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Oops. A combination of stubbornness and bad time management on parents’ parts had Malcolm acting out what could have been seen by his teacher as a lack of respect for her expectations and by Malcolm as a sign from us that this is OK.

So last night I was frantic when I discovered the week+ old homework packet, unfinished, with instructions to finish and return to her in his folder. We finished it up, but since this was less his fault (virtually nil) and more a failure of co-parenting, I encouraged him with a bribe.

“If you can meet some for time-based goals I set as you go along, I will buy you the most expensive Transformer we can find on Amazon, outside of used and/or collectors items. For each goal you don’t meet, I’ll drop the reward by 25% of the most expensive one.”

He failed the first one with tears and obstinance, but after a break he beat the rest with ease.

The most expensive damned Transformer is close to $100. frown emoticon

Dreaming of Sleeping

Woke up this morning to Ian really wanting me to get out of bed. It was early, so I just ushered him into my bed and under the covers to buy myself some time.

He talked to himself a lot and scratched my back and played with my ears for a while, but got pretty fed up with my excuses for lying in bed while he was so awake.

Then I feel this little finger in my ear, digging and reminding me of those childhood warnings about cleaning your ears with Q-Tips. Next I feel him sticking his eye up to my ear, peeking in. 

“I’m gonna look in your ear to see what you’re dreaming about.” He pushes his eyeball tightly up against my ear and rocks his head to the side as though he’s honestly looking for something, then pulls back a bit.

“Did you see what I’m dreaming about?” I asked.

“I didn’t see nuffing. Just all black. Daddy? Are you dreaming about sleeping?”

I AM IAN

Did homework with Ian tonight. He lit up like a christmas tree. He’s so eager to learn and so imaginative that it almost seems like he’s been filling the intellectual void with his own, fast-paced curriculum.

All day long, every day, he asks these “what if” questions. The last one at the end of the day today was, “daddy, what if the whole universe was the size of me?” When we were buying socks in Victoria last weekend it was, “if everything in the world was made out of fabric, would it be houndstooth?” One time it was, “daddy, if we [all animals] were made out of metal, what would we eat?” 

I feel like it’s a criminal disservice to him to shove this dynamic and differently paced little boy into a system that doesn’t really know how to accommodate him. I just wish I was far enough ahead of the game to know how to get him engaged in a way that could include fitting in at school without squeezing him into (or out of) somebody else’s definition of “amazing.”

Wacky Wednesday

Today was an early release day for Seattle Public Schools. I had to go get the kids at 1:40 PM. I got there a little early and was waiting around with a bunch of other parents. I’ve done this dozens of times, but this time I walked by half a dozen doors that were locked and labeled with notices, “For security reasons, entry through this door is prohibited. Please enter through the main door near the office.”

I watched all the kids coming out and saw all of the other parents waiting, arms folded, smiling and saying hi to the kids they recognized and/or their parents.

I was reminded of the day I stood in the same spot, with the same parents, the same laughing and running and goofy kids the day of the Sandy Hook elementary … well, that day.

I still can’t handle that day emotionally. I crumbled and stopped reading the news. I stopped all internal analysis of those events. I ran. I left work without a word and ran to school.

I waited with all the other parents with pained, wordless, horror and plaintive stares on their faces. When Malcolm came through the door that day, I ran and grabbed him up into my arms and didn’t let go. He was wrapped around me until he couldn’t stand it anymore.

Today was “Wacky Wednesday.” Yesterday was “Hat Day.” Monday was “Sports Day.” All the kids were absolutely adorable and amazingly wacky. I wish Wacky Wednesday was a weekly thing.

Tomorrow is Pajama Day. They excitedly went to bed in the pajamas they want to wear to school tomorrow. Of course they are skulls and bones and skeletons jammies. Perfect for Halloween. It’s been a fun week.

Not at all ruined by my emotional reminder of something that absolutely destroyed me for a very long time not quite yet three years ago.

Just don’t be a jerk

The ex wants to take the kids to therapy. I’ve mostly agreed that we could get some insights in the process, but I don’t think one-to-one, psychoanalysis is the right thing.

She’s not someone I’d describe as understanding when or why therapy can be helpful, and I’d be shocked if she could recognize how therapy can work against the children’s emotional health in a co-parenting family where the parents don’t see eye-to-eye. With that in mind, I tried to lay out some basic ground rules for working together in this process.

1. Respect.
2. Agreement.
3. Honesty and openness.
4. Cooperation in the face of disagreement.

After a long, long email discussion to precisely define these terms, I agreed to meet with a man she described as “highly recommended by two different people – one was another child therapist and the other was a parent whose son was a patient of his at one time.” I got there ten minutes late because fuck driving a car.

