Monday, February 13, 2012

The Truth about Love

Straight from a six year old’s mouth

Valentine’s Eve, 1982, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A girl, just six years old, with golden Shirley Temple  ringlets and dimples, sits at a kitchen table, pen held awkwardly in hand, frowning over a pile of homemade Valentine’s Day cards.

Her father, corporate attorney, Mormon Bishop, marathon runner, is in Denver trying a case. Her nine-months pregnant mother is busy wrangling three wailing boys under the age of four who are all in diapers and formula simultaneously. Her older sister (that’s me) is poking her, grinning, and running away.

(Of course, the older sister’s Valentines are already done, with perfect penmanship and delicate lace doily trim, composed in iambic pentameter. Of course, the older sister has been crowned Valentine’s Day queen of her classroom).

This is my favorite Valentine’s Day story of all time. It’s not a story about love. It’s a story about the truth.

My sister, six years old, does not know what to write on her Valentine’s Day cards. So she asks our mother. “Write something heartfelt, something you mean,” mom tells her in a distracted tone, balancing the baby on her swollen belly and comforting two whining toddlers tugging at her pant legs. My sister nods gravely and begins to write.

Fortunately for all involved, the annoying older sister (that's me) is unable to keep from meddling and proof-reading (some things never change). Here are just a few of the things my sister wrote on her classmates’ cards:

“Dear J, I think you are fat. Love A.” And “Dear K, you would have more friends if you weren't so mean. Love A.” And…you get the picture. Tell a precocious six-year old to write something she means, and you may get more than you bargained for.

My sister has grown into a lovely and successful woman. But she still has golden Shirley Temple curls. And she still has a disconcerting habit of saying exactly what she means sometimes.  She is single, like me. I think we have both discovered that our frank and literal natures may not be well-suited to the white lies that glue romantic relationships together.

With luck, I will manage to dodge the strange and ancient ritual of Valentine’s cards and decorated boxes this year—my children’s stepmother, not knowing (or not believing) my housewife history, does not think I am capable of anything involving the domestic arts, so she usually “helps” me by sending in the boxes and cards early.

But if I have to create Valentine’s Day cards with my own six-year old tonight, I will definitely pay attention to what she writes. Because the truth, like love, sometimes hurts. 


p said...
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s said...

Madam Hats off for your courage. I am from India.
Simple Solution:
1. Read 'The Present' book by Spencer Johnson
2. Daily Morning 1hr and night(b4 sleep) 1hr lay on the bed or ON the floor, Just practice deep breathing..(Dont control it.. Just MAKE IT AS DEEP AS POSSIBLE).. This practice ll take to deep meditated state.. Calm State..

Make your son to do this deep breathing SOMEHOW. Once he has done it.. then his mind becomes blank.. NOW YOU CAN SEED GOOD THOUGHTS.. Just Say sweet words about him.. How Good he has become.. And Talk only the positive things about him .. How his grades are slowly improving.. And So on...

I bet you.. 100% u ll see the change..

if you did not belive, YOU Pratice for just One week.. I bet.. u ll feel yourself, that it ll work..

Actually Children SEE and DO.. they dont do, what we SAY. So I humbly request YOU to practice it.. a

Other tips:

1. Dont watch Mind disturbing Movies, TV serials.

2. Watch Only Calm Songs.. (I only hear Beethovan & Carnatic Music)

Irene said...
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Irene said...

Hi, i am a parent of a profoundly gifted child and i may have some advice. There may have still been something you have not tried. Hi might not be mentally ill. Did you meet with a good ot that can do DIR method behavior modification for gifted children with dabrowski overexcitwbilities and emotional modulation challenges? I think that the way you responded to your child is feeding the problem, though it's counterintuitive. For any other kid, good approach, but not for this. There is little help for the gifted. I didn't want to post in the blog entry with soon to be 1000 comments. Also, I feel you. My thoughts exactly. Email me and I'll share my lessons learned, they are brief, so far. I hope that you are not insulted. I'm sure you tried everything you could. However to me, Adam's situation, and yours, is not about mental illness. It's highlighting the lack of resources, trained professionals, and information flow on the gt kids. There are plenty of clueless and untrained people who think they know what to do, who are ready to waste your time and your insurance money. Read whole brain child book for some advice. Though that's not enough and the book starts out condescending IMHO, it has some good strategies. The rest needs to come from a special kind of ot, that's hopefully gt too, else it won't work.

Unknown said...

Dear Liza, (writer of the Article)

We must meet, if you are "Adam's Mom" I would be Adam. Growing up by all accounts I was very much like Michael, my mother had similar protocol I was on many cocktails of meds for every acronym the the russian dictionary. I was labeled everything from bi polar, autistic, ADHD and then some. I was a colorful child most of the time and throughout school I was always a "joy" to have in class even going as far as being told by a teacher that she requested me for her class. At home I was in my room listening to classical music, drawing, painting. I was an odd child with few constant friends. After a failed attempt at suicide I was lucky enough to find photography. Today I'm a Photographer/ Cinematographer, I write and Direct small films in 3 countries. I haven't taken a prescription drug in 12 years, I dont have rage issues, my days of depression are few and far between but are never hopeless. Between the good there were horrific times, threats, attacks, and incidences where police were involved when mom couldn't hug me tight enough anymore. I even turned the tables on my parents with the law accusing them of things I can't even understand let alone those around me.

