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Jul 31 2013

Parenting without a net

parenting without a net

I hate being patronized. Treated with a gentle smile and empty eyes and insincere words. It happens in only one area of my life, because as a flutist and teacher and writer and volunteer I am treated with more respect.

Parenting.

Or rather, a female parent.

As a female parent I am patted on the head when I issue concerns about my sons, one son in particular. I am seen as over involved, indulgent, and crafting elaborate mountains out of tiny little molehills. Ignorant of the “true facts,” I am a pest, something to be indulged briefly and then shooed away or ignored. It happened when I issued concerns about my son’s academic needs and it is happening again as I issue concerns about my son’s health.

He is an out of the box child in every sense, and if there is no box in which to file his complex issues, then obviously there are no issues whatsoever. Can’t have a problem if there’s no place to put it, right?

We’ve gone DIY on his education (hey! look! problems faded once we kicked the box to the curb!), and pretty soon may need to go DIY on his health as well. The doctor seems to think that a 12 year old who is the same size as his 9 year old brother isn’t a problem; I see a child who fell off the growth chart this year and think there’s a huge problem. So he’s going through the motions to prove there’s nothing wrong with my son; blood tests that come back within normal range and referrals to specialists and condescending conversations. Because what do I know? I’m only a homeschooling mom.

I’m sick of my entire life being DIY, and not even the fun DIY of fixing up the house. We have no money for that kind of fun DIY because we’ve been sucked dry by the unfun DIY. This is parenting without a net, and I am angry. I am angry that the resources that are supposed to be available to my family continue to fail us. The schools couldn’t help my son, western medicine says there’s nothing wrong with him, and I am left trying to pick up the pieces and glue them back into place. The stress and confusion and pain and drama of the last several years were all exacerbated by the fact that there is no social safety net, or it’s there with ripped holes and we fall through when we need its help the most.

There are no vacations, there are no special treats, there are no keep this house from falling down home improvement projects, because all efforts and resources have to be thrown into weaving a net for ourselves. From education to medicine to corporate responsibility to the food supply, we’ve been failed. We are bootstrap people, but our boots are worn and the straps are frayed.

So when the Powers That Be wonder why more parents can’t and don’t get involved in more widespread gifted advocacy, I hope they run across this post. I do what I can, but I’m too busy gluing the pieces of my family back together and trying to weave a safety net for the future.

Parenting without a net is a dangerous high-wire act, and it’s taking a toll on far too many families. It’s taken a toll on ours. So don’t patronize me as I weave my safety net. I can’t afford to miss a step.

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  1. kim/the maker mom

    So this nice woman contacted me through my blog and Fb page to share a Change.org petition around gifted education for gifted kids. http://www.change.org/petitions/provide-adequate-education-options-for-young-gifted-children

    It’s taking a lot a self-control NOT to tell her that her petition is a f-ing waste of time. Because that’s what I’ve learned over the years. There are a few rays of sunshine, but mostly I look back on my boys’ K-8 years with anger and frustration. It’s not helpful to carry this around and yet I can’t let it go. Maybe I’ll get involved in advocacy as my time opens up. You are right, you can’t be immersed in parenting and keeping your family running and deeply involved in politics. Well, some manage to do it and it’s something to strive for, but so is sanity.

    1. Jen

      I know. I got an email from her today too. I’m trying to decide how to best (and most diplomatically) reply. It’s screaming into the wind, pushing a rope, Atlas with the world upon his back. And as much as I want her to succeed, it will never happen. People will see the word “gifted” and it’s all over. Because, you know, “gifted” means rainbow farting unicorns and roses and skipping through wildflowers without a care in the world. :p

  2. Mona

    Parenting without a net… yep. That’s what this is. I’m right with you – tired of people complaining that I’m not advocating with the SD more or on a higher level. But when all you do is advocate for your child – in every part of his life – thinking about magnifying that to a broader base is a horrifying and exhausting thought.

    But, a little ray of hope here for you, my “scraping the 5th percentile for his whole life” child went from barely 5th percentile in height/weight to 50th in height/25th in weight over one year (mid-12 to mid-13). My brother was 4’9″ in 9th grade, but was a respectable 5’10” by 4 years later (six inches in one summer – ouch!). So A’s growth may kick in here pretty soon. Everybody has their own growth trajectory. Endocrinology doc said to have teenlet checked if he hadn’t started puberty by age 14. That’s a good marker.

