What we’ve been up to this summer

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Fishing for "seaweed".
Fishing for Algae at Lake Ontario

I had grand intentions of keeping the blog updated regularly throughout the summer, but life had other things in mind. This summer was quite a bit more emotionally taxing than I’d anticipated, especially on the parenting front. We now have a much better understanding of how our sweet daughter ticks, though, thanks to a series of assessments she’s had; she’s incredibly bright, and very sweet and thoughtful, but has some fairly major sensory processing issues, as well as some fairly extreme delays in executive function (think: stuff like impulse control, attention, emotion regulation, frustration tolerance – we’re probably heading towards an ADHD diagnosis at some point), including some retained infant reflexes that ought to be interfering with her motor abilities, but she’s such a smart little cookie that she compensates incredibly well for them – so well we’d never have noticed if it weren’t for a very observant OT. I’m learning a lot about how to work with a kid who is as smart as a 6 or 7 year old, but has the impulse control of a 2 or 3 year old, but it ain’t easy, and it’s definitely emotionally taxing (and sometimes physically so – I nearly got my jaw busted open at one point this summer, and I’ve had to forcibly carry all 46lbs of her out of group violin class several times). I’m always torn about how much to talk about this stuff, because it’s M’s story, too; I want to be very respectful of her and her right to tell her own story while still being open about my reality as a parent, and that’s going to become an ever-more-challenging tightrope to walk as she gets older.

And another card! I'm feeling very loved :)
Sweet child, I’ll never tire of the cards you write for me!

I do want to recommend a really great book called “The Explosive Child”, which offers wonderful strategies for helping parents work with children who have some “lagging skills” (to use the book’s language) that make it so that they cannot handle challenges adaptively, but instead have maladaptive explosive meltdowns. You can find more here on Dr. Ross Greene’s “Lives in the Balance” site. He advocates a respectful collaborative problem solving approach that I think would work well for any child, but especially for those on the “not-neurotypical” end of the spectrum.

One example of the “collaborative problem solving” approach in action for us has been the “ticket” approach that M helped come up with for violin practice. She actually really likes playing violin, but switching tasks is a huge “lagging skill” for her, and so she needs an extra push to actually practice when it’s time to practice. We’d been “pushing” by taking away her breakfast time TV-watching (she’s REALLY into “Puffin Rock” right now!) if she didn’t practice, which caused massive meltdowns, and which, when we talked about it, she quite rightfully called out as being unkind and punishing. She told us she’d rather earn something than lose something, and so the tickets were born:

This was M's solution to the battles over practicing.

She decided her first ticket would be for a small item at Target. The next one, which will require more “dots” be filled in (her idea was to make each ticket require one more dot, which was something I was planning to push for if she hadn’t come up with it!), will be for a book she’s been wanting, and we also plan to create tickets for movie days and things like that. So far, it’s making it much easier for me to get her to shift gears into practice mode and stick with it once she’s there, and she’s even suggested practicing without my prompting (just the one time, but hey!).

We’ve also worked together to set her up for success, which has included pulling her out of group violin class (ability-wise, she’s actually ready for the “Suzuki Book 1” class, but she simply does not have the ability to stand still in one place for 50 minutes while taking turns and not interrupting – we got kicked out every single class this summer, and though I think that bothered me more than it bothered her, it has to be discouraging for her). She’ll keep going with her individual lessons, though, because her private teacher’s so very good at working with her.

Suzuki Score! (I love Ms. Kathy!)
Suzuki Score!

It’s been an interesting, occasionally joyful, but not always pleasant or easy ride, this summer. I also lost my grandpa a few weeks ago; this wasn’t unexpected, as he’d been slipping away with dementia for the past several years, but it was still sad. M and I flew to Missouri for the funeral, and then drove back here with my parents (who had been planning a visit anyway, but that wasn’t how we’d planned it).

Me and my travel partner, in the O'Hare restroom :)

A lot of travel, but with good preparation on mama’s part, she handled things like a champ, even after she burnt her arm on a coffee pot at my grandpa’s visitation; fortunately my cousin’s wife is a pediatric nurse who knew how to treat it and we got her all patched up.

With her grandparents, all dressed up.

As we left the visitation that evening, M gave my grandma a kiss and said “Gute Nacht. Schlaf gut. Süße Träume. Ich liebe dich.” (“Good night. Sleep well. Sweet dreams. I love you.”) She’s used to these as our good night words, but what she didn’t know is that my grandpa grew up speaking German, and this was incredibly meaningful for my grandma. It was wonderful to see M interacting with my grandma for the first time since she was a baby, even though it was under sad circumstances.

So that’s where I’ve been since I last posted here. Not really in a knitting headspace, though there has indeed been some knitting, including at the beach!

Knitting at the beach.

I’m working on several things (baby hats and rainbow babyStripes! sweaters) for various friends of mine who are having babies this fall, so that’s my focus for the moment! I’ve also been making progress on my Stripes! cardigan and my Imogen cowl. I’ll probably post about all of those things at some point!

But my knitting (and violin-playing) time is about to mostly-disappear, because the semester’s starting soon! Last week I took on my role as Pre-Major Advisor (and did a bit of coloring on the nifty cover of this year’s Freshman Handbook):

I colored one quadrant of my handbook cover :)

And this week, my class start. I’ve got a busy schedule ahead of me, but I’m excited to meet my students!

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4 thoughts on “What we’ve been up to this summer

  1. I really appreciate reading about your family … and how you deal with raising your child. I don’t have any kids, but what you said about M was interesting for me because I also have trouble “switching tasks” – I say I have “inertia” because I don’t mind doing more on the task I’m doing now, but I have trouble switching to the next one (even though I like it, and once I’m doing it I will have trouble switching to the next task after that). I’m supposed to be a grown-up now … supposed to have been one for a while now … Maybe I should make up my own ticket system …

    • Thank you! I’d love to hear if a ticket system works for you, too – I think some of us just need a little external “push” to get moving in the direction we want to go in, anyway, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s just as good as “intrinsic” motivation…I mean, if the ticket system is self-imposed, it still IS intrinsic, but just means that you’ve learned the way your brain works enough to know you’ll need a push!

      -whitney

  2. I think you do a really good job of posting about your parenting experiences without being too intrusive or disrespectful of M’s story. And I think the second part of that is key. Although I’m sure you’ve had your moments of thinking plenty of not-so-nice things about her and the experience of parenting her (because we all have those moments about the people we interact with the most), that’s not really what you share with the world. You’ve always presented everything with a great deal of respect for her as a person, and you always seem careful to balance talking about the difficult parts with emphasizing how much you love her and how rewarding the experience is too. So I think if she ever comes back and reads this stuff, she’ll understand that you can’t share your own story honestly without sharing some of hers, and that you’ve always had an immense amount of love and respect for her.

    Also, I teared up just a smidge reading about the spontaneous German. I don’t know if your grandma knew that M could actually speak any German, but that was seriously just the sweetest thing.

    • Oh, thank you! I hope you’re right, that if she ever looks back, she’ll see the love and respect I have for her. I definitely don’t ever want to embarrass her, though, and I think we’re probably getting close to the age where talking about meltdowns will get complicated on that front.

      The spontaneous German was seriously the sweetest thing – I cried! My grandma did know that I’ve been teaching M a bit of German, but I don’t think she was expecting to hear any, and especially not that sweetness!

      -whitney

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