Life On The B Side

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

We Are All X-Men April 17, 2018

I didn’t spend much of my childhood watching super hero cartoons, and I wasn’t a comic book reader, other than when we visited my Grandads sister, whose son had a box full of Archie comics.  Thanks to my sons however, I am now well versed in all things super hero.  I know real names, side kicks, back stories, powers, enemies … the lot.

I very quickly figured out who my favourites were.  The X-Men.   Of course, you gotta like Wolverine’s willingness to fight for justice, even with all his emotional brokenness and you gotta feel sympathy for Rogue who’s just a young girl who wants to be normal and experience normal things, and anyone with any decency can appreciate Charles Xaviers outreach efforts and desire to be peaceful but, personally I really relate to Magneto.  Techniclly, he’s the “bad guy”, but in terms of ideology, I’m with him.

 

“They wish to cure us. But I say to you we are the cure! The cure for that infirm, imperfect condition called “Homo sapiens!”

 

Magneto, or Erik if you’re cool with him, makes no apologies for his Mutation.  He revels in it;  Celebrates it; And has no tolerance for those who would look for ways to control mutants or worse, make them extinct.

 

His methods may not be on the up and up, but think about how many people who are different, live their ENTIRE lives feeling the pain brought on by other peoples fear?  Think about how many children are told that yes they are loved, but can they just tone themselves down a bit.  Be less obvious.  Blend in.

So much of autism therapy is aimed at stomping out as many of the Obviously Autistic traits that a person has.  We train our children not to stim, to make prolonged eye contact, to play only with “age appropriate” items.  We use words like, cure and fix and broken and hardship and nightmare and burden.

So many LGBT+ youth spend years trying to be something they are not.  They know what will be tolerated and what won’t.  No pink anything for boys and no buzz cuts for girls.  No talk of same sex attraction.  Definitely cannot question gender.  I mean, we barely expect boys to wash dishes or for girls to take out garbage.

 

And what do we do?  Those of us who are broken, sissies or otherwise not what we know our parents wish we were?

We pretend.  We hide.  We lash out.  We detach.  We self-harm.  We self-medicate.

None of it is good or sustainable;  And whether those unhealthy behaviours come to an end in a good way or a bad way depends on many factors.

 

Archangel, (in the comics), comes from millionaire, mutant-bigoted parents who sign guardianship of him over to Professor X.  In the movie, The Last Stand, however, Angels father has developed an inoculation to suppress the X-gene that gives mutants their abilities and offer the “cure” to any mutant who wants it.  We see Angel as a child, who knows his fathers negative views of mutants, trying to saw his feathered wings off his own back.  He has grown up thinking there is something wrong with him.  He does not want to be a mutant.  There are tears and blood everywhere.    When he is discovered in the bathroom, his fathers disappointment and horror is evident.  “No!  Not YOU !

We see Angel as a young man, very reluctantly agreeing to have his mutation stripped away by his fathers injection.  For his whole life, this thing has caused him unnecessary emotional and physical trauma.  He tries to hide, then he tries to mutilate, then he pretends – until finally, even though he knows how much it will anger his father and he understands that his action will likely mean their relationship is over, just as he is about to get the shot, he breaks free and flies out the window unable to take it all anymore.  Nothing is worth more than being his true self, in all his winged glory.

 

Replace the words mutant and powers with autistic or gay and (Arch)Angels story could be anyones story.

 

…Angels father developed an inoculation to suppress the X-gene that gives autistics their traits and offers the cure…

…He has grown up thinking there is something wrong with him.  He does not want to be autistic…

…He is ashamed of his struggle with sexuality and tries everything he can to numb his feelings and to prevent his father from finding out, including constant lying, avoiding being at home – even if that means sleeping in his car, cutting himself or drinking himself into oblivion…

…We see Angel as a young man, very reluctantly agreeing to go to conversion therapy, just to please his dad, even though he doesn’t feel like there is anything wrong with him…

…We see Angel as a young man, knowing that he would benefit from ADHD medication but choosing not to take it so as not to upset his father because taking it would mean admitting that something was “wrong” with him…

…Until finally, even though he knows how much it will anger his father and he understands that his action will likely mean their relationship is over, he just cannot take it anymore and decides to live a free and open and honest and healthy life…

 

I’ve lived some of those scenarios above (or something resembling them) and was well on my way to passing them onto my children.  It took me years to see Jays autism, as something other than a tragedy.  To be able to give him a sense of pride in his autistic brain.  I fought so hard against Ace being on any time of ongoing medication.  Not my baby.  That’s for other parents who want to change their kid and make them into a zombie.  It took me over 20 years to stop spouting out the anti-gay rhetoric that I was raised to believe in and another 15 before I willingly admitted to being in a relationship with a woman.

