The Post-Adopt Crawl

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The speaker tells our packed meeting room, “Best use for the baby’s “Exersaucer Sit-n-Spin” is — first — taking the baby out — put saucer on drive, back car up. That, if you know a kid who used one, was in a jumper, has ADD, ADHD, math or reading problems, or, autism-like behaviors, probably he or she didn’t crawl enough.

“A kid cannot crawl enough,” a woman named Bette Lamotte says, “Nothing like a baby squishing his or her hips through the birthcanal, then on the floor.”  Bette says, jumping, rotating, wiggling in front of our group.

“And,” Bette says, “Don’t prop your baby up.”

This, akin to parking your child on the street like a Honda.

“Babies need to crawl, crawl, crawl, creep, creep, creep.  The floor, she says quoting someone quotable, “is the athletic field of your child.”  And, about that, “Wear your baby, up close and personal, so he or she can feel your feel, feel your heartbeats, smell your calm, your passing fears are not worry ones, gazing into your eyes, building left to right brain connections – his or her inner securities.  And, parents, this means, no strollers, no joggers, no walkers, no kidding, or else,” she says, “learning problems.  Nature has prepared us in increments for all.”

Oh, is that all, me thinking about my biological son’s ADD, dyslexia, my second son’s adoption, a built-in formula for loss, how I never considered his apparent ADHD, dyslexia, autism, ongoing tantrums relative to his not crawling much, my using an Exersaucer with our first child, the high chairs, the cribs, the carseat. I thank God at least I “wore” my kids, though I could have done so much more. Anyway, I’m awake now.

“Go back to the beginning,” Bette says, “start over, no matter your child’s age, your age.  Reconnect.”

But, how, I wonder, can I do it like he grew in me?  Like how he went through the birth canal, wasn’t a “C” section baby, wasn’t picked up from his birth mom per hospital protocol, set in an incubator for three days, prodded by doctors, nurses, left with us, baby-hungry strangers, ready to pounce like he was theirs all along, their bio babe, not someone living out of a hotel far from his birthright familiar, not with his birthmom and birthdad who seeded him beyond our reach.

“Turn on the switches,” Bette tells us,  “Do your work.  He will mend,” as she relays the story of a town near her where 17 out of 23 kids were labeled ADHD, how the learning problems went back to the baby jumpers at daycare.

Body, then mind, the day’s speakers say.  Yoga.  Spine, body, brain.  First, crawling.

I spend the next day, the weekend, near fetal, integrating a tsunami.  The learning what I missed and started to appreciate at the Celia Center Adoption/Foster healing conference, from word go about the adoptee “Sarah” and her journey to West Africa to the “Bio-Mom One Show,” what I could not stop reading, writing about in my journal, trying to retool my head — articles, parent, parenting, doctors blogs, Webinarjam, how my journey, my children’s differed.  I felt the riptide.  Today, I promised myself to renew bridges, our commitment to our sons, my son’s birthmom, how open dare I be?  Can we both be?

I can do it.  Yes, we can. We’re all in. We do our Brain Gym calmers, his taekwondo and swimming waiting for our Bette appointment in January, building on our daily special time. Today a train store with dad, tomorrow the beach. I buy The Body Keeps The Score, by Bessel Van Der Kolk.

“And speak to your child’s sleep,” one blogger says, “to his angels, his sorry, scary, sad places, ‘holding’ his experiences about the loss of being adopted, talk to his sleeping self, that something scary happened back there, he was powerless, tiny, that I don’t smell right, heartbeat right, am not her, him. How two of our triad are irreplaceable.  But don’t “talk it to death” — even if he’s sleeping — that that’s “TTD Syndrome.”  Grow bigger shoulders Mom,” a blog doc says.

I flashback, remembering our son’s “Gotcha Day,” the very name, not mine, aggressive, reminding me of my thin veiled greed, at the sight of our infant son and us, the pile up of tough days since with all these labels, his flight fight brain, the doctors, the schooling, the programs, camps, therapists, the questions, work. So far come, so far to go.

Today I promise myself to soften up on myself, on us all, my love language toward our challenges, not to walk away, ever, reconsider even the minor walks across the room, around the corner, the next room, as I’ve been counseled when I am trying to recover my cool, to communicate a line crossed.  Walk toward him, with him, walking away feeds feelings of abandonment, triggering more fears.

Be safe, him, me.

“Build permanence,” a Celia Center Conference doc says, “healing in the family setting.”

Create emergency plans for the big emotional stuff.  Typical kid, or not, they have, they will come.

I promise myself to be compassionate to myself when my kid says, “I hate you Mom,” this, might mean is, “I hate feeling this way.”

