Thursday, July 14, 2016

Hero Worship

FINDING DORY – Pictured (L-R): Charlie, Dory, Jenny. ©2016
Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.
Dear Jenny and Charlie,

Let me just open with the fact that this is my first fan letter.  I've written quite a bit in general and I've threatened to write many a strongly-worded letter about IMPORTANT things like bad driving habits of seemingly every other motorist on the road with the exception of me, but this is the first time I've actually followed through with pen on, fingers on keyboard.  But after seeing your story when I took Sweet Girl and Little Man to watch "Finding Dory" I knew you needed to hear from me.  I hope you understand all this.  I know Dory can read English if need be, but I'm afraid I don't speak Blue Tang or any kind of whale.  I'm going out on a limb to say that if you can understand Sigourney Weaver then you can follow along with your #1 fan. That's me.  I'm your #1 fan.  Let me tell you why.

I'm writing you to say thank you.  Thank you for sharing.  Thank you for letting the world see a loving family.  Thank you for understanding that when ordinary isn not an option, extraordinary is the way to go.  I have a Dory of my own.  My Dory is a lot like yours; a great spirit presented in a not-so-ordinary package.  Autism can make memory, language, emotional development, and relationships seem different.  Sweet Girl - my Dory and by the way, Dory's her favorite - lives her life on that spectrum and so "ordinary" was left in the dust about nine years ago.  Small things like remembering an address or phone number seem like major challenges sometimes.  Just like you, we used music to try to make that easier.  Sweet Girl and Dory would sing some incredible duets I'm sure!  And just like you, I worry.  When you cried, Jenny, wondering if Dory would be ok, if her future would be safe and secure; I knew those tears.  I've cried them over and over when I let the worry weigh my thoughts down too much.  I've felt that anxiety.  I know that dark place where everything that can go wrong goes through your mind in Cassandra-like clarity and I know the feeling that all your efforts may not be enough.  I sat in the movie theater and cried with you Jenny.  I cried until my own Dory grabbed my hand and my Nemo (that's Little Man) patted my arm.  Neither of them said a word - mostly because their mouths were stuffed with popcorn - but answered my emotional outpouring with comfort.  They're good eggs.  And when Dory finally found you; when she saw the work of years of hope and persistence on your parts; when the seashells led her to your new heart filled to bursting and pushed more tears out of my leaky eyes and firmly placing the two of you on my Hero List.  I want to be like you.

So thank you for showing the rest of Seadom and earth that when ordinary isn't an option extraordinary is the way to go.  Thank you for showing that there is always another way.  Many people think that not doing things the same war many people do them, or at the same time many people do them, means that those things won't get done.  That because someone can not speak, they will have nothing to say.  Or that because someone cannot immediately recall information they will never remember anything important.  To those "many people," extraordinary kids and adults seem like a life of less.  You showed there's always another way.  The path may look different and take a different amount of time to traverse, but the destination is the same and that's a life of different not less.*  Thank you.  Thank you for reminding Dory not to be sorry for being her.  You love her, her challenges, and her accomplishments as she does them and how she does them.  By telling her not to be sorry when she forgets, you reinforce that she does not have to apologize for a life of different.  Her short-term memory loss helps make her who she is.  She is able to just keep swimming (brilliant bit, that) because of what she remembers and often what she forgets.  If she had to say "sorry" for that, she would really just be apologizing for being her.  It's a simple thing, but it is powerful and important:  Be you and don't be sorry.  You and all that comes with that is enough, no apologies necessary.

Not everyone understands that idea, so thank you for showing people what that looks like and thank you for appreciating the people (marine life, clearly I'm more speciesist than I realized) that just kept swimming with Dory.  You're so right: they are family.  Anyone who sees the essential rather than the labels or differences, they will be kept close in spirit forever.  Sweet Girl has a huge family including all the therapists who helped her find those other ways and all the teachers who push because she *should* be pushed all while using more than their eyes to see her.  Our family has grown because of Sweet Girl and Little Man, just as yours did through Dory's journey (journeys, she's a brave fish that girl of yours).  Bringing more people together in a spirit of unconditional acceptance is never a bad thing, whether they sit around the dinner table or are scattered throughout the big blue ocean.  Family is always welcome, as are heroes.  If you ever find yourselves topside Jenny and Charlie, I will always have a fish bowl ready for you.  Bring Sigourney Weaver!  I'm sure I can find purple seashells for her too.  Anyway......thanks again for sharing.  Thanks again for showing the basics of extraordinary parenting; start with love and just keep swimming.
It's bright topside,
bring some sunscreen!

