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Monday, January 7, 2013

All for One and One for All

I mentioned to a Facebook support group I'm in that:
Every picture I post of myself with my older daughter makes me feel like I'm not including my younger daughter. It makes me think, "I wonder if people look at this picture and wonder where my younger daughter is, and why she's not there". Every picture I take of me with my younger daughter makes me think, "I wonder if people see this picture and think, he's just taking pictures of his youngest daughter so it doesn't look like he spends all his time with his oldest daughter."
Anyone ever feel that way? Sometimes maybe we need to give OURSELVES a fucking break from scrutiny and judgement.
And I was sort of pressed for time, but it had been eating at me a little and I wanted to just lay it out there for the universe (at least this collapsed and particularly singular universe that is the autism parenting universe) to consider.

And after I left it there I felt like I needed to return to the thought and give it a little more fleshing out.  It's not that I think I'm a bad parent.  It's not that I think I give more of my time or attention to Emma.  It's not that I think the time I spend with Lily is spent in order to somehow prove to other people that I'm not just focused on my other kid.  It's that the thought occurs to me that other people might think that.  

The point I was trying to get across at the time was less even that other people might be judging me, and more that they may not be judging me at all!  And if they are, how would I know?  And if they're not, why am I growing gray hairs worrying about something that clearly is only occurring to me?  This hypothetical judgement is less about what other people might be thinking and more, "I'm thinking it."

I think that at the end of the day I realize that a lot of the "fun" activities I get pictures of myself and Emma doing are things that Lily isn't as interested in, or outright hates.  But the appearance of me sledding with Emma, or eating cotton candy at a Pirate game with Emma, or at a movie with Emma, gives a photographic record of only my time with Emma...not Lily.  And I think that grates a little.  I think it makes me feel like I'm not doing enough to get Lily involved in activities that might be more fun for the whole family.

Tonight I took Emma and Lily out into the snow.  Lily was reluctant.  It would have been easy to say, "Okay, honey, you stay inside."  But I knew there had to be something out there in the white that would appeal, and so fighting inertia and Lily's strange finger force field (the only effect of which is to repel mittens from her hands) we trudged outside into the snow to play.

And Lily hated the sledding, and after confirming a couple times that yes, sledding is not Lily's thing, we made a snowman, and found that kicking and whacking the snow...is Lily's thing.  It's enough of Lily's thing that I had to set the timer on my Iphone (duck quacking) for five more minutes so I could help transition her back inside the house (that she hadn't wanted to leave) with less fight.

It's a weird sort of win-win.  I know that I try really hard to spend time with both my girls, but there is a lazy inertial ease associated with just letting Lily do what Lily loves most all day, which is to watch TV.  And letting her watch TV, while it may be what she prefers, is not actively being involved with her.  And the pictures I take of myself with Lily while she's not actively involved with me kind of are a bit of a lie, proof only that I was in the same room with her, and not that I was involved in doing something with her.

I took her into the snow and I got my family time with both girls.  And I got my picture with both girls.  Part of my pledge to myself and my family is that I'm going to try to help facilitate more of that inclusive family time.  The pictures weren't ever the point.  The point was that the pictures led me to realize I wasn't making enough of an effort.
The Three Musketeers - Photography by the Fourth Musketeer

26 comments:

  1. I feel that way too...with four kids and certain ones that tend to enjoy the camera more I freak myself out over how we are portrayed. With Ewan my oldest getting so much attention from the world it seems with his autism,but it is his next brother down, Liam- who has stepped into the older sibling shoes wanting to do all the firsts (and therefore more pics it seems). Then I of course over-analyze that Kian is getting overlooked as the typical middle child-because rounding out our 4 is Mira the baby AND the only girl- causing me to flood FB with cute pictures of Kian. After doing this until my brain has bluffed, double bluffed and triple bluffed itself; I come to understand that I'm the only one that really is that critical of myself and most people are way too busy in their own world to worry about whether or not my pictorial evidence represents I'm spending the exact same/fair amount of time with each kid. And if someone is really sitting there and taking count--well that just screams "creepy stalker" right?

    But anyway very happy you got out with both girls and had some all together time! I do enjoy your Facebook posts and this blog when I find the time, they often bring a smile to my face (as do your friends the NYE commentary on Jenny Mc. was downright roll on the floor funny).

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    1. haha! Thanks, Tia. I guess all parents are a LITTLE neurotic when it comes to our kids.

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  2. I only have one kid but I get it. I have so many photos of my and Norrin. But not enough of Me, Norrin & Joseph (my husband). So sometimes when I post pics, I wonder - do people think I'm a single mom or that Joseph's a not involved parent? The truth is, we're out together all the time - Joseph doesn't think about getting in the picture. He's happy taking them. But just like I have my memories documented, I want him to have the same. So I have to remind him to get in the picture.

    I've seen pictures with you and Emma. I've seen pictures of you and Lily. I've never once thought about twice about it. All I see is how happy your girls are to be with their dad.

