Knock Knock Ketchup

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Yesterday morning I stayed home from work and took my kindergartener to the doctor.  He’d had a sore throat for two days and it turned out to be strep throat.

We spent two hours waiting to be seen in Pediatric Associates.  The waiting room was full when we got there.  It emptied out twice before a nurse took pity on us, swabbed his throat (never have seen that look on his face before) and off we went to the pharmacy for the penicillin.

The trouble was, we arrived at the pharmacy and they didn’t have the electronic order in yet.  It’s a half hour drive from the doctor to the pharmacy, and of course electronic prescriptions are supposed to be instantaneous.  Aren’t they?

So once again call me crazy but like when I tell the kids to learn how to handwrite instead of type because one day they may find themselves in the forest needing to carve something out on a tree when the apocalypse comes, I was really wishing I had a handwritten prescription in my pocket at that moment.

Ironically, I did.  They gave me one for steroids “just in case” but they electronically transmitted the one I really needed.

You know me.   I had words with the pharmacist and explained how IT WAS CRITICAL that I got the meds into the child immediately.  She explained that she had multiple feeds coming in and had to go through 20 electronic orders “by hand” to find the one for Barrett.  In the end, it didn’t take the warned additional hour, it took about 10 minutes, because she is nice (no matter what the Walgreens policy and procedures) and maybe she had sympathy for the little guy, who looked terrible.

Here’s how it had gone for him.  He’d gotten a bad knee injury at school, which got stuck to the giant band-aid.  His mother did not follow her first instinct to soak it off of him in the bathtub, and instead ripped it off…and took the scab right along with it.  That had to be my worst parenting moment ever watching the blood run down his leg.  He limped and screamed and cried for half an hour and I swear he lost trust, too.

This is my wild child.  He complains about nothing.  No injury bothers him.  He once broke his arm falling down the staircase on the new bunk beds and barely cried.  So I felt terrible about the knee and I felt worse when he developed strep two days later and as we were leaving for the doctor he was screaming,”I CAN’T BREATHE! I CAN’T BREATHE!”  We walked around with hand towels so he could spit in them because his throat hurt so much he wouldn’t swallow.

Then the three-hour odyssey to get him seen and the right medicine in hand.  So by the time I hit the pharmacy, I was pretty desperate.

Add to this the spell of despair I’d been walking around under over the weekend, all because of a birthday party.

I have another child who is brilliant and learning disabled.  He attends a special needs classroom to get the disabilities under control and make him more functional.  In that classroom there are all levels of children with Aspergers, which they say (I am not convinced) is a form of autism.  There is no such thing here in this district where they address the gifted population and Aspergers/learning disabilities at the same time (but there SHOULD be).

So there were two birthday parties on Sunday.  One got missed because of the strep.  The other was like a comedy-tragedy.

The boy was turning 10 and he walked around with a constant smile on his face, thrilled beyond measure to be having a party.  His mother is extremely nice but she does not speak much English and I do not speak much Spanish, so I ended up talking to his grandmother. She asked me how I was finding the school and the program.  She said that her grandson had been falling behind academically before he got to this school, and now he was catching up.  He was just starting to read Chapter Books.  Naturally my son had come to the party with a book, because he self-taught reading at 4 and has read every book in the library (the entire library, not just the kids’ section) – he may have disabilities, but reading is his strength.

Kids with Aspergers have a hard time socially.  They miss social cues and have to be taught how to read other people’s intentions, so they can respond appropriately.  Anytime there is a birthday party, I take my kid.  He’s gone to two parties this year for kids at his new school.

Both times, only two kids showed up – mine, and the other kid.

Why wouldn’t parents make certain that their kid goes to every social occasion when the thing they need most is opportunities to be social?

I don’t know what’s really going on at that school, and I don’t really know what the dynamics of the classroom are.  Just as I was starting to get worried about the peer interaction my kid doesn’t have academically in the classroom, the birthday child walked up to me and asked,”Why doesn’t your son eat breakfast at the school?”

I explained that his brother goes to a different school, so he has to be dropped off first and then my other son gets dropped off at his school, so he is always going to be too late for breakfast at school.

He asked,”So when is he going to start coming to breakfast?”


I smiled ruefully at him and said,”Never.  I’m sorry.”

He walked away with the same, unchanging smile on his face.

Then a boy walked in whose mother had to translate for him.  She had to say,”Remember, this is how you have a conversation.  If you tell her “Berenstain Bear” but she wasn’t at the store with us, how will she know what you mean?  You have to explain.”

Actually, he didn’t.  I already knew he had been to a store and fell in love with an “antique” pre-loved Berenstain stuffed animal but wasn’t allowed to take it home.  But, I let her do her schtick because that is how he will (hopefully, maybe) learn to communicate.

She turned to me and said,”He has autism.”  Like I did not know this.

This breaks my heart in ways that I cannot describe to you.  As painful as it is sometimes to watch your child flounder, with a brilliant mind and amazing skills that few have, but also enormously challenged to handwrite and understand other people’s intentions, how different is it when your child will never get past a certain point?  When he doesn’t have any gifts, just disabilities?  When you know he will never be able to function on his own?

