Attunement

by Rebecca Einstein Schorr on 22 December 2014 @ 12:35 am

I’ve been the mother of a child with special needs for nearly fourteen-and-a-half-years. Which kind of makes me an expert.

Or so I thought.

Recently, I was reminded of what happens when I don’t take the time to step back and better anticipate what can be done to make Ben’s life easier. For that experience to have meaning, I cannot simply sweep it aside with “well no one can anticipate everything” or “it was really the school’s responsibility to (fill-in-the-blank).” Jewish Tradition teaches that we must get in-between the black spaces and the white spaces in order to wrestle with the text and emerge with a better, and deeper, understanding. So too do we approach life.

Chanukah, while deeply loved by my kids, also present some challenges for Ben. Late nights. The anticipation of the gifts. The disappointment of opening a gift that wasn’t what he wanted. Frustration over the dreidel game. The smell of the latkes. And the list goes on.

I can’t change most of what makes this week hard for Ben. Yes, I can try to make Chanukah happen early enough for Ben, whose circadian rhythm shuts down around 6:00pm during Standard Time. I can frontload him in order to minimize his disappointment and, God-willing, avoid any resulting melt-downs. But those are coping mechanisms and strategies.

What if I approach Chanukah from his perspective? Or what Dr. Carla Naumburg, in Parenting in the Present Moment, calls “attunement.”

The smell of the latkes frying in the oil literally makes Ben sick to his stomach.
Insisting that our Chanukah celebration will be incomplete without latkes, as I have done every year, does not validate his very real sensations.
In fact, it probably reinforces his feelings of inadequacy.

I had been looking forward, this year, to trying all sorts of new latke recipes. “One for each night…”
Until I realized, thanks to Dr. Naumburg, that Ben needs something different from me.

Lilly and Jacob have their right to having a positive Chanukah experience, replete with gifts, dreidels, and latkes.
And so does Ben.
Shifting my approach will allow me to create better, and more positive, Jewish memories for all of my children.
(Warren, good man that he is, says he doesn’t care how I make them because “everything you make is delicious.”)

So yes, we are still having latkes this year.
But oven-baked. And made on the waffle-griddle.
The miracle of the oil will be retold and memorialized in other ways.

Bonus: Some really terrific strategies for families with kids who experience the world differently.

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hanukkah hoopla

I’m participating in a #HanukkahHoopla with 7 other Jewish bloggers. In the spirit of the season, we’re giving 8 gifts to 8 lucky commenters.

I’m giving away a copy of Carla Naumburg’s Parenting in the Present Moment and a copy of my CD, Soul’s Delight.

You can comment on my blog or any of the #HanukkahHoopla blogs all the way until the end of the 2014. Click on the menorah to be magically transported to the schedule where you’ll find links to visit other fabulous writers and increase your chances of winning holiday cyber-swag!

If you respond on my blog, answer this to win:

What is one thing you can do to stay “attuned” to your kids?

Winners will be selected randomly. The giveaway will end on December 31st, 2014.

Disclosure: I was not compensated to participate in this campaign. I have provided this FABULOUS prize to celebrate #HanukkahHoopla.

{ 7 comments }

Crushed

by Rebecca Einstein Schorr on 09 December 2014 @ 10:06 pm

rose on ice

I don’t usually cry about the difficulties of rearing a child with special needs. Not because I don’t feel the sadness. But because I’ve steeled myself against it. And because I’m afraid that once I start, it will be too difficult to stem the flow.

But tonight, I am crying.

I am crying for my son, my sweet son, whose anxiety so often gets the best of him. And who lacks the protective armour necessary to survive the barbs, comments, and criticisms of the real world.
Tonight was meant to be his first high school choir concert. Instead, it was just another reminder that other kids can be cruel.
Ben has always loved music. From an early age, he could match pitch, memorize lyrics, and repeat melodies after the first hearing. But his fear of being the center of attention prevented his participation in choir.
Until this year.
Both Warren and I spent our high school years in the choir room. Our children have heard miles of stories about our choral experiences and, though we never pressured them to join choir, both Warren and I were excited to have our firstborn follow in our footsteps.
Plus, we both knew, from personal experience, that choir was an accepting place, and that Ben might finally find a place of belonging.

Ben has been fretting (his word) for days. As he always is before any anxiety-producing experience.
The required concert attire was enough to send him into fits of emotional dysregulation. But he did it. He did it. He put on the button-down shirt. And the dress pants. The black socks (he only wears white socks) and the black dress shoes.
Unbeknownst to me, he watched videos about ways to tuck in a dress shirt.

And it was all for naught.

Because I didn’t plan ahead.
I didn’t anticipate the stumbling blocks.
I didn’t remember the flowers. (Gratuitous Ice Castles reference.)

I never thought to ask if his one-on-one aide would be there. After all, it was a course-required activity and I assumed…
I never thought to ask if there would be adult supervision at all times. After all, it was a school activity and I assumed…

Yes, I know what they say about assuming.

So without an aide to guide him through the social landscape and without an adult keeping the kids in line before the concert, Ben was without a safety net. An unkind comment from another kid and that was it. Ben left. In tears.

Now he sleeps.
And I am left crying.

{ 3 comments }

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