When Rain Hurts by Mary Evelyn Greene

December 22, 2010

December 22, 2010

Waiting to See Santa (Macy's, NYC, Dec. 2010)

December 22, 2010.   The other night, while listening to the cold, slanting rain pelt against our house, I realized something extraordinary.  Sophie is beginning to keep us honest, and maybe even more noteworthy, participate in her brother’s care.  Peter was having yet another one of his becoming-too-frequent screaming fits – this time over having not earned enough points on his chart to play video games, so I looked at him, not so calmly, and suggested that he scream louder, which he did.  His face crimson and his mouth stretched wide, he let fly a primal howl loud enough to be heard from the moon.  And then he did it again and then again.  When the fit finally abated, and he went upstairs to change into his pajamas, Sophie turned to me, hands on hips, her face a little flushed, and asked, “Why’d you do that, Mom?”  Hesitating, I finally stuttered, “Sometimes its good to get the anger out.  I was trying to help.”  One look at my savvy daughter told me she wasn’t buying it.  “Well,” she huffed, “will you please not do that again?”  Accepting my reprimand with as much grace and aplomb as I could muster, which wasn’t much, I hastily agreed.  Pat’s tiny grin did not go unnoticed.  He knew as well as Sophie that I was wrong to have done that, and perhaps even more wrong to try to cover my tracks in front of our precocious daughter.  One thing I love about Pat, and I hope he’d say the same for me, is that he tries hard not to over condemn my slip-ups when it comes to coping with and teaching our children.   We often talk about each other’s mistakes later, usually while we’re watching TV at night, but we’ve taken a solemn vow of solidarity when it comes to our respective parenting slips.  I think it comes from a place of deep respect and love, and the knowledge that our relationship and commitment to each other is more important than anything else we’re doing, including raising our kids.  I’m not sure we’d have been able to stand the pressure cooker that our lives have become otherwise.  Case in point: our recent day trip into the city to see the Nutcracker.  We arrived early enough to see Santa at Macy’s beforehand and devour too much pastrami at Carnegie Deli.  Despite his recent volatility, Peter handled the day’s excitement pretty well, at least until the ballet.  Unfortunately, he felt the need to spray the walls of the Lincoln Center’s Men’s Room with urine and then offer an encore performance during intermission right in front of his seat.  A twice unlucky porter spread cat litter on the floor to sop up the mess, which I must say was embarrassing, and poor Pat had to get Peter cleaned up, for the second time in an hour.  At 9 ½, he’s really too old to take into the Ladies Room.  I thought Pat’s aorta would burst, he was that mad.  His body shaking with frustration, I watched nervously as he hauled our soaked son into the restroom.  As for me, I was more embarrassed than angry, and so I dug through our backpack in search of the “You have just experienced a child with autism . . .” cards that Lindy gave me for just such an emergency.  I swear I could feel the humiliating stares and angry eyes all around me but as it turns out, it was just my own paranoia at play.  The people around us were incredibly tolerant and understanding, as were the porter and ushers.  I don’t know whether Pat is hiding pints of whiskey in his trousers these days (I certainly wouldn’t blame him), but he emerged from the Men’s Room in relatively good shape, his anger dissipated and his temper in check.  Our eyes met briefly as we negotiated stepping over the piles of cat litter, and that’s all that was necessary to communicate that we were both okay, that this particular disaster was survivable.  Despite Peter’s behavior, born I suppose from over-stimulation and fatigue, we were able to rally as a family and enjoy the rest of the performance.  Amazing.  We’ve actually gotten to the point where our son can paint one of the most magnificent performance venues in the world with urine and still proceed with our plans.  Now all I have to decide is whether this fact represents personal triumph over extreme adversity or the inevitable decline of our already dwindling rationalities!  When the ballet ended, Sophie exclaimed that the worst thing in the world was that now she would have to wait 365 days to see it again.  She is a lesson in resiliency, our daughter, and my eyes filled with tears to watch the awe and joy in hers.  A few years ago, an episode like this would have ruined the day, but we’re learning, Pat and I, from each other and increasingly, from Sophie.  We are so careful with each other, not always 100% successfully, but we try.  Knowing that we have each other’s back, as well as appreciating that we’re the sacred guardian of each other’s heart, keeps us moving forward as individuals, as a couple, and ultimately as a family.  At 62, my husband finds himself in the middle of a situation from which most men would run, and yet he doesn’t.  He allows me to talk him down from the ledge when he’s at his breaking point and somehow, always, he comforts me when I’m at mine.  Sophie suffers from tremendous anxiety and control issues but at her core, she’s a consummate survivor.  I have to believe that the very qualities that allowed her to endure, and sometimes even thrive, in the orphanage, the ones that too often cause her trouble in school and at home, can and will be massaged toward more healthful pursuits.  Just like she reminds me when I allow Peter to influence my behavior, I need to gently help her learn to control her impulses, her survival drive, so that these traits don’t wind up controlling her.  I think we’ll get there, I really do.  It takes real pluckiness to be able to lift your legs up so a porter can spread cat litter beneath your seat while pouring through the Playbill, completely unphased, in anticipation of Act II.  Anyone who can survive what Sophie survived, and who endures what she must endure on a daily basis, will find her way in the world.  After all, she’s already taught us a trick or two.