There is time, I tell myself.   Take a minute, or five.  Lighten up.

“Parents have 72 hours to revisit issues.”  A friend says her son’s talk doc told her. She suggests over dinner “Maybe get your need for him to show up a certain way out of your dynamic.” Ohm….my, that too? Was I projecting again? I loosen another expectation.

“Twenty minutes wires us for the good,” another speaker doc says.

Good or bad, I promise to get on the floor more, play with my son, play trains, crawling, rewiring our relationship for the long haul.

I laugh when I read this one on a blog, “Lay down.  It changes the body’s dynamic, our mindset, quieting our defenses.”  Maybe buying a mom or dad the time he or she needs lest one say or do something regrettable.

“On the kitchen lineo if you must,” I read.

By Saturday afternoon, I am an open cruciform, where I lay on the edge of my son’s soccer field, promising myself to pull over later in my car on an as-needed basis — on (but, not in) the road. My son a statue in the middle of the soccer field, unenthused, in a med fog, until he sees his dad and big brother step onto the field. “Look my brother, hey Dad look at me!” I sit up.

Webinarjam Kathy Gordon, an adoptive mom parenting counselor working with Bette says, “Make special time.  Set a timer, one on one play time, listening to your child with intent, asking a friend, neighbor, comrade be your “Listening Partner,” calling him or her, once a week, once a day with no idle chit chat, holding your time and theirs, sacred.” Crawling on the lineo if you must.

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Kid Blur

Some days I fake rigor mortis hearing my son race down the hall at a clip…five, four, three, two, one…BANG!…Six years of age, new to earth, he does not yet know a good life can be had in sip doses, how to walk the earth instead of run it, how to quiet himself.  A 10x box of sugar in a blender kind of kid, for who, standing still, is a challenge.  A blur hollerer, his  lemon Jell-o screams seep under the doors, find my sponge cake mind, cornered.  The quiet slammed to pieces.  Some days, I roll over.  Some days, I take a stand and say, lets eat cake.

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How To Make a U Turn

Today, on a hike, I decide to make my bed only on major holidays.  Awesomeness.  I then give myself a virtual star, pat on my back, for a job well-done, being solution minded, proactive, and out exercising with my six-year-old son as he runs ahead of me yelling at the mountain, the day, the path.

Today I am ahead, even thinking ahead, all points for me.

In wonder mode, I wonder how I could have forgotten my son’s meds yesterday, chastise myself about something I cannot afford — forgetting.  How forgetting sets off a sequence of awfulness.

Awfulizing anquishifications.  AaaaAAAAAAgghghgh!!!

I employ the only tool I have, try the “U” turn one.  The begin again one.  The one I learned from my son, his summer “camp” last summer.

“Try again.  Do over,” the teacher said at some behavior aberration.

Yesterday, as a result of his no medication midday, when I picked him up from school, he hit me flat palmed across my face while we sat in my car making plans.  I reached for consciousness, for that lovely responsive mother I want to be.  I found the glovebox empty.

A difficult moment, these, managing him in upsets, helping him transitioning from school to the next thing.  Me too.  Changing course, beginning anew, U-turn ones.  Even to remember I have tools, much less the finding of them, the ‘finding my breath,’ the counting up or down ones, practicing to get it in his practice, his toolbox, concepts he learns in therapy, I put in mine.  Some all but lost to me at crystal moments.

While he exploded, we sat in the car, my son screeching behind me.  I sat pointing at his car seat behind me, for him to return to it.  A sculpture holding the steering wheel with my other hand as my son twisted in his flailing lash-outs.  A regular front lawn Remington Mom fixed for time, something the world needs more of, bronze mothers, chilling.

Later, in a sensory seeking moment, his meds running low, he ran down the house hall crashing his right hand through a bedroom door window.  Needing something to pound, might as well be the glass.

How lucky he was not to have gotten hurt.  More, how lucky I was.

“Go get the broom,” I said.

Drama sucks.  And how it must suck to be caught in his dragon fire skin.  This, how I imagine my son must feel.  It sucks breath on my side too.

How, at his age, his can only mind himself in small degrees.  His caregivers — mother, father, brother, teacher, therapists — “outside brain.”  How he so wants to be in control, I do too.  Or, else the fears set in.  His and mine.  He just tips into survival mode.  Speeding to high, tipping to panic, almost unreachable for soothing.

Days I wonder how many meds, behaviorists, diet, exercise reiterations, new BFF-music-action-hero-mindful kite therapies must I throw at our tiny boy?

His autism lays me low.  Lays him lower.  Exhausted, I cannot unplug forever in a spa.  Today as good as any day to discover the almighty U-turn, begin again minute, the next minute one.

