Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Mom Who Does Not Play Well With Others

"Go outside and play with the other kids!" That's something I heard too frequently growing up. They are probably words I hated hearing the most. Way more than " You're grounded" or "No TV", nothing filled me with more dread than that horrid phrase. I was a strange kid I suppose. You see, on stage at a dance recital or in a play, I was at home, I felt good. I felt safe. But eight six-year-olds in Brownie uniforms could induce cold sweats and projectile vomiting. Needless to say, my first Girl Scout meeting was my last.

I don't really know why, I suppose that's a question for a psychologist someday. I do know that I just preferred to be alone. I come from a big family that was very close, with lots of birthday parties, BBQ's and family reunions. I have literally dozens of cousins. So at least twice a month all the families would find some reason to gather all together. Food, Music, Family, sounds great right? Yeah not to me. Why? Because inevitably someone would spot me content in my corner lost in a book, and force me to "Go outside and have fun with the other kids". I could never get anyone to understand , that I was having fun. I wasn't lonely. I wasn't sad. I wasn't feeling left out. I was perfectly happy. Being forced to play age appropriate games and jump rope with my peers made me unhappy. Oh I wasn't a total loner. I had a few childhood playmates and I was okay fine one-on-one with them. But a large group of loud children screaming "Ready or not here I come" sounded like torture.

As I hit my teen years and early twenties I started to feel social pressure to belong to a group. I managed to suppress my naturally introverted side and attempt to be part of the in-crowd, be a cheerleader, go to parties, etc. I ignored all my natural instincts and attempted transform into a party girl. But I never really got the hang of it. It was an act. I don't really know how to be the life of the party. And I don't enjoy it. When my babies were small, I never joined playgroups ,after I realized that I'd have to converse with the other mothers. When my kids had scout meetings I would read in the car so I wouldn't be forced to talk to people I don't know. And now as an adult I find that I am kind of socially awkward. Any interaction with more than three unknowns can often be hive inducing for me. It can be a PTA meeting or my husband's company holiday party. I'd rather read a book. I have a small group of close friends and I'm good with that.  I just don't know how to make new friends. I was okay with that. I mean it's not hurting anybody.

Now as I watch my children attempt to navigate socially in the world. I worry that they have inherited my hermit-like tendencies. And I definitely don't want that. I notice that they never introduce themselves to other children. They stick with each other or tried and true friends they already know. A new group of children will usually have them hiding behind me... while I'm hiding behind my book...from their parents. And I was determined to never use that hated phrase "go out and play with the other kids". I never pushed them to do anything socially they found uncomfortable. And then I had this very real conversation with my ten-year-old son and six-year-old daughter when our mostly child-free block had some visitors.

Son: Mom, there are some new kids playing in the yard on the other side of ours.
Mom: Really? That's nice
Son: The boy has the same skateboard I do.
Mom: ( I notice that my children are actually peeking at the kids from behind the fence) Why don't you go talk to them?
Daughter: What should we say?
Mom: I don't know, say hi?!?
Son: Okay we will

 I watch as the kids leave the yard holding hands, their faces looking like, they're walking the plank!
30 seconds later they burst back in our yard.

Both Kids: We said Hi!
Mom: Okay? and?
Son: They said Hi back..
Daughter: What do we say now?
Mom: Are you serious? I don't know ask them their names..

Kids run back next door. I hear children's voices talking so I thought I was off the hook so I am reaching for the remote when they burst back in..

Daughter: Their names are Minnie and Mickey ( Okay this is a lie I have no idea what their names were).
Son: We told them ours too!
Mom: That's really nice. So why are you back?
Son: What do we say now?
Mom: Try asking if they want to play with you?
Daughter: Okay I'll try, but I'm scared...
Son: Don't be scared I'll hold your hand and you say it.

They leave again. And I'm staring at them as if they are aliens...but I figure they are okay now, they'll go play like semi-normal kids now..but the door is flung open once more.

Both Kids: They said yes!!!
Mom: So why are you here??
Son: Oh I was so excited I wanted to tell you!
Mom: Thanks for the update, go play jeez

I will admit I called my husband and my parents and laughed hysterically at first. I mean it was really weird but also really cute. Until I started to think about it. They both have a lot of friends in their classes and seem pretty popular. They have the occasional play-date. So what made these kids so different? Nothing, except they were new and in an unfamiliar situation. I had to wonder if they learned this freakish behavior from me. I had hoped their father's naturally gregarious personality would mask my perpetual shyness. I wondered do they notice that their mom likes sits alone at the baseball game or the musical recital while the other moms chat. That I tend to zip in and out of the after-school pick-up line while the other parents hang out and talk. It's hard when you see how your own hang-ups directly affect your children negatively. I promised myself to do better.

