Dear Tristan: About God

Hey Tristan,

I want to talk to you about God.

You have by now noticed that people say things like “Oh my God” and “Oh my gosh” and “Goddamnit” and “Jesus.”

This is part of something called religion. Even those of us who don’t practice a religion still find ourselves saying words like that because they’re common and we grew up saying them.

God is basically the idea that someone or something larger than us is in charge of stuff. That someone or something is called a deity. In some cases, people are taught that the deity made everything or judges us. There’s a whole lot more to it.

Our family doesn’t practice this. We don’t teach you that the figure named God, or any other deity, is real. Hell, there’s not even any pretense of the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus being real. I do wonder if you’re going to believe in the tooth fairy, since you’ve become rather preoccupied with your teeth falling out, but I digress.

Mommy and daddy are what is called “culturally Christian.” That means that we celebrate things like Christmas and Easter.


For many people you will meet and many people mommy and daddy love, this figure called God is very real. In the United States of America, you will see and hear about God everywhere. Therefore, you will need to think about the issue sometime in your life.

You (and/or your sister) may decide to believe in God or some other deity. You might, through your own thought and reasoning and sense, decide that someone’s bigger than us. I want you to know that whatever makes sense to you is what we will support. Do keep in mind that support doesn’t mean agreement and that mommy and daddy have spent many years thinking about this already. But we will go to churches or synagogues or whatever with you. We will show you respect, as we expect you to show respect to the people who take their God very seriously.

I don’t want you to have to feel that your own personal belief or nonbelief in a deity has any bearing on our relationship and I hope it never has a bearing on your relationships with others.

There are also religions without deities if you like the idea of religious participation; in our area, there might not be a whole lot of community, though.

You will be, and have been, taught to do right and be nice because you can and may. I see how much you care about others’ happiness and how happy you are when the people you love are also happy. That’s what motivates me to be nice (when I don’t mess up the being nice part, of course).

Halloween 2013

Tristan dressed up as Ferb from the TV show “Phineas and Ferb” for Halloween. He also dressed as a dragon against his will on a prior day.

Tristan has been very interested in pumpkins, so he got to gut and carve three with his dad – Phineas, Ferb, and Perry. I didn’t get to watch the process as I was tasked with removing Tristan’s sister (a rather busy and explorety one) from the premises. They’re pretty damn good for the efforts of a 5 year old and a dad who doesn’t fancy himself to be artsy.

We attended the annual trick or treat in downtown Campbell with Tristan dressed in last year’s dragon costume; Ferb clothing had not yet arrived. We went to this event last year with Tristan’s friends Mateo and Evianna. This year we didn’t run into them there, but we did go with quite a crowd. We went with three families with kids in Tristan’s present or former class. His friends Kingston, Nicholas, and Alex and siblings Marcus and Lauren were our other companions. The party covered one side of the main drag and about half of the other side before it got way too busy and our kids (and selves) had had quite enough.

We did not go to Tristan’s school event because it was held at the same time as the Campbell trick or treating, and we wanted to spend that time with his friends (and mine!).

Tristan’s Ferb costume arrived yesterday and he was very excited about it. It’s a little bit of a tricky costume. The pants and shirt are a distinctive color and style; they are fairly easy to ghetto-rig by using loose fitting clothing. However, I didn’t get to choose sizes I would have liked or find accessories to make it more believable.  Also, the green hair spray we got from Cheap Shit R Us or wherever I picked it up from was kind of weak. Not to mention the fact that Tristan is fairly particular about how his hair feels, so he didn’t want the distinctive spikes that make Ferb look like Ferb. He ended up with a couple of ponytails in dull green hair. But he really enjoyed having green hair.

This morning, Tristan’s school had a Halloween parade, which was a fairly bullshit event where the kids got to be walked around in a giant square while we parents all held iPhones or similar up to try to take pictures. It was fun to see Tristan and his class walk around, and it was a lot of fun to sit through the class circle time and watch all of our kids be, well, themselves – but in this structured setting.

