Imagine a job where you are both hated for doing your job and not doing your job.
I have over 200 documents that could potentially be used on each client I serve. I know this because I was just tasked with the project at work to redo our electronic filing system. 200+ attempts to help these kids see some relief from whatever it is they are suffering. I work with kids and their parents many of whom have an organic diagnosis of RAD, ADHD, depression, PTSD or other trauma. I would say the best way to sum up my clients is they have seen more in their short lives than I have seen in my 40 years. We social worker’s don’t talk about our work because frankly we can’t. We are bound by privacy laws and most of us learned pretty fast that our “work talk” killed the mood at gatherings and got sick of hearing, “I couldn’t do your job.” Well, it’s no surprise due to how unsupportive many of our legislators are at protecting our kids that many of us social workers can no longer “do our jobs….successfully anyway”.
It’s time that everyone understand what it’s like working in this field nowadays. Gone are the days of solely being able to focus on improving the family system since the introduction of 200+ documents. Many of them required for each case and have timelines attached to each document. We are often redoing pointless paperwork that families will literally never look at again, all because of funding…not people…funding.
So, when this new bill came to light in the MN House, MN House File 2265 I was livid. Of course, again it had nothing to do with people so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, but then again allowing convicted sex offenders, child abusers, murderers (to name a few) to provide services that I refer children to made me sick to my stomach. Now, not only will I be trying to find services that meet the needs of clients, but potentially will need to make certain the child (who could have been sexually perpetrated on) does not get re-victimized while on the road to his/her day treatment program. Does anyone have any idea what message this sends to parents and kids? These parents are exhausted. When they need PCA services or MNet or CTSS services it is because they have exhausted other therapies, hospitalizations, evaluations, etc. Yet now there is a potential that their PCA could have been a former sex offender.
Let me fill you in on what it’s like living with a RAD, PTSD,FASD or sexually exploited child? I will give you some hypothetical examples to help you understand.
Reactive Attachment Disorder or RAD kiddos experienced a sad reality early in life when their basic needs were not met. It could have been food, love, diaper not changed repeatedly, etc. The Still Face Experiment explains this best? If you have a baby try this: place your baby in a high chair and play normally with him or her (happy faces, clapping, etc.), look at his/her reaction. The baby I am sure is pretty happy. Now look away briefly and when you look back at your baby have a still face. No smile, no clapping, nothing. Just a still face. Your baby will become distressed pretty quick because he/she will likely not understand what is going on; normally you’re happy and engaging. Now turn your head away again and look at your baby and be engaging. RAD kiddos live in that still face distress mode, yet they learn to adapt somewhat to their world but not necessarily to relationships. Now, this RAD kiddo gets adopted and the adopted parents have an engaging face. This is not “normal” to them. They don’t understand it. So, they do what kids do when they don’t understand…they act out. At this point it takes a very skilled parent who understands RAD to help the child regulate their emotions. I can tell you on one hand how many “skilled” RAD parents I have met. The likelihood that one of my clients’ parents understands RAD is slim to none. Imagine every time you showed love to your adopted child they pushed you away or worse; abused you. It happens. I have seen it all too often.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder or FASD is 100% preventable. It is also important to understand though that significant damage can be done even before a women finds out she is even pregnant so pointing fingers and judging is pointless and counterproductive. This is a spectrum disorder so it varies to the degree of mild to severe limitations. I will describe more of a severe limitation of FASD. FASD kiddos could recite their entire evening routine, the problem…actually doing the routine. This completely boils down to brain damage in certain parts of the brain. The parts where one can remember steps to a task may not be affected but actually applying those tasks…impossible due to brain damage from in-utero alcohol use (now this is severe cases). How to help these kiddos: simple…routine, routine, routine. Basic skills over and over and over. Let’s say you want to teach a FASD kiddo to cook Easy Mac in the microwave, but there are several steps and tons of what if’s that could cause serious problems. So, for 30 days you show Suzy how to cook Easy Mac in the microwave and did so exactly the same way and now it’s day 31; time to completely do this on her own. More than likely, one of two things will happen: 1. Suzy will stand there in the kitchen holding a cup of Easy Mac not knowing what to do or 2. A fire will start in the microwave. The parents of these kiddos I often say have the patience of Saints, but these are also the kiddos that are using significant PCA services because their needs are so high. If Suzy who is let’s just say hypothetically in her teens cannot make Easy Mac after 30 days of “practicing” do you think she is vulnerable to her new child molester PCA?
Have you ever been to a house and rang the door bell, but it doesn’t work? Is your first thought that it must be broken? That’s not my first thought. My first thought is either the loud noise is too much for an Autistic kid or the parents disabled the bell because it triggers their PTSD kid. Think about it…you lived in a house where there were several drug raids as a child and that all started with the dinging of the doorbell…an innocent doorbell and you as a parent are thinking “oh it’s just your buddy stopping by,” but all you can think about is what came after that bell when you were a child. Your body instinctively enters into a fight, flight, or freeze mode.
While therapy, medications, and other services can help a lot of these kids and their parents. Many are to taking their child to therapy 2-3x per week or needing daily PCA just so they can make dinner for their family or need respite for the weekend because the child has burned every family bridge and the parent desperately needs a break from being kicked, hit, punched, by the child they vowed to love. These parents have sacrificed hobbies because they have zero time for themselves. They have lost friends because their child is out of control and friends just think they need to “lay down the law” or “parent differently”. Marriages have been sacrificed; yet deep down the last thing that was needed was to lose the one person that “gets it”. Many are forced to send their child to a different State for residential treatment because everything in their State is full. They sleep with alarms on their bedroom doors because they have been told by their child that they cannot wait to kill them in their sleep. Crisis plans are set up with your younger children and parents are forced to find safe locked areas of the house because the older sibling continually harms them. Clients have been kicked out of stores or restaurants because their inability to control their Tourette’s. This is reality for my clients.
