I originally started this blog a few years ago to chronicle Noah's daily struggles with autism. It was a dark time in my life - a time when I felt that things would never get better. It was a time when I felt that all my hopes and dreams for my son and for our family had died. In my efforts to help Noah recover from autism, I began a journey that inadvertently led me to rediscover myself. I learned how to laugh again. How to dream again. How to live again. How to love again.

Autism Schmaustism. He's still our son.

This is a blog celebrating our family. Our kids. Our life.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Out With the Old and In With the New (Homeschooling!)

I have started and restarted this post a million times. I started it being serious and I started it being funny and then I'd erase it each time because I didn't want to offend anyone... because the truth of the matter is this - when you talk about your educational decisions for your kids, some people are going to get offended. And I hate offending people or causing controversy or any sort of discomfort whatsoever. But here it is... we've decided to pull out Nandi and Eli from public school, and next week, we will start homeschooling them.

I'm going to be the first to admit that I'm a bit of an educational snob. I am extremely pro education. I love to read and I love to research and I love to think that my kids will go off and get advanced degrees and discover how to clone people and make robotic machines that will do all the laundry and fold it and put it away so I will never have to do it ever again.

I have high , if somewhat slightly unrealistic, hopes for my kids.

It never occurred to me that I would have kids with learning issues or emotional issues or health issues. I always assumed, from a very young age that any children I had would excel in school, join the debate team, graduate in the top 10% of their class, get a Bachelor's degree, join the Peace Corps, come back and do a one year Rhodes Scholarship to England and get their Master's degree, start a career and get a PhD at night while working on their career.

No, I'm not joking. Why do you ask?

I used to look down on homeschoolers. Not actual homeschoolers... you know, the ones who actually home school. But the ones whose moms made sure their daughters learned to cook and, oh my word, sew, because why on earth would you need to learn to do something like that when that's precisely why God invented tailors and old ladies? Why would you want to learn how to quilt when you can buy brand new duvets at Bed, Bath, and Beyond? And is learning how to make ten different types of breakfast casseroles really going to advance your career? Unless you run a restaurant?

There are moms out there whose sole goal for their daughters is to learn how to bake, budget, and raise a baby.  That's their goal. No college, no career. Just get married and raise a family and run a household.

There are moms out there whose sole goal for their sons is for them to grow up, get married, and get a job at the local water company or electric company or local plant.  No college. No world travel. Just get married and raise a family and provide for the household.

And, you know, I'm really ashamed to admit this, but I kind of looked down on that. Not the people themselves, but those goals. I've always said that I want more for my kids. I want more for my daughter. I want her to go to college and see the world and be anything she wants to be.

And then I had a daughter who has attachment problems. And learning issues. And who is so jealous of her little brother, who gets to stay home with me everyday, that at least 4 times a week, her jealously spirals into rage and anguish and she will stand in the middle of the living room floor screaming at the top of her lungs, and ripping off her clothes, and clawing at her chest, and pulling at her hair. And she doesn't know how to regulate. And she doesn't know how to calm down. Because in her mind.... her mind... I love him more and I will leave her one day and I will abandon her one day and she is not worthy.

That's when we started to question.... how can you possibly work on attachment if your child is away from you for 8 hours a day? And how can you work on attachment if that child is so consumed with feelings of jealousy and unworthiness that she sabotages every hour that she is home?

At what point does a child's emotional welfare trump a child's education??

We could send Nandi to school and she could learn to divide fractions and write essays and eventually graduate from high school, but is it worth it if she doesn't know how to establish and maintain relationships? If her feelings of worthlessness are so strong that she turns to the first boy that says she's pretty? If she tries to fit in by hanging out with the wrong crowd? By trying to get our attention, because in her mind any attention is better than no attention, by skipping school and failing?

I know it sounds crazy because she's only 8, but parents who've been in our situation know that these aren't crazy thoughts. These are realities for our children. We see things every day that would shock you. These are strong possibilities if true attachment is not made.

Nandi is so insecure that I can't even begin to explain it. She has no friends. Zero. None. And that's not an exaggeration. She does not know how to make friends, how to act around friends, or how to keep friends. She has an auditory processing disorder and a speech delay that makes communication very difficult. She's in second grade and has a reading level of 12. Despite being in  2 hours of pull out classes and tutoring... daily..she is failing reading. And then she comes home and takes it out on us.

At the same time, as much as she tries to push us away, I think she'd spend every minute of every day in my lap if she could.  She wants to be by me, lean on me, or sit on me every minute of the day. After two years of successfully sleeping in her own room, she has moved her mattress next to my side of the bed and sleeps there every single night. Sometimes she wakes up screaming that "The worries are on me! The worries are getting me! Get them off, Mommy. Help me!"  And my heart breaks and I wonder what her first three years were like and I know that she needs to be with me now.

And I think about those moms whose who are at home teaching their girls how to bake. I think about how they're teaching their daughters how to be good wives and mothers and I think that maybe I was a little too quick to judge. And I think that maybe they had the right idea all along. Because isn't togetherness and security and family really what it's all about?

Don't get me wrong. I'm going to teach Nandi how to do math and how to read. She'll learn all about science, and because I'm a history buff, she'll probably learn more history than she ever wanted to know. We'll do a proper curriculum and take tests at the end of each school year. But I also plan to teach her how to cook. And teach her how to do laundry and teach her how to look after a house.  Because my goals for her have changed. Because her history and her personality have necessitated this change. Because baking and budgeting and doing chores together means that we'll be spending time together and I think that's the one thing she wants and the one thing we need more than anything.

I hope she'll go to college someday. And I hope she'll join the Peace Corps someday. And I'm still holding out that maybe she'll invent that robot that will ensure I never have to do laundry again. But, above all, I hope she'll be able to find love someday. And keep that love. And have friends. Real, true friends. And I hope she'll be successful no matter what she chooses to do. And know that we love her and that she's worthy no matter what she chooses to do.

And I know it'll be hard. And to be honest, I'm scared to death. I'm actually more scared about homeschooling Eli than I am about Nandi. And about ignoring Noah. And about the huge big mess Naveen will create while we're doing our school work. The whole thing terrifies me. But I think it's the one thing that my kids need right now. And we don't have a lot of money. And we don't have a fancy house. And we don't have much of anything, really. But we have time. Lots of time.  So that's what 2013 is going to be about this year. Time and family and attachment and togetherness and love.

And possibly teaching my kids to learn to love math and science so they can invent that robot one day that will ensure I never have to do laundry ever again.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas From Our Family to Yours

Our family would like to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

May you get lots of kisses under the mistletoe, Nutella in your stocking, remember the reason for the season, and stay up to watch the ball drop.

We're ending this year with the flu (all of us!), lots of school meetings, tons o' school drama (more about that later!), and more medical bills than I care to count (another hospital stay for Naveen just last week!!).

But this year also brought our missing puzzle piece (Naveen!), new friends, old friends, the loving and continued support of our family, exciting travel, and lots and lots of laughs.

May we continue to be so blessed in 2013. Happy Happy Joy Joy and a big Ho Ho Ho!

From our family to yours, Meeeerrrry Christmas!