Monday, December 15, 2014

Parenting Reality in the Land of Willful Ignorance.

Every so often we run into folks who just don't get what life is like at our house. They have an image of what a "gifted child" is in their head, and when our life doesn't match that image, obviously it is because none of us are gifted. I wish, fairly frequently, that our lives matched that image, but they just don't.  However, the fact that we aren't all bookworms who enjoy studying, who raise their hands first, or who don't have parties, but instead have Socratic Conversations over weekends, while engaged in high-profile careers which allow us to have a housekeeper, and incredibly flexible hours so we're mostly paid to just think...  Well, people seem to not realize that no, that's not what gifted (much less 2E!) is. At least, not by and large (I can't speak for people I don't know!).

At our house, gifted means three computers running while the television plays a video, and Spotify plays music. Half the time, there is someone either running through the house, or falling over, and the rest of the time we're all sitting down. There is no "mildly emotional" area, it's either fine or end-of-the-world.

Parenting in this is exhausting. It really is absolutely exhausting - from the moment we wake up, until the moment Mad Natter goes to bed, it is a constant game of managing. We need to be aware of what is going to set him off, and attempt to work around that - for example, I know that telling Mad Natter that it's bedtime will set off a screaming, rampaging, stomping fit I would call hormonal if he wasn't six. It's explosive. And so, there are ten, five, and two minute warnings. There is the rapid intervention of a shouted "I'm gonna win!" when things look to spiral out of control - the race to the bathroom distracts him from the fit he's about to pitch.

It's how we manage our day - Mad Natter has the executive functioning skills of a much younger child, so if it seems like we're treating our six-year-old as though he were two, well, that's because that's where he is right now (please click through if you're unclear on why executive function is such a big deal!). This is a boy who reads on a fourth grade level, and is able to visualize incredibly complex concepts in his imagination.... but can't walk through a store. At all. He runs, dashes off, it doesn't matter the store, or the location (impulsivity).  He has, literally, done this in a grocery store 150 miles from home, when we only went in to use the bathroom. He jerked his hand out of my grasp, and I spent ten minutes chasing him through the aisles before he got waylaid by his interest in a display of HotWheels.  This is every store, everywhere. Gas stations, grocery stores, department stores, the mall, the library, it doesn't matter. Consequences (working memory) don't change things (they only start a meltdown in whatever the venue is, complete with limp-noodle child on the floor screaming, amongst other things, "Leave me alone! I don't want to go with you!" which is always a treat), and punishments are right out. He just doesn't have the ability to understand that it is not acceptable to run off in a grocery store AND apply that knowledge when faced with displays, bright lights, aisles-that-look-like-roads and the confusion of lots of people. So I'm the crazy lady with her six year old in a cart. Trust me, fellow shoppers, it's for your benefit as well.

Bedtimes are equally challenging. This evening, for example, Mad Natter came across a pair of faerie wings he had gotten from Dollar Tree. Suddenly, they were his Skylander Friend, and must come to bed with him. He has also decided that he will only sleep in The Big Bedroom, and since those wings are covered in glitter, I've said NO. I do not need a mouthful of glitter when I get cracked with those wings at 3am. This news immediately was met with screaming, "But she'll be SLEEPING ON HARD STUFF DOWN HERE!" and shortly after, "But she'll be all alone!" and I don't mean just saying so. I mean genuinely screaming. Straining voice, purple face, screaming anger. From perfectly calm to abjectly furious in less than a second (emotional regulation). The only thing that helps is to repeat the instructions, completely calmly, without changing inflection. Over, and over, and over again, until he calms. The option is given to take the wings and sleep in his own room, to find somewhere comfortable in the living room for her to sleep, or to put her in the toybox, but I am not sleeping with these wings. This is how all instances work - from "Please use the bathroom before we leave on our hour-long drive,"(planning) to "Please put your dish in the sink,"(organization, task initiation and flexibility, all in one go!) and right on along. If you ask him to do something he doesn't want to do, it is as though he flung open the doors and stampeded a herd of drama llamas straight through the living room.  Twice.

We do what we can to offer him freedom whenever we can. It doesn't help. We've been "next" on the
psych's list for a psychoeducational assessment since the end of September, which makes me think maybe we weren't so "next" after all - or they decided that we've been bumped. Either way, we're looking at again not getting the services desperately needed, and trying to parent an incredibly complicated child... effectively blind. All the tips, tricks, books, none of them have helped, and it is only getting worse as he gets older, sees that other children are not tomato staked as he is, and he is understandably frustrated by it. But, when it comes down to matters of safety, we're pretty well stuck. I can't risk a meltdown of "I don't want to go with you" proportions in stores where well-meaning passers-by may well call the police thinking I'm attempting to abduct someone else's child. I can't give him the freedom the "Well, he's gifted, so clearly he can figure it out" crowd thinks he should have, or he'll hurt someone, or end up hurt or killed himself. We're pretty well stuck.

Why do I share this stuff?  It's not because I like it. It's not because I want everyone out there to look at my situation (or, at least, what of it I share) and judge. It's in the hope that others will see their situations, especially as routines are interrupted for holidays, in my life, and will know they're not alone. We're all in this together, trying to help these kids without crushing them, and it's a hell of a lot harder than outside influences will try to make you believe it "should" be.

This post has been a part of the GHF Blog Hop on Parenting OE's 2E's and Everything in Between. Please click here for more blogs in this hop!

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