The Importance and Trials of Being Patient

When you are a parent, you want to make sure that you are constantly doing the right thing for your child. You really do agonize if every decision you make is the right one. Parenting is not a part-time job and it certainly isn’t for the weak. You are going to make bad decisions and that’s okay because you are also going to make some pretty amazing ones. You can read all of the parenting books and child development/psych books all you want and it still won’t prepare you for what you could potentially face. Even the most trained professionals in the field can screw up their children and the sooner you realize this, you can move on and just do what you need to.

I have made it no secret that my youngest son has certainly come with his own set of challenges. From a minor birth defect that needed surgery to dealing with Early Intervention/IEPs in preschool, it has been seemingly one challenge after another. He has spent a lot of time in evaluations and ended up with a blanket diagnosis of having a sensory integration disorder. While there has been some debate whether or not that is something he actually has, it is something that he will grow out of. We just need to be patient.

He has always had his own quirks. Things need to be a specific way. There needs to be a routine. He needs to know exactly what is going to happen every day and any variation in that could potentially lead to a meltdown. This is something we have grown accustomed to. We love him and if he needs a routine, he gets a routine.

Recently, my husband and I have slowly started to upgrade our home to a “smart home” to try helping with the bills and making our life a little easier. (Especially for me, who has to climb on the couch to turn the light in the living room on.) The problem is, this is a change. My husband was replacing a light fixture in the hallway, and our son lost it. “Our house is falling” is all he would scream as he sobbed and did his run/pace/freakout mode. 2 days later, we are still in “disaster control” mode to remedy this problem. We just need to be patient with him.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to us that this happened. When we were picking out flooring samples, he also freaked out. He freaked out when I made a joke about winning the lottery and buying a massive house so I can have a dog sanctuary. “Our floor is falling!” “You can’t sell our house!” He does not like change. He does not like surprises. We just need to be patient.

Yelling at a kid when they are like this will only make matters worse. It can seem like the reasonable thing to do, especially if you are in public and everyone is staring while they do it. In these most difficult times, you need to be patient. You won’t always be patient and you know what? That’s OK. You are human. After you lose it, you pick yourself up and can be patient. Patience: it won’t fix everything but it certainly won’t make anything worse.

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When Racism Attacks

This was not the post that should have happened today. You will get that one tomorrow. In fact, this was the post that I hoped I would never have to write. Sadly, it turns out that hoping was not enough to avoid this. The hope that the world is in a better place is full of disappointment.

On days when my oldest has baseball practice, we all pile in the car to go. We take this opportunity to let our youngest blow off all of that energy. It usually doesn’t work, but at least he has fun? Normally this is uneventful. Yesterday, it was not. To preface this story, this playground is a very diverse one. Off all places, I certainly would not have thought my youngest son’s first brush with racism would be here. I was actually hoping it never would happen, but deep down I knew it was going to happen eventually. But I definitely did not expect it to happen here, at 4 years old, at the hands of a little girl a few years older.

This little girl was playing Frisbee, so naturally Georgie wanted to join in. George is a very sweet and friendly child, everyone who meets him seems to just love him. So being 4 at a park, he tried to join in. Then it happened. “No! I’m not playing with you, Chinese boy.” George was hurt by this and started to cry. We were appalled and very pissed by this. However, George thankfully didn’t realize the true scope of what just happened. He was sad because the girl didn’t let him play. We didn’t expect it because the girl (who was white) was playing with another girl (who was not). But alas, here we are. While calming George down, it was made very clear and loudly that some kids were not raised to have manners and he was immediately removed from the park.

I am not sure if my husband was more mad about the situation itself or the fact that she got the wrong Asian country. Either way, it’s bad but apparently it stings all the more when it isn’t even the right nationality. It seems that being called the wrong nationality is offensive across the board. I couldn’t relate to the situation; I’m a white girl who grew up and currently lives in a middle class neighborhood. I have never experienced racism nor have I ever participated.  I was raised better than that. My husband, on the other hand, is half-Korean. He grew up with this. Even today, he has to deal with racial slurs being tossed his way. I am offended about this for my son’s sake; my husband is offended and completely understands the situation. Thankfully, George didn’t understand this time. But what happens next time?

