Table For Seventeen

Were I able to pick a more inappropriate time to have an “MD Moment,” I couldn’t have.  I certainly would never have selected last night’s celebration dinner honoring my son and three of his friends’ completion of the eighth grade as the moment to withdraw into my cocoon.  I wouldn’t have chosen a dinner with our friends and their families as my moment to retreat into the innermost recesses of my brain and lose myself in a future of muscular dystrophy-related what-ifs and whens.

If I could pick, I would pick not to know anything about muscular dystrophy.  Nope.  Step back further even–I’d pick that MD wasn’t even a thing.

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The four boys were having a grand old time on their end of the table, laughing at their hilarious (they obviously thought so) Apples To Apples card throw-downs or their YouTube shits and giggles.  Joyous teenage laughter echoed in the party room on one end of the table while the adults discussed movies (of which I’d seen none), boot camp fitness and long-distance running (in which I can participate in neither), and beer (which I do not drink).  Big mouth Wendy brought nada to the table, I served up a steaming, heaping bowl of jack squat.  I had nothing to add really, so I found myself watching my kid.  He looked happy, snickering with his friends, really happy.  The view was magnificent.

Someone asked the kids what their future plans were, you know, what do you want to be when you grow up?  Three of the four chimed with surety in their college majors, while mine said he hadn’t quite decided yet, and that is where the chink in my armor split wide open.  And not because I believe a fourteen-year-old can or should be expected to declare his college major.

But because his future holds more uncertainty than theirs, evident already.  I watched him with children–nay, young men now–young men he’s known since he was four years old, and was reminded again that he was different.  His two-handed death grip on his pint glass (filled with water, of course!) looks different than the casual way his friends held theirs, and for reasons unknown to me, I was undone.  His future is certain to bring progressive decline in his motor skills–his friends don’t have to think about that, and neither do their parents.

And I KNOW that his disease could be worse.  And I KNOW tomorrow is a guarantee for none of us.  Today is a gift we should rip open and hold up to the sky like The Lion King’s baby Simba heralded for all the world to behold!  Knowing to seize the gift of right here, right now, and actually grasping it are two distinct acts of behavior however, and sometimes, the dark side wins.

It won last night.

But now there’s today.  THIS is the reason I keep this little journal here.  Writing gives me a repository, a box to dump all my crap, organize the crap, and pack up the crap for never again.  Today, the sun is shining.  I’m distracted by my students’ musings and my end-of-the-school–year preparations–thank stars for a lunch hour reprieve.  I’m so proud of and excited for my son’s completion ceremony.  OH!  And MDA Summer Camp is less than a week away.  I’ll be carpe-ing the heck out the diem this week, I promise.  Well, I’m sure gonna try.

My Playlist For Him

I’m pleased and then some to report that Son Number One did not sully the charter bus lavatory en route to D.C.  No, no, I received a text from the boy Sunday evening from somewhere in Pennsylvania telling me “an eighth grader locked himself in the bathroom.  LOL.  LMAO.”  You text LMAO to your mom, kid??  It’s OK.  Here’s how I responded, because I’m classy like that.  

Mother of the Year applications are out and my fingers crossed, because 2017 is MY YEAR, yo.  I love Bitmojis, but I feel that my Bitmoji is much cuter than I am in real life, and I’d hate for anyone to think I hold myself in such high regard.  I assiduously avoided using Bitmoji Wendy for months for that reason. Yes, that is entirely true, and yes, I have given it that degree of contemplation.  I need a life.

I’m obsessed with a new song, well, a new-to-me song.  If you have a son you adore and a spouse you love to the moon and stars and back, listen to Donovan Woods’ What They Mean.  I cried, literally cried the first 43 times I listened to it.  It’s sweet, and will make you fall in love with your son the same way you did the first time ever you heard his tiny heart beat through that monitor.  I saw Donovan Woods last month with my little one sitting next to me.  It was the first time I’d heard this beautiful little 3-act story set to music, and with my little guy right there next to me, my eyes leaked.  With my big kid gone this week, I’ve been slightly sentimental, just slightly. . .  Just listen to this. *sigh*

What They Mean will lead the “My Kid Is Gone For Five Days On His Class Trip And I’m Feeling A Bit Too Sentimental This Week Because Of It” playlist.  Gotta work on the title, but I have KILLER tracks.

