Monday, July 7, 2014

Parenting the Gifted: No limits on trouble.

An acquaintance told me earlier this week that with gifted kids, it seems there is no minimum age, nor maximum age, for any kind of trouble. I found that out myself, the hard way, last week. And, since this blog hop happens at the perfect time to share, I felt that you know, our story? Maybe it'll help others. Either for safety, or to feel less crappy about themselves. Either way, it's something I felt I needed to share.

Ages ago - just ages ago - I read a blog post about a little girl. She was three years old, and was crushed and killed under her little dresser. I have a climber of a child, and the first thing I did when I read this story was to check all my bookshelves. We have six different bookshelves in the house, and I had bolted them all to the walls before my son started walking. They were in tight, everything was okay.

Now at the time, I didn't think anything more of it. I didn't for years. Not until earlier this week. You see, I have a giant dresser in my bedroom. It, alone, weighs 140 pounds. It has a television on top of it, bumping that up to a good 200 (it's an old tube television!). Then, all the clothes in it. I didn't think much about it, after all, that's a HUGE dresser, and I can't move it by myself, how could a child? And even more, what nearly six year old child - especially one who loves logic as much as Mad Natter does - is climbing a dresser anyway?

That night, there was a bang. A HUGE bang, that sounded like someone had fallen down the stairs, even through headphones. Turns out, Mad Natter, while he was supposed to be using his hour in bed before lights out to read and play quietly, decided to try to climb up that dresser. It tipped. He fell, it fell on top of him, and the television hit his head on the way down.

Mercifully, the physics of the situation were in his favor. He fell next to the bed, and the dresser fell across the bed to the floor. He was pinned, yes, but by drawers alone, and not the full crushing weight of the dresser. The television knocked him on the head, giving him a goose egg and a scrape... then rolled off to the side. Skeeve lifted the dresser off our precious son, while I dragged him out from underneath. He was conscious, but obviously very shaken up. I checked him over for injury. He seemed fine, but very sedate. I called my mother - does he need to see someone NOW, or will the morning be early enough? We took him in to emerg, just to be safe.

Mercifully, he has come out of this with two scrapes, one scratch, and a few bruises. No broken bones, no concussion.

This is all I needed. This is the "huge" investment of time and money we needed to make this dresser safe. It cost me $7.30 after tax, and thinking we were safe and not spending that $7? It nearly cost my son his life. I thought we were safe. I thought there was no way he could ever knock over that dresser. It was well over 200 pounds! He's not even 6 yet, and barely over 45 pounds soaking wet! It didn't matter.

We're all readers here - and likely parents. Please. Take my experience to heart, I beg you. For under $10 and 15 minutes per, you can anchor your bookcases - and dressers -  to the wall. You can keep your most precious creations from tragic ends - no matter how old they are. Anchor the bookcases. Anchor your dresser. That piece of furniture in that room your kids never go in? Anchor that too. Please. Let my experience be the closest you ever come to this kind of disaster. Raise your precocious, and keep them safe.  Remember, with children like this?  There is no minimum age for disaster... but there isn't a maximum, either.


This post has been a part of the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum's July Blog Hop: Gifted Parenting.  To read more viewpoints on the topic, check the sidebar, or click here!


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Video Games and Yellow Blankets

I have memories, beautiful memories, of a big yellow fleece-ish picnic blanket, it had satiny-lined edges with zig-zag stitching, and I'd go out in the summer, put out that big yellow blanket on the dark green grass, and park myself there all day.  I'd have a drink, and a book or four, and that was the place to find me.  I miss it.  Even thinking of it is peaceful, and I am suddenly left with the desire to share that experience with Mad Natter.  Except... the big yellow blanket is twenty years gone, and my child would sooner nail his foot to the pavement than hold still long enough to read a book.

No, this year... Summer reading for me is an air conditioned bedroom long after bedtime, reading an old favorite or possibly an ARC for a beloved author....  And for Mad Natter, it's both 'work' and play.  We run school year round over here.  We take our breaks when we want them, for as long as we need them, but we do have school days in July and August as well as most of the rest of the months of the year.  So, yes, some summer reading will be assigned, but...