I have yet to meet a child who wants to be mentally ill or who wants to be unlovable. Every kid I meet wants the same thing…to be “normal.” Try telling what “normal” is to anyone of my clients. It’s heartbreaking. We hold onto hope. Hope is hardly in my reach anymore.
Do you know how easy it is to dissolve an adoption? Too easy.Yet when one adopts; the Judge turns to the parents and says, “This is your child, with all the rights; just as you would have given birth.” My question: If this child is granted all the same rights as a birth heir; then why is it so easy to dissolve an adoption? Whatever happened to unconditional love?
What is left standing next to me is a child now with no parents, asking me “what now?”
My response as I am staring off into space in disbelief…”another 200+ documents”.
I had just sat down with my co-worker at a local Mexican restaurant when I received the call. It was my sister crying. I asked her if she was okay. All she could mutter was “they found a lump and confirmed it was cancer.” The many psychology classes that I had had over the years taught me that assimilating objects during trauma events can happen consciously and subconsciously. After that call; Mexican restaurants made me sick to my stomach.
My sister is the oldest of 6 and in family sibling constellation she plays the part to a T. She’s the caretaker, level-headed, responsible, follows the rules, introvert-type. Basically, everything I am not. I am second in line and I am the outgoing, spontaneous, peacemaker that wants everything to be fair. My sister basically raised my girls and without her occasional dinners the nights my husband works late; my children would be subjected to either cereal or Mac-n-cheese.
My sister is in the medical field. No amount of bodily fluids bothers her. Me, on the other hand, just about fainted typing bodily fluid. When my niece was born my sister and her BFF thought it would be great that I experience the miracle of childbirth. All I remember is she stopped pushing long enough to say, “why are you petting my finger?” It’s because I was trying to get to a happy place in my mind and not realizing where I was at for a moment. Let’s just say God knew I was meant to adopt.
When her cancer showed its ugly face, things changed a lot. My kids’ nutrition for one sort of tanked (okay I’m exaggerating slightly here, but I wouldn’t be a good “second-in-line” in the family constellation if I didn’t). I just really hate cooking and love to be taken care of…there I said it. Plus, my sister makes really good food. The biggest thing that changed is the role reversal between my sister and myself. It was her turn to be taken care of and I was fine with taking care of her. What I was not fine with was how this role reversal affected me.
Through this role reversal I had my sister turning to me for emotional support. I was not used to this. She was the strong one. I was in no way prepared for this, yet she needed me to be, so I had no choice but to power through and figure out what she needed. I was not myself, but more importantly my sister was not herself. I knew one day we would get back to where we were it would just take time.
God gives you only what you can handle…I had to say it again and several times…God gives you only what you can handle. I typically am always trying to figure out what am I supposed to learn from situations. I thought this one was pretty simple…giving up control. I was completely wrong. While yes cancer does not allow for a person to have control over their body or sometimes mind and spirit, but it had little to do with this. Last night in my dream; it came to me from 3 little words I wrote on my sister’s notes while at one of her doctor’s visits…. You’re Gonna Live.
My mom, my sister’s amazing BFF Kari, and I would attended her doctor’s visits and naturally me being a Social Worker I did the only thing I knew, write notes. I wrote pages of notes; often verbatim because I didn’t want to miss an important detail. On her first visit, of course like all cancer patients their main question is “am I going to live?” This was the last question, so by this point my hand wouldn’t stop writing or I was just hoping to cheer my sister up by making her laugh; surely she would call me a dork…she did. These words though are exactly what God is trying to teach us (or remind us). To live. Whether we have anxiety about not being good at something or not having control over something or are depressed about something. It got me thinking:
Plus, my notes are never wrong …You’re gonna live!
I think tomorrow for the first time in nearly a year I am going to eat Mexican and it’s going to taste delicious!
Let me be clear about who I am. I am the mom who was planning for independence by the time my girls were 8 so they could stay at home for brief periods by themselves. I am not a hold-your-hand, spoon-feed-you-information type of mom. I don’t do for a child what they can already do for themselves. I am the mom who changes the wifi password daily to ensure that chores are being done first. I am also the mom who tries to prevent problems. I plan and plan some more and when my plans don’t work out, I get stressed. My stress is usually directed at my family; namely my girls in the morning as I have the sole responsibility to get them out the door and to school.
I’ve decided today I don’t care anymore that you are waiting an extra 30 seconds in the school drop off line so that my oldest will finally get out of the car. See, I am done stressing her out with my nagging words of “there are people waiting, hurry” and “go, go, go.” What you didn’t see; was me planning 2 blocks before school I was already saying, “unbuckle and get your backpacks on” in hopes that my oldest would be ready by the time I was in the line. A good day is when my oldest is unbuckled right as I am dropping her off. A great day is when I can make it to the bus stop in the morning so I don’t even have to worry about what you are thinking or going to do behind me in that drop off line.
I wonder if you have to tell your child to get dressed, let him/her process for a few minutes what you just said, hope that he/she doesn’t get distracted by literally anything, and not have to tell him/her 10 more times to get dressed. I wonder if your child takes 15 minutes just to get out of bed? Do you ever have your child sleep in their uniform at night? I know my daughter has and it’s likely the one she wore the day before. It’s not a fight I am willing to have on some days. I am already having to constantly direct her every morning every single task. She’s nearly 11. It’s not that she doesn’t want to do these things, she just gets stuck. I’m a cruise director of a sinking ship. I wonder if you have to make sure that your car is cleaned out every night so that your child doesn’t get distracted by anything in your car on the way to school? Even a gum wrapper would distract my oldest. She’ll pick it up, smooth it out, fold it up to make it look like a new piece of gum, but this will take her longer than the 13-minute drive to school. You may not understand that, so I encourage you if you are ever willing to come and join me some morning to understand.