Next up is Blue Oyster Cult (see how I avoided the umlauts?) Don’t Fear the Reaper. Because “More Cowbell.”  After weeping my way through Track 1, we need to get this party started. And my kid loves the Christopher Walken/Will Ferrell SNL skit, so I’m all smiles now thinking about it.  It’s never not funny. Watch it here. You’ll laugh, I promise.  I got a fevah, and the only prescription is more cowbell.  Jimmy Fallon loses it, and there’s little that makes me laugh harder than someone trying to suppress theirs.

Thoroughly charming, but not as straight-up comical as BOC is Allergies.  Barenaked Ladies’ album Snacktime! saved my life when the kids were small.  It was released at the moment I was as near to pulling out all my hair from mega-doses of The Wiggles, Greg & Steve, and anything airing on the Disney Jr. cable network as I would approach.  It was just yesterday that I was driving the boys to day care in our superbadass white Chrysler Town & Country listening to that album, wasn’t it? Maybe last week or so??  It’s clever, and because my big kid had allergies, this song got a lot of play.  So did Crazy ABCs.  J for jalapeno, good in either corn or flour. . . tortillas. . .  nice rhyme.

When we brought home Jack Johnson’s album of songs to accompany the movie Curious George, my son inserted the CD, perched himself atop our coffee table and strummed his acoustic guitar along with the soundtrack.  He listened to the album, start to finish, “playing” along in its entirety.  It opened with Upside Down, and I still enjoy that song as it evokes memories of my little blondie whose eyes were still blue.  (They’re green now.)

Doesn’t every kid go through their emo-80s phase between the ages of 4-5?  Just mine?  For a spell, he was heavy into The Cure, and his favorite song was A Forest.  I must’ve heard that song 300 times that summer.  He is his mother’s child, and if a song owns you, you listen.  Often.  Always.  You don’t get to pick, you just listen because you’re under its spell.

We interrupt this semi-cohesive playlist to wish you a Merry Christmas.  I’d be remiss if I omitted these two songs simply because they’re Christmas songs, and since it’s my I miss my kid playlist, I get to pick.  He loved It’s Christmastime Again by Tom Petty and giggled like a little elf over Donde Esta Santa Claus? by Straight No Chaser.  Ho, ho, ho, mamasita!

Lost Highway and Love’s The Only Rule by Bon Jovi come next.  Bon Jovi played a critical role in my coming of age back in the mid-late 80s, and I just loved that my child loved their music too.  Once my little stinker graduated from acoustic to electric guitar, he hammered out the solos in these tunes.  And by hammered out I mean strummed along, definitely not plugged in.  He has as much guitar knowledge now as he did then (exactly none), but what he lacked in musicianship, he made up for with passion and commitment known only to obsessive 4-year-olds.

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Globetrot from the Silverball album is next.  This one is for me alone because, hello?  Road trip.  Globe trotting.  And also because it contains one of my favorite wrong lyrics of all time: I want gravy on satisfaction.  Still think mine works better.  Sorry, Ed.

Amsterdam by Imagine Dragons transitions us toward the home stretch here.  We both love the song, and we laughed in horror at an Impractical Jokers punishment where two of the guys had to improvise a concert opening up for Imagine Dragons.  Dressed like 80s hair band rejects.  It was naked humiliation, OK, spandex humiliation, in front of an audience of 14,000 rain-soaked and pissed off fans.  They opened by thanking the Imagination Dragons for the opening slot, and were soundly booed.  We laughed til it hurt, and we still almost always refer to the band as Imagination Dragons.

Did I Say That Out Loud? Because it’s greater than gravity.  Love.

Last up is Take Us Home by Alan Doyle.  I love this song, and every time my big kid asks to pick songs when we’re driving he chooses it because he knows I love it and I love that.

I miss my boy is all.

Nevertheless They Persisted

After the inauguration of the sitting president of the US, I wept fairly routinely for several weeks.  It wasn’t a stretch of sobbing, heaving ugly cries, but rather an intermittent shedding of tears of despair when I’d think about what we were losing.  If, after the past few months, you still celebrate the behavior and policies of the current administration, you will probably not wish to read any further.  It’s OK.  I believe in the Constitution (you remember that little document, right? I mean, someone has to, right?), the right to free speech and protections from persecution for differing opinions.  We can disagree.  Go ahead and curse me for the bleeding heart liberal you hate me for being.  I will find a way to live with that.