Summertime is perfect for stealth reading. We go out for walks, and Mad Natter reads the signs to me.  We go for hikes, and he has to read the trail markers.  His free time spent playing video games?  All involve reading - at least the menus, and usually the dialog as well.  Now that he's gotten truly into Minecraft, he's found the Minecraft Manuals.  He got the Creations Manual not long ago, and pores over it daily.  He still enjoys his TAG, which reads books to him, but he's starting to enjoy reading stories to me, as well.  And so, while it's not the reading of my own childhood, I'm going to say it's still a wonderful thing. 

We have a trip coming up - in the next few days, actually.  As we travel, there will be road signs, storefronts, highway notifications, and a car full of books.  I have hope that maybe some of these will buy me a few moments' peace, though I kind of doubt it.  But hey, at least he's reading - and all reading is good reading, especially for a five year old boy.

This blog is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page inaugural Blog Hop on Summer Reading.  To read more blogs in this hop, visit this Blog Hop at www.hoagiesgifted.org/blog_hop_summer_reading.htm

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Twice Exceptionality, when just one exception isn’t enough!

Giftedness.  It's a pretty known phenomena.  People don't like to admit it exists, because egalitarianism, but everyone knows it does, deep down.  That some people are just crazy smart.  But they don't know any of those people.  Nope.  Like foxes. Everyone knows foxes exist, and can generally recognize them if they need to, but nobody ever sees one in the wild.

Twice-exceptionality...  Everyone recognizes a fox on sight, generally. But when asked, does anyone know what the fox really says?  (I guarantee you that most gifted

and twice-exceptional kids do know what a fox says - if they're interested in animals, anyhow.)  That's the 2E - that fox's voice.  When you tell anyone that your child is twice exceptional, the first response is usually "oh... ouch."  This is largely because the only people you're really telling are people who also have 2E children, and they've come to your house bearing booze and cupcakes on a really crummy day.
Talking to professionals...  That is much less easy.  Mad Natter has a secondary diagnosis, and we are looking into a tertiary as well.  Skeeve and I both have executive function issues, and it looks like in addition to smarts, we've passed on a few other things.  Telling any care providers that we suspect Mad Natter is twice-exceptional usually goes over like a lead balloon.  Why?  Because most people have barely studied up on giftedness, much less twice-exceptionality - and care providers, like everyone else, doesn't like to have someone pop up in their office and know more about a topic they are seeking advice for than the person they're seeking that advice from.  So far, it has resulted in "boys will be boys," and 24h turnaround on an appointment for me, plus "well, we'll see..." and "what makes you think he's gifted?"  The automatic response is to put us on the defensive, having to justify that a 5 year old reading (and comprehending) chapter books, but utterly unable to focus for more than a minute or two at a time, is having challenges.

Mad Natter does not officially have the third diagnosis.  However, as every practitioner has shooed us out their door, telling us to return when Mad Natter is seven years old, they hand us paperwork.  Every time it's the same paperwork.  Sometimes it's two different things - one sensory - confirming to us that there is something valid in our armchair diagnosis... but no one is willing to assess for another year and change.  No matter the urgency, no matter the obvious support we bring in for that assessment and the potential diagnosis, we are getting the brush off.  He'll be fine until he's seven.  He's gifted. 

The question I'm left with is "am I seeing blowback because I dare identify myself and my child as gifted? Or am I seeing it because I'm implying that gifted children might not be 100% people-pleasers, easy children, eager learners who want nothing more than a stack of worksheets to do over an ice cream breakfast?"

Because, you see...  The twice-exceptional tend to be invisible.  They're marginalized in the classroom, under the insistence their "behavior issues" come "under control" before they are accelerated - often making their acting out worse, because of utter boredom.  They're marginalized by professionals, who have little training on the gifted population, and don't understand how gifted intensity can either mask other issues, or intensify them.  They're side-eyed in public, because they're simultaneously incredibly intense and curious... and also just inherently... 'odd.' They approach things so very differently, and are less able to mask their inherent differences, and so they... for lack of a better phrase, they 'feel' odd to others.

Trying to make the appropriate care decisions for a complicated child, understood by neither general society nor his care practitioners is exceedingly difficult.  Being brushed off time and again when you're bringing a valid concern forward is frustrating, disheartening, and maddening.  Knowing what is likely helpful for your child, and being denied the opportunity to find out if this is the case?  See above.  Knowing that if this were any other child, this would have been determined and care would be much simpler is just defeating.

