Sunday, June 21, 2009

Parental Fears

I am watching an episode of "Ray Bradbury Theater" entitled "The Playground". It's not easy to watch if you've ever been bullied. The main character, Charles, is a single dad who keeps his son Steve from playing with other kids. Haunted by the bullies he faced as a child, he wants to save his son from ever being hurt, and so at the age of six, Steve has never gone to the playground.
Do parents everywhere see themselves in their children? I know Charles and I hold something in common - we worry about our children facing the problems we did. I don't fear bullies on the playground, Kittyboy's personality is strong enough for ten. I worry about him being misunderstood - about him misunderstanding others. That was my problem - not "getting" other kids. First or second grade, I had been to several girls' birthday parties, and so to be polite, I invited the girls to mine. Ugh. Total disaster. I didn't know how to entertain them - I didn't know what to do with them - I didn't know how to get rid of them. I kept asking my mom (quietly, discretely) when they could leave. They were perfectly nice girls. But I was accustomed to amusing myself by sitting in our pear tree all day. I just didn't "get" other girls. And I eventually realized that they didn't get me. I felt there was a disconnect between myself and other girls - they spoke a language I didn't, they had rules I didn't know and couldn't learn. In college, I found my first friends - girls who actually explained social rules and interaction to me. I also read everything accessible through a search engine about socialization. But I would still rather go to the dentist than approach women I don't know well. I still feel as if they are laughing behind my back.
One Sunday, when Kittyboy first became REALLY interested in other kids, it became apparent that we had a problem. That boy knows no strangers, only friends who haven't been properly introduced. He LIKES people - boy, does he like people. And he loves "babies", by which he means anyone between the age of conception and four years old. That Sunday, he ran up to another toddler, grinning from ear to ear - and SHOVED. "Hi there, let's wrestle! This is fun!" It was not fun, however, for the other child, who cowered and ran away.
That didn't deter him, though. He thought this was all a game, and immediately shoved the next child he saw. He had to be separated from the group - he wanted to play, but couldn't be allowed to. We just couldn't get him to stop shoving, pulling, and hitting. And he did it all with the biggest grin, oblivious to the fact that he was scaring, hurting and upsetting all the other children. He didn't get it.
That was in January, and for the next few months I watched him like a hawk. No, a helicopter - I was a total helicopter parent, swooping in with "No touch! NO TOUCH!" every time he was close to another child. Therapists offered several theories - that he was reacting preemptively against a possible invasion into his space, that he was overexcited and overstimulated, that all the eye contact down on his level had something to do with it (since he didn't attack much older children), and most probably, that he wanted very much to play with them, but didn't know how, and being delayed in speech, he was also delayed in his grasp of social interaction in general. He smiled, because he liked them - he played as roughly as with a stuffed animal, because he didn't know how else to play - and he simply couldn't understand that cowering, crying, being upset, meant that they didn't like it.
Everyone - therapists, grandparents, the rest of the planet - saw a temporary problem that he would grow out of as he matured, and as his language skills increased. Even if a child has a real deficiency in empathy, that can be trained if you start very young. But just as Charles in "The Playground" saw a game of tag as a merciless hunting of one child by another because that was his experience and his perspective, I saw Kittyboy having the same problem I did. He didn't get them, and they didn't get him. I saw, in the looks of apprehension on the other childrens' faces, the "What's her problem?" look I was used to seeing on the faces of my peers. I saw it all happening all over again - but this time with a child who would care very much, and be hurt very deeply, if he were unable to have friends.
My fears are pretty much for naught, of course. He no longer assaults other children by way of saying hello. We found that out at a party on Pascha, where he played very nicely and unsupervised. It's just that that's always in the back of my mind, when I see him with other children. At least he's a boy - when boys don't like each other, they generally make it plain.
Heck, he'll probably be the charming and charismatic ring leader.
It just makes me think, though, about whether all parents do the same - react to their children as if they themselves are living childhood over again, and trying to keep things from going wrong in the same way again. You hear of parents living through their children in the sense of "I was only third string, but he's going to be captain of the football team", when the boy would rather be concertmaster in the school orchestra, but not so much of parents saying, "I just hope he doesn't make my mistakes - have my problems - grow up with my neuroses."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Reptilian Visitor

