Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Saga of the Black SAHM {stay-at-home mom}

I’m writing today to reflect on a life of being a stay-at-home mom as I am excitedly in the final days of my marriage (pending divorce). Throughout the years of my marriage, I often felt as if my role as a stay-at-home mom wasn’t good enough. My efforts to be the best mother were challenged and hampered by my constant desire to have validation in my position as a stay-at-home mom. Being a child of an emotionally neglectful parent, I never had much validation of my abilities or acknowledgement of my strengths, so I was constantly comparing myself against a standard that seemed far above my own reach. In my childhood eyes, I was never good enough, so this opinion of my self-worth did not change when I became an adult, let alone a parent. Besides how can a person without self-esteem measure their own worth when there was no one there to provide authentication and acceptance of my existence? Who was I to them? Just property, or even worse an accidental pregnancy. In a freaky twist of fate, I came to derive my self-worth and value from my ability to physically work hard. If I wasn’t working 2 jobs, I wasn’t working. This was my crazy standard of how I was supposed to make a living. I’d find the most labor intensive job and then find an equally labor intensive companion job to suit. I’d literally work myself to the point of physical exertion. Although this increased my stamina, it wreaked havoc on my body and self-esteem. I had varicose veins and carpel tunnel in my early twenties; by my thirties, I had arthritis and IBS. But at least no one could say that I wasn’t a hard worker. Or at least this is what I thought until I became a stay-at-home mom.
My decision to be a stay-at-home parent was not necessarily one based on what I believed was in the best interest of my children. I jokingly say that I was a stay-at-home mom by default. You see I’d always been a very driven individual. I had my first job a 14 working in the clean-up crew for the local summer festival. When I turned 15, I got a job at a fast food restaurant. I was never interested in playing sports or doing any other recreational activity afterschool. I was very shy and often avoided group sports and activities. So, working afterschool seemed to be the perfect fit for me. In fact, I worked throughout my entire high school experience. My cousins jokingly called me “the Jamaican” because I had ‘tchree’ jobs. College life didn’t slow down my work ambitions. As a part-time student, I had 2 or more part time jobs. In addition, I worked seasonal jobs to help pay for school. I was both a perfectionist and a workaholic. Truth be told, I really didn’t know how to stop this behavior. It kept me stressed out, anxious, and sleep deprived. I maintained 2 jobs and took college classes for most of my twenties. I prided myself in being independent, having my own apartment, a car, a savings account, and a 401K. I strived to perform as an upstanding person based on the deceptive message that I had to work hard in order to make money or be successful. Don’t get me wrong, hard work does pay off, but there is a difference between working like a dog, tiring yourself out, being emotionally, mentally, and physically spent by your efforts to work for a living and having a career or a job you absolutely love and in your zeal may tend to place as a priority in life.
To put matters in perspective, here’s an example. Recently, I watched a TV show where a journalist was interviewing this strappingly handsome bachelor who happily guy worked on his family farm. I think his family owned 500 or 5,000 acres of land, raised corn and cattle. Now, working on a farm is filled with strenuous manual work and it is usually not as financially rewarding as say, for example, a white collar desk job, yet, this guy said he would never leave his family farm in spite of the other opportunities he had been offered based on the short time he’d spent on a popular reality show. The guy went on to exclaim that he loved his job and he enjoyed waking up every day to work on the farm. Wow. I was blown away to think that farm work, for this man, was much more rewarding than the fast and easy money he could make by monopolizing on his brief reality star status. I thought to myself, this man truly defines what it means to be successful in a career. I even imagined how happier he’d be when he finally found a compatible partner to share his farm life with. Sigh.
Back to my life as a worker drone. I have always been the type of person that could do a whole lot of stuff well, but I could never figure out what occupation I really wanted to do in life…what was my purpose? I guess I figured that I’d work multiple job simultaneously forever until something finally stuck. Insert frowny face here. I am a very creative and caring person; I knew that I would thrive working with people, so when I landed a ‘good’ office job in my mid-twenties, I discovered just how passionate I was about helping others. This passion lead to me doing a whole bunch of work for other people willingly to put their work off on me. And oh, I turned out to be a really great people pleaser.
After getting married in my late twenties, I took on job as a barista at the local Starbucks. In my history of keeping two jobs, I had worked part-time at a Starbucks once before, so I knew that it was a place I really enjoyed. And, to this day, if asked, I’d tell anyone that working at and for Starbucks was the happiest I’d ever been at a job and essentially one of the best jobs I’d ever had. I loved interacting with the regular customers and my coworkers. The morale was always positive, and the drinks were free! Plus, the music was just my type: inspiring, thought provoking, and sensual. These factors made every day at work pleasantly joyful, and it fostered an atmosphere and environment that I thrived in.  Often times, due to the fast paced nature of the retail food and beverage industry the work is labor intensive with minimal monetary rewards. But the work environment and corporate ethics of Starbucks was something that I felt connected too and motivated by, so I truly felt my best in that environment.
I worked at Starbucks until the birth of my oldest child, Max. This is when the default stay-at-home mom status came into play. I figured with my gross salary being only about $1200 a month, I’d be better off staying at home with my baby as opposed to putting him in daycare at a cost of $600 per month. Moreover, I planned to go back to school fulltime and be at home with my baby during the day. So, I effectively pursued and eventually achieved this goal. During my stay-at-home mom and student status, I bravely changed majors and even earned a second degree. Reflecting on those accomplishments makes me very proud that I was able to obtain my degrees and attend to the needs of two special needs children. Though stressful at times I accomplished being a fulltime at-home mother and fulltime student. This leads me to my question: what or how is “work” defined for me? What is my definition of personal value and being my best?
As a stay-at-home mom, I found that this position of a mother that stays at home with her children is not as easily accepted in the black community. I remember one of my black classmates [whom, I often helped with schoolwork] joking and laughing as she proclaimed, “black women don’t stay at home with their kids; they work!” It amused her so much to poke fun of my ambitions to stay-at-home with my children. As a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), I’ve been subjected to the “eating “bon bon” reference more times than I’d care to remember. It seems that most people who haven’t experienced a parent working inside of the home have no clue what the SAHM does. Which is why we are always defending what we do. Why? Does the mom that goes to work in an office job from 9-5 have to defend what she does all day? Probably not. Does the nanny ever get accused of slacking on the job because she sits down on the couch every now and then? Better yet, does a professional dog walker have to come up with reasons why he only ‘just walks the dog’?
Being a SAHM was one of the hardest endeavors of my life. Not only did I have to defend, justify, and validate my position to my working female family members and hordes of people who just don’t get it, but I also had to be in this role with little support from my community. As I was frequently and mockingly told, “there are no black stay-at-home moms.”
For the record, I realize that some reading this article may not actually know what a SAHM does. I will share a link at the bottom for your reference, but to sum it up, this is what I did at home. Keep in mind, duties varies from mom to mom and the schedule changes as the children grow. 

