Monday, April 12, 2010

mix-and-match girl

get-dressed

"please get dressed," i begged. "ok," she said, did the deed and skipped off to her daily business. this ensemble just couldn't sum up the last seven and a half years of our lives any better. it's been a topsy turvy, mix and match, unpredictable world ever since this little lady tumbled into our lives. i wish i could go back and enjoy every moment from the beginning, knowing now that it was going to turn out not just OK, but terrific. instead we spent many of her early years wrestling with teachers and specialists and doctors who insisted there was something wrong with her, who had labels ready to slap on her, who urged us to put her in therapy to fix her. after months of research and questions and the emotional turmoil of trying to decide what to do with all of these conflicting pieces of information and opinions, we asked ourselves: is she growing? is she learning? can she function in society, even if it is in her own way? can she do things she enjoys? most of all, is she happy? and the answer to all of these questions was yes. so we went with our instincts and decided to let nature have its way with her, to let her evolve, to see where she was going to shine, to approach her challenges as they arrived. we tossed every parenting manual in the trash, because for reasons you can see, the existing ones really don't tell you what to do with a child like this, and we told these people to leave us and her alone. not long after that we moved to lawrence, also a very topsy turvy, mix and match, unpredictable world, where she is now flourishing in school, has teachers who understand and encourage her, but do not overanalyze her. she's in a place where she can just be.

i know that our approach is not the right one for every child, but we felt that in her case these folks were trying to push her into a set of criteria that simply didn't fit, defining her quirks as defects, when really she just needed time to sort through those major milestones, and we needed to adapt to that. so we did, and the rewards have come in the form of an amazing little being who writes a new page in her own guidebook every day. not every day is a cakewalk. some days sync up beautifully, and in other moments my patience is so exhausted i'm ready to stick my head in the toilet. at those times i lean on the perspective of my husband, who watches her with stars in his eyes and says, "i just delight in her."

64 comments:

andi said...

She is blessed to have you (and I'm one of those therapist people!).

Inner Toddler said...

nothing better than a quirky kid to teach you to let go. I remember talking about our unique first borns over coffee (and our saucy second borns) but you never told me she was so fashion forward...

Karen M said...

Yup, sounds like parenthood! I guess every kid has their issues.And you're right, its best to just roll with it, and help them find out how to best be themselves. I have to admit that can be hard to do, especially in the middle school years. As for the socks, at 16 my youngest still wears her's mismatched. She says it makes her happy, and how can you argue with that?

I enjoy your stories about your daughter. You really have a delightful girl there, and she is lucky to have you.

Susie said...

This is so cute ~ and so very familiar!! This could be a pic of my 7 year old granddaughter, exactly! I work in her elementary school, and it's a joy every day to go see her & what "Punky Brewster" outfit she has put together for the day. Her personality is as fun, colorful, and loving as her clothing.

Susie

L'Atelier said...

oh Amiee, how beautiful how inspiring and amazing. she is a lucky girl! and you are blessed that you have an amazing, interesting, gorgeous daughter. i hope you both will enrich eachothers lifes and ours for many many years to come
it is wonderful to see how parents dont let themself and their children been pushed into a mould. beeing a good parent does mean for me to recognize ones children, and give them what they need.
xoxoxoxo

aimee said...

oh, gosh, i didn't mean for this to be a reflection on therapists in general, so i apologize if it came across that way. i know many children with specific needs who have benefited from therapy. for us the keys were nailing the reason why therapy was necessary, knowing what we wanted/needed to get out of it, and making sure that it was a positive experience for her (meaning that we didn't want the approach to make her feel singled out or badly about herself.) and we couldn't get answers or resolution to any of that. they could not articulate exactly why she needed therapy and how it would benefit her. it seemed that they were more interested in just fitting her with a diagnosis and putting her through a system to right the 'wrongs' on their measurement table, almost like she wasn't an individual at all. so we just made the best decision that we could at the time, and fortunately it's worked out for us. though sometimes i feel like she's anything but blessed to have me as a parent!

la ninja said...

I'm totally with suze, well fashion forward she is, defo. she'd be a total knock-out over here. quirkiness abounds and it's not only appreciated but seriously worked on and sought-after.
your lass, however, is a natural.

love the starry-eyed dad quote. with a team like yours, you can only be on the winning side, mate :)

rrARTz said...

that was so beautiful and inspiring! thank you for sharing that part of your life!

andi said...

No fear, Aimee! I was not offended at all and I didn't see it as a stab against therapists or therapy.

I celebrate any parent who celebrates their child's in-the-moment beauty. In your picture and your husband's words, I see that she is blessed.