    1. Jen

      I’m tired of being intimately involved in every.area.of.my.12.year.old’s.life. Aren’t kids this age supposed to start pulling away from their parents a bit? It hurts when I have flute students a couple years younger acting several years OLDER than my son. I know you’re not supposed to compare, but really?
      And I hope A is like the Teenlet, I really do. But the kid eats next to nothing, every day. What he ate today in total would fit on a standard dinner plate with room left over. So I pray, PRAY, he gets hit with a growth spurt soon. But the way he eats? I’m scared.

  3. Suzan

    If you haven’t already, you might have him tested for celiac. One of my friends had the same growth issue and once they eliminated gluten, he grew, and grew, and grew…. I know it’s the diagnosis du jour right now but it is an easy blood test and may be the issue. Good luck, I know how frightening this must be.

    It seems that any allergy can cause the body to not absorb nutrients which of course means you can’t grow. A skilled, non-quack natropath can test. But, ask around before you go….there are a lot of quacks out there, looking to part you from your cash…good luck!

    1. Jen

      He’s been tested, a couple times. I’m non-celiac gluten sensitive, so there’s possibly something going on. We’re working with a MD integrative physician on the side, in addition to the endocrinologist coming up next week. Only the integrative doc has taken me seriously.

      1. kim

        Jen,
        I’m not going to give you my life story, but I’d like to highly suggest making an appointment with a geneticist. Most all geneticists start out as pediatricians then move into genetics (with the exception of a few who start as internists). My life changed when I got a geneticist in my life. It takes a long time to get in, probably six months, but worth the wait.
        Good luck,
        Kim

        1. Jen

          I’ll check into that, thank you. It’s entirely possible something is hiding deep down; I just wish we could find it already. Thanks!

      2. Anne

        Lack of growth (especially weight) could be a side effect of stimulants (like Adderall or Ritalin) for ADHD if he is on them (I recall from your book he used to be) and then the question is, does he need them badly enough to tolerate the lack of growth? Make sure to bring a copy of his growth charts from first doctor to any others you take him to see, and of course bottles of any medications that he is on.

        1. Jen

          He is, and we’ve taken that into consideration. And yes, at this time he does need them badly enough. We’ve taken him off the meds to see if his appetite would increase with no improvement. So we keep searching. :p

  4. Lee

    I am a gifted mother who fights depression. I have 3 Gifted Daughters (at least 2 Highly Gifted), and a HG husband with Bipolar Type 2 who has a hard time working enough to maintain benefits. I work parttime running a small business and substitute teaching.
    We are spread so thin, we are constantly worn out. Our daughters are having more and more emotional trouble due to our parenting inadequacies. I am so tired of people saying tripe like “only a good parent doubts whether or not they are a good parent.”
    I have a helper who comes in 3 evenings/ week just to help me keep the chaos at bay. An expense we really cannot afford, but an expense we cannot afford NOT to pay!
    Our children qualify for free lunch, but one has allergies and cannot eat the free food.
    I want to SCREAM from the roof tops!
    Where’s MY safety-net?!?!?!?
    But given that the problems are mental in nature (intellectual and mental illness), we are just screwed!
    Thank you for posting this. I will be be sharing it as much as I possibly can.

    1. Jen

      {{hugs}}
      I know hon. It sucks and it hurts and dammit, why aren’t we taken seriously. Hang in there. We’re all in this together.

      1. Courtney

        OMG! There is someone else out there like me! Thank you, thank you, thank you for speaking up. This job is so hard and its so hard to talk about to other people with ‘typcial’ kids. This goes beyond parenting. I’m so thankful for this blog and will be a frequent visitor from now on!!!

        1. Jen

          There’s a lot of us out here, Courtney! 🙂 I have a feeling we’re all going to be each others’ net; not ideal but certainly better than what we (don’t) have now. How are your weaving skills? 😉

  5. Christy

    Thank you for writing this!
    Today I’m tired of people assuming that homeschooling is something people do because they really love it, and not realize that for some there’s just no other choices.

