Posts Tagged ‘writing’
One of the great things about international schools (and the reason I push so hard for them to admit Pudding), is that every kid there knows what it is like to be different. Sometimes we have had excellent teachers who worked hard to include Pudding. Sometimes, the kids themselves have stepped up. The last year here has been challenging in a number of ways, but one thing I never had to worry about was other students not accepting Pudding.
We don’t have any explicit social skills teaching here, for better or for worse, but Pudding does have an excellent aide to help her navigate the social world at school. Though her methods for interacting are sometimes perceived as unusual, Pudding has always been socially motivated. And where she has a will, she will always find a way.
Soon she had a close set of girls in her class who became friends. In class they would sit around her. At concerts, sports days, and assemblies they would support her, in a non-intrusive and accepting away. They found her level and they met her there. Her friend Ana* was a natural at this, perhaps having observed her mother, an occupational therapist who had previously worked with children on the autism spectrum.
Last year Pudding wasn’t allowed to participate in Spanish classes, which was a great source of frustration for us all. When I would collect her after lunch, she was often visibly (and audibly) distressed at having to leave her friends. One day her friend Sofia* drew her a picture of the two of them to let her know she was missed too. And so began a correspondence between the two, that continues to this day.
On days that Pudding had a hard time leaving, she now began sending notes to the kids going to Spanish lessons. And here is where things get really special- they sent them back. Concrete reminders that she was accepted and missed. She belonged. I would often find caring notes and pictures from kids in her grade I had never met before. Her ability to connect with children even beyond her close set of classmates.
Sometimes the acceptance took a while longer, but resistance is futile. Pudding took a shine to Cho*, a boy in her class last year, and he was pretty intimidated by the strength of her not-so-subtle affections. Over the course of the year, he went from avoiding her to becoming a good friend.
One of the bad things about international schools, is that most children who attend them do so on a temporary basis, like us. So recently we had to say goodbye to Ana and Cho. It feels no exaggeration to write that Pudding was heartbroken. Pudding worked through her feelings by sending notes.
In the meantime, Pudding’s friendship with Sofia continued. The two progressed from sending notes and pictures to small gifts and tokens. At least once a week, Pudding would come home from school with a gift bag from Sofia, and she would find or make items for Sofia in return. In time we have managed a successful play date, and both Sofia and Pudding are looking forward to the next one.
But she still misses her friends who have moved on. When I mentioned that another mother was going to visit Ana and her family her native country, Pudding knew exactly what to do- she would send gifts to go with her. She carefully selected items, wrapped them in paper she decorated herself, and sent them to Ana. I just heard today that Ana was delighted to receive her present. She was sad that her friends in Argentina had forgotten her, and Pudding’s gift was a concrete reminder that she is loved and missed.
The school has allowed her to attend Spanish lessons now, and she keeps finding other ways to connect with new friends. Her ways aren’t always conventional, but her sentiment is sincere and unmistakeable. Every effort is a gift.
*Not their real names. Neither is Pudding, in case you didn’t know!
I’ve got so much going on this week that I don’t have time to post. But I’m such an excellent procrastinator, I’ll do just that. This week, for instance, I’ve got a video conference tomorrow, a cocktail reception on Thursday evening, organise our family to fly out to the states on the weekend, and I need to draft the presentation for a conference upon my return. Oh, and the thousand other things that I need to do in my job. But I only work part-time (32 hours a week), so it should be easy.
And then there is the day to day dealing with kids with special needs. Trying to eke out time with each to put what they learn in therapy to good use. I’m effectively dealing with three different schools, and two sets of speech and occupational therapists. Yet somehow I only have two kids, and their needs are comparatively mild, it really should be easy.
I was talking to a colleague today who said I make it all look so ‘easy.’ I had to laugh. Of all the things my life is…easy would be the worst adjective.
I’m dropping balls, but somehow my juggling act keeps going. I forgot that one of Pudding’s schools has spirit week this week, and I forgot to dress her up like a movie star on Monday. Lucky for me that Hello Kitty is a movie star (shut up, she is!) and Pudding always opts to dress like Hello Kitty.
She is helping out in other ways too. Taking on more little duties as I shirk them. She has been making leaps and bounds with her reading and writing since starting in an inclusive classroom. On Thursday Spectrummy Daddy and I will be taking her in to school for a teacher conference in which Pudding will demonstrate her progress.
One thing I’ve made certain of, even as we get busier and busier, is that Pudding always reads her reading book from school every evening, then I read a story of her choice. After she has finished, I comment on the reading log sent from the teacher.
I guess Pudding thinks that she’ll save me a job here, because tonight I went to write, and I found she’d already done it. Her verdict on this book? Easy.
I don’t think any of this is easy, my love, but thank you for always reminding me that it is worth it!
A recent post I wrote got a lot of attention. I’d dashed it out quickly, before starting work, as part of another blogger’s link-up. It was a sensitive subject: calling out Ann Coulter’s use of the R-word, and no sooner had I published it than I was bracing myself for the backlash.
I should have taken longer than a couple of minutes to write that one. I should have made it even more clear that I don’t have a political agenda, but a personal one to do my best to ensure this is as accepting a world as I can make it for my children.
