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Yesterday, a blogger I like, Love that Max, teamed up with her friend Scary Mommy for a great discourse among their collective readers. Love That Max (LTM) is a blog about raising Max, who has cerebral palsy, and Scary Mommy (SM) is about raising kids. They asked their readers to read each other’s concerns and answer each other’s questions.
LTM asked her readers to post comments telling people what they’d like them to know about raising a special needs kid and to go over to SM and address their questions. The comments range from “Stop staring at us” (many have had very negative experiences) to “Look, we all have challenges. My son’s medical issues don’t trump your potty training woes”.
SM encouraged her readers to read the comments on LTM, and asked them to post questions they’ve always wanted to ask special needs parents but have never had the chance to ask. The questions were great. They ranged from “How can I offer help without feeling like a jerk?” and “Do you join support groups?”
We are lucky in that we have never had a negative experience… in public or otherwise. But Max is not in wheel chair and he doesn’t have scars or any outward appearance that anything is wrong. When people realize he can’t really talk, they sometimes ask. And I tell them all about him. (What? Me talk a lot?) I find that the more I talk, the more information I get. I’ve found fabulous practitioners for him just by talking to strangers.
So, since I have so many friends with special needs kids, typical kids, multiple kids, one kid and no kids, I want to know what you have to say. Please comment with what you’d like other people to know or what you want to know from them.
One day last October in the Nashville Airport, I became MomGyver. Yes, I had a little help from Mr. Dyson, but he was merely a cog in my machine.
Near the end of a three-hour layover on our way to California, we decided we better take Max to the bathroom. We had been putting it off, because it is often a fight. (So, really, everything that ensued was our fault.) But I got him to stand up and quickly realized that he was soaked. He NEVER has potty accidents… he holds it like a champ. But he also won’t tell us when he has to go. We were stunned. And we had no extra clothes with us.
So, I took him into the bathroom to at least clean him up, and then plot my next move. I washed him off and rinsed out his underwear with the hopes that I could find a pair of shorts or sweatpants in an airport shop… in THE NEXT 15 MINUTES before we were supposed to board.
Then I saw it. The Dyson hand dryer. If you have never used one of these, hunt one down. It is an amazing piece of engineering. I had used one before, so I knew the power… and that it blows air from two sides. So, in a matter of five minutes, Max had dry underwear. I just stood there with Max, his shirt long enough to cover his parts, and moved his little boxer briefs up and down in the dryer. I even got a couple of “so been there” looks from other women.
OK… he’s covered, but his sweatpants are still wet. And we board in 10 minutes. I delivered him to Cris, and ran to all the nearby stores, but not one had bottoms of any kind. They all had T-shirts and sweatshirts. We can’t possibly be the first family to have this happen! There was a pricy kids’ clothing store, but she only had up to size 4. The lady working there said that there was a Life is Good store, but it was in the next concourse. Ugh! So, I got in line with the Cohen Men feeling slightly defeated. Cris just carried Max on the plane. If anyone noticed, they didn’t even look sideways at us.
We get settled, and right after takeoff, Cris goes to use the restroom, so I asked him to rinse the sweatpants so they won’t smell. Then I realized that the middle seat in front of us was empty. Score! He returned with the wet pants, and I hung them slightly over the seat and aimed all three of our air vents at them… oh, and flipped them half-way through. Damn if we didn’t land in San Diego 3.5 hours later with dry pants. And it’s a good thing, too, because while Max and I waited at the end of the tube for Cris (who was getting the gate-checked stroller), Max channelled the Mayor of San Diego. He said “hi” to literally every person who came off that plane. Even groups of three, he’d shout “hi! hi! hi!” And they all said “hi” back. I so wish I had video of it … it was ridiculously priceless. But I seriously doubt anyone would have thought it was so cute if he’s been standing there sans pants!
In the last couple of years, I’ve gotten into making felted purses and hats. I just love the whole process. You knit something that ends up looking big and unruly. You put it in hot water and you end up with something beautiful. Here is my latest… a felted backpack (pattern by by Black Sheep bags):
I have two very good friends whose marriages are what I would call “in crisis”. Both have kids. Both are unsure if they will stay married.
As a woman in my 40s, I am experiencing a whole new kind of worry. I love my friends and want them and their kids to he happy and safe. Thoughts run through my head all day: How do they sleep at night? DO they sleep at night? Are they scared about their futures all the time or just fleetingly? Are they confident? What do their kids notice? Will they try counseling? Will it work? What if the husbands aren’t willing? Will they be relieved when it is just over? Will they have to fight for everything? Are they still in love?
I have asked and gotten answers to some of these questions. But I still wonder how much the answers change from day to day.
Does any of this make me question my own marriage? No. Emphatically no. But it does make me feel slightly guilty for having it so easy in the marriage department. And I do think “What if it were me? How would I handle it?” I guess it would depend on if I was sleepless or scared or confident or still in love. I guess it would be a day-to-day thing.
My parents divorced when I was 11, so I have that perspective. My friends’ parents are still married, so I use my kid’s-eye view to try to assure them that it is not always the end of the world for kids.
One thing I remember well about that time is a family that we spent a lot of time with. When my parents were in crisis, this couple helped them. They suggested Marriage Encounter, and when my parents went, they took all three of us for the weekend. No small feat since they had two boys, one with cerebral palsy. True and wise friends indeed. Even though they still divorced, my parents appreciated the limb this couple went out on.
I think the best I can do is try to be a true and wise friend. And if I am asked, I will continue to make suggestions that I would follow myself. I will come if I’m called. I will be a good listener. And I will worry.