Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Baby steps

You'll have to wait another day for the conclusion to "Draw the Line," as today I want to begin a new story.  Today I began a journey that may burn itself out in a fizzle, or it may be one of those huge, life-changing things for the family.  Most likely somewhere in the middle.

I went to see our Nice Russian Doctor this morning to discuss FB and her atypical behavior and emotional responses.  For years she has stood out in a crowd of her peers, and not just becasue of her rediculous height.  I've lost count of the number of times I've seen her with other kids and began singing to myself, "One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn't belong."*
  • At the school gate in the morning.  All the other kids: standing quietly bored, possibly holding a parental unit's hand, stubbing a toe in the dirt, being generally bored.  My kid: jumping up and down like a lunatic, waving arms in other people's faces to get their attention, singing random songs and desperately trying to engange anyone, ANYONE, in a game of "I-spy."
  • At birthday parties. All the other kids: running around screaming, having what they would describe as 'fun.'  My kid: Sitting on my lap with her hands on her ears, having a meltdown becasue someone wouldn't play "I-spy" with her.
  • At the cinema/panto/watching ANY film on telly at home.  All the other kids: enjoying the film/show, talking, throwing popcorn, etc.  Normal kid stuff.  My kid: Sitting on my lap, hands over her ears, crying and begging to go home/turn it off.  And this is with the most gentle films I can find, including 'Ballerina' and 'Muppet Treasure Island.'  Cried.  The WHOLE time.  Through BOTH.  Seriously?  Seriously.
  • Reading 'The Ugly Duckling' at bedtime.  Any other kid: This is stupid! I wanna read Spiderman!  My kid: cries.  Seriously.
I feel I can no longer ignore her very atypical emotional response to films of any sort (she won't even watch Peter Rabbit on CBeebies) and stories involving charactgers, along with a number of other behavioral oddities.  Having Asperger's syndrome myself, I am becoming increasingly convinced that she has followed in my footsteps.  So I a paid a visit to Nice Russian Doctor.

NRD said, in a pleasantly slavic accent, I am probably right, but there are few resources available to help a high-functioning child improve social development if the child is not struggling academically.  She said she would write a letter to (some organization whose name I failed to catch, even though I asked her to repeat it), but was not optimistic, and instead suggested I speak with her school's phychiatrist.  Infant schools have phychiatrists???  Well, I'll try.  Here we go.

*And before you accuse me of ostraciszing and stigmatizing my own offspring, allow me to explain that this was a song used in the old Sesame Street shows to teach pattern recognition, and is a major part of my upbringing.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Draw the Line

I've been debating in my mind lately the degree to which we tolerate differing views in our friends.  In a late-night TV interview this autumn Bill Clinton stated that we had made great strides in overcoming bigotries of gender, skin colour, and sexual orientation (still a long way to go, but a at least we're moving forward), but the last great bigotry, the one where we're moving backwards, is our increasing desire to segregate ourselves according to ideologies.  More and more we don't want to be around people who disagree with us.  (I'm paraphrasing, but that was the gist.)

I felt there was a lot of truth in this.  (Bill, though flawed, is no idiot, and is very good at reading people.)  We are becoming more and more polarized by ideas.  Much has been made lately of political polarization and whether or not we should be friends with those ticking the wrong side of a ballot.  There have even been photos of houses for sale, supposedly after the 2016 US presidential election alienated couples to a point beyond reconciliation.  And I recently read a Facebook post from a women who felt she could no longer be friends with a woman who spanked her (own) children as punishment.  Having decided to terminate this friendship based on differing approaches to parenting she then debated if she should permit her children to interact any further with the friend's children.  The children, apparently, were quite close.

