Sam and Me

samandme

I am a lover of words. I love to speak them. I love to read them. I love to write them.

Words have power. Words…spoken, read, and written…make an impact. The right words possess the power to brighten someone’s day. The wrong words will do the exact opposite.

Finding the right words is my job. When I write, words are my tools to communicate a story. I choose them with care, willing my voice to leap off the page for the reader.

As a parent, I feel the weight of my responsibility to choose my words wisely. My word is law. Even when they become teenagers, much to their dismay. Every conversation becomes a teaching moment. And I don’t always get it right.

Sometimes I model words that aren’t meant for little mouths to repeat…

Me: “Verb, put your sneakers on…we don’t want to be late for school.”

Verb: Struggling, “I’m trying!”

Me: “Do you need help?”

Verb: “Son of a bitch! Yes! I need help!”

Interrogator: “Verb, you don’t say ‘son of a bitch’ when you’re putting on your shoes!”

Verb: “Sorry!”

Interrogator: “You say ‘goddamnit’.”

Verb: “Oh. Thanks.”

Oops.

Sometimes I miss the boat…

Me, speaking to the nice girl at the Acme, who’s bagging my groceries: “Thank you for bagging.”

Nice girl, to me: “You’re welcome,” turning to the Verb, “How old are you?”

Verb: “I’m 3. What’s wrong with your eyes? They’re weird.”

Aw, Christ.

Me: “Uh, her eyes aren’t weird, Verb. She is blind. She can’t see. Tell her you’re sorry.”

Waldorf: “Verb, you don’t call someone’s eyes ‘weird’! You call them ‘interesting’.”

Verb, to the nice girl: “Sorry. Your eyes are…in-ter-es-ting,” proudly to me, “See Mom? Even though her eyes are weird, I told her they were in-ter-es-ting! That was good, right?”

Ooof.

Over the summer, I read an article in The Huffington Post written by Kristen Howerton. Kristen has 4 kids…some biological and others adopted. The title of her article is “Parents, Please Educate Your Kids About Adoption So Mine Don’t Have to”.  Kristen has an interracial family. It’s not uncommon for children she’s never met to ask whether she is her adopted kids’ “real” Mom. In her article, she makes a plea to parents to discuss adoption with their children. Kristen’s point is a valid one. It’s not her job to educate my children about adoption. It’s my job to educate my children about adoption. It’s my responsibility to find the right words to do so…through a book, through a movie, through a conversation at my dinner table.

3 years ago, I took a walk with a friend…

***

I have a mustache of sweat and damp pits, and I struggle to push my double jogging stroller…a Target hand-me-down from another Mom…along the rocks of Forbidden Drive, the trail that borders the Wissahickon. The Interrogator and the Verb are my passengers, and I keep them entertained by throwing goldfish and raisins at them. I silently curse the extra pounds that are hanging on for dear life after my fourth and final pregnancy. It’s going to take months of Weight Watchers and miles of trail runs to get back to my fighting weight once again.

I walk alongside a Mom from school. Her name is Dorothy. She is beautiful, smart, and kind, and she has a smile that illuminates her entire face and every room into which she walks. She pushes her youngest son in the coolest stroller I’ve ever seen. It has this fancy swivel seat so he can face her or face forward. They don’t sell this stroller at Target.

You know when you walk into a meeting and you peruse the audience? When you see that person who loves to hear herself talk. She’s the broad who raises her hand under the guise of posing a question, but takes that opportunity to spout off her resume. You see her and immediately think, “Son of a bitch, now I have to listen to her crap this entire meeting.” Well, Dorothy is the antithesis of her. When I walk into a meeting, I look for Dorothy. She always asks solid questions…she’s not afraid to ask the hard questions…but she does it articulately and always with regard for the feelings of others.

I walk alongside this friend on a cool morning, willing some of the post-baby weight off my thighs.

“So I’ve written a book.”

Her statement interrupts my preoccupation with my chafing thighs.