We must meet, talk and listen. You mentioned benefits, but the whatever job you have it isn't the cause you are needed in. If your benefits were taken care of could we put our entrepreneurial spirits behind every Michael before they become Adam. You can find me @bjornwilde

Unknown said...

Hi I just wanted to let you know you are not at all alone and I am praying both with and for you... before I learned about this site I wrote to you on the huffington post page where you have a copy of "I am Adam Lanza's Mother" please read it please. I think we can relate. Thanks and hand in there not going to tell you it gets easier because that would be a flat out lie! It doesn't ever get easier you just get stronger and wiser so it seems (at times) easier, much love and cares to you and your family, Sherry (colorado)

Unknown said...

Just as your son is Adam, I am your son, except I am 35. My parents did not know how to be parents, let alone how to love and care for someone with special needs. I was a hard son to have. I grew in an era where save the rod and spoil the child was the single most common parenting tool. They did not spare the rod. This did not help. They gave up on me at 15. I went through another 15 years of hell, never feeling I had a home until I found myself at 30 with a list of problems and life complications to great to put here. Suicide or worse seems to be my only destination. God helped me turn away from my own ego and see the world around me, forced me to look at both real tragedy and to see the beauty I was missing. Over the last 5 years I have purposely forced myself to learn to be a proper adult. I am not done, it takes a long time to undo 30 years of being wrong. I was as close as anyone could be to becoming him, but I never fully became Adam, I never ended a life. I was surprised to find where I was at when I woke up and looked around for the first time in half my existence. It can get better, but it gets no easier. It can get easier for you, but it will get no better for him. Foster homes, alternative schools, and so many other measures just made me feel more and more ostracized and more like a broken criminal when all I wanted to feel like was normal. Once I believed I was a broken criminal, there was no reason not to do whatever I wanted, when I wanted. But all I ever really wanted was for someone to love me and talk to me. Someone to tell me it was ok, I had a home, I was safe, and no one was going to hit me again. I just needed someone to make the world make sense to me. Your son and you already have 2 big advantages I never did... You love him despite knowing how difficult that is and the internet exists for you to find support and love. I felt inspired to leave this here, though I never really talk to anyone about these things outside of my dr's office. I could not find a way to leave you something more private. You would do me a great honor to delete this after you see it, but if you would find any value in observations from the perspective of someone who has walked this road to a peaceful place, I would be glad to exchange emails or facebook messages. Thanks!

Steve said...

Been there..... Just after my son's 15th birthday I had to give him the same choice you gave yours.

I had been a single dad for a very long time and it felt like a defeat; but over some days and weeks he asked questions. He's worked to improve himself and has been willing to actually work with his counselor.

He is truly becoming the man I would have hoped he would become.

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your son.... Take care, stay hopeful.

Unknown said...

My goodness, I felt that I was reading my life with my son as I read about yours. All the anguish came back to me. I grieve for you.

I am truly blessed because my son doesn't "explode, threaten, try to injure, damage my home, and all that anymore", but he still has issues. My husband and I used to unhumorously joke that we were just prepping him for penitentiary. I was scared of him. I was scared for him.

My husband would try to give him priesthood blessings, but he fought it. He gave them when my son was sound asleep. We had lots of prayers! I will add a prayer for you along with my own.

Bicoastal Mom said...

Dear Liza,
Thank you for your bravery in writing about your son. Been there. I remember crying all the time and so scared for my son and what his future would be like. I was sure he would spend it behind bars. And I was a single mom throughout with no family support. There is nothing as isolating as having a child like this. He was brilliant, that was for sure, but like your son, no one was sure what was wrong. A mood disorder, oppositional defiance, adhd, autism, all were possibilities. Now he is 17, mostly mellow, has a couple of friends, he is an A student applying to MIT, and the rages are a distant memory.
What made the difference was a pediatric acupuncurist that I took him to after the drugs didn't work and the side effects were too scary. He still had a lot of issues to work through but the violent rages, nightmares and stomach problems stopped immediately. I continued acupuncture for him 2/week for a few months, then 1/week, then 1/month etc...He had been suspended from regular school for months at aged 10. The acupuncture made it possible for him to return.
The other thing that helped was home schooling him just for a year when things started to get bad again in middle school. This made him be able to take a breath and relax away from the pressures of trying to appear "normal." I made sure that he was in homeschooling social situations a few times a week. With that stress gone, he became happy and peaceful at home, and was able to enter high school with his confidence restored.
My heart goes out to you and all mothers in this position. Please try acupuncture or any kind of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

tpotter said...

Your son may have something called: PANS (Pediatric Acute-Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndromes, triggered by infection (e.g. staph, strep, viruses, lyme, bartonella, babesia,) and/or environmental triggers. It causes inflammation in the basal ganglia, and can be responsible for the kinds of symptoms you are seeing. Mycoplasma Pneumonia (an atypical walking pneumonia), bartonella and babesia (2 tick-borne infection) can cause serious rages like you describe. You can get more information from the National Institute of Mental Health's website at: Also, you can get parental support and information from (click "forum" then click either "PANDAS/PITANDS" or "LYME". Good luck. It is treatable (although doesn't appear "cureable" as of yet) with antibiotics, anti-inflammatories (such as ibuprofin and steroids), immune-modulators (such as IVIG and PEX.) Good luck. I am praying for you and your son.