Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Proud of My Girls

I had a lot of time with my family over the holiday break.  The holidays are stressful and expensive and gut busting, but there's a lot of family time, which is awesome.  And the more time I spend with my family, the more time I want to spend with my family.  I think the only reason I feel like I ever want to go back to work is so that I can remember what day of the week it is again.  When every day is like Saturday, you stop being able to tell when one Saturday ends and the next begins.  The days start to blur a little and it feels disorienting.  Probably this is what retirement feels like, if you retire when you have two kids in grade school. 

On one of my days on. . . (Leslie and I swapped so that we always had coverage at home with the kiddos while school and daycare were closed. . . Leslie lost her mind and took both kids to Jump Zone and the movies.  Leslie's track record with these sorts of decisions is less than stellar, mind you.  She has a tendency to take a good thing and think, "yeah, this is a good thing, but wouldn't it be better if I jammed ten MORE good things into the same day???"  Usually this results in spectacular failures at some point and confessions of, "I know. . . I tried to do too much stuff!"

Contrast this with my style of parenting. . . "Okay kids, what do we want to watch on TV next?  Emma, can you hand me the remote?  My hand won't stretch quite that far now that I've eaten all those Christmas cookies."  

You can see there's probably some middle ground there.  In fact, Emma, who typically considers me the "fun one" at one point looked over at me and said, "Is there ever going to be a day when Mommy stays home and you go back to work?"  It was at that point that I thought perhaps I'd been mailing it in a bit on the "fun dadsmanship" and I looked over at her (from the couch) with a wry smile on my face and said, "We really haven't done much today, have we?"

So Leslie lost her mind (again) and agreed to take Lily along with Emma to a friend's party at Jumpzone.  Essentially Jumpzone is one of the many little franchises that inflates stuff and has kids jump on it for money.  In Leslie's defense, jumping on inflated crap is right in Lily's bailiwick.  Also in Leslie's defense, she didn't really know that 38 other kids were also invited and that it would be kid-pocalypse in there.

And Lily, predictably. . . wait. . . no. . . Lily had an awesome time!  She did not melt down amidst the chaos.  She did not slap or spit at other kids when they got too close.  She just jumped her ass off and had a great time.  SUCCESS!!!  Retire now, Leslie, while you're still Champ!

But she didn't.  Giddy with success, she accepted an invitation from my mother and father to accompany them to the movies with Emma and Lily after they left the Jumpzone.  Originally the plan was for Gramma and Papa to watch "Tin-Tin" with Emma, while Leslie took Lily to see "Chipwrecked".  But Emma said (and this is a direct quote), "Movies that have characters who speak in British accents freak me out."  And so she and Gramma and Papa and Leslie and Lily all attended the movie together!  

And Lily, predictably. . . wait. . . no. . . Lily had an awesome time!  Again!  She sat in her seat, she watched the movie, she stayed quiet!  And I will say, if there was a movie that we felt fairly certain Lily would be interested in, it was that movie. . . but there's still a huge gap between what seems like something Lily will like, and what actually turns out to be something that Lily likes.  

Sometimes I get a little too comfortable not going out, not testing the waters.  The "look".  The "confrontation".  Those things can be pretty enervating in the aggregate.  Sometimes it seems like it's just not worth the aggravation of braving the stares and criticism for something that you're pretty sure is pushing the limit.  But when you give into that complacency, you totally dismiss your child's potential to succeed at them.  And Leslie does a great job of pushing those boundaries, of changing venues, of leaving her/my/Lily's/our comfort zone and seeing . . . "can she do it?". . . "will she enjoy it?"

And she did it.  She fucking DID.  IT.  She sat through a two hour movie without behavior or incident.  She jumped for a half hour or an hour (or more. . . I'm a little hazy on some of the details) with NT peers and did not hit, spit, bite, or otherwise lash out.  She didn't get hurt.  She didn't get left out.  She participated and had a blast.

Leslie did so much "right" in making this successful for Lily.  And I don't want you to think that just because Lily went to Jumpzone and a movie one day that I think that means she's now clear for takeoff at the next kids' birthday party regardless of venue.