During the weekdays, I’d wake up and get dressed between 7 or 8am, straighten the bathroom and bedroom, prepare breakfast, wake up the children, bathe, groom, and dress children, eat breakfast, go to planned children’s activities [mom and me, story time, toddler tumble or exercise, prepare lunch, clean kitchen and shared rooms. These activities would take me into around 1 or 2pm; then I’d plan and prepare dinner or run errands such as bill pay, scheduling appointments, going to the grocery store, putting grocery away, organizing closets/pantry/storage space, do shopping for gifts or personal items, dealing with pets’ needs, or do light yard work. After dinner was cooked, I’d prepare and feed the children a separate meal of their personal and particular taste [yes, they are extremely picky eaters], clean the kitchen (once again), and sit down for about 45 to watch a DVR’d show. This would be about 3 or 3:30. Around 4 or so, I’d pick up toys in the boys’ rooms and straighten up the living room. Sometimes I’d put on a load of laundry or sort the clothes to be washed the following day. My day would not necessarily end when my spouse came home at 5:30. Because my children were so attached to me, I’d spend most of my evening entertaining them. Mind you, they are both ADHD, so this would be very exhausting having to accommodate the limited interests of children with short attention spans. When my children where in school, my SAHM duties changed a little; I was able to focus more of my attention on my own school work while they or at least one of them was in school. Oh yeah, did I mention that I was a college student for 7 years of my SAHM mom tenure. My evening classes usually started a 6pm Mon., Wed., Fri., and I did most of my school work at night while my children slept. It was tough. I decided to do online schooling for my master’s degree. In hindsight, I wish I’d went to a brick and mortar school to get my masters because trying to do what seemed like a million papers and forum assignments for online classes with 2 demanding kids in close vicinity of my study space was very difficult. It requires a lot of self-discipline and good organizational skills. But, I got through it all by the grace of God and weekly Tuesday margarita nights with the other SAHMs [smile]. Also, keep in mind I was married to an ADHD Aspie that didn’t really provide much help with the household chores [something to do with his poor executive functioning skills] and never planned activities for the children, rarely shopped for or prepared meals, did not clean up the house or schedule its maintenance, nor initiate yard work without prompting from me. I felt that he believed all he had to do was contribute a “paycheck”; even though I worked part-time for the local university for 3 years and supplemented his income with my student refund check for years. To reiterate, I worked inside the home as a SAHM, was a full time college student, as well as worked part time outside of the home, and I still had to defend my SAHM status to the masses. Do you know the effect this has on the self-esteem and morale of an insecure SAHM? Well, for me it was not good. Toward the end of my stint as a SAHM [and, incidentally, my marriage] I began to think of myself as ‘unemployed’, a victim of unfair circumstances, a charity case, a disenfranchised worker, a loser. This leads me back to why I conclude that it is a tragedy the black SAHM is not validated for her role as a SAHM amongst her African American peers and community. SAHMs are workers!