What a waste of time it all was.

 

Certainly, not all the mutants are good.  Just as not all autistic people are nice and not all gay people are loyal and not all women are reasonable and not all straight, white men are ethical.  That doesn’t mean that illogical and unreasonable fear of those who are different from you should be excused or justified.  That thinking is damaging to the vast majority who are just trying to live their best lives.  I whole-heartedly believe that people should be free to be themselves and that we should all be comfortable asking for help if we need it and be proud of who we are, as long as we are putting respect and compassion out into the world.

 

 

Lastly, in case you were wondering why the heck I chose to spend time writing about the X-Men today of all days?

Honestly, it’s just cause I had some free time last Sunday and it was on Hulu so I watched it.

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Finding Their Thing February 27, 2018

We’re still trying to find what the kids thing is.  That one extra curricular activity that they can excel at.  For some people it’s soccer, for some it’s an instrument for others it’s drama or art.

 

As a kid I did dance and brownies.  I took piano, I joined the Junior Red Cross, the 4H and the debate team.  I even spent time learning how to make lace by hand. *yawn*.  I was a cheer leader for like 2 days, I joined the track & field team because for some reason I thought I would be good at long jump.  NOT!  I still don’t have a thing.  I am more like the jack of all trades, master of none type and I wish it were different.  I wish I had one thing that I was good at.  A part of my issue is that the opportunities just weren’t there where I grew up.  I loved dance, but by 6th grade I had gotten to the point where if I wanted to learn more, my Grandparents would have had to drive me into Kingston (a one hour drive away) during the week after school and they weren’t willing to do that.  Another issue was that I am not musically inclined so while I had taken 8 years of piano, I was horrible.  The only thing I can play today is the C scale.  The sports that were easily accessed (track and netball) weren’t my strong suits.  I like to think my problem with netball was that I was kinda short; not that I lacked the athletic ability.  I think I would’ve enjoyed being on a swim team, but neither my school nor my home town had one of those.

 

So far, my boys have tried soccer and martial arts.  Both were a no-go.  We’ve checked out swim teams but the practice times don’t work for us.  The same with baseball.  Ace enjoyed being in the drama club and would love to audition for a role in the Spring play but it’s just not doable due to transportation issues.  He would need someone to pick him up at 4:30 and that’s not a commitment we can make.  Jay fortunately is able to be in his schools art club so that’s great for him.

 

Now we are trying tennis.  They meet on Saturday mornings at 9:30.  This we can handle.  I actually am a fan of tennis myself and make my way to a court whenever I can find a partner, (not that I’m very good but that has never stopped me before), so IF they like it and WHEN they get a little better at it, I would really enjoy playing with them.  So far, they’ve had one lesson and they both loved it.  It could be a really good event for them.  It takes a lot of energy and stamina – which they have.  It relies on individual effort, there’s little to no contact and they practice in small groups so they get some individual attention – which suits their personalities.  It doesn’t require a lot of expensive equipment – which suits my pocket.

 

Wish us luck!

 

On Hamilton – A Family Affair December 15, 2017

I have a bit of a parenting dilemma and I’d be curious to know what you all think about it.

 

I am a big fan of live shows in general.  Musicals, plays, concerts … I’m into all of it.  There are several Broadway shows whose soundtracks I know by heart.  Les Miserables.  Chorus Line.  Aida.  Dear Evan Hansen.  Rent.

I also know all the lyrics to Hamilton.  I mean, as much as is reasonable to expect.  It’s a VERY wordy show.  I don’t want to call it verbose because that implies that some of the words aren’t necessary.  I wouldn’t get rid of any of them.

