Monday, April 30, 2012


…In which I expound, dear readers, upon a small spectrum of handy-to-la famiglia FSM tools that might be useful and/or laughable in your rainbows.

The “My Bad”

We all aspire to the wielding of copious quantities of positive tools like respect, patience, unconditional love and consistency.

My favorite progressive tool, though, is more negative.

My mother’s generation – whether traditional or hippie-mama – often felt pressure to act as if mothering felt happy and easy at all times, as if motherhood was totally fulfilling and came naturally to all mothers. Parents, especially fathers, were deemed omnipotent and all-knowing.

As our culture has become – however incrementally – more open and less sexist, we have gained some additional tools at our disposal. We are now free to admit to each other that parenting is sometimes hard, and often baffling, and that – even as we fiercely, fully love them Every Second -- we sometimes don’t entirely like our kids at a given moment.

It may be even more important that we are able to admit to our children (friends, family, partners…) that we ourselves are human. So, I celebrate the following three phrases:

“I don’t know.”
“I messed up.”
“I ‘m sorry.”

The use of these phrases demonstrates that parents (friends, family, partners…) are fallible human beings who will try to figure stuff out and do better next time. Just like kids can be – if shown the possibility.

The “My Bad” is liberating, but by no means a license to ill. At its best, though, it offers possibilities of redemption, learning, healing.

The “Locked” Door

Among other things, Z’s agenda includes using the stovetop and oven at 2am. Because of this, I have had to confine her to her room until I officially get her up in the morning. This involves keeping a chamber pot in her room and my “locking”[closing] the door every night after I put her to bed. Somewhat paradoxically for Miss Independence – but well within guidelines set by the aforementioned therapist -- this has been a very comforting process for Z herself.

The first (initially) unknown-to-me reader of FSM -- and someone I think of as a real live guardian angel -- has degrees in Education of Young Children, Child Assessment and Development, and Psychiatric Social Work (with specialty in the field of children and families).  She also has decades of experience working with children. She keeps me on track and within the bounds of my knowledge while still tolerating, even celebrating, my flights of fancy. Any errors, of course, are all mine.

She recently asked me,  “How do you as a mother create a safe home for Z while still feeling your home is as you want it to be?” My answer was…I don’t. I used to wear a lot of jewelry, for example, until some of my most precious pieces disappeared. Some did reappear, only in different and unsalvageable forms.  Now my jewelry is so hidden away that just getting to it is way too much trouble for a busy mama.

Some other nighttime concerns, besides stove on-house fire-gas explosion and jewelry-ruined-gone include:
food-hoarded-infestations-grody stuff-smears-rot-botulism
lotions/creams/polishes-ingested-poisoning thereby
pets-tied up-enslaved

Z has her own jewelry and creams and an array of dolls and stuffies, but they are never quite enough. Her night machinations made this very clear. Admittedly, with her high level of competence we might teach her how to use the stove, etc. in the not-so-distant future.  Until then, we say that Z “isn’t ready to get up on her own.” We try to meet her where she is on the developmental spectrum, protecting and nurturing the baby inside, while allowing for her exceptionally high acumen on mental and physical spectra by essentially baby-proofing the house for a really, really advanced baby.

Oppressing Z was a concern, but her “locked” door liberated her from her compulsion to do verboten “projects” in the night and allowed her to sleep soundly, thereby enabling her to not only feel better but to feel better about herself.


Also from my children’s therapist-angel reader came the suggestion to use humor. She reasoned that with all the progress Z had been making I might begin to use wit in our interactions. Instead of sticking firm and strong to my “put the dish in the sink” order, for instance, I might -- according to therapist-angel -- say, ”Put the dish on the floor.” Essentially, I should continue to contain Z's actions -- but with a light touch.

Yeah, I am not ready for that yet. The therapist Pardner and I go to who specializes in attachment disorders suggested the same thing. He thought, for example, that when Z looks at one of her adoring aunties and haughtily points to her plate to indicate that more food must be provided I should say “Oh…is that a plate?” I told him,  “Please. Just tell me one thing to say for all situations. Funny is too confusing. In those moments I can’t remember more than that.” Someday I do very much want to be funny. For now, I aim for functional.

Ripping Bag

Z likes to rip. She likes to rip Everything. She rips paper into tiny strips, all of a size. She rips clothing -- seam from seam, or expanding upon a pinhole or snag.  She rips horns off beloved childhood unicorns saved especially for my some-day daughter. (I’m not bitter about that one.)

One day, after yet another ripping disastrophe, it occurred to me to fill a bag with stuff that Z not only could but Should rip. It was a great success and has substantially reduced free-form ripping.