This morning, I was walking through our very dimly lit hallway and saw something laying across the floor in a suspicious series of S-curves.
I stopped.
First thought - Why is there a snake in my house?
Second thought - It's just laying there, though. Oh duh, I'll bet it's one of those plastic ones.
Third thought - We don't have any plastic snakes.
I debated briefly about just grabbing it behind the head and carrying it outside, but from what I could see in the near-dark, this snake did not have any of those nice reassuring yellow stripes proclaiming it to be only a lowly grass snake. It was spotted. There are so many snakes with spots, and some are not the sort you want to surprise. If you grab too far back on a grass snake, you'll just get a pinch. It might be a painful pinch, but it's not dangerous. And snakes move faster than me. Did I feel like trusting my snake-wrangling skills with something potentially poisonous?
Hmmmm.... no.
I moved, and it started crossing the hallway. It didn't coil, good sign - but I still didn't know what it was. So as I am the wildlife person in the house, I called quietly for Husband (in the living room with Kittyboy) to get me a container. He went into the kitchen, got a plastic tub, and said, "This?" I said, "Uh, no..." and he asked what I needed it for.
This is the man who, in college, leaped to the top bunk of a bunk bed without a ladder, because I calmly said I might have seen a mouse. I love my husband, he is a wonderful spouse, father, provider, and all-around wonderful human being. But I am the wildlife person for a very good reason. He deals with oil splatters while frying food - I remove mice. And now snakes.
"Do you promise to remain calm and not freak?"
In an annoyed tone, he said yes.
"There is a snake in the house."
"There's a SNAKE in the HOUSE?" He was mostly calm.
He gave me an oatmeal container with a lid, MUCH better than an open tub, and to his credit, he didn't toss it gingerly from the kitchen, he brought it to me as the bottom half of the snake was slithering into the bathroom. I went in the bathroom and closed the door, but the end tip of the tail was just poking out of a broken tile under the tub, so I couldn't catch it. I did tape plastic over that tile. We have an open plumbers crawl space under the house, obviously there is a hole under the broken tile that leads there. My brother Yan said on the phone it was probably a bull snake, would bite in defense if cornered or feeling threatened, but not poisonous at all. They eat their weight in rodents - so if it busts through the plastic, it's not SUCH an unwelcome guest - but I'm not going to encourage it to come back. I, being non-herpetophobic, would look on it as I would a gecko in South America, or a mongoose in colonial India. If you can find food, Brother Snake, you are welcome to it. I am unusual in that regard, however. Husband will be fixing the tile.
But I must say, I'd rather be cautious in lifting clothing from the floor because there might be a non-poisonous rodent-hunter in it, than checking my shoes in the morning for poisonous insects. There are worse uninvited houseguests we could have.
And hey, it gave my morning a more exotic Hemingway flavor than my life generally has!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New SLP tomorrow!

Tomorrow, we start with a new speech therapist, Bree, at long last. Insurance and billing problems have been postponing this for a few weeks, and I'm looking forward to getting going with that again. Hey, at least Kittyboy's patient - he'll say the same "word" for several minutes, repeatedly, until you finally guess the right meaning. Daddy, doggie, donkey, diaper, any other word starting with D or a similar sound - all sound alike. Cracker, cookie and garbage sound alike. He TALKS all the time! But you have to run through the list of everything that could start with the first syllable of what he's saying, and wait for him to react or say "uh huh!" It's like, "Oh yay, he has another word! Wait... but that sounds exactly like this other long list of words starting with B. Oh. Great - I think." I need to draw up a list tonight of ALL the words he says, and what they mean, along with his own brand of word order, grammar, etc. Poor Bree.
I think we're down to pronunciation at this point. He loves language and is just bound and determined to communicate! He just needs a whole heck of a lot of help enunciating.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Health musings and missing Grandma

