I tell you now the story that has been going around and around in my brain for at least 16 hours. I don't think I will be able to feel full peace until I put fingers to keys ...
in the end, I promise to bring it "full circle."
The Woman from Eagle
It was a warm spring day. In the distance, clouds were forming and birds were circling trees, zipping in and out of the pine and evergreens, frantic with search ... calling to each other "gather neighbors! A storm is brewing!" The air was manic, one moment calm and quiet...the next , sharp four-second hair whipping wind that took my breath away.
My husband and I were snapping sticks and raking brown grass, taking the feeders away for the weekend and doing general "prep" work in the yard. Music was playing, a Corona Light for each of us sat in the sun, a lime wedge in each bottle neck.
I heard a woman's voice from across the yard - I turned my head to see where the sound was coming from and spotted a blond lady, about 50 yards away, staring in the general direction of our yard. I heard the words "look, there are kids" and saw her point to my little lovelies. The boys were rolling down the hill together, laughing and playing. The tonka truck was busy being loaded up with more "figures" that were about to meet their impending doom ... a long roll down a bumpy slope, about half way down bodies flying and the truck crashing and kids laughing and shouting "woah! That was a good one!!" She was pointing at them ... i noticed a little boy in their yard and thought "maybe she is moving in and scoping out friends for her kiddo."
I had to take a load of tools up to our garage, the path I needed to walk would swipe by the edge of the neighbor's yard. I kept my head down and just walked, not thinking that I would be noticed or matter much. Just a fellow neighbor, putting away tools on a spring day. Just a woman, keeping to herself...enjoying the songs and the laughter and the refreshments on a spring day. Just a woman, sandal clad and skin dewy and hair shining...enjoying the breeze mostly, ducking for cover from the sharp wind, garage bound tools in her hands. Just a woman ... keeping to herself.
I put away my things and then started back down the path to my back yard and noticed the woman still, now about 10 yards away, facing my yard. "How old are your children?" she called out. I stopped and looked up, was greeted with a smile and her walking towards me ... "oh, they are 10, 8 " I pause and have to remember for a moment "and 6 almost 7 and 4 almost 5." I smile and nod, start edging my body sideways to get back to my task at hand. "Oh" she says "is the 4 year old a boy or a girl?" This conversation was going to be a little longer. That was fine - I can be friendly. "He's a boy." I smile again. This information delights the woman.
"Well, that's just great because Owen is 3 and a half and loves to play with other kids." I assume that Owen is the little boy running around the yard ... their German Shepherd (I learn his name is Thor) comes toward me ... I instantly think about the time a German Shepherd bit my brother's nose. I'm not a fan but I say out loud "oh hello Thor " and I pet his head.
The lady continues "yah, looks like you have a great yard ... thought I saw a sandbox and it just looks really nice." We don't have a sandbox. She looks at Owen, still a smile ... I can tell she is beckoning for an invite. "Yah," I squint up at her "we really love it. If Owen ever wants to come play when the boys are out he's more then welcome."
This my friends is where I knowingly was friendly, and unknowingly opened a can of worms.
"Oh that would be great" she puts her hands on her hips and takes even more steps toward me "yah, Owen is just here three nights a week with his dad." I nod "oh, and then he's with you?" She laughs "oh, well basically. Well, he's with his mom but I actually watch him when he's with her too...while she's at school and other times, and yah...basically a lot."
I say the only thing that seems polite and kind and actually very true "well, you look very young to be a grandmother." This makes her very happy. Her face turns on, a glow exuding from her chin to the tips of her bottle blonde hair. "Yah" she giggles "that was a very big surprise for our family. I'm 46. Anyways, Paul (I'm guessing that's the tall lean boyish man that is avoiding eye contact with me...calling Thor...and pretending to by busy with Owen) called me one day from college and said 'mom, are you sitting down?' and then he told me and our whole world changed. Yah, we just love little Owen but it has been a change of pace. The girl he was with said she couldn't have children...said she had a hole in her uterus or some business like that." She winks at me and cups her mouth with her hands and says "yah, it's called a cervix!" She laughs as if we just shared a secret joke between friends, I chuckle and say "oh wow."
She asks more questions about my boys ... I look longingly at the backyard, now the clouds moving in closer, the sun starting to dip behind Pikes Peak. Somehow in this conversation, and I'm still not sure how the information completely unfolded, but I told her that I am homeschooling. It was to answer another one of her many questions about our family. In that conversation when I told her about homeschooling, she then says "oh really?! What curriculum do you use?"
