23 October, 2008

Chit Chat

Sometimes in this little Special Needs community I have become a part of, we joke that the "apple doesn't fall far from the tree." Meaning that it is not always surprising to meet the parents of a special needs kid and discover they are just as odd if not more quirky than their child.

I have noticed lately that little Lucy is a rather chatty little girl. She came out ready to go. At 2 hours old she had her eyes wide open and her mouth poised to speak. She has a LOT to say. She says it well, very well even, for a not yet 2.5 year old in big long sentences sometimes. She is remarkable, and people, friends, find it amusing to note that she "talks almost as much as her mother."

That's the other thing about these quirky kids, and more often their parents... we don't aways get social cues. This was one area that I had always thought myself rather savvy, the social cues part, but I am thinking lately that I have really, really, not heard all of the subtle and not so subtle ways people have been letting me know that I talk too much; too much, too often, over people, through people, dominating conversations and dictating when others speak. This trait I had always put on my assets side, the side with thin ankles and a college education, when it's looking more like this trait falls, apparently much more solidly on the side with thinning hair and my inability to remember people's names. I am ashamed.

I have always filled the space. Ask my sister, my dad. It's a family joke right? Actually I think I AM the family joke, and now with a bunch of people I really admire, I am starting to feel that way too.

How does it happen that something I thought was a skill, something I actually liked about myself, has become something that has gotten away from me and has ultimately turned into a flaw? Does this happen to other people? Are there things you thought you were good at that end up being something everyone else hates about you? Something you never thought of as a problem that once it comes to light makes you toss and turn?

We are loathe to label our children because we are afraid it will define them, limit them, make it so it's hard for people to look past their disability. What if they change or develop past that label? Will anyone notice, or will they look at what was decided about them years before and just prejudge them? What about when I am introduced as someone who talks "more than anyone else on the entire planet"? What chance do I have to learn new tricks there? Or will I also disappoint if I am tired and just don't feel like holding up both ends of the conversation? I used to love, love, sharing something funny that happened in my life, but I am realizing that I am so self conscious lately that I almost found myself unable to speak in front of a crowd the other night when I was on a panel. I've been speaking, or singing, in front of audiences since I was in the third grade. It's something I have done hundreds of times and enjoyed every single time without butterflies, and the last several times? well...

It's good to face your flaws. It's good to have people care enough to point them out to you. It gives you a chance to right them. Better now before I'm 40 so maybe I have a chance at the second half of my life of being a little less ego centric and little less selfish. Maybe I can ask more questions. I can hold my tongue and not share my opinion, because Lord knows I have one on every subject. I have already tried the not calling people thing; I don't need to be that phone call that people dread answering.

Although, and I'll be honest, I can have this sick feeling in my stomach and vow every night that tomorrow I will keep my mouth closed, but in the moment.. I don't know how. I don't know how to keep a story inside. I don't know how to give the short response. I don't understand how to keep the phone on the table when I want to share something. I don't know what it's like to walk past other people in the grocery store or on the street and not say hello, or chat with the checker or the person behind me in line. I've been teaching Lucy that we do not stare. I've been teaching that when we make eye contact with someone we say "Hello" or "Good morning" or "How are you?" I've been teaching her because people are going to be staring at my family a lot over her lifetime and I want her to be armed with words so she can make the situation of having a brother with special needs less awkward.. for herself, for others.

Lately I'm feeling like it's just one more thing I am doing wrong in the parenting department because clearly it's not working out for me to have learned to be a "Chatty Kathy".
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