Posted in Spring 2016, Uncategorized

Who Is the Real Child?

Childhood

 To grow up, you must first be a child.- me

I understand that this is a place where different cultures have very different ideas. My Kurdish friend has told me that at the age of ten a child is considered an adult. This does help explain how at thirteen he was married to his eleven year-old cousin. I have also heard that in Japan a child is protected by the gods until they are seven. I would like to believe that this deters abuse of the very young. Lastly it is my understanding that those who are Jewish become adults at the age of thirteen. Son’s have a Bar Mitsvah and daughter’s a Bat Mitsvah to celebrate their coming of age. But I can not judge is this good or bad compared with my own culture without running straight into the question, what does it mean to be grown-up?

Again and my ex-husband would make fun of me, asking “Are you the parent or the child?” Each time it highlighted the difference between the two of us, what we considered to be adult behavior. He seemed to think that being an adult meant that you could do whatever you wanted. Go out to bars, race cars, drink, smoke, tell children what to do and punish them however you liked if you felt like it. I saw being an adult as a responsibility. It meant being careful of what you said and did, thinking about others , your family and community first and yourself second. To me, childhood was the time to make mistakes and trust that your family would teach you gently how to fix your mistakes. Being a parent, has always meant first, to love and protect, second to teach and test. This is how I always believed that the good parent taught their child how to be a grown-up. Hitting a child made no sense, all it can teach is to solve problems with violence instead of intelligence.

Just this morning, I was saddened watching a show where a father spoke of how he chose to teach his daughter not to lie by burning her with a hot iron on the foot. She had been only seven and still had the mark as an adult. I have known many six, seven and eight year old who “told tales” as I prefer to put it and in studying psychology it is generally accepted that young children don’t lie on purpose, rather they don’t always know what is real and what isn’t. A week ago on the bus, a little girl accused her mother of hitting her just after the bus made a sharp turn and the girl had fallen into her mother’s arm. Sitting across from them I could easily see how the child had misinterpreted the event. She suddenly found her mother’s arm pressed against her for no reason, that she knew of , (at three, the laws of physics and momentum were beyond her comprehension.) So she assumed the cause to be something she was familiar with, being hit. If only learning the different levels of children’s psychological development was more widely taught, perhaps fewer parents would feel the need to use force to teach their children.

I have never met a child who did not want to learn, only children overwhelmed by having to learn what they were not ready for or bored when they weren’t able to explore the questions that most intrigued them.

“This is how we learn,” is my favorite saying for when things go wrong. To me being a grown-up means accepting problems not as somebody else’s fault but as a challenge. Problem’s are my chance to test myself and see just how grown-up I can be. They are my chance to find solutions and lessons to learn from. When I tell my kids I don’t know something or that I made a mistake, I am teaching them the importance of honesty and integrity. No rod can do that!

I think that is the most important lesson for a child to learn so they will be ready to grow up. They must learn that nobody knows everything and we all make mistakes no matter our age. In my book, those who admit to the truth and try to fix their mistakes will always be the real grown-ups and those who lie and blame others, the real children.

Posted in Spring 2016, Uncategorized

Lost People

Fog

She said it was foggy the night they met. She said that she was attracted to him from that first meeting. When he left and was gone for a year, she missed him everyday. Nobody else had made her feel that way.

I thought it was appropriate they met in the fog. He had so many secrets. I thought it was strange to hear her speak sentimentally. She was coldly scientific, normally. It was strange to think they had ever connected. They seemed like total opposites to me.

But I only knew them after the worst. To have a child kill themselves, what parent wouldn’t be changed? I only knew them after, my mom and dad. I will always wonder who they were before, when they met in the fog.

Posted in Spring 2016, Uncategorized

How to Fake Courage

Fake

It was my favorite of Grandpa’s stories, how he faced a charging bull. It is also the story I have found the most valuable. He was quite matter of fact about it. He was visiting a farm with a group of fellow agriculture students, when an angry bull charged him. He said the other students all made such a big deal of how he faced the bull without flinching. To him it was a simple matter of common sense. He knew if he moved, the bull would kill him, so he stood still, faced the bull and walked away unharmed. It had nothing to do with courage he said, it was just common sense.

In my own life I have found again and again that the moments when other people thought I was the most brave, those were the moments when I was most afraid. Those were the moments when I was most certain that if I flinched I would lose everything. Whenever I get complemented on it, I think of my Grandpa and the bull. Was it fake courage that saved him? Can you really fake courage?