I don’t watch broadcast journalism often.  Really, almost never, and that started long before this buffoon’s reign; I moved into my bubble of ignorance when another political buffoon, more locally and personally destructive, rose to power and diminished my livelihood in 2011.  Still bitter, yep.  After January’s inauguration, news blasts came to me via Twitter because my psyche couldn’t manage the barrage of executive orders and the talking heads’ interpretations.  I joined friends at the Women’s March through their photos and video feeds.  It’s terribly egocentric, but I remember thinking this:  The “new world order” would demand that my son’s class trip to Washington, DC would be canceled.

Many, MANY more people have lost and/or stand to lose things considerably more substantial than a class trip.  Their very lives, for example.  I understand my concern is superficial beyond superficial; I am not THAT poor a steward of human decency on this earth.  But my blog is neither political nor social commentary (usually not anyway).  My blog is about me, and my son so I’m writing about me and my son.  That’s how we roll here, see?

Working and living in a large, urban school district, we often fall prey to sweeping mandates and/or knee-jerk reactions for reasons not always entirely clear to the masses.  My opinion.  With the faintest whiff of fear or fear from backlash, the district has previously recalled travel itineraries.  Believe it or not, this isn’t a nasty criticism–I have avoided educational administration my entire career.  There is no sum of money I could earn that would entice me into being someone’s boss (and friends, salaries are certainly bigger than mine, but it ain’t like principals or special education supervisors are exactly breaking the bank–for the work they are charged with, they’re grossly underpaid).  I don’t envy the decision-making high-level district administration does.  When you’re responsible for young lives traveling nationwide or abroad, you cancel when a terrorist or travel threat looms.  I understand.

Somehow we’ve made it to April, 2017.  Well, almost.  It’s March 31 anyway.

My thirteen-year-old is going on his class trip to Washington, DC!!!

Sunday morning at 5:30 AM, I am to deposit my six-footer in front of his school–backpack, carry-on luggage, blanket, pillow, wad o’cash, and iPhone–in tow.  We began planning this trip before his muscular dystrophy diagnosis, back when we believed he was merely a clumsy kid.  Before.  When there was a before.  The thought of him being denied this trip he’s been excited for and planning more than two years was more than I could take.  So yep, I’m a selfish jerk.  Gimme a name tag.  I don’t do name tags, but I might consider this one just this once.

Or this one.

I was (am) nervous about his adventure because, um, yeah.  He’s thirteen and not super independent.  Or coordinated.  My generalized anxiety about my kid being gone a week is compounded by a factor of 5.4 gajillion adding MD to the mix.  He can still walk, yes, but he fatigues easily and often.  This trip is crazy with the walking.  He has poor fine motor skills, and I worry about his ability to handle cash.  For at least a year, I’ve had visions of his cash raining all over DC, and not in the comedic “make it rain” way.  He forgets to collect change after cash purchases.  He worries he’ll be left behind (moving more slowly than his very nimble peers), so attempts to move quickly.  Quickly for him nearly always results in him dropping whatever he should really be taking great care to manipulate.  He only recently has begun to smell nice (read: wear deodorant without maternal prompting) and bathe without prodding.  He doesn’t snore, but he does breathe loudly, and one of his roommates is very concerned about that fact, thus in turn, he is concerned and so is mama.  I’m worried he’ll have to use the toilet on the bus, and we have been warned: Whatever is deposited on the bus, remains there for the duration of the trip, and I’m like please God, if you’re a thing and we don’t have really any kind of relationship whatsoever I know, but please don’t let my kid take a dump on the bus. pleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleaseplease don’t poop on the bus, Son.

He is going to have the experience of his young lifetime.  I was never afforded any type of opportunity like the one he’s preparing to head out for in all my years.  I wish him every adventure and happiness, and I wish it was timed under the tenure of a different commander-in-chief.  Though logically, I believe it won’t, somehow I feel like his experience will be diminished, and NO, I have not voiced this opinion to him.  My child, he of the shitty disease, determined all on his own that it’s not cool to mock disabled people.  My child, he of the multicultural school, determined all on his own that his Muslim friends and classmates of Mexican heritage aren’t the children of rapists and murderers.  My child, so often on the sidelines, so often residing in a world of his own imagination, populated only by himself and his thoughts, is mine.  Well, ours actually.  He is a decent kid.  Like some great historical figures, and some of more recent note, he persists.  They persist.  This class trip is going to happen, and I’m thrilled for the kids.