Recently my son had a birthday party with our large extended family and I extended an invitation to his classmates and their parents. Previously if I even had the party I would have hid behind my husband or mom for the day. But guess what? I talked to people. Everyone! Even the ones I didn't know! And it wasn't horrible! I felt uncomfortable at first, but I got over it and I had a great time. And the kids had a great time, The other parents even had a great time. The best part was when my son said "Mom you looked like you had a lot of fun today too!"
And I didn't even bring a book....

Friday, April 20, 2012

Ewwwww I think I love my sister

I don't know when or how it happened but I think my baby sister is my best friend. I know, I know, it makes me nauseous too.

When I was little, and maybe not so little my mom would often have to break up my younger sister and I rolling on the floor, pulling hair and screaming and basically trying to kill each other. When I would try to rationally explain to my family exactly why she was evil incarnate and deserved to die, I would often be met with " One day she'll be your best friend". Let's just say I was pretty convinced otherwise. We had way more than the usual dose of sibling rivalry and although we aren't wrestling over the turkey at the Thanksgiving table anymore (well except for that one time), we still feel the after shocks of those early explosions today. Our journey from sisters to friends is a bumpy and cautious ride. We tread carefully.

My baby sister on the other hand didn't really register on the sibling rivalry scale with me. We are 14 years apart, so she seems more like background scenery than a player in all that childhood/teenage angst, that my other sister and I share. I think that is probably why our friendship works. We share just enough of that familial bond to say, remember when Mommy said "insert insanely funny thing here" without any of the resentment or jealousy issues that come along with it.

To see us together on the street, you wouldn't think we were friends much less sisters. Where I am lean and angular, she's all voluptuous curves. My ponytail, oxford shirt and pleated skirts, look almost alien next to her cheetah printed Mohawk, ripped jeans and combat boots. Although we both have multiple tattoos, mine are discreet and easily hidden, while you' be hard pressed to find more than a few inches of my baby sister not covered with ink. It seems like we have nothing in common, but we do have certain similarities. We are moms, we are both artists although in very different ways, we both love reality tv and are confessed and unrepentant shopaholics. For all our differences we have become inseparable.  We have ridiculous nicknames for each other she calls me "G'vner" complete with a British accent and I call her "Bunni". We see each other at least once a week and our daily phone call average seems to be about 7 (this is not an exaggeration I checked my call log) and this is not including the multiple random BBMs. We discuss every details of our lives, the essential and the inane. Our phone calls range from "I just had an argument with my boyfriend/husband/mother and now I'm crying" to " What is the origin of beef stroganoff?" (Seriously this was our real conversation at 1 a.m this morning). Somewhere along the way, this quiet toddler with a constant Kool-Aid mustache has become my shopping partner, life coach and confidante. She's become my best friend. I would go on with how great I think she is but I've just seen the funniest sh&t on Maury and I gotta call her.....

 " Bunni"

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Girl in the Bubble

For the last three years, I have watched my first born daughter blossom from a child into a young lady. At thirteen she's strikingly beautiful and not in that I'm her mother so I have to say that way, but in that strangers stop me on the street way. And as I've watched her bloom, along with feeling proud I've also been fighting this irresistible urge to lock her in her room, block all technology and home-school her until she's oh, about 25.

It's not because she is some problem child. She's on the honor roll in her gifted classes. She helps out at home. She is loving, affectionate and probably a little too innocent for her age. I bet you're saying if she's such a good kid, why then would I want to lock her up? It's precisely because she's such a good kid! I live in constant fear of someone or something corrupting her.

Last week as is our daily tradition, she curled up in my bed after school to chat about her day as I work. After discussing her classes and an upcoming band concert she mentioned not wanting to go for a smoothie after school because of some trouble makers that hang around the local McDonald's. So of course, I go into straight lioness mode, who are these kids? What did they say to you? Are they in your classes? My daughter attempts to calm me down by reassuring me that the "bad" kids never pay much attention to her, they aren't in her classes and besides "that pregnant eighth grader that fights all the time finally got expelled"