I have never received that question from any individual exactly 3 seconds after I state that I home school. Most homeschoolers that I have ever met use a variety of resources and my brain was starting to shut down so I said "oh, not one in particular, I choose what we like and let the kids pick a lot of things that interest them." This information seemed to really trouble her. That "glow" around her started dimming just a bit, as if my answer had somehow let her down. This won't do.
I quickly explain to her that our boys are on the spectrum and that's one of the main reasons I began to look into keeping them home, and also why I really try to find different books and activities that connect with them. I hold my breath, give my yard one last look, knowing that it's a lost cause.
That my friends was my second mistake.
Paul, and Owen, and Thor were growing restless in the background...edging toward their house.
The woman (I neglected to tell you that she also, after surveying our yard told me about the fence I would need for the deer, told me she was from Eagle where the deer are plenty and can jump 6 feet, and when I asked the simple question "oh, do you know of some good deer resistant plants" replied "not off the top of my head but I have a whole list at home that I could print it off for you") , the 46 year old grandmother, didn't budge.
This is when the conversation , for me, crossed a line.
Her lips contorted into a secret-hiding smile. "I, actually, work with special needs kids in the school system " she confesses. There ...it was coming. I've experienced this exact same situation on many occasions. The "I work with autistic children and I know something you don't know and it could change your life forever" moment.
I wasn't buying. I told my brain right then that I wasn't buying. I somehow unknowingly had cast a line into the neighbors yard, I very accidentally caught a professional 46 year old fish, and wasn't quite sure, how to explain to her, that I was vegan.
"My advice to you, would be to test them more. Make sure that you are covering all aspects of education with them." She take her index finger and thrusts it into the air, starts tracing a mountain ... when her finger made it's way to the peak she says "it's showing that kids on the spectrum really know a lot about what they want to learn about, but then " her finger starts to descend on the other side of the mountain "in other subjects they really don't learn as much." Her finger makes it to flat land and now both of her hands come up and form a bell "in education we really want more of a curb." Ah yes, the bell curb. Visions of my history class and the chart of the group grades chalked out ... my grade always falling at the very lowest of low parts of the curb. How I always wanted to sit proudly on the top of that bell!
This is my chance to answer.
"I don't really test at all, except I did just give my daughter her standardized test and she scored a couple grades higher in all her subjects except math. I'm pretty comfortable right now with my approach. I do need to spend more time on math though, I'm not really a math person so I'm wanting to prioritize that a little more." I smile, thinking that the conversation might now be coming to a close...I prepare myself to say good bye and "nice to meet you" but I'm interrupted
"Oh, is she autistic?"
I take another breath "no, just the boys. I guess if you have a child with autism your chances rise, especially with boys."
I don't know why I offered that information.
That was my third mistake.
"Well, we are seeing that the definition of autism has definitely changed over the years. Also, we are seeing that girls are being misdiagnosed and that boys over emphasized as far as just really diagnosing them more often. I guess it's just all in the genes. DNA is a fascination thing."
I couldn't let that go. I should have let that go, but I couldn't.
"Yah, well...I do agree that some of it has to do with genes but definitely not all, I think there are a lot of other factors that come into play. Also, I do know that that there are definitely more children on the spectrum then there use to be and that's not all just due to labeling. When I was a kid, I traveled to lots of countries, was in and out of churches and just generally met a ton of people, and I met maybe one or two kids that were kind of like my sons. Now days, when I got to a park or a church nursery or am online there are TONS of kids that communicate and relate to my children and are faced with some of the exact issues. Yah, it's definitely on a rise. I do agree though that it is often more challenging to diagnose girls."
She stops me. "Well, we have DNA proof that it comes from genes...."
I went ahead and started to close the conversation because I was feeling attacked. I told myself this wasn't her intention...but I started to feel unsafe.
"Well, if Owen ever wants to come play in our yard that would be just fine" and I turn to leave. She says "oh yah, he just loves to play. My son is a recluse though, just very quite and you may need to come over here and just bang on the door and say 'can Owen come play?' " Her son catches wind of the last statement and makes a quick escape into the house. I smile my own little secret ... I will not be pounding on any doors. I would rather die then knock on a door.
"Nice meeting you" and I walk off to my, now, almost dim backyard. I hear her call behind me "yah, I also home schooled my kids..."
Readers, I left out MANY parts of the conversation. Not really anything I said ... a lot of what what she told me though. I actually just can't recall every detail - there was a lot.
