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Archive for the ‘The guys’ Category

Two days working at the group home.  Two days dissertating.  Two days of homemaking and childcare.

One day called “Family Day” for me to be exhausted and for Attic Man, who has been caring for the Snapper all weekend, to race to school to catch up on work.

I can’t tell whether it’s ‘balanced’ or crazy, this radical, constant role-switching.  The group home is two very long days in a row, but the other days are mixed up–one buried in books and writing with kisses at the door, one in pajamas until midmorning frantically trying to catch up on laundry and dishes, one back to the books, one morning at home followed by an afternoon at work.  There are no transitions.  I put on a hat and set off running.

Two times I am really, really tired: Thursday night, after we’ve all been away from home for 11 hours, and Sunday, after my two long shifts.  Sunday is the bad one–I just can’t be needed any more, but there is a child and two dogs who have missed me, so that isn’t an option.  I feel grateful for my life on dissertation days and to a certain extent on homemaking days, and for moments at the group home.  I do not feel grateful when the exhaustion that has nipped at my heels all week finally catches up with me.  I cry, pick fights, get despondent.

***

We tried something new yesterday that confirms to me that we have now entered the “chopped liver” phase of parenting which I believe is supposed to last until the child turns 35 or even 40.  I have noticed that on daycare days our midday nurse is getting shorter and shorter, and that while morning drop-off goes quite well, pre-nap midday drop off does not.  The Snapper is also taking soy milk well now.  So I thought that although it has been a nice interlude for me and a chance to reconnect, it might no longer be worth it for the boy.  So yesterday I dropped him off at 8 and didn’t return until 5.  His teachers reported that he drank two whole sippy cups full of soy milk, and didn’t cry before or after his nap for the first time since starting daycare.  He was happy to see me but didn’t act like I’d been gone for decades.  I am happy for him but sad for me.  We’re almost certainly entering a time of increased weaning, as we’ve never gone this long in the daytime without nursing (as for pumping, if I’m going to put up with the time loss and inconvenience I might as well nurse him–and no way can I pump enough to equal two sippy cups at this stage).  I don’t think he’s ready to fully wean, thank goodness.  I hope he continues to nurse for a good long time.

At any rate I think this all means that he is nicely attached and emotionally doing quite well.  This makes me pleased and proud as a parent, of course, but also a little sad that he doesn’t need me as much.  I will probably be getting over this soon.  I am already moving in that direction, especially since my productivity increased noticeably yesterday.

***

Snow.

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OK. Now I have clean pants. But I did miss another day of NaBloPoMo. I could feel guilty about it or I could say, “oh, well, at least my kid is clean and fed and I paid my rent” and let it go. I choose the second.  I am posting more regularly now so that’s good.

Recently I had one of those conversations with Attic Man that sitcom couples have with each other about how I wanted more romance. Except it didn’t take a half an hour and I didn’t resort to all kinds of clever ruses to tell him. I just told him.

When he showed up at the door before heading off to study with a little box of very, very good fudge and two enormous truffles containing a shot of Bailey’s each (!) I (wiping the drool from my chin) started to think about the gendered aspects of ‘romance,’ how in some ways it’s a hollow compensation for the inherent inequality, historically, in heterosexual marriage. Clean my house and I will rub your back! Take care of my four children and I will take you to Maui for our 25th anniversary! I’m sorry you feel underappreciated. Here’s a little love note under your pillow.  I remember all of these little inserts in my family’s church bulletin about How to Keep the Love Alive in your marriage.  I remember learning that the man wants admiration and the woman wants romance.  The man wants s3x and the woman wants emotional intimacy.  The man needs the woman’s help to express emotions, and if he can’t figure it out he can rescue himself with a bouquet of flowers.  Because all women want flowers.