I am thankful that my youngest doesn’t have the struggles that my oldest has, so of course you see her jumping out of the car at lightning speed much like your child; I would imagine. I wonder what it’s like having an older sister that you can clearly see has some struggles, takes medications, goes to neurofeedback weekly, and has special services at school? I just hope that while she doesn’t understand why her older sister doesn’t get out the car as fast as she can, she will still show compassion and patience with her and others like her. Unlike your willingness to show patience with me the other day.
I just need you to know that I don’t care anymore. I refuse to send my daughter to school stressed by my nagging words. My last words to her will no longer be “there are people waiting, hurry or go, go, go.” They will be “I love you and have a great day sweetie.” Period. I can only plan so much and anticipate so many problems that could go wrong, that I am done with you and worrying about what you think or if my beautiful daughter is taking longer than 30 f****** seconds to get out of the car. Take care Lexus SUV you are no longer my problem and your errant honking no longer bothers me. More than likely you will now see me smiling knowing that I just sent my daughter to school in a good mood.
You told me last night that you are stressed. I have never heard you say those words before when talking about your job. You opened up to me about why this is and I had no idea it affected you like this. You joked about needing a “lobotomy” when you retire so that all the bad things you saw when working will never be recalled in your memory again. You shared some of those memories with me. They are horrific. I asked you to stop because I couldn’t even handle the description of it. You told me of your worst memory and it involved a child who at the time was the same age as our youngest daughter. I remember that day. You came home while after the incident and held our daughter and didn’t want to let go. You have been coming home lately and just going to bed. It’s likely due to the stress and mental/emotional exhaustion. It’s not like you. You are the strong one, but I see you breaking down.
You carry the stress that your job is creating on our girls. We are back to being kicked in the head by a leg at 3am again. I thought those days were long gone, but lately the bed is full. You see them cry and beg you not to go to work. That can’t be easy to leave. They think you are not coming back. That is stress that I don’t have to deal with when I leave for work. It’s not fair. You try and reassure them that you will be back, but you and I know the truth…the unthinkable could happen. You try and be strong for them, but I know you.
You are worried. You are tired. You are in a state of hypervigilance every single day. Your sole focus at work is to just make it home alive, to be able to kiss your “three girls”. You are around a lot of hate just for looking like you do. You’re not used to that. You’re the life of the party, everyone wants to be around you. This can’t be easy for you. I worry about you. I can’t stop thinking about you. You’re never like this. I always envied the way you handled stress; calm, cool, and collected. You are a go with the flow-let’s go on a road trip and not have a plan-type of guy. It took me years to understand and accept your spontaneity, to not be tempted to plan, and just have fun with whatever came our way.
You’re so easy to love. You try not take life too seriously. You’re great at everything you do. I have this competitive side of me that has made several attempts to match or exceed your abilities and you win every time…often without trying or knowing that I am even competing against you. I used to get angry that I would lose. You always wondered why I was angry. I’m not angry anymore. I don’t care about any of that anymore because you’ve seem to have lost yourself somewhere and though you can appear happy, I know you. You’re thinking about that uniform. You don’t want to put it on anymore, but yet there’s still a piece of you that thinks you can still help someone and that they care that you were there in their darkest hour.
I want you to know that my mind is on you. I will keep praying that you come home safe. I will keep our home clean so that you don’t have to worry about it. I will learn how to cook, so you can try and escape for a break and get a nice dinner that you deserve. I will get more help with the girls so that you don’t have to worry about if they are worrying about you. I will take care of the bills. I will take care of whatever I need to…
I will do all of this so that you can focus on one thing while you are at work…coming home.
I was nearly blinded by the shininess of his perfectly white teeth and smile that he gave me to hear what he had to say, but decided; well he’s hot he must know. Dr. Hottie tells me it’s time to have the menses talk with Grace. I said to him, “um you just said she was on the zero percentile, so I’m pretty sure she’s not gonna have her period until she’s a senior in high school.” How did I go from being at her 9 year check up to now being told to have these adult-like conversations? There is so much that she needed to accomplish before she “loses her innocence” by hearing about all this!
Naturally, I went home and informed Joe about the conversation that we were supposed to have soon with Grace. Joe had a puzzled look on his face and said, “Good luck with that.” “Great…thanks,” I replied. Later Joe came into the office and asked if I had the talk with her. I said, “no there was something we needed to do first…and I just booked it…we’re going to Disney World!” Okay, so my rationale is pretty clear, even though Joe struggled understanding. Basically, once I have this “talk” with her; her innocence will be gone (okay fine, I am being dramatic), but we have never been to Disney World and she still believes in the magic of princesses (or so I thought) and I needed to bring the girls to Disney before this innocence was gone. Joe stared at me with a blank stare and I said, “how about we set you up with a deep sea fishing excursion?” Joe was in. Man this was too easy.
Disney was great…except we went during the busiest time and the hottest time of the year.
The time came and I was ready to have the “talk” with Grace. I enlisted the help of my awesome 15 year old babysitter, Paige. I thought…who better to bridge the gap from parental speak to kid speak than with a teenager. What could go wrong? From the start this was a hilarious disaster. It started like this:
Paige: “I got this…so Grace you know when I say I am dating Tom?...It means Time Of the Month…and then I say a week later Tom and I broke up?”
Me: “um…wait what? Dating Tom? Breaking up?...back in my day we just called it Aunt Flo…or Aunt Flo came to visit...or my step dad’s favorite Riding the Broom”
Paige: “no…that is why I am here. You clearly need me.”
Me: “wait…you date tom and then break up and you want to associate that with your period? What if you date an actual Tom?”
At this point we both look at Grace and see that she is clearly confused. So, Paige grabs her phone and pulls up a picture of a uterus and explains that once a month eggs drop out of these ovaries (pointing to the ovaries) and out your whohaa.