Twice exceptional children (and adults!) are real.  They're out in the world at large. And when you find others, you will find help - or at least someone to listen, and bring you booze and cupcakes when you need 'em.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Welcome to the 2014 Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour! 


The Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour holds a very special place in my heart.  You see, it was the 2012 tour that led me to this post from The Younger Mrs Warde at Sceleratus Classical Academy at exactly the time I needed that post.  Two years later, I am still grateful to call Mrs Warde my friend, and at this point, a partner in crime.  That led me to Twitter's #gtchat, which led me to the Gifted Homeschooler's Forum, and to Jen, and Pamela, and Amy, and Mona...  But, I digress.

Parenting a gifted child can sometimes be as challenging as it is rewarding. That’s why for the third year in row, parents from The Well Trained Mind Message boards have created a blog tour to share wisd
om, joy, tribulations and advice. The Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour will discuss some of the most pertinent issues facing gifted education today:

On June 22nd Sceleratus Classical Academy will kick off our tour with “How a Gifted Childhood Prepared Me for Gifted Parenting”.

On June 23rd At Home in the North Woods will share “Great Expectations, four ideas for dealing with perfectionism.”

On June 24th Homeschooling: or Who’s Ever Home will write about “Following the Passions of the Gifted Child."

On June 25th Teaching My Baby to Read will feature a guest post.

On June 26th Homeschooling Hatters will discuss “Twice Exceptionality, when just one exception isn’t enough!”

On June 27th Teaching My Baby to Read will write about “Intensity Fades but doesn’t Forget.”

 A difficult thing to understand about children with high IQs is that just because they are gifted, it doesn’t mean they are easy to teach or parent. In fact, often times the opposite is true. This blog tour is written by people who understand what you’re going through. We are sending encouragement your way! So the next time you wake up at 3 AM worrying about your child, at least you’ll know that you aren’t alone.Thanks for being with us on this journey! P.S. There are still room for more posts, so if you have something on your heart that you would like to share, please email Jenny via Teachingmybabytoread at gmail dot com.For previous tours, click on the links below:


Planning Ahead

It's always nice to have a plan.  It's easier to keep tabs of what's going on if you know where you're headed.  The problem I have right now, though, is that while most homeschoolers have a plan - after grade 1 comes grade 2, and after that comes grade 3 - I really can't plan like that. What I've learned this year, working our way through subjects linearly, and at Mad Natter's pace, is that Mad Natter will finish a year's curriculum in between three and six months time.

Now, in general, I don't have any issue with this.  But thinking longer term, I need to sort out what I want to do.  Do I want to continue accelerating him, allowing him free reign to work at his own speed, or do I want to work on giving more depth to his topics - things like additional science experiments, more books for reading, more exploration for history...  Both ways have their advantages, not the least of which being that I can use the library extensively for creating depth, but I can't do that quite as well for acceleration, and by extension, there is less money spent on that option as well.  The problem is... How does one find (for example) accurate anatomy texts for a five year old?  Accurate texts exist, but he's not (and I'm definitely not) ready for discussion of fetal pigs, so... Where do you find resources both accurate and current as well as appropriate?

Needless to say, this is a discussion I've brought Skeeve into.  He needs to be involved in this as well - even though his input generally boils down to "well, whatever you think will work..."  It's nice to have a sounding board, it helps me to talk out my ideas.  So, while these conversations usually are "well, you know what you need to do to stay sane, Mad Natter hates repetition..." followed by my objections to both sides (money on one, and my time on the other), and his looking at me like "dude, your time PLUS the frustration of Mad Natter digging in his heels over the repetition!!" it's generally helpful for me to have them.

Who needs a tee?
So, as much as I want to take my time and explore the animal kingdom, the contents of outer space, memorization of basic math facts, sweet little short stories, and fun finger plays with my little boy...  I have to recognize that he doesn't want to take time.  Time spent reviewing is time wasted - he could be spending that time working on something NEW.  Mad Natter has never been one to take anything slowly.  As soon as he figured out he could roll, he went for hands and knees - then to crawl, and then to pull up and stand, and then walk... all within about a five month span - he learned to roll around four months old, and was walking (not well, but he was trying, dangit!) by 9 months, so I'm not sure why this surprises me.his education, and not mine - no matter how much he may teach me - and his voice should be the one honored above others.  This is how there get to be five year old fourth graders, you know.
And honestly, this is, in the end,

Monday, May 19, 2014

Herding Cats: Trying to Manage the Insanity

I've been kicking this post around an awful lot recently.  I've known this blog hop was coming, and I thought I maybe had some good ideas to share.  Inevitably that's where things take a definitive left-turn - which is exactly what happened.  I'm looking at the topic for this hop, and honestly?  I'm anxious to see what everyone else has to say, because I'm about set to rip out my hair over here.

