Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Jaymes: Mighty king of the car radio.

It's funny, but when I think about it, I realize that I subjected my poor little guy to loud, decidedly NOT classical, music (the horror!!!) at a very early age. Early, as in three months before he was born.

I was very pregnant when I decided to go to my first concert, Toby Keith/Blake Shelton in St. Petersburg, FL. I dragged my friend Tara along with me, and we had a blast. Having never been to any concert before, I was blown away by the cool pyrotechnics and the confetti falling from the roof. Very cool. The only down side to the situation was Jaymes' reaction to the loud music. He spent the entire concert flailing around in there, two stepping on my ribcage and possibly channeling a crazy person in a mosh pit at a different type of concert.

He has always enjoyed music, but has never shown any preference for some songs over others. Usually he's been happy if it's just turned up fairly loud. Recently, however, he has shown a preference for the more upbeat, fast, noisy songs over sappy love songs. I have two country stations programmed to my car radio, and if the one I'm listening to puts on a song I'm not wild about, I just hit the other button and see what's playing. In the last week, if I do this and change to a song Jaymes does not like, he will glare at me and say "put it back back on!"

This has now also spread to the use of my Ipod in the car. Sometimes I want to switch songs halfway through, so I'll use my Ipods nifty "shake to shuffle" function to find something else. Today I was given a very stern talking-to by Jaymes, who does not feel that I should be changing songs halfway through. Even more seriously, I should not be picking a slow, sappy song over a more fast paced song.

I've played around with this in the car, in an effort to see which songs Jaymes likes best, and have come to the conclusion that as long as I wait for one song to end before picking another, he's ok. But, he really seems to prefer songs by male artists, and songs that are pretty lively. I listen to a very unique combination of music, and apparently I am passing on my odd musical taste to my son.

He still loves those Toby Keith songs, but is not a huge fan of Blake Shelton. He loves most of the country rock type songs, as long as they're men singing them. He also loves Nightwish. Now, I'm not a metal type person, but a friend introduced me to this band and I'm addicted. In particular, Jaymes loves their song "Over the hills and far away," despite the lead singer being a very much soprano female. I think he loves it for it's very loud, very rhythmic drumming. Kind of reminds me of Jaymes' pounding on his bedroom walls at 5am on the weekends.

Anyway, that long and rambling collection of thoughts came about mostly because I keep thinking how cool it is that Jaymes is making known his preferences. Music has long been one of those things for him, he likes it all but he never has cared one way or the other. I love that he has developed his own unique musical likes and dislikes. I'll admit I have not really been thrilled at this when I have to listen to a song I despise because Jaymes does not want me to change the station, but other than that, it really makes me happy. Seems like he is growing, changing, and becoming his own person a little more every day.

Update on the school stuff... I had a meeting with the principal, and we talked about the issues with Jaymes classroom teacher, the issue with Jaymes getting food he shouldn't be, the sticker sheets, and whatever else my little brain could remember.

I'm not entirely convinced I explained my issues with the teacher very well, but I think I got across that I don't like feeling like I'm being treated disrespectfully. I gave her the sticker pages and the notebook with all the jabbing little notes, in hopes that she would notice the things that bothered me. Apparently there is not an option of changing classrooms, there is only one other AU classroom and those kids are 3rd-4th graders. Jaymes is very small, so she had a good point with that. I would not want him to get hurt, and it would be unreasonable to expect the teacher in that classroom to be trying to teach kindergarten along with the upper grades. I'm not sure that would even be possible. I don't know that we accomplished much regarding the teacher issues, but at least I tried.

We talked about how Jaymes is doing in the classroom and in the regular ed classroom, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear her say that she's observed and he's doing really well. his teacher had given me the impression that he was being disruptive, couldn't sit, or participate... But everyone else says he is doing wonderfully. I mentioned wanting to talk to the teacher in the kindergarten class, and I ended up getting a call that day from that teacher. She is really friendly, and was very open to ideas on how to keep Jaymes participating. She said he loves to do calendar, and the weather. He'll look out the door for her, and tell her the weather. He does that at home too.

