Monday, January 30, 2012

Jessyll and Hyde, or, Unhinged By Hingsburger

It was a typical Jessie Jekyll and Hyde (or as Dan has come to refer to it,  Jessyll and Hyde) 24 hours: Failure to demonstrate even a modicum of mature behaviour (resulting in Dan and I throwing our hands up in the air and wondering if she would ever have the wherewithal to get to even a bus stop without mishap), followed by brilliant execution of complex social, leadership, and performance skills matched only by the high degree of praise from adoring public.

Okay. Not quite like that. But almost. And typical of many of our days with Jessie as she moves to separate from us—one of the key tasks (along with independence, accountability, and responsibility) for anyone moving into adulthood.

This is how it goes (or went): Friday Jessie and I were both at home because it was a freezing rain danger day (too dangerous to get to work at the Food Bank for her). But we each had completely different agendas. I, practical Mom, thought she could get the pile of writing, laundry, accounting, and organization that had accumulated done, while I finished up a contract. Her plan was to google her day away, every now and then telling me what I needed to do, immediately, to help her achieve her goals—which included, but was not limited to, making sure she could move out by March, starting an inclusive post-secondary program, driving her to a friend’s house, and dropping whatever I might be working on to help her fix her computer and then shooing me away with nary a nod of thanks. If I didn’t respond immediately, she stood by me at my computer whinging away until I either gave in or snapped.

The trend continued well into the evening, where she even alienated Dan, who, usually very difficult to nudge over onto the dark side, intimated that she was acting like a [insert rude noun used for someone who is acting selfish, thoughtless, and insolent here]. She, of course, stomped up to her room, leaving her kitchen-cleaning duty undone, and vented her anger by trolling the internet until it was way past midnight, every now and then yelling (when she thought she heard footsteps on the stairs) LEAVE ME ALONE, and, I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU SAY, and YOU CAN’T MAKE ME GO TO BED. Or, if she didn’t actually yell those things, she emitted some strange psychic energy force that was just as effective and conveyed the exact same meaning.

I, having been undone, went to bed and pulled the covers up over my head. It was no surprise that I found Dan cowering there too. We decided that the natural consequences—being tired for teaching in the morning, maybe even sleeping in and missing the drive to the class and missing teaching—would be much better than anything we could invent. But, I have to admit, I was mightily pissed that I had raised a daughter so careless of her charges (the children she was teaching in the morning) and her responsibilities (printing out the lesson plan, packing up so she would have everything she needed in the morning.) As well, I had invited a renowned blogger, leader, speaker, teacher, and advocate whom I admire (and who was in town for the day) to bring his young niece Ruby, to the class. So, I had a bit more invested than usual.

When we woke in the morning, I gave Dan strict instructions NOT to wake Jessie. It was up to her to get up and be ready to teach. She needed to take full charge of her life (or be hoisted by her own petard). Frankly, I was hoping for the hoisting option, as she rarely suffers consequences, somehow blessed randomly and frequently by the universe.

I was trumped again, as Jessie rose while I was meditating and got herself fed, dressed, and packed before I emerged from my basement lair. “Wow! Great job Jess!” I praised her, while raising my eyebrows at Dan and secretly cussing. Well, she was sure to be tired in class, and maybe then someone would speak to her about her performance, and maybe THEN she would learn that she needed to go to bed at a decent hour and every now and then LISTEN TO HER PARENTS.

Well, she did get spoken to about her performance, only it was a potful of praise generously piled on by Dave Hingsburger, who wanted to mention Jessie in his next blog about Ruby and the kids’ Propeller class. According to Dave, Jessie was welcoming, attentive, sensitive, and a great teacher. According to Ximena (one of the other teachers and a brilliant mentor to Jessie) she was full of energy and very focused; according to Liz (another teaching mentor and performer), she made great headway on the piece she is helping choreograph for the children’s show. So you see, I tried my best to find some gaps in her performance of her duties, but was bested by reality.