Me: “Paige we call it a vagina in this house.”
Paige: “that word is weird…call it whohaa, or nether regions, or who who dilly”
Me: “that’s what it’s called!” “Say it with me Paige v-a-g-i-n-a”
Paige: “you’re crazy, care bear”
Grace: “so let me get this straight once a month we lay eggs like chickens?”
Me: Omgosh Paige what have we done, we clearly suck at this…I suck at this! Hold on. I went downstairs and grabbed my 2 inch thick “How to say it to kids” book and pulled up the puberty section, skimmed it, and slammed it shut and said, “Grace once a month a female sheds egg’s, but you don’t see the eggs; it forms blood that does come out the vagina. You use feminine products to keep your underwear from getting soiled”.
As one could imagine the look on Grace’s face was what I didn’t want to see…ever! It was a look of disgust, shock, and disbelief. She looked at Paige as if to receive validation and Paige says, “yep…it sucks, but every girl goes through it at some point.”
Grace: “um…why are you telling me this now?”
Me: “well you may not get your period, but your friends may and they will talk about this at school and I wanted to tell you before school told you so that you know. Do you have any questions?”
Grace: “so these eggs when they come out, do they hurt?”
Me: “great question and no, but sometimes you get cramps in your stomach.”
Paige: “…and you get pimples, and crabby, and you hate life”
Me: “I don’t hate life”
Grace: “mom you get crabby a lot, is this why?”
Me: “ugh guy’s okay we are off topic again…focus…and I am not crabby all the time.”
Grace: “okay, so let me get this straight. Once a month eggs come out your nether regions (me: vagina), fine vagina every month but it’s blood and you don’t use a Band-Aid, you use a pad or tampon and this is normal?”
Paige and me: “yep that’s pretty much it”
Grace: “why because this sounds stupid and awful”
Me: “well Grace that’s a whole other conversation that I would really love to involve your dad in on. I would hate for him to miss out on that conversation.”
The next morning Grace comes into my room early and whispers to me, “mom those plugs that you bring to work to plug holes in the walls…I read on the box that it was called Tampons. You mentioned that is for your period so why are you plugging holes in the walls at your office with them.…and does dad know about all this?”
Me: “Grace not only does your dad know about this, but he will go to the store and get me feminine products if I need them and furthermore you better find a man that will do the same for you, got it?”
Grace: “mom you must be dating Tom right now can you tell me when you break up with him?”
Me: “Paige!!!!!!! LOL”
It’s 10:35 and I lay in bed waiting to hear the same sound that I long to hear every night he works. The sound of the door inadvertently slamming behind him lulls me into immediate sleep. This night was no different than the rest. After work, I get the girls from my mom, sister, or after school program it just depends on the day and my families’ schedules. I like to have the girls go with my mom or sister. The girls prefer it, plus it saves us money. I am very fortunate to have my family help us throughout the years.
We get home and I try and figure out dinner. I hate cooking, coupled with my inability to cook it makes for interesting meals. My husband is an amazing cook and there are many days that I attempt to cook a nice meal to entice him home, but when it comes time for his identified “dinner break” he doesn’t show up. He can’t. I try to remember that he wants to, but he can’t.
The girls and I spend another dinner just the three of us. We say our prayers. My youngest always says, “and protect daddy and his friends when they are working.” The other day it hit me…I wonder if other children have the same prayer as my youngest? We try and have a nice dinner and talk about school or friends or our plan for the evening, but more often than not the girls are wanting to talk about daddy and wishing daddy was home. “Me too,” I say. My oldest puts on the scanner because she wants to hear daddy. I oblige because secretly I do too. The three of us are sitting around the scanner like 3 preteens waiting for a boy to request a song for us on the radio. Soon enough we hear “1Charlie44* DK driver north 65”. Without missing a beat my oldest says, “well daddy is definitely not coming home if he just pulled over a drunk driver.” I nod my head in agreement. My oldest and I gush over hearing his voice. My youngest usually reacts in repulse while hitting her palm on her forehead and shaking her head. We turn off the scanner because we know that more than likely he won’t be back on in while and I try to live a somewhat “normal” life when he’s working. Grace jokingly says to me, “mom, normal doesn’t exist.”
“What do you mean normal doesn’t exist?” I say. “Mom, my friends probably don’t know what a police scanner is.” She’s right…our life is not normal. Most kids are reciting things from their favorite t.v. shows. Mine; from a police scanner. It might very well be sad that they knew call codes, military time….”10-4, ETA, Nora, Zebra, DK, ….” If anything it gives comfort. I am certainly not one to overreact if I hear something on the scanner and honestly we don’t listen all that much, but in an odd way it provides us comfort.
We go about our evening as usual and bedtime is met with the typical refusals. The girls ask to call daddy. There’s no answer. I tell them he is really busy and if I hear from him I will tell him to stop in and give them squeezes. That seems to pacify them. We say our prayers and they go to sleep.
It’s now 11:30, I am wide awake. I haven’t heard that sweet sound that I love hearing so much. My mind starts to think of the what if’s. The irrational thoughts seem to overtake the rational ones. “He clearly had a drunk driver and so why would I think he would be home on time?” I just need to keep telling myself that and then maybe I could fall asleep. “Well what if….., but a Deputy and a Chaplin would be here by now if something happened.” “You just need to fall asleep, everything is fine.” The mind is a powerful thing and the Devil knows my weakness.