In my desperate search for comradery, I came across an organization of African American stay-at-home moms. Finding this group of like-minded women was a life saver for me. We instantly connected and bonded over our shared history of being snubbed as the lazy housewife among our respective family members and community. Many of my black SAHM friends had husbands that supported them whole heartily; some of the moms where in a similar situation to mine where it was more financially beneficial to have the mother stay home with the children in lieu of paying for daycare. A few of the moms where in-between jobs or taking extended maternity leaves. These moms would often complain about the harsh criticism they faced from mothers that worked outside the homes. Like mine, their female family members were especially harsh urging the mothers to “just get a job.” Some of the spouses of the SAHMs were also unsupportive of the SAHM’s role, often questioning them, “what did you do all day?, or when are you going to get a ‘real’ job?”
The SAHMs group became my therapy. Moms would share their feelings: problems with their children or husbands, guilt over not contributing money to the household, or lament about how they’d overspend, or reveal their earnest feelings of being overwhelmed by it all; a few even disclosed how they avoided having sex with their husbands because they were too tired, lonely, emotionally disconnected, or just bored. No topic was forbidden. I was very open with my SAHM’s group about my challenges having a husband with Asperger’s as well as having children with special needs. On a side note, having children with mental health issues or cognitive disabilities is taboo in the black community. Besides having to deal with the lack of support from my community for my role as a SAHM, I had to deal with the lack of acceptance that my child had a bona fide disability. My relatives dismissed my youngest son, Marty’s, issues and proceeded to condemn me for my failure to discipline and “whoop” him. So, now in their minds not only did I not want to work, I had inconsistent parenting skill? Kick me some more while I’m down please.
Despite the overall shame I felt from being a SAHM, I looked forward to the weekly meetings with my SAHM friends and relished in our children’s frequent playdates. When our children became school aged, we moms still found a way to get together and share the frustrations, challenges, joys, and the little seemingly insignificant day-to-day successes of life as a SAHM. Us SAHMs validated each other’s contributions to the family home and wished each other well. We celebrated one another’s accomplishments and encouraged growth in our own personal development. All while being criticized, belittled, and misunderstood by those outside of our kind.
It took years for me to realize that throughout my years as a SAHM, I was actually working! Working really hard. My job consisted of rearing my children using meaningful time tested parenting skills, preparing them socially and emotionally to interact with their peers and the world, helping them solve problems, and modeling determination and goal setting. Managing a household was also one of my job responsibilities. And, like most tasks I set out to do, I did it to the best of my ability.
How do I now translate those skills of being a SAHM for over ten years to qualify me for a career or job in my respective field of study? As I re-enter the workforce after ten years, will my resume be interpreted by a potential employer as that of an individual that worked hard raising her kids and running the household or will others share the viewpoint of many in my community and see me as a lazy housewife that didn’t want to work?
For years I carried around the guilt of not financially providing for my children and the wavering regret of my decision to stay at home with them while they were small children. I treated the income my spouse earned as if it were a handout and somehow I should be ashamed to spend it [footnote – as a SAHM, the government makes you and your spouse file jointly instead of allowing the wife to be a dependent. So even the Feds see us SAHM as employed, lol]. The fear of others perceiving me as ‘lazy’ or not wanting to work caused me to be insecure in my role as a parent. The validation I craved as a child and now as a mother would not be given to me by my immediate family members. This was a hard truth, but once I accepted this fact, I was able to find authentication in my own love of self and appreciation for how unique God made me. My SAHM friends helped me see how important it was for me to put a “stamp of approval” on myself. Looking for other people to endorse my heartfelt intentions, beliefs, and decisions would eventually lead me toward a lifetime of disappointment. It was time for me to trust myself, love myself, and believe that I was a good parent and a worthy person. Freeing myself from emotional self-hate gave me the courage I needed to transition in life from the SAHM to a divorced working mother. In the future, whether I am able to work inside the family home or outside of the home, my self-value will never ever again be determined by my ability to prove to others that I am a hard worker. As I shed my insecurities and grow in self-esteem, I will not have my self-worth defined by anyone other than myself. Therefore, I take responsibility for happiness in my career and my role as a parent and future partner. My calling or my purpose in life is to be true to my authentic self and to be the best mother that I can be to the special children that God blessed me with.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Epic adventures and the Titanic

