Susan's Blog

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Blessed Are the Weak

As a parent, I am not much into force. But sometimes I am able to push just a little bit if I believe there will be some real growth involved. I actually do not do this nearly as much as Ned does, and not nearly as much as I ought to because I tend to get weak in the moment. I forget suddenly what all my good reasoning had told me, and I just do the other thing. In that moment of lapse, it is as if I never even knew about all the other information that I had, or the experiences that have built up my stores of knowledge. I just see the sparkle of something bright and I lose my head.

I have always tried to honor my sons’ rights to their own, unique lives, but I have often made a mess of it. In trying to do “the best” for Nat, I would think and think and think and observe and read, and then I would go ahead and choose the inferior school program, because I was lured by the Fool’s Gold of the High Functioning Classroom, and the pressure would inevitably cause Nat either to tune out or act out.

Being weak in the moment is something I have dealt with my entire life. When I was eleven I started my first diet (yes! terrible. another blog post altogether) and I experienced the pain of hard work and days and days of struggle not to eat certain things, and then in one soft hole in time, I stepped right through and landed on my fat ass.

There were so many other episodes of my impulsive giving-ins, and not all of them are self-defeating. Many times I have found that my sudden change of heart/mind(?) led to something fruitful. (I had Nyquil last night so I am struggling to hold onto my point here. But there it goes because Oh my God I just looked up and the sky is on fire! Bright pinkish-orange shoots up behind the leafless black trees, framed by my window like this painting I saw at MOMA when I was little.) More coffee, hold on…

The weak moment can also be characterized as a sudden forgetfulness, an abrupt change of heart. Sometimes forgetting all that I resolved has actually led to new discoveries, wondrous epiphanies. I think the most striking event of this nature was that day that I was sitting on the couch with Nat, he was thirteen and doing that horrible loud laughing, as he had been for months. His school staff had told us to “redirect” him when he got that way, to use a box of cards that needed to be alphabetized, to hand him the box without a word (so as not to reinforce undesirable behavior) and cause the boring, absorbing task to draw out all the juicy laughter, forcing him to be appropriate.

(Is there any word more shaming, boring, mouth-pursing, fun-sucking, than “appropriate?”)

But I was so tired that afternoon. I hated the alphabet cards. I hated the obnoxious laughter. I hated the fact that my kid did not even laugh right. I slipped into vague despairing impotence, and impulse took over. I just turned to look at him, really look at him. So cute! I smiled tiredly. I poked him, and tickled him, as if to say, “You want to laugh? I’ll give you something to laugh about!”

He looked at me, laughing and laughing and dodging my fingers, but also loving it. I looked at him, and now I was laughing, too. That was when I had my first real connection with Nat. Weak moments can be strong stuff.

There have certainly been ways in which my other two sons’ will has been subjected to a Higher
Authority, namely mine and Ned’s. I try not to force Max and Ben to interact with Nat in any way that did not feel natural to them, but sometimes I wish I had, because their relationship with him seems so sparse; just the bones of politeness and respect, but certainly no evidence of fleshy brotherly love.

Last night when Nat called, or just before the time when I knew he would call, I asked Max if he would speak to him. Max turned red and shook his head. “Why not?” I persisted. I usually drop it then and there, because I don’t want to intrude on their relationship, and I want to respect Max’s right to come to terms with Nat in his own way. But — why? Why the F couldn’t he speak to his brother just once?! And the weak moment opened up.

The phone rang and I talked to Nat. He was very clear, also listening and answering questions well, and also asking a question or two: “How are you what you do today?” So after I was finished, I handed the phone to Max. And I watched him have his first phone conversation ever with his older brother.

I experienced so many feelings at once that I almost couldn’t watch. The conversation lasted less than a minute. “How was it?” I asked Max.

More red face. “I don’t really like talking on the phone to Nat?”
“You don’t? What?” I said.
“I don’t like talking on the phone to anyone,” he explained.
“Okay, but how was it?”
“Did he ask you anything?”
“No, but he did answer my questions pretty well,” he said, sounding just a little impressed, for a nanosecond.

And the awkward moment passed. Had I done right? I think so.


More phone conversations. Wonderful!

When my son goes off on the laughter, or the (for lack of a better word) nonsense talk. It’s hard for me to pull him out of it, and it scares me. I know he’s happy and safe, in his own place. Still want to know what the joke is though.

— added by Someone Said on Thursday, November 13, 2008 at 9:49 am

Yes, you did right…I find that my older daughters relationship with G. is changing all the time. I nudge them every once in a while, but just tiny little encouragements, not “you have to hang out with your sister for the entire day” nudges.

My oldest daughter is JUST NOW, at 23, coming to develop a relationship with G. She asked me yesterday if she could take her to Madagascar 2!! Believe me, that is HUGE. She has never taken her anywhere before.

My 14 year old was fine for along time, just accepting G., but now is distancing herself – I think she is just really embarrased by G.’s behaviors, as only a 14 year old girl can be. I am letting it sit for a while. She is starting high school and things are stressful.

It’s hard.

— added by Anonymous on Thursday, November 13, 2008 at 10:32 am

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