Saturday, February 11, 2012

Two Exceptions do not make Average

I ran across a quote today on Hoagies' Gifted Education's web site that resonated hugely with me and our experience:
“While parents of all children who are not in the mainstream do not have an easy time in our society, the fact that 2e children’s disabilities mask their giftedness, and their giftedness masks their disabilities, makes it incredibly hard to get the “experts” to listen and to understand that you can’t just average the two and say this is an average child.” − Joan Affenit
How I wish I had this in my arsenal of knowledge when facing off against Mrs. Wall back in CT. Ah, but move on, move on. And we have, to a much better place with a much more understanding school system.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Acts and Intermission

We've been busy moving, settling, developing a routine...so, to anyone who actually reads this blog, thanks for returning here too. There's been plenty going on of course, more than I could actually process...up until now.

Now, today was Super Bowl Sunday. For a family like ours that doesn't watch T.V. at all, much less sports, and doesn't go to movies, it was an unusually quiet, wet and rainy day with not much to do. We had only one plan on our calendar, to go see The Merry Wives of Windsor, a production my husband had supervised and which involved his students. Another family in the neighborhood who moved here the same time as we and who also have two children at our same two's schools were going. I really wanted to join them. It would be a chance not only to see the opera but also to socialize with friends.

Acceptance
Knowing full well that social settings and theater, even live theater, will present challenges for my son, I began laying the ground work right away.

First I explained to my friend that we'd get our own tickets, after all, we could get at least 2 for free. But it was also a good excuse to sit separately and give us a little "room for error" so to speak.

Second, I immediately set the stage for a possible early exit. With my husband out of town, I would not be able to divide and conquer. It was unlikely that C.S. would be able to sit through the whole production, but then again, he might -- I'm always open for that -- and so, I immediately explained to my friend that although we'd go, we might have to leave early.

Lastly, I encouraged myself with the upside of it all. My husband and I have been talking about the production all week. This was a great chance to see it. C.S. couldn't sit through the last student production we went to, but he had talked excitedly about it for weeks afterwards. And I knew DeDe would love every second of it. She had already seen the stage being built, but her appetite for theater is endless. Plus I could support her in making new friends — and me too for that matter. After all, making a few quality friends is important.

Prepared
We arrived early. The kids were well fed. I had not only some light snacks and magazines but also ear plugs and sun glasses in my backpack to quell sensory input. And despite DeDe's complaints, I had C.S. sit between us so that he wouldn't bother any unsuspecting strangers beside him.

Incidentally, the theater itself was just as prepared. They had clearly posted that the production would include fog and strobe lights. Although these wouldn't be a huge concern for us, I most certainly appreciate such awareness and consideration for the audience's needs.

Curtain Up
The house lights dimmed and my anticipation was at edge. Throughout the overture, I watched my children's faces. DeDe was hooked immediately. C.S. was at best reluctant. But, then again, he was at worst, reluctant. He squirmed a bit, not badly. He sat up in his seat a few times, but I don't think he blocked anyone behind him. He wiggled and tried to get comfortable in a confined chair but I never felt that he kicked the back of the chair in front of him, not egregiously anyway. And he spoke a few times, of course waiting until it was quiet and no one was talking so that I could hear him. (I'm sure when I shushed him, appearing to turn the table on the rules he was frustrated and confused.)

Pretty soon, we had made it all the way through Acts I and II to intermission. While the rows around us were full, no one had come to fill the rest of our friends' row and so I had already decided to take the opportunity to check in with them, chat a bit at intermission and see if DeDe could stay on sitting in one of the open seats in their row, allowing me and C.S. to make our exit. I was feeling like it had all been a success. C.S. had made it with only mild issues. We had all been social and stayed in touch with Dad's project. Win-win-win.

The Drama Begins at Intermission
As the house lights came on, the elderly woman sitting in front of my son turned into an aside and complained loudly to her companions, "that child behind me kept kicking my seat." Even though she hadn't addressed us, it was meant for me to overhear. I did what I felt was best. I got her attention and I apologized.

Clearly she hadn't expected me to actually respond or engage her in conversation. This time it was she who squirmed in her seat, and as she did, she seemed to sneer at my apology and refused to make eye contact. That was when I got offended. I added, "As I said, he's young and it's understandably hard for him to sit through an opera. What surprises me is when older folks who know better can't hold their tongue." As I walked down the aisle with my children, her male friend jumped in defensively and snarled, "Why did you bring him then!"

Act III
What is the path to resolution? I know this sort of conflict is something I will run up against again and again. I should have just left it at the apology — I know that. I let my ire get up and I shouldn't have. Of course a trio of elderly folks can have no idea how successful C.S. had been. Only I am aware of the many alternatives we've experienced — crying, refusing to enter the theater, running out of the theater, screaming...squirming is so incredibly mild! Having been caught in an unexpected encounter, I can understand how we all got defensive. And while I think the old lady could have handled herself better and I wish she had been able to address us directly -- honestly, the only person who could have handled it better, was me.


Silver Lining: Other than one unpleasant exchange at intermission, the day had been a success. My preparations and C.S.’s behavior wer good enough in fact that I consider it near a climax, as good as I expect our theater-going to get. And yes, I plan to keep on going. Next time, if an apology is required, and it might be, I am fully prepared to close the curtain there and simply absorb whatever comes next. Our goal is to prepare an exit strategy that allows retreat while is also careful to protect myself and C.S. against feelings of defeat.


Why did I bring him? OK, that stung, but only for a second, just enough to help me become more resolute. I bring him because while we have given up hope of ever seeing a family movie, live theater is something we DO. We all love it, even C.S. Even though he has a hard time sitting through a production, theater is much more manageable where as movies definitely are not. And it prompts important discussions about why someone acted the way they did; about reality vs. fiction; about how people "act" or "act to deceive." -- all things which continue to elude and frustrate C.S. but that are necessary to comprehend. And so, I bring him to the theater because it presents so much to him, to all of us in our discussions afterwards. And it produced this return to my blog and a new silver lining.

Search This Blog