So after a day when I couldn’t go to work, when I had the privilege of spending half of the day getting the child straightened out at the doctor, and as I was picking up the other child at school, I was reminded that the next day was the big FCAT Writing day.  This is Florida’s standardized test that they teach toward the entire year.  It is the one FCAT that my son does not get a perfect score on like the Reading and the Math.  On a scale of 1 to 6 my kid usually gets a 2 or a 3 and they have been pushing his behind to get him up to a 6.  I don’t personally care what he gets on the FCAT, because that is what they use to grade the school, not my son, but it is very important to him, because of the way the schools rah-rah all year about it.

So I told him I hoped he wasn’t coming down with his brother’s strep.  I thanked God that I have a job, and reminded myself that work would probably still be there in the morning, and if it wasn’t, we’d figure it out.

As the penicillin kicked in, the 6 year old started smiling and joking and acting much like his usual enthusiastic self.  He’s been trying to learn the concept of the Knock Knock Joke, and what makes it funny.  His jokes usually go like this:

Knock Knock

Who’s there?

Pizza Steve.

Pizza Steve Who?

Pizza Steve.

Pizza Steve Who?

Pizza Steve! (gales of laughter…who know why?)

Today it was Ketchup.

Knock Knock.

Who’s there?


Ketchup who?

Except as I said it, I heard ” catch a poo” so I asked him,”Hey, why’d you tell me to catch a poo?”

Gales of laughter all the way home.

It is an amazing gift and privilege to be given children to raise.  I’ll try not to forget it.

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  1. What an adventure! So glad L is starting to feel better already, and I hope you and F manage to stay healthy!

    One of my friends is a teacher for autistic children. And she said she notices that many (if not most) of the children who have Asperger’s also have parents with it as well, though most times the parents haven’t been formally diagnosed. So my guess is, the attendance rate at these parties are so abysmal because many of the parents lack social skills themselves, and maybe either don’t realize the value of them, or just don’t care about the so-called value.

    • Hi Lindsay, Aspergers usually affects boys (not sure of the percentages, but very high). Actually I’m not sure if I’d recognize it in women, but it becomes quite clear very quickly with a number of the men. I think it’s really common for men in their 40s to suddenly find out they have it when their kids are diagnosed. What kills me is that the Moms for the most part are the ones who take their kids to birthday parties, so it probably isn’t a question of their lack of social skills. I am not a huge fan of crowds either but you bet your butt I take both of my kids wherever they are invited – it’s part of childhood and our obligation as parents.

  2. 🙂 All’s well that ends well. And I hope it goes beyond that to being terrific for all of you. Don’t forget to exhale.

  3. I took a huge sigh at the end of this one. Chuckled, even. Those boys are dear, hand towels, strep and ketchup laughs between the lot. Funny how on this occasion you didn’t worry a fig about whether work would be there in the morning. Kids are the best grounders, ever! Be that ‘tree’, and you’ll find the kids sitting at the base. Every time.

    • Hi Anne, We used to have a joke in high school about one of the girls being “The Mighty Oak.” You just reminded me. I don’t get very excited about much anymore (in an over the top way, I mean!) – if all else fails we can always hug a pine tree 🙂

  4. Hi Julie

    It is an injustice to all kids of how grading is done in schools. The ones that don’t do well on the tests get labelled and they begin to believe that is who they are. Many that are labelled are not that at all. I knew of this kid that was always in trouble at school and got failing grades. Something happened when he got to high school, he started into sports and became a straight A student. When I went to school more years ago than what I want to remember you were either a good, average or poor student.

    My granddaughter was labelled and although she didn’t do well in school, she has something beyond that. I suppose it will be figured out someday. At 45 minutes old she looked at the band on her wrist and pulled her arm in and out checking on it. When she was 2 she went on a road she had not been on for 6 months and was able to list all of the people and pets that they were going to visit without any prompting. At 10 years her fourth grade teacher was amazed at how a mature conversation he had with her. Bits and pieces of brilliance that was never recognized by most and she was given a label because most were unable to find a way to teach her. Today she struggles with feeling she is not smart enough.

    Glad your son is feeling better. I can just hear him cracking up over his knock, knock jokes.

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    • Mary, Yes there is nothing quite like getting down to the level of a 6 year old’s sense of what’s funny – poop!

      Luckily (unluckily?) one side of the family has a lot of learning disabilities so it’s kind of easy to see it in the “takes one to know one” way. That also helps me a lot because frankly I would have been lost without this advice. I learned the straight up, traditional way, and it always made sense to me. With kids who have something wired differently in their brains, you have to know how else to teach, and I just didn’t. Ironically this kid is such a genius that maybe you can imagine the experiences I have – when he was little, he would speak a dissertation on a book he read, and I would type what he was saying for 45 minutes. If I could mentally transmit all of the spelling, organization, and knowledge of how to write an essay, I would. But, that’s not how it works. Fortunately regardless of the “accuracy of the label” – which no one agrees on, ever – the treatment is largely the same either way. It makes me sad that your granddaughter had a loss of faith in herself because of the way she was treated. Someday maybe society and the education system will learn how to teach those who have differences, but so much to give.

  5. Awww, poor little pookie, that sounds awful. I really hope he feels better soon and things settle down. Hang in there! 🙂
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