This evening we went trick or treating in the local neighborhood. For this I dressed as Perry the Platypus. The entire family went, with James pedaling the cargo trike with a half-costumed Kirianna inside and Tristan dragging me as fast as I would go from house to house. He made a strong breakthrough this year with regard to Halloween (and holidays in general). He was very interested  in the trick or treating ritual; he figuratively exploded with excitement and was quite the impatient little punkass while the rest of us got ready. The process of door to door was a lot of fun – Tristan ran eagerly, knocked patiently (as patiently as a Tristan can get), waited, said an assortment of things ranging from appropriate to silly, said thanks spontaneously a lot, and enjoyed the hell out of the process. He participated in a catch the water in a cup game and did just as well as an older kid next to him. We covered about two blocks – probably a mile worth of road. Tristan got loads of candy and the process actually went very fast and painlessly!

And he’s about to go to sleep dressed as Ferb. Win.

He loves me

Tristan spontaneously said “I love you” to me today. First time, as far as I know. Well, at least as I can understand; he says a lot under the general threshold of understanding. But it was out of nowhere and very clear while we were walking from the car to the school. I told him “I love you, too!” and life proceeded as usual. But, whoa, cool. Not because he’s that bad with saying what he wants to, but because we aren’t a very verbally affectionate family – we don’t say “I love you” on a regular basis to anyone.

Nothing’s getting settled

We opted not to send Tristan on the bus after the meeting about the bus. Over the weekend following the meeting and every freaking day since, he has been extremely clingy and in need of a lot more attention. Not sure what is going through his mind; this is one of the detriments his age and autism have with regard to trying to improve shit for him. That being said, we’ve had several versions of the Town Cold and that’s probably causing some of his more clingy behavior.

Or it’s the Oedipus Complex shit starting at the ripe age of 5. Though I doubt it. I think he just wants attention and is ok if that attention comes from dad instead. Come to think of it, Tris has been much more attached to his dad as well. This evening Tristan called me “pretty mommy” (absolutely NO clue where that came from).

We went to a beach in Capitola today. The currents were kind of wild and Tristan got very wet very fast. So did I, for that matter. His dad had to hang out with Kirianna in the sand (just as well because he doesn’t much like the beach) and pretend they were at a park. Tristan will probably be interested in surfing some day. We had it on our agenda today because Tristan asked about the beach several days ago out of nowhere.

With regard to school, the actual classroom seems to be going well enough. Tristan has had some behavioral issues even off the bus, including using his teeth for things that are not food (or a chewy). But he is mostly doing well. The school sends home both worksheets that explain how to write your name (for REAL?) and scratch paper covered with Tristan’s occasionally cryptic but otherwise intricate scrawlings.

Tristan has had a real problem with his wake-up routine in the morning. He will either lie in his bed, kick the walls, and scream OR he will open his door and poke his head out of his room. Both options usually involve him being noisy, and it’s kind of irritating that at age 5, he still can’t handle the concept of going to the toilet without being prompted when he wakes up. We are having a minor victory in him going to the toilet during the day without being prompted, so yay. But for the waking up, I wrote him an illustrated agenda that step by step outlined what I expected (wake up, climb out of bed, go pee, wash hands, get dressed, find me). And we are at the point where he will wake up in some noisy fashion but can be reminded to go find his agenda and follow it, and then it will go smoothly.

Tristan has become very attached to the iPad game “Where’s My Water.” It is a large source of bonding with his dad. I refuse to learn how to play it (I play my own video games, thank you!) so that they have that exclusivity.

A kindergartner

We’re back!

Tristan started kindergarten on August 19th. The little guy was a week shy of his 5th birthday, even.

I’m not sure how well it’s going, though. See, we’ve already got some crap.

Tristan was asked not to return to the bus until we had a Meeting with the Powers That Be about his behavior. Said meeting is this afternoon in about 6 hours. Apparently, Tristan, who resumed bus transportation for kindergarten, has completely forgotten how to behave on a bus; there’s been mention of a bite, standing up, laying down, throwing books and weighted vests. I do not know if he tossed a book gently at a seat or lobbed it into some kid’s face. I do not know if he was bouncing in his seat or standing atop it. I do not know if he kissed someone or bit with all his might. All I have is this second-hand information.

So, under the theory that Behavior is Communication, I can surmise several reasons why Tristan might be acting like a little shit on the bus.

* Boredom – it’s a long ride, about an hour.

