Teach

individual

My child works hard.  Every day, she works as hard as she can to manage the world, all that’s in it, and her related reactions.  At times, this is difficult for her; she feels things differently than others do.  More heightened, more visceral.  Sometimes it’s hard for her to control, but she’s learning.

At the same time, she’s working hard to become HER.  She is learning what she likes and does not, what makes her comfortable and does not.  She’s trying to find her space in her own skin.  I see it in her choices and actions.  Short, edgy haircut.  Preference for blue clothes.  Aversion to frills and dresses and pink.  The request to be called by a name of her own choosing.  She is diligently working to be individual.

She is also in the first year of junior high where, at times, ‘individual’ is often seen as: ‘different’, ‘strange’, ‘outlier’.  And still she powers forward, making every effort to be who she so desperately wants to be.  This causes a lot of internal conflict; I see it on her face and in her emotions.  Working to be unique and true to herself, yet consistently hitting the wall of others’ expectations.  It’s tough to watch, as her mother; I guide her as compassionately as I can.  I also reinforce for her that whatever she chooses to do and whomever she chooses to be is HER choice.  But a mother’s opinion only goes so far when you’re wading through an ocean of peer judgment.

This year she’s garnered some new friends at school.  There have been some missteps, but for the most part it’s going well.  Yesterday, however, she told me something amazing.  Well, both not amazing, and amazing.

The not amazing part was that some of the kids at school were giving her a hard time.  Because of her chosen moniker and her style of hair/dress, it seems some of the comments are that she’s “trying to be a boy”, instead of a girl.  (This is compounded by the fact that last year, her core group of friends were all boys, and she’s still close with them.)  You can imagine that this is a hurtful calling out for someone who’s just trying to be true to herself.  I could see that this really bothered her when she shared it.

As adults, we know that hair, clothing style and friend choice don’t determine who you are in your core.  And, for the record, I wouldn’t care if she chose to be a boy, a girl, or a frog, so long as she felt comfortable and happy in her heart.  But kids her age aren’t often that seasoned, nor that open.  So ‘difference’ carries a lot of weight.

Now here is the amazing part…  When these comments were made, she was with one of her newer friends, also a girl.  This friend – this amazing young lady – looked at the naysayers and said (per my daughter’s retelling), “Well, I don’t care.  I like her anyway.”

That.  THAT.  You should have seen the look on my daughter’s face when she told me THAT.  It was like joy and relief and gratefulness mixed all into one and lit up her being for the world to see.  She told me that after her friend said that to the other kids, my daughter hugged her until she couldn’t breathe.  I did my best to give her space to share without stepping on her story.  But inside I was jumping and screaming with joy at the top of my own (silent) lungs, just to see her face in that moment.

These things are taught:  Acceptance.  Compassion.  Inclusion.  Yet they are so hard-won and fleeting, particularly in the maze of the junior high jungle.  But when they appear, they shine so brightly as to provide a beacon for those who are struggling.  They light the way.  Teach them to your children; make them part of their world.  In turn, they will teach others.

Our Village

Most people are familiar with the saying, “It takes a village…”  Well, it’s not untrue.  And this year, as my girl navigates her first year of Junior High, our village just expanded in a big way.

Instead of one main teacher all day, she now has seven.  Plus one behaviorist.  That’s EIGHT contacts.  This is a huge shift for my kiddo for whom change is sometimes hard.  Needless to say, this was also a big change for Mama who works hard to partner with the school in the best interests of my girl.  The prospect of now having eight checkpoints instead of one was daunting, to say the least.

I recently needed to check in with her instructors to gauge how things were going, and address a snack situation (she needs to eat periodically during the day).  So I emailed them all as a group, hoping I’d hear back from a few.

The response, however, was much more extensive.  I heard back from not just a few, but ALL of her teachers.  And not quick little replies, either.  Fairly thorough missives about how she’s been doing in class, and any issues they see popping up.  They were so genuine and detailed; it was absolutely heartening.  Many thanked me for reaching out, and asked for strategies to employ with her in some areas.

The conversation had not only begun; it was flowing openly, and WELCOMED.  This. Is. Huge.  I know that, on the whole, teachers advocate for their students.  But when you have a child with challenges, it’s not uncommon to worry that the extra work and communication needed from them may be seen as a burden.  To have such an involved response is a huge relief, and helps me be more secure in the fact that they have her best interests in mind as she learns with them.

I am ever grateful for this village of ours.

Touch

I’m currently in physical therapy.  An old back injury has reared its ugly head, and I am seeking help.  And slowly, my back is healing.  But something else is happening…I am re-discovering the healing power of touch.

