Life On The B Side

Taking all that life throws at us one moment at a time

Play Date For 2 September 17, 2018

Ace and Jay have never gone to the same school.  Mostly because they had different needs and the same school was never able to provide each kid what he needed.

 

In our area, there are 20 elementary schools that feed into 10 middle schools.  At the elementary school that Ace attended, the kids split fairly evenly between 2 of the middle schools based on where the kid lives.  At Jays elementary school though, the kids pretty much all end up at 1 middle school.  Jay will not go to that middle school.  He will instead take the bus with Ace and for the first time ever, next year, they will walk the same hallways and eat at the same cafeteria.

 

I say all that to say, when Ace began middle school last year, he knew a bunch of the other students already, but the one boy that he became the best friends with had come from the school that Jay currently goes to, so he hadn’t known anyone there prior to last September.

 

A couple of weeks ago Ace came home telling me that he and Nick wanted to hang out on the weekend so could I please speak with Nicks parents and arrange it.  Sure, no problem.

 

As the plans were coming together, Jay asked if he could hang out with them also.  He too knew Nick even though Nick was 2 grades ahead of him.  When Nick was at Jays elementary school they had both been in the same before and after care group.  They were friends of sorts.  Ace said he was ok with it.  Since the hang out was happening at Nicks house I made sure to clear the extra guest with Nicks parents.  We were a go.

 

At 11 am, we pulled up to Nicks driveway, made sure everyone was good, agreed on a 6pm return drop off and left.

All afternoon my phone was quiet.  That meant things were going well.  Right?

 

Just after 6, our doorbell rang and 2 happy boys waved their goodbyes to Nick and his parents and came bounding inside.

 

Later, I texted a thank you to the parents for having my 2 over and the reply said, “No problem!  They are wonderfully well-mannered boys and they are welcome at our house any time!”

The !’s and the “welcome any time” means the parents weren’t just being nice.  It means the boys really had all had a great time and my 2 really had been well behaved.  If the parents were just being polite the response would have said something like “You’re welcomeglad they had a good time.”  Right?  I think so.

 

I am so pleased that Ace has a good friend who seems to be a good kid from a delightful family.  I am so pleased that Jay had a good time with them and there were no attitude problems or meltdowns (I hadn’t told the parents about Jays autism).  I am so pleased that next year, Jay will know at least two students at his school – even though he will probably only see them in the hallways or the cafeteria.  Hopefully he will find his own Ace, just as Nick had.

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Claim Your Place September 10, 2018

I am not a stranger to the dark

“Hide away,” they say

“Cause we don’t want your broken parts”

I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars

“Run away,” they say

“No one’ll love you as you are”

{All italics are lyrics from the song This Is Me in The Greatest Showman}

 

 

People get uncomfortable when they come face to face with – different/new (or new to them).  People don’t like to be uncomfortable.

 

A woman should be cute and quiet and lady-like and know her place.  She shouldn’t be loud and assertive and stand up for herself.  

Black people shouldn’t bbq in the park and gay couples shouldn’t publicly show affection for each other.  

Tattoos and piercings don’t belong in board rooms or operating rooms or holding a gavel.  

And definitely, people with disabilities/physical abnormalities should not be brought out into public spaces where they might disturb other – normal – patrons.  They are loud and people want quiet.  They are fidgety and people want stillness.  They speak in an unusual way and people want what they are used to.  Their wheelchairs take up so much space.  They move at their own, maybe slower, pace and people want to rush through.  They look funny with their protective helmet or dwarf fingers or extra hairy faces and it might scare the children. 

 

 

But I won’t let them break me down to dust

I know that there’s a place for us

For we are glorious

 

 

“What are they doing?” Jay asks as we lie in bed watching The Greatest Showman. 

“They’re putting up posters because they’re looking for interesting people to join the show,” I tell him.  

A few minutes later, he’s back with more questions.

“Why are those people ripping the posters down?” He wants to know.  I am in my element now.  Well, I say, those are people who want to be in the show because they have something special to offer so they need the poster since it has all the information on it. 

