Tuesday, April 28, 2015

“Hold Mommy’s Waffles.”

Let me tell you a thing or two about my daughter, Eiledon. She’s smart, funny, passionate, creative, talented, and outspoken about justice for women, people of all races and ethnicities, and people of every sexual orientation and gender identity. These things lead to fantastic YouTube videos, amazing school projects, active participation in theater, insightful social media posts, and an email from one of her teachers that read in part: “Also, honestly, she’s like the coolest person I know.”

She also deals with some serious emotional and learning challenges: ADHD, Tourette Syndrome, Anxiety, Depression, Sensory Processing Disorder, and while she is not on the Autism spectrum like her brother, she tests “High Atypical” in the areas of inability to take another person’s perspective and inability to interpret social cues. These things lead to unpredictable mood swings and volatile behavior, disorganization, underperforming in school, and a general perception by her peers and some of her teachers that she has “an attitude.”

Through years of doctors, medications, therapists (hers AND mine), school counselors, IEP meetings, teacher conferences and the abundant support of my recovery community, I am learning how best to advocate for her and, just as importantly, when to let things go. I am generally able to blow off her meltdowns. They are not personal and when she has regained some control, she is always genuinely apologetic. Things are relatively peaceful at home and I have a wonderful relationship with my daughter. For the most part, I “get” her.

But once she steps out the front door in the morning, she’s on her own. Out there, no one “gets” her and High School, a soul-sucking juggernaut for any kid, can be a special kind of hell. She stays relatively positive on the whole, but there are days. And there are people. Certain people who just actively dislike her and make no bones about it. This is where I have a much harder time letting go.

One young woman has been particularly difficult for my daughter because this girl—let’s call her “Sarah” because that’s nice and generic—is involved in theater, as is Eiledon, so the two of them cross paths a fair amount. Sarah has said things to Eiledon such as, “What are you, a f--king idiot?” So, you know, it’s not like Eiledon is reading into things this girl is saying. They’re that blatant.

Eiledon just got through doing tech for a production of Hairspray Jr. It’s a great show, but the absolute best line, bar none, happens when Velma Von Tussle insults the main character, Tracy, in front of Tracy's mother, Edna. Edna, who is played by a male actor in drag, is holding a bag of fast-food waffles, and when she hears the insult, she steps up to Velma and begins sweetly, “Tracy, be a dear,” and then drops into a full-on male voice to say threateningly, “Hold Mommy’s waffles.”

I’m telling you, every time I see that girl, Sarah, it’s all I can do not to stalk up to her and snarl to Eiledon, “Hold Mommy’s waffles.” But these are not my battles to fight. They’re not my growing pains to experience. In these moments I call on every 12-Step resource I can muster to detach with love. To be supportive without interfering. To let her live her own life. But oh, I am SO human sometimes.

Let me tell you something else about Eiledon. Something which, more than anything else about her, truly blows me away. She is capable of unbounded compassion.

I picked her up from rehearsal one evening and saw Sarah sitting at the curb waiting for her ride. Eiledon got into the car, looking a little sad, and stated for the umpteenth time, “I really don’t know why Sarah hates me so much,” and went on to share yet another run-in that evening in which Eiledon was called “a f--king idiot,” by this girl. I had sort of had it, and all my good-12-Step-mommy tools went right out the window.

“Who knows why she doesn’t like you. Probably because she’s fat, ugly and untalented.”

“MOM!” yelled Eiledon. “How can you say that?!? Maybe she’s a little overweight but she is NOT ugly! And she’s a really good actress! I can’t believe you said that!” She went on to speak highly of Sarah in several regards and berate me for my un-called-for insults. I was flabbergasted. This girl treats my daughter like absolute crap and makes it extremely difficult for her socially within the one community where she has the greatest chance of actually being accepted. But Eiledon won’t hit below the belt. Who IS this child and where did she get this maturity?!?

I would like to think she is learning it from me, but then I remember why she is berating me in the first place. Yikes.

I apologized to my daughter. “In the wild,” I said, “a mother animal will kill anything that threatens her young. Right or wrong, there is a definite instinct that kicks in when I feel like you’re being hurt.”  I sighed. “But that doesn’t make it okay for me to say things like that. And every kid has issues. Who knows what’s going on in Sarah’s life that might make her act that way toward you?”

Eiledon’s disabilities and personality don’t earn her many friends. I know it can be pretty painful for her a lot of the time. And as a mom, I want nothing more than to protect my kids from pain. But as a friend shared with me, the Buddhist monk Thích Nhất Hạnh said something like, “I would never shield my children from suffering, for it is only through suffering that we learn compassion.” And as hard as it is for her, she has shown me that in the midst of her struggles, she is developing compassion even for those who hate her.

I think maybe I need to learn to hold my own waffles.

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