What went right:
  • Support.  lots of support from friends and family who understand.  These friends know Lily.  They included her in the Jumpzone plans because they thought she might like it, and their understanding of Lily made it easier to say "yes" to the invitation. . . they knew what they were in for.  Having family at the movie meant an extra set of hands to help with Lily in case things started to go sour.  
  • Interest.  Jumping and chipmunks. . . right in her wheelhouse.  If it had been putt-putt and "Tin-Tin"??  Massive failure.
  • Backup plan.  She always had an escape route just in case things went south and needed to get Lily out/away.
  • Realistic expectations.  Without putting words in her mouth, I think she really didn't think things would turn out even close to how good the end result looked.  You can't go into a movie theater thinking your autistic ADHD daughter is going to sit and be a princess if you know she can't sit still and has no volume control (although in this instance, she could have, I suppose)
  • The theater was empty.  It's nothing you can absolutely control, but if you go to matinees and watch movies that are a little older and on their way out of the theater in a week or so, you can probably catch that particular bottled lightning a pretty fair number of times/attempt.  Even if the theater had been full, Lily might have been fine, but having it be empty meant so much less stress on Leslie.  She could let Lily be Lily if she refused to sit still, and not risk "the look".
Leslie is great at trying new things with Lily, at not discounting Lily's ability to participate just because it's gone poorly before.  I need to stretch further for that particular metaphorical remote control.

There will be other movies in Lily's future.  We still have a birthday party to plan for her (after the fact, but before the holidays was just too much to jam in. . . even for Leslie) after all.

The title of this post is "Proud of My Girls", and I think it's obvious why I'm proud of Lily and Leslie, and so I'll just extend the blog a couple more paragraphs to mention why I'm proud of Emma, because it's not really part of the above story.

She has been SO GREAT with Lily, playing with her, watching her for a few minutes while we're in the bathroom or doing laundry in the basement, helping her with the iPad when she needs a hand.  She gets Lily's coat for her when we get ready for school.  She's been taking an interest in cooking, making the kool-aid for us, toasting bread, and even making her own Mac 'n' cheese.  She even asks to pump gas for me when we go to the gas station.  (Late edit:  I came home from work and the driveway was shoveled.  I was thinking. . . no wonder Leslie seems so stressed out, she shoveled before I got home!  But no. . . it was EMMA!!!)  She's 9 now, and I know she's got changes coming in her future, and her teenage years aren't something I'm necessary looking forward to, but MAN. . . she's building some serious equity in the good kid category to help pay for those teenage years.

I try to tell her; I try to tell all of them how proud I am of them whenever I can.  Probably I fail to include Leslie enough in that general praise, cause she's all grown up and stuff and not my kid. . . but I'm very proud of all my girls.

Emma said, "Does that mean you're finally going to pay me my allowance that you haven't given me for like a year?" 

"No.  I'm a little light this week.  Ask me again next week."

* eye-roll*  


  1. Oh man. I'm very much in the same boat as you, in that I am often worried that G won't handle an outing well, and he's not even on the spectrum. I suppose it's possible for all parents to fall into that particular trap... especially those of us who aren't amazingly social ourselves, or who battle social anxiety as I do. Luckily my M is like your Leslie, and he helps us all get out and try things that I wouldn't normally take on. Hooray for gregarious boundary-pushing spouses! :-)

  2. It is only natural for us to want to protect our girls and I totally identify with the whole jumpzone/movie/recipe-for-armegheddon scenario. Thank goodness we both have spouses who continue to push!

    And seriously, anytime Emma gets on your nerves during those upcoming tenage years, I'll take her. She sounds like a great kid!

  3. The thing I loved most about this whole post (I mean, of course, other than whoo-hoo for how well everything went!) was "Movies that have characters who speak in British accents freak me out." That is BRILLIANT. There is nothing I love more than random awesome things that kids come up with. Emma = my new hero!

  4. This is great - and a great reminder for me. I, too, have found myself very content to pull my Autism Card (trademark). You know, the Autism Card? The one that gets me out of Chuck E. Cheese invites, bouncey place invites, church, school award ceremonies (sorr, Alex) and a million other things that I don't want to go to. Oh, Jesus - don't let me forget Children's Museums! *shudder*

    Initially I instituted the Autism Card (trademark) due to real concerns and actual meltdowns. However after a surprisingly successful experience at a bouncey thing-y, I realized that I suck as a fun, adventurous parent. I vowed to do better.

    I have not. Yet.

    Frack. Thanks for the reminder. *looks up website for the Children's Museum*

  5. What a fantastic story! I love how happy the girls look together in every picture you post. Don't tell anyone else, but I think laying this kind of groundwork of appreciation and pride and communication just might ward off some teenage surliness...some...I only have 11 and 14 here, so I cannot say that I have made it to the other fact, I will say nothing else as to not jinx anyone!

  6. Perfect story! I can see why you're so proud of all three of your girls.

  7. Yay, great story!! That is fabulous.

    I've always wanted to try out a Jump Zone. I think there is one near us. I think I'd be tempted to jump too.

