On Friday, we dragged the whole operation out to the desert to see T-Bone’s first Weezer show in a while. He just doesn’t travel as easily as he once did, when he was a little bit more portable in general and a lot less vocal about his desires. So I don’t take him on tour as much (for now). But he’s just as enthused as he always was about going to see Dad play, so I was glad to be able to indulge him.
Sometimes I can’t believe what a pain in the ass it is just to get us all in the car for a weekend out of town. But as soon as we’re out of the city and the sky opens up, I’m reminded of why we insist on doing it anyway.
Like his mom, T digs the desert. He’ll patiently wait hours to see the windmills that flank the 10 outside of Palm Springs. We didn’t have time to hike in Joshua Tree this trip, but T was happy to spend the mornings splashing in our friend’s pool and the early evenings tearing out across the golf course. And, of course, the nighttime is reserved for rock.
T was a consummate rocker. Pat Wilson slipped him an Oreo and he completely spazzed out from the sugar, bouncing on the furniture and dumping bowls of mixed nuts out on the dressing room floor.
At least someone around our camp knows proper dressing room etiquette.
He nearly fell asleep on a backstage road case halfway through the show, but when I tried to get him to leave and come lie down, he screamed so loudly that everyone in the immediate vicinity turned around to see what was going on. Yup- he actually managed to holler louder than the music. It was a proud moment for a rock mom.
Scott just sent me this pic. He says that at the moment this picture was taken, I was the happiest he’s ever seen me. I think the plane was about to take off and we were finally going to be on our way home from Ethiopia with T. It may well be the happiest I’ve ever been. I thought I’d share it.
I’ve shared some about what we’ve ben going through with T, but honestly I haven’t even scratched the surface. Believe me when I tell you that Scott and I have never in our lives despaired quite like this. Parenting trauma is confusing and isolating and sometimes all the amazing blogs in the world aren’t enough to make me feel validated. In this respect, the seminar was incredibly helpful.
I’d like to share probably the most illuminating shift in perspective that the seminar offered. I keep coming back to it.
The basic idea is to change the question from:
How do I get my child to change his behavior?
1. What is driving my child’s behavior
2. What can I do at this moment to improve my relationship with my child?
If you are parenting a child with severe behaviors, particularly one who has experienced some kind of trauma, I urge you to check out Heather Forbes.
We had a fantastic date night on Saturday, when we attended Austin Young’s YOUR FACE HERE unveiled at PoptArt gallery. Guess who had his ridiculously adorable little portrait up there on the wall with Perez Hilton, Karen Black and Elvira (among others). He was so cute at the photo shoot that I was ready to change his nickname from T-Bone to Hambone.
It was the best party we’ve been to in a long time. Great music, amazing art, positive vibe all around. Austin’s photos are so arresting because he genuinely sees everyone through a wildly beautiful lens.
Here’s a pic of Austin and me. I wish that in my worst moments I could see myself through his eyes.
Oh wait, I can. He actually took my new author photo (coming soon to a book cover near you). How lucky am I? Here it is…
Tariku turned 3 on Sunday and I admit it- I went birthday crazy. We threw an absolute rager at his fave spot: Travel Town in Griffith Park. Travel Town is a train museum that T visits at least twice a week. It was an ideal place for his party because there’s tons of outdoor space, so T could go off and chill when he got overwhelmed.
I honestly had no idea how it was going to go over. I hoped that he would have a blast but I had accepted the possibility that he might get overstimulated and want to get the heck out of there. Still, I wanted to give it a try. I’m happy to report that it went over beautifully. He loved it. He’s still talking about it.
We had the Let’s Be Frank organic hot dog cart and crafts and choo choos and a chocolate cake decorated with an airbrushed rendering of his new blue guitar. We even had Brobie from Yo Gabba Gabba.
T’s over-the-top baby bash had a precedent. While I was swept up in the frenzy of the party planning, I recalled the extravagant theme parties my own mother used to throw for me as a kid. One could look at this as a legacy of bourgeois suburban madness, but I remember the parties very fondly. She wasn’t generally a showy or competitive kind of mom and I believe our birthday parties were a real creative outlet for her, as well as a chance to just joyfully indulge for a day. I took the torch and ran with it and I’m glad I did. It was a special day. I don’t think I’ll do it every year, but this is the first birthday that T was really aware of and it was fun to deliver it in style.
And seriously, how great is Scott? For a million things, but particularly for agreeing to get completely dorky and wear matching engineer outfits.
The pictures were taken by our friend Leon Mostovoy (have him shoot your party or portrait: firstname.lastname@example.org) and by our own stalwart Auntie Jo (who just got on my case for never giving her credit when I post her videos).
