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ATPM 3.03
March 1997



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Wishful Thinking

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Apples, Kids, & Attitude

by Robert Paul Leitao,

Her Baby, Our Kids, My Mac

I had just hung up the phone and my mind wandered back to the middle of the previous conversation. As a divorced parent, the logistics of planning events for my children are exponentially more difficult than if the family were still intact.

For a long time, I made every effort to make a life for my children as if the divorce had never happened. It took a long time to accept that no action of mine could change the circumstances and the best I can do is make a life that helps them adapt to this reality.

The phone conversation had been about my daughter joining an organization that has weekly meetings, a verbal pledge, a sign that you make with your hand while you recite the pledge and activities designed to help her earn the right to wear a variety of different badges. In addition, songs are sung, friendships are developed, skills are learned and fond memories are made. The only group available to my daughter holds its weekly meetings on a night when she is in my care. I made the calls and arranged for my daughter to join a new group being started by a few energetic parents. The group leaders were all mothers.

I remember the first "organizational" meeting. The parents in attendance sat at a long table and discussed how things would be done, how field trips would be planned and what was expected of each child and their parent(s). I was surprised by the number of divorced parents at the meeting, each of us trying to make the best of unfortunate situations. I had wanted to be more involved with the group, but my son is also with me, so I usually only have time to check-in and get updated on the essential news. My biggest task is negotiating with my former spouse so my daughter can participate in field trips when they occur during times when she in her mother's custodial care.

The families involved in the group are of many different backgrounds and cultures, each of us having in common a little girl of about the same age. Over the months, I've had the opportunity to talk with other parents and we share little bits about our lives and our children. One night, I noticed a woman carrying a newborn baby. I thought this was a bit odd, since I didn't recall her ever appearing as if she was with child. I am by nature a shy man and not prone to inquire about people unless I think there's an appropriate reason. General curiosity, to my mind, does not qualify as an "appropriate reason." As the weeks and months passed, I had several opportunities to feed and play with this little boy, who I'll call "Nathan."

Nathan, now more than four months old, is quite ticklish and gives a broad smile if you gently touch his tummy. He seems to be constantly eating or sleeping, not to mention growing and growing and growing. He's big for his age and has dark brown hair. He loves to jump around in his little romper chair with wheels.

At a recent parents' meeting, I was talking to "Melissa," the woman who brought Nathan to the meetings. She is a group leader and I was interested in talking with her because she had mentioned that she was in the process of getting a divorce. She had recently missed a meeting because of complications in her life and she apologized to the other parents for her absence. I know there are few things in life as painful as the dissolution of a marriage and family and I was concerned for her well-being. In the midst of the conversation, she said, "You know Nathan isn't mine, don't you?" I was startled, but her statement answered some of my questions. I, of course, didn't know nor did I pretend that I did. "Nathan," she informed me, "is a foster child." A happy, generally healthy little boy that his mother didn't want to keep. The explanation Melissa received is that Nathan's mother has a problem with illegal drug use. She has never seen her son and has since left the area without providing a forwarding address. Nathan was preliminarily diagnosed at birth as having a mild developmental disability and he's been in Melissa's care since he was four days old.

Melissa is co-owner of a business that now performs sales over the Web. She knew that I did something with computers, so she asked my advice on a technical question. I invited her to my home office to demonstrate a potential solution to her problem. Her business doesn't use Macintoshes. I suggested that it should. Although we don't have a Macintosh in common we were still able to communicate, even about computers.

We were chatting when she noticed a flyer on my table describing a project I developed to support foster children and families. She thought it was a bit ironic that she was a foster mother and that we had met in such a roundabout way. I thought it was an interesting coincidence. Nathan didn't say much, he was busy sleeping. The project was beginning the following weekend and Melissa asked if she could help. Both my kids enjoy playing with Melissa's daughter and my son has even attempted to feed Nathan. Melissa was a big help that weekend, simply by helping me with my kids.