In his youth, our nation’s first president wrote 110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.  I’ve broken at least 89% of those rules in this post alone, but the kids are going to Washington, so I have to mention at least one of his rules.  I think maybe if our founding father had social media, he’d have tweeted this.  It’s a good one to send my kid off to DC:

Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.

Persist, my boy.  Have fun.  Be good.  Do good.  Just don’t poop on the bus, OK?

 

Surrender

I recently drafted a post titled The Squeaky Wheel Doesn’t Always Get The Grease–Sometimes It Gets The Shaft.  I had been feeling sassy in my righteous indignation when I began to sequence my thoughts that particular day–not feeling defeated like I am feeling today.  Whichever your preferred metaphor for giving up is?  I’m that.

Not long ago I’d referenced and linked to a post Wil Wheaton developed in his fantastic blog about doing something today for which future you would be thankful–be kind to future you.  If you didn’t read it then, you really should read it now, and not simply because I think it’s a good idea, but because it IS a good idea.  Click here to be linked to Wil’s blog post.  That idea, the idea that I should treat myself kindly snuck into my brain today, and by lunch time had moved in, unpacked all its boxes, and consumed every molecule of grey matter.  Joke if you must about the limited amount of grey matter I’ve got left, but every last neuron was occupied.

My brother-in-law sent me this message today.  It’s beautiful to my eyes and to my heart, but today I feel it’s OK to give up a little. 

I decided that if I were my friend, I would want someone to tell me this.  I would want someone to be brutally honest, supportive and real, and say, “Hey, hon.  Give it up.  It’s time.  It’s just time.”  Then I’d maybe lean in a little bit, breathe deeply, buy myself a minute to corral the tears before they spilled over onto my cheeks, and linger just a moment longer.  I’d let me know that it’s important to recognize effort, for which surely I’d be awarded an “A.”  I’m nothing if not a conscientious student.  I earn an “A” for effort, but a “D” for execution.  But it’d be the hardest fought “D” in history, and even a “D” is better than failure.  I’ve not gotten lower than a “B” since high school physics, but I’ll print this “D” on a t-shirt, and wear it proudly.  Eventually.

I was that friend to myself.  I surrendered.  I listened to me, my own best friend today, and ever-so-reluctantly followed her ever-so-unwelcome advice.  I will have to find a way to make that fit with forty-nine years of blind faith and commitment to doing what I believe to be the right thing.

I (hope I) have instilled in my children the importance of perseverance and the payoff for careful, thoughtful, conscientious work.  Just last night I was reading my seventh-grader’s English/Language Arts essay, and I asked him to evaluate it.  His response was that he thought his essay was good-(long pause)-ish.  I told him that “Good-ish was bullshit” (yes, that’s a quote), and not to bother until his essay was as good as he could make it.  My kid was SO MAD at me for pushing him to rewrite until his content was as good as he could put on paper, like Pissed off with a capital P.  Once his edits were done, and he finally got it all on paper, I asked that he evaluate his essay again.  He smirked, avoided eye contact a bit, and declared it was indeed a better piece, admitting he was happy he worked hard on it.  Most often perseverance is critical to one’s successes in life.  For this kid in particular, perseverance will matter more than it will for most.

Never give up simply because something is difficult.  What kind of mother and role model would I be if I gave up simply because something was hard?

But what kind of mother persists in the face of no and no and no and no?  What kind of model is that for a young man?  Wasn’t it attributed to Einstein that the very definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?  Perseverance is not the same as insanity.

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to him. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.–George Bernard Shaw

Even rats know when to abandon a sinking ship.  Thank you, @wilw, for the reminder to be good to me.