Alexandra Hedberg said...

to me she seems to be like Pippi Long-stocking. Did you ever read the books? (I thought everyone knew of Pippi, but according to my better - south American - half Pippi is not as known as Swedish people want to believe...)She has the same taste in clothes and the same way of challenging the system. She has always been my hero!

T.L. Holmes said...

She IS delightful!! And this story makes me smile :) Have you ever read Jerry Spinelli's 'Stargirl'?? It's a great (and quick-ish) read. When I read it, I just ADORED the main character. Perhaps you'd see a great deal of Nina in her? Like Alexandra, I also LOVE the Pippi-type (actually, that was my Halloween outfit this year). May your fancy-pants continue to grow and learn to be her own individual. Too bad more people didn't encourage their kids to just BE.

Christine said...

HOOOORRAAYYY!!!
You are amazing, Aimee. This post is so beautiful. They really do teach us the important stuff in life, don't they?! And you listened. Makes me so happy. Your wisdom blows my mind.
:-)))) Lots of love to all of you.

oh btw - I tagged you :-) I hope you will play along for seven random facts :-))

Annie Pazoo said...

We should all delight in her. The world needs more mix-n-match girls. Yay you for letter her be! (P.S., creativity and a strong sense of self are signs of GENIUS, I tell you)

Curls O Fred said...

Since I have no experience in parenting, I will just let you know that I hope to be as thoughtful in regards to hurdles that arise when we are able to bring home a child. I'm glad for you sharing this. I'll repeat everyone else's sentiments...she has a lovely, fun style.

rachel awes said...

i adorrrrrrrrre this ensemble!!
i once heard that if we put together what we love, that it's the loving it part that matches.
xoxox

Liv @ Choosing Beauty said...

Oh my gosh, Aimee - this nearly had me in tears. We have had such a similar experience with our seven year old bundle of joy and have realized, too, that we're actually blessed with a kid who lives life on his own terms - and in bright, fluorescent color! :)

I would love to re-post this on my site for parents of spirited kids, mysweetangelpie.com. What do you think?

The Dreaming Bear said...

What a delightful post, and adorable photo! She seems to be my kind of girl. Watch out, world!
You are a great mommy! Keep up the good work....and occasionally indulge in a glass of wine after you tuck her in! ha!

Lori said...

This just made me tear up Aimee. So beautifully said...

Bella Sinclair said...

Good heavens, girl, I feel as if my heart has just been squeezed. How incredibly refreshing to hear parents step back, assess the situation, and decide that happiness should reign over conformity. I have so many friends who are quick to tell me how their child is ADHD or mildly autistic as if it is the latest fashion. And I watch their kids, and I'm confused because they seem high spirited but well within the range of normal. Meanwhile, there stands your little blessing and wonder, shining bright in her uniqueness and creativity. No labels. I'm so excited to see what her future brings. Way to go!

painted fish studio said...

why is any one ever expected to fit into a mold? i love your artsy girl's ways, and she has a pretty kick-ass momma to guide her in this crazy world, and a dad that adores her, and a little sister that will idolize her forever, and lots of fans. so she's good to go. go, go, go artsy girl, and make your mark! tell everyone in your way to fuck off!

Lisa said...

This is so unbelievably sweet. Parenting is a journey more topsy-turvy than any other...May you continue to find joy in every quirky minute of it.

Shelly said...

One of the sweetest testaments to parenthood that I've read, Aimee. Thrilled to hear that you let your instincts guide you on what's right for your child... I made myself crazy with books when my daughter was born until I had the revelation that my mom didn't have all those competing voices to raise me and my siblings. She managed to use her own instincts to guide her, and we turned out just fine. :)

aimee said...

she adores pippi longstocking!! we have a well loved copy around here, and i think she lives in villa villekulla in her mind, which is probably a safer place because if she were in a real house she might forget to pay the electric bill.

and re-reading this, i feel like this makes me sound so much more decisive along the way than i really was. in the end, this is definitely how the scenario has played out, but it has been a constant struggle. there have been so many moments where i've doubted my thoughts and conclusions, regretted things i've done and said, but gradually i'm understanding how important it is to simply accept her as she is, and how un-simple that process of acceptance really is, as our ways of being have tangled together and have unfolded in ways that i never knew lay before me. i've learned just as much about myself as i have about her in this process, how to trust my instincts and separate my interests from hers as well as all of the opinions that have abounded around her. i've developed a much thicker skin and i have a deep empathy and respect for parents i've met along the way whose kids exceed the bounds of quirky and truly need help. those parents have to acquire the patience of saints, not only to best meet their child's needs, but also to navigate the incredibly complicated system of resources and treatments. for every child it is different.

thanks for all of your wonderful comments. they're so uplifting and encouraging. normally i don't dive this deep into my personal life here, but that picture could not go unaccompanied, and i'm always encouraged to hear the stories of other quirky kids!

lilnizzie said...

what I don't understand is why anyone, therapist or not would think that a child, who lives and dreams in their own ways needs to be "fixed"

from the brief description you gave, i don't see anything that needs fixing or labelling or compartmentalizing at all.