From August of '07 - the visit of Grandma Sandy (Great-Grandma to the itty-bitty little Kittyboy there). Living seven hours away as she does, it was a momentous occasion - lots of picture taking!
Grandma Sandy never looked her age - she never acted it, either. That visit, she brought me green beans from her garden, a shopping bag worth. I think I put up half a dozen pints of her fresh garden green beans with bacon. She also taught me how to make egg noodles from scratch. She loved roses, and had many rose bushes. Any time I had a gardening question, I e-mailed her. The morning of the day of her stroke, I had written on my Facebook page that I was tired, and she wrote back, "Take a nap when the baby does!"
So every time I plant more in my garden, I want to e-mail her. Every time I fret about whether my big rosebush is going to survive having been forcibly transplanted without any pruning (a huge no-no), I want to e-mail her. Every time I open Facebook, there she is. Except she isn't.
My father's family has a bad, one could say horrific, history of heart-related problems. His father died in his early fifties, and when Daddy celebrates his 55th birthday, it will be the blow-out birthday bash of the century, because he'll have outlived a significant number of his male relatives. He'll have successfully passed the early cut-off point, so to speak. Cholesterol - blood pressure - heart disease - heart attacks - strokes. And Grandma Sandy wasn't part of that history, or so I thought (her mother died in her late nineties) until now. Stroke due to hypertension at 71.
Kittyboy has an affinity for salt - he has a limited sweet tooth, but will eat chips or pretzels FOREVER. I've read that's been documented in babies born with low sodium levels, common in preemies - the body keeps on wanting salt. He will eat salt from the shaker, which is why our salt shakers are up high, and at the table, we have only pepper shakers. He can spice until the cows come home, but he doesn't get control over salt. He would render his food inedible. I like salt, and I like fried foods. Five years ago, my cholesterol was high - not "medication time" high, but it was indeed "cut down on fried foods" high.
So Daddy has been breaking the family cycle by losing some weight, eating better, excercising - the trifecta of health maintenance, so to speak. And faced with this family history and a son who loves salt (both of those facts kept running through my brain like a horror movie for the last couple weeks), we are doing the same. I, who go to a doctor only when something is wrong, went for a check-up last week and had thorough bloodwork done. Cholesterol is good. Blood pressure, EXCELLENT (I'm still doing an internal happy dance about that one).
I have nineteen tomato plants in my garden and plans for adding more - canning everything. I have decided to even make some ketchup this year, possibly. I am swearing off canned soups, except the creamed ones as occasional shortcuts, and cooked a bunch of red beans to put up in the freezer, in the hopes of breaking my canned-bean habit. We as a family are going to think more about what we eat - we don't eat THAT unhealthily now, but neither did Grandma Sandy. She was active and gardened and worked as a farmer's wife does. And we are going to create good, healthy habits now, so that Kittyboy grows up with good habits from the start.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

RIP Sandra Davis

Grandma Sandy passed away shortly after noon today. We're sad, we miss her, but it is a relief that she didn't suffer and that it is now over. We're also glad that we got to see her and got to say our goodbyes.
"Memory Eternal" as we Orthodox say.
The following reading is from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. It's read during the Orthodox funeral service, and I had parts running through my head while we were at the hospital.
"Brethren, we would not have you ignorant concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command with the archangel's call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words."
What was stuck in my head, over and over from Sunday morning on, was a paraphrase - "We do not weep as those who have no hope." I thought of it after Aunt Laura, having seen Grandma's chart, said that throughout it the doctors had written, "no hope". They meant "no hope of recovery" in this physical realm, but in fact, for us as Christians, there is never "no hope". There is always hope. The story of our lives may be unhappy and contain tragedies, but we know how the story ends, because Christ already wrote the ending when He rose from the grave. Death is not final, because He defeated it. We do not weep as those who have no hope.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Closure, of a sort

So. We got to the hospital Saturday evening. At that point, Grandma had some reflexive responses, but not much. One, which was disturbing, is called posturing - it's sort of like the body is trying to curl into a fetal position. It's something the body does to try and protect the brain when the brain is being damaged. Aunt Laura said she kept doing it again and again. All four ventricles filled with blood, they had a shunt in but couldn't drain it all. Neither could they stop the bleed. Sunday, she wasn't tolerating the feeding tube well, and they had to increase IV fluids. By today, she was no longer showing any reflexes. We had a meeting with Grandpa and the doctors - the doctors said she is going to continue going downhill. She will probably have a heart attack in the near future. It was decided to "not perform heroic measures" which I think I understand to be a DNR - she is dying, and we're letting her go.
We know God always answers prayer - He just doesn't always say yes. Sometimes He says "Wait" - and sometimes He says no. We had been very, very concerned about my grandfather's mental state, as he didn't seem to be understanding the situation. My grandpa is a wonderfully soft-hearted man who never had a baby animal on his farm that was too sick and too far gone to be swaddled and nursed by hand. Every time we visited, I think, there was something wrapped in blankets in the barn or on the back porch getting milk, vitamins, medicine. And they didn't always make it - some things are just too sick to live, born too early, too small, or both, and all the milk and vitamins in the world can't change it. But Grandpa always tried. He was talking about taking Grandma home on the ventilator and caring for her himself - no way, not possible, he has a farm and she needs to be in ICU. She needs 24/7 care. And so we had been concerned about how hard it would hit him when he finally did realize that this time, there is nothing he can do. To our great relief, it seemed at the meeting that he has accepted it - she is not coming home. She is going home. We're all going to miss her very, very much.
Thank you so much for your prayers. Really, thank you, thank you, thank you. I got on my cousin's laptop at the hospital yesterday and saw in my e-mail comments from people I don't even know, and it was very comforting. Thank you.