Feel free to riff on this: what about a smashing bag? A coloring-on box? A food-hoarding bunker?

One Battle a Day

G has the typical aspergian penchant for obsession. Pokemon has been a focus for almost six years.  In order to make time for other activities and foci, such as eating and sleeping, we have devised a system in which we have one extended, all-out Pokemon battle a day, after which we have some time for discussion. A potential additional benefit to this system is that G begins to get the notion that other people have interests of their own.

When he raises the subject I can say, “Is this Pokemon time? Oh, you want to talk about Gyarados’s hit points? Good. We’ll talk about that during Pokemon time.” Ideally in this context, I don’t squish G’s interests, just corral them.

One battle a day is enough for anybody.

You flick, I tick

From time to time, G begins to develop a tick. The latest has been a sort of flicking of his fingers that seems to happen when he gets excited or anxious. Hoping to help him (and not his neurological hiccups) be the one in charge of his body I started a policy of “you flick, I tick[le].” That is, whenever he starts flicking his fingers, I tickle him. 

It is probably somewhat annoying, although he tolerates me.

“You flick, I tick” is also related to my “you flap, I clap” policy, for when G starts flapping his hands compulsively. These are intended as neither punitive nor judgmental; they should be merely observational. And, as I tell him, hey, if you love to flap, just keep on flapping…and I will keep on clapping. I like to clap -- and I love to tickle.

Tickling seems to be a good tool, also, when either child gets Stuck in a mood or thought process. Of course, this assumes a certain base level of receptivity to being tickled at a given moment.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could tickle ourselves out of being stuck?


And, finally…

The “Mombulance” (also available in “Dad” and “Person” models)

“Wheee-oooh, Whee-oooh…” You hear the siren in the distance. It approaches…closer and closer. To your surprise, it pulls up outside of your door! You venture onto your stoop. A hunky paramedic steps out (gender – up to you).

“Ma’am,” s/he orders, “Step away from the residence. Put down the crayon, computer, dishcloth, phone and banana peel.”

Several other paramedics roll a stretcher toward you. As you climb onto it you note that a nanny and several fun, inclusive kids are headed toward your house, loaded with healthy, delicious snacks, games and educational yet entertaining dvds.  You see a special caddy full of trashy magazines affixed to the side of the stretcher. You wave sweetly to your children, who don’t even notice you are leaving. As you are rolled into the ambulance you see that you are surrounded by clean, uncluttered, chic-yet-soothing décor.

Hunky Paramedic hands you a beverage, informs you that en-route massage is available by request, and closes the back doors of the Mombulance.

You are All. Alone. Ahhh.

Ok, I made that one up.

If anyone has suggestions about moderating random sounds that seem to sound good to G Inside his head but sound really bad to those Outside his head and/or on curbing jewelry appropriation and repurposing please to inform.

Full Spectrum Mama


  1. Love it all! Such wonderful, creative, loving solutions. You're amazing.

    I'm a true believer in the importance of apologizing when we, as parents, make mistakes. How else will our children learn how to do it? As children and as adults?

    I learned this when he was bugging me for months after I weaned him, and it just pushed my buttons. Continued nursing had been a conflict between Papa D and me, and I hadn't really wanted to stop. But what was done was done - I couldn't get the hard-won milk back.

    One night at bedtime, I said to my two-year-old, "I have something important to say to you. I want to apologize. I made a decision to stop nursing without discussing it with you, and I'm sorry about that. You're old enough that I could have talked to you about it." After that, both of us were at peace with the situation. He didn't seem as angry, and I didn't feel as guilty.

    Since then, I'm always ready to apologize when I think I've made a mistake. Setting a good example!

    1. That is a super touching story.
      There is something so incredibly healing for everyone in that context.

    2. Here is some wisdom about the tools of listening, compassion and forgiveness from a beloved reader:

      "I forgot to tell you that in reading your blog I recalled a painful conversation with a gentle little first grader who often got into trouble. One day as I walked down the hall he took me aside and said, "I sometimes do things I don't want to do." The moment was heartbreaking. I hugged him and asked him to come to me when such feelings came again.

      Later that year the mother of one of the students went to a trustee and said the boy had gotten mad at her daughter and threatened to kill her.

      The businessman was so moved by these words, without telling me he brought it up in a Board Meeting which culminated in the Board--not a one of whom was an educator--forced me to expel the boy.

      In the subsequent weeks he had not harmed or threatened a single student."

      ...Or should I say the lack thereof? Thank you, teacher.

  2. But you think a massage is too high falutin'

  3. Touche, anonymous...or mayhap I should say...non-touche? Regular massage might preclude the need for the mombulance! ;)

  4. love you and your fantastic way of writing about all these extraordinarily emotional things.


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