 

 

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down

I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out

I am brave, I am bruised

I am who I’m meant to be, this is me

 

 

I continue softly, “Those people were all told they were weird and now they can join a show that celebrates them.”

 

One of the most fierce and powerful scenes is the singing of This Is Me when they are denied access to the high society party.  They were done with being hidden in the shadows and were ready to claim all their beautiful weirdness.  I loved it.

 

Look out cause here I come

And I’m marching on to the beat I drum

I’m not scared to be seen

I make no apologies, this is me

 

 

If I could make one song the anthem for my family, this would be it.  Oh how I want my boys to be strong and secure in who they are.  I don’t want Ace’s sensitivity to make him shrink away from speaking up.  I don’t want Jay to purposely exclude himself out of fear that he’ll be called weird.  It takes a lot of bravery to boldly say, this is who I am, just deal with it. 

There were so many times when there were people who probably wished that they didn’t have to deal with the likes of us.  The day at the supermarket when Jay had one of the biggest meltdowns he’s ever had.  The day at his neighborhood school where we fought over him zipping up his jacket himself.  The morning at Church where we both left sobbing.  In classrooms where Ace put his teachers through the ringer.  Going through security at the airport.  Trying to leave the zoo.  At my own wedding.  You name it. 

We never quit trying.  I didn’t have it in me to stifle my boys adventures because I was worried about making other people comfortable. 

Yes, we went to autism friendly movies and we chose aisle seats for Thomas Live so we could make a quick and easy get away if necessary and we turned down some invitations and Jay was in a self contained special education class for a while and Ace got help for his ADHD but every single one of those things were for US and to make my childrens lives better.  NOT to appease strangers. 

 

 

Another round of bullets hits my skin

 

 

On Facebook, my friend tagged Shaunie and I in some pictures from her wedding.  In 1 of the pictures from the photo booth, we were kissing; just as most of the couples who took booth pictures had done. 

Two women kissing is still weird for many.  “We love you guys and we want you to be happy,” they say “we support you, but why do you have to be so public about it?”  How easy would it be to ask the friend to untag us or take the picture down altogether.  As easy as it was for Zac Efron to let go of Zendaya’s hand in the movie when his father saw him with her; a “beneath him” circus performer.  In that moment it was easier for him to love her behind the curtain, out of everyones view.  In the end, his love was strong enough to drown out his shame and he loved her openly and proudly.  That.  That’s what everyone deserves.

 

 

Well, fire away cause today, I won’t let the shame sink in

We are bursting through the barricades

And reaching for the sun

We are warriors

Yeah, that’s what we’ve become

Won’t let them break me down to dust

I know there’s a place for us

For we are glorious

 

 

Parents coach and remind and give advice all the time.  Among the most important of these is for me to teach my boys to be true to themselves.  To not be followers.  To not dim their shine to make someone else happy. 

Boys:  Don’t hide away.  Not even the supposed broken parts.  The right people will love you as you are.  Be a glorious warrior.  There is space enough for you.  All of you.  March to your own beat.  Don’t be scared.  Be seen.  Be you!

 

Oh and the last thing … Be sure to make fun of your moms singing by howling like a wounded dog every time she dares belt out a tune. 🙂 

 

Letting Go – Holding On September 5, 2018

Real quick, before I launch into my actual post for today.  I want to jot down 2 quick takes from our last Target run.

 

Ace (waiting for me to be done browsing the book section) :  Are you going to actually buy any books or are you just going to critique the ones you’ve already read?

 

Jay (after I suggested that we buy a puzzle so that we’ll have a family activity to work on the next time it rains) :  Why would we do a puzzle just because it’s raining if we still have electricity?

 

 

Moving on ….

I realize every parent and even every generation of parents has things they struggle with and worry about.  Some are universal and some are more unique to your family and situation.  I find myself in a situation that my grandparents (that’s who raised me) and the parents of my closest friends/cousins didn’t experience.