I'm really thrilled that Jaymes is doing well. I guess I just need to ignore the jabs (in the form of notes about potty training, sticker loss, lists of things he is doing wrong) and stick with listening to what everyone else tells me. I was VERY happy to hear that the principal and teacher's aide are on board with my hope to keep him getting out to the regular education environment more and more, as he improves.

I really like the principal. She makes the time to discuss these things with me, and has always been incredibly accommodating as far as scheduling things. She does get out and spend time with the kids, and Jaymes loves her. While not everything was solved, I feel a lot more positive after having had the sit-down with her.

Oh, and that IEP meeting I've been trying to schedule with the teacher for the last month? Scheduled with the principal in about ten seconds. Funny how that works.

The IEP meeting is on November 3rd, hopefully that goes ok. I'm hoping it's friendly, and not hours long. I'm trying to go into it prepared, asked for a draft IEP so I know what to expect, and am going to try and be as openminded as possible.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rocket, mighty sensory pony and an update on the school craziness

First the school update, following up on my post earlier today... If you didn't read that, none of this will make sense, so read the first one before this one!

I got Jaymes' school planner back with a note that led me to believe Jaymes' teacher has some kind of reading comprehension trouble. How many times do I have to say that I cannot do meetings in the afternoons unless they're after 3:30? Can't do it. Too many reasons to list. Anyway, she wrote down that she'd scheduled the IEP meeting for next Thursday at 1:00pm. Can I list everything wrong with this? Yes, I can. Because I'm very irritated about it.

1. I can't do afternoon meetings unless they're after 3:30.
2. Thursday is therapy day, and therapy is at 2:30.
3. By law, I have to have ten days notice.
4. I can't do afternoon meetings unless they're after 3:30.

Why is it "unfair" to ask the teachers to do a morning meeting? Is it fair to expect me to come at the time convenient only to the school? They're being paid for their time. I'm a mom, a full time student, my son's personal appointment maker, case manager, medication keeper-tracker...among other things. And last time I checked, "mutually agreeable" meant a time convenient for both myself and the school. Has that changed?

Anyway, I'm done with this stupid back and forth getting nowhere with the teacher, who treats me like a child and with complete and utter disrespect. I'll deal with the principal, who is very respectful toward me, and who actually gets things done.

As for the situation with the losing his sticker for talking at lunch... I got a very insulting note back that basically said (not a direct quote, I'm too tired to go find the book) "Jaymes talked all through Kindergarten class, circle time, and lunch and wouldn't stop to eat. He has to follow the rules just like everyone else. He talked, so no sticker."

Ok, so if he talked all through several "subjects," why did he only lose the lunch sticker? Why not the Kindergarten sticker? Or the circle time sticker? I wouldn't have been as annoyed had he lost a sticker for talking during an academic time. But in what world, ESPECIALLY in an EC class, is it fair or correct to punish a child with autism, who is six years old, for talking? At lunch. Really. I am really very upset about it. I may start coming at lunch time and eat lunch with them.

There are some other concerns too. Every day Jaymes is coming home, and screaming at various people, using phrases we do not use at home. For example "I don't want to hear it," "You do not yell!!!" and a few other things that sound like something someone is yelling at him. He's been lying on the ground, telling me it's nap time, then alternating between being "himself" sleeping on the "mat" and then jumping up to stand over the mat yelling "go to sleep!" "you do not talk!" "you do not touch the lights!"

So yes, I'm quite concerned. I think at this point I want him out of that class. I feel a storm coming, and it's not going to be pretty. I hate that I'm going to have to pitch a fit over this stuff, but it's not ok. My son deserves to be educated properly, fairly, and kindly. I hope to god no one is yelling at him.

So I'm going to give up trying to talk to this teacher, who seems to just be prodding me with her daily notes (remember the potty training conflict? Oh, he's still not potty trained, by the way. The kid who was apparently "more than ready." Imagine that. I'm just going to talk to the principal. She's a good lady, and she has always shown herself to care first and foremost about my son's needs, rather than the passive aggressive insanity that I'm getting right now.

On a happier note, when I'm very stressed out over school/Jaymes stuff, I go to my happy place. Some people's happy place is on the beach, or in their living room. Mine is on top of a dusty, hairy, smelly pony. I love my pony, he makes everything melt away and I get to take back my remaining sanity.