 

I miss it, I realize.  The sensation of touch.  The feel of another’s hands on my skin.  I miss it all the time; but I wasn’t aware of how much, or how valuable it truly is.  I’m not talking about romantic or sexual touch, though that can be healing as well.  Just simple, direct, healing touch.

 

The massaging of my abdomen (to break up the underlying scar tissue).  The hands on my lower thighs while tractioning my spine.  The fingers applying pressure to my hamstrings to release the tension.  The moments when my legs are cradled by someone else’s arm with the statement of “I’ve got you, you can let go.”  Gentle movements; soft-spoken encouragement.  For no other purpose than to heal my body.  

 

The result is healing not only my back, but also my spirit.  By being cared for.  Feeling connected; supported.  Knowing that for 40 minutes twice a week, the sole focus is to heal and help only me.  Retraining connections long broken.  Restoring my faith in my own body.

 

I can heal; I will be whole.  In so many more ways than just one.

5 Hours To Go

There was pain.  My back strain, rearing its head all week, was taking a toll.  I had gone through as many sit for 5 minutes; stand for 10 minutes; sit again cycles as I could stand.  I considered leaving early to go home and rest it.

There was concern.  My daughter had not yet checked in from school; she should have been home by now.  I called; no answer.  I texted; no answer.  I tracked her phone location; near the school, not moving.  Is she walking?  Is she safe?  I left work early without a second thought.

There was traffic.  Gridlock, to be precise.  Of all days I needed to get home quickly (15 miles from work), no one was moving.  I avoided the freeway, but the back roads were just as packed.  I inched towards home, repeatedly calling her, hoping all was okay.

There was relief.  I finally heard from her; a huge accident on the freeway was the cause of all the congestion.  So much so that the school buses were delayed, and stuck as well.  She texted me a picture from the bus; she was bored, but safe.

There was discomfort.  Driving with my back was still hard.  1+ hours in the car on the way home didn’t help.  No position was good.  I redirected my attention as best as I could; the radio only does so much.

There was anger.  How had the school not bothered to inform the parents about the bus issue?!?  No texts, no calls.  Unacceptable.  I resolved to call them first thing in the morning.

There was fatigue.  Home, finally.  All I wanted was to lie down and rest my back; no bending, no working.  Just resting.

There was annoyance.  My little bit of a dog had relieved herself in the foyer, twice.  I carefully stepped over it and put both dogs outside until I could contain the mess.  Not her fault, exactly, we were home much later than she probably expected us.  Finally clean; bending was hard.

There was contentment.  My daughter walked in the door, and immediately came over and hugged me tight, saying she was so glad to see me, and be off that bus.  And boy, did she need to use the bathroom.

There was bellowing.  Her bathroom smelled like sewer.  She had apparently clogged the toilet just before leaving this morning, and all the water had finally drained out and let some of the gas back through.  I pulled out the rubber gloves and plunger, and luckily it cleared quickly.  More bending, though.

There was hunger.  For both of us.  I started dinner on the stove and asked her to watch it while she did her project for school.

There was laundry.  We found a single flea on one dog that morning; I had already applied flea medicine, and started laundering the bedding.  Only 4 loads to go before bed; grief.  Lots of carrying to and fro.

There was water.  Washing both dogs to ensure flea-free before bedtime.  They both hate the water; after the baths, I kind of did too.  Unfortunately, there was also lots of bending.

There was fuzz.  Purple fuzz; tons of it.  Apparently I had washed the new purple luxe blanket with the dog towels, and it shed.  Everywhere.  There was now fuzz on the dogs, on me, on the floor, in the tub.  More to clean; more bending.

There was burning.  Or at least the smell of it.  She had become so engrossed in her project that she forgot about the stove.  Fortunately only a little caramelized burning, but the rest of the food was spared.  Finally we ate; it was delicious.

There were dishes.  Out with the clean, in with the dirty.  More bending; how much more bending?

There was trash.  Trash night, to be exact.  Out to the cans, cans to the street.  Gratefully, she helped with this one.

There was pride.  Her project was finished, and was fantastic.  I continue to be amazed by her creative mind and abilities.

There was anxiety.  Any fleas on people?  The need to take a last minute shower to make sure she was clear.  We were now edging past bedtime.  She was tired, and so was I.

There was embarrassment.  The one place I had not checked was my email.  The school had sent notification; two, in fact.  Accident on the freeway.  Buses delayed.  Sharing with parents so they knew.  Next time I’ll remember to check there.

There was stalling.  Shower done, but not teeth, not clothes for tomorrow.  Dragging her feet, extending the day.  Finally she got into bed.