To give some perspective, I did an illustration.

home

This is kind of how my neighbourhood looked when I was growing up.  My driveway was like 1/4 of a mile long.  My Aunt, my 1 cousin and I couldn’t even see the main road from our houses.  There wasn’t anything on the other side of us either really except a large piece of land.    Since my drawing skills are lacking, it looks like my other cousins house sat right on the main road.  That’s not true.  There was another smaller road that turned off the main road before you could get to her driveway.  We were tucked away pretty nicely.

You’ve heard me talk about the boys Aunty Juddles before and I’ve said a million and one times that the people I am friends with now are the same people I’ve been friends with my entire life and how much I love them.  Just look at that picture.  We really were very fortunate to have that set up.  We had no need really to venture out into the “real world” or to arrange play dates outside of our bubble.

 

We had lots of space to ride our bikes, roller skate, play croquet, swing, picnic.  (See all the private driveways?)  We had trees to climb and shaded patios to choreograph shows.  All our houses – even those of my Great Grandfather and Aunt were always open to us.  We roamed from house to house and yard to yard having a great time.  Our parents never had to worry about where we were; even though this was pre-cell phones.  Once we were sure that everyone had finished their homework, we had free range.  My 1 cousin had a pool, another cousin had a Nintendo and a satellite dish.  My yard was good for baseball.  Juddles was good for swinging on the tire or board games.  My house always had sweet home-made lemonade or fruit-punch.  We were allowed to have soda at my cousins and Juddles’ mom often had baked goodies.  My Aunt next door made jello with fruit cocktail in the bottom and, when we asked her to, she paid us for doing little chores around her house.  There were lots of sleep overs with ZERO worries on our parents part about whether or not we’d be safe.

 

I value my friendships so much I can’t even put it into words and I’ve always wanted my boys to have strong friendships as well.  The kind that last a lifetime.

 

Ace came home from the first day of school asking if he could ride his bike to his friends house.  He had met this kid over the summer and they’re in the same class now.  Say what?  Ahm … Uh …

 

We live in a safe area, but it’s not Jamaica in the 1980’s and we are not sheltered from the bad guys.  I don’t KNOW the parents of my kids friends.  Heck, I may or may not even know the neighbourhood kids last names.  We’ve had kids sleep over at our house before and I’m totally fine with that but I haven’t allowed my boys to sleep at any of their school friends house.  It’s just too worrisome.

 

I did let Ace ride his bike across our townhouse development to go and chill with his friend.  After verifying with the kids dad that an adult would be home and reminding Ace about being careful crossing the street and that he’d better keep his phone turned on and get back home at the appointed time.

I wasn’t nervous about it at all.  I’m totally lying.  I definitely wanted him to enjoy himself, but ….

Times are different.  But he’s 12 and I can’t stifle him.  But he’s a good kid and hopefully what he’s learned so far will serve him well and hopefully he picks good friends.  That’s so important.  But there’s still so much he doesn’t know or understand about the world at large.  But he’ll never learn if I don’t give him some space to experience things.  My God this letting your kids go business is hard.

 

You’ll be happy to hear that he came home, with 5 minutes to spare on the curfew that I gave him and he was in one, unharmed, piece.  He tells me they played fort night and talked.  Great!

 

I know it’s only going to get worse.  Or better, depending on how you look at it.  He’s going to want to spend more and more time out with friends as he gets older.  I will have to let him go; with some boundaries and stipulations of course.

 

This thing that I want so badly for him is also a thing that’s bothering me more than I expected it to.

Test your wings my little one.  Just don’t fly too high yet ok?  I love you and I’m scared.

 

Exactly the Labor Day, Birthday day that I needed September 4, 2018

The last couple of weeks have been good in some ways but trying in others.  Even though I share a lot, there are some things that are way too sensitive for public consumption so my blog has been quiet.  Ya know; while I stewed and processed and deep breathed and soaked in the fabulousness that was getting to spend time with my best friends from near and far.  That part (the time spent with best friends) was truly awesome.

 

Yesterday Ace turned 12 years old (Yay!) and it was exactly the Birthday, Labor Day, Unofficial End of Summer day that I needed.