I take deep breaths. I feel very troubled. I replay the conversation to Zac. It takes me about 15 minutes to fight tears. I tell myself it was just a very talkative woman who wanted to help. I call her a dirty name. I can't calm myself. I feel super angry...genes, testing, peaks, curriculum...."you don't know anything" my brain says. I call her another dirty name and then right away know that isn't true. She's a person, that was maybe a little to forward with a perfect stranger...but perhaps I could learn to not tell people personal facts about me. I don't know. I know I'm suppose to be kind though. So I try to put this past me. It's not really past me at all - so I distract myself. I go to clean my kitchen and start dinner. I tell Zac that I don't think I can see that lady again. That I may want to move.
I'm now surrounded by children talk and simmering marinara and bubbling pasta. My heart rate is going back down. It has been about a hour and a half since my stranger danger encounter. I'm straining the noodles and I hear a knocking sound, it was very light. I jerk my head around, instantly fighting panic. Maybe the person didn't see my No Soliciting sign? I don't think I had any packages coming? I call out to Zac "would you get that, I think someone is at the door."
I continue working on dinner, Zac will handle the door situation - no need to stress.
He answers in a friendly tone "hello" and I hear "is your wife home?" Next thing I know, I turn to find that woman, that woman from Eagle, walking across my living room towards the kitchen island. I force a smile "oh, hi." My mind checks a list of reasons why she may be here. Perhaps to apologize for being tacky? I see a paper and a book in her hand. The compiled list of deer resistant plants? I can't find a reason why she is here.
"Oh I just thought I would drop off this book, it has a lot of information on curriculum and good ways to teach and remember, I actually specialize in math...been doing it for two years." I can not make eye contact. I feel anxiety rising up in my body, I start aching...I tell myself "be nice." I look down at the book "oh, thank you very much...I will give it a look." She then lays down a yellow sticky note and I see the word "DNA" written on it, some other words. I still look down, take a peek up just so I don't seem rude, smile again. She says "oh, and this book is really good, to...DNA is just fascinating stuff."
I swallow. I swallow hard. "When I'm done with the book...you want me to...um, where should i return this?" She shrugs her shoulders "oh, just go knock on the door and return it there. Keep it as long as you like." I thank her again and she leaves.
Through my teeth
"Zac, that woman drove home...to get that book and bring it back...basically because I had a different opinion then her. She just came into my house...to prove a point. I would rather fall of the earth then have to go over there and return a book...to knock on a door where I don't know anyone and then to maybe have to talk about it..."
I sorted through these thoughts for the rest of the night. I played piano. I looked at Facebook. I watched a show. I finally went to bed at 11:30 and laid awake until 2 am. At one point my heart was almost pounding out of my chest...I counted my heart beats ... 110 resting heart rate. I tried calming down. I wrote this story in my mind. I came to conclusions in my mind.
1. I have offered advice to people when it wasn't asked for. I'm going to try my best not to do that unless it's with a close friend that feels safe with me.
2. I do like resources. At the same time, I'm over them. I have three kids with autism. No one is going to answer all of my questions because I don't have a lot of them anymore. I'm in the "move on" stage of this journey. I have been in the questioning, the researching ... now I'm in the "moving on and trying not to worry" stage. Nothing is going to meet every one of my kids needs and solve all of their problems. No curriculum or program. My boys are smart and thriving. Guess what people?! I - little ol me with no college education - specialize in autism because I love special needs kids every waking part of my day, with every fiber of my body - every little cell of mine is deeply immersed in autism. It's my specialty.
3. How dare someone tell me that I wasn't meeting my kid's educational needs. They don't know what my kids know. And actually, in the state of CO you don't even have to register your child for formal education until they are 7 - which neither of my little boys are.
4. I thumbed through the special book. It was about teaching patterns and numbers and some games. I have already covered this and prefer using sources off Pintrest, because...well...the tutorials are fun and colorful and creative. It speaks to me more then a book with a fancy "Education" title. Tristan and I walked through Black Forest together yesterday, hand in hand, and we played a adding game. I've never done "math" with him but when I asked him simple equations, he knew the answers.
5. Never ever tell a person that is in the field of education that education is not the most important thing in life - which I said when she told me to test more. I said "well, I try to cover all the bases but I don't think that just focusing on education is the most important thing in life."
That statement wasn't helpful. I forget that to some people, grades are everything.
6. Always be kind to people. I'm glad that I was kind to her. I wish my head could have been completely kind but that's just kind of trying to be completely perfect.
7. I will not be knocking on any doors. Maybe I will send my husband with the book - maybe it will get donated to Goodwill. She said there was "no hurry."
8. I don't think I can ever converse with the Woman from Eagle ever again.
9. I came to the conclusion that moving away is not rational.