Archive for July 2011
“I have survived the American Girl store experience. I am bloodied but unbowed.”
My husband’s Facebook status yesterday evening.
After a month of earning tokens, Pudding finally got to bring her Kelly doll home. As one last treat, we’d arranged her to have dinner at the American Girl Bistro. We’d used a velcro calendar system to count down the days, and by the time it came around, Pudding was buzzing with excitement (and with her very own little cocktail of autism and ADHD).
I told the kids that the day had finally arrived and we were going to go to American Girl. Cubby immediately announced that he wanted to go to American BOY!
Now once upon a time, back when I was an Idealist, I’d have been horrified at such entrenched gender stereotypes as my children were displaying. I would buy books and blocks for Pudding, steer her away from Barbies and other dolls. But every time we went for a play date, she would gravitate towards dolls. From the first day she could state her preference, she announced pink was her favourite colour. She would wear dresses only. She loved princesses. She was a girlie girl, despite my best efforts. Like many things, I soon learned that I couldn’t steer this child- I was along for the ride.
Her apparent femininity was sometimes at odds with her personality. She was always hyperactive, and she loved running and climbing. She loved chaotic environments, and being with other kids. She was also the toughest kid I ever met. She would fall a lot, but rarely cry. I didn’t know at the time that this hypo-sensitivity was a symptom of her autism. I was just bemused by this tomboy-meets-princess.
And then along came Cubby. I assumed that growing up in such a girlie environment, he’d play with the dolls and princesses too. But very early on he expressed an interest in firetrucks and trains. And unlike his tough cookie sister, Cubby overreacted to most sensory input. He seemed delicate and fragile; preferring peace and quiet, he shied away from other kids. Thanks to early intervention, he is far less defensive these days, but most days he is still the polar opposite of his big sister.
Nothing teaches you about gender stereotypes like actually spending time with young children. By the time we learned how difficult it could be to engage them, we were happy to use any and all interests to play with them both. I let them choose what those interests are. I let them choose who they are, even if that doesn’t quite match with all those good notions of parenting I had before I was actually a parent.
Armed with a train set for Cubby, we reached American Girl with a prancing Pudding. She galloped around the store with her new doll, smothering her in hugs and kisses. The wait for the table was excruciating. She was excited by the doll having its own special chair and cup and saucer. She was excited by all the pink. She was excited by all the girls and dolls. Naturally, she was too excited to actually eat. She hummed with pleasure.
When the server made an announcement for us to sing Happy Birthday to another girl there, Pudding wanted to join them for cake, and we had to explain that we can’t sit with people we don’t know. To her credit, she returned to her seat. We ate as quickly as we could in the face of imminent sensory overload. Though she was dazzled by her surroundings, she made every effort to follow the rules for dining out. We were bloodied, but unbowed.
To the average observer, they looked like just another American Girl and Boy, but forgive me for thinking they are so much more (they’re English too!).
“To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction:
or the forces of two bodies on each other are always equal and are directed in opposite directions.”
Newton’s Third Law of Motion.
I would say that, as a rule, my life is governed by Murphy’s Law. As we are in the process of moving, however, I can’t help but think of Newton’s Law- possibly the only thing from studying physics almost twenty years ago that my tiny little brain still remembers. For me to write a post that even refers to physics is ridiculous- together with the other sciences and mathematics, these are definite areas of weakness for me.
We are currently staying in temporary accommodation, and there is no kettle here (the horror!). To make tea, I had to boil water in a saucepan, but then the lid was stuck. Spectrummy Daddy couldn’t remove it either. He is similarly challenged in these areas, and between the two of us we couldn’t decide on the best course of action. We are not great systemizers, for parents of a child on the autism spectrum.
He thought we needed to boil it again to heat and expand the metal; I felt it needed to be cooled to shrink it. And my interpretation of Newton’s Law means my way makes sense. And Spectrummy Daddy’s interpretation of his wife is to go along with whatever I think until I prove myself wrong. It is cooling in the fridge as I write.
But really, I’m not talking about a pan lid. I’m talking about Pudding. You see, I feel like I know my girl well. I have a conceited notion that I can predict how she will react to a given action. Having lived in the same house for two years, surrounded by her favourite things, I thought she would have a very emotional reaction to leaving her home.
Even before I stepped into the room, the smell of the cleaning products was unmistakably familiar. Had I been blindfolded, I’d have known where I was. And the same layout, and similar (updated) furnishings intensified the memories. I know she remembers the place, so I’ve been on high alert for any sign of anxiety, but none came. She danced and pranced around the rooms. She was giddy and giggly.
After staying the night, we needed to return to our house on Sunday to finish sorting things ready for the packers to come. And there it was: an equal and opposite reaction. Instead of having problems leaving her home, she doesn’t want to leave the temporary accommodation. The meltdown I’d been anticipating came, but for a completely different reason. Whereas I’m the one stuck and struggling with the past, she is ready to move on.
The forces on our two bodies are equally strong, but pushing us in opposite directions. Newton’s Law.
I just went to the fridge and tried to take the lid off again, and it still won’t budge. I think we can safely say that I’m as baffled by physics as I am my girl at times. But unlike a subject I’ve avoided ever since leaving school, I’ll spend the rest of my life striving to understand the mysterious, perplexing and incredible Pudding.
This post was originally published here at Hopeful Parents.
July 19th. A year to the day from when I started blogging. My 12th Hopeful Parents post. Two years this week from Pudding seeing a Speech Language Pathologist, and the dawning realization that autism was part of our life.
Time is on my mind lately, with just twelve days left in this country, it is impossible to think of anything else.
I should be in a frantic rush of panic and organizing, but the urgency just isn’t there. I can’t bring myself to think of time as running out, time is just going round. I’m constantly hit with déjà-vu, I’ve seen this before. I’ve done this already. We were past this point, weren’t we?
Just as we are revisiting and reinforcing the concept of time at home with Pudding, so her teacher does the same at school. Every day we add the date to her velcro calendar, and every day talk about how many days left. But it hasn’t sunk in with me, so I can’t believe it has for her either. Regardless, time ismoving on.
It dawns on me that this isn’t a straight race to the finish line, I’m doing laps. Two years have brought incredible change, and yet some things appear entirely the same as they were. But they’re not. We have changed, learned and grown, even as we see there is much further to go on this course than we realized.
This track is a series of bends from paper cuts and straights with sweet rewards. There are days when I feel like we’re gaining ground, and other times where I feel like I’m just spinning my wheels. Yet even on those tough days, I still have my two reasons to be hopeful.
And 12 posts on, a year on, two years in- that is still good enough. I’m ready to go for another lap on a different course. Care to come along for the ride?