  1. Mary,

    Well…Sophie was very kind to Peter. My kiddo shows what I view as remarkable empathy for children at school who may/not be more ‘special needs’ than she is.

    But, I can’t say I blame you for challenging Peter with the screaming fits. My kiddo used to do same. I remember telling her to ‘Just let it rip!’ one time. And she did, over and over and over. It was like bizaare… So, once she tuckered her little self out with the extreme screaming, and saw my reaction of ‘Whateva’ she dropped it. No response from Momma, no fun. Oh, well… We all reach our limit with these kids, in one way or another. Luckily, it’s not over the top.

    Peter surely is showing a reaction to his new school. I’m now doubting it was my overstimulation suggestion. I am likely wrong. Glad to hear he’s on new med’s. I’m hoping and praying that all this change, from his perspective, finally settles in a bit with him.

    As for Sophie, my guess is she just flat didn’t like Peter’s screaming. I don’t think she was a reprimending you. I think her ears simply hurt.

    Peter is very bright. He is also manipulative like many of these kiddos coming out of Russia. I hope his love for your family prevails and soon for your sake. He and Sophie are lovely children. I wish the best for all of you.


    Comment by Lori — December 22, 2010 @ 11:36 am | Reply

  2. How nice that you write about Sophie!

    Comment by Christopher Duncan — December 22, 2010 @ 3:22 pm | Reply

  3. Sophie was quite right. It puts me in mind of an anecdote I read many years ago about the sighted kindergarten child of a blind couple. Mimicking his parents, he never looked at objects or people directly. Gently try as the teacher might, she just couldn’t get him to use his eyes to look at things as he should. One day a little classmate said to the kid, “You’re supposed to LOOK at it, Stupid.” The teacher was horrified but the kid actually did look at whatever it was and quickly learned to use his eyes normally. Diplomatic the little classmate was not; effective, yes. This semester I had in my community college remedial writing class three special needs young adults. From the outset, one engaged in the attention-seeking behaviors of a spoiled four-year old, interrupting me and disrupting my class. I squelched that behavior super fast. I simply would not accept childish behavior from him and, in a short time, his social skills improved considerably. I demand adult behavior from all of my students who are often unruly teenagers fresh out of high school, and can’t afford to make exceptions. Another was deeply disturbed and, the first time I started to break the class up into groups to work on a project and get to know each other, he started ranting loudly and angrily that he didn’t come to college to make friends and wasn’t paying for this blah, blah, blah. After thirty seconds in the hallway of giving him a firm choice of transferring out if he could find another professor who would put up with such nonsense, I never had a problem with him again. You have to set boundaries and, since I have learned that patience is not necessarily a virtue, that’s exactly what I do. If they don’t like it, they can lump it. It works for me, and it works for my students whether “normal” or “special needs.” Dear little Sophie…I like her style. 😀

    Comment by Kathleen — December 22, 2010 @ 7:05 pm | Reply

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