Remember how I said this year was going to be super tough and I wasn't going to be able to just sit back and survive it -- that I was going to have to put on my big girl panties and do all the things? Yeah, that was accurate. There has been a LOT of stuff I've had to get done lately. I feel like I've been more energetic than I have been in awhile, but it doesn't matter because there's just more to get done, so I'm exactly as behind as ever.
Take this week: I have had to go out of the house every day so far, and skip two homeschool meetups I would have liked to go to. Last week was the same, and next week promises to be similar! Gone are the days when my only real commitments were grocery shopping and returning the library books.
Monday's adventure was getting the kids their shots. Yes, I am finally vaccinating my kids. It's been hard for me ... I've never had a legitimate reason not to vaccinate them. I knew that reactions were rare, that if vaccines had ever caused autism, they no longer have thimerosal in them, so that shouldn't be happening now at any rate.
What it was, for me, was mistrust: a feeling that the medical establishment could not be trusted to have my best interests at heart, that if there were a serious danger in vaccines, they would surely cover it up and perhaps even punish the scientist who had claimed there was. I do not know why pro-vaxxers think, "Dr. Wakefield's study was retracted and his medical license was revoked!" is evidence in favor of their position. It is clearly the opposite, to anyone who was against vaccines in the first place. EVERYONE KNOWS the medical establishment says they are safe, so why do people keep saying "but here's a CDC page saying I'm right!" is some kind of slam-dunk? But I've become a lot more pro-establishment lately. While no one is to be trusted absolutely, people who have dedicated their lives to the study of a certain topic are probably more to be trusted than those who haven't. And as far as corruption goes -- I've been deep enough into the natural-health community to find that it's not immune from the same thing. If you can follow the money in the CDC's recommendations, you can also follow the money to find out why Dr. Mercola sells what he does. There is a lot of money in alternative medicine, and a lot less oversight. And it's easy to see a contradiction in people who automatically shoot down any claim made by their doctor because they don't trust him, and then immediately share any ridiculous claim made by a random lady with a blog. And I've realized that when a treatment has been shown with actual evidence to be safe and effective -- somebody patents it and your doctor prescribes it.
The other issue is that I always felt, on some level, that it was better for my kid to get sick of a disease that I didn't prevent than to get sick of a shot I actually gave him. Part of the Catholic "actions matter more than omissions" thing. I'm now a lot more of a consequentialist (though I admit there is at least some difference between an action and an omission) so I feel like I should be choosing, not the option with the least personal involvement, but the option with the smallest chance of my kids getting sick. Yes, I would feel way more guilty if they got sick of a shot than if they got sick of a virus. Yet that's not really the morally significant part of the equation. The morally significant part is that I would have done what had the best chance of keeping them well, regardless of how I felt about it.
The night before we got the shots, I lay awake awhile worrying about it. John joked that I don't need to worry because "what are they going to do, give Marko MORE autism?" But, silly or not, that was how I felt ... I mean, given that he's already autistic, what if that means his system is super fragile? I know that autistic kids massively regress for all kinds of reasons; I even read of a child who regressed and lost his language ability after the chicken pox. And it's not impossible that Marko might regress after the shots. I was also scared about the pain for them ... both boys had to get three shots this week, and those hurt! I personally have a massive needle phobia, not just of the pain itself, but of the thought of foreign substances inside my body. To get a shot, I have to think about it as little as possible. And there I would have to be up close and personal, and put a brave face on so I didn't give the boys my own fears. I would a thousand times rather have had all six shots myself than have to put my kids through it.
But they did fine. Neither kid was scared about it. Marko yelped at each jab and sounded indignant, but the second they were over he was fine. Michael, seeing Marko's reaction, suddenly panicked and tried to fight the shots, so I had to restrain him. That was not fun at all. But again, the second the last shot was over he was fine, and bragged about how brave he had been. (NOT.) Then we all went for ice cream, and I had one of those perfect parenting moments, eating ice cream with them at the gazebo in town, feeling like, for once, we were all happy at the same time and could just enjoy being together. (Which lasted until Miriam threw a fit about a bite of ice cream she'd given me and then wanted back after I'd swallowed it. OH WELL.)
They have to go back next week for the other two shots (MMR and varicella, which are both live, ugh) and then after four weeks we go and get more doses of all the same things. The frustrating part is that, since two of the shots have to be given over six months, they will not be caught up by the start of school. I believe that this won't delay them from starting school, so long as I can get a doctor's note. I certainly hope not; after all this effort to get everything set up for Marko to start school at the beginning of the year, when things are starting slow, it would be terrible to have to make him wait till October and then try to catch up.
