Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Avoiding responsibility

An awesome psychologist who has extensive experience with abusive people listed the four ways in which abusers avoid taking responsibility for their actions. These same excuses are also used by teens, and in light of my previous post, I list them here:

1. Denial (I didn't do it)
2. Distortion (it didn't happen that way)
3. Minimalization (it wasn't as bad as that)
4. Blame others (she made me angry, I'm stressed because of my teachers)

I also think of this list when accused sexual predators speak out in the media. I automatically find the corresponding item on this list (what you saw when you walked into the bathroom wasn't what you think you saw [item 2], I was just playing around with this really young boy [item 3]). I find that things become much more transparent this way.

Looking back at the years of subtle and not-so-subtle abuse I suffered from F1's father, I can place his reaction under one of those four excuses. Number three was the most common in court. "It wasn't as bad as she says it was, I just touched her on the cheek, I didn't bite her." "It was just a gentle nudge, not a kick." "It really wasn't such a big deal, she's exaggerating." I've also heard number four in some variety or the other "Judge, this is part of our culture, men in our country are the head of the household and need to take control to guide their family. If I didn't I wouldn't love my family." That one in particular, made me want to puke. BS if there ever was. Beating up on your family is a fabulous way to show them how much you care . Or how about: "She made me angry. If I wasn't so angry, I would never have touched her."

Over the years I have received several pleas to "just get along as friends." I've always responded that there can never be any form of reconciliation if he doesn't take responsibility for his actions. I've once received an email stating "I'm sorry for whatever it is you think I've done to you." Sorry, doesn't cut it.  Taking responsibility means something like: "I realize now that I have a habit of wanting to control everything you do or say, and that I do this by physical coercion among other methods. I now know this is wrong, and I'm taking steps to prevent this from occurring again." Not that such a statement would be enough, but it might be a start. However, from every communication I've gotten so far, he still doesn't seem to think he's done anything wrong.

I have a list of these excuses on the fridge, and every time F1 uses one of them, I point it out to him. I know he despises me psychoanalyzing him. The point I'm trying to make, however, is the following:
I've heard it all before, you're excuses are so predictable, so transparent. Take responsibility for your actions. If you don't, you can not make better choices.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Parenting challenges

Today I'm a little down, so I return to this blog to find comfort, if nothing else. Blogging has never failed me yet. Parenting a teenager. Who'd have thought it would be so challenging? Certainly not me. I wasn't exactly a model kid growing up, I didn't expect it to be easy. But I have to say, I cannot relate to my 15-year old. He lives in a world I'm unfamiliar with, and is subjected to peer pressure I can't even begin to imagine. I suppose that I never was exposed to the kind of temptations he looks in the eye on a daily basis, and therefore I never had to make the kind of choices I'm asking him to make today.

Somehow I always thought that if I modeled good choices, good choices would follow. Sadly, that's not the case. It appears that F1 is determined to break as many rules as humanly possible, and if he gets grounded as a result, he escapes the house, to break them again, just for good measure. His less then stellar behavior has resulted in him not making the basketball team this year. Basketball is the only thing he's ever cared enough to make sacrifices for. No basketball... major mayhem.

I get it. He's one angry little boy somewhere inside. He's mad I divorced his father, he was too small at the time of separation to remember the physical and emotional abuse. I suppose his lack of memories is one thing to be thankful for, but it comes at a high price. Almost 3 years ago his father announced he was leaving the country, and F1 feels abandoned. As well he should. Be all accounts he was abandoned by that parent. It's an explanation for the way his downward spiral has escalated, but it's not an excuse.

He has a mother who loves him more than words can express, and who feels that nothing she does makes a difference. He has a step-father whose financed all the legal battles, and sacrificed his career for us to be together as a family.

I have driven him to school, sports activities, dance class, birthday parties, you name it. I've volunteered at school, at the concession stand for basketball games. I've read him stories, taken him out to dinner, and for mom-and-son ice-cream, I helped him with online math class because he failed the in-class version. And don't even get me started about the fact that I seem to inspire numerous students in the lab, I infect them with the science bug, while F1 is the king of mediocrity. "What's wrong with a D mom?" And science? "I don't care about science!" I even tried the sexist route! Me! Makita! I told him that back in my country, in my time, he would have been expected to do well in math, after all, he's a boy! "Mom, this is the 21st century. We don't care about that stuff now."

I have tried to let him set his own goals, he failed. I have tried to set higher goals, he failed miserably. I have tried to little manageable goals, no go. I have tried talking, having other parents talk to him, therapy ($125 dollars per visit, twice a month, for 11 years). I have tried hugs, and talks, yelling, and encouragement.

I know that I'm just doing what a parent is supposed to do. I don't expect him to fall on his knees and thank me, thank us. Simply staying within the boundaries of the law, an occasional chore around the house, and possible a halfway decent GPA will do, thank you very much.