Singing along with show tunes is usually something I do when I’m alone in the car.  It’s not really the coolest thing to do (apparently) and people can be judgy.  Not that I care what people think but I can’t exactly dive into my most emo self during ‘On My Own (Les Mis) the way I want to while someone is in the room rolling their eyes or putting their fingers in the ears.  I also cannot belt out ‘Tits & Ass (Chorus Line) while my children are in the back seat for obvious reasons.

*Side note* – One of the people who judge my love of show tunes is a fan of techno music so there goes all her credibility. 🙂

 

So anyway, in school, Ace was introduced to Hamilton.  He came home singing the opening song.  It’s kind of a Cliff Notes version of Alexanders life.  It made me happy.  It made Shaunie roll her eyes even further back into her head and stick her fingers even further down inside her ears.

 

I think it’s great that schools are using the show to get kids interested in learning history.  We all know that history class has a reputation for being boring – But it doesn’t have to be.

In drama class they also use it.  The kids were broken into groups and given a part of the show to recreate.  Ace got the role of Philip Hamilton at the time of his duel.  I gave him some back story and then we had fun imagining how Philip would be feeling in that situation and then practicing how it would play out.  So much better than math homework.

 

I’ve said a lot so far without actually saying much of anything.  Talk about burying the lede.  OK, here’s my concern:

Ace has taken that inch he got at school and gone the whole mile with Hamilton.  He is now interested in knowing all the songs.  He’s only 11 and the show does cover some adult-ish topics and includes some adult language which I don’t know if I’m comfortable with him singing about/along with.

 

But is one little “shit” the worst thing if he’s also learning the meaning of words like anarchy and intransigent and unimpeachable and deniability and civility and quagmire and abrasive and reticent?

Is a fairly mild wading into the topic of adultery so bad for him to be exposed to, if, because of this show, he’s also curious about other historical figures and events?

Is him singing “pain in the ass” really so bad if it means we are doing a duet?  Me playing the role of all the women and him playing the men in ‘Take A Break’?  It’s quality time and I love having someone to share my love of history and show tunes with.

Lately the 2 boys have been listening to ‘Aaron Burr Sir’ over and over and over and yes there’s a line in it that says “it’s hard to have intercourse over 4 sets of corsets”, … *yikes* … but I don’t think they really know what they’re singing when they get to that line and Jay absolutely delights in it when Ace gets to the part where he sings “Ooh who are you? Who you? Who are you? Ooh, who is this kid? What’s he gonna do?

The no-fighting bro time is worth it … Right?

 

Help me out here.  Tell me that it’s all fine and that I should just go with it.

 

 

 

————————————————————————————————

P.S.  Lin-Manuel is killing me.  He put out a new song about the life of Benjamin Franklin.  I was super excited because:

A) Lin-Manuel and B) Another cool way for the kids to learn about yet another founding father.

Except, I listened to the song this morning and it’s great and very educational but he drops more than a couple F bombs.  Like, a lot of them.  That’s a hard no for me.  Come on Linny;  help a mama out and make some kid-friendly history songs.

 

One Pot Post December 14, 2017

Filed under: ADHD,Autism,Family,Life on the Jay train,Special Needs Kids — The B Side @ 12:35 pm
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I’ve let myself fall behind again and now there are too many things to talk about.  I fell behind though because I was struggling to write.  Nothing felt right.  I didn’t feel like pouring my heart out and talking about how I had a great weekend but then turning around and saying that I spoke to my Aunt on Sunday evening and even though I love talking to her sometimes it makes me sad.  I didn’t want to talk about the happy without acknowledging the sad and vice versa.  But it also felt odd putting them all in one post.

 

Here’s the thing – I love my Aunt beyond measure.  Always have.  She’s always been physically small and delicate.  She’s sweet and caring and soft spoken.  But man she is fiercely independent and brilliant and adventurous and steadfast and reliable and hard working.  I have respected her my entire life and tried to be like her.  As much as I loved my Grandma and my Grandad, it was my Aunt that I wanted to emulate.  Just by being who she is, she earned the respect of thousands of students and countless teachers and girl guiders and Church group members and pretty much anyone who ever met her.