It’s midnight, I start to think of the club that no wife wants to be a part of and wonder if I just joined that club unknowingly. I have spoken to a few of these wives. They’re just like me. Officer Shawn Silvera’s wife, Jennifer I met her at one of the funerals. I remember her strength and recall thinking there was no way I could be that strong. She carries on her late husband’s legacy in many ways. I envy her courage and emotional strength. Officer Scott Patrick’s wife, Michelle I was sort of speechless when I met her. I didn’t know what to say. I just cried, told her that I was sorry for her loss, and hugged her. Once composed, I had an amazing conversation with her and acknowledged the beauty that I felt the picture
of her daughter in the funeral possession with her hands shaped in a heart resonated me to my very core. Officer Tommy Decker’s wife, Alicia though I never spoke to her directly I will never forget seeing her walking behind her husband’s casket and needing to be held up by two of his partners and the last impression that I had when everyone was leaving the gravesite. She was just sitting there in the freezing cold, starring at her husband’s casket. I cannot even imagine what she was thinking…just sitting there clutching onto her husband’s jacket and the flag that was presented to her. Though I did not attend Deputy Steve Sandberg’s funeral, I did listen to his daughter Cassie’s eulogy. The incredible strength she had while talking about how wonderful her dad was.
My irrational self starts to think about something possibly happening and my mind shifts to the girls and how they adore their dad, devastation would be an understatement. I get up and try calling him…nothing. Text? Nothing. My rational self again says he’s just busy with a drunk driver and will be home…give my worries to God.
It's 12:30…1:00am…” just go to bed Carrie…everything is fine” …I try and try to convince myself. It’s not working.
It’s 1:12am and I hear the most beautiful sound that I have been waiting for since 10:35, but this time it doesn’t lull me to sleep. This time, I am so overcome with emotions that I jump out of bed to see him. Clearly he knows me too well because he doesn’t even first take off his duty belt, he comes directly to see me. He confirms that he had a drunk driver and with the entire process and paperwork it takes a very long time. I know this. I try and tell my rational self this over and over, but I wonder if Jennifer, Michelle, Alicia, or even Cassie ever did the same.
It only takes one time, one situation, one call, one person and my life would be forced to change. Grace is right this is not normal, our life is not normal, normal doesn’t exist.
I so wish we were normal or in the least not need the sound of a slamming door to bring me peace.
*not accurate call code for safety & Department reasons
Today a first aid kit ruined my day. You’re probably wondering how something that is typically pretty helpful could ruin someone’s day. Well, think of the first aid kit as more of a metaphor than just a first aid kit. Today it was a first aid kit, yesterday it was a water bottle, tomorrow…who knows. I will start at the beginning.
Grace, my oldest has some struggles. They interfere with her daily life at school and at home. While the struggles are minimal compared to the clientele that I have worked with, they certainly are frustrating because I know how to help her if I put my “Social Worker hat” on, but I typically have to take off my “mommy hat.” I have found in the past, the two do not mix well. For Grace planning is essential. In my professional life I am a planner, in my personal life not so much; probably because I have learned that when I plan for something at home and get all excited and then when/if the plans fall apart, I am crabby and then life is no fun. You see my husband is the spontaneous, last-minute, fly by the seat of your pants, i-don’t-like-to-plan type. So you can see that we are a great match! Nothing pains me more than having a perfect plan squashed by your soulmate wanting to insert his own “plan” into my methodically developed plan!
Everything (literally…unless it has to do with chasing a boy, seeing a boy, a boy is wanting to talk with her, or sugar) takes Grace twice or three times as long to do anything, hence why the constant need to plan. There are many days where she has asked to sleep in her uniform the night before and I have seriously contemplated allowing it knowing that it would save 30-45 minutes in the morning. I have had to literally pick her up and put her in the car to get to the bus stop. At this point, I probably have asked, told, demanded, pleaded, begged, bribed, consequenced, threatened to put on her shoes and jacket about 20 times. She’s screaming as I carry her to the car, but I have no other choice…one more tardy and child protection would be called; even though her tardies are all when she is already at school. Our drive to the bus stop, I try to make up for the awful morning that I felt we just had. Things start to turn around and she spies her first aid kit that she got from Girl Scouts. She starts to tell me about it and I engage in conversation all the while trying to not “poke the bear” with the lack of information that she has on some of the first aid items. In between her inquiries I again ask her to put on her shoes. She snaps at me and said she did. I say “thank you”. She continues to talk about this first aid kit and asked why it has [feminine] pads in it especially for a 9 year old. I said well like we talked about before some girls will need those at 9 or 10. She takes the pads out of the first aid kit and hands them to me and says she doesn’t want to bring that to school. I said, “fine.”
We get to the bus stop and have a couple of minutes to spare. I tell Grace that she needs to put the nail clipper back in the first aid kit because the bus was coming down the street. She stops clipping her nails to see if the bus was actually coming because apparently “I lie to her.” The nail clipper breaks. She starts to get upset and wants me to fix it. I tell her that it’s not fixable and we have more at home she can put in her kit. I look up and the bus is now here. I tell the girls to get their backpacks on. Grace says, “I would, but I have to get my shoes on and I want to bring my first aid kit to school.” I tell her it’s time to get on the bus. She starts to scream and cry and yell at me for being an awful mom and that I never let her do anything that she wants. She’s stressed.
This is the point when others are waiting on your child; who looks adorable, has a beautiful heart, and at first or second glance no one would ever think there is anything “wrong” with her. This is true there is nothing “wrong” with her. Life is just different with her…for her. She can be the easiest kid to parent, but also the most difficult kid to parent it depends on the situation. Every situation is different. That is what is so frustrating. One day she could be the first one in the car with everything that she needs for the school day…the next day the exact opposite. As a parent of a child like this, you will rack your brain trying to figure out “what did I do that was helpful that first day that I didn’t do the next?” The answer is simple…nothing. Constantly trying to figure out what helps will make you go insane. I know, I have been there trying to figure it out. I accept that some days are better than others. Some days she has more clarity than others or she is more intrinsically motivated…who knows. What I do know though, “out of sight out of mind” means a lot when you are trying to get a child like Grace out of your car who just informed you that her shoes are not on and the bus is waiting.
