Old Lesson for a New Year

 

I feel like I should write some awe-inspiring, thought-provoking, poetic post that recaps my past year or invites my new year.

I’m going to go ahead and not do that.

I don’t need that kind of pressure. And, honestly, I just don’t want to. But here’s something I would like to share.

I’ve had a lot of ups and downs this year. I’ve had wonderful days. I’ve had horrible days. *yawn* Who hasn’t? I’ve also learned a lot from my experiences throughout the year.

Of all the things I’ve learned, however, the greatest was unintentional. That’s my favorite kind.

My 8-yr-old son, who is beautiful and kind, thoughtful and sensitive, smart and funny, is also a bit quirky. He struggles. He has difficulties. Still, he is all of those things I mentioned. He is also strong. Not physically. It’s his inner strength that amazes me. And, somehow, he doesn’t use that strength to shield himself or block out the world.

To others, he may seem weak or unsure or odd or insecure but he is not. He is the strongest person I know.

I will go into the New Year holding a picture in my mind and attempting to keep its message with me. Because, at forty-one years old, I needed to be taught by my 8-yr-old son.

This shirt is the lesson. The fact that my son picked this out himself when he was seven is the lesson. That he wears it with confidence is the lesson. He is my lesson.

 

I am who I am tshirt

 

 

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Family Photos: What’s Happening Here?

 

Flipping through our phones, my husband and I look at pictures. There are soccer games, piano recitals, and little boys bundled up in winter jackets building a snowman together. There are adoring parents (that would be us) smiling at the camera. ThoughtBubble

“Aww, how cute! The one of the kids at that holiday festival.”

“Look! I love this one of us at The Nutcracker.”

“Oh, yeah,” we cringe. “That was the time when…”

We have our arms around each other. All of us are smiling. I am beaming. I will not excuse my clichéd word choice here because I am simply beaming, people. My happiness is bursting through the pixels.

Yet I know that I had just barked at one of my boys after he had a meltdown and turned Hulk on the other one after he wandered away from us into a crowd of people (again). And yet there I am all smiles.

Especially during the holidays, when we’re snapping pictures more often, I’m reminded of this.

Sometimes, what we see in a photograph is the honest, beautiful truth. But other times, it is a lucky snapshot of a moment we wish were true.

That’s life – beauty and bullshit.

 

The reality of the family behind the picture isn’t always pretty. Then again, sometimes it’s beautiful.

 

Snowman

 

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

 

Refusing to Help My Children

 

I write a lot about pushing my kids—about when to step back and let them do things for themselves.

That’s because I am either pushing them, feel like I should push them, wonder if I should have pushed them, or regret pushing them. It’s dizzying, I know.

This is one of the worst parts of parenting. Should I give in and make things easier for my child or should I push him past his comfort zone? I must decide. And I don’t often have a lot of time in these situations. In the moment, I just want to help him. When do I stop “helping”?

I have to make these decisions too often.

It hurts me. It doesn’t always work. I feel like a horrible mother.

Sometimes, though, it hurts me, it does work, and I feel like a horrible mother.

A horrible mother who did some minor thing right. This time. Some minor thing that may or may not help my child in the future.

I was struggling to write this post when I found something online. I remember seeing this but I had forgotten how powerful it was. I cannot bring enough words together in the right way to describe this. Everything I would have said, could possibly have written, to help you understand, is in this clip.

And so, I will go and leave you to watch this poignant performance.

 

Late Night Snack

 

My husband and I are enjoying a late-night snack—relaxing after the kids go to bed. He is happily crunching on his healthy cereal as I’m munching on a leftover spring roll, drowning it in soy sauce. (No comments from the peanut gallery. Comment section below is for non-judgy-food friends only.)

ThoughtBubble

As I was saying, we were enjoying some quiet time and snacking before bed. One of the few joys we have left as parents. I’m kidding. Not really. I take a bite of my forbidden fruit, all salty and spring rolly and yummy then casually ask:

“Do you really think he should go to school tomorrow?” Munch.

“If he doesn’t have a temperature.” Crunch.

“I don’t think he’s better.” Munch.

“Well, he’s not a hundred percent better but he’s been home three days so, if there’s no temp…” Crunch.

“You know what?” Munch. “Doesn’t matter. He has to be temp-free for a day before you can send him back to school.” Munch, munch.

“Really?” Crunch. “I thought it was vomit-free for a day.”

“Nope.” Munch. “Temp. Or is it diarrhea?”

“Oh, right.” Crunch. “Could be…”

So this is our life. It is.

 

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

 

Brain Breaks and Books

 

I recently wrote an essay about my children’s desire to take a break from their regularly scheduled reading and pick up a picture book. In the middle of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, my 8-yr-old will read Bedtime for Bear or a Step Into Reading book. My 10-yr-old will put down his 600-page The Lost Hero and read The Adventures of Captain Underpants or an early chapter book.

I asked them why they do this. “It’s fun,” they said. But they read for fun every day. They love reading. And they certainly can read at a much higher level than these books.

My 8-yr-old explained that it was a different kind of fun.

“A brain break.”

He didn’t have to concentrate on the unfolding plot and could simply giggle at the antics of Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie.