I turn to look at her, wiping the sweat from my upper lip, “You what?”

She turns to meet my eye and dazzles me with her megawatt smile. I notice there is no sweat on her upper lip. “ I’ve written a book. A children’s book.”

“Seriously? That’s amazing! Wait, don’t you have a real job? When did you find the time to write a book?”

“Well, it was hard to find time, but this was important to me. Really important.”

I already knew Dorothy’s talent. Our oldest sons had been in the same pre-k class, and she’d written and illustrated a book for their class. I smile with the flash of a sweet memory. The memory of sitting on the Kenyan’s bottom bunk while he and Waldorf snuggle on either side of me. I kiss the tops of their heads, intoxicated by the smell of their hair, still wet from the tub, and the lavender scent of their baby lotion. I read Dorothy’s story aloud to them, and they giggle at the words that rhyme and the image of her hand-drawn frog.

“I am so impressed! What’s the book about?”

“We have a friend who has a child on the spectrum, and my son is beginning to ask questions.”

“Wow.”

Totally unexpected.

“I don’t feel like there is anything out there for kids. To talk to them on their level in words they understand. My kids are not on the spectrum. But we know kids who are. And stories are a great way to connect with kids…to get them to open up and ask questions and start a dialogue. So that’s what I hope this book will do.”

She is amazing.

“You are amazing. I’m glad you’re my friend.”

“Oh, stop it. I wrote it. But it hasn’t been published yet.”

***

It’s now 2012, and Dorothy’s book is a reality. It’s titled Sam and Me. And it’s quickly become a favorite in our home.

Sam and Me is the story of a family with two sons, Alex and Sam. Sam has special needs. Alex doesn’t understand why Sam acts certain ways…Sam doesn’t talk much…he wants to play on the swings all the time…sometimes Sam is inconsolable. It’s up to his parents to find the right words to communicate with Alex just what’s going on with his younger brother. And they do it, just as Dorothy does, articulately and with regard for the feelings of others.

Dorothy’s done something very special. She’s written and illustrated a book that meets a need. She recognized the need first in her home…then in our immediate community…and eventually in society at large. In the same way Kristen encourages parents to educate their children about adoption, Dorothy’s book provides a springboard for discussion about children with special needs. She encourages parents to take ownership of educating our children about a subject that’s both prevalent and sensitive. Sam and Me tells a story in words that kids relate to and understand. Words like mad, happy, smiles, falling, sorry, freak out, safe. She doesn’t use labels. You won’t read words like autism, spectrum, sensory issues, or special needs in this book. Her book is a safe starting point for parents to begin a dialogue. She gives us a prompt.

Not all boys and girls think, talk, and act the same. As a parent, it’s my responsibility to teach my kids that everyone is unique, and some families face different challenges than others. Sam and Me helps make that part of my job a little bit easier. And I’m on board with anything that makes my job a little bit easier.

Dorothy is an enormous talent with a great message. She’s put her talent to use. And she is giving back. She is donating her share of profits from the sales of Sam and Me to organizations that support children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and their families. Yep, she is amazing. Her work on this book…and her dedication to seeing it come to fruition…are a shining example of precisely what we’re striving to teach our kids everyday…both in and out of the classroom…believe in yourself, be kind, capitalize on your talents, find a creative outlet, show resilience, educate yourself, be happy, give back. 

I am a lover of words. Thank you, Dorothy, for choosing yours so brilliantly.

 

For local folks, Dorothy Potash will be reading Sam and Me during an educational forum at Barnes and Noble in Jenkintown, PA, on October 15th at 7PM. She’s scheduled for a reading and signing at O’Doodles in Chestnut Hill, PA, from 1-3PM on October 20th. Sam and Me is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

26 thoughts on “Sam and Me

  1. Such a fabulous idea for a book. I will be buying this one for Mia. And the author sounds like a exceptional person.

  2. Oh, wow, Bethany, another out of the park homer! On multiple levels! You made me laugh with you, and the Verb, but also think as a parent about educating my own children, and the power of the word. I too am a lover of words, and I collect children’s books, and I am now marking the dates on my calendar to hear Dorothy and purchase her book! Thank you!