And I know how ridiculous that sounds, and that I will never be enough change how people think and speak and treat each other, but I also know that I have to try. I know that I’m not on my own. And I know that I’d do anything to prevent my children being called that term.
The number of views on that post kept creeping up, until it far exceeded anything else I wrote. While I was pleased that so many people were interested in learning about why the R-word is offensive to the special needs community, I thought how strange it is that the most read post about my children is about something that shouldn’t apply to them at all.
I got comments that day, but they were all of a consensus with me. I couldn’t help but wonder about the ways my piece had been shared, and what other people were thinking and saying about it, but nothing negative came my way.
Another autism site occasionally takes my posts and publishes them for a wider audience. A few days after publishing my post, they shared it too. Here, the comments became offensive: I was a “cry baby”, I should “grow up”, “it is just a word”. There were supportive comments too, but what really stuck in my head was the person who insisted that I was “using a blog dedicated to handicapped children to score points against a Conservative woman (I) don’t like.”
I made a conscious decision not to respond to any of the comments there, and asked the site to no longer use my posts. I understand that some welcome debate, and encourage opposing views with the aim of persuading them to their own way of thinking. In this case, no heed was being paid to what I’d written. Assumptions were made about me, and what I had to gain from writing, that had nothing to do with the actual words I’d written. There would be no changing minds here.
But that didn’t mean that I forgot about the accusations made against me. I was angry and hurt. I’m offended by a person using the R-word be they a friend or celebrity, politically left or right. Am I using my children? I’ve always written this blog with the intention of sharing it with them.
This is our journey. We laugh, we love, we grow, we make mistakes, we reflect, and we learn. If what I write helps other people on their journey, I’m happy for that- but there is no ulterior motive here. This is simply the way we encounter the world, and how the world encounters us.
And yet those words stayed with me. They held me hostage. They made me question what I’d done, and if I should any longer write publicly. It would be so easy to stop, I have so little time anyway.
Even when I forced myself to write, just so that I wasn’t allowing someone else to make that decision for me, it didn’t stop the little voice in my head from repeating those things over and over. Then I got a comment from a new reader:
I’ve begun following your blog and I find it so moving, amusing, and delightful that I decided you needed to know! It seemed fitting to share it under one of my favorite posts. This makes me think of “The Moose” by Elizabeth Bishop, and the play on perspective made my eyes tear up a bit! Though I have no children of my own, your blog makes me feel like I can handle whatever comes my way with grace, compassion, and humor. Thanks
That comment made me question if I’d handled this situation in a way that was true of what she’d said. Not really. I’d allowed myself to feel all the weight of negativity without sensing any of the light. Ignoring all the support and community to focus on a person’s opinion that is far removed from us. Who not only doesn’t understand, but won’t try to.
And if I stopped writing for any reason other than it was the right time for me and my family, I wouldn’t be living life on my terms. I thought about what I would want my children to do if they were attacked in a similar way, and found my own example severely lacking.
When I think about how I want them to handle whatever comes their way, I want it to be with grace, compassion, and humour. Do I want this reader to be right about me, or a harsh critic?
And what if, what if one day somebody were to call Pudding the R-word? Would I want her to feel held up by the way we see her, or weighed down by one offensive word?
Thank you to the lady who wrote that comment just when I needed it. Thank you to each and every one of you who take the time to read, and particularly those who comment. I don’t always have time to respond to them these days, but I am going to make sure that I pay attention to what you say. That I really feel your words, and give those the weight that they deserve.
Maybe then I’ll handle things that come my way with the grace, compassion, and humour that we’re all capable of.
This post was originally published >here< at Hopeful Parents.
Some days, it is really hard to write. There are thoughts swirling around my head that I can’t seem to encourage down to my typing fingers. Is this what it is for Pudding? Having thoughts that you can’t express?
I think perhaps I have writer’s block. So much is happening, but I can’t write at all. It plays over and over in mind. I lack imagination.
After a year of blogging, the same themes crop up. I type a post, then delete it entirely. I’ve said it before; there is nothing new to put down. But there is comfort in the familiar. Those little captured moments that are nothing, but mean everything.
Today we went out for breakfast, and Pudding finished first. Unprompted she told the waitress she had finished and to “take away the plate please.” That has never happened before, yet it has happened all along.
Old bits of new. I’ve written it before. Singing the same tune. My version of echolalia.
I’m busy now, wearing a few different hats. Feeling like I can’t dedicate to anything all that I should because there are other pressing deadlines. I flit from one thing to another, never quite doing anything. My play is not purposeful. I’m hyperactive.
At social gatherings, my mind is elsewhere. I should be making small talk, but remain silent. It gets too fast-paced for me and I want to shut out the world. Aloof. Uncommunicative.
When I do snap out of my reverie. When I do enter into a conversation, how long before I manage to bring it around to my topic of interest? Not long. I’m perseverating.
I’ve spent all this time trying to understand her, completely missing the fact that she is just like me. I find so many similarities between Pudding and the little girl I used to be. Not so different after all.
She is here at my side as I type, so I hurry to finish. Just as I find myself in so many ways entering her world, she wants to enter mine. She is engaging me. So I’ll leave this post unfinished, because everything that I’ve ever written about is happening right now, and I don’t want to miss any of it.
I ask her what she wants to do. Sing!
So the two of us will leave our respective little worlds, and join together in our off-key harmony.