The other thing I did this week that tore me up was signing up both boys for school. John and I have talked the issue to death and we've pretty much reached agreement to at least try it. It used to be that he was for it and I was against, but when we did a school tour, Marko actually looked pretty interested in everything. And when we went back to pick up some paperwork, he was upset that we didn't get to stay and play with the special ed teacher's cars.
This is a kid who used to sob if we turned down the street the school was on, because he was so terrified of the place. Multiple visits for various meetings have taken away the dread for him. He's also having speech therapy there, and he's enjoyed that. He still insists he'll never ever go to school, but it almost seems like a pro forma objection -- he likes going there and he seems pretty interested in my stories of what goes on there.
I don't think he'll learn better at school than at home. He will almost certainly fall behind a bit in school stuff. But what he will gain are the social skills that are his weakest point: he will get lots of practice talking to other grownups, he'll be encouraged to socialize with other kids, he'll learn about following directions. This is stuff that a kid should know, at least a little bit. I used to not worry about his shyness, feeling that he'd eventually be ready to talk to more people and till then, he didn't need to. But then there was the time last year that Michael poked him in the eye with a popsicle stick. We took him to the doctor, and he could not communicate with him or with the nurse about whether he could read the vision chart. And I realized, a child needs to be able to ask for help from adults that aren't his parents. He doesn't need to do it all the time, but he needs to be able to. And Marko, probably because of his autism, is not able to and it doesn't look like he's going to just start doing it without being pushed. He's gotten better at this in the past six months, just from all the assessments we've put him through. There has been complaining, insisting he won't go, lying on the floor refusing to move, but in the end he has gone to all of them and talked with the professionals who are assessing him. He just needs practice.
Of course in theory I could provide all this, by doing more homeschool groups and more library story times and maybe piano lessons or dance lessons or something. But ... that's kind of in the alternate reality where I hadn't had a baby this year. It is really hard for me even to keep up with his homeschooling. I have to admit I'm not really able to provide all he needs, not this year.
And Michael will be going too, because unlike Marko, Michael actually wants to. He's super excited about the idea of school, of playing with other kids, of getting a backpack and a lunchbox and books of his very own. It would seem kind of unfair to send his brother, who doesn't want to go, and not send him. Plus, I figure one year of school, right at the beginning when it's easy, will give him the social skills he currently lacks and reassure me that he doesn't have any issues. Then, hopefully, next year we can get back to homeschooling with a bit more confidence. I know it was very hard for me to switch from homeschool to traditional school, in part because I started so late (fourth grade) when all the other kids knew each other and a lot of the rules were unspoken. If Michael has a year of kindergarten under his belt, then he will easily be able to transition back into school at whatever year he wants to -- whether that's fourth grade, ninth grade, or college.
I'm trying not to be dogmatic about this, to take it one year at a time, rather than mapping out our entire education. But I'm really hoping everyone has made a ton of progress by next year, while at the same time wanting to get back to homeschooling, so that there will be no reason to keep them in school another year. I like homeschooling. I like being together as a family. And as overwhelmed as I am right now, by next year Jackie will be older and I expect I'll be better able to handle everything.
But the school thing is so far not making my life less stressful, but more. I have to get birth certificates for the kids; that's been a big runaround. I have to get them shots. Everyone needs a physical. Everyone needs school clothes. Marko needs to get on board with wearing underwear before August. Of course this is all because we haven't started yet, but then once we do start, I'll have to walk the kids the two blocks to school every day. That's a lot more leaving the house than I'm used to.
The bright side is that other things are actually getting done that needed to be. I got my chicken application submitted at last, over a year after the urban farming ordinance was passed. The shots, of course, had to be done anyway and I'm glad we're finally getting them done. (I'm waiting on Miriam because she is completely unmanageable now -- there is no way I could get a shot into her without some backup.) I bought a cherry tree yesterday, which I'm going to plant today. I feel .... better about adulting than I have in a long time. I'm realizing the truth of what I've read about anxiety, that the best way to get over it is to push yourself through it and then realize after the fact that it wasn't so scary. And that's been true for both Marko and me ... when we don't have a choice to back out of the scary thing, we've done it, and been less scared about it.