Once when I went to observe an autistic classroom, that someone had suggested my son join, I witnessed the worst . . . management I had yet witnessed. To the untrained it might have looked okay, but I was trained and experienced. I knew exactly what they were dong wrong, ignoring good behavior, rewarding bad behavior, showing obvious frustration if the students didn’t understand. And the students definitely didn’t understand. Worst of all they punished those who  tried hardest and got frustrated, by threatening to take away recess time.

My heart felt for the poor untrained teacher and aides trying so hard to put on a good “show.” But not enough to forgive them for physically dragging one boy out from under a table where he had gone to hide in pain after being punished for not understanding. He had genuinely tried to comply with the wishes of the teacher and aides but clearly couldn’t understand what the concept of rhyming was. Again and again he tried to give them the “right” answer, repeating their example answers not understanding why they wouldn’t just tell him the answer. Meanwhile the class Bully, yelled, kicked and hit things randomly to terrify his fellow students. Even after he had been put in a “kindergarten chair” (a seat similar to a large high chair where children are strapped in with a tray across the front) he continued to act out, the bully was still able to move himself, chair and all, making even more noise as he kicked and bounced aggressively at teacher, aides and the other students, especially the one who had tried to hide under the table to cry.

Even if the other boys had known what rhyming was, I can not imagine how any autistic child would be able to concentrate with such a disruption. Normal children would not have been able to ignore it. Eventually they had no choice but to take the Bully from the room and take him for a walk (obviously what he had wanted all along.) But oh my! He had jiggled the screws of the chair so that they couldn’t get him out for several minutes. It boggled my mind, the class and teachers had gone from using questionable and controversial techniques (kindergarten chairs and physically dragging a student) to outright safety violations (having a person strapped in to something they could not be quickly removed from in case of fire.) This was the best classroom they could offer my son?

Once freed, the Bully raced around the class room, grinning, yelling wildly, knocking things to the floor and making every single person in the room flinch. Everyone but me, when we locked eyes, he saw no fear. For a split second he stopped rampaging, stepped back and just stood there surprised by my calm, then he took the had of a shaken aide and left.

My guide, the School District’s Autistic Advisor was trembling. I said nothing. There were too many things wrong for me to even begin to know what to say. Besides I would feel I was a hypocrite to suggest that I knew what was best for other people’s children. All I wanted was to have my right, to raise my children as I felt was best, respected. In return I have to respect other parents rights.

Still the moment of meeting eyes with the Bully stayed with me. All the teacher’s and aides were trying to fake courage and failing. I think that with the District Advisor there, they were afraid for their jobs as well as the Bully.  As for the boy, I couldn’t blame him for being the way he was. He acted out, he got rewarded for it. People were afraid of him, so he gave them reason to fear.

Would it help them to know the story of my Grandpa and the bull? Or what about those famous words of Franklin Roosevelt, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” That was when I realized you can’t fake courage, without wisdom. When the boy looked at me I honestly didn’t care if he attacked me, to me he was just a raging bull, acting on instinct. Not only was I far too shocked by the behavior of the adults in the classroom to bother feeling anything personal about him, but also because I’d faced a raging bull many times before, in the form of my moderately autistic son, and I’d learned never react to bad behavior like it’s anything more serious than falling rain. When rain falls you don’t stand there and yell at clouds, you go inside. And always reward good behavior even if all you can give is a smile. It can make all the difference.

It was my knowledge and acceptance of human behavior that made me appear brave, just as it was my Grandfather’s knowledge and acceptance of animal behavior that saved him. That is how you fake courage, with knowledge and acceptance.

Posted in Spring 2016, Uncategorized

Her True Self

Breath

when doing yoga

she struggled to feel her breath

fully from inside

 

then at a retreat

during some self-hypnosis

she saw a young child

 

who saw colors float

who got lost in touching things

who loved to bounce

 

she started sobbing

with a deafening ringing

sounding in her ears

 

she could barely speak

people overwhelmed her

air tickled her arms

 

she found the bathroom

and looked in the mirror

there she was the child

 

Her true inner self

someone she had forgotten

whom she could not be

 

the fear of death

taught her it was dangerous

to be her true self

 

who saw colors float

who got lost in touching things

who loved to bounce

 

that girl stopped there

donned a protective mask

and forgot herself

 

now in the mirror

she saw herself still alive

eyes drank in the sight

 

then for the first time

in twenty-five lonely years

she felt herself breathe

Posted in Uncategorized

Incompetence

I have been having a hard time writing since receiving a call from a collections company last Friday. I know I am not alone in losing my temper trying to be heard by a big company so I thought I’d share.  Here is the heart of my letter. ( At least this way I have some proof of the date I disputed this.) Hopefully letting this out will help me get back on track with my blog. Thanks.