But, as I stopped to really think about it, I've realized there are a bunch of things we already do - things that might help other families.  And so, here we are again, full circle, with a bunch of suggestions for things that will hopefully help other people.

Tips and Tricks From Our House:

1) Routine.  In our house, routine is *essential.*  Not the scheduled to death, what time am I allowed to pee kind of routine, but...  We wake up in the morning, cuddle, get dressed and have breakfast.  Then we watch  Magic School Bus or Bill Nye The Science Guy, do our schoolwork, have lunch, and have free play.  On sunny days we go outside, on gross days we watch a movie.  I start dinner while Mad Natter plays whatever games he wants to play, then the TV goes off from dinner until bedtime at 7:30.  Lots of time to change things up, but there's also a sense of knowing what comes next day to day.

2) Physical activity.  My life is SO much easier when Mad Natter has had time to get out of the house and run.  Or run through the house even.  Jump on his trampoline - ANYTHING.  If he's able to burn off some of his excess energy, it makes a giant difference in how our day is going to go.

3) Scheduled breaks: In our homeschool day, I have set aside break times.  Math, which is usually his most mentally stimulating subject, is followed *immediately* by jumping on his trampoline.  Then we do handwriting and spelling.  Since spelling also takes sustained mental effort, it is followed by stretching.  After stretching is (depending on the day) a science experiment, history, or logic - all of which are considered "fun" subjects, and then we have reading.  Reading is followed by a 6m flat dash through the house to the Lone Ranger Theme.  It helps keep him from exploding along the way, and I'll take anything that helps there.

4) Anticipation.  This is one I learned over long times of failing.  I have to anticipate overwhelm, melting down, impulsiveness, and sensory needs - this means that when I go out, I have my big Blackhawks shoulder bag with me.  This has a ton of happy meal toys (they have to go somewhere!), a sensory brush, a book, a drink, a snack, coloring pages, a couple pull ups and a spare pair of pants inside, because every trip out of the house has to be planned like a war without that bag.  It ensures I have the tools to cope with most possible needs Mad Natter could have in a public space that aren't immediately easily met.  Things like reactive hypoglycemia. "Mooo-om, I'm thirsty!" Forgetting until the last minute that I can't read minds and whoops, potty-mergency.  Need to put him in the cart so I can actually move through the store without his pulling everything off shelves, or running off into the mall, here's something to DO while you're sitting.  I also have learned that a grown up jacket does well as a makeshift tent over the end of a department store cart, as is allowing Mad Natter to "steer" the cart - he can sit in the basket and imperiously point to where we need to go.

Of all the possible things to have in terms of tips, I find anticipation is the big one.  If I can head off a meltdown, the entire rest of the day goes much more smoothly.  If I forget my bag... I'd better be under five minutes in the store, 'cause otherwise I'm going to regret not having it, and wish I'd turned around for it.


You'll notice I have very little in tips and tricks for focus, and a lot for energy.  This is because it has been extremely easy for us to find ideas for how to cope with Mad Natter's sensory issues and his inexhaustible energy.  What has been less easy has been things like finding ways to deal with his inability to focus on one task from start to finish, his inability to listen to a full set of instructions (even if the instructions are "read the addition equation.  Use the same numbers to make a subtraction equation"), and his sudden flip from fine to R.A.G.E.  When you have a young boy with suspected 2E issues relating to things like ADHD, it is neigh impossible to find the resources you need to help.  Or, at least, it has been in our experience.  Every doctor we've seen has either misdiagnosed, or told us to come back when he's seven. They send us out of their offices with information on ADHD, but not anything to do with how to manage what they seem to be quietly telling me without pulling out all my hair before Mad Natter reaches seven.  It's been a matter of observation to get this far.  Getting farther...  That seems to be my challenge, and I'm truly hoping there is someone else out there (maybe even on this hop!) who has been right where I'm standing and can pass along some tips and tricks of their own to ensure that I am not putting away more wine than is good for... well, two or three of me.  ^_~

This post has been a part of the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum's May Blog Hop: Tips, Toys, Tricks, and Tools for Gifted and Twice Exceptional Kids.  Please check out the other bloggers on the tour - they have a wealth of great advice!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Grief and the Gifted.

