Wednesday, May 25, 2016

"Excuse me 7"

We found out yesterday that Katie will start fifth grade in the Enhanced Learning (aka, Gifted) Program at school. She's super excited about this opportunity to meet some kids with similar interests and intensities. She's struggled with her peer relationships in the classroom since first grade, complaining that nobody understands her and she feels weird and alone. Here's an excellent post about the emotional intensity that often accompanies intellectual intensity:
Giftedness has an emotional as well as intellectual component. Intellectual complexity goes hand in hand with emotional depth. Just as gifted children’s thinking is more complex and has more depth than other children’s, so too are their emotions more complex and more intense. 
Complexity can be seen in the vast range of emotions that gifted children can experience at any one time and the intensity is evident in the “full-on-ness” about everything with which parents and teachers of the gifted children are so familiar. 
Emotional intensity in the gifted is not a matter of feeling more than other people, but a different way of experiencing the world: vivid, absorbing, penetrating, encompassing, complex, commanding – a way of being quiveringly alive. 
Emotional intensity can be expressed in many different ways: 
as intensity of feeling – positive feelings, negative feelings, both positive and negative feelings together, extremes of emotion, complex emotion that seemingly move from one feeling to another over a short time period, identification with the feelings of other people, laughing and crying together 
in the body – the body mirrors the emotions and feelings are often expressed as bodily symptoms such as tense stomach, sinking heart, blushing, headache, nausea 
inhibition – timidity and shyness 
strong affective memory – emotionally intense children can remember the feelings that accompanied an incident and will often relive and ‘re-feel’ them long afterward 
fears and anxieties, feelings of guilt, feelings of being out of control
concerns with death, depressive moods
emotional ties and attachments to others, empathy and concern for others, sensitivity in relationships, attachment to animals, difficulty in adjusting to new environments, loneliness, conflicts with others over the depth of relationships 
critical self-evaluation and self-judgment, feelings of inadequacy and inferiority 
Many people seem unaware that intense emotions are part of giftedness and little attention is paid to emotional intensity. Historically the expression of intense feelings has been seen a sign of emotional instability rather than as evidence of a rich inner life. The traditional Western view is of emotions and intellect as separate and contradictory entities, there is however, an inextricable link between emotions and intellect and, combined, they have a profound effect on gifted people. It is emotional intensity that fuels joy in life, passion for learning, the drive for expression of a talent area, the motivation for achievement. 
Feeling everything more deeply than others do can both be painful and frightening. Emotionally intense gifted people often feel abnormal. “There must be something wrong with me… maybe I’m crazy… nobody else seems to feel like this.” Emotionally intense gifted people often experience intense inner conflict, self-criticism, anxiety and feelings of inferiority. The medical community tends to see these conflicts as symptoms and labels gifted people neurotic. They are however an intrinsic part of being gifted and provide the drive that gifted people have for personal growth and achievement. 
It is vitally important that gifted children are taught to see their heightened sensitivity to things that happen in the world as a normal response for them. If this is not made clear to them they may see their own intense experiences as evidence that something is wrong with them.
Last night, Will and I were talking about how proud we are of Katie's growth, and how excited we are for her future. He asked me, "Are you proud to find out our kid is gifted."

"I've known she was gifted for a long time. I didn't need her to take any test to tell me that. I started to figure it out when she was about two," I said.

"You mean when she memorized Goodnight Moon and 'read' it to us?" Will asked.

"Yeah, but also, remember that time she said, 'excuse me 7' to the magnet in our fridge?"

Katie, age 2

When Katie was two, she went through this phase of storing random objects inside the refrigerator. You'd open the door to get some half and half for your coffee and find your car keys.  Time to make lunch?  Oh, there's my hairbrush.  At least she didn't store her used diapers in there like she did in her play kitchen.  It's such a fun age when they learn how to take off their diaper after taking a crap, but they haven't quite learned what to do with it.

