There is so much written about parenting the early years. What they should eat, how they should play, how you should play with them. It goes on and on, opinions for everything. And while there is plenty out there about parenting them as they grow, it seems to become far more “expert” and far less “personal”. Bloggers, who have become a big source of parenting connections, naturally write less about their children as they get older, respecting a child’s autonomy as they grow into their own person. And it is, I think, almost impossible to write about the very personal act of parenting without writing about the child. Every child is different. Every parent is different. Parenting each child is different.
All this to say, I see communities developed around parents of children under five, maybe even under seven. And there are lots of articles and blogs for parents of special needs children at that age. I don’t see the same thing for parents of tweens and teens. Particularly for special needs kids. Maybe it’s because those parents have found their tribes elsewhere. I certainly have quite a bit of mine spread out across the country via Facebook, people I know and have known, sometimes very tangentially, who respond to my blatherings – about the unique challenges of parenting my two. Because mostly that’s what I use the Facebook for, venting and reassurance.
Posting here has been very light of late. It’s not that I haven’t been incessantly rearranging the furniture (I have) or coveting pretty things (also yes). I’ve just also been living the evolution of parenting – moving from being the parent of young children to the parent of older children. It’s different. Which is what I’ve always said to new moms, it doesn’t get easier really, it just gets different. Which is not always what the sleep deprived mother of a newborn wants to hear, so often I just keep that to myself and nod sagely, as though I’ve learned something through survival. I haven’t, I’m still totally winging it every single day, but they don’t need to know that.
I spent the summer wanting to create fun, memorable moments with my crew, convinced that once middle school hit we’d be dealing with so much stress and anxiety I’d be lucky to survive without becoming a raging alcoholic. I was simultaneously stressing about making sure everything was ordered and prepared so we could survive the fall, getting documents and meetings together for an IEP (which was almost a full-time job in and of itself), ordering supplies, arranging the house, and of course prepping for homeschooling the other one. I felt constantly overdrawn and like I wasn’t making enough of the time. Which was silly. We had fun. We got a dog. We did stuff. I just don’t remember what it was.
Deep breath. I’m going to write this down now. If it all falls apart tomorrow, it’s because I told the internet.
This fall has been so much easier, in many ways, than I was expecting. Probably because in my head World War III was going to erupt as soon as she set foot in 6th grade. When you set the bar really low, it’s easy to jump over it. In fact, I’ve been afraid to say it out loud, for fear of jinxing everything. But you guys, middle school, public middle school – it’s going ok. Possibly even better than ok. Right now anyway (I still have to clarify, my way of knocking on all the wood I can reach). The accommodations we asked for are working. The walking a mile each way to school, with a really heavy backpack, is something that’s been on the therapy list for years. We’ve never been able to make her do it without creating more anxiety, but now everyone walks to school so she doesn’t bat an eyelid. And it’s making a huge difference. The anxiety isn’t gone, but it’s manageable. The arguments and temper tantrums are, dare I say it, normal tween stuff. The panic attacks are far less frequent and much, much less intense. The self-recriminations are no longer an everyday occurence.
We have conversations. About stuff. And things. She can discuss her homework. WITHOUT YELLING. And you guys. SHE SLEEPS THROUGH THE NIGHT. I can’t even. Seriously. I haven’t been this well rested in twelve years.
Now, all this still requires pretty careful environmental manipulation on our part. We still can’t do after-school activities. She comes home, does her homework for two hours, has dinner and a shower and family reading, and goes to bed. It’s not what we want for her long-term, but it’s working for now. We tried pushing bedtime, even just a little, and it was pretty disastrous. So weekends are low-key, we had to miss a family wedding because of the backlash it would create. All this is what we’re used to though and this time it’s creating a happy, cheerful child who, so far, is feeling pretty confident and smart, proud of her skill navigating her new environment.
The homeschooling is also going pretty well. We made some changes to our curriculum and expectations based on last year (hey, look, we learned about teaching our kid). Those changes have made everyone happier and more productive. It also helps that the boy can read pretty well now and is generally less resistant. He’s still not a big fan of group activities, but he’s more and more interested in them. The homeschooling thing is a post of its own, but I thought I should mention it, since I’m rambling all over the place here.
Here’s the thing. Back to my points at the top. Who do you read to figure this out? Who are you figuring this out with? It’s certainly not any easier now, the instruction manual I wanted when they were babies and I couldn’t figure out why they were crying would be just as handy now that they’re older and I have no idea what’s really going on. How do I know if I’m worrying about the right things without other people to freak out with (kidding)? Is there an Honest Tween, cause I need some humor here. Am I giving enough information about all the stuff coming up? Am I giving it to the correct child at the correct time? Does it matter? (I did get to explain periods and puberty to the boy yesterday as he picked up The Period Book I’d gotten for the girl and asked clear and detailed questions. That was fun. And by fun I mean really, really weird. No one writes about that either. I need to know this happens to other people.)
I’m sure this rant, for those of you still reading, is not exactly what you expect from a blog entitled Designing Around. This, however, is exactly what I’ve designed around lately. Life. Parenting. And dogs that insist on ruining all my rugs(seriously, what is up with that dog?). How about you?