Hi all. I haven’t written in a long time. It seems that I am not that good at focusing on writing for my blog. Sure, I had the intention to share all kinds of neat ideas and intriguing quotes from articles that I have recently read, but actually taking the effort to pause my sometimes chaotic life to do so is a struggle for me. Lately, I’ve been pre-occupied with figuring out how to move on from my 12 years of mastering all things Aspergers. I’ve finally gathered the courage and momentum to move across the country, Yay! This was a difficult decision for me because being a stay-at-home mom for the past 11 years has left me with no real work/job/employment experience, but a ton of SAHM skills: house hold chores, listing things-to-do, prioritizing errands, becoming and expert at planning playdates, organizing kid’s toys, volunteering at kids’ schools, arranging yard sales, and all other general activities involved in mothering and taking care of a home. Getting my master’s degree in counseling was probably a way for me to connect my life experience with my professional aspirations, though now I feel like I cheated myself out of an opportunity to really explore what I’m truly passionate about. By the way, I am still trying to figure that out. Seeing as though my children are very imaginative, Max and Marty both enjoy creative writing and are surprisingly very good at it, I might need to take this cue and return to my roots in art. Oh well, time will tell. I’ve also become increasingly interested in new age spirituality and law of attraction stuff; perhaps this will lead me to some new discoveries about myself. Ode to self-awareness, there’s nothing like realizing how you eff-d-up (excuse my French) your own life or supposedly created all the bull crap that brought you to this point of disillusionment. I digress. Besides, everything happens for a reason. Which leads me to my latest update on my precious precocious little Marty.

My husky voiced Marty is now approaching 2nd grade. He’s smart, articulate, creative, and very stubborn. Did I mention he was extremely stubborn? But I think it goes along with the Asperger territory. The whole theory of being inflexible, black or white no grey area, and a little oppositional sprinkled with OCD. Marty has taken a strong interest in being perceived as “funny”. He spends hours watching funny Minecraft inspired videos. And, most of the time, when he tries, he is really funny at delivering lines from his You-tube video repertoire. Yet sometimes, he’s very inappropriate. Most importantly, he is aware that he has trouble making friends and some of his interests are a little off-putting…like the “Titanic”. Yes, Marty is now a bonafide Titanic freak. To mommy’s disappointment Thomas the Train is a thing of the past [Insert sad face here :(]. Yet, he insists that he is still into model trains. Thank goodness because Mommy has truly enjoyed buying trains and participating in train track configuring.

So the exposure to the RMS Titanic came from Marty’s father. He has been obsessed with the Titanic since James Cameron blessed us with the movie. He introduced Marty to Titanic inspired board games and enjoys listening to the movie or the movie soundtrack in the background while they play the board game. Thus, Marty has memorized the theme song…near far wherever you are. I my humble opinion, he knows way too much about Jack and Rose (the main characters). He said to me one day after drawing a picture of the Titanic and its famous smoke stacks, “I think me and dad are the only ones interested in the Titanic.” That doesn’t stop his fervor for all things Titanic; at least he has enough sense not to bring it up around his neurotypical friends. Sure he might proudly show them the mini plastic motorized version of the Titanic, but conversing about the various details of the ship usually bores typical 7 and 8 year olds, so Marty skips all that technical stuff. I happen to like the movie Titanic, and I have researched enough about the actual ship to know some really special facts that Marty finds quite amusing; like, the company that owned the Titanic had a practice of naming all their ships with a name ending in ‘IC’ – fascinating?  