This is where I began to have esophageal seizures, because I haven't the slightest idea what to say. It's not only that there are pregnant eighth graders at her small middle school, but that she mentioned it so casually. As if were no big deal, and that's what scared the shit out of me. So naturally I began freaking out, I told my husband Summer was being home-schooled from now on to which he just replied, "don't get crazy Shev". I complained to my mom and she asked me "If I would like to lock Summer in a bubble for her whole life, so she never sees anything?" I replied that's exactly what I wanted and "Do you know where I could get one cheap?" She hung up on me.. But what my father said really scared me. In his easygoing way, he tried to reassure me by saying "You've done your job, Summer's a good girl, she'll be alright." Why was that terrifying? Because how do you KNOW if you've really done your job? There's no test at the end of each year or stage to let you know you've passed that particular parenting hurdle. Drugs, sex, education, social responsibility, you can try to instill all these lessons into your children but how do you know when they have learned them? Unfortunately, you certainly will know when they didn't learn them. Parenting can be a terrifying gamble and the odds aren't always in your favor. I suppose if I can't get this bubble thing to work out, I'm going to have to learn to trust my daughter and more importantly myself as a mom. but just in case, I'm gonna go Google that bubble...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


I know I'm married to a good guy. I know I have a good marriage. But sometimes in the crazy pace of life, I forget just how lucky I am. Thank God I am often reminded

My good friend and business partner Felicia came to pick me up on a hectic morning, I was running late and we were behind schedule for an important meeting. As I gathered my things she made small talk with my hubby, who was making breakfast for the kids and starting some of our regular weekend chores. She praised him for being such a good husband and made a mention of how lucky I was, a comment to which at her I rolled my eyes. To my husband I simply reminded him that he forgot again to take out the garbage, and that I would probably kill him if he forgot again. I rushed out to my meeting without giving our exchange a second thought.

However, my friend wasn't letting me off that easy. She is a single mother who constantly struggles with her son's father after a long relationship ruined by his inability to recognize how lucky he was. She isn't the type of girl who minces words at all. And she let me have it with both barrels. First she told me" I need you married women to act right, so us single girls can get a chance, try not to F*#k it up for us!" I tried to laugh it off, but I had to take a step back and look at it from another perspective. She wasn't alone in her opinion, most of my single girlfriends say I'm lucky or admire my relationship with my husband. I wondered would anyone say the same to my husband? I thought about my attitude that morning and a lot of other mornings and had to think, probably not. And just to rub it in further, she says "You don' realize how rare what you have is. You got to marry the man you fell in love with, the man you had children with, the one you actually wanted to marry. Not the man that stuck around, not the man that just happened to have some health insurance, or could maybe help with your bills. You married your dream man, and that's some special shit" Obviously my dear friend has a way with words. But she was right on every count.

As busy moms, we can get so caught up with kids and careers and chores and bills, that we  get tunnel vision and forget to glance to the side and see the partner who is always down in that tunnel digging through with us. It's easy to get so caught up in your routine that you take your partner for granted. We need to take some time out to make our husbands feel lucky. Especially if you have a great one like mine.

After being so thoroughly chastised, I made a point to text my husband after my meeting to let him know how much I appreciate  him and how lucky I am to have him in my life. And that if he didn't take out the garbage I'd choke him...

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Trayvon Martin..A Lesson I'm Not Ready to Teach

Like every Black mother who read or watched the story of Trayvon Martin unfold, immediately following the anger, sadness and outrage, I felt fear. That not-so irrational fear of "Will my son be next?".

I watch my nine-year-old running around the backyard pretending to be the hero from whatever new cartoon he's obsessing about this week and I wonder how can anyone think he's dangerous, suspicious? Not my son. But every Black mom thinks, not my son, don't they?

As the story continued to unfold and the media storm reached full crescendo, I knew a conversation with my inquisitive children would be unavoidable. This is unfortunately a required lesson for a male black child. How do you explain the what you cannot understand? How do you make sense of what isn't sensible? I debated on what to tell my very sheltered, very sensitive son. He's one of those children that insist on everything being fair and equal. After all nine is way to young to understand the complexities of racism and racial profiling right?

So as the evening news flashed Travyon Martin's face across the screen once more I readied myself to broach subject with my son. To my surprise, he beat me to the punch. He says "Mommy have you heard about Trayvon Martin?". When I replied yes, my baby began explain to me the intrinsic details of the case! He expressed such outrage and sadness. He sounded so mature, I was proud. Then as he takes his Oreos to kitchen table, he says "I hope I don't get 'racial profiled' Mommy". And my heart breaks.

As proud as I was initially for having a child so knowledgeable and informed, I was now equally devastated. At a time when my son's most pressing fear should be his spelling test on Friday, why should he carry this extra burden? I thought to myself "he's way too young to know this". But when is the right age? What is the right age to let my son know that as a black male he is never safe? At what age is it to say you will be forever fighting a negative image that isn't a reflection who you are? How old should he be before I tell him, that police are here to protect and serve everyone who isn't you? When do I let him know that the judicial system doesn't work for you dear?