Grace knows she’s “different” than her peers. She tells me her peers get more gym time because they are done with their assignments or they don’t have to stay in for recess like she does or that she only has 10 minutes to finish her lunch because it took her 10 minutes to get to lunch.
My wish for Grace would be that more people got to see the side of her that makes her beautiful. For her 9th birthday, she wanted her friends to do random acts of kindness instead of give her gifts. For her first piano recital she wanted to play “Faithfully” by Journey because that’s the song her dad and I danced to at our wedding. For Christmas this year she and her sister went through their toys to donate to kids who don’t have any. She’s the first to point out “Tom’s mission” (which is actually a jet stream) in the sky that makes us all smile and think of Uncle Tom. She prefers watching the Food Network Channel to teach herself how to cook because apparently I struggle with that. Grace sticks up for those who are weak and does not care if it’s not “cool or popular” to do so. If Grace sees someone in need she helps them or wants to help them, she’s drawn to helping others.
Forget the bus, they can wait just a little bit…Grace is a better person than me, than most of us. The world needs people like her and right now she’s putting on her shoes…
…on the wrong feet.
It was a fall night at 2am; I was working my first "real" job after college. The psych ward was full of interesting stories. Nothing in a text book prepared me for this job yet I spent the previous four years educating myself for this very job.
This night was no different than the others...a patient would come into the hospital in a psychotic episode and needed to be restrained for the safety of themselves and others. However, this night changed my life forever. We often called security to help us restrain patients because let's face it, we were David and the psych patient was Goliath. This is when I met the most beautiful man I have ever known. There we stood; he at her arm, me at the leg, and of course me staring at the hot security guard not paying attention to what I was doing. The hot security guard smiled at me and *BAM* I was out. Well actually I was kicked by the patient because not many people want to be restrained and this woman was certainly not going to cooperate. As I was being rescued by my hot security guard, I couldn't help but think "why was I at her leg and he at her arm?" We clearly missed protocol on that one or I was trying to prove that I was a big tough, independent woman in front of the hottie security man. I decided to "note to self" for future reference and let the security guards handle the strongest part of a person.
As I sat in the office with an ice pack on my goose egg, I began to feel like a school girl again and caught myself daydreaming about life with my hot security rescuer. I caught myself writing my name with his last name, though I didn't know his last name. I only knew him as "Joe Security Guard," so naturally I did the next best thing..."Carrie Security Guard." "Yep that could work," I thought to myself. Just as I was doodling for the millionth time, my hot new security guard husband showed back up. Apparently, I had been dreaming for so long that I forgot it was time to take the patient out of restraints. Well fortunately my new man was here right on time to help. Hmmm...wait a minute normally we have to call security to remind them, I thought to myself. Could this be a sign that maybe he was interested in me???
After a month I got the courage to ask him out and wondered why he hadn't asked me out. I didn't care, I was going to Carpe Diem today! To my chagrin another girl was also pining for my man. Clearly she did not get the memo that this man was going to be my new husband; he just didn't know it yet. It's like I wanted to mark my territory and pee all around him, but I am a lady (and maybe a little passive aggressive) so I waited patiently for her to leave. Once she left it was game on!
Our fist date was October 25, 2000. It was a wonderful night and I didn't want it to end. He brought me back to Hog Swamp and I remember thinking "I don't want to go back". The next day Joe called and said that he also didn't like bringing me back to Hog Swamp; so he invited me to live with him. I calmly said, "yeah that's cool", but really inside I was freaking jumping for joy and not because I had just moved back to Hog Swamp after living in the Sorority in college, but because I got to live with the hot security guard! It turns out both Joe and I were madly in love.
About a few months of living in sin...err dating; Joe Security Guard came to me and said that he no longer wished to finish his business degree and would like instead to be become a police officer. My immediate thought was; well my "marry a doctor, be a domestic goddess plan, live in a mansion" didn't pan out after I met my Hottie McSecurity Guard. I was just settling on to plan B "marry a business man, have a part-time job, and be a domestic goddess living in a nice middle class abode" certainly was the next best thing. But, marrying a police officer surely meant "full-time job, living in Crapids with bed sheets as curtains." Naturally, my response was "I'm not going to date/marry a cop." What he did next sent my shallowness to the first circle of hell to go and play cards with the devil himself. He ripped up the police academy application and finished his business degree. I'm the worst person in the world at the moment and I clearly don't deserve this man.
One day after work we decided to go have some drinks with co-workers. We were all enjoying the atmosphere and each other's company and Joe whispers to me that the two guys at the bar are going to get into a fight. I draw my attention to these guys and they look like they were just having a heated discussion. Then all of the sudden one of the guys punches the other. Joe jumps over the table and runs over to the situation and grabs the one guy who punched the other guy. The rest of us basically ran the other way. That was the moment that I knew Joe wasn't meant for the business world. He was meant to be a police officer. Anyone who can carry on a conversation with people yet observe their world around them and run towards danger...needs to protect the rest of us.
To my surprise, Joe wanted to finish his business degree and try his hand in the business world. It wasn't a shocker that he got a job right away because he is the type of guy that everyone wants to be around. He's smart, funny, and of course unbelievably hot! The only problem is that he looked miserable (beautiful in a suit though), but a desk job was definitely not his thing. Thankfully, I since sought help from my parentals back in Hog Swamp about my shallowness and was given a long lecture about how selfish I was being. I decided they were right (shhh...don't tell them I said that). I stopped and picked up an application to the police academy and then headed to the local Target to find shiny new bed sheets for my future Crapids home. After filing out the paperwork I handed it to him and he said, "what's this?" To my reply, "your calling." During his time at the police academy, I had never seen a more happy, fulfilled Joe. It truly was beautiful.
On October 25, 2003 I began my life as a police wife...living in Crapids (minus the bed sheets on the windows)...married to the hottest most funny guy that I have ever known. Life was good.
