Thursday, December 26, 2013

It's the most wonderful time of the year... to not be a member of a cult.

I grew up in a cult. Not an animal-sacrificing or snake-handling type cult, but a cult (according to books on the subject and most mainstream Christians at the time) nonetheless. This had a lot of effects on my life- too many to really get into here in this post.  But one of the times when we felt it most as children, and when I feel the freedom from it most as an adult is at Christmas time.

Christmas 1992 (and pretty much every Christmas before and several after).  I was a member of the school choir.  Participation in the Christmas Concert was required and my grade in the class depended on it.  But, I was not allowed by my church to sing Christmas songs. So I sat quietly in practice for the songs deemed too-Christmasy.  At the concert, I stayed backstage until we got to a song like "Winter Wonderland" which didn't actually mention Christmas, when I darted out and stood on the end of the row to sing, returning backstage at the end of the song.

When holiday parties were had at school, we had to go home early instead of participating. This was also true for Valentine's Day parties and Halloween parties.  When we were out shopping in November and December, cashiers would ask my brother and I what Santa was bringing us, and we'd say "nothing, we don't celebrate Christmas". Then I would feel superior to all the other people around us, because we knew the truth about what a pagan holiday Christmas was and they did not.  We never said anything about Santa to other kids though, we were too well trained for that. 

My grandmothers were not allowed to give us presents for Christmas or for our birthdays. We did get presents from our parents in the fall, when our church celebrated a week-long Jewish festival. Yes, we celebrated all of the Old Testament Jewish holidays. Not Hanukkah though, as that was traditional rather than Biblical. Although now as an adult, I realize that even Jesus likely celebrated Hanukkah. But I digress.

Christmas 2013.  I woke to the sounds of my kids kicking each other. The cat had peed on Vivian's bed the day before, so she was sleeping at the end of Ethan's bed. And they were kicking each other and fighting over blankets before realizing that it was Christmas! The night before they'd happily gone to bed saying "we have to go right to sleep! Santa is going to come!" And after getting a few kicks in in the morning, they popped out of bed yelling "Mommy! Daddy! Did Santa come?"

Daniel and I blearily dragged ourselves out of bed, made coffee and stumbled upstairs where the children were quivering with excitement in front of our little tree.  We don't do a whole lot of presents, but everyone had a decent little pile to open.  Soon the kids were surrounded with wrapping paper from the presents that Mommy and Daddy and Santa had brought.  They had huge smiles on their faces and were very patient while we wrestled with the slightly evil packaging that surrounded the new toys.

I hadn't actually planned to have Santa as part of our Christmas celebration, but Vivian latched on to the idea. And it was really fun this year. They tracked Santa on the NORAD site. They were convinced to behave slightly better than usual on the days before Christmas so that Santa would bring them gifts.  They believed in the magic and wonder of it all.

Santa and gifts are not and never will be the main focus of Christmas in our home. Going to church on Christmas Eve and reading the Christmas story from the Bible and lots of conversations about Jesus's birth and what Christmas means are the main focus.

But still.  I sat on the couch on Christmas morning, watching my kids and looking at our Christmas tree and lights, and all I could think was "it's awfully nice to be normal now." I guarantee that if I had posted that on Facebook, I would have had a huge response from the many Facebook friends that I have who also grew up in the same church I did.  We bear a lot of emotional scars from our experience. It was not all bad by any means, and good things did come out of it, for sure.  But I'm still glad that I'm out of that and that my kids are growing up "normal" (in this respect at least). 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Fairy princesses and frustrations

It's Monday again, and I'm supposed to be doing laundry or cleaning the floors or something. Which reminds me.  We were at Target on Saturday (bad decision! It's almost Christmas!) and I told Daniel I needed a new laundry bin for the kids' room.  I chose one that would fit in our tiny space, then Daniel piped up with the helpful comment: "That's not going to hold a week's worth of laundry!" Because he apparently thinks I do laundry only once per week. It's more like every other day, as someone is constantly throwing up on things or spilling on things and a certain little boy only has a few clothes that he'll wear without a fight.  I responded to Daniel by glaring at him and suggesting that he should start doing his own laundry if he was going to make statements like that. 