There is a part of me that desperately longs for the good ol' days when I could have a raging argument with a good friend over some point of philosophy or politics, then put my arm around him or her and go for a drink after, still friends.  (Fuck man, that's what college was FOR.)  I remember hours-long discussions with good friends over Affirmative Action, abortion, gun control, free will, salvation, the comparative portrayals of Satan in Paradise Lost and the South Park movie (there's a serious dissertation in there for someone if it hasn't been done yet), trickle-down economics, vegainism, organic farming practices, hunting, inheritance tax, climate change, and countless other meaty topics.  Not once did one of these conversations ever make me reconsider my friendship with my intellectual adversary.  Not. Once.

And yet, there are some views I would find so abhorrent it would be impossible for me to respect the holder of such a view, and without respect there can be no friendship.  Never did a conversational opponent express a belief in the superiority of white-skinned people.  Such an expression would be a deal-breaker.  I am not friends with racists.  Ditto homophobes.  Ditto mysogynists.  But where does one draw the line?  What about people who support politicians with such views?  Is one degree of separation enough?

And if you place a sufficiently strong value jugement on views such as racism that you cannot respect, and therefore befriend, someone who supports a politician with those views, what about other positions? Take global warming. If you are in the "97% of scients know their shit" camp, can you respect someone in the "CO2 is good for trees and we don't need polar bears anyway" camp if said opinion betrays a fundamental, willful mistrust of the scientific process and a paucity of rational thought?  And what about anti-vaxxers?  Brexiters?  Where does it end?  If we follow this line of thought to its logical conclusion, we will end up very, very alone, becasuse no one agrees with us on everything, and nor should they.  But where does one draw the line?

At what point does one decide this value is of sufficient importance for me to make it a litmus of respect, but that one isn't?  In my next post I will attempt to answer this question for myself, but I would love to hear your responses in the comments.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Time It Was, Oh What A Time It Was It Was

I've been missing the old crew a lot, even more so now that I've started this malarky up again.  A few are still with me thanks to the miracle of fakebook (shout out to Firstnations, Mr Footman, and Donn).  Some, like my until-recent self, appear to have given up the blogosphere (Dave, Great She Elephant.)  Some I just flat out couldn't find (Billy, Llutra lutra, LC, Helena, Timorous Beastie).  Herebe and Wandering Winny I know in meatspace, so that's cool.  Ziz is dead, of course, but you knew that.  The only one of the old crew who still seems to have an active blog is Geosomin and possibly GSE.  I'll go stalk them and leave a few tasty comments.  Perhaps I can lure them here.  *rubs hands maniacally*

Dramatis Personae

Firstborn (FB) 
On the verge of her sixth birthday.  A highly energetic, physical child.  Loves music and dance, space, dinosaurs, drawing and painting, and anything with wheels.  Loves the company of people, but struggles socially. Wants to be included and involved, but gets overwhelmed easily and breaks down.  Has true love/hate relationship with birthday parties, utterly terrified by any and all films, including G-movies.  Bossy as fuck, wants to be in charge of everything, thinks she's always right. (Terminal first child syndrome.)  Wants to be funny, but doesn't actually understand jokes.  Enjoys wordplay and puns.  Isn't interested in storybooks, only "information books."  Doesn't cope well with criticism, expects every thing to be done properly and every one to play by the rules.  Cat-like, gives affection only on her terms.

Secondborn (SB)
Chaotic, anarchic, entropic, also incredibly cheeful, affectionate, and cuddly.  Worships her big sister, likes whatever she likes.  Very bright and highly verbal (like her sister), but with a total disregard for authority.  A happy-go-lucky bull in a china shop, Secondborn dances to the tune of her own drum (or her sister's), careening through life, totally ignoring instructions or pleas for cooperation, smiling the entire time.  Strong natural sense of empathy, terrifyingly good people-skills, Secondborn gets away with murder by virtue of being impossibly delightful and charming.  Prone to passionate outbursts of emotion. Drama Queen.