 

 

 

Accidental Ketchup

Two neighborhood nomads decided to make our yard their home last Friday evening.  A girl I’d not previously met was shooting hoops with my sons and another friend in our alley after school.  After I’d done the, “Oh, you’re in E’s class?  Nice to meet you, I’m E’s mom” intro business with the older one, a smaller version of the new girl appeared.  I’d begun putting dinner together, so I didn’t catch her name as I was busy tending to the needs of children to whom I’d given life.  I am pleased that my kids’ friends feel comfortable at our home, but there are days (like each and every single one that I work, for example) that I would at least like to retrieve my purse from the trunk of my car before being designated the de facto day care provider.

After a short while, E comes inside to change his shirt because he had, and I quote, “ketchup all over the back of” his shirt.  It didn’t seem interesting enough at the time to attend to as I was elbow deep in pasta sauce and my kid’s a slob, so the announcement really wasn’t all that startling.  It became a big fucking issue an hour later though, when I threw laundry in and noticed just exactly how all over the back of his shirt it was.  I stormed strode briskly to our alley, but came up short when I heard this little girl laughing and shrieking, “What’s up, n-word?” on repeat.  After the third pass, I was certain I hadn’t misheard her use of the n-word, so I said, shouted in my my honest and true, pissed off mom/you’re in serious trouble teacher voice:  DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT YOU ARE SAYING?  ANY IDEA?  ANY I-D-E-A?? (pause for extended glare to ensure she wiped that smirk off her face) THAT IS NOT LANGUAGE WE USE IN THIS HOUSE, AND IF YOU SPEAK USING THAT KIND OF LANGUAGE, YOU ARE NOT WELCOME IN OUR HOME AND YOU WILL PLEASE LEAVE.  Naturally my own children were horrified, and I’m not gonna lie, looked a little terrified, because I am not a yeller.  My teacher voice comes out very rarely at home.  And I’m certainly not a yeller of terms like “fat ass” referring to passers-by, as my neighbor heard this little girl yell.  You guys, this kid was like 9 years old!  Her language would make ME blush.

Little girl zips her lip, and appears contrite for about 1.3833404876 seconds.  The silence was just long enough for me to present the gooey shirt held up high, presented like Simba in The Lion King “AND WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA?”  Realizing she’s busted when she eyes the ketchup-stained tee, she of the racial epithet hollers all kinds of tall tales that it was an accident.  Now, folks, I flash instantly back to my own childhood, and hear the distant voice of my dear father: Wendy Ann, don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining.  No, I didn’t say that to her, but I made darn sure she and the rest of the gathering crowd (yes, two neighbors walking their dogs slowed waaaaaay down to observe my starring role in this chapter of life’s rich pageant), understood that I am not a stupid woman, nor one who tolerates untruthfulness.  “THERE IS NO POSSIBLE WAY THAT KETCHUP RANDOMLY OR ACCIDENTALLY LANDS ON THE BACK OF A SHIRT.”  After a few attempts at talking back, the girls mumble their “yeahs” in response to my exhortations to tell the truth, punctuated by “AM I CLEAR?”

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I return to my date with my Maytag and tub of Oxi-Clean, which turned out to be a big mistake, except that part that saved my kid’s favorite shirt from staining.  In my leave, this little girl proceeded to tear up our neighbor’s garden, stomping and flattening plants, uprooting bulbs, and stripping flowers from branches.  To say that I lost my shit when I found out what had been done is an understatement.  I would detail it for you, but I’m trying to block it out.  To say that our neighbors were generous and decent about the damage their flower beds incurred is also an understatement.  I felt shame on a few levels–one that my children were paralyzed to inertness by this child’s behavior, and two, that I myself didn’t supervise them sufficiently.  After all is said and done, whether I wanted it to be the case or not, I felt responsible for the conduct of the masses.  I didn’t know those girls, couldn’t vouch for them, yet because they were in our alley, I feel however default-ish the designation, that I should have prevented this chaos.

Let’s flash forward to the lessons learned, shall we?

  1. Parenting is effing hard.
  2. Adulting is effing hard.
  3. Use of the words “horrified” and “ashamed” are words I’d prefer never again to attach to behaviors my children are party to.

Actually that is merely the beginning of what came to light Friday.  The phoenix risen from the ashes of Friday evening was a series of deep, meaningful exchanges between my children and us.  I will attempt to remember what occurred after the unrest, not the vulgarity and vandalism itself.  This is not easy because at present all I can see from my backyard is my neighbor’s trampled planting bed.  Just breathe, Wendy.