I know many parents would be appalled by their child’s interest in a historical tragedy that claimed the lives of thousands, but I understand that Marty only sees the ship as the object of his admiration. Somehow, he can’t or doesn’t associate the ship with the tragic loss of life. Although he does have empathy, he can’t seem to relate it to this incident perhaps because it happened so long ago. I think his mechanical mind is fascinated about the details involved in the ship’s sinking. Marty’s preoccupation with how the Titanic met its demise at the hands of an iceberg is a little on the morbid side for me, but I try to answer all his question with a straight face. I even helped him construct a large cardboard model of the Titanic all so Marty could use it to reenact the scene where the Titanic hits the iceberg [an iceberg he designed out of aluminum foil and packaging tape]. Why Marty thought it was a good idea to tape Lego men to the poop deck is beyond me. I think some children with Aspergers have a keen interest in figuring out how things crash. Marty still enjoys seeing his trains collide and run off the track. His father shared a story about how when he was a boy he had an interest in the spaceship Challenge. He even described in detail how he reenacted the explosion with fireworks tired to a plastic spaceship. To which I replied “thanks for sharing.” I mean who am I to judge?

To conclude, lately my life has been trying to figure out what I need to do, professionally and financially, to support two challenging young boys, entertaining said boys during the hot summer, and planning my epic move to the southwest. I’d love any feedback from readers as this is a pivotal point in my life and I want either some encouragement or advice on how to move forward with life as a single mom with two kiddos. I’ve always been a positive and optimistic person so I am approaching this new life with lots of hope and motivation, though I must admit that I am a teeny bit scared of the unknown. So far I have convinced myself that I am happily content…my threshold for happiness has been lowered and I’ve learned to appreciate and admire the simpler things in life. I see my life as Marty’s and Max’s mom as predestined, and I notice the serendipity in my life experiences. Everything does happen for a reason. I’m learning to create a better version of myself, a better lifestyle for my family, and a sense of purposely fulfilling and seeking happiness in my life. All is well. :)

Friday, February 6, 2015

Happy 2015!

