support if I could! :). Hope you end up laughing about how worried you are right now.
And the listing? When (if) Superman is old enough to be at home alone, I feel like I will have to have a list with alarms to alert him to do things like, “get bread out of cupboard. Open peanut butter. Put on bread. Insert into mouth. Chew.”
Need for control? Yep. Coping strategies for special needs kid? Yep. If you start a support group, I’m joining!
Just to point out that actual executives actually function by having administrative assistants make lists for them …
WOW! That is a big change, but I bet it will be great for both of you.
Am laughing at your description of the evening ADHD med evaporating. I swear to most people that I can literally see if leave my daughter. They think I’m nuts, but yeah, I can. Poof!
Woo for Monkey! I hope this is a great change for him and that he continues to excel. It’s been a painful road to get here, but in the end it will have been worth it.
I’m a list maker. My kids are scatter brained and while they can be left home alone, they also would not have cleaned up after themselves without being reminded. I LOVED the comments made back to your note. Maybe I’ll have to try a note to see if my kiddos will have fun with it.
Wow – I know you have all the worry but I also hope you can see how exciting it is for Monkey to want to try this. I do think high school is a better place than middle school for a variety of reasons.
I’m so excited for him! :) Good Luck, Monkey!
I am late to this particular post, but wow… good for you, and good for Monkey! It’s a big step, for sure, and I so get the too much change/too many FEELS vibe, but I feel like this is a positive and exciting step for Monkey. GO MONKEY GO!
And you, pretty friend — deep breaths. :)