I don’t blame the little girl. This is something that she would’ve learned from her parents. I blame them entirely for somehow, whether purposefully or inadvertently, teaching her that this type of behavior was perfectly acceptable. I knew this was going to happen to him eventually as we still live in a culture where racism is somehow deemed acceptable. Too many people think that racism is eradicated or that now only white people are victims of racism. No one is safe and this problem is only going to get worse.

I spent a lot of time looking at my son after this. I never really saw him as an “Asian” boy. We make sure that he knows he is Korean, bringing up on the culture and food, but that this is not what defines who he is. He may be Korean, but ultimately he is just my little Georgie. I didn’t notice the unique pale of his skin or the adorable semi-almond shape of his eyed, these little subtleties that I just thought made him absolutely adorable are the things that this world is going to focus on whenever they see him. I hugged my baby so long yesterday, apologizing to him for the harsh realities of his future.

I was not prepared for this. I hoped I’d never have to be ready for this, but here we are. I may not be able to understand the pain of being picked on for my race, but I certainly know that I have to start educating myself on how to handle this when he can understand. I hope this is a one time thing, but I have this sick feeling in my stomach that this is not the last time. It will probably happen when I’m not around to protect him or he’s too old for me to cuddle this away. Our culture needs to change. We need to be better. Our children are depending on us.

When It Comes to Your Children

Children are unique beings. You can even look at your children and pick out some of their differences from their siblings. You may even find that your children are complete opposites of one another. This is the exact place that my boys are in. For instance, my oldest is this sweet and patient child. He was always curious, but very timid. He was calm and rarely found himself in trouble. Even now, he is a child that is well-regarded by every adult who meets him. And how can they not? He is very polite around them and speaks articulately to them as if he is a little adult. In fact, he may very well be an adult stuck in a very small teenager’s body. (I still cannot believe that I have to refer to him as a teenager.)

My youngest, on the other hand, makes other people tired just watching him. He is the definition of “trouble”. He’s curious, adventurous, and very, very willful. He is definitely not calm and he is nowhere near patient. Still, much like his brother, every adult that meets him falls instantly in love with him. He’s not a bad kid. He just requires a little bit more love and attention than other kids. In his 4 years on this planet, I have gone through situations I had never been through before. He needed surgery at 9 months old to remedy a birth defect. He was the first child to require special services at home, with a speech pathologist and a developmental specialist. I have to deal with IEP meetings and teacher conferences. This is the important point to this post.

In 2 weeks, we will have a meeting for his IEP, transition to Kindergarten, and if he stays in the program. We will also talk about his recent evaluation which revealed George to have a sensory integration disorder, something that sounds a lot worse than it actually is, and how the schools need to adjust to his needs. We will find out if he still gets speech therapy in grade school. We will find out if he still has an IEP. These are important things to know because with things like the IDEA act in question right now (who knows what is going to happen especially with plans to get rid of the department that is responsible for enforcing this act). Will my child continue to get the help that he needs?

Without the help that he has received, which fortunately I never had to fight for, will he thrive as well as he has? He’s a bright 4 year old that may still be behind on his speech but he can read. He is exactly the type of kid that would have once been left behind by the school system because he’s different. Realistically, he is a child that would have just been tossed in a special needs classroom in the past and forgotten. Which is a shame because he is a very bright child that if they could just get him to focus and settle down, he could go on to do great things in the future.

What is the point of this whole statement? There are a lot of things that charter schools and private schools do well, but when it comes to children like mine they are not the best places for them. These are schools that are best for children that fit in a specific mold and are not different. There is a place for public schools and there are a lot of great public school districts (like mine, for instance) that are going to suffer if they start losing money. Some districts need help to change to become better schools but that should be something to focus on rather than punishing the school districts who are thriving. When you start to take money from the schools that offer services to children in need (such as IEP students), there is a strong chance that these kids will lose these services. These children will be forgotten again. This is what I’m afraid of. When it comes to our children, sometimes we are the only ones who are willing to fight so we need to be their biggest advocates and put on the gloves.

Growing Up

A conversation happened where I said “well, if my husband doesn’t put the cube storage together soon I’m just going to do it.” I received a response that I found to be a little bit shocking: “But, you’re a girl. You’re not supposed to do that.” Well, I’m not supposed to do a lot of things I guess but I end up doing what I want anyways.

