You know that line, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans”? Yeah, 2008 was like that. This was the year my first kid was going to be in school and my second kid would maybe do some preschool and I’d have a few hours kid free! This was the year I had a lighter publishing schedule so I could actually get ahead with writing. (As in, unscheduled time to write spec books and proposals)
2008 did not go according to plan.
My first clue that 2008 wasn’t going to go according to plan should’ve come from the bout of pneumonia I had around Feb/March. That was horrible, and also made me think about things like mortality. I’m not going to live forever. Are the books I’ve written the legacy I want to leave behind? Would I feel satisfied with that, or not?
During this fun time, I was writing Animal Attraction and my oldest daughter was completely falling apart. I literally wrote the last word of that book, hit “send” to turn in the manuscript, got in the car and went to a specialist who evaluated our child and said the word that reverberated through our lives: “autism”.
The next book I wanted to write got nixed. I got asked to write other proposals instead. I wrote them. I started the next book. And meanwhile we learned all about this thing called “Asperger Syndrome” or “high functioning autism” and began to understand what our child needed to thrive. We were on a deadline, because school was looming, and we knew we needed to advocate for her.
The first meeting with the teacher did not go well. “She should be in special ed.” “But she’s advanced. She reads and does basic additon and subtraction. She’s not remedial, and she needs social modeling from typical kids, not atypical.”
In the end, our kid had one day of mainstream kindergarten, at the end of which she was so shut down that our bright, funny, mile-a-minute child didn’t even recognize us when we picked her up until we said her name repeatedly. When she finally did, she said clung to us and said, “I want to go home.”
So much for mainstream school. We took her home, and made a frantic call to a virtual academy that serves as a charter school in the public school system. They fast-tracked her enrollment, and after evaluation placed her in first grade. Not exactly remedial. She is a terrific student, has straight A plusses. Between school and home support and her doctor, she’s come a long ways.
With the advent of virtual school, our preschooler became a home preschool student. We’d done that with kid #1 out of necessity (no other options), but with school resources and curriculum in the house, she’s getting a huge headstart, reading and doing math at kindergarten level.
And I’m spending 25 hours a week or so being an early educator instead of writing. I had one plan, life had another, but looking at the results, it worked out for the best. The kids are happier, healthier, less stressed, getting a better education.
It’s been an intense year for parenting. Very intense. With amazingly good results, so I can truly say it’s all for the best although I am not ahead of my writing schedule as planned.So, so not.
The last year has really made me reexamine how much time I need to spend parenting/educating and how much time I can spend writing, and hopefully next year will be smoother with fewer surprises. With better information comes better planning. I will get out as much writing as I can, but not at the cost of family life or my own sanity. And I do in fact have to sleep sometime.
This has been a big year of letting go, simplifying, streamlining. Changing what wasn’t working for what does.
Goodbye, 2008. Welcome 2009. I’m looking forward to what’s ahead.