Friday, January 28, 2011

Twice Exceptional

I never comprehended the depth of the phrase "Parenting is Hard."

It is hard. Exceptionally hard.

Especially exceptionally hard when you have exceptional children. And boy howdy are mine exceptional. Between two of them--just two--we have ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, anxiety, depression, and ... we are taking one of them in for an autism assessment today. He is not autistic in the Rainman sense, but his social awareness is perpetually low. We're talking about the "Aspergers" end of the Autism spectrum.

Don't you wish you had exceptional children, too? Maybe you do.

My children, though, are "twice exceptional," which is a buzzword, or buzz-phrase, to mean they are dealing with the issues above and are also intellectually "gifted." I think many gifted children are dealing with other issues because of the nature of higher perception. The world is more complex through the eyes of a higher-intensity, higher-sensitivity child. It is more dangerous, more frightening, and definitely more lonely.

I have steered away from discussing "giftedness" on this blog. This was deliberate because people become uncomfortable with this idea. "Are you saying you're smarter than me? Better than me? You better not be saying your kids are better than my kids..." No. I'm not comparing my children or myself to anybody else. I'm just looking at the whole picture of what makes these kids tick.

I went to a conference for parents of gifted children yesterday and this is what I learned: they are average... but with gifts. They may develop asynchronously, meaning their intellectual and analytical capacity may be that of a 12-year-old while their emotional capacity may be that of a five-year-old while they are living in a seven-year-old's body. They are complicated and intense. So, so intense. So wearyingly intense and so difficult to parent effectively.

Parenting these kids makes me feel as smart as the concrete foundation on my house. I always feel that I'm not doing enough (I'm not!) and there is always so much more to do. It's hard. It's tiring. And now we're throwing the possibility of autism into the mix. I hate labels, but I want to understand my kids better. If that means we have to slap a label of "autistic" on one of them to comprehend how his mind works, fine.

And you know what else it means? If this is what Asperger's looks like, I wouldn't trade it away. This child of mine is full of sunshine and joy and tells me, "Mom, I love you" about two dozen times a day. He is a delight and I love him exactly as he is, even when he's driving me around the bend. If this is what autism looks like, other parents would be lucky to have a child like mine.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Love Love Love

I've been waiting for that moment to come--that moment when I realize I've started taking my baby daughter for granted. That moment when she has simply been assimilated into the madness that is my family. That moment when I have had it Up. To. Here. with Yet. Another. Poopie. Diaper.

Still waiting.

I still cry when I look at her. I still can't believe any person could be this sweet and this loving. I still tiptoe into her room when she's asleep to just make sure she's still breathing. She is still the most beautiful thing in the world. She still makes her brothers smile, even when I've made them frown.

She is magical.

And I love her.

~ ~ ~

Speaking of love love love, I went to the store today and bought some adorable little Valentine's Day items. A rug for our entryway, heart-shaped erasers, stickers, an owl-shaped Valentine's Day apron that Eden will adore when she's a bit older, and little $1 mailboxes that are irresistible! I'm going to decorate the mailboxes, fill them up with treats and a love letter from Mom and surprise the kids with them on February 14th. Kind of like an Easter basket or Christmas stocking ... for Valentine's Day. I can't wait!

Last year, we did homemade valentines for the kids to give their classmates and it was lots of fun! Err, well the design process was fun--cranking out 80 handcrafted valentines during the week my Obstetrician told me I better "take it easy" because my blood pressure was going up was ... not really very fun at all. But I've mostly forgotten the details of how not-fun it was. There is just a vague sense of, "Hmm ... Wasn't that stressful? I'm sure it wasn't THAT bad!"

So I'm going to do it again. Designing valentines can be so creative. Last year we did little bags of candy with a paper topper stapled to it:

This year, I found some cute little heart-shaped boxes at Target that are 8/$1. I bought one package (8) and will try to talk one of the kids into that idea after school. We can put a little customized sticker on top and treats inside. Voila! Easy and unique! Still mulling other ideas over and I'll definitely let the kids make the final choice. It should be fun! (By which I mean the design process will be fun...)

I'm feeling a bit addicted to Valentine's Day right now. I love that it is about the whole family when you have kids. It's always been overlooked in our family because it's the week before all three of my boys' birthdays. This year, though, we're doing things right so I need more ideas. What are your family traditions for the big day?