I was very fortunate growing up. Sure, I was taught all of the “girl things” that I was supposed to learn. I can hem and patch clothing, I can do embroidery. I have a great eye for color and design. I’m also a pretty awesome cook. I say this because people actually genuinely enjoy my food so I use that as evidence of that. I love doing laundry and the only stain I have not been able to defeat was a marker that I sat on. I was able to get both blood and fruit juice off of a white shirt, so I’ll take that win. I may not be the best housekeeper, but we’re not at hoarder level of disaster. I am only human, of course.

However, I was also taught to do most of the things my brothers were taught to do. I may not be able to mow a lawn but I am pretty confident that between YouTube and common sense that is something I could easily figure out. My dad never once said the phrase “you’re a girl, you’re not supposed to do that.” In fact, I have always been convinced that my father wanted to teach me a lot of those “man things” because he did not want me to be stuck with someone forever because I needed someone to take care of me. So he taught me all about tools, what to use them for. He let me help and showed me how to do things around the house from what he could do. Yes, I even learned how to change out sockets myself but I’m too clumsy to even want to attempt it.

So the idea of “you’re a girl” was never something I have ever considered. I let my son play “daddy” with his stuffed animals and both of them cook with me in the kitchen. As soon as my oldest son was able to carry a laundry basket, I taught him to do his own laundry. Why? Because I will be damned if he’s 32 and single and I’m still doing this stuff for him. Also, why should his wife be his slave? Why can’t he pitch in around the house? If I had a girl, I would expect her to learn all of the same things I did: everything I could about everything. We should be teaching our girls independence and strength. We should not be training them to just be one thing. She can be a housewife and stay-at-home mom if she wants to but she can also be a badass that puts together a bookshelf so she doesn’t have to call her dad or wait for her husband to get home.

The same applies to our boys. We should be raising them to be independent and kind individuals that can do the same things girls do. There is no reason why they shouldn’t be able to do all of the things girls are traditionally supposed to do. Why can’t a man patch his own clothing or cook a meal for his family?

We are the ones responsible for raising the next generation and its our job to ensure that this generation is better than the ones in the past. They need to be raised to work hard, do amazing things, and be themselves without worrying about what society tells them they should be. They need to be taught to be kind to their neighbors, whether they are poor, of a different race/religion/sexual orientation, or if they are rude to them. (Because fueling unkindness with more unkindness never gets you anywhere). If we don’t, we fail the future.

My Son, The Preschooler 

In previous posts, I have mentioned about my son and his struggles. I discussed evaluations and specialists and his journey through Early Intervention. I shared those struggles because people don’t seem to be aware of just how common problems are. They think that these types of struggles are embarrassing or show some level of failure on their part. I even questioned if I was failing him and that was why he was struggling with words. It’s natural as a parent to feel like they are totally failing when something is going wrong with their child. However, I wasn’t failing him; I was fighting for him.

When you tell people that your son is in the special needs program at their school, you get a few different reactions. You may get a look of pity; poor you for having to deal with that burden. You may get questions interest; well, what’s wrong with them and what is their diagnosis. You may get questions of how to avoid it; do you think if you spent less time working that this could have been avoided and is this something I can avoid? You may get questions of your stance on medicating them. Sometimes you even get a look; the look of distaste that is aimed directly at your child.

My son still has his struggles. He has an infinitely better vocabulary that when he started this journey. He can say sentences that clearly state what he wants (if he has the words for it), he can answer basic questions, and he can show that he actually has a hilarious sense of humor and personality. He cannot always use his language effectively. He still struggles with expressing what he wants, which leads to hours long tantrums. He cannot really think in the abstract but he excels in any fact based knowledge. He has no impulse control at all, a shorter attention span than most almost 4 year old children may have  (unless it comes to something he stays fully fixated on), and pinches himself/pulls out his eyelashes. But most importantly, he is my George and none of this matters to me when he is curled up in arms, struggling to tell me the story that he wants to.

I am a mama bear, some would even say to an extreme. I will fight for him but luckily I haven’t had to yet. His preschool, which gave him another year in the program with interim speech therapy until they could test him fully, never made me fight for him because they fought for him. I know it may not always be easy and this isn’t the case for everyone, but right now his entire team is working with us to ensure he is getting exactly what he needs, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that.

