Wednesday, October 28, 2009
It is IEP time, Individualized Education Plan time for Scott. Monday we met with his adviser (that's what they call teachers at the charter school) and with his special education teacher.
This is dovetailing nicely with my exploration of a new practitioner to follow Scott's adhd and his medication. Gary and I met with her, just the two of us, 10 or 12 days ago. Friday we took both Scott and Connor so she could observe their interactions (and they obliged by deteriorating in front of her at the end of our hour long session). Last night was a session with just Gary and me.
One of the questions on the blue form--I forget its name, but it's a standard behavioral assessment form which gives indicators of what kinds of behaviors we're dealing with...inattentive, hyperactive, oppositional, defiant, compulsive, anxious--one of the questions was if he was having trouble academically at school. And when did it start?
I realized we're talking about two schools. He started kindergarten in our neighborhood school, and I transferred him to the charter school in January of first grade. I realized I wasn't sure how to answer the questionnaire, because at the neighborhood school his academic problems began in kindergarten...yet, his issues at Trillium were not being described in terms of 'academics'. No one's saying he's 'not at grade level' in reading, math, as if it's a "problem".
The occasion of a new school year, new special ed practitioners, a new teacher and a new classroom (he's 'graduated' from a Kindergarten-through-2nd-grade classroom to a 3,4,5 room) has challenged the part of my brain that wants to describe my intuitions about Scott. This classroom is conducted at a more mature level--it assumes a certain independence and capability of a student. Is this a place where Scott will be able to orient himself and get with the swim, or will he flounder and drown? In three years will he come out hopelessly behind? In other words, should it be a 'problem' that he's not at grade level? Am I being negligent if I'm not worried?
One of the ways I described Scott is that he is someone who is so captivated with the details of the first step, that a 5 mile hike is completely beyond him. This puts him in a totally different context than his peers who may be a mile, or two, into the hike. They may be oriented to a 5 mile hike. Scott is not. His adviser nodded when I made this analogy.
I'm remembering the children's book I used to read to the boys, "Leo the Late Bloomer". Leo's progress was only a problem for people who were waiting for him.
This kid has always kept me waiting. The mornings are an ordeal of our mis-matched paces. I stand, tapping my foot, as he oh-so-slowly puts on his sock. Then---the---other.
I used to joke that going somewhere was nearly impossible because Scott had managed to break getting into the van into a 50-step process that he lingered over --each and every one of those 50 steps. (First he opens the door. Then he gazes into the open door, slowly reaching for and scratching a spot on his leg. Finishes scratching. Oh, wait; it itches again. Scratches some more. Now the knee is lifting, lifting, the foot gliding forward. Wait. There's something on his shoe. He has to bend to examine it. Closely. Touch it. Now that he's down there there's something on the floor of the car he hasn't seen before. He needs to look at that, pick it up, there in the posture of one foot inside the van, the rest of him still planted outside.)
For a long time he was on a car model jag. We couldn't walk through a parking lot or down a street with parked cars without having to stop at each one so I could tell him what kind it was. It got worse when he added to the obsession the question of how much they cost. His preschool teachers described walking a group of twenty of them across a crosswalk on a busy street, cars waiting, and he and two other 3 year olds having to stop in the middle to settle a furious dispute of which of them was going to get to hold the little girl's hand. This is urgent, people.
It occurred to me in a flash yesterday that this kid has kept me waiting for signs of progress since birth. Oh, HELL no, he kept me waiting--for his very conCEPTion.
Connor was conceived on our first try after an early miscarriage (which was conceived on our second cycle of trying) when I was nearly 40. It never occurred to me that when we were ready to try for a second it might not happen so easily. I'd heard a three year spread was ideal and so
didn't even consider the wisdom of waiting. Connor turned two. We moved to St. Louis. We got settled in and started to try.
And nothing happened.
I went to a regular OB with an 'interest' in infertility. Tried two rounds of clomid. Moved on to an RE. Went through the diagnostics, which our insurance would cover; treatment it would not. Went another round of clomid with an IUI. We were living on one income and decided to gamble on one super-cycle--injectable fertility drugs with monitoring, trigger shot, and another IUI. This was one year after we moved to St. Louis. We put the meds and ultra-sounds on a credit card and rolled the dice.
So for a year we lived in limbo: would we be a one-child family, or would we realize our dream for another? I had a resource I hadn't had in 1996 when ttc Connor--the Internet--and it was a 2-edged sword: I'd been blissfully unaware of what an anomaly it was to conceive Connor so easily at 40. Now I realized what I'd been flirting with, and that there was no reason I'd be able to realize my dream when there were so many couples whose dreams were denied. With Scott I was totally in the dark until he was conceived after our one-shot IUI.