Your #1 Fin Fan
You can call me Marlin #2

*Thank you Temple Grandin and family for that phrase.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Adventure Unplugged or Don't Tell Her I Was Here or Little Man's Lament

Selfies by Sweet Girl
Photo 1
Sweet Girl's school is "celebrating" Screen Free Week.  It started today and is supposed to last until, well, you get it, next Monday.  I received all the notices via email and in Sweet Girl's take home folder.  I read the information and then I put it aside assuming that we wouldn't participate because we are dependent upon our screens here in this house.  That's the truth.  We like screens; all of them.  And some of us need screens to help us regulate.  With all of that in mind, I gave it the obligatory "That's a great idea!  We should really try to do that sometime." thought and carried on with life never intending for that "sometime" to be now.  Then Sweet Girl brought it up last Friday in the form of an anxiety-laden (perhaps-perhaps-overly dramatic) wail: "I will miss my iPad!" fake sob, fake sob, dramatic throw of face to folded arms, end scene Oh! We're going to try this? Mmmmkay.  Any thought I had that this would go away were dashed as she continually brought the idea up over the weekend.  In the same exact manner.  She is nothing if not consistent in her theatrics.  Looks like we're trying to go screen-free this week!

Selfies by Sweet Girl
Photo 2
Now mind you, it's only day one of this unplugged adventure but Sweet Girl has taken to this like Percy Weasley to prefecting.  What's the verb form of doing prefect things?  Anyone? Let me know.  Regardless, she has taken to this as any young person with a definitive sense of justice takes to overextending their modicum of power and control does.  This morning I had to assuage a forlorn Little Man because he had the nerve to suggest he might search for something on YouTube.  Sweet Girl all but wrote him a formal violation while reminding him that It. Is. SCREEN. FREE. WEEK!  Tears ensued and Screen Free Week (or Screen Freek as an emotional Little Man proclaimed) was determined to be "unfair!" and "not nice!".....all before breakfast.  After that, I was too scared to check the weather on my phone and incidentally found myself walking Little Man into his school building in the pouring rain sans umbrella.  I found myself sneaking screen time at lunch to quickly text Sean the expectations of this week: No screens! No surrender!  Later, the incomparable Ms. C. was informed that watching television is verboten during this week.  And once Ms. C. had been released from this screen free prison, Sweet Girl's speech pathologist had to re-work her entire lesson on the fly as she was informed- in no uncertain terms - that Sweet Girl couldn't play the computer game with her because (say it with me!) It. Is. SCREEN. FREE. WEEK!  I've got to hand it to her the girl knows how to sell a program to the somewhat reluctant.

Selfies by Sweet Girl
Photo 3
Here's the real rub though, I think I was the one who was most reluctant.  Sweet Girl probably spends more time on Apple products than The Woz himself, but I was the one who thought we wouldn't be able to do this.  {Side note: I reserve the right to call this a success only if we make it through this day.  I am positive that there is a calendar somewhere in the world - lunar, Gregorian, Julian, Mayan, something - which considers this elapsed time to be a week.}  Sweet Girl has used her iPad for many different things over the years.  She's grown her vocabulary; she's found control in a world of chaos; she's found laughter; she's developed literacy skills; she's found a million different toys that aren't actually sold in stores but are the only thing in the world that she has ever and will ever want to possess; she's sung me a million different beautiful melodies; pardon the cheesiness and sentiment, but she's found a faithful companion.  And I thought she needed that still.  I thought her 1.5 pound tablet was actually the crutch holding her almost nine year old frame upright and steady.  But I was wrong.  She's been doing that herself.  Screen Freek, indeed.  True, we still have six more days and at 7:45 pm Sweet Girl told me that she really, really misses her iPad.  True, I'm really nervous that I'll miss some very important and cute otter videos during this week.  Otterly disasterous!  True, I just realized that no screens might equal big trouble as I trace the rollie chair tracks across my carpet and notice that Sweet Girl has been trying to get to the top shelf in my closet where I keep all things she is not be trusted with.  True, I've had to hurriedly close my laptop twice, like someone caught looking at NSFW pictures at work, while I've been writing this because I think I hear one of the kids coming into my bedroom.  All true, but I'm already very proud of Sweet Girl and Little Man for showing me that they can walk through life without this particular crutch.  Even if it's just a day, this is a victory.  If you need me, send a carrier pigeon.  But whatever you do, just don't tell Sweet Girl I was here.