I remember what I learn if I write it down in my own style in my own words that’s how I learn. I don’t like groups, socializing is its own struggle. Just me, the pencil, the blank notebook, a small hand held pencil sharpener and the source from which to learn. Writing to learn, writing to think, writing to share, writing is my connection to the world.
Sixteen years ago, my dream of being a writer slipped through my fingers.The winter of 2000 I was taking a writing class at my local community college. I had an article, describing the special challenge of having two autistic sons. I’d already submitted it to a magazine and gotten back a positive response. But I needed to focus more emphasis on what works, the note said.
It didn’t sound too hard but it ended up being impossible for two unexpected reasons.
First, I wanted to talk it over with my writing teacher, to make sure I understood what was wanted and get her advice on how to do it. My professor got hit with medical problems, she needed eye surgery. What was supposed to only take a few weeks, took months and no experienced substitute for the class was found.
Second though and far more devastating was my third and most invasive visit by protective services. There were two women, one much bigger and stronger looking than the other. Somehow you can feel it when you see two, they are preparing to take the children away immediately. I still don’t know how I got through that one. When they plan to take the kids away, they ask to see everything, even if it has nothing to do with the original accusation. They asked to see the inside of my refrigerator and kitchen cabinets, my linen closet, garage, everything. More than what they asked to see was the way they looked at everything, examined it, judged it, looked at each other and nodded when they found anything they might use against me. I had no idea what it was about, when they said they needed to talk to my daughter, alone.
It turned out it was all because of a misconstrued comment by my ex-boyfriend who hadn’t been around for months. He was quoted as saying my garage was used as “time-out” by my kids. Well, knowing this boyfriend I recognized the statement. He’d said it to me. By time-out he meant a place to take a break of their own free will and jump on the old mattress that had been in there. Time-out in the usage I had grown-up with where you need a breather playing tag or some other game, make a T with your hands and say “time-out.”
Ironically, I’ve never used time-out as the punishment some do because I feel the old fashioned “go to your room,” is far more fair. The point of “time-out” is to give the child a chance to take a break and calm themselves. How is the child supposed to work off their energy and frustration being made to sit in a chair with you watching? In going to their room, the child is allowed the dignity of being able to throw their toys, punch pillows or talk to their teddies in private. I rarely sent my children to their rooms but my daughter made the most of it by loudly telling her stuffed animals how unfair I was.
Sadly I had to admit that it did make it sound like I was locking the children in the garage. I had closed up the garage after my boyfriend left because I didn’t like the children playing there without supervision. The padlock I had placed on the double doors was incriminating. If my daughter, my seven year old daughter, had not been able to tell the workers that it wasn’t true . . .
She said she had a hard time not laughing. I am well known, by those who do know me, for being far too lenient in the matter of discipline. She knew I was the last person in the world who would do such a thing.
But the incident left me feeling violated and paranoid. My children became the last thing I wanted to have anyone read about. Sixteen years it’s taken to come back and try again to connect with the world through writing.