To answer the typical questions I get, here it is. No, there is no diagnosis yet though early reports show he’s borderline on the autism spectrum and may have apraxia, which is often wrongly diagnosed as autism. No, there is nothing that I could have done differently. This is my son and as quirky and OCD he may seem to you, he is who he is and I love him and accept him for that and you should to. I should not be pitied because I have an amazing and intelligent son and everyone should be as lucky and I will do whatever I can for him. Finally, no I am not going to medicate him unless there is something that absolutely needs it. I don’t like the idea of messing with the chemical makeup of a brain that has not fully developed and that there are a lot of incredible therapies that can help without medication. Neuroscience is a field that is always evolving as is the understanding in cognitive psychology and I have more faith in those therapies than I do with pills. However, that is my personal choice and I don’t push that on others or judge them for their choice to medicate anymore than I would about anything else in their life that is really none of my business. I just answered the question that you asked.

At the end of the day, any good parent is going to do whatever it takes to give their child the best life possible. They will fight for them, send them to the best school for them, and make sure that they have everything that they need to survive and be happy. Some parents have more struggles than others, but it’s not a contest and parents need to stop treating it as if it is. As long as you love your child and do whatever you can to give them the best life possible, you are a winning parent. It can be hard, but never forget that.

Failing Our Children

As a parent, you’re supposed to love your children. Loving them isn’t special or noteworthy; it’s human. Not loving your child just makes you something else. Loving your child does not make you a good parent; all that other stuff does. The times that you really want to sleep but stay awake with your vomiting toddler and comforting them. The times when you think you’re dying of a cold but take as much medicine as you need to suck it up because your children don’t take a time out just because you need to. Parenting is really about every fight that you do to better your child’s life in even the slightest way. Those fights and struggles are what makes a good parent.

From the moment my youngest was born, I knew I was going to have to fight harder than ever. From the beginning, he had issues that we knew that would require some amount of strength, though thankfully nothing too serious. We knew he had a minor birth defect that would need repair. We visited the specialist every few months until his surgery and spent the longest day of our lives waiting to bring him home. We had hoped that we could just be after that.

As far as his motor skills were concerned, he was always advanced and impressed his doctors. From the beginning, it was clear that he was his own person and to hell with everyone else. It wasn’t until his first birthday that I had any concerns about him, aside from having surgery at 9 months old. The minute you find out your child has any sort of developmental delay, you wonder what you could have done to prevent it. You try everything in your power to fix it, because as a parent, you want to fix everything to help your child. We tried everything: we read more, we got programs for tablets and computers, I started to go about my day as if I were a sports announcing describing even the most mundane activity aloud to help him. Six months later, nothing had worked and we left the doctor’s office deflated. She referred us to Early Intervention. Soon after, we did the evaluations and we started with a developmental specialist. Nothing. He learned how to sign, which was great to at least help us communicate a little. After a few months, she decided to add-on a speech pathologist to his developmental team. After a few weeks, there seemed to be limited improvement. We had a neuropsych evaluation to see if he was autistic, nothing. Finally, he started picking up language little by little and I firmly believe that these interventions are the difference.

We did all our “homework”. I sit through 2 sessions a week, watching on as they help my son. At age 3, he will age out of this program that has helped him so immensely. The specialists agree he’s not where he needs to be, but at 3, there is nothing more they can do for us. So we started the steps to get into the “transitioning” program. This helps EI (Early Intervention) kids move into preschool to continue services. They will get an IEP, and get free preschool. This would be huge for George, as there is a fear from everyone that he could regress without continued services. Our Early Intervention team has no say in what happens now. We did the evaluations at the school, we did the meetings, and the day has come for their decision. Getting into this school system’s particular program is notoriously difficult, and everyone has been very upfront about that. All I can do is hope.

This leads to a bigger issue with the education system that I had written about in my last Education class in college. It was a class about special needs. Our final paper was about teaching special needs, and we had to pick a topic from a list of papers. I was the last one to get the list, and I had discovered that there was one particular group that no one was doing a paper on: the gifted and talented kids. This group of children are especially ignored, because people think that they are smart so they don’t need help. Realistically, these children need an IEP just as much as any other kid with special needs. Since they don’t, they are often set up for failure. That is the fault of our schools, not truly “leaving no child behind”. My son, who is too young to be labeled as such, as shown skills and thought processes far beyond his age and his specialists note that. I fear that this will hurt his chances of getting the help he needs. I fear that him not getting in this program will set him up for failure in the future. My biggest fear, is that he will regress back to what his language was before he received help, and he will be disregarded when he starts school because they don’t realize his true potential because of a lack of speech.