Shaunie had left out 2 new boxes of Legos and a new book for them the night before so they’d have something to occupy them until we woke up.  At 7:45 on the morning of the birthday, I walked into Ace’s room, to find him and Jay in his bed, reading the new Dog Man book and laughing together.  Swoon.  I wished my boy a happy birthday and then Jay told me that he had offered Ace his new Lego as a gift.  Seriously … How sweet!

Next, we revealed Ace’s real gift – A PS4 gaming system.  To say he was happy is putting it mildly.  He then opened a birthday card containing a Game Stop gift card so yeah, later in the morning, after he came back from getting a fresh to death haircut, we went to Game Stop and then to Target where Jay spent his own pocket money buying Robux (video game currency) and Ace splurged on the biggest Nerf gun they had.

Back at home, everyone just kinda hung out.  The boys were happy to play with their new toys, I was happy to have them home and know that they were happy.

In the afternoon, we hit the pool for a bit, made a cake, had a Nerf war, played a board game and chit chatted as we all got ready for the next day.  Jay wants to be something scary this year for Halloween.  Possibly that guy from Scream.  Ace initially thought he wanted to be a paper boy, but has now switched to Dead Pool.  Quite the pivot.  Jays really big news is that he has expanded his food repertoire and now eats rice, chicken, sausages, scrambled eggs and corn.  What in all the hell???  For the first time EVER, we all sat at the table and ate the same meal for dinner.  This is great but I’m still kind of stunned.  Ace will need to change clothes for gym class this year and he’s not excited about that but he IS looking forward to all the other things that 7th grade has to offer.  School did not used to be a place he felt comfortable.  How far the boys have come.  I love it.

 

I spent a little one on one time with each boy before they went to sleep and everyone was out like a light by 9pm.

It was a simply delightful way to spend a day.

 

This morning, Ace was up and ready.  Jay let me know that he would not be posing for any pictures because he was not happy about going back to school and this was not a day to celebrate.  *spoiler alert*  He posed for pictures because this mama is not above bribery.

In the end, he was glad to see his old friends and the day started just fine.  I got my first pumpkin item (a muffin) of the season and there are no work events on my calendar for this week so it shouldn’t be too bad in the office.

I’m looking forward to seeing the boys later and hearing about their first day.  Oh, and also, eating more of that birthday cake.  🙂

 

On Advocacy August 15, 2018

Just a little light bed time conversation at 8:20pm on a random Tuesday.

 

Me: How was your day honey?

 

Jay: I had pizza. The other kids had tacos but I don’t like tacos so I got pizza.

 

Me: How do you feel about that?  That you got to have pizza but the other kids had to have the tacos?

 

Jay: I feel lucky.

 

Me: Did any of the other kids say anything to you about it?

 

Jay: Well, Aiden asked me how come I got pizza and I told him it’s because I have a card that says if they are serving food I don’t like I can have something else.  I told him I got the card because my mom got it for me and maybe he should ask his mom to get him one.

 

Me: Do you know what it’s called when you ask for what you want because it’s something you deserve; not just something you’d like to have?

 

Jay:  No.

 

Me: Advocacy.  I advocated for you to get that card because I know that you are not just choosing to be difficult with the food.  You have a right to get other options.  Just like kids who are in wheelchairs have a right to have ramps installed.

 

Jay (rolling the word around his tongue): Avocacy.  Like, I can avodicacy for anything I want.

 

Me: Well, it’s best if you save it for something really meaningful and like I said, something that you are entitled to.  Not just something you WANT.  And you have to know that it’s not always as easy as me asking for a card for you.  Sometimes you’ll get what you ask for and sometimes you won’t and sometimes you’ll get denied at first and then you’ll have to try again and again before you get it.  It can be hard but it’s very important that we all learn how to advocate for ourselves so we can be safe and well taken care of and fully included.  And it’s also important that we learn how to advocate for other people who can’t do it for themselves and may need our help.  Do you understand?

 

Jay: Yes. I am going to tell Aiden to avo avo avocate for himself next summer so he can get pizza too.

 

 

 

*I don’t think he quite gets it – yet.  It’s all about the pizza right now.  That’s perfectly ok. But I want to plant the seeds early so he will grow up in the knowledge that his needs are worth fighting for and that it’s not wrong to advocate for your rights.