I did one just like this ages ago when Mad Natter was still my Monkey, and my uncle passed away - so, a year ago now.  Almost precisely.

Now it's my turn.  This past week, my circle of homeschooling families around the world was rocked by a tragedy in which one of us lost her young son - the same age as Mad Natter.  This alone is an unbelievable tragedy, particularly in light of the fact that this little boy's elder sibling escaped the tragedy that killed the younger, meaning mother very nearly lost both.  Being on the outskirts of this, I was mostly able to keep a distance from it, knowing how these things effect me.  It was very difficult to sleep, particularly once it occurred to me what the child must have gone through.  But, I was going to be okay.

The following day, Mad Natter started a new spiral of intensity.  Each of these lasts about two weeks, and by the end has me wondering if I'm maybe not supposed to be a mother after all.  It's extremely intense (obviously), stressful, and it tears at the very fabric of our family, trying to keep everything together well enough to actually parent... and exist as a person simultaneously.

Then the day after that, I found out that a woman I'd known the last five plus years had passed away.  Nobody knows when, why, how, anything.  We have a vague guesstimate range, we know that the police have contacted her mother, but nothing more.  With no answers, not even to the basic fundamental question "what happened?" I have been a wreck.  Dealing with the intensity spiral plus the death of a little one was going to be difficult.  Add in losing a friend, and I'm now sunk.

I can feel it happening.  My imaginational OE kicked in the first night, as I was picturing scenarios without intent.  I was trying to sleep, but I kept thinking what this poor little boy must have gone through.  How it would be fortunate if he'd knocked himself unconscious in the escape attempt... oh, but if he did, he might have been able to escape if he hadn't.  Over and over, my mind went through scenarios, and by 4:30 in the morning, I was so exhausted and wrung out and unable to sleep that I dragged (literally, as he was a foot over my head) Mad Natter out of his bed, put him in mine, and was finally able to rest.  During the following day, there was exhaustion of course, but also a very sharp increase in my perfectionism.  I needed things to be just right, so I could internally deal with what was going on.  But things weren't just right.  With Mad Natter in the picture, things are never just so.

That night, I was going to be okay. Mad Natter crawled into bed with me just because, I finished reading a good book... and then I looked on Facebook, just to make sure.  Only... Something was odd.  On Tuesday, a friend of mine had been posting, and she put up a batman/catman pic that made me laugh and share... and that night people were posting sentimental goodbyes.  Excuse me?  I panicked.  I wrote, apologizing for being creepifying, but what the heck?  And then did some digging while I waited.  I found out about 4 in the morning, again, that a friend had passed away.  I'm not going to pretend I'm some kind of super-friend and that everyone I meet is the closest friend I've ever had.  I knew Poxy casually, and over the course of five plus years.  For a person like me - who usually has only three to five "friends" and a whole ton of acquaintances - though, being a passing friend is closer than it seems.

BAM. Intellectual OE in overdrive.  When? What happened? How? How *could* this happen? She was only 31, how do you die at 31?!  The next several hours were spent looking through police blotters, google searching, and trying to find anything there was to find to help me understand.  But there was nothing to find.  My mind is spiraling.  I can't find anything, but I need to.  I can't stop imagining, but I need to.  I can't stop the overwhelm that is tugging at my heels, but I need to.  And the first two combine to make the overwhelm even worse, and if I'm very lucky, I'll be able to unwind enough over the next few days to be actually able to function in the next week.

Grief winds me tight. My OEs kick in, and they run in circles, never fully satisfied even under the best scenarios, and my edges start to fray.  And then there is the stress of raising a child even slightly outside "the norm" and the bindings I use to keep myself within an 'average' range start to split, and I feel like I'm going to fly apart, and I don't know how to handle it, or how to make things better.  And what's all the more difficult is that there really isn't a way to make it all better. I just have to ride it out, try to meet the needs those OEs kick up, and hope like hell I can get myself back to reasonable before I have to deal with people in society again.  Maybe I'll play a quick game or two, turn on a movie for Mad Natter, and read a book until I have to cook dinner.  At this point, anything that helps will be welcomed.  Just until I get back into my own variation of normal.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The G Word.