There was irritation.  You made my bed wrong!  I had made it to help expedite the night, but forgotten that the sheet has to be even on both sides.  OCD tendencies rear their head, once again.  She re-made the bed, then apologized for being grumpy.  I understood; I was pretty grumpy by then, myself.

There was panic.  What if the flea comes back?  What if the flea was on her?  What if it went in her nose?  What if it bit her while she slept?  Inspecting and re-inspecting the bed, pillows, stuffed bunny, no fleas.  Are you SURE???  Yes; no fleas.  Bug anxieties are hard to overcome, once they find their way into your head.  We checked once more just to be certain.

There was love.  Every night, hugs and kisses with my girl before bed.  No matter the day, the irritations, the trials or celebrations, there is love.  She drifted off feeling secure and cared for.

There was quiet.  Finally, quiet; and rest.  No more chaos.  And tomorrow, we get to do it all again.  Hopefully without all the bending.

Oh, My Girl

Girl Heart

Oh, my sweet, sweet girl.  I’m lying in bed at 5:28 pretending to still be asleep, though I was awakened by the beeping of her alarm clock at 5AM sharp.

It’s been a rough tween-attitude-filled few weeks at our house. Yesterday we had a heart to heart about humans, our limits, and how to help.  More specifically, Mama’s limits (both physically and emotionally) and how she could help more. How as a family, we don’t expect one person to manage everything alone. We help. We share the responsibilities. We love.

During our chat, Mama broke down a little. I used to think this was unforgivable, to show my child my limits. But some time ago I realized that by (carefully and safely) showing her and talking to her about the fact that I am not super-human, that I have bad days too, that I also need help, I am teaching her something valuable. I am letting her know that SHE doesn’t have to be perfect either. That it’s okay to ask for help, and it’s okay to break every once in a while. Carrying the world and keeping it all inside is a damaging habit to fall into.

And I think, for at least a small moment, she heard me. Because sometime last night, completely un-prompted,  she set her own alarm for 5AM. This amazing girl who plays hard all day and sleeps like the dead, who I have to pry out of bed every morning and cajole and badger to get out of the house (usually late). I can hear her in the other rooms getting dressed, brushing hair and teeth, getting her lunch packed, starting breakfast (mine, I believe). Some time yesterday, she made the choice to help. To be present. To give of herself and her own precious time.

At 11-yrs-old, this is not a small thing. For a kiddo with behavior challenges, it’s kind of a game-changer. It’s huge. Almost as huge as her beautiful heart.  Oh, my lovely amazing girl.

Quiet

QuietQuiet.  It is a new experience, here in this small little house.  Quiet.  No singing, no chatter, no laughter or complaints or “mom!” from across the hall.  Just quiet.

These last three weeks are the longest we’ve ever been apart.  Coming up on 11 years, and I’ve been present for almost every single day.  And now, quiet.

Divorce is hard.  It’s messy, draining, humbling, shameful, liberating, and upending all at once.  We’ve done the hard work; striving for amicability.  Dividing pennies, possessions, and plans.  Laying out a road map for where we are hoping to get in the future, though we now have so much less clarity on how to get there.

Dismantling a life is difficult enough; but how do you share a being?  Parse out the moments you cling to while calendaring your time together and apart?  Watching the days spread into weeks, into months.  Knowing you should be savoring the uniqueness of space, but unable to fill the empty shadow with anything but the memory of a shimmering sound.

It’s consistently baffling.  I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.

The quiet.

Absent

I have been absent.

From the page.  From myself.  From my need to express, unload, release, and expound.  It is difficult, raising a child with behavior issues.  I know, those of you who can relate, already know this.  I also know it is helpful to get the words and feelings and fears OUT of my head and heart.  And yet, I have not.

I have been absent.

My body and brain are starting to revolt.  Lack of expression (i.e. repressing the frustrating moments) is making me irritable more often.  Lack of exercise (repressing the stress and not releasing it physically) is making my body weak and toxic.  I know this.  But at the end of long, exhausting days, I find I just want to cocoon.  It is not the best choice.

I have been absent.

But not where my child is concerned.  Not where her future and schooling and medical intervention and aftercare is concerned.  I have labored over every detail, every choice, every future plan trying to make sure that we’re on the right path.  Worrying that I may make a mis-step, where she is concerned.  Being brave enough to let her fly, but always waiting to catch her when the bottom falls out.  I have NOT been absent from her.  But the strain of being on-point 24/7 for her and all that entails has been catching up with me lately.  And I am starting to realize that it’s because it’s unrealistic to be everything for her, and to her, and about her, and be everything else I’m supposed to be, simultaneously.  And doing all of that, while being absent from myself, makes me a worse version of me, and a less effective mother.

I have been absent.  I will try to be less so.