Buckler-Of-SwasheS (BOSS) 
Him what sails the Seven Seas, Defender of Democracy, addict of Aston Martins, deity among daddies, cricket whore.  Honest as they come, profoundly hard-working, teetoal: see dictionary for  "straight arrow."  Articulate and gifted with original turns of phrase.  Does not express emotions readily, but certainly has them. Probably. Would like to be involved more in household matters, but is hamstrung by his wife's need for control and is thus constantly forced to evaluate what is more likely to earn the wife's ire, doing nothing, or doing the wrong thing?  Resolves the dilemma by being near to hand should he be wanted, but not actually doing anything until asked, and instead plays games on his phone.  Has absolutely no idea how good-looking he is.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

My Web

I visualize my emotional support netowork as a spider web, each gossamer thread a person of incredible beauty and astonishing strength, many of them connected to each other in ways I cannot see.  When I open up to a new friend about the struggles I've head with mental health, a new thread is added.

As with any net, you don't really know how strong it is until it is tested.  When I have a bad moment, day, week, fuck -- year!, that's when I realize these tiny strands of friendship that I can't even see are holding me up.  They become visible when they catch my tears.

Sometimes I don't even realize how many there are until I reach out and touch one.  I discovered this recently when I sent out a group message to a number of friends and acquaintences in our previous neighborhood.  Due to a last-minute scheduling fluke we were passing through and I asked if anyone was free to come meet us.  One person revised her plans and she and her daughter met us for the afternoon for our first catch-up chat since last Easter, and I literally had tears in my eyes as I watched our daughters playing together as though we'd never left.  What surprised me even more than that was the outporing of affection I received from the people who were unable to come meet us for a couple hours.  These were not "so sorry I'm drying my hair that day" blow-offs; these were messages of real regret and requests to visit another time.  I genuinely had not realized many of these people valued my presence in their lives to that degree.  Those threads were invisible, until I reached out and touched one.  At that moment all the surrounding threads shimmered to life, I wept with joy, and I saw them.

It reminded me of my sophomore year of college (uni, for you brits) when I broke up with my boyfriend.  I was suffering a serious depression at that time, owing to a combination of both my grandparents dying, failing several classes, and a toxic relationship.  When at last I addressed the latter of these issues something remarkable happened: I discovered I had loads more friends than I knew about.  Suddenly people were inviting me to sit with them at meals, watch movies with them, and generally hang out.  I finally asked someone why no one had done these things with me before, and was bluntly informed "We've always liked you, but we couldn't stand your dick of a boyfriend and he followed you everywhere you went."  Well, that was certainly true.  Suddenly all these friends I didn't know I had crawled out of the woodwork and added their threads to my web. 

But like all nets, the silks of a spider web will break if not tended.  We must tend to our friendships, even the invisible ones -- especially the invisible ones! -- if we don't want our nets to fall apart.  And we don't know which threads are becoming weak unless we reach out occasionally and poke them.

*Poke, poke*

Saturday, 7 January 2017

About the Title

In the fog, you can't see where you're going.  You can see a little way ahead, but not far.  Beyond that, it's all assumption and guesswork.  A fitting metaphor for parenthood.

Then there's the fog of depression and mental illness.  The fuzzy-headedness, the brain fog.  You know there are things going on around you, but you can't fully participate in or experience them.  Your very mind is hemmed in, cut off, isolated by the emotional gauze of your neurological chemical fucked-upedness. Some senses are dampened, some heightened. And despite all, you've got these short humans to raise who are demanding your attention, energy, devotion, love, and adult competency.  Motherhood in the fog.

And of course there is the nautical imagery, the association of fog with the sea, fitting for a navy wife and family.  A bit obvious, perhaps, but that doesn't mean it's not apropos.

It Ain't the Same After Kids, Part 1: Muppet Treature Island

Then: A hilarious, swashbuckling family adventure packed with classic Muppet antics and an all-star cast including Billy Connolly and Tim Curry's teeth.

Now: A how-to guide for adults wanting to groom vulnerable adolescent children