As I sit here in Starbucks jobless [sad face] enjoying my tall cup of Pike roast despite the morning chill evident in the store, I try to disregard my sensitivity to the smell of charred cheese and garlic. This place should only smell like burnt coffee, right. I digress.
I took to the laptop a few years ago to write this blog because, during that time, my life was a stressful hot mess. A heavy cloud of unhappiness, guilt, and doubt seemed to follow me around like an abandoned puppy seeking a handout of scraps. I must admit how writing this blog helped me a lot… a whole lot, like literally save me. I mean, it really kept me from jumping off the deep end. The deep end for me, mind you, is an extra margarita for lunch, or that second glass of wine at night or fully indulging in my forbidden bad habits…like eating too many donuts and bagels, isolation and excessive self-criticism [and that daily margarita because, you know, I earned it – excuses, excuses]. Considering that addictions run in my family, I have much concern for my tendencies to obsess and be compulsive in my way to escape my feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety. But back to the blog. I wish I were the type of blogger that blogged about the highs and lows, my every moment of confusion, frustration, success, or rare occasion of bliss, but I guess, I’m not. I think I wanted to blog about my experience with blacks and Aspergers as a way of getting the information ‘out there’ in the world, so to speak. Because, sadly, mental health, neurological disorders, special needs, etc. still remains taboo and rarely talked about in my community.I don't know if any members of my own family is truly understanding of Marty's challenges. I've rescued him from grandma's, cousin's, aunt's, uncle's belts on many occasions. Cause black folks love to whoop their kids, right. I am only being a little bit sarcastic here folks. Though I can recall when a dear friend announced to her family that her beloved daughter was suffering with Selective Mutism [a form of social anxiety], my friend’s mother casually replied, “Oh, I just thought she was gay.” Sure we got a great gut busting laugh out of hearing my friend share her story in her own ‘stand-up comedian’ kind of way, but being the mom of children with special needs, I understand how painful it can be when your child’s uniqueness is disregarded, belittled, and not accepted. So, for the past few years in lieu of blogging I’ve been doing a lot of research on all things Aspergers, autism, and ADHD. My little Marty, the inspiration behind this blog, has been growing, and learning and playing with trains, and imitating, and watching trains on youtube, and misbehaving, and did I mention talking excessively about trains. 
Marty has become a great source of joy for me because, unlike the myth of the disconnected and un-empathetic Aspie, Marty is very thoughtful and sensitive. He doesn't quite express his compassion in the typical way, but I know that he cares and he cares deeply. One day, while fearful that he had lost the affection of his older brother after a night of Marty-style irrational rage, name calling, and intensity [the dreaded Meltdown], Marty squeezing Max tightly, in tears, exclaimed to Max, “I am so sorry, I shouldn't have said those things to you; they are not true. I love you.” Max and I chuckled at Marty’s dramatics but understood that those were real tears. Marty also provides much needed comic relief in keeping true to his Asperger nature to say everything on his mind without filter. For instance Marty faithfully expresses his disdain for our neighbor and my good friend as she is very strict with him and rarely lets him get away with what she deems “bad behavior” as High Functioning Autism is never an excuse for her. "I don't like her," Marty pouts. Marty recently has started to slack off, neglecting his homework due to his predisposition and preference to think, play, and talk about trains. Getting him to do homework is a daunting chore for me and his Aspie dad, surprisingly. So, I enlisted the help of my neighbor who I lovingly call the ‘Enforcer’. She threatened to sit with Marty until he completes his homework if he doesn't straighten up and fly right. Of course, Marty wants no parts of this. He growls whenever I mention her name… yes he literally growls and has been doing this since he was a toddler. Any whoo, the other day I reassured Marty that my neighbor was on standby to make an appearance if Marty could not stay focused on completing his homework. Marty screams in response to my warning, “Please, do not call her. I do not want to have to deal with her.” Then he proceeds to finish his assignments. Passive Aggressive management used for motivation – check. Hey, who says empty threats don’t work. I know, it’s wrong, but I am a work in progress and humanely typical. In the future, I’ll do better, I promise.
As Marty continues to mature and grow, he has become more aware of his differences and even suggested that I take him to the doctor because, “sometimes I don’t understand what people are saying to me.” If you only knew Marty; if you only knew. I find his unique way of thinking to be very enlightening as I have matured in my personal spiritual growth and desire to understand my own human experience. However, unlike his mommy, Marty doesn't concentrate on the future or what lies ahead; he truly lives in the moment. He lives to amuse himself with his endless imagination and intense interest in trains. He’s not embarrassed or hindered by lack of progress, not fitting in with the crowd, or making a scene while expressing his very narrow opinions very loudly. He revels in the opportunity to break out a finger flick or two ignoring onlookers. He’s a few months shy of second grade and has no shame in wearing shoes with large Velcro straps because learning to tie shoes is “boring”. Marty loves his dog, is loyal to his 2-3 friends and his self-interested brother [blame it on the ADD], and feels more secure when he’s at home, unless there’s a model train exhibit in town, in these rare occurrences, he could spend hours at the exhibit marveling in all the HO, G, N, Z gauge excitement of it all. Cue fast finger-flicking.
To wrap this up, I am still dealing with some of the difficulties involved in parenting a child with Aspergers, but at this moment, I am enjoying it more than complaining about it. Note to parents – it is okay to complain and vent every now and then, but try to always get back to "the glass is half full" mentality [trust me, I know it’s hard, but work at it and practice it]. Positivity and Love heals! I have two degrees and 10 year of research to qualify myself to say these things. LOL.
In all honesty, I often imagine that in a higher spiritual world, Marty and I arranged this experience on earth where he would be the child with special needs, idiosyncrasies, and quirks, and I would be the mother learning patience, unconditional love, and acceptance. And from all this, our two spirits would discover truth and evolve to become better humans [to aid in the advancement of mankind]. Thanks Super Soul Sunday on OWN!