* Asociality – if he’s around more people than he’d like to be, such as being assigned a seat with a partner when he’d prefer to be alone, he is likely to strike out because he can’t really get his wish that people leave.

* Fatigue – the morning ride is at 7am (which means Tristan had to get up at the butt crack of dawn) and the afternoon ride is after a full day of kindergarten.

* Attempt to connect – if he perceives that he is being teased, even if the person is completely serious, he will behave as if he is being teased. Thankfully, he takes being teased in a very fun way (which is to tease back and appreciate the attention), but when someone’s trying to get him to sit the fuck down in earnest and Tris responds by dancing on a seat, he’s not going to make friends.

* Lack of a restraint – this is probably the biggest one, in my opinion. Tristan is very aware and compliant with restraint usage while in vehicles. He bends over at the waist in his (new! green!) booster seat in the car, but I let that slide mostly out of a lack of desire to monitor behavior while monitoring the road if things generally ok. But he does not want to be in a moving vehicle without a seat belt – this includes shopping carts and strollers. He will melt down if he just can’t get the seat belt to work; letting him know he’s working on a broken one only kind of gets through to him. So in our meeting today, we may agree to have Tristan restrained on the bus, but this is for HIS comfort if we do it.

Who knows, though – we may choose to forgo the bus. It’s fine for us to bring him in. Just less convenient.

Other than that, we had a big birthday party for birthday #5 with a Phineas and Ferb theme. Tristan LOVES those guys and was so thrilled to have the decorations, cake, and general theme.

We had Tristan in a summer camp program directly prior to the start of the school year. He liked it a lot and had a hard time transitioning back to the regular school afterward (although both were autism and/or general special needs programs).

And there’s plenty more to expand upon but perhaps in another post.

The bicyclist

We spent money getting Tristan:

A balance bike (sometimes called a push bike)

A regular pedal bike with training wheels

A Razor scooter

A cheap shitty bike from Goodwill so he can try the size down and maybe be confident

He ultimately prefers the push bike. He’s pretty fast at it – I’ve clocked him going 6mph when he’s speeding along. He also listens like a fucking rockstar to directions while on a bike ride, though he sometimes needs reminders to follow rules like kids do in general. He’s wearing out the soles of his shoes and I’d like to see him train with pedals, but he’s just not ready yet. I have to remember to throw the idea of either of the other two pedal bikes at him when he’s bored out of his skull with riding the push bike, or if he sees his peers riding a pedal bike (maybe).

I’m probably sending Tristan (metaphorically) to the “New York School of Not Getting Squashed in Traffic” It’s pretty concise: keep your ass away from traffic and know where traffic is, I realized tonight that he’s more scared of traffic than we are. This is a good sign; he takes it seriously and probably won’t try to clown it out.

Kindergarten bullcrap is rapidly approaching. We haven’t had Tristan’s IEP meeting yet, but we have a feeling that his impulsiveness will cause him to need to remain in Special Ed in Kindergarten. Perhaps he will choose to ride the bus next school year. But we didn’t get into the school Tristan currently goes to, which has a 10/10 “score” probably on GreatSchools. There are two more possibilities now: the default school for our area or the school that has the Special Education Kindergarten (etc.) classes.

Four and a half

Holy shit, Tristan is four and a half years old!

What does this mean? Well, he’s signed up for kindergarten. His birthday is right on the edge of eligibility, so he will start the 2013-2014 school year in kindergarten. In our school district, kindergarten is full day! That will be good for Tristan and me both; not sure if Kirianna will miss him too much. It looks like he’ll probably still be in special ed, at least to begin with. He’s damn smart but he honestly has trouble not getting up and running around the room whenever he wants. Hell, he’s smart enough that I will look into supplementary programs just to challenge him intellectually if he still has trouble remaining stimulated.

One thing I’ve noticed lately is that if a class size is VERY small (1-2 people including him) he will respond decently, if a class size is large (20ish people) he will also respond well, but if the class is medium sized, he acts out either for attention or for reasons involving stimulation. In a large class, he doesn’t necessarily act like the model student, but he seems more like a little bit of a punk than the kid who won’t stop running around the room. I will need to bring this up during his next IEP meeting. His class at The Little Gym flared up suddenly from 5 to 20, and he hasn’t had a serious discipline problem since.

