Saturday, July 07, 2007

Not Old Enough to Get Messed Up Yet

Sometimes when I've had an especially busy few days it is hard for me to motivate myself to jump back into the blogosphere. Largely it is because there have been so many interesting things I have experienced I don't know where to begin, and being the perfectionist that I am, I have a tendency to then procrastinate. It's time for me to jump back in and blog about some of the past week's most interesting occurrences.

I spent three of the past seven days in a church-rleated camp with fourth, fifth and sixth graders from my congregation and one other congregation in the city in which we live. The churches have joined together for a number of years to create this camp experience, which takes place in one of our denominational camps about 2-1/2 hours from home. This year my responsibility was to be "Camp Dean." I've never been a camp dean, but I learned that this person is basically responsible for discipline and for making decisions about changes in scheduling and such.

I've been asked by a few people since our return how I found this new role to be, and I had to tell them that it is not all that different than being a parent, since each of the discipline issues during the days we were at camp involved at least one of my children. (I failed to mention that of the twenty-some campers, four of them were my children). I can only conjecture what the camp experience for me might have been like had my children been younger or older than 4th, 5th and 6th grades. We may have had a discipline-free experience, but I suspect not.

Upon arriving at camp I was once again reminded of how little the general population really understands about children with special needs, and in particular, children who require medication as part of their daily lives. In our initial meeting (the other adult leaders and the camp staff) we were asked about kids on medication. As it turned out, only three kids (two of whom are mine, so I was administering their medication) required medication, so the camp nurse had responsibility for only one of the campers. Upon hearing this news, one of the camp staff (a young woman who I am guessing is fairly naive about life in general, not to mention special needs children) declared: "Well, I guess [the kids in your group] aren't old enough to get messed up yet!"

Her commentary was met with laughter, but not from me. I bit my tongue in order to prevent myself from embarrassing her or myself with a verbal frontal assault. I wanted to tell her and the other laughing ignoramuses that many children who require medication did not choose this route for themselves. I wanted them to understand that due to early parental abuse or neglect, there are many children whose lives have been irreparably "messed up," as she put it, but due to no fault of their own. I wanted to say that even if the kids were not abused or neglected in life that there are still kids who need medication to function as a result of their genetics, their environment or their particular needs.

OK, so I really wanted to say, "My kids take psychotropic medication to control their urge to hurt other people. By the way, where do you sleep while you work here at the camp?" But I didn't.

I bit my tongue and reminded myself that there is a lot of education that still needs to take place for those who don't understand the dynamics of medicated children. And once again I had to recognize the huge task my children have now and will have in the future to deal with people in a society where it is socially acceptable to do almost anything else except take medication because of emotional or behavioral challenges.

In the final analysis, I have to ask myself who is more messed up: the children in my family who need to take medication for their life challenges, or those who seem to have little compassion or desire to understand the reasons why.

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