We all know "those" words.  The F-word.  The S-word. "He-double-hockey-sticks." There are as many different ones as their are families, and as there are creative ways to swear.  What I didn't expect was to spend most of my adult life trying to skirt around one of my own.

The G-Word.  There are people the world over who seem to have an off-the-cuff opinion on The G-Word.  They "know" it, and they either feel they can somehow disbelieve it (as if choosing not to believe in something impacts whether or not it exists), or feel they know enough about it to disparage it.  I often wonder, if we'd had another word, one that wasn't quite so loaded, one that made people look up what it is, and then treated them to ALL the disadvantages... Would we still have things like this?  Would people still choose to not believe? If looking up a term like... say "asynchronous learner" led to a list like this, would we still see people screaming about how "elitist" meeting a child's needs was?

Asynchronous Learners: 
Specialized learning needs

Frustration in classroom setting
Low self esteem
Underachievement
Increased rates of suicide
Increased rates of existential depression
Increased rates of depression and suicidal ideation
Rapid internalization of learning
Ostracization by peers
Potential for large amounts of excess: energy, imagination, sensory input, curiosity, emotional outburst
Potential for large discrepancies between chronological and behavioral age, fluctuating at any point

Seriously, do you think anyone would look at that list and shout "sign me up!"  Because that's the reality. We're dealing with children who have an awful lot of highly specialized needs, and who are marginalized on a daily basis.  Not only do these kids have to deal with people who believe they're exactly like everyone else, despite the fact that neurologically they are not at all, but they also have to learn to navigate the world while trying to meet their needs covertly.  They can't ask for what they need, that's elitist. They can't speak up about their challenges, that's bragging.

Then we have their parents.  They have those same challenges, plus the challenges of trying as hard as they can to raise these complex children... only to have their noses shoved in it daily.  "You know, he needs more than you can give him at home" is common, right along with "if you sent her to school, the other kids would take care of that..."  People don't know how hurtful these types of statements are.  In the first, if you can find a school that can give 1:1 student to teacher ratios, as well as individualized learning, and the ability to tailor learning to interests and abilities, that might be true. But right now, even small class sizes sit at 20 children to 1 teacher.  Individualized instruction is just not possible, and funding for these learners is minuscule at best, so finding the specialized classrooms is needle-in-haystack difficult.  In the second, you're advocating to let the other children in a classroom raise your child. This screams Lord of the Flies to me, which is never any kind of good.

The parents are stuck talking to each other in code. If it's another parent with this kind of child, they will understand.  If it isn't, you haven't just completely ruined your (and your child's!) social outlet. If it comes out that your child does something unusual, you often will hear things like "sure, Billy could read at three, but he's almost six now and can't tie his own shoes!"  Parents forced by social convention to cut down their own children so they aren't accused of bragging. So there's hope they, or their child, might make friends.  Because instead of knowing the full story about Giftedness (see? I said it!), people only know "very smart" and "prone to excel" and then extrapolate "teacher pleaser" and "excellent marks" from that, and suddenly there is no downside to being Gifted. It's just a gift. Something given to you, that has no drawbacks, like a free million dollars. And that couldn't be further from the truth.

This blog is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page inaugural Blog Hop on The “G” Word (“Gifted”).  To read more blogs in this hop, visit this Blog Hop at                                               www.hoagiesgifted.org/blog_hop_the_g_word.htm




Monday, April 21, 2014

The Care and Feeding of Your Gifted Child

Check out the rest of the hop!
Everyone says they wish kids came with a manual.  I always figured they kind of did - it was the "parenting" section of the bookstore!  I spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars in the months before Mad Natter was born, picking up every parenting book I could find that gelled even remotely with my sensibilities.  I still have the stack around here, largely because I'm terrible at getting rid of books - books are my Precious...  I needs them.  This is why I have three complete sets of Lord of the Rings in this house, along with four different versions of Dragonlance, and a LibraryThing account that has several hundred other books in it... plus all the homeschool books, gifted books, everything that isn't nailed down (in an area of interest, anyway)...  *ahem* I digress. I have books. A lot of them. I have a stack over two feet high of parenting, infant, and toddler books, all of which are wonderful resources for raising children.  Unless your child is an outlier.  I found quite quickly that the "birth to age two" books were best for me, because some things he'd be on a par with his month-age, and other things several months ahead, and those books covered that.  But once you get out of the three-to-four arena, there aren't those kinds of specialized books anymore, and you're SUNK if your kid isn't Joe Average.