So I don’t know if I want this stuff because I want it or because I heard all my life that I should want it.  Is it a trained emotional response to feel your heart go all a-flutter when receiving a random love note in your sock drawer?  But I suppose what all people want is to be noticed, plain and simple, and to be told in as many ways as possible that they are loved.  People need other people to sacrifice their own time and resources for them.  My guys in the group home need it too–if I am tired and one of the guys wants me to sit in his room to keep him company for a few minutes before he nods off I do it anyway.  These guys don’t live in a traditional family setting.  They need love (obviously non-se3tual) just like everybody else, but they have to get it from paid staff.  I digress.  The point I’m trying to make is that I am trying to move from a gendered sense of romance to the idea that ALL people need love and attention and that wanting it is OK.  I can’t make myself not be happy with fudge and I can’t make Attic Man melt at the sight of roses.  But I can try hard to think of it as something he’s doing because I’m a nice person and he likes me rather than empty compensation for domestic work.  After all if that were the case I should be the one delivering fudge, as he spent all weekend caring for our child, shampooing carpets, doing laundry, cooking, and washing dishes.

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Privilege (again)

Third Mom writes, commenting on contemplating my status as a woman,

But I also think that on some level it doesn’t matter, because at the end of the day it’s a luxury to even be able to consider this question.

And she’s right.  I have so much else that puts me in the category of ‘privileged’–I’m white, American, middle-class, straight, Christian and non-disabled.  I stayed with the mother who bore me and was raised in a two-parent, same-race family.  I try to be ever mindful of my privilege, and indeed I had a post in my head this weekend: “Privilege: Group Home Edition.” Back in the annals of Boomerific in a post I can’t find–I think it may even be from when I was on blogger–I listed all the things that made me privileged, and I think most of them were class-based.  The post in my head has a lot of things most of us without disabilities take for granted: I can walk (mostly) wherever I want without assistance, I can bathe myself, I do not rely on medication to live, I do not live with stares and condescending comments.

But.  Mostly is the key; ‘woman’ is my category of difference, and despite the fact that my other privileges almost trump it, it’s still a very real impediment in my life.  I don’t mean to speak for other women, though it is true that all women are never completely safe walking on their own at night.  Some women (me) are safer than others, true.  But this series is about me and how I am coming to terms with how my personal definition of woman, as handed to me and subsequently interpreted by me, is problematic in my own life.  In that way, yes, it IS a luxury question.  I wish I had a more high-minded thing to blog about for November, especially because during this month we get so many new readers through that thing that begins with N that I hate scrolling down to find so that I can spell correctly.  Bringing more attention to adoption reform, like Third Mom has done, among others, would be a good thing to do.

All I can say is that I need to do this now, for me.  It’s kind of related to me getting a therapist to work through my confidence issues (which may after all be connected)–for a while I balked thinking that it was the height of arrogance for a person with no more than a diagnosis for a relatively benign form of ADHD to seek counseling.  One husband and two friends later I gave into the fact that I still needed it, that trying to do good things for people who need help requires one to be of sound mind oneself.  So to be able to finish my degree and teach, which I am itching to do, and to be a better mother to my son and my future children, and to just be as healthy I can be for myself, I am going to therapy and I am exploring what it means for me to be a woman.  I haven’t forgotten everyone else.  I promise.

(and T.M. I love you and know you weren’t trying to be snippy in the least.  this is something I wanted to write about anyway)

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Harvest Mist

Yesterday I drove one of my guys to the Iowa 80 Truckstop to say “ooooooo!” at all the tractor-trailers.  The land was blanketed in a thin layer of dust: harvest time, and the huge machines were at work until the last drop of daylight.  It was one of my “Holy crap–I live in Iowa” moments.  There’s just no way to describe the light out here.

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Fall


Obligatory Pumpkin Patch Pic

9:30.  Less Bad Mega Superstore is closed so I go to Really Bad Mega Superstore to buy glue traps, glass & metal dry goods containers, four rolls of paper towels, and bleach.  It’s to be expected, this little bit of extra company in the fall.  We live less than a block from the river in an ancient rental house full of cracks and gaps.  Time to renew the yearly commitment to washing all dishes every night, wiping up every crumb, drying out the sink and stopping all the drains.  Except that we’re exhausted all the time so I don’t know how it’s going to happen.