 

Sportsmanship August 14, 2018

Sunday was a beautiful day.  Warm and sunny.  Perfect for a trip to the pool with the kiddies.

Until it wasn’t.

We got there at about 3:30 pm and by 3:50 we were being ushered out of the water by the lifeguard due to thunder and lightning in the area.

We gathered our belongings and trekked it back across the parking lot to our house.  As we did so we discussed what we’d  do once we were showered and pajama’d.  We still wanted to have family time so we decided on a movie.  We’d spread a big blanket out on the living room floor and have snacks while we watched.

20 minutes later we lost power due to a serious storm that blew in.  I’m talking black skies, trees blown down and thunder and lightning loud and bright enough to even make me jump and I’m typically not bad at handling storms.

There was nothing left to do but play board games.  The last time we had played a game we went with Monopoly (Ace’s choice), so this time we opted for Jays favourite of Pictionary.

 

Games are tricky for Jay.  And by extension, they are tricky for anyone playing with him.

 

He LOVES playing.

He HATES losing.

 

He was in a great mood when we set up.  We chose our partners; Me and Jay vs. Ace and Shaunie.  I rolled the die and were off.  Jay was to draw “laughing gas”.  Truth be told he did a fabulous job of it, but I wasn’t able to get it.  I took all the blame,  lavished praise on him for what a good job he’d done and we handed the die to our opponents.  The first thing Shaunie had to draw was a raccoon.  Jay was toppling over in fits of laughter before she put pen to paper.  He’s awesome at drawing animals and from prior games that we’ve played, he knows she’s … ahm … not awesome.  🙂

And so we continued for a while, having a great time laughing at each others attempts at drawing things like “face lift” and “loud” and “spend” and “yacht”.

Shaunie and Ace began to pull away from us though and Jays mood began to shift.  He was not pleased that I couldn’t guess his “record” and instead of laughing at me for not being able to properly draw a “hospital”, he just got mad.  I did guess “picnic” correctly but that was an all play round and Ace’s “tree” helped push me to get the correct word.  Since it’s pretty much established that Jay is the artist of the family, he did not take kindly to that.

 

We all tried to be as patient with his mood and attitude as we could be and I said all the things I needed to say.  I tried to engage him in laughing at Shaunie and Ace’s failed attempts at drawing and guessing.   I told him that he couldn’t get upset just because we were losing and that the game wasn’t over yet so we still had a chance and that you win some and you lose some …………………… blah blah blah.

Jay kept saying yes he understood. But he was not pleased and there was no hiding it.

Ace looked like he wanted to roll his eyes.  Not at me.  At the situation.  He’s 12 years old.  He doesn’t always have tolerance for his brother ruining good things.  He’s had a lot of it in his life.

 

Jay is like that at school also.  He often comes home with stories of being bullied.  I want to take his tales at face value but I also know that what he interprets as bullying could easily be:

 

They’re playing a game of dodgeball and someone hits him.  He gets angry about being out so takes a stand and doesn’t leave the court.  The other kids start yelling at him that he’s out and needs to go sit on the sidelines.  He yells back telling them that they are being mean and accuses them of bullying.

They’re playing a game of musical chairs and he makes it to the final 2 but in the end the other kid gets the final chair.  Someone celebrates the other child by saying … “Yay, you’re the winner” and Jay gets mad because what he hears is that he’s the loser so then he starts yelling at the kid complaining that the kid is being mean to him and calling him names.

Not bullying.

 

I know there’s some sore loser in all (or most) kids.  Of course it feels better to be the winner.  But Jay takes it to the extreme.  Like so many other things in his life.  It’s all or nothing.

 

I don’t know how to help him manage these emotions.  I don’t want to threaten that we’ll stop playing with him.  I don’t think that’s the way.  Just like I didn’t think avoiding restaurants or museums was the way to go when he was a tantrumming toddler.  Now we don’t have any of those worries.

I also won’t just let him win.  That’s not fair to Ace or anyone else playing and it’s simply just not my style to do that.