Item 1:  My kids had little idea why I was outraged at this kid’s use of the n-word.  I asked them if they knew what it meant, and all they could say in response was that they knew it had something to do with black people.  We ended up having a really deep discussion about race.  It’s odd–my kids attend a very culturally and ethnically diverse school, so they don’t really attend to kids’ skin color so much.  Maybe not talking about it because race rarely comes up wasn’t such a good thing; I’m not sure.  But this girl’s language got my family talking about the power of words.  Words can exalt and they can sting one’s soul–sticks and stones and all that. . .  words can in fact hurt you.  The kids asked me too about the r-word, and we talked about making judgments based strictly on the ways people are different.  Why do people do that?  I don’t really know, I said.  How would you like it if people made fun of you because you wear glasses or because you have muscular dystrophy?  Would you like that?  Why would you make fun of someone who has a hard time learning or walking?

Item 2:  Doing the right thing is HARD.  My boys told the girls to stop tearing up the yard, but the girls persisted.  What they didn’t do was take it to the get-a-parent-involved step, and while they did not perpetrate the destruction, they little else to stop it.  The boys and I talked about how hard it is to do right in the face of someone doing wrong.  They were both crying when we sent them to bed (because I was one cold, mean hardass when this all started), and couldn’t understand why I was disappointed in them.  But I didn’t do anything!  But I told them to stop!  But it’s not my fault!  All true, boys, and sadly sometimes it’s not enough.  What if someone was getting beat up?  What if you watched a friend doing drugs?  Would you stand by and let it happen?  Would you get an adult?

Item 3:  Taking responsibility for your actions, even when, especially when it’s uncomfortable, is important.  We marched the boys over to our neighbors to apologize Saturday morning.  She knew our kids didn’t destroy her property, but they were part of the event.  They apologized for not doing more to try to stop and for not getting an adult.  They offered to pay for her plants and plant new ones.  Eye contact was tough, and there were lots of deep breaths, but I am proud that they verbalized the words.  Side note: my little one cleared out his wallet and had like $85 dollars in hand to give her.  I was like, “why does my 10-year-old have $80 in his wallet?”  But now I know where to score cash when the ATM is out of order, so hey, bonus!

Item 4:  My children do have a conscience.  Saturday morning into afternoon felt like a daytime talk show here.  My big kid confessed pretty much every sin he’d ever committed.  For reals.  About every 40 minutes we’d hear, “Mom, Dad,  this is really hard for me to say, and I’m trying to do the right thing, but it might make you mad, but I should probably tell you. . .”  Every impure thought, every curse word, every giggle at something inappropriate, everything he tried to sneak his way in or out of–out there now.  Of course part of me wonders if these disclosures were to clear his conscience or to avoid later trouble when I found out??  No matter.  The big takeaway for me was that he understands right from wrong.  I’d always believed that he did, but this evidence warmed my heart.  When it didn’t frighten me. . .  Kidding.  His “sins” weren’t the kind that land someone in the eternal hot place, if such a place exists.

Item 5:  Tell the truth.  Even if it’s hard.  Don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining.  I’m familiar with gravity–I know that ketchup does not leap to someone’s back or fall horizontally through space.  I’m older, I’m smarter–arguably wiser, and I’ve done all this shit before you.  Learn the lesson earlier and faster than I did, OK?

I know kids are going to do what they’re going to do.  I’m neither naïve nor stupid.  I hate that Friday night happened, but I’m pleased it yielded conversations I didn’t know needed to be voiced.  I feel that I’ll be better prepared for the next time.  This was a hard one for me.  I am sure I cried more than they did–and they really didn’t do anything wrong.  Officially.  Probably my tears were more of the looking down the road variety.  Adolescence on its best day is a trial, and I don’t even want to think about it on its worst.  Parenting is hard. Adulting is hard.  Just breathe, Wendy.

 

‘Twas the Night Before

‘Twas the night before the first day of school, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring.  Know why not?  Because they’re ready to go back to school.  And that is without me prompting them with leading questions.  I’m happy to say the kids are ready.  Me?  Not so much.  The boys have negotiated “better” bedtimes (or so they think, but really, do they not really know who’s in charge?), and I’m staying up only as late as it takes me to finish here.  They’re finishing up their evening routines right now–brushing teeth, washing up, selecting their clothes for tomorrow–and I hear this deep voice booming from above me.  Surely this can’t be my son.  Surely this voice cannot belong to my 9 pound, 8 ounce, 22-1/2 inch long newborn whose first day of K4 was just last week?