To Whom It May Concern:

I am so furious about this bill I can not trust myself to speak about it intelligibly on the phone. Each day since Credence collection agency called I have found it harder to carry on with my writing, knowing that I have to try to put into words how upset I am about AT&T’s treatment of my account. Yes! I dispute this bill. This whole incident has been the result of such repeated incompetence it boggles my mind how AT&T can have any hope of remaining in business  with this kind of incompetent service.

First I never should have been signed up.

The sales lady never should have signed me up for this service in the first place. I told her right from the start that I did not want DSL. I’d had too many problems with it in the past. I told her I didn’t know what I wanted as long as it was not DSL. I tried to explain to her that the reason I didn’t want DSL was because we had not had properly working phone lines in our house in years, but she kept interrupting me saying I should have no problem setting it up. She did not work directly for AT&T so I can’t blame them for her mistake but . . .

Second the AT&T sales representative should have seen my problem ahead of time. Later while waiting for my internet to be hooked up, I called to cancel the bad phone service that I had been sick of paying for to keep our old DSL running, I did tell the AT&T representative all about our bad phone service and how if AT&T service had ever answered my calls and dealt with the problems two years ago instead of having me leave phone messages on their computer answering system that were never followed up on, I might be interested in other services with them. I thought for once I was being heard and listened to, but NO, not only did the man not warn me that AT&T internet was DSL and would need to use those phone lines that didn’t work, but he actually tried to sell me more services!!!!!

Thirdly the installer left without saying if it was or was not set up.

When the package arrived with my modem the night before installation I saw that it was DSL. I was very worried. We desperately needed our internet back so my daughter, the only wage-earner in my household could do her work online. She already had to take a week off while we waited for AT&T to schedule a hook-up. I spent the night praying the worker who arrived the next day would find a way to make things work. He did not. He arrived early that afternoon, and not wanting to waste his time anymore than necessary, I explained the problem. He assured me he would get it working, though he looked worried. He said he was working with someone else at the nearest large intersection to our house, because they couldn’t seem to get the phone line to work there yet, much less at our house. I explained to him how I had had to rig the line straight from the box since none of the internal phone jacks worked at all. He said it didn’t matter and got to work. If he ever got the phone lines to work at all I don’t know. After leaving and coming back several times, he disappeared at 4:30pm and never returned. He never said a word to me as to whether he had any success whatsoever. He did replace our box though, with one that lacked an opening so that even if he had gotten the lines to work there would be no way to rig the phone line as I had before. Still I was desperate, I tried to set up the modem outside (the weather was clear and warm.) It did not work, the phone line light never lit up. So far as could tell the phone line still did not work at all.

Fourth, you should have realized something was wrong when not only did I not set up any account online but I sent the modem back. I called a AT&T to cancel service the first thing the very next day and I boxed up the modem and returned it by UPS as instructed . AT&T never gave me any paperwork to describe their terms of service nor cancellation policy beyond the instructions for returning their modem so as far as I knew the account was closed.

After all any responsible business would have noticed that I never set up my internet account, used the service, nor did I sign any papers for the installation that failed.

Lastly, I called in early November to ask if there were any charges for the failed installation. I talked with a person who was surprised to learn that I had cancelled my account, but he assured me, after I had explained in detail all the problems, that since I had cancelled within the first 30 days, there was no charge.

Unfortunately, when I received this bill the end of November, I had broken my right shoulder and could not use my right hand even to type up an explanation like this and I really couldn’t see the point in calling. Calling hadn’t helped at all. I kept praying eventually some person at this company would take the time to notice that I never received any service. It was a ridiculous hope I admit, but I continue to chose to believe there are ethical people in this world who want to do a good job. Apparently none of them ever looked into my account.

When I saw the collection notice from Creedence, I felt sorry for them. I apologized on the phone to the operator. Unfortunately he seemed to think I would pay. It was tempting to do so, spending money I needed to pay for . . . trust me you don’t want to know. I am very poor, without the charitable kindness of others my family would not be able to stay together and care for my severely autistic son.

It is difficult enough to beg for money to take care of my family, but I will not beg to pay a company for wasting my time with their own incompetence. Besides what favor am I really doing you, by not speaking up to make you aware. YOU have a serious problem with communication in your customer service department. This account should never have gone to collections. I sincerely hope you fix not only my account but your own communications training for your employees. I should not have to call repeatedly to cancel a service I never received or used.

Thank you.