I would like to tell you a little bit about my mother, Virg and what she has taught me and a “little” lack of teaching. I gave this speech at her retirement party. I think it went over fairly well. Enjoy!
Many don’t know, but my mom was an awful cook growing up in Hog Swamp. I remember a time when she called my grandma to ask “how to get the suds off of the chicken she just washed”. I’m no expert at cooking…thanks to my mom, but I don’t think “washing” the chicken means to use soap. Apparently, she was attempting to make chicken and rice in the crockpot. When we got home, we found rice overflowing the crockpot and a raw chicken on the counter. As a result of her awful cooking, we have had many documented cases of food poisoning. The first question I asked my stepdad when I first met him was “do you know how to cook?” I was 6. Typically, most 6 year olds ask to be played with. Mine was about needing food nourishment. Well, now that you are retiring mom, we implore you (for the sake of dad’s health) that you get yourself some nice cooking lessons. You certainly will have time on your hands.
Many of you know that my dad literally does everything around the house. The cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, yard work, etc. so she is pretty spoiled and I am sure in her retirement, she will still expect the same treatment. Though mom likes to make concerted efforts so I am guessing she will be calling a cleaning lady to come and clean while dad is at work and then make it appear that she cleaned all day. Well at least she is resourceful.
Speaking of time on your hands…I have to say that thankfully…I mean unfortunately I get to work during the day and so my sister who works evenings; will be inundated with calls from mom. Good luck with that Stacy. Let me know how that turns out for you.
In all seriousness, my mom has taught me some pretty valuable lessons as well. She has taught me about integrity and commitment. Speaking of commitment, I would like to show all Virg’s friends’ and family the commitment she made to my sister and I awhile back. We were all enjoying a weekend at the cabin and maybe a cocktail or two and my mom made a comment that when she retired, she was going to bring us daughters, son-in-laws, and grandchildren to Disney World. We drafted our legal document on this napkin for which you can see her signature. I have framed it to prevent damage to the napkin. If there are any attorney’s here tonight, I would like to know if this is legally binding…if so, I may need to seek your representation.
My mom was a stickler on getting to school and doing your best and blah blah blah, so much so I would like to point out this certificate I received at the end of 5th grade that read “Certificate of perfect attendance from grades 1st through 5th”. Yep…I was that kid infecting all the other kids because I am almost certain that I was sick at school on multiple occasions. I remember my mom saying “if you’re not dead, you’re going to school”. As a result of her “commitment” to her job and maybe a little bit of “control freak” she has accrued nearly 200 days of sick time. Virg either really believed in education or didn’t trust me to be home alone during the day. I remember one time, a teacher had called her and told her I wasn’t feeling well and was in the nurse’s office throwing up. My mom came to the school and said, “Why are you sick?” To my reply, “I don’t know mom…maybe because I have been throwing up all morning from the bologna and ketchup pizza you made last night?” Virg then said, well you seem to be done throwing up now, so let’s get you back to class. If I had “texting” lingo back then it would have been “WTF?”
Wow…so Virg you were with the District for how long…35 years. That’s pretty impressive. Not very many people can say they have been with the same company since they were young adult. When Virg started working in schools; kids were doing the Charleston, now her year of retirement she’s twerking right along with the kids…yes folks this actually happened.
It’s most likely because of the twerking and humor that my mom was well liked by her students. I was witness to that with my work with the school recently. Though there were the few that didn’t get along well with my mom and as a result has had a few nicknames over the years. The first one that I remember is “The bitch in the library”. I believe that one was given to her at a previous high school; though I am not certain who called her that because she would come home with more “senior pictures” than me. How embarrassing is that? I would look at her pictures and she would have the senior picture of the captain of the football team and it would say on the back “Virg, Stay Cool – Troy” I of course tried to be cooler than my mom and take her senior pics and add them to mine and my friends would think I was cool for having the captain of the football teams picture…until they read the back and would see “Virg” crossed out and “Carrie” added.
There was a time when my mom said that she wanted to move to my school and I said half joking, “if you go to the same school that I am in, then I am dropping out!” Can you imagine the damage that could have been done to my already lame reputation had she been allowed to work in the same school that I went to? I was spared, however my younger cousins did not fare as well. Though I heard her popularity only grew and of course my cousins as well.
It was at Blaine H.S. where my cousin Aaron gave her, her second nickname…Lunch Lady. Virg had lunch duty and would always come home and complain about having to do lunch duty. Apparently, she had to stand guard at some doors and not let kids through those doors. I am not quite certain why they would make her stand guard, but they picked the perfect person to do that. You would understand this if you have ever been yelled at by Virg.
So now that you are retired Virg, I have a little challenge for you. Remember that one time when dad was so sick and you had to do the grocery store and you had no clue how to grocery shop? So much so that dad had to draw you a map to navigate? And then you called me at ask “What aisle is the Coach Purse section” to my reply, “mom Cub does not sell Coach Purses!” Well, now that you have a lot of time on your hands and have since perfected shopping at a grocery store. I challenge you to a COOPon NOT Qupon war.
I hope you enjoy your time off, relax a little, volunteer at the grand kids’ schools, maybe do a little cleaning so dad doesn’t have to, but please god learn how to cook! Congratulations mom! You earned it!
I have experienced a letdown recently and well I felt the need to share it with a friend...one that "gets" me. So, Emma is in this gymnastics class. What many don't realize is this is THE gymnastics class that determines whether a child goes to the competitive team or the recreational team. To help you understand the difference between the two I will need to better explain them both.