Sunday, my friend Elisha (Rocket's old owner) came over and we decided to body clip him, since he was growing a crazy long winter coat already and it was uncomfortable for both of us with how much sweating he was doing while riding. But I never do things the normal way... nope, a normal clip job would have been boring. So we clipped stars all over both sides, from head to tail. And two rocket ships, one on each side of his rear end. and he looks awesome. Jaymes loves it, because of the sensory aspect- he loves to rub from the velcro-feeling clipped parts over to the long, soft, shaggy stars. And he loves stars in general, so seeing them on the pony adds to the wow factor.

Now, this would not be complete without pics. Enjoy!

"Jaymes lost sticker... AHHHHRRRRGGGGHHHH"

So, Jaymes has been doing really well lately. Still lots of yelling and angry sounds and some minor hitting with a newfound interest in pinching (especially mommy's chest, go figure), but really it could be worse so I'm happy. I took him to our first school "fun type" activity last week- the Fall Festival. Normally I don't bring Jaymes to school events, because they're really focused toward the regular ed students. I did not see any of the EC kids we know at the event, actually. I've always been reluctant to do these events because of Jaymes' behavior, and the fact that I am not exactly in the same crowd as these perfectly dressed PTA moms who spend hours each week volunteering and selling cookie dough and all those things that I either have no time, or talent for. But, this time I decided to brave it, and it was actually a lot of fun.

The school pulled off a fantastic Fall Festival. The only thing that cost money was the pizza, doughnuts from Krispy Kreme, and drinks. And really, those were so cheap they almost don't count. Very tasty pizza from CiCi's Pizza in Kernersville. Yum. Anyway, there were games, a huge bouncy slide, a cake walk, and a pirate with a real parrot, who made all kinds of cool balloon things. The games all had prizes (candy and little stuff like stamps, mostly), and even if the kids failed to win, they still got a prize. The staff all know Jaymes too, so it was ok that he didn't quite "get" the idea of the games. The kids LOVED the bouncy slide, Jaymes giggled all the way down. I love seeing him having so much fun and being so happy.

The cake walk was neat too. I've never seen a school do one that you did not have to pay for, and that was awesome! They had like 18-20 people at once, with numbers on the floor. You'd walk around until the music stop, then they'd draw a number and whoever was standing on that number got to go choose. Then, everyone else got back in line and tried until they won- then they couldn't win again. Great way to do this! Sierra and Jason won first, they got the pineapple upside down cake I'd been coveting in the office earlier when it was brought it (yay!), and Jaymes won awhile later and got a huge platter of cupcakes. He was pleased. I gave him one (cheating on the diet, but he wanted it so badly and we've been so strict with the stupid diet), and he about inhaled it. The timing for his win was good, he'd done it happily several times, but by that time he was getting upset and starting to yell about cupcakes. He probably would not have been able to handle another round!

The pirate guy was pretty cool. He had a peg leg (hubby swears it's a real one, I say it's a fake, but whatever!) and a blue and gold parrot. Beautiful. It was making lots of irritated gestures at the kids, which amused me tremendously. Pirate made a ton of stuff, things you would not think could be done in balloons. He did hats, swords, flowers, a working bow and arrow, helicopters, poodles, etc. VERY neat. Sierra got a purple and pink flower and Jaymes got a red and blue hat. Both were thrilled with their stuff.

So taking Jaymes to that event was a real success, and we didn't get that many strange looks. Oh, and the principal was dressed up as Spider Girl (Spider Woman? Spider Principal?), which was pretty funny. Good for her for dressing up for the kids. I like her a lot, she's really a great principal.

Now, on to the story behind the title of this post... Jaymes' teacher recently started doing this sticker system with his class. They write down all the "subjects" like circle, specials, lunch, dismissal etc. Beside each thing is a spot for the sticker. If the kids do good, they get a sticker, and if not they write why the kid did not get a sticker. This seemed like a really good idea, and we were thinking of implementing it at home. However, it has begun to cause problems. Several times in the couple weeks she's been doing this, Jaymes has lost stickers. At first it was no big deal, he'd come home and tell me he lost a sticker, no real upset at that point. But the last two times he's lost a sticker, he comes home hysterical. Yesterday he was so upset he scratched his face bloody. He just kept shrieking "lost sticker! Jaymes bad choices!"