Tariku turned three yesterday. He’s been asking for a blue electric guitar for months, so that’s exactly what he got. The only one we could find was a little big for him. Does anyone have a suggestion for a real electric guitar that would fit a three year old?
I’m not sure I experience grief in the traditional Kubler-Ross five stages. Rather, I think my grief has five food groups. I’m the kind of gal who uses anything I can get my hands on to stuff my feelings into oblivion. For the past week I’ve been in the fourth food group of grief: Chocolate. The fifth is probably Weight Watchers.
Since Jennifer died, I’ve been having a hard time clearing the fog from my eyes long enough to even answer my emails much less to be creative or to be a present parent. I’m going to tell you what I prayed for at the bedside of my friend, who had just overdosed herself into a coma. I prayed that I be shown a way to give my son the tools he’ll need in life to never wind up in a bed like that.
I’ve been worried lately that I’m failing at that very task. Both Scott and I have been spending too many nights with our heads in our hands- unsure how things got out of our control, unclear about how to make it better.
I was well aware of the challenges involved with adopting a child who wasn’t a newborn, particularly one who had spent a significant portion of his young life in an orphanage. Theoretically, I was prepared for the behaviors connected to early childhood trauma. But, as any parent knows, theoretical parenting is about as good as theoretical dancing. You ain’t gonna learn to do a pirouette by reading about it.
Even before we were parents, Scott and I were immediately attracted to Non-Violent Parenting, which is based on empathy and nurturing rather than judgement and control. We knew a lot of people who had gone through the parenting classes at The Echo Center and were inspired by the respectful way they interacted with their children.
We’ve been trying to practice non-violent communication with T, except we keep screwing up. For instance, I’ve been unable to keep myself from screaming at him. And then I absolutely hate myself for it. But honestly, he’s infuriating. He’s beyond infuriating. Nearly every interaction with T is a battle. It always takes us an hour to get out of the house. Scott and I get bit and spit at and hit in the face many, many times a day. An hour ago he pulled a hunk of hair out of my head and then got grossed out and asked for my help getting it out of his mouth.
And most of the people I know have been saying- why the heck don’t you discipline him? Why don’t you give him a time out?
Well, it’s complicated. We don’t punish him because instead we’re trying to empathize with the needs behind his behaviors and to help him start to identify his feelings. But the problem is that I haven’t been all that successful in figuring out his needs. I thought it would be a lot more obvious. Maybe the difficulty arises from the fact that I’ve always been someone who stuffs my feeling rather than addressing them.
So Scott and I went in last week for a private counseling session with Ruth Beaglehole, the woman behind the Echo Center and the Nonviolent Parenting movement. It was amazing. We both walked out with a big shift in our perspective. We learned that, like parenting and dancing, empathy isn’t a theoretical exercise. I intellectually understood that I was meant to be empathetic with my child. I read about trauma for a year before we adopted him; I went to Africa and saw it with my own eyes. And yet, in the moment I simply wanted him to stop acting like such a freaked-out, aggressive wierdo and just fucking sing along with the rest of the well-behaved kids at Music Together.
Ruth helped us to acknowledge the fact that his behavior is fear-based and grounded in the assumption that the world is a frightening place in which everyone he loves will abandon him. Every time we let him push us over the edge we’re confirming that assumption and re-enforcing the trauma.
I have a picture of T when he first arrived at the orphanage and I can barely look at it, it makes me so sad. He looks absolutely terrified. It’s hard for me to remember that my hilarious, charming, fierce little man is somewhere in him still that scared baby. So now every time I’m confronted with his maddening behavior, I try to access the same empathy I feel when I look at the picture. It’s hard. It’s painful. And it makes me realize how little empathy I was feeling before.
We’ve recommitted to non-violent strategies and we’ve been doing better. On Sunday we took T up to Mt. Baldy to have his first glimpse of snow. And because it was a new experience, he was anxious and controlling and combative all morning. But we were somehow able to breathe and move through it and arrive at the magical moment of him saying, “SNOW!” We even got it on film. Here it is.
I took an ill-advised Dayquil way too late in the day and now I’m huddled in the corner of a hotel room typing away in the dark like a regular tweaker. I’m the last of the clan to succumb to this beastly, mutant virus and it has made our trip to Palm Springs more of an endurance exercise than a vacation.
Here’s a pic from our hike in Joshua Tree. A worthy endurance exercise if ever there was one.
T got tired and lay down in the middle of the trail:
We’ve been here for a few days because we felt like we needed a non-work-related family getaway. I try to keep this blog fairly humorous most of the time, but I have to get real and say that it’s been hard lately. T’s anxiety, aggression and control issues are through the roof. I’m digging deeper than I ever thought possible and still sometimes find myself losing my patience and snapping in ways I’m not proud of.
