Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Card Games

I came across my two oldest kids playing Go Fish at the dining room table on Sunday, and found myself, a regressed 9 year old, thinking "geez, what a BABY game!"

"Hey why don't you play a REAL card game?" I taunted, almost hearing my voice go from adult to adolescent.

"What game SHOULD we play?" Aly said with intrigue

Without even remembering how to play, I reflexively said "Spit!"

Spit is like a two player, highly competitive version of solitaire. Luckily, the extension of my brain, Google, was able to refresh my memory as to the finer points of the game. One of the recommendations on the page said to play with an 'old' deck of cards, because if not, your new deck will be destroyed before either person won 5 games. The first round started slow, but by the third round, it was like they were born to the game.

The yelling and slapping cards flashed me back to the 'good ole days' of our family of 7 kids and the truly cutthroat nature of all our games, especially the card games. Spit, War, Crazy Eights, Canasta: I remembered many names but not necessarily how to play. Then my subconscious twitched a bit as I had vague memories of pieces of other games: A game where you passed cards rapidly to the player on your right and picked up from your left; when you had 4 or a kind, you stuck out your tongue; last person not wagging their tongue was out (or something bad happened). 'Something bad happened' triggered more repressed card-memories: "Hey wanna play 52 card pickup, Billy?" "Sure! Hey, what the? MOOOOM! He threw all the cards and ran away!". Deeper I went to a dark corner of my memory where we played 'Knuckles'; I forgot the exact game but... PLEASE... don't let it be a 10 of Spades! (dark cards got hit hard on the knuckles; red cards, lightly).

Being the last of 7 kids, in an competitive environment rivaling Chinese gymnastic camps, I didn't stand a chance at games of skill or quick thinking. I was the last in line to be the recipient of finely honed skills, played and replayed jokes and vicarious revenge on the older siblings heaped on me. Even as a parent, my wife still had to remind me not to instill the 'value of learning to lose' too much. "Let Aly win sometimes" she'd plea. But alas, I have passed on the genetics of competition and we have to remind the older ones not to use their powers to crush and destroy the youngers.

I was looking for some deeper meaning in all this, but now that I've finished, I've found none. But it seems that whoever I talk with about card games, they somehow get that same visceral response, especially those in families where they were near the bottom of the age bracket 'seed'. Their eyes dialate, their fingers twitch and they're ready to do pre-adolescent battle once again.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Car Wrecks

No, my car is fine. No, I did not witness something horrific on the road, a la the Bruce Springsteen song. I'm also not referring to the oft repeated idea that autism in all it's forms, is likened to a train or car wreck.

It's more about the idea of the innate desire to look at something horrible, to see what's going on, to maybe want to help out. The big one right now of course, is the absolute devastation in Haiti. Before that, for me it was the situation with Zakhqurey Price in Arkansas where he is battling for his educational life and his freedom from being institutionalized.

I know how most people affected by special needs situations feel about Zakh's situation and the general special education environment. But I often wonder how the population outside of our inner circle feels. I am always drawn to look at newspaper articles about special needs education to see how the public at large reacts to them. I hope that mainstream America is not as bad as the commentary that inevitably shows up at the end of the article. Nevertheless, I have to 'drive by' and stare at the ugliness and twisted mettle that spews from some in the world. From a recent article about fighting for prevention of restraining/isolating tactics in school systems:

Teachers and other school personnel are not here to control your child from endangering themselves, other students or the teacher. If your child is a danger to themselves or others, most importantly, other children, then your child should not be in the school, or even better, you the parent should be sitting beside you child in the classroom to insure that your child does not injury or kill another child. The job of the teacher is to teach, not to be a bodyguard for all the other children.

As so often happes, the "school perspective" has been totally overlooked. Schools historically have been established to teach something like a standard curriiculum to the children of the community. For that to happen parents MUST SEND THEIR CHILDREN TO SCHOOL READY TO LEARN. Making teachers responsible for children not prepared to learn the standard curriculum is irresponsible and robs the schools and their teachers of their time and ability to teach those who are ready to learn.

We wonder why school systems like Fort Smith think they can write their own rules and change IDEA, AWDA, IEPs and the hundred other acronyms designed to protect children. Just look to the rabble with the loudest voices; or look at the car wrecks that drive the school systems...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Too Many Moms

If you have more kids than hands, you'll encounter this sooner or later.

"Jason, it's time to start cleaning up!"
"Alyson, you're supposed to be cleaning, not sitting down!"
"Dillan, are you supposed to be eating that ice cream?"

You probably think these are standard parental phrases uttered by standard parental units. But, in our house, these are now part of the lexicon of a bunch of parent-wanna-be's, our kids. My phrases to counter this are "Do you really want my job?" or "Never mind what he/she's doing, what are YOU supposed to be doing?" or my two favorites for the boys, "Did you give BIRTH to him/her?" or "Since when did YOU grow breasts?"
It's gotten to the point where more time is spent parenting by the three oldest, than they actually do. The idea of parity has become a way to thwart progress in the household. If there is not an equitable sharing of the workload, a strike in the form of self appointing themselves the parental supervisor ensues. We wind up uttering those phrases we swore as new parents we would never utter: "Because I said so"; "Life's not fair"; "It doesn't matter what you think" and my personal favorite from Ralph Kramden in the Honeymooners "I am king...you are nothing...a peasant"
As they get older, this parental tendency is also beginning to bleed over into conversations with and about Lin and me. They have somehow appointed themselves pseudo guardians of the girls and of each other, sharing with us their vast knowledge of how we should be. Don't get me wrong, I really don't mind when they chime in with advice like "You know dad, I don't think it's a very good idea that you let Gracie jump off the back of the couch with the parachute." (especially, if I did not know it was going on). But on subject matters about whether Gracie should be finishing her vegetables, or whether Dillan should be allowed out before finishing a task; well I'll fall back on the 'I'M the parent dammit!'. There's already two of us making decisions; we already have our own consciences to contend with thankyouverymuch. There are already too many voices inside my head questioning all my parental decisions; I don't need another chorus outside my head reminding me of all the alternatives and injustices of my decisions.

All this culminated last week when I found out two things. First, Aly invited Gracie into her room (a rare privilege, since even I am discouraged from entering). After looking around a bit, she said "We NEED to clean up in here". Later that day, Gracie was at the dinner table with Dillan. After hearing it so many times, Gracie made a great generalization and said "Dillan, DON'T tilt your chair back to the wall!". Another mom enters the fray!

The phrases Gracie said came straight from our mouths inflection and all. So, in one respect, it's part of the echolalia. But then again, ALL my kids are really just rehashing what they hear and regurgitating it back at us, based on what they perceive our morals and values to be. That's what is probably most annoying, they are right and they are using our own words and judgements against us. Just like 'you are what you eat'-- they are what you say and do. I forget that all too frequently and I'm glad Gracie reminded me...