Ces said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ces said...

Oh and one more thing, your daughter dresses the way teenagers do now. She is a trend setter for her age group! My daughter's friend came here last weekend and wore two different kinds of shoes, striped, plaid and unmatched colors. Hahaha! I told him he looked so cool!

Candied Fabrics said...

Oh, there's so much wonderful sharing here today - both your story and all these wonderful comments. The words of both you and your husband have struck a chord, and proven that the people who read your blog are wonderful people!

oneartistjournal said...

F-A-N-T-A-S-T-I-C----LOVE LOVE LOVE 'this'...what can I say...I'm so with you with everything you said...Aren't we all mixed and matched? And aren't we so blessed that we are that way...please please please go read my new post...I'm talking about 'that' precisely but from a different angle...
XOXOrly

Megan Walker said...

That picture is adorable and should be framed :)

She is so blessed to have wonderful parents like you. And this is one special, quirky, smart, creative, amazing girl you've been given.

Where oh where was Lawrence Kansas when I was raising my boys?!?!

Karen Blados said...

WOW! First, she looks fabulous ... and would fit in around here beautifully. Almost everyday, I hear something along the lines of "Mom, it's fine. I look great. Pink goes with everything, you know."

And I think you are an amazing parent. You follow your instincts, which is a tough thing to do when all the "professionals" are telling you you're wrong. Our son is like the Energizer Bunny hopped up on sugar. From birth, he's had two speeds ... GO REALLY FAST and asleep and nothing in between. It's provided a few challenges for his instructors, which I understand because I live with the boy who does everything at light speed. Luckily, we've only had a hiccup here and there, but have been blessed with talented teachers overall.

I think you're on the right track ... everything you've shared on your blog shows off a smart, inquisitive, confident young lady. What parent could ask for more?

Nicky Linzey said...

Thank goodness for unique individuals in this world where everyone has to be labelled and clumped together for ease of 'the system'.

Susan said...

What a beautiful perspective on a spirited child. Do save this for her to read when she's a little older and can appreciate the gift she has in having parents who are not only willing to let her be but help her bloom.

jane said...

owhat a beautiful post aimee. your writing reads like poetry. and i´m loving the fashion statement. hugs!

cindy said...

your husband is right, she is delightful. if everyone walked in step what a boring place it would be. instincts are good when we pay attention to them and good for you both to not react because someone in 'authority' thought they knew best.

why does everyone get so serious when someone expresses a bit of individuality? in this case, it's just clothes. big deal. she looks fantastic. and, she'll probably figure out that if the foot gets cold in the sandal not to wear it again.

S.E.Minegar said...

This is a beautifully written piece! The photo reminds me of when my brother and I used to trade clothes and "trick" our parents into thinking we were the other. We used to die laughing when we debuted our ensemble.

pixie said...

*you share your stories so beautifully*
i know what it's like to have a quirky kid-sometimes i wonder if so many of us have them because we're paying better attention than past generations and we indulge their individuality? i have wondered many times if there is something i need to address with miles. usually a little tweaking of myself does the trick...

saucy second-borns is right!

i love your babe's fashion sense and could learn a thing of two from her
:)

pixie said...

oh dear! disclaimer! i didn't mean to make it sound like children's issues can be resolved by parents changing/adapting. i only meant to say that is what has worked for me after fretting about him. i hope i didn't come off the wrong way...

Shannon said...

Thank you for this beautiful piece of writing. So many parents need to hear this and will find comfort in your words! You and your family are just awesome.

Aris said...

she sounds wonderful! thank goodness she has two parents that truly appreciate her and delight in her quirks. I love those kids that just stand out, that just can't help but be who they are, how fabulous! IF you ask me thy are way ahead of the game. The rest of us spent our childhoods trying to figure out how we should be only to realize in our thirties that we are who we are. She doesn't need to be fixed, she needs to be encouraged and celebrated and sent out for ice cream with Dad when you need a break(:
My daughter has her own sense of fashion too. HOw much fun would it be to just put whatever on each day. No more searching for matching socks sounds like genius to me!

Tyggereye said...

Aww that is so cute! My son likes to try to wear pj's everywhere. Sometimes I let him. Who cares right? If you can't wear pj's as a kid to walmart on a Sunday morning then whats the point?

Diana said...

Good for you! GOOD FOR YOU!

I went through some of the same type of thing when my sons were younger all those many years ago... people trying to fit them into their idea of what society thinks children should be. My goodness... they are CHILDREN. Quirks and all... we can learn from them and love them... love the children as they are... God gives them to us HIS way.