I believe we’re facing the fallout of T’s early childhood trauma. I console myself with the knowledge that I have a tremendous number of resources and a strong community of parents who have grappled with similar challenges. I’m discovering that feeling theoretically prepared for a high-needs child and actually dealing with the daily reality, particularly when I’m feeling off my game, is a very different thing. I know that we’ll get through this together and that we’ll emerge wiser on the other side. I’m just not sure how yet.
On the flip side, there is the unbearable sweetness of Christmas morning…
Best Ever Christmas morning quote:
Dad: (pointing to the brand new bike with the big red bow) What did Santa bring you?
Tariku: (pointing to the chair next to it, which has been there for years) A CHAIR!
Scott and I are now featured relationship vloggers on The Nest’s new series, He Said, She Said. Along with three other couples, we’re vlogging on a new relationship topic every week. Find out what we think about everything from nagging to white lies to rehab.
I’ve been absent due to a week-long unintentional Amish-type retreat. My computer and my car were both vandalized- the computer by my monster toddler and the car by some jerkwad in the Petco parking lot. This happened while Scott was on tour and all of my babysitters got the flu at the same time. It sort of felt like God saying, “Chill the heck out and spend some time with your kid.” So that’s what I did. But now I’m back with a question…
Do you perpetuate the Big Lie? Do you participate in the world’s oldest ploy to manipulate children into good behavior?
And by that I mean, of course, Santa. Now, I didn’t grow up believing in Santa, so I never had the traumatic revelation of the fallacy of that belief. You’d think that my Christian husband would weigh in more heavily on this decision, but he keeps throwing the ball back in my court. I’ve done an informal poll of my friends and it seems that all but the most devout (from a couple of different camps) perpetuate the lie.
I guess in the end it was my love of stories and magic that tipped the scale. So I have arrived at a yes. Yes, we’re perpetuating the Big Lie. But then another question arises- how do you tell the story? When the mall Santa asked T if he had been a good boy, T looked at him like, “huh?” Because we don’t use language like that. We don’t classify him as “good” or “bad,” “naughty” or “nice.” We prefer the Nonviolent Parenting model of looking at T’s behavior as a system of needs and strategies.
Although lately I’ve been tempted to start in with the threat/bribe aspect of the Santa story because T has been so, well, so BAD. And I was hardly successful in employing my nonviolent paradigm when T darted into the middle of an intersection as the light changed. I employed the Mommy Dearest paradigm that day. But I digress.
In spite of my temptation to lord that mythic piece of coal over T’s head, we’re eschewing the naughty/nice concept and focusing instead on the sled/reindeer/fat guy in a red suit stuff. So far, T is just concerned that the dogs are going to bark at Santa and scare him.
We got our tree this weekend. It smells great and it looks beautiful and I can’t help but think that I’ve come a long way since my first tree.
My parents weren’t “Hanukkah bush” kind of Jews, so I’d never had the whole Christmas tree experience until Scott and I moved in together seven years ago. Scott was on tour for the first few weeks of December that year, so it was up to me to decorate the apartment if it was going to get done. He had let me know how much Christmas meant to him, so I was determined to deliver.
I got a live tree, because I was totally traumatized by the dead tree thing. Never mind that we lived in an apartment and had nowhere to plant it. I bought a bunch of purple ornaments because I had a styley (translation: ugly), high-concept, purple tree plan. Then I spent hours trying to decorate the thing and when I was done, my fingers were shredded. Why? Because no one told me that there was such a thing as an ornament hanger. I took the top off of every single ornament and then put it back together on the branch, all the while wondering why no one had come up with a better way.
Fast forward to me opening my dedicated ornament storage box in front of the fire with our holiday jams going and, well, I’d say we have ourselves a real holiday around here these days.
Of course, the first thing Tariku did when I opened the ornaments was take out a glass ball and hurl it at the wall, but who can blame him. It looked like a ball, after all.
I rarely get all rock-wife and call Scott’s manager demanding tickets to something, but once in a while my deep sense of democracy is overturned and I pull out all the stops. Last Saturday was one of those times. By the time I looked up tickets for Yo Gabba Gabba’s “Party in my City,” there were only nose bleeders left, so I got on the horn. Next thing I knew we were at the wildest backstage party I’ve been at in years, at which a bunch of over-stimulated hipster toddlers were given free raisins and balloons and offered a chance to meet their Gabbaland pals. It was practically a baby riot.