He kept me waiting for his birth. His due date coincided with the last of an unseasonably cool early summer in St. Louis, after which it got hellishly hot and humid. It also coincided with the visit of my parents and niece, so crowding a small house (single bathroom) with people waiting, waiting, and watching. At nearly 45 a passed due date was a worry for the OB, and probably for my parents as well. Who knows if all the expectant anxiety around the delay didn't lengthen it? A week passed, and we scheduled the c-section. The OB said, "The signs aren't favorable" (for a vaginal birth after caesarian). Without telling her I slipped in an Evening Primrose suppository and whispered, "Scott, if you want to come in the normal way, you've got to give us a sign."
The thing is, the signs WERE there, they were just too subtle for everyone around him. Part of what had resulted in Connor's c-section was that he was facing ventrally in utero. Scott was positioned just fine, but that fact got lost in the other facts--no progress in dilation, no rupture of amniotic fluid, a week overdue. The fact that I was having miserable diarrhea all day was lost on everyone. The story ended with his vaginal birth that very night, after a two-hour and ten minute labor.
Scott makes his connections in secret, far below the radar of the people who watch, and wait. This is his pattern. One year I worried because he did not seem to be 'getting' the notion of a calendar measuring time passing. It seemed to mean nothing to him. If I had 'tested' him I would have only been more anxious. Then, suddenly, he was meaningfully referencing times of year, and months. I'd had no indication he was putting it together, until I noticed him talking about it. He talked about it so naturally, and so matter-of-factly, that it was as if he'd always known it.
So in talking with his teacher and special ed teacher what was coming through was my anxiety that the classroom might be over his head and he might be drowning. Rob said, "This year I have a lot of third graders, and he's not the only one who is spacey. This is where we can appreciate the luxury of time. I have him for three years. With three years I can say to a child, 'Let's... hang... out. Let me get to know you, and you to know me. You'll figure it out, and take as much time as you need figuring it out.' Some kids spend all of third grade figuring it out. He won't be lost, because there is a certain funneling. Whether he can go somewhere independently or not right now, the current of the class takes him there regardless."
Holy shit, can I really just relax? Perhaps the heavy lifting of my job was to find him a place where he does have the luxury of the time to figure out things on his own, and make his connections in his private, inaccessible places. At the neighborhood school his skills, particularly his math, would be an academic problem, because the window with which he is supposed to demonstrate progress is so short.
And, I see that I have the weight of his history as evidence--he is going to develop in his own time, in his own way, independently of the priorities of others. He's in the right place.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
There's a kind of snarky perfection to this--I'm not sure if that's the intent of the perfect moments theme, but here goes:
My boys are 4 years apart in age, 8 and 12. My younger has adhd, which intensifies behaviors that (I often suspect intentionally) irritate the older. The older is easily irritated, making himself the most tempting target. I remember an episode on the Simpsons, where some sanctimonious adult announces, "I will just now turn my back and bend over and tie my shoe", and does so, turning up the irresistible target of wriggling buttocks. The tension this creates in the children is unbearable, and they've nearly survived it without incident when the adult announces he's going to now tie his OTHER shoe. The rocks are launched from the slingshot.
Connor is that sanctimonious adult.
The boys can go from 0 to 80 in nothing flat. Sample conversation: Scott: "The sun goes this way...around the earth..." Connor: "No, the earth goes around the sun--DUMMY!!!" And they're off. Scott: "Well, you're stupid!" Connor: "Mom, Scott just called me stupid!" And I'm remembering my mom's remark from the past: "I want to knock your two heads together."
We were on a backpacking trip this past weekend because they had a holiday from school Friday. Neither wanted to go and they complained bitterly.
We were going to walk over to some low cliffs to watch the sunset and the boys were impatient to go. I'd dipped some water from the lake and had it on our little stove to boil. I wanted to purify it, and then let it cool overnight so we'd have cold drinking water in the morning. So we were waiting on the pot. To pass the time I asked Connor if he knew what the phrase, "A watched pot never boils" means.
He said, "Yes. If you're waiting for something it takes forever. But, one saying I've never gotten is, 'People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.' I don't get that. Is that like saying people who don't brush their teeth get cavities?"
All of the most perfect examples of hypocrisy I've ever heard or experienced vanished and left me with a lame example: "Well, it's more like someone criticizing people for sneezing really loud and then sneezing loudly themselves. It's about criticizing someone for something that you do yourself."
Much later we're in the car on the way home, Gary driving. I've already threatened the boys several times that we're going to take the next exit and sit in the car until they tell me they can control their bickering because it's not safe to drive with all the yelling in back. There's a sullen silence reigning when Gary said, "Man, that guy has big ears!"
"The driver in front of us. He has huge ears."