Yesterday.  I was having a miserable time of it–unlike today’s pumpkin farm trip at a location I won’t reveal because I love the smallness of the place, where you use the bathroom in the family’s farmhouse and the grandkids help carry your gourds to the car, the place we took the group home guys yesterday was the D*sneyland of pumpkin patches, complete with dumb theme ‘rides’ and a kid puking in the crowded bathroom–but I was determined that the guys would have a good time, and they did.  I wish I could say that their joy was infectious (wouldn’t that be nauseating anyway?) but just as I was about to cheer up–we were in line for the hayrack ride (PA readers, this is the same as a hayride) which one of the residents was very excited about–a woman came up to me, rubbed my shoulder and said, “I admire your patience.”  “Oh, he doesn’t take much patience.” He’s right here within earshot, dammit, and why would you assume that his wheelchair and retardation automatically make him difficult? “Oh, I’m sure he is.” “No, he’s actually a lot of fun.” (moving away) If you were really genuinely trying to be nice you would have backed off after my first response.  Now it’s clear that you want to go home feeling good about yourself, encouraging that nice young lady whose job is such a burden and thanking God you don’t have to do it and that someone else is ‘willing’ to for a pittance.

Grrr.

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Fine Lines

I’m too busy to care about the fine lines on my face, though every commercial on Loaftime (my latest pumping-at-night rerun addiction is Fraiser) insists that I must. This is why I mute commercials.

I’m enjoying my new job at the group home more than I thought possible. Because I knew I’d be there for at least a year I prepared myself for the ‘worst:’ bodily fluids, unpleasant odors, unmanageable behavior. But you know, the things I so feared are not only not that bad, but they’re a relatively small part of my job. Most of the time I am cooking nutritious meals, guiding a bowling ball down a support into a bumpered lane, laughing at a joke told for the thousandth time (you want to go in that house? that’s not your house! you want to ride in that van? that’s not our van! and so on). Some of the time I am helping to maintain seriously fragile egos (it’s OK…you don’t have to apologize…everybody has accidents…you’ll be good as new in no time).

The gentlemen I work with are adults but they in many ways have the minds of children. In addition their bodies don’t work in the ways they should. I am constantly walking this tightrope between honoring their adulthood and acknowledging their limitations, and time after time I find myself falling too far on one side or the other. If one guy is not eating regular meals (but snacking on junk in between meals), do I insist that he sit down with us or do I have a conversation with him about making good choices? The answer is, of course, to encourage him to make good choices and to figure out what exactly we need to do to entice him to eat (in this guy’s case, it was having the staff sit down and eat the same thing as the residents, “like a family,” as he puts it). But in the meantime while we’re trying to figure it all out it’s really tempting to go into a parental mode. Then again, if he doesn’t eat properly his health is at risk. I’m constantly working to assess which situations warrant the more disciplinary approach (is he or someone else in danger by his actions?) and which ones will lead to naturally undesirable consequences that do not require my intervention. The hard ones are the ones in between, in which the guy is not really in immediate danger but his (or another resident’s) quality of life is seriously compromised. I’m still learning how to make those assessments, and I’m trying really, really hard to see these guys as equals with different needs. It’s hard when there’s a power differential like that. Thank God I have Lisa in my head at all times when I’m working.

Their preferences present another challenge. Because their mental ages are far below their chronological ones, all three enjoy children’s music, books, and activities. They like some stuff that’s universal age-wise like bowling, dancing, going for walks, etc. so we try to do as much of that as possible. But what do I do when one of my guys wants to play on the playground equipment? Well, I take him because he likes it. Sometimes I take to the swings, too. I always wonder if I’m offering him the chance to be an adult in the community. On the other hand, what’s the point of that? He is what he is and he shouldn’t have to apologize for it or pretend (if he could, anyway). Why should we teach him that he shouldn’t like some things just because he’s chronologically an adult? Doesn’t he have enough shame in his life?  So when we take them to the library we wander through the adult section for a while but we always end up in the children’s section where they enjoy themselves completely.

Sometimes I like this job because of these dilemmas–it’s interesting, challenging work that I can sink my teeth into.  I like it all except for the cleaning of the toilet.  (I should be teaching THEM to do it! :))

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