And what did he lose his sticker for? Talking "too much" at lunch time. I'm sorry, but that is ridiculous. I understand that they want the kids to eat rather than chat, but what school doesn't allow talking at lunch? When do they get a break? When can Jaymes relax? Lunch time is supposed to be a break, to eat and to mentally recharge. Lord knows we did enough talking as kids at lunch time. Jaymes likes to chatter to himself while he eats. It's just what he does, and I think it's soothing to himself, and it doesn't interfere with his eating. If he is going to eat, he'll do it regardless of whether he is quiet or not. Same goes for if he is not going to eat. In my opinion, demanding silence during lunch is ridiculous for ANY child, but for a child like Jaymes, it's really just excessive. Why take a sticker from him for TALKING? Why set him up for failure each day this way?

I am not used to this stuff. In the three years Jaymes has been in school, mostly at Cash, his teachers have never complained about him. It's mostly been me asking if they see behaviors at school like what we see at home. But this year, his teacher has something to complain about or to take stickers from him over, multiple times a week. Including sending notes home about his misbehaving in the regular ed kindergarten class, even though other school staff say he's doing great. It makes me wonder if she is looking for reasons to penalize him. It's very disappointing.

The sticker thing is an issue though. I'm ok with him losing stickers for legitimate reasons, as has been the case. He needs to abide by the rules, and sit in circle time quietly...etc. Personally, I won't ever try to stop Jaymes talking though, getting words out of him is a big deal at home and we don't discourage it. I miss whn he spoke clearly, but he's getting better and better again, and I'm not going to be the one to make that into a problem. Yes, he needs to be quiet when he's learning, but at lunch... I call BS there.

He came home yesterday hysterical and screaming and crying. Hitting himself in the face, scratching, and pulling his hair. Wailing about his sticker. That's not ok, and it made for a long afternoon of VERY upset Jaymes. All over talking at lunch. His little face is covered in claw marks from his fingernails. All over talking at lunch. Bullshit.

The IEP meeting scheduking craziness continues, too. Originally, I'd agreed to a date and time, but the teacher changed it. Well, she changed it to a time I could not do. So I said I'd organize up dates and send in what I could do. So yesterday I get a note that she's made it for the 27th, at 3pm. Two problems. One, I have an appointment in Winston that day at 3:20. Two, I have told her again and again, I cannot do 3pm meetings. If it's going to be a late afternoon meeting, it has to be after 3:30, so I can get Jaymes off the bus, and the staff involved need to realize that the meeting ends when it ends- not in an hour. If it ends in an hour, that's great, but it's never happened and I won't be cut short halfway through. I also cannot have both kids at an IEP meeting. Too much chaos, and i'd never be able to focus on the meeting. I've made this clear.

LAst year's appointments were always morning, and it worked well. This year, I've gotten several lectures on how unfair it is to ask the teachers to come out of class for these meetings. It's also unfair to expect them to stay after school. So, my question is, does this mean that we can neither have meetings during OR after school, because it isn't fair to the teachers? They're getting paid to do their jobs. IEP meetings are part of their jobs. And it isn't my problem- the school needs to deal with that. I consider my son's needs, not whether it's convenient for the teachers to have to step out for a meeting. I understand what she's saying, but in the last 2 years, this had never been an issue. Why now, this year, is it not ok to do morning meetings when last year, that's all we did? At what point does "mutually agreed upon time and place" become school designated?

Anyway, I sent in notes about the talking at lunch (yes, I was a bitch about it, I'm not going to lie) and about not being able to make that IEP meeting, or any that needs to be done at 3pm. Not sure where it goes now, we'll see I guess. I'm waiting on Doreen, our ECAC parent educator of AWESOME to give me some advice on this stuff. I was so hoping for an easy, good year. Was hoping he'd have Mrs. Colditz again, she is a great teacher. That and she doesn't talk to me like I'm a child. I guess it was stupid to expect the same people as last year... But I kind of did.

Hopefully this stuff will sort itself out, and if not, I will sort it out myself. But I'd love to do it in a non-confrontational manner if at all possible.