I have so many great memories of her and still can feel the excitement in my body when I remember eagerly waiting to see her car pulling into our driveway when I was a kid.

 

She’ll be 90 years old next month.  Her heart is not doing well.  She’s been in and out of the hospital a couple of times in the last couple of months.  It’s no longer safe for her to be left alone so arrangements have been made so she always has company.

Her faith in God is strong and she is very connected with her Church but has been unable to go.  This bothers her.  Her church will have an intimate, watered down Christmas service for “shut ins” that she will attend next week.

That she is being well taken care of and has access to these things is great – That she needs it, makes me sad.

 

OK, so I spent more time on that topic than I thought I would.  That’s how writing goes I suppose.  Words come spilling out.  Like vomit.  And then you feel better.

I don’t want to make it seem as if it’s all gloom over here though.  You see that same Aunt sent a cake all the way from Jamaica and Ace was super excited to get it because he loves it.  (She sends one every year).  Jay decided he’d try it and when he tasted it, he said “This is making my tongue happy.”  I relayed that information to her and she thought it was awesome.

Jay had a great time at his friends birthday party and now wants to have a party of his own.  We’ll see about that.  His birthday is in less than a month.

Ace got braces put on his teeth.  Braces on their own are not cheap.  (Thousands of dollars).  Add in several more hundreds of dollars because he needs to have some extractions.  I am concerned about how he’ll handle the pain at the same time as I am stressing out over how we’ll pay for it all.  He was excited but nervous about the braces.  Understandable.  It went pretty well even though he was sore the whole next day.  He chose red and green rubber bands in honour of Christmas.  Extractions happen next week.  Send us good vibes.

 

There are other things too, of course.

Passive aggressive racist things I’ve heard lately from “good people” that made me think of passive aggressive racist things I’ve heard my whole life from people who let down their guard and got comfortable and made comments in my presence;  Probably assuming I wasn’t paying attention or maybe just flat out not caring that I was the lone black person in a room otherwise full of white people.   *sigh*

 

There was our holiday card photo shoot.  It went swell.  We dressed the kids in matching red sweaters and took pictures of them in front of our tree.  We got some funny pictures and some perfectly posed ones.  I’m so grateful that we can even do things like this at all.  Picture taking was once a cause of much stress in my life.  For some reason I really let it bother me that the kids wouldn’t pose for cute pictures when they were little.

Now, I just need to make it to a place to print them off and drop them in the mail.  We’ll see if it happens.  If not, I’ll just post the pics online.  I am the same person who still has the gift I bought for my sisters first mothers day sitting in my living room.  I meant to mail it to her back in May but that never happened.  I’ve also seen her twice since then and both times forgot to bring it with me.  I’ll keep you posted on when she actually receives it.  Gonna include it in the box I’m sending for my niece.  Really making an effort to get it to them in time for Christmas.

 

So there you have it.  I just threw everything in the pot; like a paella or a jambalaya.  Hopefully things are going smoothly for you and yours.  I love you all for reading.  Truly.  Enjoy what you can about this life we’re living and especially at this time of the year when it’s so tempting to do, don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourselves to make things perfect or to impress other people.

 

Brag Post November 20, 2017

Back in the day there was a page on an autism blog I followed called the “Community Brag Page”.  This was a place where people could talk about their children’s accomplishments to an audience that truly understood.  I mean, it’s normal to see on Facebook etc the proud parents posting about their honor roll student or their star athlete or the recent MIT acceptance letter.  If someone posts on Facebook that their kid sat through dinner in a restaurant or wore a pair of shorts or played with a neighbor it may seem odd.  To most people, these things are commonplace.

On the community brag page, everyone knew that these things were a big deal.  We all knew that these things that parents talked about had not come easy.  We cheered each other on.

It was nice.

 

This past weekend we went to a 3 year olds birthday party.  There was a face painter and a balloonist.  OK, so they’re not actually called balloonists.  That’s someone who operates a hot air balloon.  I looked it up.  Anyway, at this party there was a face painter and a balloon artist?  Balloon shaper?  A person who makes shit out of twisting balloons.

