You wanted advice. All the unwanted advice that comes to you as the parent of a child who is struggling with emotional outbursts, with explosive behavior, with anxiety or Asperger's or some unnamed something that shatters the world you thought you might lead, all of that has been absorbed and now you need something new.
I have been given advice because of my children. Not just one child in my family, but three of 'em, all my boys now have diagnoses and IEPs -- Individualized Educational Plans, the documents meant to accommodate children with every sort of special need in the school system. Anxiety for the oldest, Asperger's and sensory processing disorder for the middle, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder for the littlest. You watch them for a half-hour in grandma and grandpa's living room and it's just obvious, especially the little two. Monroe, five, whirling around and jumping off things like a puppy who hasn't seen his family for a week. Truman, seven, not listening, not meeting your eyes, not eating fruit for goodness' sake.
For Everett, 10, things are the worst, things have always been the worst. He swears and sometimes acts out violently when things are bad, and please know that you would not in all likelihood use the same scale of good/bad as he does. This is still something he is working out.
But for Everett, nine was the magic number and his life turned a corner. He was not "cured" overnight and in fact, in some ways his anxiety is more keen now than ever. But he has a place in our family and a place in the world. He is nurturing and he watches his little brothers with solicitation and patience and love while I am running or getting groceries. He has looked at the world with its tenuous line between good and evil and he has apprehended the magnitude of the grey middle and he has chosen good.
And now I have advice.
I have advice but I only want to give it to those who are seeking. I have received enough, enough, enough judgment from those who are sure they could parent my children better or who simply wish to assert their superior points of view. I have received enough clinically-developed parenting philosophies. Enough suggestions. I cannot give up gluten though I know it works wonderfully for you. I do so love dairy. I have already banished food coloring. Instead of sugar, I buy honey and maple syrup by the half-gallon.
For you, for you who are seeking, I have just the thing: not the answers so much as the process. The struggle to put your child in a new light, as Andrew Solomon says and I will quote him again: "To look deep into your child's eyes and see in him both yourself and something utterly strange, and then to develop a zealous attachment to every aspect of him, is to achieve parenthood's self-regarding, yet unselfish, abandon."
And this is my manifesto, my statement of work, my belief in this project and in myself and in you who read these words. First, to look into our child's eyes and see something utterly strange. Then to put aside our own different selves and our own different expectations and our own different plans. The future we held so tight in our fists, so tight that our fingernails left half-moon marks on our palms -- let that go. And in the opening of our hands is the release of all that stress, the societal expectations, the extended family exhortations, the "how will he get along in society?" The shrillness. Let that go and take a long breath and let your shoulders fall and your neck lengthen. Close your eyes and when you open them breathe in love, breathe in hope, breathe in the great wonder that is your own new child, entirely strange and entirely different and entirely himself. This is your standard-bearer. This is your front line. This is the face of your next generation. You are only the storyteller. You are only the one who will take his picture, show his face, and you will tell the world: I am not anyone's mother but his, this unusual amazing unheralded child. And he is making himself every day, and I am riding out behind him with all of my mind open and all of my faith held high.
And so I give you: Lost and Found at Home: A Parent's Journey through an Emotional Childhood. It is a book that I am writing now.
Make 'Lost and Found At Home' a living thing by supporting me.
I've been dreaming about this for years; first I wanted someone else to write it, but no one did. You can help. Contribute below. A contribution in any amount will subscribe you to an email newsletter (forever), and unless you request otherwise, I'll add your name to the acknowledgements in the book. My hope is to find a large publishing house, but mainstream- or self-published, contributions of $25 will include, eventually, a published book you can hold in your hand. At the $50 level, I'll send you the book in serialized form: each chapter as it is completed and workshopped. Be my standard bearer, too; ride forth along with me.
(For now, I'm not saying how quickly this will be done. I just don't know and it will depend how much I can raise and how my children do. It's a thing of passion for me and my intention is to complete as least a chapter each month. More, if you light my fire.)