We shall see.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kind of neat...

No time, no time, much homework and housework and everything else work to do, but I thought it was kind of neat that I was mentioned in this article, at the top of the list no less! Better watch myself, lest my ego get the better of me ( ;

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Curriculum night, the Dixie Classic fair, and some realizations

It's been a wild couple of weeks. You'd think life would slow down a little bit, wouldn't you? Well, apparently not. Tuesday night was Curriculum Night at Jaymes' school, and this year we actually managed to get there. The last couple years there always seemed to be time conflicts. The other issue is that I have never quite been sure which school "nights" are actually meant for the EC parents to come to. Like the whole PTA ice cream social thing... not something we would EVER try to bring Jaymes to- it would be a nightmare for all involved. For the curriculum part of Curriculum night, again, confusion. From my experience, it seems like the only part of the curriculum that is emphasized is the regular ed curriculum. After all, the EC classes aren't even separated by grade. If it was not written down, very few of us parents would know what grade level our kids are working at. In fact, I'm not entirely sure as it is! He is supposed to be repeating Kindergarten, but his teacher tells me that all the goals on his IEP from last year are Pre-K goals, and that by the end of the year he should be reading a few words, and know the names/values/functions of different pieces of money. Soooo... Was he doing Pre-K work in Kindergarten last year? Or is he doing first grade this year, despite being retained? I'm very confused, and every time I talk to his teacher, I just get more confused. I sort of feel like I'm being blown off when I'm asking questions and voicing concerns, and in general when we're talking I feel like we're carrying on two entirely separate conversations at once. I hope this improves.

Anyway, Curriculum Night went ok. We had the teacher to ourselves mostly, I guess not many others decided to come. I wonder if they were also unsure of whether this was an EC friendly event. We almost did not go for this reason. I had really hoped to be able to meet and talk briefly to the regular ed kindergarten teacher, but it didn't happen. She is a sub for the teacher Jaymes went with last year for his regular kindergarten time, and I really doubt she has a clue. I am eager for Mrs. McGee to come back, she really got on board with us by the end of last year. She's a fantastic teacher, and Jaymes really seemed to like her.

Wednesday was fair day. Every year the Dixie Classic Fair does a "special needs" day, where the kids get free admission. Cash goes every year, and we've always gone along with the class. It is always a lot of fun. The last two years, Jaymes vomited at the lunch table, and I am very happy to say that he managed to keep the contents of his stomach IN his stomach this time. Thank god! The worst he did was chew up fries and spit them on the ground. That, I can live with!

Jaymes loved looking at everything, and he was especially amused by the magician guy who put the entire upper half of his body inside a giant balloon. Even better, the balloon was green, Jaymes' favorite color. He also enjoyed the petting zoo. There was a VERY amusing moment where the camel was licking Jaymes' teacher's head, while the classroom assistant made her hold still for a Kodak Moment. There was much camera difficulty, but I think they got some great photos. It was a great day.

Ok, having caught up on the thrilling happenings this week, I'll get to the realizations part of this post. I'm not really sure how it came up, but Jason and I were talking, and Jaymes was flailing and squealing on the couch, and we started talking about his educational future. I have always been very firm in my belief that Jaymes, if given enough opportunity in Elementary school, will not have to attend the "special" schools like Lowrance Middle and Carter Vocational High school. I still feel this way... But I am starting to doubt things now. Jaymes has lost so much of his speech, and his behavioral issues are getting worse and worse. Even the school is complaining about behavior stuff, and that has NEVER happened before. It's hard to take him anywhere anymore, and I guess I'm starting to question whether I am being realistic or not. Will Jaymes ever get any better than he is now? I mean, at almost seven years old, but only 40 pounds, it's easy to say "oh, he's fine." But if I think about a 13, 14, 15 year old boy doing the same things... well, it's not so fine. I'm perpetually covered in bruises now- what is going to happen if he is still punching, biting, slapping, and kicking when he's bigger than I am? What will happen when we take him to the grocery store? He'll be too big for the shopping cart, too big to wrestle cans and boxes out of his arms, too loud to ignore.