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    1. Thanks, Lisa. They're happy. I'm happy. I just feel like I can be doing more with them both.

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  3. I am learning that it is hard not to wonder what others think. I also know that if we do we will drive ourselves crazy. Please try not to be hard on yourself. I know I have never doubted that you love both of your girls. I never even questioned who got to take pics more with you.
    I only have one kid but I am always snapping pics of Angel and his dad (my hubby). Why? Because as shallow as this sounds, sometimes I just do not feel picture ready. There are times when I say oh what the hell and get in the picture. I want Angel to know I was there when he grows up. I understand the feeling of being in the room but not feeling involved with my child. Like when he is on his IPAD and I am tapping away on twitter. Sometimes I feel bad and put the phone down to play with him. I need to work on that.

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  4. We didn't have Facebook when my children were younger. (They are now 18, 16 and 13).
    I also don't post family photos to Facebook. It's just not what I do.

    However, because of Facebook, I can see how other families spend their time and I can see that I, myself, am not working hard enough at our family time.

    I wrestle with this. It is, as you say, easier to just let everyone do what they're doing. They're very happy. However, I know there is more for us to be doing, together, as a family, and that I should be working on it.

    Thanks for the speak to commonalities, autism or not.

    Annie

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    1. One of the things that I said in the original post to the group was that we need to stop being so hard on ourselves. Pictures DO lie. For every picture of a smiling child having fun at play there are a hundred pictures of them unsmiling and hating life...those just don't make the album. You know?

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  5. Dang it Jim, now I am crying. You are an amazing dad and I know how hard it is to engage our special kiddos - and you have the added challenge of also ensuring that Emma is having fun too. Kudos to you and thank you for sharing this so eloquently. Please send some snow to NC for Peter...

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    1. I'll TRY to send snow to NC, but that is a pretty tall order.

      *Concentrates really hard*

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  6. Every photo that I take and/or post online is of our daughter. When I mention our son online, people are surprised. "You have a son, too?"

    The boy is 15, and he's the epitome of the sullen, cranky teenager. He acts like he thinks he's *supposed* to be that way. Having your picture taken isn't cool. Smiling isn't cool. Looking like you're having fun with your dorky family isn't cool. So I've just stopped taking pictures of him. Eric still sneaks a few once in a while, but the majority of the photos are of Ashley.

    So yes, I know how you feel, but I long ago gave up caring about what other people think of it. It's not worth dealing with the nasty looks we get. *shrugs*

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    1. As many times as I say that I don't care what people think, I'm also aware that...I sorta do. At least on some level. That said, I'm not doing it for their approval, but my own tough standards. ;)

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  7. You know, I almost dismissed this as relevant to my family since I only have one child. But, after some coffee and reflection, I can see that there's some work for me to do, too. I have many beautiful, funny, or otherwise wonderful pictures of my son. I have few of my son engaged with either myself or my husband. Not that we don't...just that, perhaps, we don't do it ENOUGH, nor do we capture the memories.

    Kind of an interesting exercise to walk through the mental gallery of photos and realize the focus is not on the entire family...just on our child. Wonder what the shrinks would have to say about that. ;-)

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    1. Hmmm...I don't know. I sometimes wonder if a therapist would say, "Wow, Jim, you're really well adjusted!" or "You are so messed up." I think the first thing.

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  8. My own brand of self-torture is that my kiddos both have huge sensory issues, which tend to manifest in the exact opposite way. So the girl will want to make noise with instruments, and this will be agony for the boy. And then one day you cave in and find that they've done the old switch-a-roo and now she hates what she loved and he is torturing her with it. I tell myself that letting them bug the hell out of each other prepares them for a less than tolerant world. You can't really win this parenting game, you can only make sure there are no losers.

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    1. In the Game of Parenting you win, or you die.

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  9. Yay for you and your involvement with your girls! I'm so glad I only have one kiddo to think about, otherwise I would be torturing myself with these same questions.

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  10. Jim, you're such a good dad. This post brought up more for me than just that, but you should know that you are a good dad.

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    1. I do. I mean...*I* think I'm a good dad. I just feel like I could be doing more.

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    2. which is precisely why you're a good dad.

      and that's as mushy as i'm gonna get.

      rolls eyes.

      whatever.

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  11. Thinking about doing more and better and then doing it is what it is all about...my guilt grows fast, I water it at least twice a day...my son that needs special attention gets it all...the three others seem to grow of their own accord like magic and I stagger with guilt. I need to do something about it.

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    1. soooooo much guilt. But self-induced.

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  12. I saw the original post but I felt I couldn't really add much to the conversation being as I have only the one kid. But after reading this post, the only thing that stuck out to me is this: "The pictures weren't ever the point. The point was that the pictures led me to realize I wasn't making enough of an effort." Your self-reflection is more than hundreds of thousands of parents give themselves - and that makes you quite special, you know?

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