Makita is running out of ideas. Makita is tired.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Yesterday, my neighbor died in a fiery crash. I didn't know him well, but I met him and his young son sometimes at the mailbox. And I often waved as he went for walks with his family, or when he was mowing the lawn.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


One of the reasons that I'm not writing as much of late is that I've been wondering about where to take this blog (if anywhere). I want to say more about what I'm doing, especially with respect to science, but that does take away any hope of staying (relatively) anonymous.

For a number of complicated reasons, I was uncomfortable revealing more about my identity, but some of those reasons are gradually going away. This is good news!!! At the same time, I have blogged about some fairly intimate stuff in the past..... I would to hate to feel limited by what I can write, by worrying about who might read it.

At any rate, it looks like, I may do some cleaning up of old posts, and lift the veil slightly. More and more over time, maybe. And blog more. Since that's what it's always been about. The saga of my house is a start.

Makita's Soap opera: House Renovation Projects. Pilot episode

If you read my biographical blurb, you might have thought I was exagerating the carpenter and electrician parts of it. In a few posts, I'm about to provide some more detail. It all started about 5 years ago when we purchased the house.

The house was in decent livable shape when we bought. We liked the neighborhood, the backyard. Not so much the kitchen, and the fans weren't exactly to our taste either, but all that seemed minor. We got a few hundred dollars credit for the old range, and we moved in.

Before you knew I was changing fans. In almost every room. And adding track lights, because we wanted more lights. The previous owners had converted a 2-car garage into a large party room, with a large animal painted on the wall, the mascot of the local football team. We love parties and all, but were unlikely to use the room for that purpose. We sort of divided it up in two part using furniture. A couch, some bookcases, a child safety gate. That didn't work out so well, the kids were crawling over the couch, the bookcases were great fun to stand on, and the gate was a total joke. It also looked very messy, disorganized. Something had to be done.

Then a year later, my husband came up with the idea to put up a wall, and make a proper room at one end, the kids could continue to use the other half as play area. He then came up with the brilliant idea to make it into a bedroom for the oldest who was 11 at the time.

What to do? Hire a contractor? We couldn't afford that. Do it ourselves? I dunno, seemed like a really big job. A friend then volunteered help from her mother and father-in-law. Really, really nice of her. And her mother and father-in-law. I also went on the internet and googled: "how to build an interior wall".

So, one day, I stepped into the room, cleared the space in the center, drew a line down the middle on the carpet with a permanent marker, took out my trusty utility knife, and cut! This is the point of no return!

Proloquo2Go update

I probably sound like a broken record, but I can hardly believe it's been so long since I've posted an update on our use of the communication software for iPod and iPad Proloquo2Go. I posted a response a while ago on this blogpost by Sam Flatow.

I wanted to elaborate here. Instead of responding to his (not entirely invalid) criticism on spending a arguably very large sum of money on iPads for kids, I wanted to tell more about how this has changed our live. And has it ever.

First off, we knew that the iPad was going to treated less than gently, so we invested in an Otterbox. It adds considerable bulk and some weight to the iPad, but it creates a rubber bumper around it and most importantly it's screen, and the iPad has survived all the very real challenges it faced, as listed in my comment on Sam Flatow's piece. I probably even forget some of the horrible abuse this intricate technological device has suffered over the months. In my response I forgot to add that I also got a film to cover the screen to protect it, it does not interfere with the otterbox, and so far, not a scratch.

But aside from it's surprising physical sturdiness, it has opened up a world of communication for my son he can take wherever he goes, and it's been an inspiration, and a source of hope. No exaggerations.

I wasn't kidding when I stated in my response that F2 had figured out how to work the iPad in 5 minutes. Granted, he's always been fairly visually driven, and his speech therapists have been working very hard with him to communicate with pictures for years. But still. He looked at it. Turned it around a few times, tried to take a bite off the edge, curiously touched one of the pictures on the screen, and off he went. Because we figure there always needed to be a functional iPad around, we got 2, and named them "Mork" and "Mindy."

About 3 weeks later we had gone to lunch with him, and he'd been playing around with Mork and Mindy without us knowing exactly what he was doing. When lunch arrived I tried to take it away, so he could eat, and suddenly Mork says "Why did you do that? I want Blue's Clues please." It was jarring to say the least. Needless to say I immediately gave Mork back, and retreated to my side of the boot.

When F1-3 was ill a while ago, and throwing up, he came over several times to say "Brush my teeth." He asks for "drink, flavored water," "Blue's Clues," "Face," (a character on Nickolodeon, "use the computer," "something to eat, breakfast, cereal." I mean, it's awesome. He's communicated 10 times more in the past 6 months, than he has his entire life before that. I can go on and on, but we learn new things every day, and we're not even trying very hard. For us, the iPad's been a lifesaver. It has greatly enhanced the quality of his life. It's fun, it encourages learning, and it's very intuitive. And even though he may be a special case, because of his communication issues, but I think the reason it works for him, applies to most kids.

Edit: Not quite the same arguments as mine, but there is at least one other person who thinks iPads are great for kids.