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3:55 p.m. - 2012-10-04
Open House and Open Season On Topics

Since we last spoke I've been enjoying my 'quiet homebody' life by running around like a loon. Only one thing was at my own instigation, everything else was a scheduled must-do or something critical like med refills. My Mrs Toad's wild ride included three trips to the high school within 24 hours. By the third trip I felt I was wearing a rut in the road between here and there and I had given names to all the roadkill. (My fave was 'Bitsy' the deer. She'd obviously been taken out by a tractor-trailer and was in five distinct hunks along the shoulder. Ew. Sick, I know.)

The last trip to the school was for Open House. Met all except one of Wolf's teachers. His algebra teacher was absent and this honked me off, I especially wanted to speak with her. The child never seems to have math homework. WTF? Math is one of those homework-every-night subjects and I want to know what the deal is. Either she's gone off the math teacher reservation or my kid is shining me on about never having algebra homework. Inquiring moms want to know.

The rest of his teachers are good folk. They like my kid. Had good things to say about him. This was just a meet-n-greet though, the real Parent-Teacher thing is in late November, something that's always seemed a bit hinky to me. By that time they're already into the second quarter and it's really almost too late to turn things around if the kid is having trouble and/or has been slacking too much to catch up and salvage the year. Feh. As always the turn-out was light. At least in Wolf's classes. Huge surprise. Not. When Alex was at Podunkville High he was in the honor's program and the parental involvement with our little geniuses was nearly 100%. Most times at Open House the room was so packed it was SRO. The skew is the opposite with the assisted learning program and for the most part it was just me and one other kid's parents. Something I simply can NOT understand. The majority of the kids in this program are on the autism spectrum. The kids are bright enough but don't do well in the more crowded and distracting regular classrooms. Having good rapport with the teachers and having everyone- kid, teacher, parents- pull together as a team is vital. I, for one, have never accepted the idea that just because my son has to try harder and isn't the typical student that his schooling doesn't count or that he was allowed to come out of his public school career any less educated or equipped for life than any other kid. I expect Wolf to do his part, something I help him with by giving him all the tools and backup he needs and by being there to give his teachers whatever support they need to do their jobs. Being an involved parent isn't just for the sports and honors program kids. Seeing all those empty desks, seats which should have had parents in them during Open House makes me cranky.

I don't do this for the "Look at me! What a good mom I am!" props, I do this for my boy. Something I think all loving parents should do if they can. I know how exhausting and frustrating and disheartening it is to parent the autistic. And understand how tempting it must be to throw up your hands and let the kid muddle through whatever scraps of schooling the district throws their way. After spending half a decade potty-training and even longer years forcing the kid to keep his damn clothes on and finally impressing on him the necessity of not telling his grandmother to go fuck herself every time she goes in for a hug and prying yet another knife out of the kid's hand and wearily answering the thousandth phone call from the school's assistant principal in charge of discipline...yeah, I get it. But the one thing I've always tried to keep in front of me is this: The kid didn't ask to be here and he sure as hell didn't ask to be like this. Autism is NOT a choice. It's not. It's not a character or moral failing either. As wearying and heartbreaking as it is to parent the autistic, it's a zillion times harder to BE autistic. Even the seemingly self-satisfied Aspies with their lack of empathy and compassion and their smartass mouths, they hurt just as much as anyone who's been shut out of being part of things. They may not show it, heck, they might not even understand and acknowledge it to themselves, but they do. They hurt and they mind their outsider status. They mind it A LOT. So me making sure my son comes out of his schooling with a diploma which means something, with a brain exposed to all the ideas and facts the other kids get, with the pride that comes from doing something really hard and doing it well, hell, it's the least I should do.

This brings me around to the last teacher I met at Open House, Wolf's Global Studies teacher, Mr R. Since day one Wolf has been attracted to and repulsed by Mr R. I can see why. If anything Mr R is even more goofy and socially inept than his students. Not a physically attractive guy, Mr R compounds this with several quirky behaviors guaranteed to not endear him to the snarky teenaged set. To be frank, Mr R is a fidgety doofus. He picks his slacks out of his butt, he sometimes spits when he talks, he forgets where he left his glasses and they're parked right there on top of his head. But Mr R is also enthusiastic and very, very bright. He's excited by his subject and teaches with enormous verve. An excitement he's passed onto Wolf. On the day of Open House Wolf had come to me all frothy about the silliness of Mayor Bloomberg's latest edict- some kind of crackpot proposal in the fight against obesity. To wit: It was now illegal to dispense fountain drinks larger than 32oz in NYC.

"Mom!!! How dumb is this? What's to stop someone from buying more than one 32oz drink? Why does Bloomberg think he has the authority to tell a business what size soda or slushee it can sell anyway?"

Wolf was really torqued. This thanks to the fidgety Mr R. I was delighted. So Wolf and I got into it. The ethics of the Nanny State. The overreach of government. The quashing of free enterprise. The general dopiness of the state (city) believing it can somehow regulate private behavior to the benefit of society's overall health.

My kid and I talked about what a cheap and easy 'fix' this was and how futile it was to assume something as complex as obesity could be solved by regulating the size of a Slurpee. As Wolf and I drove around to our various stops we discussed many of the truer causes of obesity- the dearth of fresh nutritious foods and the lack of grocery stores in poorer neighborhoods, plus the impossible pressure on working parents to provide time and money-consuming home cooked meals vs reality. We talked about how the more stops between farm and table there were the less nutrition a food had at the end. I told him I'd take him through the grocery aisles at Walmart next time we were there and show him the huge disparity between the heavily hyped 'convenience' foods offered to the less educated struggling working poor and how our family has the leisure and money to shop for food at the farmer's markets and the uptown groceries with their emphasis on organic and local produce, meats and dairy. I explained how many, many families didn't have the means or the time to cook like I did. And I admitted to him how when his brother was young Alex had a hella lot more Happy Meals than he (Wolf) had ever had. When Alex was a little guy I worked 60 hours a week and getting home in the evening I was just too tired to spend a couple hours making dinner. Something I had all the time in the world to do these days and that he and Mick got the benefit of my freedom to shop and marinate and chop and sauté and braise. We were very, very lucky. So if Bloomberg thought he was fixing anything with his smaller slushees he was out of his flippin' mind.

Wolf listened carefully and asked good questions. I gave him time to mull things over and tell me what he thought. This is where school and home and child came together! And I was really happy. Something I told Mr R about when we were chatting later on that night. After he got over his shock that one of his students actually talked with his mother about school Mr R told me he was amazed and very pleased. He cocked his head (with his glasses on top) at me and wondered aloud if this was typical with us. I laughed and assured him it was. Aware of our good fortune to have the money and time to get into this kind of thing I told Mr R that he and Wolf's other teachers weren't shouting into an empty well. The family dinner and its far-reaching discussions about any and everything were alive and well and in my dining room.

That's where I'm at, my friends. Racing around here, there and everywhere. Getting the kid and myself where we need to be. Schmoozing with teachers and the school librarian (a story for another day). Discussing the ethics and politics of food. Being grateful for my nicey-nice life and the advantages it offers. Doing the mom thing. Breakfasting on the pignoli cookies my darling gifted me with yesterday. Rooting for our suddenly beleaguered Prez and anticipating the next debate when I know he's going to come out swinging from his heels on the social issues his opponent is so profoundly lacking and ignorant on. Plotting out tonight's dinner of chicken marsala (yum!). And wishing it would finally stop raining.


Love you lots! ~LA

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