I can see how playing with him can look less than appealing to other people though.  As much as it breaks my heart to say this, I wouldn’t blame other kids if they didn’t want to invite or include him.

 

Any tips/tricks you can offer would be appreciated.  In the mean time, I’ll just keep doing what I always do.

Stick with it.  Play games.  Stay calm as he gets more and more agitated.  Encourage him to keep trying.  Explain to him for the 4238437th time what it means to be a good sportsman and how he can’t/won’t always win so he just needs to understand that and not be a grouch about it.

 

In the end, we did eke out a win in the Pictionary game so, for that day at least, a Jay sized crisis was averted.

 

The Knowing – Part 2 August 10, 2018

< Read part 1 here >

 

One small thing at a time honey.”

 

That’s what I commented a few days ago on a friends Facebook post.  She was sharing that she felt drained and overwhelmed by how difficult life was at the moment.

 

One small thing at a time.  That’s what helps me.  Even though it doesn’t FEEL small when you get up to do it.

 

One day, I made the phone call I was supposed to have made days earlier.

I also made arrangements for the boys trip to New Jersey.

Whew.

I went home and went to bed early.  That’s what I needed that day after doing the difficult task of working all day AND making 2 phone calls.

The next day, as soon as I got home from work, I grabbed the hooks and put that picture right back on the wall where it belonged.

Something inside me exhaled a little.

The mountain still loomed large ahead of me but I’d taken that first couple of steps.

One small thing at a time.

 

I rescheduled the dentist appointment.  That one I just couldn’t do.  I know my mental limits.  I’ll try again next month.

I washed dishes and moved the vacuum cleaner from beside the dining room table to the “cleaning supplies/tools” nook.

 

As I crossed things off the list, my chest felt lighter.

Shaunie asked me what I was going to do next.  “Put clean sheets on the guest bed” I said.  She replied.  “I’ll do it“.

Upstairs, I put a couple shirts in a drawer and the handbags that were lounging beside the bed went back to their rightful position.

Exhale.

On my way out the door headed to work, I picked up the politicians flyer that had been thrown onto my lawn and used it to dust away cobwebs that had formed between the light and the spigot attached to the house.

Small things.  They help.

 

As of the publishing of this post, I am back to “normal”.  The kids are home from spending 2 weeks with their Grandma.  The house is pretty tidy although we haven’t done any unpacking from all our travels so there are 8(!) pieces of luggage packed into the den.  We haven’t done any of that laundry either.  I’m not worried about it at all though.  I’m glad it’s the weekend and we don’t have any set plans.  We will probably end up going to the movies or something equally chill.  I am really looking forward to next weekend since we will be hanging out with friends and family from all over.

 

~*~

 

I recognize that my anxiety is not as crippling as other peoples.

I do not take it for granted that I have the ability to recognize my emotions for what they are.  I know better than to make big decisions while I am in that state.

*Thankfully (and maybe because I know myself so well now) the moments of being down pass more quickly than they used to.*

I do not take it for granted that I am fairly good at dealing with my brain in a healthy way.  Never turning to drugs or other dangerous habits.

I do not take for granted that I am lucky to have a supportive and understanding partner.  She’s never dismissive or condescending.

I have gotten better at leaving a space open for love to seep in.

I know there was a line in part 1 where I said “How can I explain it to her?” … But she knows the full me.  Before I ever hit publish on Part 1, I sent it to Shaunie.  In the past, I would have held it all inside.  Progress.

Truth be told, I didn’t plan to or think I would ever hit publish on it.

But here we are.

I still wonder if I am being too open.

 

 

I hope that if nothing else, my writing helps others to know they are not alone.  I hope it makes people see that there’s no shame in doing what you need to do to keep your self sane.

I hope that people see that even though it’s scary to be vulnerable, it makes a huge difference when you let it be known that you need help and when you allow yourself to be helped.  Whether that help is in the form of talking to a professional therapist, or taking a daily prescription medication, or just letting a caring and concerned loved one know that you need a break so they cook you dinner and don’t give you a hard time about wasting time on frivolous TV.  Whatever you actually need.