 As the cliché goes, “everything happens for a reason.” And, this makes me confident in my belief that in life there are no mistakes, yet opportunities to learn and practice freedom of thought and choice. Til next time, which at the rate I am blogging, perhaps next year, all of you readers are in my thoughts and prayers for understanding, love, acceptance, peace of mind, and happiness. Thank you so much for reading my humble thoughts and words. LOVE and BLESSINGS. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Marty is doing well. :)

Hello all and Happy Holidays. I haven't posted in a long time because I have been working. Having been a stay-at-home mom for over eight years has me transitioning into the work force at a slower process. It's been a hard adjustment, but I am managing. To give you an update on Marty, well, he is taking on elementary school and so far, so good. His teacher complains of his frequent talking out of turn, but she is very tolerant and compassionate toward his condition. This summer, Marty participated in a genetic study at a prominent autism research facility. The specialist there concluded that Marty had Aspergers. No duh. Any who, I was glad for the confirmation. Marty also had a psycho-educational evaluation with his school and they concurred: highly probable for Aspergers Disorder. Ok, so with all this reassurance, you would think that we [as a family] would have progressed in our mission to get Marty "some help," nope; we are still dependent on the school's supports; And, very grateful for them as Marty gets a para pro, social skills classes with the counselor, and weekly time with the special ed. teacher...not to mention he is in the inclusion class. Marty's school psychologist recommended play therapy, so I am working on getting this started for him. All in all, Marty is doing well: growing and thriving. He has his "bad" mega meltdown days, but mostly, he is compliant and easily soothed. He has learned so much since starting "big boy school" and we have grown closer. He is such a thoughtful and loving little boy, its sometimes hard for me to identify him as being "on the spectrum". This morning he told me that he "felt bad because his brother didn't have a heater like him." Yes, he has his own personal space heater...don't judge me please. [Something about a heating fan calms this kid like nothing else.] So that being said, I believe my boy is learning how to express his feelings and to empathize, something that many experts claim that those with autism lack. All though I am working, I still try to stay abreast with the latest research on autism, though I am convinced that Auties and Aspies are here to stay. There's no cure, but early intervention and thankfully, Marty got a lot of that. I will leave you with a link to an article that I found fascinating. It seems that many of us with children on the spectrum have made studying autism our life's work.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Caricature Marty

Mysterious Creatures...the movie

Mysterious Creatures…a must see movie for all of us parents dealing with a high functioning child on the Autism/Aspergers spectrum. It especially touches on the unique conflicts a parent faces having a more aggressive child with Autism. Not all Aspies are easy going or mild mannered, just like not all NT (NeuroTypical) people are easy going or laid back. The problem with aggressive Aspies is that they, unlike NT, may not have the same restraint or self control. In this movie, a thirty something woman with Asperger and OCD terrorizes her parents so much that in order to cope with the pain and guilt of having an out-of-control adult child, they plan to commit suicide. This Aspie is verbally abusive to her poor father, manipulative with her enabling mother, physically and verbally aggressive to strangers. Her psychiatrists mismanaged her treatment leaving her parent’s with little options to help their daughter. The couple decides to “off themselves” as a way to escape; the father succeeds, the mother survives to live a life filled with sadness, guilt, and regret. Obviously, this movie is sad, but in a way I can sympathize with the anguish this couple felt, having little or no resources to help their child: a child that is determined to enforce the rules of her own world as if everyone on earth should follow them.

As I am watching the movie, my little Aspie wakes up from a full night’s rest, yet he is in the same crappy mood that he was in when he went to bed. Last night he had a tantrum because his dad wouldn’t tell him where he got the phrase, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.” He ran around screaming, “Where did you get those words from!” And when we finally answered him, he remained upset. I guess he didn’t approve of “those words” in his world, or perhaps our cheerfulness in saying them offended him. Whatever the case, this boy’s OCD behaviors have become more intense and more stressful for us. Marty’s preoccupation with ‘getting words right’ is draining, so many questions, so much frustration if he just doesn’t get it. And, he wants to know what everything is. He was yelling and screaming this morning because he asked for donuts and refused to eat what was prepared for him until he knew what it was. “What is that called?  I know I don’t like that, ugh!” Then he storms around the room growling. To stifle the meltdown last night, we sedate Marty with melatonin, bathe him; 15 minutes later he is sleeping. Thank you Jesus!