    • Olga, thank you so much…it’s a wonderful book to read to speak to kids in their own language. And Dorothy’s share of profits are donated. Win/win.

  3. My sister, Christy, got me hooked on your blog. I have 5 kids all 7 yrs old and under. My 2nd son is on the spectrum. This blog and that book made my night. Thanks to all the moms out there who care enough about our special kids that they are willing to buy this book and teach their typical kids about the “other” kids on the play ground.

    Bethany…keep writing…I am right there with you in the weeds!!

    • Oh, Rebecca, I “only” had 4 in just under 7 years…I can’t imagine squeezing a 5th into the mix. Thank you so much for reading. Dorothy is a special person, and I’m so glad she’s created something that will reach outside our immediate community and touch so many. Best of luck with your crowd…especially #2, who may need some extra time and attention. XO

  4. Bethany,
    I am the oldest child in a family of three. The youngest is my brother who has Down Syndrome. It was always a hard thing when other kids didn’t understand why John was “different”.. As his older sister, I am 7 years older, I was told at the beginning that he would always look and act a little bit different than all the other kids in our family and neighborhood. I wish that there had been a book out at that time that other parents could have read to their kids. It is wonderful that such a book has been written now that will explain to kids why they might experience a kid that they meet who is a little different than themselves. Kids are just curious. They are curious about everything around them. When a “picture” book is read to them in a way that they can relate to it will be a wonderful way for them to learn about the world around them, and also the people who live in it with them. Congratulations to your friend. Please extend my appreciation to her, and I will be sure to look for this book to read to Bailey and Braydon.

    • Debbie, you’re absolutely right…kids are just curious. And they have no filters. They think aloud. That’s what makes this book so special…it gives adults the opportunity to talk about how our differences make us special. I will pass along your sentiments to Dorothy…thanks so much for sharing about John. XO

  5. Hi Bethany,
    You describe Dorothy’s book so eloquently that if I didn’t have it, I would rush online and buy it now.
    And I love that you wrote about Dor’s “megawatt smile.” It really is dazzling and a cure for all grumps and down in the dumps.
    I hope you’ll continue with your posts. I laughed so loud that the other parents at the pool edged away…
    xZoe

    • Zoe, her smile is exactly that, isn’t it? It lights up her entire face…and it’s contagious! Thank you so much for reading!

  6. Bethany,
    Weaver of words, spinner of stories, who finds calm in chaos, the miracles in the mundane, and the humor in anything… who finds a way to so eloquently share it all with the rest of us mere mortals. Thank you for making us all laugh and cry at the same time. And thank you for bringing attention to “Sam and Me” my fund raising efforts and most importantly, for so eloquently finding the perfect words to promote the kindness and understanding we all seek for all of our children to bestow upon others, and receive. And for all of your wonderful followers who took to the time to read and comment about “Sam and Me”, thank you so very much for all of your kindness and interest.

    Dorothy

    • The most eloquent comment of all time. Stop being so humble. You’ve done an amazing thing, and if I can help make a handful of people aware, then I’m honored. XO

  7. Thanks for sharing! As a Special Education Teacher, I appreciate anyone who has the clarity to see the people/children FIRST… We could always use more and better ways to connect with our kids at an early age, teaching acceptance, beauty in difference, and love.