My Cousin works as a coach for a different gym and when you mention Emma's gym; her first question is "is your daughter going competitive"? I of course asked why. To her reply "they have one of the best competitive teams in the state and in the five state area". Great. Thanks for sharing. Think back to high school...competitive team is equivalent to the popular cheerleaders/dancers of the school and the rec team...well they are the pocket protecting nerds. Literally, if you look at the parents in the gym you see a group of the competitive team parents with their ipads, caribou coffees, real Louis Vittons purses, their hair looked like it was done by a professional, of course nails were perfectly manicured, some had nanny's with them for their other children, etc. Okay so I may be exaggerating slightly, but it is a lot like this. Then you look over to the group of rec team parents...some look like they were trying to get out of bed that day, but they severely missed. I guess they get an A for effort though. Okay back to my story. The point is you can definitely see a division between the competitive parents and the rec parents. The groups do not mingle with one another. Well unless you get an unsuspecting father who has zero clue about these two social groups...like Joe. You can talk with the people within your group, but heaven forbid you speak with a competitive parent?
Okay, so the class that Emma is in. This is the deciding class. This is also the only class in which the competitive parents will give you a little taste of what it's like to be a part of their group because the goal of everyone there is to go competitive. So, I had my little taste and boy did I get hungry for more! I found myself dressing nicer to the gym. Hell, I dressed up after work...that should have been my first clue. I started "coaching" Emma on the side. Yep, went back to my gymnastics days, which actually was a lot of fun so that wasn't all that bad. I even started bringing in caribou coffee at 5pm...wtf. Apparently, I couldn't figure out to get the non-caffeine and so I would be up until 1am, which gave me more time to think about my "game plan" to get into this competitive world. Emma was doing amazingly well in gymnastics. I was definite that she was going competitive. She was doing backwalkovers when few kids were, one handed cartwheels, cartwheels on beam, etc. Then it came time for her testing day. Let me just say what testing day was like. First of all, Joe did not ensure Emma was well rested, he did not provide healthy meals while I was at work, he did not have her practice her skills, so you can imagine how testing day went. Though they take into consideration the entire quarter of class, they really look at testing day to show what these kids know. As you can imagine, testing did not go so well. Feeling that my competitive team was slipping through my fingers I did what any reasonable parent would do and I talked to the coach and asked what Emma's chances were for the competitive team. Then I heard those little words that punched me so violently in the face, I thought I was having a heart attack...
"We think Emma will be a great addition to our Rec team"
I don't remember walking out of the building that day. I most definitely don't remember what I said to the coach after that. I do remember looking back and feeling like I was looking at my high school self seeing that group of popular cheerleaders/dancers laughing and pointing at me while the group of nerds are welcoming me to their group. Maybe at that point I ran out of the building. I'm not entirely certain.
So, I go home and I am attempting to explain my woes to Joe (okay clearly you are laughing right now at the thought of this). I get it and you are right. Trying to explain something like this to Joe is like him explaining hunting to me...snooze fest, but I am devastated and needed to talk to someone. It turns out that he was exactly who I needed to talk to because he was able to provide a lot of perspective since he really didn't "get" my social anguish. The first thing he said was "what was the problem with rec team?" To my reply well nothing, but I want her to be in competition. He asked me to say what I just said. I did and of course little lightbulb went off. He said it sounds like you are losing sight of what really matters. He was right. So, I asked Emma if she was upset that she was going to be on the rec team and not the competitive team and she looked at me and said "what are you talking about?" I think it was that moment that was the point of clarity...the real lightbulb! She was never going to gymnastics to try and make it on a certain team, she just loved gymnastics. The incessant need for her to be on the competitive team was from my need to have her be the best at something because she is a reflection of me and I always wanted to be the best at something...clearly being the best parent wasn't working out (lol). So I decided to do a bit of reframing of this whole situation and in turn a few other things too...with the help from Joe (who knew he was so enlighten? hmmmm).
1. I no longer have to try and be someone that I am not or don't want to be. That is where you come in and why I am writing this letter. I want to surround myself with people who understand me, who knows my kids fight like cats and dogs and I do whatever I can to get them to stop, but nothing seems to work, but love me anyway. I don't want to feel like I have to impress this competitive team with all that they have. That's not really the person I am anyway, God really knows what he is doing!
2. I won't have to spend every day at the gym at practice and certainly tons of money per month in hopes that Emma would compete in the Jr. Olympics.
3. More free time equals more time spent with friends or family or with my girls.
4. Emma is still in gymnastics and still loves it. Nothing has changed on her end. She sees no difference. Wonder how long she will have her innocence? I guess I just need to bottle it up somehow because one day that innocence will be gone.
5. My perception of the rec parents is way off. While there is a definite division of rec parents and competitive parents, I just don't have time in my life nor do I want to take the time to allow for people to steal my energy by me having to be someone that I am not. If I am not liked, that's okay. That was an extremely hard realization for me to come to because I struggle with desperately wanting to be liked by others. I have always struggled with this.
Joe may have put it a little more simplistic: "so let me get this straight, if Emma were on the competition team, we would have to pay more per month, she would practice almost daily at 5 years old, and we would have to travel all over and take her out of school for competitions???" Okay, when he says it like that and as I am writing it; it makes me smile and thank god that she is not going competitive!
I guess my point of writing to you was to tell you how important you, Jas, and your kids are to me. Like I stated earlier in the letter, I need to surround myself with individuals who understand me, who I don't have to impress (all the time) because frankly I am tired. I am tired of trying to present as perfect...perfect house, perfect kids, perfect husband. As I sit here at 5am on a Saturday morning and bawl while typing this, I feel many different emotions. I am upset at myself for being consumed by something that was so superficial and potentially ruining valuable relationships while focused on this one goal. I am happy that I can move on from my goal of wanting Emma to be the best gymnast to just letting her have fun. Things aren't perfect here. This house is in shambles with different projects going on, the kids fight constantly (I try cleaning and well that's like brushing your teeth with Oreo's) and Joe and my communication is probably the worst of any husband/wife. Through it all though, I would still say I am blessed. Thanks for being a true friend!