That, my dears, is a typical episode in our journey to independence. You’d think I might have discovered by now how to just let go and enjoy the ride, but I am a very slow learner, white knuckling my way along a path that I have very little immediate control over.

And that, I am beginning to learn, is how it is meant to be.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Top 10 Reasons for Not Blogging

Okay. Five. Because I can’t think of 10. I’m sure there are 10, but that was so last year!

5. Sorting out Jessie’s schedule for this term.
Given that she isn’t in school, “term” might not be the correct (a-hem) term. But since she is taking her first college course (Introduction to Public Relations), “term” might just work. As usual, she is busy. And she is always taking on new projects—such as offering to write articles for the local Down Syndrome Association Newsletter (she sits on the Board), co-spearheading a DS youth advocacy group, and speaking in schools about disability and inclusion . I get to help schedule and then nag her about fulfilling her commitments. I am going to try to give that up for the new year, so I should have more time to blog!

4. A road trip to Kingston.
Where Propeller Dance  participated in the first annual Able Artists Forum—performing, presenting an overview of their work to other artists, and meeting other artists with a range of abilities. Jessie is a natural schmoozer, but I am having to teach her how to collect business cards and other contact information so she can keep in touch with other artists (or even collaborate!) The highlight, in addition to the hotel and the continental breakfasts, was a chance to talk to Katherine Porter, the powerhouse over at H’Art Kingston, who has started an inclusive post-secondary program with Queens University  . We will be back to pick her brain!

3. Speaking, advocating, and more speaking.
Jessie had her dreams of speaking and advocating fulfilled this fall, with a full schedule including speaking on the Andrew Fleck Child Care Anniversary Conference Youth Panel, winning a Difference Maker Award at the same conference, speaking from the pulpit at church one Sunday about ending the use of the R-Word, and speaking at the DSA annual general meeting. She’s getting to be quite a good writer and speaker and is eager for more opportunities. It is hard, sometimes, to square this confident, well-spoken, respectful young woman with the girl who is keen to remind me that I am not the boss of her and she is moving out in March with E. and I can’t stop her! (If I can wrap my head around writing about this little enterprise, it will be a future post)

2. Christmas.
It was our first Christmas without Grumps, my Dad. It was a bittersweet time. It was also a time filled with abundance—in sugar, in friends, in presents, in music, in grace. I followed our minister’s instructions and refused to feel guilty about this abundance, but instead gave myself time to enjoy. This photo is of Jessie out with the annual carolling group gathered together by her friend Rebecca, this year they collected more than $500 for youth mental health.

1. And the number one reason (drum roll): Drummer Boy and Jessie gave each other promise rings for Christmas.
They spend a lot of time writing lyrics, planning their future together, and snogging on the couch. This is how Jessie would spend all of her time if she had a choice. So, much of what is happening in Jessie’s life I can’t write about and respect her privacy. I am, however, keeping a secret notebook that has to do with all those things they didn’t prepare you for when your son or daughter was born, like I mean REALLY didn’t prepare you for, not even when you got the guide book for Holland! Well, I guess maybe if Emily Perl Kingsley had written a section on Amsterdam you might find it, but she didn’t. So here we are, in a new place, without GPS. Or at least the GPS we have seems to be sending us off what appears to be a cliff.

While we all dream of a loving relationship for our sons and daughters, the reality—of parent-to-parent (i.e., the parents of boy- or girl-friend) conversations about sexuality; overheard discussions and negotiations in the back of the car when driving the couple to dates or home again; and discussions about progressing through different stages (what stages? I had to go look up the bases again on the internet, and I hope no one is tracking my online behaviour)—is bit more messy (and funny and frustrating) than anything I could ever have dreamed up. Especially since Drummer Boy attended a sexuality workshop at the Canadian Down Syndrome Society annual conference and is, therefore, the expert on all things sexual.

Lucky Jessie. Poor mom.