"How can you see that...oh!" When the light angle was just right this driver's ears were elephantine. Even several car lengths ahead and around a neck rest we could see them. Gary kept talking, "I don't think I've ever seen ears that big."
I couldn't help it, and started to laugh.
Connor was scandalized. "That's really MEAN of you guys! How would you like it if someone behind us was laughing at Dad's bald spot?"
We rounded a corner and the autumn light illuminated the inside of the car ahead again.
"There they are." said Gary. It took a moment to realize what "they" were, and this time I howled. I hadn't laughed like that in ages, with such complete abandon.
Connor spoke up again. "You guys are so mean! I can't believe you!"
I said, "Connor, we wouldn't laugh if we were in the same room as him. He can't hear us." Then, inspiration seized me: "I wouldn't punctuate any comment I'd make with, 'DUMMY!' Now that would be mean.'" I paused for effect, then, "Connor, people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones!"
Way to drive home a metaphor! He got it, too. Eyes dropped, "Awwww....be quiet..."
But I have a runner up for that perfect moment. Last night I took the boys to a matinee our local theater puts on as a school benefit. They were running "Night At the Museum, Battle of the Smithsonian". The premise of the original "Night At the Museum" is a night guard at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City discovers that the exhibits come to life during the night. A magical ancient Egyptian tablet animates them. One of those exhibits is a mischievous, trouble-causing capuchin monkey.
The sequel finds the exhibits moved to the Smithsonian to be archived. Due to the capuchin's having stolen the Egyptian tablet all the exhibits in the greater institute (housed in 19 museums along the Washington Mall) come to life , including the first monkey in space (a capuchin) who happens to meet face to face with its counterpart from New York. There is a scene where the monkeys are slapping each other while the Ben Stiller character tries vainly to stop them, getting slapped himself and slapping them as well. Now THAT was a perfect image of my boys, verbally "slapping" each other, and me, trying to make it stop. I whispered to Connor, "That's US!"
Monday, October 5, 2009
My husband and I don't get along very well.
It's not the he-beats-me, or he-drinks-too-much kind of not-getting-along. It's not the big, obvious, catastrophic relationship ending kind of not-getting-along. Instead of a tsunami, it's a drip-drip-drip that gradually wears away the fabric.
This has made the troubles of our relationship difficult to assess. I remember distinctly a feeling of despair, early on in our marriage when something that happened resonated so painfully, so frequently, yet on its surface was so minor that it was not worth leaving a relationship for.
Death by a thousand paper cuts is not only painful, it doesn't garner much sympathetic support. When I leave the relationship it will appear that my hand held the knife that caused the hemorrhage.
So be it.
This marriage is perplexing because on the surface it does look whole. However, the very atoms that make it up are corrupt. This has confused me for years. When the source of trouble is not obvious, my past modus operandi was to question myself, if not outright blame. Is x bothering me because I'm too sensitive? Am I being too critical? Am I taking something too seriously? Am I focusing too much on the negative? Why can't I look at the positive? This is so insignificant. Why can't I just forget about it? I must be unforgiving. Do I do this thing too, but I'm a hypocrite and I just don't see it?
Gary returned from Asia on Saturday. He'd gone to China 10 days prior to trawl for work. He was talking with several factories about the possibility of representing them to manufacturers of luggage, packs, bags.
In his employed days he'd take his own car to the airport and leave it in the longterm lot. His company picked up the parking tab, or the taxi.
To save money I took him to the airport on the 23rd. It's a measure of the reality of our relationship that we don't part the way people who care about each other say goodbye. I suppose we could kiss, but it would be a lie, a token gesture. I wished him luck and drove off.
While gone we communicated via email. He sent a copy of the proposal he'd pitched to this company. I was impressed by its clarity, and his ability to anticipate various scenarios. Organizationally I'm not very good at that sort of thing, and I admire it as a strength in him. He is also someone who people instinctively like and trust; he's therefore a natural at sales. If there's any kind of opportunity available in this economy, he'll be able to thrive in it. I emailed him this thought. We also communicated about one area that we can usually connect around with no conflict, our love for our sons.
It wasn't lost on me, the break from the day-to-day contact, the messages where we could express appreciation with conflict filtered out, was an opportunity to have a reset of sorts. Good will had been a predominant tone--how far would it go if we could keep it going?
I have an image of one of those tilt-table marble labyrinth games. The object is to roll a marble from point a to point b along a twisty path without it dropping into one of the holes on either side of the path. You move the marble by adjusting the angle of the surface it's on. How long, how far, could good will travel before dropping into a hole?
