Susan's Blog

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Best of All the Year

“You have come at the best of all the year, we will have herb pudding and sit in the sun.”
–Timmy Willie

It is the best of all the year. You don’t get much better than a sunny June 2 here in Boston. Every worthwhile plant is blooming. God is in His Heaven. Even the rain is wonderful. As Timmy Willie says, “When it rains, I sit in my little sandy burrow and shell corn and seeds from my Autumn store. I peep out at the throstles and blackbirds on the lawn, and my friend Cock Robin. And when the sun comes out again, you should see my garden and the flowers–roses and pinks and pansies–no noise except the birds and bees, and the lambs in the meadows.”

I can still hear little Nat saying, “Oh, oh! cried Toomy Woowee,” as he recited The Tale of Johnny Townmouse, one of his all-time favorite books. Or, “Rabbit tobacco, tobacco, tobacco,” he’d go around singing, which was what rabbits apparently call “lavender.” Those beautiful little Beatrix Potter gems: nothing like them in all of creation. These oddly colloquial, dated stories give you a slice of olden-time life and modern human foibles (shown mostly through animal characters), served up with gorgeous, soft, delicious and not at all overly-sentimental illustrations. Remember The Tale of Two Bad Mice? How Hunca Munca and Tom Thumb invaded a dollhouse? And found that all the food was fake? “And then, there was no end to the rage and disappointment of Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca.” They tore the house apart, only later to realize that they could loot the place first!

When I go past my gardens — and I have many of them, because I am insane about gardens — I have to stop and stare. I look and look and look. I cannot believe my eyes. Or my nose! The smells! The colors! The shapes! Tiny little blossoms climbing up a miniature butterfly bush; popcorn-like snapdragons. Grape-like Wisteria that smells like wintergreen candy; round pink roses that look like a Southern belle’s hoop skirts. Any plantable spots must be filled with fleurs. I lust after part-sun to full sun. I will raze decade-old trees to get some of that good stuff (well, only if they are growing into my foundation, which happens a lot here. Once or twice I have seen a vine growing out of my basement wall! Not a good thing.)

I mowed the lawn for the first time today. It was so long it felt like a meadow fit for Timmy Willie. Yesterday, Max wistfully said how he would rather mow that lawn than prepare dinner for his brothers, but he knew that he had to make dinner. I was at my recital and Ned had to go see me perform, and the sitter had not shown up. Max rose to the occasion, as he so often does, and he made my old fallback dinner: hot dogs, noodles, and carrots. He is my hero.

And Nat did not feel uncomfortable without us there. He was fine. And Ben continued to work happily on his latest Lego project (I can’t wait to reveal it; suffice it to say that it is magnificent. He is a Lego Genius, and I am not biased, even though I am his Mommy. No, really!).

I feel blessed to be starting summer. And for my memories of my boys when they were little. And also, for the wonderful men they are becoming.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Teacher, Educate Thyself

For many of you, this story is already old news. I, too, heard about the Monstrous Kindergarten Class weeks ago but was in the middle of my own shit and could not process poor Alex Barton’s as well.

Today a friend sent me the story and I looked at it, felt bad, and then I noticed the date of the report: May 21. Just a few days after Mother’s Day. And suddenly my heart just dropped. Happy Mother’s Day, Mrs. Barton. We can’t stand your child. I sighed, and felt like crying. I went into that moment. I saw a five year old boy, with sensory issues, kicking and screaming on a regular basis, and imagined the distress he must have felt to respond to his environment in that way. I wondered, enraged, “Why was nothing done for him? Why not get an FBA, (Functional Behavioral Analysis) look into TEACCH, a compassionate aide, something, anything? But no, this class and teacher decided to view this boy as a troublemaker and a creature. A monster.

In reality, they were the monsters.

And yet, of course, they are all just people. Poorly-trained teachers, scared and uniformed little kids who turned to bullying as a defense, and were encouraged to do so.

There is still so much misinformation about autism, about difference in general. Still so much helplessness among teachers, especially in mainstream education. So much being reactive instead of pro-active. Such a need for professional development.

Such a need for empathy in this world. Why is it so hard for people to get it? Well, Alex and Mrs. Barton. I do. I get it. And I hope you find some peace in your love for one another, and a better teacher next year.

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