Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Seeing your kid doesn't take so long

I recently had a revelation.  For parents who are struggling trying to see their daughter in the person they knew as their "son"- or vice versa-maybe this will help.

When DJ first came out, I constantly searched JD for signs of DJ.  At first, all I could see was JD and I couldn't see DJ.  I would look at JD and have to remind myself that he, damn it, SHE, was now DJ and then I would have to remind myself to say "she" instead of "he" and to THINK it, as well.

It's been less than two short years and for a very long time now, I haven't been able to "see" JD anymore in DJ.  It's not because her appearance has changed, although, certainly it has.  It's more that my perspective has changed.

I tell my students all the time that I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to pre-hospital emergency medicine.  But I am a hard worker and I don't give up on wanting to understand medical concepts.  You don't have to be "gifted" to succeed, you just have to be willing to work hard and to not give up.

This is true also if you are a parent who is struggling to accept your child's uniqueness, whatever it is.  You don't have to be a gifted, superparent;  you just have to be committed to wanting to accept your child.  You have to be willing to work hard and to not give up.

It's like reading EKGs-those electrical tracings that are generated by your heart and can be seen on a screen.  The first 100 times (or more) a new medic looks at them, they don't make sense.  It doesn't matter what a person tells you about what you're looking at-it just doesn't sink in.  The "foreign-ness" of it still looks foreign.  The trick is to keep looking at the EKG strips over and over, and over, and over, and get the idea.

At first, the simple ones sink in slowly, then the ones that are a little more challenging start to make sense. You see slight progress but it still seems like you'll never get comfortable with it. Then you just decide to forget about comfort, you're in it for the long haul no matter what, so you just keep plugging away because you're so tired from trying and so discouraged at your lack of progress that you don't even want to consider the possibility of failure because it makes you feel even worse.

Then one day, you look at those previously foreign EKG tracings and you start to forget how hard it was to understand.  You're not sure when it happened exactly, but now when you look at them, you can barely remember being confused by them.  Somewhere along the line, it "clicked."

I don't know when it clicked for me, but I DO know that if I try to remember JD, it's only remembering that I can accomplish because I cannot see JD in DJ anymore.  I see a resemblance the way I see that Goodwrench and DJ are obviously related....and that's about it.  So my point is this-acceptance of your kid will not be just merely tolerance.  It will be  "seeing" your child for who she, or he, truly is.  


We are in a delicate balance of trying to just maintain the status quo.  The upcoming surgery looms large and while DJ seems nonplussed, Bulldog and I are scrambling to finish up loose ends at work so that we can take as much time off as possible.

Disc Jockey pointed out that in spite of everything moving forward as planned that we have to realize that this is a stressful time for us all.  It's easy to lose track of that because we have been so busy for months with trying to checks tasks off of our to-do lists that we forget to analyze whether or not we SHOULD be trying to accomplish everything on the lists.

For instance, DJ is overwhelmed at trying to catch up with school.  Initially, Bulldog and I figured she could catch up on all of her classes.  We've since winnowed it down to just one, for the time being.  We're letting her drop AP calculus altogether since she's already taken calculus.  French III is out of the question for this semester, but she can take it next year.  She has to take 11th grade english or she cannot progress to 12th grade english next year, so that stays.  But whether or not we insist on her finishing her AP Music Theory class is still in negotiations.

As usual, Miss Thing had to be close-mouthed about what was really driving her to want to drop it.

"I just don't want to do it."

Well now, why didn't you just say that sooner?  You simply don't want to?  OK-we'll accommodate you....NOT.

It turns out that one of the course requirements is to skype with the instructor and sight sing.  This is when you are given a piece of music you've never seen before and you are to sing it the first time you see it.  DJ's social anxiety, which is so much a part of her anorexia, plagues her in this instance.  Disc Jockey pointed out that if the instructor will give DJ an extension, perhaps we can revisit this issue after the surgery.  She maintains, and I think she's onto something, that this low-grade but ever- present stress that revolves around the upcoming surgery can make a number of tasks seem overwhelming.  She adds that perhaps it might be best to just stay in a holding pattern for the next few weeks.

She is right.  We can definitely accommodate that request.

However, since DJ is not terribly comfortable being with many people for any length of time, and cannot be left home long enough to be trusted to eat properly yet, then she will simply have to accompany me to work occasionally.  What we can NOT accommodate is her fashion panache in my workplace.

She came out of her room this morning wearing short shorts over the top of fishnet stockings and some rocker chick top.  I recall nothing else except the shorts and fishnet stockings.  She couldn't understand why I wouldn't let her wear that to my place of business.

I am currently in the business of educating paramedics and firefighters.  Yeah, right-AS IF I want any of those knuckle draggers (I can call them that because 1.  I am one of them and 2.  I married one.) checking out my daughter in spite of the fact that she's practically inviting their ogling with her attire.

I swear kids have this innate sense of parental relaxation:

"Well, I won the battle over the AP class, even if it just for now.  I'll bet I can get away with dressing like I'm considering a career in the oldest profession in the world."

Frankly, if a kid is feeling unstressed enough to try to get away with crap, she's feeling well enough to do her English homework without any kvetching.  Agreed?  As always, it's about finding balance.

What is asking too much of a person?  When should a person be required to at least try a little bit in certain areas?  Which areas are important enough to ask the person to try and which areas just aren't worth stressing over?  When is giving in considered compromise, and when is it just giving up?  These are tough questions that keep resurfacing.  The good news is tough times teach us to truly prioritize. If we're paying attention, we learn what really IS important.  Sometimes meeting the bare minimum is more than enough.  My father is probably rolling in his grave....