I know that thinking this way isn't in any way helpful, but really, I don't have it in me to be endlessly positive. I'm not having a great month though, so maybe all this doom and gloom is related to that. My meds are making me feel sleepy and sick a lot of the time, and when I feel sleepy, I get cranky. Add to that too many specialist appointments, too many therapy appointments, too many school stuff (his and mine) and it's like this never ending to-do list of insanity. I'm ready for my vacation, now!

Back to the point... I'm really questioning why I have spent so much time learning about the laws, learning what rights I have as a parent, and fighting like hell for everything Jaymes gets at school. It really blows my mind to think that maybe it's all been for nothing, and that no matter how hard I try to force the school to let him just be one of the other kids, it's not going to change the reality of things. Advocating for Jaymes has always been such a huge thing for me, and it gave me this feeling of having some kind of control about some aspect of life. I can't control anything about Jaymes' autism. I can't control whether the doctors take seriously any of his medical issues. I can't even control Jaymes diet (the lactose free) because he won't eat my packed lunches, but no one at the school has any clue which meals offered there are lactose free. And apparently, nobody has any way to find out. Now, McDonalds keeps nutrition facts that include ingredients for all their menu items. If the most unhealthy thing on earth does this, how is it the school system does not? What about kids with serious allergies? Why does no one have a clue? So yes, I have no control over anything, and it is making me crazy. I can't even control my own medications! If I don't take the meds, I spend all day having anxiety attacks. If I take the meds, one trip to the store knocks me flat and I need a nap. I can't lose weight, because I am so tired. I can't exercise much at all anyway, because my back and hip and leg hurt like crazy with any real activity. I was doing ok riding, as long as I took my Flexiril before and after the ride. But now I'm out, and apparently the doctor denied my refill request. So my only options are to sit around and not hurt too badly, or ride/walk/exercise and lose weight, but be stuck on the couch in agony after whatever exercise I have. And really, I understand denying Vicodin refills, obviously, but why deny something that helps me be active with pain? It's not in any way "high" inducing. In fact, it makes my stomach feel like it's full of goats. But, I sure do like being able to dismount after a trail ride, and be able to walk.

As I'm sure has become apparent by now, I'm very tired and very irritable and very rambly. I forget what my point was. But I'm sure it was a very important one. Something like that, anyway! I guess I'll finish this post another day!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Wanted to share this...

The following blog post originally comes from this blog, I found it on one of my horse discussion boards, posted by a fellow poster. It really is a good read, and I have a feeling every one of us can find at least one thing in the post that hits awfully close to home- it sure gave me a lot to think about. It's very profound. I hope you all enjoy it.

As a warning, the following post was written in complete desperation. I have recently learned some very sobering truths from people that I love dearly. These truths have set in motion a quest within me to do whatever I can to make a change. Today is not geared at funny. Today is geared at something greater. Read it to the very end. I promise you will be affected in a way you have always needed to be. I spent more than twelve hours writing this post because its message is that important to me.

I wonder. Am I the only one aware that there is an infectious mental disease laying siege on us right now? There is a serious pandemic of "Perfection" spreading, and it needs to stop. Hear me out because this is something for which I am passionately and constantly hurting. It's a sickness that I've been trying to put into words for years without much success. It's a sickness that I have personally struggled with. It's a sickness that at times has left me hiding in dark corners and hating myself.

And chances are it's hit you too.

What is the disease called "Perfection"? Perhaps a list of its real-life symptoms will help you better understand it. We live in communities where people feel unconquerable amounts of pressure to always appear perfectly happy, perfectly functional, and perfectly figured. "Perfection" is much different than perfectionism. The following examples of "Perfection" are all real examples that I have collected from experiences in my own life, from confidential sources, or from my circle of loved ones and friends. If you actually stop to think about some of these, you will cry as I did while writing it. If you don't, maybe you're infected with way too much of this "Perfection" infection.

"Perfection" is a wife who feels trapped in a marriage to a lazy, angry, small man, but at soccer practice tells the other wives how wonderful her husband always is. "Perfection" keeps people from telling the truth, even to themselves. My husband is adorable. He called me a whore this week because I smiled at a stranger. When I started crying, he said he had a game to go watch. I love him so much.