Blessings to you and your daughter! {heart}

Coreopsis said...

You guys sound like absolutely wonderful parents. So wise. And it's SO COOL that she feels free to be herself, and not like she has to fit some particular mold. If you stay where you are now, she may someday end up in one of my English classes, where I delight in having kids like that. Right now I have a girl who writes poetry for all of her science fiction responses. Sometimes it seems very relevant, and other times it skates off into places I never would have thought of, but it always shows a deep engagement with the world and ideas and herself.

Bravo--for you and your daughter!

Joanne said...

thank goodness for the trailblazers, for the whimsical, for those who have the courage to dance to the beat of their own drum, who want to wear things that don't match, who see colors where others see only black and white, and for a family and a village who not only see there is more value outside of the box than inside of it, but have the courage to actually live it...

thank you for creating her and then giving her to this world and for letting her be free... we need her just the way she is...

Angie Muresan said...

She's an artist all the way through.

6512 and growing said...

Such a truly lovely post about a girl who clearly has some serious flair and originality.
So beautiful to hear how you've allowed her to bloom in her own time and in her own way.
All children should be so lucky.

●• Thereza said...

well, they don't come with an 'instructions manual' :)
she's sweetie!

gypsy said...

What a beautiful, thoughtful post, Aimee! I have two quirky girls as well. One wears sandals w/mix-n-match socks year-round. The other dresses in funky layers. Many of the "concerns" folks might have about our kids are actually strengths. I love the way you write.

Eden Clare O'Meara said...

ah, children...what would we ever do without all of their divinely wonderful creatively inspiring spirit...be quite bored i think...absolutely positively we must be forever their advocate in this sometimes muddled world...darling girl you are beautifully made!

Francesca said...

As you say, you have a very complex system of resources and treatments, which sometimes I envy, while others I wonder whether it isn't just chocking parental instincts. Every child is different, and not all differences are symptoms. I'm so glad your daughter is happy and in a place where she can just be.

Fruenswerk said...

I´m sure this girl will be a great famous stylist some day :)))) hihi

Buffalo Lucy said...

Hi Aimee!

I stumbled across your blog recently and realized who you are. This is Julie, one of Aidan's moms. Stephanie and I can so relate to this post. We should really talk sometime! We'll have to invite you over for a moms evening one of these days soon.

hanna-happenings said...

Aimee, I burst into tears when reading this a couple of days ago, this post has been with me since. You are such an extraordinary woman in so many ways! Throwing away Your parenting books is one of the best parenting advice I´ve ever heard!
I can relate to Your situation.

btw, I was so inspired by this story and Your daughters choice of shoes that I dared myself to be obstinate to "silent rules of behavior" and put on my husbands clothes for the day ;)

aimee said...

you are all the BEST. thank you... your responses gave me one big happy heart! :))

heather smith jones said...

I LOVE what your husband says!! And I can say she IS a delight, and colorful, and bright, and smart, and creative and so wonderful.

Sarah said...

What a beautiful post about your daughter-I love it! She sounds great!

BT said...

How absolutley marvellous and good for you. Sometimes teachers just want all the children to fit into a little slot and, thank goodness, not all children do. How lucky you are to have such a special daughter. I love her choice of clothes, wish I had the guts to wear them!

I Saw You Dancing said...

This is the most beautiful thing I have seen and read in a long time.
I love your daughter's quirks, and I love the way you love them, in all your messy imperfect earnest glory.
Thank you for your bravery in sharing all this.
This is exactly what love is all about.

Jill Berry said...

My girl dressed like this and I took a picture just like yours of her legs and feet every day for a summer. I made a book of it, and so glad I did. She still has her own style, but not quite like this. We have twins, separated by a state.
Might make a good map, this story....:)

messyfish said...

That is the most excellent outfit I have seen in a while. I am glad you wrote such lovely things too. Trust your instinct. You know her best xxx

Giggles said...

If only ALL parents could see the little emerging artists the way you do!! Good job...she is truly blessed!

cath c said...

so wonderful.

my 12yo with asperger's syndrome has had a pretty difficult journey through these 12 years, but for much of it, he has kept us laughing enough to deal with the rest and for me to be the mama lion who roars - mostly at a difficult school district.

Sharon said...

Oh my! Every child should have parents who feel and say that they just delight in their children. You are a special family in my book because I don't think enough children get that from their parents. I love the photo.

Lynn said...

So Lawrence KA is really aspie land? I need to move there. Either there or Brazil apparently. Who knew? It's great that you are embracing her quirks...sounds like she is flourishing. I wish my husband had the same attitude as yours. Even though my Audrey is not as high-functioning there is so much to delight in!

allison strine said...

This makes me want to cry, Aimee... I hear you loud and clear!