Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Stuff Yourself With Chocolate Day!

Available in my Cafepress shop!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


I've spent the last few months watching people get torn up and verbally masticated over the very complex notion of friendship. What is it? What does it mean? When you love someone unconditionally, are there really no conditions? And if they do something horrible and terrible, what do you do? Are you suddenly, "well, I love you and I'm your friend and all, unless you do something horrible. Then you're on your own." If someone has made a horrible, terrible mistake, done a horrible, terrible thing, torn up lives and people and the cosmos, isn't that the exact moment they need a friend the most? Does being someone's friend, and loving them unconditionally, mean you condone everything they say and everything they do?

Friendship is not black and white. That makes it very difficult for many people to navigate. That is why middle school is so hard- kids wake up to what it really means to be a friend, have a friend, need a friend, and at the same time developmentally needing things to be clear and defined. It can be difficult to grasp the fact that friends love each other, true friends love each other unconditionally, and yet they still fight, they still disagree, they are still separate, individual people with their own views, their own experiences, their own values. Individuals don't match up 1:1 down to the last fiber. That is part of being human. Actually, it is part of being.

People make mistakes. They make bad decisions. These can be horrible, ugly, wrenching, devastating mistakes and decisions. We often spend a lot of time and resources trying not to, but it happens. Is that the time you would want to be abandoned by the people who are supposed to be your friends? Would you want your friends to be pilloried, slandered, crucified, insulted, threatened, bullied, torn apart, put down, crushed, and spat at, simply because they still love you, still try to help you, still stand by you when you need them most? If someone you love did something terrible, would you stand by them and try to help them? And does trying to help them mean you condone their actions? What is "help"?

I don't have an army of friends out there. It's not how I am. I've said it before- each and every friend is precious to me, and they are my friends because they are awesome people. That doesn't make you all perfect angels. That's doesn't mean you don't make mistakes. Sometimes big mistakes. Big, honking, holy-cow-world-ending mistakes. And if you make those big mistakes, I'm still here to help and love you. Always. You may not like what I say, or do, or what is needful or helpful. Support is not always easy, just as supporting is not always easy.

When Joey makes a mistake, and I need to shut down his electronics time to help him understand his mistake, try to fix his mistake, and learn not to make that mistake again, it isn't easy. I still love him. I don't condone the mistake. I don't condone the meltdown from the consequence of the mistake. I don't condone him cussing up a storm, calling me names, flailing at me. But I do my best to help him, because I love him, every minute, every day, all the time, always. Unconditionally. Absolutely. Just as much as when he's giggling and dragging me out the door to look at the moon, just as much as when he is covering me in kisses, just as much as when he is helping his brother learn a new game- I love him.

That's what I mean when I say, "I love you guys." That's what it means when I say, "friends are family." And when I say, "we're friends", that is no small thing.

And maybe its a bit more black and white that some would like it to be; or black and white in a different way. Personally, I think it's full technicolor wowness. That's friendship for you.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Report Cards Can Go Suck It.

Yep, its Report Card Day here in JoeyWorld. Joey's came home Friday, but I didn't get to look at it until this morning. Andy's will be here this afternoon. I'll keep you posted.

The way report cards are done here, everyone is supposedly graded on the same measurements. In other words, Joey's report card reflects his work against that of his non-disabled peers, and the standards of all 6th graders in his school. In that context, getting a C in English is a downright miracle, given his communication and language disabilities. A B in History? With a child for whom historical time* is an ungrasped abstract concept and these events seem to have no relevance or meaning? Let's PAR-TAY!!! A B- in math, however, is highly confusing. He's been doing the math I've been seeing come home for 3-4 years already, and does these sheets perfectly in about 10 minutes. Plural, sheets, as long as there is minimal language involved. I am going to assume this means they are giving him a lot of word problems. With all we've been working on with his language and reading skills and communication disabilities, I'm tempting to again PAR-TAY! Joey is rocking the world!

But it also means he won't be honor roll again, and honor roll is something that is very poignantly  significant to him. It is touted as a mark of success, and not participating is therefore, in a back-and-white world, the very essence of failure.

Joey noticed I was looking at the report, and so I asked about some of the comments the teacher made, such as "low quiz grades." That is when things starting spiraling. He only got 30s on quizzes, that he was a "stupid retard" and "retards aren't allowed to pass quizzes". Though my heart shattered in a million shards of grief, I also knew he was speaking Joey. This word means Pain. It means Heartbreak. He was telling me of frustration, anger, disappointment, and pain all in one fell swoop of verbiage.

This is a word he knows people use to refer to him, and has fully grasped what it means.  And like any other word, he has emotions attached to it, and is ready to use as a placeholder for expressing those emotions.

I already have my letter in to his teachers, trying to pinpoint the issues that need to be addressed. Are his accommodations appropriate and effective? Are these grades reflecting his efforts? I also took some steps here, the same we have done for his brother- "A" quizzes means prizes, in an effort to get him to take them seriously and try to do his best on them. But what if, with all the language involved, all the issues of testing, all the problems of balancing accommodations, expecting an A really is too much? Will not getting a prize be just a reinforcement of failure?

When Joey gets home, a certificate will be awaiting him. It will be, in essence, "You are awesome. Let's PAR-TAY!!!!" Because he totally deserves one. 

*Yes, there is a difference between abstract time concepts and practical time concepts. Joey can gladly tell you exactly what time it is. His new interest in moon phases has been helpful in getting him to grasp the idea of cycles and years. But that something happened 200 years ago? Unfathomable for him right now. He has a very, very basic understanding. For him, 200 years ago is "once upon a time", and has very little difference from 2000 years ago.