Tristan has started mumbling or talking like his mouth is full, or my hearing is going to shit. Maybe both. But he understands a request to repeat himself and/or speak louder; it just doesn’t always help.

Lately he seems to have gained a level in all of the neat things one can do on the playground. He climbs to the top of spider webs and he can sort of slide down firepoles, and he finally figured out the spiral pole thingie.

He’s doing very well with understanding consequences of his actions – well, for a 4 year old. He is starting to understand that if he misbehaves in certain ways, there are certain consequences. “No pbbt on mommy or you lose your puzzles” (yes, he still reverses his pronouns). That doesn’t mean he doesn’t break the rules a lot; he still does, but not as heedlessly as he had been.

The beginning of 2013

Hi! Tristan had a couple of weeks off from school, but school has resumed and all is well.

His behavior has been mostly la crapola. He’s apparently 4 going on 13, because his new thing is “let’s see if I can completely challenge my parents, not listen to shit they say, and still come away with all of my toys at the end.”

He has recently discovered our cats (you’d think he’d discover them slightly earlier, since we’ve had them longer than we’ve had him!) and that he likes petting them. Only he does not pet them the way an empathetic adult or older child might, releasing the cat once the cat appears upset. He tries to use cats as pillows, or he pets them hard enough to cure muscle pain a la The Karate Kid where Mr. Miyagi rubs his hands together really fast. In any event, he has trained the cats to be kind of scared of him, which is a shame because when he gets it right, the cats love it. And we have shown him and shown him and even shown him how to pet a kitty so that the kitty will not run away. They put up with a lot of shit from me, since I sort of stim out over the cats as well. But once he has a cat locked in his sight, he tunes everything else out – especially requests to get the hell off of the cat. So, he loves the cats. But he won’t listen to us when we a) show him how to not piss them off and b) stop doing what he’s doing.

He has also discovered that rules are subjective and is calling bullshit on that. For instance, graffiti exists. It’s not covering everything where we are since we don’t live in Gang Central, but some of it exists. Tristan notices that there is writing on the wall. I explain that it was not ok to write on the wall and that whoever did it is in trouble. He takes that to mean that since someone once wrote on a wall, HE may write on a wall. Thankfully, he has not written on any of ours at home, but we take him to a drop-off day care place called KidsPark and he most certainly writes on their walls. (The supervision is lax enough that I WATCHED him writing on the wall, yelled back to him to stop it, watched other kids kind of ganging up on him telling him to stop it, and no adult intervened.) I can almost bet that he wrote “No write on walls” or similar on the wall.

Christmas 2012

This year marks Tristan’s first Christmas where he understood it! Yay! It really made Christmas fun again, sort of like the whole seeing through the eyes of a child thing.

We gave Tristan the toy microwave he asked for (and that he remembered he asked for! Win!), a Razor scooter, a pair of roller skates, a toy hair dryer that he asked for (but that all of us forgot that he asked for), and a pretend tool set. He and Kirianna both got a big outdoor playhouse from one of my sides of the family that we have yet to let them play with due to the rain. Kirianna got an indoor play house thingie meant for babies her age that Tristan enjoys far more than she does. We still haven’t given them the stocking gifts.

We don’t teach Tristan that Santa brings presents to him specifically, but he has been learning about Santa in school and on TV shows. He’s especially been enjoying the Caillou Christmas episodes. (He relates to Caillou because he’s also 4 years old and he also has a baby sister.) He also learned about Hanukkah (fuck my spelling on that; besides, it has about 12 different spellings) at school, and I’m so proud of him – he recognized the icons and asked for some of them we found at Bed, Bath and Beyond today. For those of us we don’t chat much about this to, we are atheists who celebrate secular/cultural Christmas, but I find it very important for Tristan to be aware of other cultures and religions as part of our world, so he gets major bonus points.

Now that Christmas is over, he’s a little bit disappointed but generally ok with it. He’s still excited to see that people have their Christmas lights up, though.

We made a small attempt at Christmas dinner, but Tristan wasn’t interested in it. Not surprised at all.

The best part of Christmas was definitely that Tristan understood it. The worst part is that his sister is teething something awful and we’ve all been sick for two fucking months, so James and I have been sleeping in shifts because she has a bad concept of sleeping through the night.