Never Too Late To Turn Around

Me and my Joe 8 years ago

This morning in the car, my oldest son and I were discussing a potential switch of schools for him next year. If he were in public school, he would already be switching schools next year as he heads into middle school. As it is now, though, he goes to a private, K-8 school. His father and I have been wondering lately, though, if he would be better off in a public charter school where he would have access to special ed teachers and where he would have an IEP in place that would help him have greater success in his studies. His current school has very high academic standards and, while they do make accommodations for him, it’s recently occurred to us that we’re asking our ADHD son to work at a level that is a challenge for children with normal cognitive function. While we never wanted Joe to think he could use his ADHD as an excuse not to strive for the highest end, we also never wanted to set him up for failure either. Joe is a bit tentative about switching schools because of the big change it will be. So, we’ve been talking about it as a family, trying to make the right decision. Today, though, our discussion lingered the entire course of the ride to school.

When we got there, Joe remembered he was supposed to be using that time to review for a test he has today. In his 5th grade class this week, they’ve been asked to memorize the names of all 66 books of the Bible and to know the correct spellings for these books. I can’t stress enough what a Herculean task this is for Joe. The memorization part is work but not impossible, but his spelling is not strong. Asking him to spell 66 names that many adults could not tackle (Habakkuk is not exactly a household word) seems a bit much for 10 and 11 year old children. But, this was his task this week for Bible and spelling.

“I was supposed to be studying this,” he said when we got there, pointing to a bookmark he’d been using to review the names and spellings.

“Well, take it with you,” I said. “Maybe you’ll have some time to review a bit before the test.”

“I won’t have time,” he said, tossing the bookmark onto the back seat. I picked it up and handed it back to him.

“Take it,” I insisted.

“I won’t have time,” he insisted back.

“Take it!” I said, becoming increasingly annoyed.

“I’ll just leave it here,” he said as he tucked it into a car door pocket and began to close the door.

Then, before I could stop myself, in my total annoyance I uttered these words:

“Well, fine. Now I’m mad at you.”

He looked at me and closed the door. At that moment, I wanted to staple my mouth shut. What the hell is wrong with you? I watched him walk off toward his best buddy. I pulled away. I got as far as the right turn lane at the end of the school driveway before the tears came. How could I do that to my sensitive and sweet boy? How could I let him go into school with the words “I”m mad at you” repeating in his head all day? What kind of a creep does that? I was sick to my stomach. How could I leave things that way with my beautiful son who means everything to me?

I pulled out of the lot, made a u-turn at the first available spot, and headed back to the school. A minute after I had left I was back in the lot. I parked my car and approached him and his friends. Having your mom approach you when you’re in 5th grade is highly embarrassing, so he walked closer to meet me away from his friends. He looked nervous and sad. I pulled him to me by his shoulders and leaned in so that my forehead was resting on his.

“I am so sorry, sweetie. I’m not really mad at you. I don’t want you to think that. I love  you,” I said.

He looked into my eyes, muttered a quick “I love you too,” and I let him run back to his friends before the horror of having a personal moment with his mom in front of God and the world sunk in.

As I walked back to the car, I felt a bit better, not in a great mom kind of way but at least I was no longer miserable. I mean, a great mom would have kept her patience and held her tongue, right? I’m not exactly gifted in that area. I’m a passionate and excitable person. I get frustrated and have a tendency to run off at the mouth even as I know what I’m saying is absolute crap. One thing I am getting better at all the time, though, is apologizing for my temporary insanity. If I know I am wrong, I can admit it. I might not admit it immediately, but I will admit it as soon as I’m able to recognize it. Luckily, my skill at recognizing my idiotic behavior is improving all the time. (Probably because I give myself ample practice.)

When I got home, I saw this quote by Doe Zantamata on Facebook as if it were a sign: “It’s never too late to turn it all around. Be honest with yourself and others. If anything you’re doing in life  is not what you should be doing…stop. Life is way too short to continue in the wrong direction, but the longer that you do, the less time you will have to travel in the right direction.” This morning I could have driven off and left things the way they were with my son, but I didn’t. I turned the car around and tried to make it right. Am I disappointed in myself for not shutting my yap in the first place? Absolutely. But, I’m so, so glad that instead of continuing in the wrong direction, I made a u-turn this morning. It’s not everything, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Someday We’ll Find It

You just know there’s going to be a great rainbow at some point.

“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow you gotta put up with the rain.” ~Dolly Parton

The past seven days have been fraught with parenting conundrums, struggles, and stresses. I’ve been on a ledge several times. I’ve cried. I’ve whined. I’ve thrown myself extravagant pity parties. One day I added a shot to my lemonade at 3:50 p.m., a full hour and ten minutes before I usually will allow vodka consumption. It has definitely not been a banner week for me as Mom. And, because I’ve been dealing with such a prodigious load of poop, every other part of my life has suffered as well. I’m under-exercised, the house is a pit, and I haven’t been sleeping well. Of course, now I also have a cold because that is how life works.

So today, what better thing for me to do than to go on a field trip with Luke’s class in the pouring rain? The sky was replete with low-hanging clouds. Rivers of run-off were cascading down the street, and the open space behind our house was dotted and dashed with puddles and streams. I tried to envision standing out in the rain with my sore throat and stuffy head. I wanted to ditch out, but knew I couldn’t. The only way out of this situation was through it, so after a series of not-so-amusing missteps (involving a raincoat left at home – not mine – and a wet pair of shoes that became new rain boots – which are now mine) we arrived at the field trip destination.

As it turns out, despite my apprehension, something good came out of my wet, cold, field trip morning. You see, when you spend a few hours with 14 kids who do not belong to you, suddenly your own children (and their issues and quirks and problems) seem comfortable and familiar. I guess the devil you know really is better. My boys may have some learning disabilities. They may be small and get picked on. They may never be able to write a decent high school essay paper. They may never be gifted athletes. But, when the long day is done, they are exactly the young people I have groomed them to be. They are deep thinkers. They are imaginative. They care about the earth and the animals and plants on it. They like to learn about the world, and they are enthusiastic travelers. They are respectful of authority. They are articulate and have voluminous vocabularies. They are a reflection of Steve and me, but with a new and original light only they could share with the world.

My parenting struggles originate not from who my boys are or are not but from the dragons I cannot slay for them, the things I cannot control. I’ve become too concerned with how what they’re going through includes me rather than disconnecting my ego and focusing on how best to help them find their way. I write here all the time about how we’re all on our own individual treks in this life, but I forget that applies to my boys as well. I may not like what they’re going through and I may want to relieve them of it, but what if what they’re going through is precisely the experience they need to grow on? What if my constant intervention on my own terms interrupts their process?

I have no answers to any of this. I’m merely writing out loud. I’m scrambling through uncharted territory, fumbling blind. All I’m certain of is that on this rainy day, the clouds in my life began to break a bit. I have a new way of looking at the issues my boys are facing, and it’s giving me strength and positivity with which to move forward. The rainbow is beginning to take shape and I think it’s going to be a good one.