"Perfection" is a husband who is belittled, unappreciated, and abused by his wife, yet works endlessly to make his marriage appear incredible to those around him. "Perfection" really does keep people from being real about the truth. You would have laughed, guys. She said that I suck at my job and will never go anywhere in life. Then she insinuated that I was a fat, rotting pile of crap. Isn't she the best?

"Perfection" is a daughter with an eating disorder that keeps it hidden for years because she doesn't want to be the first among her family and friends to be imperfect. She would give anything to confront it, but she can't because then the "Perfect" people would hate her as much as she hates herself for it.

"Perfection" is when a son has a forbidden addiction, and despises himself for it. "Perfection" makes us believe that nobody else could understand what it is like to be weak and fall prey to the pressures of the world.

"Perfection" is a man who loathes himself for feeling unwanted attraction toward other men.

"Perfection" is a couple drowning in debt, but who still agree to that cruise with their friends because the words "we don't have the money" are impossible ones to push across their lips.

"Perfection" is a mom hating herself because she only sees that every other mom around her is the perfect mother, the perfect wife, and the perfect neighbor. I'd give anything to be Mrs. Jones. Today she ran 34 miles, cooked six complete meals, participated in a two-hour activity with each of her seven children, hosted a marriage class with her husband, and still had time to show up for Bunco. What this mom doesn't know is that Mrs. Jones is also at home crying right now because the pressure to be "Perfect" never lets up.

"Perfection" is a dad hating himself because he can't give the same thing to his kids that other dads do, and then hates himself further because he takes his self-loathing out on his kids behind closed doors. You know what would have been nice? If you were never born. Do you realize how much money I'd have right now? Now come give Daddy a hug because I can force you to give me validation.

"Perfection" is a child hating herself because the boys at school call her fat, and when she goes home she tells her mom that school was fine. Her mom never stops to question why her daughter doesn't have any friends, becaue her mom doesn't want to think that anything might be less than "Perfect".

"Perfection" is a man feeling like a smaller man because his neighbor just pulled in with a new boat.

"Perfection" is a woman who is so overwhelmed that she thinks about killing herself daily. "Perfection" makes it so that she never will because of the things people will think if she does. How could I make my suicide look like an accident? If I kill myself, I don't want anybody knowing that I ever had any problems. She never stops to look at why she wants to do it, because healing means admitting imperfection.

"Perfection" is a man who everybody heralds as perfect, and inside he is screaming to be seen as the faulty human being that he always has been. Because to no longer be "the perfect one", that would be freeing.

"Perfection" is a woman having an affair because she's too afraid to confront the imperfection in her marriage.

"Perfection" is a twelve-year-old boy killing himself because he is ashamed that he can't stop masturbating.

Stop, and read that one again.

There is a twelve-year-old boy buried 20 miles from where I sit because the "Perfection" that has infected the people around him infected him to the point that he deemed his own life worthless. "Perfection" pushed him to take his own life over something most of us would consider negligible in the life of any teenage boy.

"Perfection" is my friend's cousin swallowing hundreds of pills because she just got the news that she was pregnant, out of wedlock, and the shame was too much to bear. She was only attempting to cause a miscarriage. 24 hours later, she closed her eyes and never opened them again. She is dead because of the "Perfection" infecting those around her. We'd rather you die than shame this family. Thanks for taking care of that, honey. By the way, we'll do the right thing and make ourselves out to be the victims now. We have to. We're infected with "Perfection".

I could go on. This is all a small sampling of the disease called "Perfection". You have brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, extended family members, neighbors, friends, and children who are ALL these things, yet none of us will ever know. "Perfection" is a hideous monster with a really beautiful face. And chances are you're infected. The good news is, there is a cure.

Be real.

Embrace that you have weakness. Because everybody does. Embrace that your body is not perfect. Because nobody's is. Embrace that you have things you can't control. We all have a list of them.

Here's your wake-up call:

You aren't the only one who feels worthless sometimes.

You aren't the only one who took your frustrations out on your children today.

You aren't the only one who isn't making enough money to support your lifestyle.

You aren't the only one who has questions and doubts about your religion.

You aren't the only one who sometimes says things that really hurt other people.