I will go into this meeting with my head high, and fight as  much as I can. I’m tired though. I’m tired of fighting. But he needs this, and I need to fight for him because I know no one else will. That is what makes a good parent: the fight.

There is Nothing Wrong With My Son

Since last year, my family and I have been trying to maneuver around a tricky situation. Our youngest has a developmental delay. He was an early roller, an early crawler, and an early walker. Then one year rolled around, and he had only maybe a couple of words. Our pediatrician decided to recheck him a few months later and we’d go from there. And a year later, we are still on this journey.

Today knowledge is a heavily emphasized need that we have, because it’s how we succeed. It’s how we pass tests that are mandated by the states. We live in a society where competition in the education department is so heavily pushed upon our kids, and whether or not this is fair is  not what I am about to debate. This is about perceptions of children that are unfair.

There is nothing wrong with my son. Everyone felt the need to put in their 2 cents about him. And each bit of advice, albeit unintentionally so, was just as piercing as the next. I was flooded with “don’t listen to the doctors, they don’t know what they’re talking about. He’s just quiet”. I was flooded with “why does he need to be tested for Autism? He’s obviously not dumb.” It almost seemed like no one trusted that we could make an informed decision on our own.

My toddler started Early Intervention last summer. After a few months, he was still not making eye contact with anyone and still barely spoke. I second guessed my decision. “Why am I wasting an hour of my time a week while this woman just plays with my kid? Nothing is working.” It did seem hopeless. The specialist seemed to feel the same way, that this wasn’t working. She suggested to get him an additional specialist, a speech pathologist, and a neuropsych eval to see if he was Autistic.

Nervously, the evaluation came and went. There wasn’t enough to say that he was Autistic, but there was not enough to say that he wasn’t. I didn’t care. I just wanted something to help me help my son. Every week I analyze the notes the specialists take and devoted myself to the homework as if the grade was life or death. Every sound that even mimicked a word was a celebration. But then the evaluation showed something that none of the other testing did: despite everything, my son was a smart kid.

This showed soon enough. Any toy that the specialist would hand him, he would figure out quickly without needing anyone to show him how. If something was broken, he would hyperfocus on it to see if he could fix it. My son wasn’t dumb, we knew that. He just needed help without judgement. He needed someone to not analyze his deficiencies, he needed someone to help him grow his true potential. I kept him in Early Intervention because I knew they could help him in ways that I obviously couldn’t.

At 3, they age out of the Early Intervention Program. Speechwise, he is just starting to meet developmental milestones for children younger than him. At 2 1/2 with the words he does know, he can tell you colors and shapes without much thought. He can name letters with ease and can count. He can even point to numbers and tell you what they are. I can’t wait to see what he finds out when he gets more words.

Now he is readying for another set of testing. This will show us if he qualifies for programs in Preschool, which has opened up a new door of commentary. “Do we really want him in the special education programs?” “Is having him labelled as special needs so early going to scar him and give people a reason to bully him?” “What will the other kids think or the parents think?” Maybe the parents will think “those parents really love their kid to do whatever it takes to help them succeed.” Children that age don’t know what makes other kids different from them. That’s stuff we put on our kids ourselves.

The point of this is that you are a parent that needs to make decisions for your own children and what’s best for them. Sometimes kids need some extra help. It doesn’t mean there is something wrong with them or that they are somehow broken. Whether or kid is Autistic or has some developmental delay, that is something you have to deal with and to hell with everyone else. You can sit in denial and pretend you can do it yourself, or you can admit that you can’t and do whatever you need to help your child. I’m lucky that my insurance covers this, but I would easily work 3 jobs if I needed to in order to help my child have a better life and I wouldn’t even bat an eye. That is what parents are supposed to do: whatever it takes.

Don’t feel so alone when your child may fall short in their development. You’re not alone. You will know what to do because like with everything else in parenting, it’s all instinct. There are more people struggling with these decisions every day than you think, and you can find so much information on the internet to help you figure out what you can do and connect with other parents also going through it. I did whatever it took, and my son is constantly flourishing.