Jay took some time deciding what kind of balloon he wanted.  If you’re a balloon thingy maker, you are not going to get away with a sword or a dog with my boy.  He finally came up with something; then he sat to wait his turn.

While he was waiting, I could see that preparations were underway to do the birthday song and the cake cutting.

Jay has VERY FEW sensory issues – for which I am grateful because I know they can be debilitating.  However, I know my boy does NOT like the birthday song.  For reasons unknown to me, he reacts very strongly to it.  In the past it would have meant, screaming, crying, yelling – There was even a time where he pulled plants out of the ground.  Yeah, not fun when you’re at someone elses house.

I went to him and quietly told him that I thought they were going to sing happy birthday soon and asked if he would be ok.  He said no and immediately covered his ears and buried his head into my chest.  I asked if he’d like to go to a room upstairs until it was over.  He let me know that he did but also that he did not want to lose his spot in the balloon line.  I suggested that we ask Mr Balloon Man if he could hold his spot because we’d be right back.

And that’s what we did.

We were nearly to the top of the stairs when we heard the first line of the song.  He quickly dove into the nearest bedroom and closed the door.

There was silence.

After a couple of minutes, a smiling Jay said “I think they are done now.”

We opened the door and walked back down the stairs and he resumed his spot in the balloon line.

 

Jay got a balloon robot and in what was a first for the face painter, got his face painted to look like a slice of pizza.

 

All 4 hours we spent at the party were a success – And this is worth bragging about!

 

Not to be ignored is Ace.  I don’t think I ever updated you guys on his report card.  The final result came in and the kid got straight friggin A’s.  There are no words really to tell you how proud I am of him.  Under all the normal conditions this would be worthy of praise but I’ll leave you with this quote from the only “grandfather” they’ve ever known – Because he gets it.

It’s all the more impressive when you consider where he’s coming from.  I mean, from almost having to repeat 2nd grade to straight A’s in 6th grade.  That’s impressive.

 

Missing My Boys – and – A 504 At Work August 7, 2017

Filed under: ADHD,Autism,Family,Special Needs Kids — The B Side @ 1:04 pm
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On Friday, we stayed up until after 2 am catching up with friends – While their two sons slept in our two sons beds.  It was nice – But I miss my boys.

We spent our Saturday night hanging out with friends and family at a 50th wedding anniversary celebration.  We had a great time – But I miss my boys.

Now, it’s Monday – And I’m on my lunch break – And it’s raining  – So I’m at my desk – Eating peanut butter straight out of a jar – And the boys have been with their Dad for 2 weeks – And the kids being gone does make it easier to focus on things such as packing and moving – But I miss their laughter and the feel of their skin and their stories – So my brain wanders back to a time, 5 years ago, when ….

 

~*~

 

I’m sitting at my desk and my cell phone rings.  It’s not a number that I recognize but it has the same area code as where we live.

Hello.

Hi Mrs C.  This is Ace’s teacher calling to tell you that he’s having a very good day today.  I have you on speaker.  The entire class can hear you.

25, six year olds kids shout out … Hi Mrs C.  There is lots of giggling.

I laugh … Oh!  Wow.  Well, this is a great phone call to get.

I just wanted you to know that he’s been sitting quietly and paying attention and he and his partner have done a great job with their project we’ve been working on.

I say how proud I am of him and that I am very happy to get this news.

He sounds a little nervous as he chimes in to tell me that he is being good and to tell me about his project.

I don’t want to say anything too cheesy so I just say I love him and I am very proud of him and that he should keep it up.

The call ends with a chorus of goodbyes and I hang up – Smiling.

 

~*~

 

It was towards the end of first grade and Ace had fairly recently been diagnosed with ADHD.  His 504 plan was brand new and as a part of the plan, his teachers were supposed to give him positive reinforcement.  That phone call was them wasting no time in following the plan.  It was the first such phone call I had ever gotten.  I loved it.

In speaking with his teacher on the last day she told me that in that last month of school, she had gone on to make those phone calls to other parents as well.  She did it partly because she didn’t want the other kids to feel like Ace was getting special treatment and partly because it was just nice.