I spoke with my big kid’s home base teacher at the open house last night about his MD.  It’s such a weird way to lead, but it’s got to be addressed.  “Hi, I’m Wendy.  You know my kid has MD, right?”  She posed a few specific questions about his needs, and even offered up a suggestion I’d never considered.  He’s anxious like I am sometimes when the crunch of time seems to be more a CHOMP! than a crunch.  When he tries to move quickly in response, sometimes his fingers respond in concert with his intent, and sometimes they sorta give him the middle finger all on their own.  He drops things in his haste, and then his locker contents flow and/or spew from his locker to the floor.  The Mt. Saint Mauna Loa OMG I’m Gonna Be Late! of a locker volcanic eruption can be prevented (usually) with the simple addition of a few seconds.  It occurred to me just now that I didn’t ensure he’s been assigned a top locker, and my stomach hurts over it.  Epic fail, mom.  Nice one.  Please let the alphabetical order wizards work so that he gets a top locker.  Pleeeeeeease?  He’s 5′ 10″ so even without a disease that renders him slower to maneuver, a bottom locker would be ruinous.

My son and I had a series of brief, but good talks (for reals I mean that this time) about seventh grade this week.  He asked why I thought it was so hard for kids, and I explained as best I could about how evolving adolescent bodies make evolving adolescent minds do stupid stuff.

He asked about swearing, because ALL of his friends swear don’t you know?, and he wants to too.  I told him I wouldn’t command him not to curse, but I took a line from a supervisor with whom I work whose words stuck with me so much I wrote them down for future reference.  And here I am:  future mom.  I told him that profanity makes ignorance audible.  I got the eyes up and to his right questioning look from him, and we discussed what that means.  I also straight up told him I’m a terrible potty mouth, and no role model in this department.  His two word reply laid me out:  I know.

He actually admitted he had a crush on a girl, but alas, thinks he’s not super crushing on her anymore. That’s OK, I told him–there will be others.  Again with the brevity:  I know.

One of his good friends has moved to another school, news we learned only yesterday.  I’m so sad at his departure, but my big kid handled the news better than I’d hoped.  His friend got a phone and wants to text with my kid, but my child doesn’t have a cell phone yet.  Good thing his birthday’s next month.  We’re jumping on that bandwagon a wee bit earlier than we’d have otherwise, but we’re OK with the decision.  Which actually hasn’t happened yet, so I’ll have plenty of time to second and fifty-second guess myself.  He’s already lost an iPod.  But at least he hasn’t gnawed away at the rung of my dining room chair like his dog did this evening.  My dog is trying to murder me.  That feels like a blog title now that I see it in print.  Stay tuned.

Big Kid, 1; New Dog, 0; My sanity, -373722736189.

As for my school readiness?  I’d totally bomb my standardized test were there one I was forced to take tomorrow.  It’s my 45th first day of school–kindergarten through high school, college, graduate school for my master’s degree, and 26 years working in the public school system–and my 4,779th day of working in my district.  Friday is our opening large group meeting, and I’m closing the meeting with our monthly thought–a message meant to get our 181 speech paths reflecting on their practice or maybe just a happy or thought-provoking idea to take away.  I haven’t quite pieced it all together, but its focus is on happy.  Not work-specific happy, just happy.  I’ll let you know if I kill or crash and burn.  Happy first day of school, Wisconsin.