You aren't the only one who feels trapped in your marriage.

You aren't the only one who gets down and hates yourself and you can't figure out why.

You aren't the only one that questions your sexual orientation.

You aren't the only one who hates your body.

You aren't the only one that can't control yourself around food.

Your husband is not the only husband who's addiction sends him online for his sexual fulfillment instead of to you.

Your wife is not the only wife that is mean and vindictive and makes you hate yourself.

Why didn't somebody, anybody, put their arm around that 12-year old boy and let him know that they loved him and would always love him? What was he being told and taught that he would end his own life over something that almost no teenager can control? Maybe that beautiful and wonderful boy would still be alive if even one person had broken down the "Perfection" that completely controlled all those in his life from whom he desperately craved validation.

Why didn't somebody, anybody, tell a beautiful pregnant girl that there was nothing so big in life that it couldn't be made right. Maybe that incredible young woman would still be alive. Maybe her now one-year-old child would be learning to walk or say "Mommy" right now. Maybe.


The cure is so simple.

Be real.

Be bold about your weaknesses and you will change people's lives. Be honest about who you actually are, and others will begin to be their actual selves around you. Once you cure yourself of the disease, others will come to you, asking if they can just "talk". People are desperate to talk. Some of the most "perfect" people around you will tell you of some of the greatest struggles going on. Some of the most "perfect" people around you will break down in tears as they tell you how difficult life is for them. Turns out some of the most "perfect" people around us are human beings after all, and are dying to talk to another human being about it.

You'll love them for it. And you'll love yourself even more.

Let's not forget this quote: "I went out to find a friend and could not find one there. I went out to be a friend, and friends were everywhere." Somebody who is being a friend doesn't spread "Perfection". Somebody who is being a friend spreads "Real". Then, and only then, can we all grow together.

I am not perfect, nor do I want anybody to think of me as such. Here's my dose of real:

I once stole a box of money that was meant for a child with cancer. There was more than $150 inside. That was 12 years ago, and I still hate the person in me that did that.

I believe in God, but not religion. It took me 30 years to find the courage to say that. It took me 30 years to believe that I could be a good man and still believe that.

I once got so angry at my wife that I hit the wall. The dent is still there, haunting me every time I see it because I never thought that was something I would do.

I once sat in my bedroom crying uncontrollably because I felt like everybody thought I was fat and ugly. I was a full grown man.

There are some people I avoid bumping into in public because I feel like I'm not as good as them.

I judge people harshly who share the same features that I hate about myself.

Sometimes I'm sad. Sometimes I'm not funny. Sometimes I just want to be alone. Sometimes I stay at home on a weekend because I just don't want to see the "Perfection" going on around me. Sometimes I want to drop-kick a perfect person's head across the room.

"Perfection" infects every corner of society. It infects our schools. It infects neighborhoods. It infects our workplaces. This is not to say that there aren't a lot of genuinely, happy people. I am one of those people. Most of the time. There is nothing more beautiful than a person finding true happiness in who they are and what they believe. No, this is not me trying to diminish the happiness in others. This is merely me pathetically attempting to put a face on a problem that I see everywhere but few people ever notice.

This is me, weeping as I write, asking the good people of the world to find somebody to put their arm around and be "real". This is me, wishing that people would realize how beautiful they are, even with all of their imperfections. This is me, sad and desperate for the girls in this world to love themselves. This is me, a very imperfect man, trying to help others feel a little more perfect by asking you to act a little less perfect.

Will you help me spread "Real"? Tell us below just how perfect you aren't. You never know who might be alive tomorrow because you were real today. You never know who needs to feel like they aren't alone in their inability to be perfect. Even if you comment as an anonymous guest, please comment. Tell us what you struggle with. Tell a sad or dark secret. Get vulnerable. Get real. Let's see if we can get 10,000 people showing the world that we're not defined by perfection.

And please, share this post on Facebook, twitter, and your blog. If you want the people around you to start being real, you have to be real first. I believe in the power of numbers and that enough people reading it might actually help shake down a few of the problems we cause for each other. If it's your first time here, we'd love to have you follow us. I promise it's not always this intense (or nearly this long). I'll post something really funny tomorrow.

Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing Being Real