The project collects items for foster children. Quite often, these special children are removed from abusive circumstances with only the clothes on their backs. Many times they have nothing to call their own - no toys, no blankets, no teddy bears or other items of comfort and familiarity. While no one can change these children's pasts, the project helps them begin a new future by providing a few things to help them adjust to their foster homes. It's also my hope that the visibility of the project, front and center at my church, will raise awareness of the needs of foster children, especially the need for foster homes.

I remember designing the project on my Macintosh. I use my computer to solve problems. It (the computer) shouldn't be one. It's one of the reasons I use a Mac. It's also the computer I use to forget problems for awhile by browsing the Web, writing a story or e-chatting with a close friend. There are other reasons I like my Mac. There's always something to do with it, whether it be installing a software update, reorganizing the desktop or busying myself by learning a new application. I do these things when I want to pause, collect my thoughts or simply spend time by myself while keeping my hands and mind busy. The way I've customized my Mac it's indicative of my personality. It really is a "personal" computer.

The other day I was watching Melissa's daughter so she could take Nathan for a chest X-Ray. He'd been congested for several weeks and antibiotics hadn't eliminated the problem. All things considered, he's a fortunate little boy. He has a loving foster mother and lives in a peaceful home. According to a specialist who recently examined Nathan, there's even a strong probability that the preliminary diagnosis of a mild developmental disability will turn out to be incorrect. For a four-month old, he's seen a lot of doctors.

I took the kids to the park. The three children ran around, played on the swings and ran up and down bleachers next to a field where a team of girls were practicing softball. It was a beautiful March day in Southern California. The sun was shining, the air was warm and the breeze was comfortably mild. I don't know why, but it seems easier to watch three kids than it is to watch two. Melissa met us at the park after the doctor's appointment. The doctor had prescribed a new medication for Nathan. It is administered through a mask that covers his nose and mouth for several minutes a few times each day.

Back at home, my kids settled in on the couch to watch a video. I went into the office, started my Mac, checked my e-mail and did a little client work. Before shutting down my Mac for the night, I spent a few minutes browsing the Web and collecting my thoughts. It had been a long day and I was happy that Nathan was being cared for and receiving appropriate medical attention.

The next morning, my son got up and started the Macintosh he shares with his sister. For a four year-old I think this is very good. He starts the Mac and chooses his own CD-ROM. The other morning he awoke me because the educational game he wanted to play wasn't in the box in the living room. He thought it might be in my closet. He's a no-nonsense kid and was determined that I should find it. His sister sleeps later than he does and he wanted to make the most of his undisturbed computer time. He often sits at the desk, affectionately mimicking my behavior, and claims that he's working. He's learning his ABCs with the help of his sister and the a few good pieces of software. He sometimes wants his printouts placed on the refrigerator alongside his preschool artwork. My daughter uses the Mac to construct rudimentary sentences. She loves Kindergarten and she loves learning how to learn.

Last night I had dinner with Melissa. We talked about Nathan and work. We talked about our kids' next field trip and my project. I came home and started my Mac. I wanted to finish this column and get to some more client work. Through all this I was reminded of what makes a personal computer so personal. It helps real people with real lives work, play and organize their day. Why would I choose something other than a Mac? There's simply too much to do to try and use anything else.

The project to aid foster children is doing well. As a matter of fact, a few people are coming forward to learn more about becoming foster parents. When I left Melissa's house last night after dinner, Nathan was resting well and the new medicine seemed to be working. My daughter has a field trip later today. I'll pick her up at her mom's house and join Melissa and her daughter along with the other members of the group for a nature hike. We need to bring frozen peas to feed the wildlife.

When I get home I'll probably start up my Mac. I've got a lot to do. I'm glad I have a Macintosh. My kids are happy they have one, too. I'll use it to work, to play and maybe, just for a little while, to escape my little world by exploring the World Wide Web. I am glad I have a Macintosh. Why would someone in real life choose anything else?

[apple graphic] "Apples, Kids and Attitude" is © 1997 by Robert Paul Leitao,

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