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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Back. And then some.

As always, the Cast of Characters:

Me (The Daddy)
The Bean, age 11
The Butterfly, age 9
The Darling Wife

Wow.  My blog is still here.  All starved and abandoned and undernourished.  But still here.

I suppose I owe you all some sort of explanation.  Daddy I Want was envisioned as a humorous account of my family life with the majority of the punchlines falling on me.  Then the bombshell dropped that The Butterfly suffered from Asperger's Syndrome.  Daddy I Want didn't seem so funny any more.

What I've come to realize is that life, idyllic or not, goes on.  And so should this account, for better or for worse.

I wrote a story that appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Parenthood, called "The Butterfly".  I'd like to share it with you here -

The Butterfly
Not quite birds, as they were not quite flowers, mysterious and fascinating as are all
indeterminate creatures
.
~Elizabeth Goudge

She’s called The Butterfly for a reason. Butterflies are beautiful and full of life
and energy. Just like our daughter. Just like our Butterfly.

Of course, we also know her as The Butterfly because of what Edward Lorenz
taught us as part of Chaos Theory -- the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil sets off a
tornado in Texas.

It should be noted, for the record, that we do not live in Texas. However, we are
still affected by the slightest changes in well, it seems, anything. It is impossible to know
when there will be a tornado in The Butterfly’s world.

As a result, my wife and I sometimes feel we are walking on eggs shells. The
Butterfly senses the shells trembling with each cautious step. At any time, these shells
could break, and she could launch into full-fledged meltdown.

She’s prone to mood swings. And tantrums. And crying fits. She’s nearly nine
years old as I write this. I was warned of the terrible twos. But, in all honesty, I could
have lived without the tumultuous threes, the unfortunate fours, the frantic fives, the
sickening sixes, the severe sevens, and the atrocious eights. In case you are wondering, I
haven’t chosen an adjective yet for the nines.

Our journey with Asperger’s syndrome began when it became apparent that
something was not quite right with our little Butterfly. So my wife took her to a doctor,
hoping for a magic pill to make all the troubles go away. Okay, we weren’t really hoping
for a pill, more like a diagnosis of mutual hypochondria affecting the parents of a
wonderful Butterfly.

Sadly...

I was at O’Hare airport waiting on a delayed flight. Delayed because one of the
toilets was broken on the plane. And my cell phone rang. It was the Dancing Queen
ringtone -- my darling wife. She usually called before I boarded flights -- to see if I’d be
on time or if I’d be late. Could I pick up milk on my way home? Could I take out the
trash? Stuff like that.

But not today.

She said she had something to tell me, but she didn’t want to do it over the phone.
It was, therefore, my duty to drag it out of her. So, she dropped the A bomb on me. The
Butterfly had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.

I was speechless. Surely, this could not be true. The Butterfly did have some
quirks, of course. She cried easily. She emptied the clothes from her drawers during her
finest tantrums. She did not like crowds, loud noises, or sudden changes in plans. The
Butterfly could throw a fit with the best of them -- once refusing to get on a subway car
because “trains were evil.”

Maybe there was something to this.

Asperger’s syndrome is apparently very difficult to diagnose in girls. Like The
Butterfly, Aspie girls often have difficulty in social settings. The Butterfly covers her ears
and cries in noisy restaurants. Crowds scare her, making her feel “small.”

Asperger’s syndrome and The Butterfly do not always match up one-for-one. Her
empathy is without bounds. At the Book Fair, I insisted she buy good books -- no Dora or
Wiggles or anything Barbie. I helped her choose Puff the Magic Dragon. She was
devastated at the end -- when Puff ceased his mighty roar and was left alone. Jackie Paper
abandons Magic Dragons; Butterflies do not. She slept with the book in her bed for over
a month.

The constant mood swings and the corresponding meltdowns take their toll. The
Butterfly can look me in the eye and say, “I hate you, Daddy.” My wife’s heart broke the
first time The Butterfly said, “I wish I was dead.” This led to her first psychiatric
appointment in which The Butterfly didn’t speak a word. And those magic pills I’d
mentioned before -- they don’t work.

The Bean is The Butterfly’s older sister. The Bean and The Butterfly were the
stars of a reasonably successful blog I was writing called “Daddy I Want.” Much of my
content drew from our experiences with The Butterfly’s tantrums. “Trains are evil?” You
can’t make that stuff up. Readers loved it. However, after the diagnosis, it didn’t seem
very funny anymore. And the blog went the way of the dinosaurs.

The Bean, incidentally, may be the only reason my wife and I feel we are not
terrible parents. She is two years older, inquisitive and always very loving, especially to
me. The Butterfly is still very Mommy-centric and takes up most of my wife’s time. The
Bean is almost mine by default, as there is little room in Mommy’s life with such a
jealous Butterfly abound.

Now Gigi rocks. Gigi is The Butterfly’s cat. Gigi snuggles with The Butterfly
when her moods turn bad or mad or sad. Whenever she crawls inside a dark place, her cat
is with her, purring and offering “kitty comfort.” I swear when she retreats to her room
for some special “Gigi love time,” she emerges a much happier Butterfly.
And what a happy Butterfly she can be! When her mood is good, there is no one
happier, more loving, or just plain sweeter. She has a twinkle in her beautiful blue eyes
and a smile from one cheek to the other.

I don’t know what the future will hold for The Butterfly and our family. Will
there be nasty nines? Will there be noticeably nicer nines? What of ten, eleven, twelve,
and so on? All I can say is I love her and I can’t wait to find out.

~Stu Blandford

And now you know my real name.  You can email me at stublandford@att.net if you like.

And what else have I been up to?  I wrote a novel that was published last year.  It's an entirely different side of my so-called personality.  It has everything - Vampires, wine, drunks, a guy who turns into a cockroach, dead cows...I'd go on, but I feel I've just channeled  Bill Hader.

Anyway, you can find it here: Bottle of Red

Here is the awesome cover art The DW designd: