We've known each other for a while, you and I, and I've shared with you many of my parenting highs and even more of my parenting lows. Honestly though, I probably had more parenting middles. For example, this last weekend while on vacation in New York City, I bought my kids five pounds of M&Ms just because I thought it would calm them down and get us out of Times Square as a family unit. I'm not sure if that falls into the high or low category.
Anyway, I was thinking about the year and how it was actually pretty good in terms of getting my kids to a better place and then I started thinking about making sure you knew about how my year was pretty good because parenting victories in a vacuum are not as awesome as parenting victories in front of a crowd. Then I thought it would be even better if I got some sort of awards for my parenting victories this year, but then I realized that you probably wouldn't give them to me, so I decided to give some to myself.
For example, Best Use of Sugar to Delay Public Family Disintegration is that M&M thing up there. ("Thank you so much! I'd like to thank all the little people who got me here, especially my three little people, Sam, Jack, and Quinn, the very children charged with eating five pounds of M&Ms.")
January brought White Knuckle Parenting's Best Clothing Purchase, which was a bright green winter coat for my 9-year-old, who tends to wander off in crowds. It turns out that almost no one wears a fluorescent green winter coat. It is extremely easy to pick him out in crowds now. Also, if you all run out and buy bright green winter coats for your children, I'll... stare angrily at you or something.
My Best Incitement of Controversy also came in January when I made the outrageous statement that I like to be able to keep my eye on all of my kids at the same time at the playground. I still get occasional hate emails over that stance.
The award for Best Use of a Wild Animal for Family Amusement goes to the time my family accidentally trapped a feral cat in our minivan and then scared it to death by encircling the car to watch it panic at our presence. Unfortunately, it got its revenge by peeing all over the interior. Touché, feral cat. Touché.
I will proudly award myself the Spoonful of Sugar Award for finally figuring out a way to get my youngest son, a.k.a. Sir High Gag Reflex, to take medicine this year. He seems to be physically incapable of consuming liquid medicine, especially antibiotics. He tries, but he throws it up—a case of "the cure is worse than the disease" if I have ever seen one. When he needed antibiotics early this year, I made sure they were capsules, then emptied the contents into mint chocolate chip ice cream, then coated the whole thing with a thick layer of granulated sugar—twice a day. I think the kid is actually looking forward to the next time he is sick.
Most Profound Experience goes to the time that my autistic son Jack and I spent at his special hockey tournament last spring. That trip was one of those incredible events at which everything converges into magic. Jack scored his first game goal (with a lot of help from his coaches and even the other team), he made friends, and we saw the true essence of sportsmanship at every game. The magic continued after we got home and I watched my online community come together to support his team both financially and in spirit in a way that left me full of gooey love.
The Best Gift from My Children Award also came last spring when I got a formal diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome for myself. I work really hard to encourage self-knowledge and self-discovery in my kids, so it was an interesting turn-around that my son's autism gave me the desire to find answers about myself. My kids have given me many gifts, but this is one of the most memorable.
I have a vague memory of summer as a long, sweaty effort to force my kids to play outside. When they were outdoors, they made excellent use of the soft-sided, above-ground Intex pool we put in the back yard (which earns the Best Buy for My Kids Award)—right up until that squirrel drowned in it. That happened at the end of the season when we were draining it and some poor rodent got trapped inside. I was at back-to-school night when my husband texted me a photo of the kids alongside the corpse that they had fished out of the water with the pool net. It was... unsettling. It also earns the Best Use of a Wild Animal for Family Devastation Award.
One of the things I am most proud of this year is my 621st place finish (out of 627 runners) in the Kensington 8k. I'm proud that I ran the race, but I am also proud of the fact that I was able to turn it into a parenting lesson for my oldest son that sometimes it's okay to come in last as long as you are trying your hardest. I'm giving myself the Best Turn of a Negative into a Positive for this one. This event also helped me realize that you can turn anything into a parenting lesson.
There have been a lot of really great things that I have done with my children this year. The beginning of the year was extremely hard for a lot of reasons and I was fully prepared to to tell 2012 to kiss my tuckus on its way out of town. Then I looked at what has been happening over the past couple of months. After years of struggle, my son with autism has finally found the right school placement and is not just thriving, but happy—which is the thing I care about most.
My oldest son has started to show his intrinsic intellectual curiosity and begun to truly mature into a young man. He is interested in figuring out who he is and who he wants to be. I have never had the opportunity to watch a person come into himself like this. It is an honor to be able to be a part of it.
Then there is my youngest son. He is one of the funniest people I have ever met. 2012 has been a year of some struggle for him, but he lives his life with a gusto and honesty that is almost overwhelming. Plus he's super cute.
This fall brought the first time in a long time that I could answer the question, "How are your kids doing?" with an honest, "Really good. Really, really good." We still have so many challenges, but I am so proud of the way my kiddos have excelled this year. My children's successes this year will win the award for Best News of 2012.
I guess when you look at my year as a whole, I didn't do too badly in terms of parenting. Thank you for all of my awards. Instead of trophies, I will accept my awards in exuberant, sticky, soul-satisfying hugs from my kids. And just in case no one gave you a parenting award this year, I hereby present to you the White Knuckle Parenting We Made It Through Another Year Parenting Award. You've earned it! Congratulations! (Now go get your sticky hug.)
Happy New Year!
2012 is also the year that we lost Susan Niebur. Her death continues to overshadow the rest of the year for me. I will always feel the loss of her bright star. I miss you, Susan.
Jean, a.k.a. Stimey, is a freelance writer who writes a personal blog at Stimeyland and runs an autism-events website for Montgomery County, Maryland, at AutMont. You can find her on Twitter as @Stimey and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Stimeyland.