How can it be my duty as the mother of this child who looks at the world as this bright open place full of promise and opportunity and teach him that it's an active landmine that he'll spend his life trying not to detonate?

I may be naive, but that's a lesson I'm just not ready to teach.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Before Autism.....

Before Autism touched my life, I considered myself the kind of mother who pretty much had it together. Before Autism, I worked a full-time executive position, where my obsessive and control freak tendencies served me well. My three children were used to the daily routine of full-time school or daycare. Weaning, potty-training, bedtime issues, discipline, those were things OTHER mothers struggled with, for me it never seemed like a huge deal. I managed to sail through the first 9 years of motherhood without wrinkling my designer clothes, mussing my perfectly relaxed hair, or chipping a french manicured nail. I could never understand what other parents complained about. I was so smug and arrogant. I could not imagine what must go on in the houses of the lady behind me in the check out line with the screaming, rebelling children. I would think to my myself "home girl needs to get it together".

I thought I was done having kids, so my fourth pregnancy was a huge surprise in the midst of a tumultuous time in my career. I was at a crossroads and very uncertain on where I would go professionally. So although  my new son was unexpected, I did feel some comfort in the fact that in this at least, I know what I'm doing. What's that saying "If you want to see God laugh, tell him your plans"? I assure you it must have been comedy hour in heaven.

Everything with Spike was different from the start. It was also my first attempt at being a full-time stay at home mom. I was so sure it was going to be a breeze. I imagined myself a cocoa-colored Donna Reed and Mrs. Huxtable rolled into one. I'd spend all day calmly breastfeeding my adorable infant, selflessly volunteer in my older kid's classrooms, never miss school assemblies and cook gourmet dinners every night. I would greet my husband at the door with a kiss after work and in my spare time start writing that bestseller. My house would be spotless. My life would be spotless. Right?? WRONG!

Breastfeeding was a disaster, Spike seemed to be allergic to everything I managed to swallow and at 6 weeks we were in ICU getting his intestines biopsied as they tried to deal with his severe milk and soy allergies. It only got more chaotic from there. He was an exhausting infant, instead of having more time for my other children and husband I had less. It didn't get any easier as he became a toddler. I fought with my husband and myself daily on whether or not he was really as different from other kids as he seemed to be. I struggled with what was "normal".

By the time Spike was two, between dealing with all the trials and tribulations that come with a child on the spectrum, two highly sensitive yet extremely gifted children, an older toddler doomed to suffer from perpetual middle-child syndrome, a half-neglected husband and a stagnant career, I was a hot mess. I didn't recognize myself in the mirror. Who was this woman with the sloppy ponytail, ragged cuticles and chocolate milk on her sweats? I didn't recognize her. I had no confidence in myself as a mother, as a wife or as a writer.

Still in the midst of chaos and half on autopilot, I managed to trudge on through dozens of doctor's visits and hundreds of therapy sessions. I stopped predicting the outcome and just delved into the process. And then, just when I stopped waiting for them, small miracles began to happen. I figured out just the right ingredients to make it through a grocery trip without a meltdown. Spike made eye contact with a stranger without running in fear. My mom was able to pick him up and hold him. These seemingly small feats felt like climbing Mt. Everest to me. I had started to accept Spike for who he is and not who I wanted him to be. Slowly through this process, the patience and acceptance I learned from Spike started to carry over into my relationships with my other children, my husband, and most of all myself. As Spike learned structure, I learned to be less rigid. As he learned boundaries, I learned to be more open. We've both learned a lot.

After Autism, my pursuit of perfect is a lot more realistic these days. I know my life will never be spotless. I am much more concerned with how things feel rather than how they look. In discovering who Spike is, I've found myself. I've found a fierce determination, an unwavering patience and a capacity for a deep all-encompassing love that I never knew was possible. I know in my heart God blessed me with Spike to mold me into the mother, the woman and the writer, I was always meant to be.

SPARKLE - Official Trailer - In Theaters 8/17

Sunday, April 1, 2012

I have been debating on whether or not to write a blog for quite awhile. Trying to balance the  having an unrestricted creative outlet I desperately need, against the stress and time constraints of my already hectic life.

I wondered, what would I write about? I decided I’d write about myself because it would be easy,until I tried to figure out which “self” that would be. What story would matter? What would my readers-to-be relate to? Which story could I tell? I have so many and that’s when it hit me! I’ll tell them all.

So what will my blog be about? Love and Marriage. Friendships and Family. Parenting the Gifted Child and the Special Needs Child. My career and my home life. I’ll invite you to peek inside the madness, while I figure out the method.

Let’s go……