September 8, 2014

Suffering is not a Spectator Sport

I've been thinking about something for a few days. I'm not quite sure if it's worthy of a full blog post or if I'll be able to accurately or adequately express these thoughts. But I'll try.

Kelli Stapleton, a year after she attempted to kill both herself and her daughter, plead guilty to first degree child abuse. Kelli's family has been in my thoughts for a long time. As the parent of a child with severe behavioral issues, this case evokes some pretty complex emotions for me.

This recent news has also brought up the same discussions (I use the term loosely) on Facebook, the same "you're with us or against us" battles between autistic adults and parents of autistic kids. I won't go into that today.

Because what I've been thinking about isn't that. It's about how we all have the liberty to talk about this. How freely we blame, and pontificate, and judge and analyze and criticize. And how, for all except a few who do know and care about Kelli personally, this all smacks of so much gossip. How it is so easy to just speculate and fill in missing pieces, and be outside of—and above—it all.

But if this were your best friend, if this were your family, if this were YOU (and no one should be so smug as to think it couldn't be), these horrible events would be nothing short of a tragedy. It would be devastating to so many lives that you cared about. The Stapletons are living this nightmare.

And yes, we can blame Kelli for the acts that brought them to this tragic place. Although I do believe this is a complex situation, and I do believe that ANY of us could be brought to a breaking point, Kelli is, in the end, guilty.

But how, with all our Internet Outrage, are we actually helping anyone?

While we're thankful that Issy has (from what I understand) recovered physically from the incident, have we succeeded in getting Issy a safe environment where she can learn and be safe?

How does it help Kelli's other children to call her a monster? Children who, while trying to come to terms with the destruction of everything they knew, also miss the woman who loved them more than anyone in the world?

And while we're bickering over when and where it is appropriate to have conversations about better family support services, how are we helping Kelli's husband, a man who now has a family to raise by himself, including an autistic daughter, and must need more support than ever?

These are real people we're talking about. This is not reality TV or some kind of spectator sport. This is a family who is hurting. And I hurt for them too.

August 19, 2014

Jelly Goes to Kindergarten

Alef: the first letter of
the Hebrew alphabet
 Yesterday was Jelly's first day of kindergarten. It was all the things I suppose the first day of kindergarten should be like. So much excitement at seeing some familiar faces, the chaos of figuring out where to line up, learning teachers' names and scoping out the new kids. I managed not to cry. My baby girl, in kindergarten. She said she wasn't nervous.

Today, the second day of kindergarten, was a little harder. No parents to accompany her to the classroom meant an extra long goodbye and a few tears I saw her fighting hard to keep in.

Jelly hasn't shared much about the days. I found out through another boy that she cried when the teacher spelled her name wrong (the woes of having a name that can be spelled multiple ways.) She fell on the playground. She learned some Hebrew but she doesn't remember what it means. She had art and her friend had music.

But I know Jelly. She has to process first. She won't come home recounting her entire day though I have no doubt she remembers it. Little bits will come out here and there when she's ready to share them.

This morning, as I prepared her lunch she told me about what was okay to bring for snack and what was okay for lunch. "You can't have too much food at my school," she told me. Later, "there are no mistakes in art, right, Mommy?"

She is the smallest one in her class, which means she is the smallest one in the school. That seemed to bother Jelly a little bit today. She can't climb as high as the other kids. As part of the under five feet crowd, all I could think was "get used to it, kid." I hope her big personality will make up for it.

She had an interesting observation about Hebrew, which is part of her school's curriculum. She had taken some Spanish classes in preschool so I asked her why she thought she could remember the Spanish words but not the Hebrew. "Because at Spanish they gave me a paper with all the words on it In Hebrew, there's no paper." I explained that this was probably because Hebrew words use a different alphabet, one that she doesn't know how to read yet.

This was an astute statement on her part. Jelly is a visual learner. This surprised me since her language skills, from vocabulary to reading and writing, are so strong. But Jelly learns to read even complicated words essentially as sight words. Even now, she still doesn't quite get the "sound it out" concept. So, by not being able to see the Hebrew words, she has a harder time remembering them.

Or maybe she's just not ready to tell me.


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