    I hope things get easier for you soon.

    1. Jen

      Noooo…homeschooling really was the option of last resort for us. I don’t regret it, not a single second, but it was not my first…or fiftieth…choice.

  6. Kathy

    Ditto! I’m too exhausted doing what’s right for my own 3, to advocate for gifted education. And I agree with Suzan… failure to thrive.. test for gluten or other food allergy.

  7. GinevraCat

    I had to jump through hoops when my daughter stopped growing just before she was 1. Eventually we found a doc who would do skin-prick allergy tests and isolated the culprit, but I was lucky to find one. To get my son allergy tested 4 years later was a major rigmarole – also I have been through 5 paediatricians to find one who actually LISTENS to what I say and addresses my concerns like I am a person, instead of a bear of very little brain. Good luck – I really hope you find some useful people to help.

  8. Ingi (@ingidefygravity)

    Oh – where in God’s name is the net????? Oh. My. Goodness. Wouldn’t life be easier with one? But apparently we don’t get one.

    The one bright light – there are more than one of us out there without the net. We get it. We struggle on, muddle our way through, do the best we can. And we share 🙂 Because goodness knows, if we didn’t share, laugh and have SOME kind of community, it would all get a bit much some days 🙂

    1. Jen

      Hear, hear! 🙂

  9. Tara

    Hear hear!! I completely understand & empathize with everything you wrote. By age 7, our highly gifted Aspie daughter had attended 7 schools because of our moving around for the Army. After we threw a $1000 at a private school that didn’t bother taking any of her needs or special gifts into account (this was prior to her Asperger’s diagnosis, we only knew about her ADHD & giftedness), we had to take it into our own hands. It killed me that this teacher & school crushed her love of school.

    I’m rambling. Basically, what I’m saying is, I feel ya. I’m right there with ya & I’m tired of doing it all too.

  10. Ali

    My son is Growth Hormone Deficient and it was stressful to get a diagnosis. Check out The Magic Foundation, the are actually located in Chicago. They have been a life saver for us great resource and they are very pAssionate about growth disorders. They say if you don’t grow 2″ a year there is a problem. My son jlstopped growing at 18 m and we had a very astute ped. If the endo is not concerned find one from Magic. My pedi recently had a 13 yr old cone to her that is gh deficient and noone ever recomended he seek consults it is very overlooked. Good Luck! Keep on all of them and please check out Magic : )

    1. Jen

      I’ll check them out, I haven’t heard of them. I’m not 100% certain it’s his growth; bone plate scan showed him right at age level. It’s his weight, something is preventing weight gain. 🙁 But thank you! I’ll take every resource I can find!

  11. Attorney At Large

    Thank the FSM, I’m not alone. About to pull my 6yo from school (again) because school’s interpretation of “not doing work” is “stupid,” rather than bored.

    (I can feel them wanting to pat me on the head: “And yes, of COURSE you think your little angel is gifted, Mom.”) Never mind that I have to give her advanced work at home so that she keeps learning something.

    Sigh.

    1. Jen

      “Thank the FSM.” LOVE.THIS. LOL
      Yeah, the head-patting. I’m over that. It angers and saddens me. And then the schools wonder why they have such a hard time getting parents involved.

  12. Debbie McKenzie

    I’m coming late to this post, but so glad I found your blog. This is a gift to me today, having felt so alone for a long time. We chose to homeschool our 3 sons from the beginning, having been a classroom teacher and seen how large class sizes and limits in the system can blunt a joy of learning. Now, any of my middle son’s problems are seen as a result of homeschooling him. This is not natural I am told, and so he will be so much better off in school. We are lucky to have found a possibility, and I am hoping for a great outcome for him. But I think it will always be tough. At least for a good while. I do need a break though, and, as you say so well, not many people get it, or are even trying to.

    1. Jen

      Who knows why our kids have the problems they do. I’m really starting to believe that certain issues will crop up for certain kids regardless of their educational setting. I know some things got worse being in the education system and other things have cropped up being a homeschooler. There’s just no winning sometimes. 🙁 I often (daily) wish we could find an educational setting for our son that would be beneficial for him, but I know it doesn’t exist and even if it did getting him out the door in the morning would likely kill all of us. 😉

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