 

My Satellite

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No souls are so brave and hardy as those who take up the charge of educating middle schoolers, especially seventh grade middle schoolers.  Ask any teacher which students are the most smelly, emotionally labile and least logical, and you’ll get seventh graders.  Hands down.  The refrain is a constant:  they’re a tangle of hormones which leads to a series of inexplicable body changes which lead to a series of poor decision-making.  They assert a fierce need to exert independence.  They need you more than ever while at the same time hate needing you, so, and let me say this loudly enough for those of you in the back:  I DON’T NEED YOUR HELP, MOM.  *roll eyes, skulk off, maybe huff petulantly*

In seven days, I will be a mother to a seventh grader.  I haven’t written about my big kid much this summer, since camp anyway.  It’s not that I’m any less worried or engaged in his life than I’ve been at any other time.  I think I’m avoiding reality, and not the I’m getting older because I realize my kid’s getting older reality.  I’ve come to learn and accept that my child has long known he was different.  I’ve written that here before, but there are moments when that truth speaks more clearly than at other times.  Right now?  That truth is screaming in my ear.  He has never been one of social giftedness, and clearly, he’s not gifted with athletics or agility, so he’s found a comfortable spot on the bench orbiting, but not being in the center of the action.  He’s always been just a spin on the outside of the action, always known he’s a satellite.

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My children attend a K-8 school, which means that they more or less have the same classmates from K4 through eighth grade.  I’ve been thrilled that my son has had the same nice group of friends most of his life.  While he’s never been “in there” with the guys with physical play nor with video games, mostly that’s been OK, and he’s been content to watch from the sidelines.  See, the outliers know they’re outliers.  He knew he wasn’t skilled at those things back when we thought he was merely clumsy and/or lazy.  His friends included him, even though he has never been quite in there with them, and I’d always been grateful.  From about first grade on though,  I’d always feared that status would change.  Fortunately that change has been slow in coming, but it’s coming, of that I am sure.  And that shift in the social world of seventh grade?  For my boy, for right now, I fear this more palpably than the fear of his muscular dystrophy gaining on him (possible overstatement, I do that).  I fear for him the social world more than homework, physical declination, and his class trip all wrapped up in one.  But I’m not kidding anyone, myself especially, as everything about this year is wrapped up into one, and each affects the success (or lack thereof) of the other.

Think back:  were you the seventh grade cool kid?  If you were, you know you were.  Were you the nerdy, geeky kid, the one who scored good grades, but hid that from the cool kids because you so badly wanted to be like and liked by them?  You know if you were.  Were you the pariah, the kid who suffered dreadful acne or had but two pairs of pants and maybe, if you were lucky, had two clean shirts?  You know if you were.  Were  you the always a beat behind kid, the one who never got the jokes, but laughed a little too long and loudly anyway?  You know if you were.  With the grace of time, our seventh grade selves forget being whichever outlier we felt we were.  Or do we simply  move forward?  We painfully, awkwardly trudge into adulthood and find ourselves (and for some of us–can’t be just me–the trudge is ongoing, and continues throughout adulthood).  We find our place in the world eventually though, and thrive.  Maybe we just survive, but we don’t remain the exposed hormonal/neuronal mess we are in middle school.  But we also don’t completely forget that time either, do we?  No, we don’t.

One of my son’s friends told him that he finds him annoying.  My child is annoying, I mean, hello?  He’s a seventh grader, so I understand why this friend finds him so, but it hurt both my boy and me.  I’d say mostly him, but the fallout from the exclusion was shared, and no one hurts more than the mom whose child’s heart aches.  Another kid made fun of him for not being able to keep up as they were messing around, kinda running and tearing around.  No one rolls eyes better than a seventh grader SO DONE with another seventh grader (except probably my seventh grader’s mom–it’s a gift/curse that has gotten poker face me into more trouble than I’d like to admit), so when Other Kid sighed at him in annoyance, I heard a tone in my big kid that voiced a lifetime of frustration:  “I HAVE MD, Other Kid’s Name here, GOD!” And then shortly thereafter after he recovered, “Mom, I’m ready to go now.  Can we go?”

Yeah, we can go.  But where do you go?  You still go to school, you still must learn to navigate the social labyrinth that is adolescence, so you can’t hide behind the keyboard the rest of your life, my boy.  You also can’t play the MD card when things get uncomfortable, kid.  It’s real, and it’s not taking a break from wrecking your muscles, so you better play nicely with this jerk disease in the sandbox together. Ugh.  My annoying, sweet, not-so-gifted socially, but decent, honest child.  Where will you go?  I knew this day would come–no parent gets a pass–so why all of the sudden is this stealing my sleep?  I don’t have a moral of the story or anything, but I think, which means I hope, you can be a satellite and still plow right through the middle (school).  I sure hope so.

The bell is ringing–time to get to class!