  8. Damn, Jim, *I'm* proud of your girls, and I only stalk your family on the internet.

    My wife is also prone to "Dynamo-Mommy" days. OOH! You just gave me an idea for a post! Thanks, man.

  9. One of my favorite things in the world is a dad who's proud of all 3 of his girls. We get some of that around our house, too. :)

    I tend to avoid all outings because they never seem to turn out like I imagine them. It's time to start trying again. I promise not to blame you if it doesn't work out, though...

  10. That's awesome! Seriously, I want to marry your wife. I can not seem to muster up the will to go to one of those jump places with the kids. They remind me of a brain or spinal cord injury just waiting to happen....I digress. I'm glad she did so well. You have every reason to be proud.

  11. Awe....shucks!!! In all seriousness, we had a great time, although I must admit that I have played the Autism card many times. If I don't feel like Lily can handle a situation I do shy away!

    Also, I needed to add yesterday, Em was so excited that it FINALLY snowed that she offered to shovel the driveway after school for Lily's new BSC just so that she could go outside. At first, I did nit expect much, but she did an awesome job!!!

    Jim we really need to make good on her allowance!! Thanks for your support and love!!! Love your girls!!

  12. Oh my gosh! Emma is really building up those credits - and really - how many girls have pictures that show them pumping gas at age 9?! Smiling - no less? And now shoveling the walk? How does this happen? I'm just excited when we've made it to the toilet and I'm wiping a fairly clean behind!

    Leslie - you are a brave and good mama! Jim, you can't have a brave and adventurous mama without a supportive and caring daddy - so the "Blogging Lily Team" - all three of you deserve a round of applause!

    This is a great story because it makes me see that despite the ever-lurking meltdown, there are successes - and you can't have those successes unless you keep getting back on the horse. I'd better get back up there. And contrary to Lana - I will probably come back here and blame you - jk - maybe... ;)

  13. Everyone loves to know that they are doing a good job and someone is proud of them regardless of age - Leslie - I am so glad your outing turned out to be a fun one - I am sure Emma felt good about the whole situation too.
    Loved the card - I am sure that is one of your favorite pics that are on there.
    I think Emma may be asking for a snowblower soon - she can charge and someone else can provide her with an allowance.
    MS. Aweeze

  14. I loved this story!! It made me misty eyed. (Also, I might be a little like Leslie.)

    Emma sounds really great!! You'll have to come back and reread this post when those teenage years make their grand appearance!

  15. Awesome story! I'm proud of ALL your girls and have never met them!

  16. Woo hoo! Lily you rock! And I totally agree with Emma, characters with British accents freak me out too.

  17. Okay. . . I really REALLY want the widget that lets me reply to each comment IN the comment.

    @venus - they complete us. . .

    @m2lm - she's the best!

    @amy - it's strange because despite her fear of british accents. . . she love Harry Potter movies.

    @kelly - we still play the autism card from time to time (see the wedding a couple months ago, for example). We know best. . . I guess. . . right?

    @andrea - crosses fingers

    @jacqui - thank you!

    @ww - I jump when we've gone to "Bounce U"

    @jon - I'll look for the post!

    @actb - Whew. . . thanks for taking the stress off.

    @leslie - hi baby! I went back and added that. She's been so good lately. . . and not PROMPTED to be good. . . just good because she's a good kid.

    @Karen - blame away!

    @missawheeze - I like it. Let's put that kid to work!

    @mm - Yeah, I talked to a guy whose kids were in high school. He's convinced that all those lovable early years are to make you love them too much to kill them when they're teenagers.

    @christina - Thanks!

    @SG - Yeah. . . weird, right?

  18. See. . . this is why I need the reply widget. . . or whatever. . .

    @lizbeth - you can't marry her. That's polygamy, and it's illegal, even in Utah.

  19. Wow! I'm so glad you posted this. As you know, Jagger is very verbal and he often ASKS to do things that I know have gone poorly in the past. It's always a struggle for me. Do I tell him no, we cant do it? If so, am I denying him an opportunity to learn and experience something? Do I say yes? If so, how long should I wait between instances? In our case, he will have a major meltdown at the indoor soccer facility, but then ask to go again an hour later.

    I admire Leslie for trying new things, even though they haven't gone so well in the past.

  20. Yeah, I hear you on that one. Even when Lily verbalizes her desires for breakfast, for example, there's no guarantee she'll even touch it when it's brought to her, let alone enjoy something that requires planning and strategy. They did good!