A day in a minute, I come to believe life, the work of God and His arsenal of earth workers, saint-sinner, angel-sentient beings, goodwill ambassadors, universe teachers, earth or heaven-bound, good triers, all supporting us.

A madness not to be in control of one’s self.

Today I feel his pain, hold tight on the wheel.  Form a triangle with my hands.  Grip thumbs on my wheel.  I do not say a thing, tell myself, to hang in one minute longer, re-frame life, fold up my hope tent, give-it-over, give-it-up to angels.

Soon enough some kind of grace comes, a low interest loan helping me keep my head as a special needs parent.  There will be many assumptions to untie by nightfall.

Some days the old adages seem best.  Tie, un-tie, re-tie, rather, than cut something out of the garden.   Do nothing, sit out the storm, sayings.

Times maybe I shouldn’t negotiate with Mr. Takeover but still I do, like today, when I said, “Let’s go for a hike.”

This pleased him to no end, “Okay!”

Play’s, the thing.  A language that does not come easy to my son or myself.  A hierarchy of play missed kids like mine.

Last summer we played according to plan.  Therapist-directed play that started with him as a lone player with his preferred toy, trains.  He played as if the two were one.  The goal, to progress up a play scale as neurotypical kids do.  Toy as agent-object, outside of the child, toward empathy.  Players playing, with other players, giving, taking, adding, sharing ideas folding, expanding, accepting.

A whole UN in a sandbox.  Peace has a taste somewhere between butter and fruit.

Our days of playing trains on the tracks started simple, we added buildings, airports, pirate ships, bridges, dinosaurs.

Moving up the play scale when we coupled our play with dolls — jumping in and out of the ‘doll as agent’ box — with our engineers, passengers, conductors, construction workers.  Change-ups my son allowed, affecting his senses  — boundaries — easing somewhat with peers,’ let downs improving with his flexible thinking.   His asking me to borrow a toy, a huge leap.  Rebounding, through failure key to games, sports, team, classwork, life.

What a strange country each day. His ‘visa’ not allowing us access to each other’s borders, language, ideas, much less moving along with other travelers, affecting his learning of social mores, ABCs, and numbers.

Kindergarten hard.

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Fergus, the Dog

Maybe it’s worth the extra fifty. Extra sixty, eighty, ninety bucks. One-hundred sixty. Six hundred sixty bucks.

For three months of sitters, I mean.

For one month of therapy, I mean.

For the paint and play class of mixsters kidsters glue-sters, pressing discard plastic Easter eggs into corrugated and clay in a class of parachute dance and art, the tot mountaineers with Miss Sandy, I mean.

Worth it for someone to run new figure eights on my old kitchen tarmac. The 60s pebble limey linoleum floor or outside, on the black top line going round our house, up the neighborhood drive. the money it takes for fresh horses, a sitter, to run with someone unseatable, our five-year-old, S..

Someone magic enough, with bubbling energy, enough day and night to follow ’round my little guy, stem my “I wonder if he’s feral (insert here. Help me reroute panic about his acronym diagnosis menu kind of thinking). Someone to follow Mr. Nonstop to the trampoline out back, jump their hundred plus along his forty-three prone flat on the mat. Someone to jar his noodle preschool body enough so my kid feels alive enough, enough to stop, pause, wait, calm himself back to quiet hands. Back to regular alive.

Parents in the know, know what I mean, know what I mean. Someone alive enough, to keep up with the alives. A Buddha Knievel type of helper. Buddha Knievel — Christ — “hey, what the Hell is he doing up on the roof of my car? — Yeah, someone so alive to take care of that kind of alive. Someone above humanity alive, but, but, but someone realler than that.

Even if this someone is a dog.

Someone dog enough — so dog un-tired running out the front door round back, out to the mailbox, out to the vegetable garden out by our foothill road where we live off the main line of Los Angeles.
Someone nice enough too. Willing to go the distance. There and back. There and back. There and back. Again. Again. Again. Just takes practice. A lot. And a village. Thank you very much.

Thirty times seven times three hundred and fifty two times infinity times.

That’s how much practice, how many times it takes to get it right, seconds to count to cool, to get chill enough to deal.

I need someone who can hang on. With clamped teeth hang on. Hang on a Frisbee. Hang in with the yelling, banging, tumbling, head butt leaping and transition switch-ups. Okay with playing too hard scrabble through dry grass, thickets, mulched oak to slick parquet. Someone like — Fergus — our neighbor’s dog. Fergus, the dog. I need someone like Fergus the neighbor’s dog, a Wheaton terrier.

A dog so good at being a being, that my afraid-of-dogs-little man now calls him his dog that we keep at her place, and my dear neighbor does not mind.