One day Katie opened the refrigerator to grab her cup of milk. On a shelf inside she'd left one of those plastic magnets you get with the set of ABCs and 123s.  The kind kids like to drop onto the floor for you to step on, put in their mouths to freak you out, lose under your frightfully dirty refrigerator.  Or, in our case, the kid likes to hide them in the fridge. As Katie reached for the cup, her hand passed over the magnet.  She said, "Excuse me L." Then she paused, picked up the magnet, flipped it over and said, "Oh, excuse me 7."

Brilliant AND polite. We're so proud of our Katie Bug.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Natural introvert or socially anxious extravert?

This post about the difference between introversion and social anxiety is an interesting read. I zig zag back and forth between "E" and "I" on the Myers-Briggs test. I love people and getting to know people and sharing ideas with people and surrounding myself with people. But people can also be a drain. I love socializing, but then I need time alone to recharge my batteries.

One thing I've noticed is that when I routinely take prescription Sertraline for my PTSD, I feel much more "E" than "I". And when I lapse and decide that I don't need meds, I tend to feel more like an "I". Makes sense. Sertraline is also prescribed to people with social anxiety disorder.

After reading this post, I think maybe I'm not really an introvert, but a socially anxious extravert.

I think I was born an E. But it's hard to be an attention-craving, friendly fat girl in a fat-shaming society. I was sent to Weight Watchers in third grade, and it was soon after that I began to spend more time alone in my bedroom or on long walks by myself. Being an extroverted fat girl in a fat-unfriendly society made me believe that there was something wrong with me. Made me believe I was not good enough in most people's eyes.

I avoided social situations because I felt like I was too physically revolting to most people. I HATED public speaking for most of my life. The idea of people looking at me, seeing how fat I am, thinking to themselves, "What a lardo. She needs to go on a diet," made me stay seated in class as a teen or at work meetings as an adult, even if I felt like I had something interesting to say. I silenced myself, preferring to stifle my naturally exuberant personality so people wouldn't look at me.

The year I turned forty, my brother died and it occurred to me that life is way too fucking short not to live it to the fullest. Around that same time I read the book Health at Every Size by Dr. Linda Bacon. I finally got the nerve to stop dieting. Only took me thirty-one years, a bout with anorexia, and an obscene amount of days spent sobbing.

I'm forty-five now. I haven't been on a diet in five years. I'm still fat. But I'm healthier than ever. My cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure, and bone density are in the healthy to excellent range. I go to bed at night feeling good and I wake up excited about the day.

Another big thing: I've gotten over my social phobia.

After I turned forty, my brother died, and I quit dieting, ready for some full life living, I finally decided what I wanted to be when I grew up. A storytime lady.

Storytime at the library was my favorite thing in the world when I was a little kid. Books saved my life many times when I needed a friend, or a laugh, or some sympathy as I got to be too old to go to storytime. I was thrilled when my own child was born and we started going to storytime at the library when she was four months old. But then she got too old for storytime. Which meant I couldn't go to storytime anymore. Which made me very sad.

But what if I didn't have to stop going to storytime? What if I could figure out a way to get the nerve to LEAD my own storytime?

I did it. With a combination of psychotropic medicine, cognitive behavior therapy, and pure, self-healing perseverance, I learned how to lead a storytime without worrying about all the eyes on me. Without worrying that the caregivers will think I'm revolting. I joke around that the reason it took me so long to find my dream job is because I never thought I could be a storytime lady because I don't have a great singing voice. that it's my job to demonstrate to caregivers that it's OK to sing with your kids even if you don't have a great voice. But honestly, the reason it took me so long to find my dream job is because for far too many years I feared judgy eyes on my fat body.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Loretta Lynch, Vanita Gupta, and the Obama Administration calls out North Carolina on its transphobic bathroom bullshit

Great news from The Department of Justice today. Watch here:

My favorite quotes:

"Let me also speak directly to the transgender community itself. Some of you have lived freely for decades. Others of you are still wondering how you can possibly live the lives you were born to lead. But no matter how isolated or scared you may feel today, the Department of Justice and the entire Obama Administration wants you to know that we see you; we stand with you; and we will do everything we can to protect you going forward. Please know that history is on your side. This country was founded on a promise of equal rights for all, and we have always managed to move closer to that promise, little by little, one day at a time. It may not be easy – but we’ll get there together." --Loretta Lynch, Attorney General