I pray that Marty doesn’t grow up to be like the adult child in “Mysterious Creatures” and I hope that his “early intervention” pays off. I hate that this couple was consumed by their lack of knowledge and inability to cope with the stress of raising a special needs child. Clearly, they lacked social support and expert advice. In my opinion, their child probably had a touch of Bipolar to go along with her Asperger diagnosis…unfortunately, her spastic raging behaviors reminded me of my little guy, but unlike her parents…I know about the resources, and I am fortunate to have a support system and neighbors that care about my little boy. I am active in my kids’ school. This speaks volumes to teachers and administrative staff. They genuinely appreciate the parents that volunteer and are proactive in their child’s education. With a special needs child on an IEP, it pays to be nice to the teachers. They return the favor, trust me.
I can’t help but to feel sad for the couple in the movie, and a little angry that the father seemly died in vein. I am dedicating this blog entry to his memory in hopes that parents of children with Autism, a disability, or a special need learn to seek help when they are mentally, emotionally, and physically drained. I chose to work in the behavioral health field because of my desires to help people deal with the challenges of life. I hate to think of more parents doing what the couple did in Mysterious Creatures. I know it is very hard, sometimes unbearable, to raise a child with special needs but YOU are not ALONE! Help is only a click, a phone call, or an email away!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

New books about being an individual with Autism and Marty's progress

Marty and I went to the bookstore today, an outing that once amused Marty for hours, now, it seems he is "ready to go" after 30 minutes. Lately, he has become increasingly clingy to me and craves my undivided attention. I am usually able to work and read while Marty plays on the train table or explores the children's books; now, Marty's train play revolves around storylines and when the story ends, he is ready to leave. What is this about? He also had it in his mind that we were going to the toy store where he would play on yet another train table, the same kind, in fact. I don't get it. Any hoo, I wanted to share my latest readings, Raising Cubby and The Autistic Brain, both authored by successful adults with Autism. It is  fascinating to read about how they interpret the world and their intense attention to details and facts. I often encourage Aspie dad to write about his childhood and vivid memories of his late infancy. He can recall events that happened when he was a toddler. I explained to him that most individuals can not do this, and even gave him an illustration of the differences between our own children's recollected tales of their young childhood. Max's memories of when he was a toddler usually consist of events that left an emotional impression...having fun on vacations in Vegas, Orlando, etc. Marty recalls most events that you ask him about. Its as if once he developed language, he was able to, somehow, file these memories in his brain in a highly organized way. For instance, both boys visited the Day out with Thomas the Train when they were 3; however Marty's recollection of his experience is more precise and detailed, Max, on the otherhand, can only relate that he had been there and relies on photographs of the event for verification. This intrigues me. Hopefully, I can persuade Aspie dad to write a book or memoir about his life; it would be a profound look at being a black person with Autism in a period of time when having Autism was liken to having mental retardation and mental issues were unspoken of and taboo in minority communities. Aspie dad struggles with this label of having Autistic traits. He convinced himself that he is as social as the next man even though in the 13 years that I have known him, he has yet to meet a new friend, invite any friends over, or initiate any social interactions with his peers. He is not socially motivated, but assures me that it is only because he is "mature", whatever dude. Well, after the bookstore, Marty and I meet a friend for lunch. Marty surprised me with his request to, "see the menu," and pointing to his selection of seseame chicken instead of chicken nuggets. My little boy is growing up and expanding his taste buds. Tears. After lunch, we headed to the park and Marty surprises me once again. He heads to the playground determined to meet someone and share his new airplane that can go on the wooden railroad track...yes this is how he describes it, and will get offended if you slip up and call it a train. Potato, Patato, whatever. So Marty manages to break the ice amongst a half dozen 5 year olds by saying, "Hey, you wanna see my new airplane." "Sure," a bossy girl remarks as she snatches the plane train and commences to race it up the paved walk-way. Marty is ok with it until he discovers that the plane is now damaged. I convince him to leave the plane behind with me while he plays. He reminds me that it wasn't his fault that the plane got damage, but the kids who were playing too rough with it; thus they are too blame. Marty seems to cooperate with the other children and surprisingly plays all the games they propose. I am so proud of him. Then I hear his deep raspy voice say to the children, "I'm tired of playing hide and seek," as if they would stop playing based on his loss of interest. Marty recovers quickly after his suggestion is dismissed and ignored. He continues to run and hide and appears to be having fun. My little Aspie is doing a good job being the best kid that he can be, in spite of his differences, he can play a mean game of 'hide and seek' like the next kid.