Maybe I'll actually go to the dentist this year!
Warm weather has meant lots of pleasant time outside. I always feel better about everything in the spring. Except, one night, the first night we slept with the windows open, I couldn't sleep and was racked with feelings of anxiety ... because last year, when I last slept with the windows open in the spring, I had just found out I was pregnant and lay awake for hours having panic attacks. It is going to take me a long time to get over that. Even though I think the worst is behind me and there is nothing left to be afraid of, I still remember the fear and dread and feel terrible.
But in the daylight hours, it's all good. I've been planting lots of stuff in my new giant garden. Jackie has reached the age where she actually likes lying on a blanket in the grass .... though I can't let her do it for long, because I have so much anxiety that someone will step on her. I am not sure how much of that is good sense (my kids are so oblivious!) and how much is just brainweasels.
Miriam and Michael love Jackie so much. Especially Miriam, still, but Michael also is pretty interested now that she's a bit more responsive. She smiles, looks at them, waves her arms around, and they always interpret this as "she likes me! she's trying to talk to me!" I love it.
And even Marko has finally unbent enough to play with her. Nobody else was interested in his ponies (which he got for his birthday) so he flew them around in front of her face to entertain her. And she really did look at them, so he was perfectly content. I've noticed lately that he plays more with Miriam, as well, because he needs playmates who will follow instructions rather than expecting to be equal creators of the game. I'm not sure if this is entirely positive, but hey, he's not ignoring 2/3 of his siblings, so I'm going to rank it in the "win" column all the same. Especially for a kid who, up to a month ago, was insisting Jackie was NOT his sister and NOT part of the family and he was not EVER EVER going to look at her.
This reminds me that I haven't mentioned yet that Marko is seven. Hard to believe. His current obsession (added onto his past obsessions -- he still plays Minecraft and Harry Potter a lot of the time) is My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. It's actually not as obnoxious a show as I thought at first blush -- they clearly made an effort to include some humor and pop-culture references for the parents. I like that it breaks down the concept of friendship into manageable, explicit skills.
For his birthday, John wanted to take him out on an outing of his choosing, just the two of them. He picked going to a movie, but Michael was all upset that he wasn't going along. Marko looked at Michael crying for awhile, and then came to me to say, "I know how Michael feels, because I would feel the same way if he were going to a movie with Daddy without me." I was extremely impressed at this insight from him, which isn't common, and suggested he talk to John about it. John told him he could bring Michael along too, and both boys were thrilled to get to do their special birthday outing together.
Michael's birthday is tomorrow; he'll be five. He remains the sweetest boy you'll ever meet -- coming over to me often to give me hugs and kisses. And recently he's become quite polite, since I decided the best way to curb whining was to suggest polite phrases he could say instead. So when I give him something that isn't to his liking, he'll now say "Thank you for giving this to me, Mama, and can you please cut it in half?" That's a huge improvement over, "I WANTED it to be cut in HALF, waaaaaaaah!" And he's great about all the "hellos" and "good mornings" and "I love yous" that Marko generally does not say. It makes me appreciate all these things just that much more.
Miriam is going through a very tantrummy stage. John calls her the Destroyer of Souls; I don't think it's as bad as all that, but then, I'm not the one who has to be up with her from midnight to four a.m. when she has a bad night. That would probably destroy my soul too. It's clearly causing her to be a lot less amiable in the daytime; the tiniest thing causes sobs and hitting. Letting her hug and kiss her sister often helps; hugs from us parents are loudly rejected. The other day she asked to nurse again, after about a month of not asking. A part of me wishes we were still nursing, because it surely would help with the tantrums, but .... it's a very small part, compared to the part that's glad to be done.
Jackie is three months today -- the magic number, in my mind, when a baby starts to get easier. She took a two-hour nap today. That's not an all-the-time thing, but good naps are definitely becoming more common. And when she's awake, she's a lot more willing to sit in her bouncer or lie on the bed and just kick around, looking at stuff.
She reminds me of Marko, as a baby, which of course worries me a lot. She's not comforted by being held unless she is also being walked around so she can look at stuff. She won't nurse if she's upset, and screams bloody murder if you try to nurse her when she's not interested. She does make eye contact and smile, but ... I am not entirely sure she makes eye contact as much as other babies do. It's more of a brief glance and then she smiles over your shoulder. Of course I know I've got autism on the brain and see it everywhere, even where it's not.
That's it for this week. How has yours been?