Studying maple shoots in the sand at the park!
We've been to doctors. Pediatricians and family practitioners. We've been to psychiatrists, occupational therapists, and now social workers. We've been working on "What IS This" for the last three years, and only in the last three weeks have we seen anyone who would approach our (politely phrased) "intensity issues" from a holistic standpoint.  Not assessing individual behaviors based on a chronological ages and stages checklist, not rating "avg+ to LD" on a sliding scale, but willing to look at Mad Natter, at Skeeve, and at me, and take our family, and all the people in it - including Mad Natter himself - as we came.  Looking at all of us, quirks and foibles and strengths and weaknesses simultaneously. I'm hopeful that this will be the beginning of the end of our search for What Is Going On Here, though we've been... foiled... enough in the past for this to be extremely cautious optimism.  The social worker folks have looked at his scores on things like that DORA, they've seen his behaviors, they've seen what his OT recommends (and how it helps), and they flat out are assuming he's gifted.  So that's a start - everyone else has been "convince me..." types, which when you have neither The Number nor the money to shell out to GET The Number, can be tricky.

Anyway.  Children should come with a manual.  They really should. But particularly gifted and 2E children, who can be among the most disparate personalities to roam the Earth...  Those of us trying to raise those children need the help!  Let me tell you, if you're waiting for someone to actually take you seriously and work with you rather than against you, what works in our house:

1) Set a routine.
It doesn't have to be strict.  We set a routine and it helps keep transitional times to a minimum of fussing. Visual scheduling also helps with this, as it allows Mad Natter to keep track of his day, and he knows what's coming at any given time.

2) Bedtime.
Again, ROUTINE. This is something new to us in the last week, but it's been working, and it has helped Skeeve and me (as well as Mad Natter!) immeasurably.  We've nixed electronics as of suppertime. We do not watch, we do not play, we eat together, and then it is free play time.  After free play comes tidying up, then it's upstairs to use the bathroom, brushing teeth, pajamas, then into bed.  Now, this isn't over yet.  Mad Natter must stay in his bed for the remainder of the night, but he has the next hour to do whatever quiet things he likes - playing quietly with toys, reading a book, whatever. After that hour is up, it's lights out.  Now it's time to get to sleep.  We have only had two nights where there were issues with his being up after lights out, and I'm pretty impressed, as there would usually be something every. Single. Night.  Oye!
Sensory AND Exercise! Can't go wrong!
3) Exercise.
This has been a huge thing. Now that the weather is warming up, we're able to get out and about more.  So, Mad Natter and I traipse off to the park after lunch, and spend a bunch of time running around.  Then we come home, and it's time to get dinner started, so he plays something either on the computer or the WiiU, and then... Bedtime routine!  I can't explain how incredibly much this has helped. We both need the fresh air and sunshine, but this has helped his dashing off all over so much it's insane.  Of course, we have the problem of his getting too much outside, and then overtired, but I'll take overtired and cranky for an hour over bouncing off the walls for six, thank-you-very-much!

4) Take care of YOU.
I know we did a tour on this earlier in the cycle, but this is huge.  Don't let caring for these super-intense kids wear you so far down you're done for!  Make sure you get your own checkups at the doctor. Make sure you're sleeping.  And for the love of all things holy, institute "Quiet Time." This is exactly what it sounds like. At our house, it is currently 70 minutes, building slowly to 90, of quiet. Not silence, because in a house with kids that's like screaming "DANGER, WILL ROBINSON, DANGER!!!" over a bullhorn, but quiet.  Activities need to be either sedate or done in your room, anything with noise needs "hearphones," and, most importantly, for the duration of Quiet Time, we Do Not Badger Mama. No questions. No look at me. No screeching, running, jumping, or otherwise loud/aggressive/active play.  Mad Natter sits with his Innotab or a book or puzzle, and plays quietly (no crashing of cars!) for 70m, leaving me that time to knit, play a game or two, read a book, anything I want to do.  Key words: *I* WANT to do. Not the time for "doing dishes" or "scrubbing floors" unless that's what you're really jonesing to do. But time to sit quietly with a cuppa and a good book, and just... chill.