So good a dog that Fergus is I call him Sir.

Sir Fergus the Dog, thank you, very much.

This, the dog I want to be when I grow up someday. This the dog I want to be when I wake from the nightmare gnarl of autism tooling, paring our old parenting ways. The ups, downs of autism. Even high-functionaries like S. leave no room for rest. Fergus doesn’t need the rest. Fergus says, “Bring it on.” This pup wants action. I want to be as good as this dog, I mean.

So good is Ferg, that if he pushed a grocery cart, slid pot pie in the microwave by six each night, maybe, could type this when not ‘sitting freeway shevasana’ in daily traffic, could take over my daily meditations of ‘ohm building,’ run my son to his special behavior camp, us stuck in the 405 traffic school twice a day, stuck in the carpool lane, two to four hours a day — I’d be out of a job. Quite the pair.

So good at being a better me that Sir F. pup is that he gets the better of me. I have to laugh and thank heaven.

F. and S. on loops around our place, in and out of our falling down early 1910s farmhouse and barn, kicking gravel into piles, making train tracks, tug o’warring, F.’s rope knot in the dog’s mouth, the two begging favors for treats that I beg too, sit too, sit up too, sit back, take notes, watch the all day puppy fun.

Fergus and S..

“Fergus’s my brother,” my son said two days ago running past into camp kitchen.

His seventeen-year-old brother knows, laughs it off, knows S. is right. The dog is magic, transforms the day. Brother love flows rivers between our first born and the two ‘pups’ by different Dads. With F., S.’s so easy to have around, his fun side flips onto sweet, manageable, he even acts his age.

I pray the sweet days stick.

Give me that cuddle boy we adopted five years ago at birth, give me the kid who asks without grabbing, without impulsing heedless vibes into streets. Days, I pray someday he’ ll come back when I call, will be safe from his too-forward hellos to strangers, safe from his tippy-tip toes to his head, gain the tools for a future, not dip so much into sad.

Days on end I want to run away too. Or, take a clue, go outside and run with friends, be the third silly pup in the picture to the right, maybe be Fergus the dog for a day or two, hang loose, and be Ferg, be like him.

Me, as Ferg. Me as F. with S.

My son’s small hands running through my Wheaten dog dreads, my Wheaton hair (not-fur) messy shag, my ‘I-see-the-big-picture’ now clear, unteary,now, unshaken, me as pup. Tail wagging, my ‘don’t stop now boy’ springing, ‘we’re almost there c’mon kid, keep trying, keep going, going, gotta keep going, up, up, up, and away. Cool water just ahead. Days, I can see the long run from here. And, it’s good, real good, puppy-boy.’

Days on end I want to feel my dogface joyface in my son’s, my dogface joy licking my son happy. Hands, arms, legs. For my son to see me. My regular Mom lady face like he sees Fergus’ face. See my ‘I’m too tired,’ but I’m still a lover, still a giver face, you can count on me, your Dad, your big bro. All of us next to S. and friend F.

That day, I’ll declare a holiday, say, “Somebody play me something with trombones, trumpets, something Aaron Copland.”

Each day it’s triumph.

The days, I watch and learn from F..

This, I’m told our best chance. Learn to play. And, so I observe the two and I start again. I play, we play.

Ferg’s temperament not undone like ours, mine. The dog, not undone by S.’s close-range screaming. Days, I reach for my Bose headset and go toss a ball. Fergus,’ not frayed in the least, by the five, six door slams — nothing emergency — unlike myself. S’s dysregs., stims, almost-Tourettables, his “I hate you, Mama, hate you, hate you, hate you. You’re not my friend.” Blade turn every time.

Fergus, the dog saint, doesn’t mind the yucks.

“Tell me about that again puppy-boy,” I can almost hear him saying, “I don’t believe you mean that puppy-boy. Get ready to roll puppy-boy. I am going to nip you, frisk you, bite you back to happy puppy-boy. If you go too far, I’m coming back anyway, puppy boy, you unshepherdable, unshepherded friend, my Snaggletooth will test your Little Debbie Snickerdoodle arms and legs. I’m a lyin’ dyin,’ open invitation eatin’ Wheaten greetin.’ Nothing matters when I’m with you friend, nothin’ but your puppy-boy sunshine. Play me friend, neighbor, eternal friend of the special sunshine kind, let’s teach your parents it takes lots of practice to be special, to be the parent of a kid with special stuff. I see you’re in there kid. Come out and play.

Rain or shine someone puppy, someone people, loves you, kid. Someone is loving you, me, the kid. Someone knows you need a shepherd kid, maybe a fluff-ball shepherd who needs the work, works for cheese wages, someone who knows It’s just the work we shepherds do.

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