In related laundry news, Daniel's now dressing in business casual clothes for work, which means ironing! I haven't ironed since we moved in here a year ago and am not sure where the iron is.  I may just go buy him lots of new clothing instead.

Anyway, instead of doing laundry today, Vivian decided to run around and be a fairy princess and I decided to take lots of pictures and upload them everywhere.


Seriously. I am crazy about this little girl and am starting to worry about what I'm going to do when she goes to school next year. But then that makes me feel guilty, because right now is a challenging time with her brother and an easy time with her. Vivian loves to go places with me and when I'm busy she sits and reads books or colors. She wants to play dolls and help me with the laundry. When we drive in the car, she sits quietly in the back seat. She's just so easy to be around right now.

I keep thinking that I'm writing this blog post so that I can come back and laugh at myself in about 8 years. Because I am 150% certain that my view of my children and who is easiest will have totally flipped by then. Vivian is extremely opinionated and strong-willed, and I live in fear of her adolescence.  She already has this look on her face that she gives me sometimes that says "I let you win this one, old lady, but you just wait..."  Ethan on the other hand is relatively easygoing and loves to follow rules and please people. If he continues on this path, he'll be my easy kid in the next stage of life. 

But, Ethan is challenging right now. He's all boy. He wants to crash all his toys and sing at the top of his lungs and spend all of his free time playing "catch and crash into the furniture" up in the living room. He never, ever stops moving or talking and he is always loud.  And he is struggling so much at school, which makes me feel so overwhelmed and helpless. We were sitting in his IEP re-evaluation meeting last week and listening to specialist after specialist tell us how far behind he's falling and how tough he is finding everything. Not only has he not made progress (except for in one area) over the past three years, he's actually qualifying for even more help. And I am SO grateful he is, because when presented with the multitude of things that he needs help with, I just don't know where to start. Just getting him to eat and gain weight is overwhelming enough for me right now, without everything else piled on top.

But, my little boy is absolutely darling at the same time! He's such a sports fan- I'm finally finding a use for all of the sports knowledge that I accidentally collected in my brain, thanks to my dad and brother.  He is universally loved by every adult who meets him, because he is sweet and friendly and polite, even when he's refusing to do something.  He always has a smile on his face and he tries hard at the things he needs to work on.  He still wants to give me snuggles and hugs and kisses, whenever he has a free minute. 

Seriously, I'm still waiting for the real grown-ups to show up around here. I'm pretty sure I'm not mature enough or qualified enough for this parenthood stuff. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I just want to make it all better

Back when Ethan was three, he was identified by his primary care doctor as having some delays.  In Seattle, kids 3 and up are the responsibility of the school system, in terms of therapy, so he went for an evaluation. Unsuprisingly, he turned out to be delayed in a number of areas and he was able to get into a special preschool and get lots of help.

Since then, he's been making huge progress and learning skills and to us seemed to be struggling less in a lot of areas.  Unfortunately, that turned out not to be true.  I was able to compare Ethan to Ethan, but not really to other kids his age, so I didn't really know where he was falling on the developmental scale.

Then today, in preparation for his 3-year re-evaluation, we got the report back from the school. His therapists at school (three of them), the school nurse, the school psychologist, the resource room teacher and his classroom teacher (I think that covers it all!) all submitted reports and it was compiled into one big set of recommendations.

As it turns out, he's still massively delayed and hasn't really made noticeable progress in many of the areas.  And I am so frustrated.  It is so hard watching my child struggle so much with so many things in his life. I hate when we all try to encourage and help and support and he still feels like he isn't succeeding. And he seems to have inherited the bad habit of avoiding things he's not good at (his dad and I both do that), so on many things he's more or less given up.

And he's still just so tiny and cannot gain weight. And I can't fix that either, even though I seem to have no problem getting fatter myself!

It's hard to see your child struggling and going through so many challenges. It hurts that I can't make things easier for him.