They were on a subject I didn’t feel either of them wanted to press into when I arrived, so we moved on – leaving me slightly unnerved. He spent the next 50 minutes asking pointed questions about the kids’ daily lives and what we thought they needed therapy for. A mom and dad sitting on the couch, as far away from each other as they can be, and he doesn’t address the obvious. 

He told us that he would tell our kids that they could say anything to him and that he would promise not to tell us. And then explained how so many kids were so relieved to talk to someone who would promise they didn’t have to worry about mom and dad finding out.

“How do you communicate what’s going on with the child and let the parent know how they might benefit from what you’ve learned if you’re promising to never tell their parents what they told you?”

He responded, “I didn’t say I won’t tell their parents. I frame it as something they have a choice about. I say to them, ‘I have some advice for your parents. What do you think of that?’ to discuss with them what I might talk to you about.”

Done. You don’t get to have a doctor-patient confidentiality agreement with my kids. And if you have to lie to them about that to get them to open up to you, you shouldn’t be working with kids.

When I felt like we were running out of time, I finally asked, “since we’re running out of time, is it ok if we start asking questions?”

Then I felt like I was challenging him. I described my ideal therapy situation, one where it’s more about bridging the gaps between parent and child, broadening the understanding we have of each other, and less about establishing a therapy relationship.

Nothing.

Old guy, no toys in his office, no rapport with parents, gray beard and deep wrinkles, asks “what’s real life minecraft?” but blows off the explanation of “Minecraft” as though “of course I knows what Minecraft is! Pshaw!”

When I feel deceived or manipulated when someone’s talking to me to my face, I’m not quite sure what it is I do, but I can’t fake a pleasant disposition. Like, either make your case or stop talking to me. I notice it and I try really hard to let my distaste subside so that I can still listen to them and let them make their point. I kind of want to be on the other side of whatever face I make that is so obvious just so I can see it.

I told her immediately afterward that I had no interest in pursuing him as a therapist for our kids. She disagreed with my assessment, but didn’t press it. That’s not at all like her. 1) The guy was obviously a bad fit for our kids but she liked him. 2) When she feels right about something she stands up for her views.

Anyway, she wasn’t fighting me over it. She was being reasonable by all appearances. So I suspected there was something I wasn’t privy to going on there.

Days later, when I pressed a little deeper about who had recommended this guy, she said he was recommended by someone who was recommended by her personal therapist. And then later, as I finally spelled it out for her, asking “who is the parent you mentioned recommending him?” she casually added, days afterward, that he was also the family therapist her boyfriend used after his divorce.

I can’t figure out what she thought she was going to accomplish by withholding this information from me. Either let me know what the situation is or don’t create it in the first place. She argued that she didn’t want to violate her boyfriend’s privacy by sharing this information. But the discussion about this guy started on October 14th and disclosure that it was her boyfriend’s family therapist came on October 26th.

We met with him on the 22nd. 8 days between her recommendation that we see him and the meeting and then another four days before she gave me this pertinent information. Even then it was only because I had a nagging discomfort about the whole thing. She claimed it never occurred to her that I would care to know where the recommendation had come from, even through her evasive answers to my pointed questions.

How on earth could this possibly have worked out in a positive way? Was her goal just to get a reaction from me? Was it a poorly executed plan to acquiesce to her boyfriend’s advice and simultaneously slip it under my radar?

I just never know what game she’s playing and it sucks.

Talking about divorce

I’ve been at a complete loss when it comes to talking to my kids about divorce. Malcolm absolutely will not talk. He knows the answers to my questions that will shorten the conversation.

But since he’s been back to school, I’ve been using the 20 minutes of reading he’s assigned every day to read “Mom’s House, Dad’s House” with him. It kind of seems like a breakthrough. He groans and complains all the way through it, but makes comments and asks questions that he’s never opened up about before. 

I don’t particularly like the book either and I change up the language and skip some sections. But this has been pretty enlightening.

I’m going to look for a book I might like better. Sitting there reading and not pressuring him to tell me how he feels seems to be exactly the way to get him to open up.

He has a friend

Ian’s classmates all drew pictures of him last week. Can you guess which of these was drawn by his new kindergarten best friend?

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Ok, I’ll give you a hint: one child couldn’t get enough detail on Ian’s weapons with a crayon so finished up with a pencil.

Ok, I have several questions. First, the face in the middle of the chest. That’s my first question. Second, is that a little robot minion on the right? Third, well, dagger claws everywhere possible is pretty efficient. Finally, the stick figure at the bottom right seems to have done nothing to deserve his fate.

Well, apparently the little guy on the right is Isaiah off in the background. Ian explained it to me. And the face on the shirt is because he was wearing his skull and crossbones shirt that day. And the little guy in the bottom right corner is a human who is evil. Ian added him.

I should have just asked him these questions first, but he won’t talk to me if I laugh when I hear his answers.