    • Joseph, I love how you word that…seeing the child first is what Dorothy does so beautifully in Sam and Me. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  8. You’re so right, it’s not only our job to help our children find their place world, but also to navigate it in a way that does no harm–on so many levels. Dorothy sounds like someone I’d love to know, but you should know this is also how I see you; I appreciated spending time with both of you this morning. 🙂

    • Dee, this was the sweetest comment, thank you so much! A huge compliment to me and right on the money with Dorothy. She is a doll, and I love that she is in my life. I love how you wrote, “navigate it in a way that does no harm”. You’re absolutely right. We really just want our kids to be kind and be happy at the end of the day. Thanks for being such a great support…XO

  9. Thank you for another great blog entry. My husband, son and I are ALL adopted. Our son is biracial and it is difficult to know what to say to children who are just curious! Especially when our son who is 7 can become uncomfortable with talking about the topic in front of perfect strangers! I help out alot at school so the kids see my husband and I often. I knew it was a matter of time before someone started asking quetions. There was a child in his class last year who asked on two occasions if Sam has another mom. I said “No, just me”-thinking that would be enough. Finally I decided the next time he asked I was going to explain adoption. I had a speech prepared in my head and had talked to the teacher about coming in to read a book called “The Lamb-a-roo”(which is another great book for biracial families). When he asked the next time I said “why do you ask?” And he said “cause there are TWO classroom moms!” Ugh. Just when you think you have it all figured out!!
    I am going to pick up your friends book because we can all use a little help finding the right words sometimes!!!! Hooray for SAM AND ME. And for your wonderful friend for seeing it through…

    • Jen, 2 classroom Mom’s = hilarious!! Especially when you’re prepared to capitalize on this potential moment with your speech. And have a book to back it up. Thanks for the recommendation of Lamb-a-roo, BTW…I will have to add that one to our bookshelf. Really, kids are just curious. And we want them to be inquisitive. They are trying to figure it all out. We are not a biracial family. No one is adopted. We are Mom, Dad, 4 kids produced from Mom losing track of her cycle after too much wine. And finding herself pregnant again and again. I am often so inundated with teaching my kids the basics…say please, say thank you, brush your teeth, take your hands out of your pants, don’t bite your brother, stop humping my leg, no whips at the dinner table…that I forget there are so many more things I still have to teach them. As soon as I saw the girl at the Acme helping us, I knew the Verb was going to ask her some form of “what’s up with your eyes?” I need books like Sam and Me and The Lamb-a-roo on my kids’ bookshelves so that he asks her questions kindly. I’d be thrilled if they would think to ask, “Hey, do you feel like your hearing is better because your vision is not strong? How about your sense of smell?” It’s an opportunity for them to learn and for her to celebrate what her body does well.

      Thank you so much for reading and for your feedback. I love stories like yours. And it was great to meet you on Sunday! I’ll see you next week at the SWIFT event…I’m coming right from cross country practice with the Kenyan…who happens to share the same name as your son:-)

  10. Thanks for telling us about “Sam and Me”. The book will become a staple in my theater tote. I direct in a youth theater down here in northern DE and one on the places we perform each month from October thru May is a local home for disabled adults. We have to speak to the cast (usually age 6 thru 12) about the many people who live at the facility. We encourage the kids to talk to the ones they meet and respond warmly. The guests love having the plays and meeting the kids and the kids learn from the guests. A win all around.

    • I’m so glad…your young theater group is an ideal audience for Sam and Me! And what a wonderful thing you’re doing. Thank you so much for reading.

  11. I just read this to my boys. They made me read it twice, and use their names, which wasn’t hard since one is named Sam. What a great book. My boys related completely and it spurred on a great conversation afterwards. Thank you for recommending it and I look forward to writing a great review of it on Amazon. Really enjoyed it.

    • Michelle, thank you so much for the wonderful feedback! While you were reading to your boys, I was listening to a panel of experts affiliated with CHOP host an educational symposium at Barnes and Noble with Dorothy kicking the evening off with a reading of Sam and Me. A Mom whose son is autistic and is on the verge of being mainstreamed asked how she can prepare her son and his new teachers for the transition. The behavioral specialist picked up a copy of Sam and Me and said, “you can give the teacher a copy of this book”. Huge praise from experts in the field who are enormous advocates of children with special needs. Bravo, Dorothy.

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