Gary was returning on a weekend that my book reading group was going to be at the beach to choose the upcoming year's books. Ordinarily I'd go on the Friday night for the opening festivities, even though we don't actually present our books for consideration until Saturday afternoon over wine and appetizers. Gary's trip meant I'd have to miss Friday night and travel over on Saturday after I'd picked him up. His flight was to arrive at 8:30, but there was some doubt because there were typhoons in the western Pacific. Connor was spending the night at a buddy's; this meant Scott, who loves his sleep so very much, was going to have to get up early and accompany me to the airport.
I was one of the providers of the appetizers, so Friday evening was spent with me dividing my time between packing for the trip, reading reviews of the books so I could do a good job presenting them, making appetizers, grocery shopping (so there'd be food in the house and jet-lagged Gary wouldn't have to), and juggling the needs of my hyperactive younger son. I was up late Friday, and early Saturday when I realized Gary hadn't really said what time he wanted me at the airport. His last email had been Thursday, and he'd said the flight was due in at 8:30, but he didn't make a guess about how long it would take to navigate customs and luggage and so when I should be at the arrivals curb. I'd kept an eye on the website anyway since the storms had been anticipated and I'd feared a delay or cancellation. I decided to allow about a half hour and leave the house accordingly.
As usual, it was very difficult to persuade Scott to leave his nest, but we set out around 8:15. I had the cell phone, but was feeling uneasy about Gary not having one so I could call him. My doubts were stronger. We'd talked a little about the possibility of him bringing the light rail within striking distance of home. Maybe he thought we'd agreed to that. We've had miscommunications like that before. How long should I circle the pick-up area before heading for the light rail station?
So I was relieved when I saw his orange shirt and him leaning up against the wall under the awning. He tossed in his bags, greeted Scott and the dog, and climbed in the passenger seat.
"Did you have to wait very long?"
"Yes. Didn't you look at what time the flight came in?"
"... ...I did. But you didn't say what time you wanted me here, and I had to guess about how long it would take you to go through customs and get your luggage."
"My flight arrived at 8:15. Didn't I tell you to check the website in case it came early?"
"I didn't know how long customs would take."
"Customs takes 15 minutes." As if this is a fact that is common knowledge. As if everyone knows it, or should. If you drop something it falls to the ground. Duh.
"I didn't know that."
"Customs takes 15 minutes." As if somehow my knowing this now should make me responsible for knowing it earlier, retroactively.
Not a hint that he's aware that it's not rational to expect this of someone.
I felt that weird, sickening feeling inside.
For a moment I remembered the idea of clean slate, reset button, good will. I wondered if I had squandered the opportunity--one of these strange theoretical instances of 'unconscious' self-sabotage. Wouldn't the first obvious step in a challenge of keeping the good-will marble rolling be to arrive on time in picking him up? Was there something I'd missed, some obvious choice I could have/should have made to keep that volley going? Maybe I should have asked him in an earlier email what time he expected me at the airport, when he thought he could be outside.
But, he hadn't told me what he wanted, either. If it was important that he not have to wait for me for 20 minutes, wouldn't it have behooved him to specify?
How often have I had to wait for him, come to think of it, when he has had a specific time to work with. How often at this very airport (come to think of it), juggling a pile of luggage and the safety of two small, restless boys who are oblivious to people dragging luggage by, or curbs with traffic whizzing by feet away from them?
It was his total absolution of himself, and his own role in his having to wait which was at the heart of the sinking inside. Not to mention his obliviousness to what it had cost me to get there, indeed to be there.
This is the kind of thing that seems too trivial to consider divorce over. It is just one moment, one component of the billions that comprise a relationship, a marriage. However, the sickness that is in this moment is present in the others. The other moments contain this same dna, this failed chromosome. It's present in the minor interactions, and it's there in the important ones. At the heart of our moments is a failure to connect--something crucial to their successful resolution.
I realize that my attempts to understand this were like the marble in the tilting-table labyrinth too. My line of inquiry would have dropped through the hole at the very first challenge. I would have wondered if the chill that hit me from the moment he said, "yes" when I asked if he'd waited long was legitimate. I'd have wondered if I was reading too much into it. I would have told myself to cut him some slack. I would have wondered at the persistence of the feeling of despair, would have accused myself of being too sensitive. I would have wondered if it was legitimate for me to hold him responsible for having not told me when I should be there; I would have wondered if that was evading responsibility myself. I would have wondered if I was "blaming" him. I'd worry that I was making a mountain of a molehill. I'd wonder if I was dwelling on the negative.
The cumulative effect of the above paragraph would be reinforcing a belief that there was something wrong with what I was feeling in that moment when I felt my good will ebb away, and that I shouldn't be feeling it. And I suppose the purpose of that is to deny the feelings that tell me this is not good for me. The purpose of the denial is for me to stay, by undermining the feelings that tell me to go. In a curious way, this denial helps me to tolerate the poison.
And I've been doing it for years. Including before I ever knew Gary.