"Here are the facts. Transgender men are men – they live, work and study as men. Transgender women are women – they live, work and study as women." --Vanita Gupta, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights

This weekend I finished reading the book, George by Alex Gino, about a transgender fourth-grade girl, so this case has been on my mind. Here's my review of it:

GeorgeGeorge by Alex Gino
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

George is a sweet, sensitive fourth-grader with a secret. She's a girl. She's got a boy's name, and a boy's body, but George has identified as a girl for as long as she can remember. When her teacher refuses to let George audition for the role of Charlotte in the school production of "Charlotte's Web," George and her best friend, Kelly, figure out a way to get the right girl up there on stage. Along the way, George finds the courage to share her secret with her older brother, her mother, and, eventually, the whole wide world. George is a beautiful, thoughtful book about a transgender girl's triumph to be who she is, and to allow the world to see her as she sees herself. Highly recommended for all ages.

View all my reviews

I'm proud of my country today.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” --Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Someone called my kid fat

It was almost an afterthought. We'd already been sitting on the couch for twenty minutes, talking about our day. We call it Sunshine and Shadows, our after-school talks, about both good things and bad. I got the idea from an educator I know. It's a simple way to let people, especially kids, know that you're open for discussion. Our nine-year-old loves to play Sunshine and Shadows. Like it's a game. Family game night meets group therapy.

Kate: Let's play Sunshine and Shadows!
Me: OK. You go first.

Sometimes I change it up a bit. I'll say, "OK. Daddy goes first." Just to teach her a little social courtesy and patience.

Today it was just Kate and me, so I let her go first. She'd been telling me all kinds of things that had gone on throughout the day. Both good and bad. Most a mix of both. I thought she was about done and ready to get our Bob's Burgers jones on.

Me: Well, anything else happen today?
Kate: Someone called me fat.
Me: What?
Kate: In Music today. Someone called me fat.
Me: What? Why? What happened?
Kate: Peyton* called me fat.
Me: Why? What was going on?
Kate: It was in music class. I was sitting down. He needed to get in, so he said, "Move over, Fatso!"

Kate lifted up her shirt and poked her belly with her finger.

Kate: I don't even think I'm that fat.
Me: No, you're not.
Kate: But he said it in a mean way. He meant it as a mean thing to say.
Me: Yeah, I'm sorry, Honey.

Kate poked my belly with her finger.

Kate: I mean, I know there's nothing wrong with being fat, but he said it in a mean way.

Kate's sensitive about my weight. She knows that I was sent to Weight Watchers in third grade, and that I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa by fifth grade. She knows I'm a Health at Every Size advocate now, and that one of my goals is to help people boost their body image, to raise a generation of children without eating disorders. To the outside world, I'm another fat mother. To Kate, I'm a badass fat activist.

Me: I know. Many people in our society still think that it's bad to be fat. So they think the word "fat" is a bad word, something you say to insult someone.
Kate: Yeah. He was saying it like it's a bad word.
Me: What did you do?
Kate: I told the teacher.
Me: And then what happened?
Kate: He had to go to the buddy room.
Me: I see. So, are you OK?
Kate: Yeah, I'm fine.
Me: You know what he said is more a reflection of him than of you, right? Sad people try to make other people feel sad.
Kate: That's the funny thing, Mom. Peyton's, well, kind of fat.
Me: Oh! So he's probably been called "fatso" himself. That's how he even knows the word. People treat others the way they've been treated. Maybe his mom or dad or brothers or sisters call him "fatso."
Kate: Yeah. Probably. Man, now I feel sorry for bullies.
Me: Yeah. I know what you mean. But don't let bullies mistreat you because you feel sorry for them. Always stick up for yourself. But understand that they are probably coming from a sad place.
Kate: I know, Mom. I know.

*Name changed to protect identity.