For us, it had been a rough journey getting to the point where my boy got a diagnosis and where a plan was implemented – But I was happy to know that other kids were benefiting from it as well in some small way.  It made me feel good to know that other parents got to share in the sweetness that was that phone call.   It can make all the difference when you are at work – On a Monday – And it’s raining – And your lunch is peanut butter straight out of a jar.

 

 

 

 

For You We Always Will June 13, 2017

Well, it happened.  The boy graduated from elementary school.  What a journey it’s been.

I told a friend on the phone … “I made it through without crying.”

His response was the equivalent of … “It’s not really that big of a deal in the grand scheme of life.  There are bigger things ahead that really deserve to be celebrated and that will probably make you get emotional.”

 

No“, I said, “You don’t understand.  For some peoples kids getting through elementary school is easy.  For mine it was not.  I am just so proud of how he has performed over the last 2 years.  The first 3 were rough.”

 

I remember the days when every single report card came home with a note saying we needed to have a parent teacher meeting.  Shoot, in some cases, I had to meet with the Vice Principal.  I remember when having his own personal chaperone on a field trip was mandatory.  There were times when I couldn’t make it and our Nanas stepped in.  I remember in second grade when they threatened to hold him back and have him repeat due to near failing grades.  I remember, with much appreciation, all the things his teachers did to help him even though there was no legal reason for them to do so.  Bringing in their own personal i-pads to school to use as an incentive for good behaviour.  Allowing him to play with Legos in a quiet office when his body was too agitated to sit through reading time.  Buying books with their own money that they thought he’d like to encourage reading.  I haven’t forgotten the concern over his fine motor skills.  (His writing was all but illegible).  I remember the phone calls I received telling me about the latest injury he received because he fell over in his chair.  I can recall his teachers treading lightly as they attempted to suggest we take him for an evaluation with a specialist.  They didn’t want to offend.  But they saw him struggling.  I remember him starting to hate school and being scared to begin a new year in a new grade with a new teacher.  I remember  his school choosing to put him with a specific teacher in 3rd grade because they thought she would have the skills to reach him and help him.  They were right.  She was a great fit for him and he loved her and learned to love learning.  School, was still not easy, but it stopped being such a scary place.

Fourth grade and fifth grade were vastly different.  There were no more “needs improvement” check marks on the behaviour section of his report.  There was marked improvement in his organization skills.  He began getting A’s and B’s.  He joined, and enjoyed being a part of, multiple after school activities.

 

So you see, while to many an elementary school graduation may not be a big deal, for us it is worth celebrating.  First we struggled and then we conquered.

 

It was a team effort and his support team is stronger than ever.  I will say the one part of the ceremony that almost got to me was at the very beginning when the Vice Principal asked the graduates to turn around and look at the crowd behind them.

That’s your support system.  Those are the people who helped you and will continue to help you.  Lean on them.  They love you.”

And there we were, sitting proudly in the auditorium.  Myself, Jay, Shaunie and CC.  All together for our boy.  When it was his turn to collect his certificate, Jay stood up and shouted “Ace is next” and then he clapped bigger than anyone else.  Shaunie and CC were on photo duty.  I sat up straight, soaking in the moment and beamed.

 

It happened.  The boy graduated from elementary school.  What a journey it’s been.

 

 

 

~*~

When you’re feeling lost in the night,
When you feel your world just ain’t right
Call on me, I will be waiting
Count on me, I will be there
Anytime the times get too tough,
Anytime your best ain’t enough
I’ll be the one to make it better,
I’ll be there to protect you,
See you through,
I’ll be there and there is nothing
I won’t do.

I will cross the ocean for you
I will go and bring you the moon
I will be your hero your strength
Anything you need
I will be the sun in your sky
I will light your way for all time
Promise you,
For you I will.

I will shield your heart from the rain
I will let no harm come your way
Oh these arms will be your shelter
No these arms won’t let you down,
If there is a mountain to move
I will move that mountain for you
I’m here for you, I’m here forever
I will be your fortress, tall and strong
I’ll keep you safe,
I’ll stand beside you, right or wrong

For you I will lay my life on the line
For you I will fight
For you I will die
With every breath, with all my soul
I’ll give my world
I’ll give it all
Put your faith in me 
And I’ll do anything

(For You I Will – Monica)