The show was adorable and it was a hoot to see Biz Markie doing “Biz’s Beat” in person. T-bone was sort of stunned for the first half of the show, but by the end he was laughing and dancing like crazy. Scott got the trooper of the day award, as he went straight from Gabba to his own Blue Album show at the Gibson Amphitheater.
We made Lina Lecaro’s column in The Weekly. In the old days, I used to see Lina at clubs and burlesque shows. Now we’re bumping into each other in D.J. Lance Rock’s dressing room. I’m definitely better off now, even if my shoe selection isn’t quite as exciting.
I’m thrilled to report that D.J. Lance is an absolutely delightful guy. Tariku has been walking around for days saying that D.J. Lance called him “AWESOME.” T gave him a big kiss. It was too cute.
I started out as a no-TV-and-only-wooden-toys-made-by-diverse-elves-living-on-an-eco-commune kind of mom. But that was before I actually was a mom. No TV was a great theory that went out the window as soon as I came across the dilemma of having to cook dinner and watch a toddler at the same time. I know that some parents do just fine without the tube, but for me it’s a necessary evil. As far as necessary evils go, I have to say that Gabba is pretty darn fun.
Does parenting ever feel to you like this picture I took at our (last for a long time) attempt at Disneyland last night? Then perhaps you’ll relate to this word-for-word transcription of a spontaneous piece of parenting poetry recited by Scott after the following exchange this morning:
Scott: Do you want to wear your black shoes or your Brobee shoes?
Tariku: Brobee shoes!
Scott: Okay, great. Let’s put on your Brobee shoes.
Tariku: (in a high pitched scream that fades to an extended whine): NOOOOOOOOO!! Nooooooooooooo Brobeeeeeee shoooooooooes.
Repeat this exchange fifty times an hour about every single thing from toothbrush color to song selection to breakfast and you get…
A Father’s Poem/Prayer:
I need help, man.
I need a class.
I need a meeting.
I need Jesus.
I need Amma.
I need the Dalai Lama.
I need Tony Soprano.
I need Marlon Brando.
I need help, man.
I need help.
This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for the different manifestations of family in our lives. As an adoptive family, we’re living proof that clans are formed in all kinds of ways. But there are less obvious examples of this, too.
A band, for instance, is a family. Scott’s band is a family with whom I’ve traveled the world for the past eight years. We don’t always like each other, but we share an intimacy and a common purpose that always manages to unite us in the end.
For those of us who live far from our families or who might be estranged from them for one reason or another (writing a memoir, for instance), chosen families are an essential part of holidays. We’ve spent the past four Thanksgivings at my beautiful, graceful friend Claire’s house, along with her generous family and a coterie of interesting friends. Tariku is obsessed with Claire’s teenage daughter and while he was stalking her, I actually got a chance to breathe and converse with grown-ups.
There is a banner at their house on which people write what they’re thankful for. This year, T did a little drawing on the banner and not far from his picture was a note that Scott wrote two years ago, saying he was thankful for Tariku, the son we were waiting to go pick up in Ethiopia. My chest contracted for a moment remembering that unbearable limbo state, when I carried a picture of T around with me and wielded it like a shield against an endless barrage of well-meaning questions. I remembered the terrible holidays that year, when we knew about T but we couldn’t go get him for another three months.
And now we were spending Thanksgiving with this same chosen family and my biggest worries were that T would pull the dog’s tail or that he’d eat too much sugar and have a freak out. I looked at that banner and the gratitude beyond words washed over me. I’m immensely grateful for my family this year. I was so filled with the spirit that I even went into the garage today and eyed the ornaments and lights. Then I turned around and walked right back out. This week, though…
Here’s an interview Rolling Stone did with Scott and Rivers after the show at The Mirage in Vegas on Friday night. If you’re reading this on facebook, you’ll have to get your tail over to my blog to see it.
And if you’re wondering who was sitting in the seat on the opposite side of the limo, wonder no more:
Friday night was one of those private jet The Song Remains the Same kind of nights that are an occasional perk of Scott’s job. I try to remind myself to remember these moments when I’m an old lady with smeary tattoos and my boobs in my lap.
At the after-party, I tried to convince Scott that he should start a fight or I should dance on the table or something, but he didn’t feel like getting hit and even though I don’t drink, I couldn’t bring myself to kick over a good bottle of vodka. So we sat docilely with the Jackass guys while drinking soda water and eating complimentary breath mints. Never let it be said that the Shriners don’t know how to party.
Seriously, even when the trappings and the PR machine can feel kind of like a Saturday Night Live parody (more cowbell!), I never lose sight of the privilege that it truly is to share my life with a professional musician. I feel lucky to be able to raise a child around this much music.
Now it’s back into Monday morning sweatpants and back to work…