5) Hang in there.
There is a provider out there who will help you. Either with diagnoses, or with understanding the differences between a child being highly-exceptionally-profoundly gifted and a child who has ADHD, between poor behavior and sensory seeking/avoiding, and between parents who don't care, and parents who are stressed enough to Just Want An Answer.  And in the meantime, we're here.


Saturday, April 19, 2014

What do you do when it all looks bleak?

My day started entirely too early.  We're visiting Hammie and Buppa this week for the holiday, and this means Mad Natter is usually up with the sun.  I managed to squeak in a bit of extra sleep because all Mad Natter wanted was his Hammie, who was already awake, but then... Forty-five pounds of excited energy hit me like a ton of bricks. Mad Natter wanted gummi candy, and nothing but giving him gummis would do.

It was nine in the morning. He'd had two bowls of cereal and a banana, but wanted the candy. I told him flat out I was not sugaring him up this early in the day, but he could have some after lunch, or even after Buppa made brunch.  That's when it happened.  He went from excited yet demanding, and BOOM.  Switch flipped, he was FURIOUS.  Enraged, utterly livid with me. He grabbed, in an attempt to hurt me for thwarting his gummi plan. When informed he was not allowed to hurt me, he tried again. When that failed and he found himself seated on his bed for sanity's sake, he flopped and flailed and screamed and wailed about how he was starving, and I would never ever feed him again. How awful I am. How all he wanted was one tiny gummi, and I'm the meanest mother to ever exist for not giving it to him before I was even out of bed.

Hammie was amused, as apparently this is precisely what I was like as a child. Buppa blamed it on home schooling, as though putting him in a classroom three grades behind his ability would solve the issue. As the day went on, it went into a resounding chorus of "he's not officially gifted" and "all children are the same." and other such dismissive things.  As though explaining to my five year old that he is a little different to other five year olds, who don't read Magic School Bus chapter books, the fortunes in fortune cookies, and don't care if they have a hoodie with Minecraft diamonds on it, but would prefer Bob the Builder, was a harmful thing.  I'm not telling him he's better than other people. I'm not telling him he's less than other people. I'm telling him he's different, and that it's okay to be different.

I spent thirty-five years wondering what the hell was wrong with me - how, if all children are the same, and I'm not like the others, I must be broken - and I'm not going to put that on Mad Natter, too.  There's no point.  And no. I don't have the money to shell out for The Numbers and the Official Diagnosis. It's a minimum of $1500, and it would be 100% out of pocket. Given that it can be a stretch to make sure there's a full tank of gas in the car some months, it's fair to say I don't have that kind of coin kicking around.  But a child who, by Mooselandia-Local standards should be entering a grade 3 - grade 4 split in the fall... at SIX YEARS OLD?  I think it's pretty much a foregone conclusion there. Telling me it's not true unless I've given someone money I don't have to pronounce what I already know is another form of dismissal.  And with that Momastery article working its way around, again, I'm more than done with that dismissive stuff.

This life is not easy. There is very little I can do but hold on for the ride. I'm doing the best I can with the things I have available to me, but seeing very little result. Today, particularly after the input from my own parents, was one of those days where everything seems awful. I'm doing everything wrong, I'm turning my child into a terror, my sweet little boy will be lost forever, and I'm pushing him too hard to do things, even if they're simple for him - and I'm not pushing him hard enough to do things that are incredibly difficult for him.

Mercifully, I have a tribe now. A wonderful group of people who are able to tell me, without mincing words, that what might have worked fairly well a generation ago, isn't automatically going to hold water anymore. They were there to remind me that I'm not alone. That other people go through this. That it will get better, easier, and my sweet little one will emerge on the other side of the turbulence. I am infinitely grateful for that, otherwise today would have been a very dark day indeed.  And so I share the kind of insane day I've had with you, not because I want some kind of reply, but because I want you to know that, if you encounter these things too, you are not alone. You are NOT screwing up, you are not awful, you are a wonderful parent having a rough time with an extremely intense child.  We can do this.  We might want to drink some nights, but we can do this.  We're not alone.  Not anymore.