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.

Visual Survey

Vacation Planner

Question 1 (of 3):

What kind of traveller are you?

Question 2 (of 3):

When traveling, what are you up for?

Question 3 (of 3):

How long do you plan to stay?

< Start Over

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.

Super moon

My kids are begging me to let them stay up until the apocalypse. After some sage advice from Facebook, I knew talking to them directly, openly, and honestly was my only way forward.

Look, boys. We’re not going to have food, water, or transportation for months – possibly years. I need you to get your rest tonight because this is going to be bad. Really bad. I’m going out on the deck to watch for marauders. You get your rest for now and I’ll start screaming when I need you to wake up. Stay in here until you hear my signal.

I didn’t hear another peep out of them all night! I wish every night was the apocalypse!

Water on the floor

Dad: Ian! Don’t spill that water on the floor!
Ian: What water on the floor?
Dad: That glass of water on the table right there!
Ian: This one?
Dad: Yes!
Ian: This isn’t a glass of water on the floor. It’s on the table.