Then I looked at the in-the-middle-of-reading / to-be-read pile next to my bed. Huh. I have Amy Tan and Gregory Maguire alongside a stack of YA novels and Patricia Wrede’s Dealing with Dragons (that would be a children’s book in case you were wondering). Also, Sense and Sensibility is hanging out right underneath Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall.

Sometimes you need a break from thought-provoking literature, heart-wrenching memoirs, historical fiction, and textbooks. Sometimes you just want to grab a book, curl up with a cup of tea and let your mind wander into magical worlds filled with wonderful stories. And, when that happens, don’t let anything (or anyone) stop you from putting the kettle on and picking up Peter Pan, Dr. Seuss, or Winnie the Pooh.

 

Sarah B Elephant and Piggie

Happy Reading!

 

My World Revisited

 

The post about My World was difficult to write. It made me feel vulnerable. It also made me wonder why I feel the need to be thankful for people who are not insensitive and unkind to my children.ThoughtBubble

Instead of being grateful for the times people behaved well, I’m grateful for the times people did not behave badly. It seems like the same thing, but the focus is different.

The times when people are not close-minded, rude, indifferent, or mean are so few.

I’ve always tried to change the way things are. Now I question myself. Should I continue to try to educate and enlighten people? Should I try to change the world in some small way? Or should I concentrate my efforts on home and prepare my children to venture out into this world?

I never felt like this was a decision I had to make. I foolishly thought I could do both. Why, now, do I feel like I have to choose?

 

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

 

My World

 

This year, as always, I am grateful for the big things like the fact that I have a home, food, and clean water. I am grateful for my family and my friends.

And I am grateful for the little things, like chocolate, wine, sushi, and books.

I write this the day before I hit “publish” because I had a different post planned for Thanksgiving. Something like the Yam Sham I wrote last year.

I have to post this instead.

I want to thank:

  • the woman who didn’t glare at my son when her daughter was being loud and my son cringed and covered his ears because he can’t stand loud noises
  • the hairdresser who didn’t become irritated with my son for crying because he was uncomfortable in the chair and afraid she would cut him
  • the hairdresser who didn’t embarrass my (other) son for not recognizing her because he has trouble remembering faces
  • the waitress who didn’t scoff when my son got upset about his burger arriving with a bun because he can’t eat burgers that way (she got him extra fries after taking the bun away)
  • the child at the playground who didn’t laugh at my son when he was stuck at the top of the slide because he was scared but couldn’t figure out how to climb down the ladder
  • the woman at the grocery store who noticed my son’s shifting and fidgeting and flapping and didn’t hesitate before complimenting his patience during the long wait because it’s impossible for him to stand still
  • the man in line at the post office who didn’t ignore my children when one son spelled “antidisestablishmentarianism” and started chatting about atoms and quarks while my other son gave him a detailed weather forecast for the next ten days
  • the dental hygienist who didn’t scowl at my son when he broke down because she was new and he didn’t know her
  • the woman in the waiting room who didn’t roll her eyes when she asked my son what grade he was in and he answered that he was in 2nd but taking an accelerated 5th grade math class at Stanford University because he doesn’t understand that many people think he is bragging or lying
  • the group of boys who played with my son and didn’t mock him for flapping his hands because he was excited
  • the man at Starbucks who didn’t make a big deal that my son’s birthday cookie coupon had expired because my son needed that cookie to be a “special” cookie

Strangers. I am thankful for the kindness of strangers. People who have no knowledge of who my children are or what struggles they face. This is how the world should be. And, occasionally, this is how the world is.

I am grateful.

I don’t often say this, but when it comes down to what my world is, it is this:

Walk in the Woods

My Two Boys

This is my world. And if I can believe, even for a day, that the outside world might be kinder, more compassionate, better than I think it is, I will be happy. Because I will know that my two boys might live in a place that will not crush them.

Even as I work to prepare them and help them become stronger, I am terrified of letting them go into this world. I hope that my two boys might live in a place that will show them the kindness that they show others.

These strangers have given me hope. I am grateful.

 

Halloween is Cancelled – Have a Nice Day

 

I just found out that Halloween is cancelled this year.

I am floored. My kids are distraught slightly disappointed. My husband and I have dropped everything we were supposed to be doing today and are scrambling to find some way to save Halloween for our boys. We had signed them up for a party followed by trick-or-treating at specific, pre-approved homes where folks had granted permission for kids to knock on their doors. Kind of like one of those historical house tours but without the history and with more candy. It’s not going to happen.

My husband is tying his cape, putting on his helmet, and choosing his weapon. I am donning some kick-ass boots, a long black cloak, and cat mask. Don’t scoff. Whiskers aside, I am ruthless.

My kids will have Halloween.

There should be a holiday cartoon about us—The Year Halloween was Cancelled or Captain A-scare-ica and Cat Mama Save Halloween.

Thing is, we shouldn’t have to be saving this holiday in the first place. When I was little, we dressed up, left our house, and walked around the neighborhood. We knocked on doors, got candy, and went home. Simple. Costumed kids flooded the streets every October 31st. You can’t cancel a day.

Ah. But you can cancel an event. Nights of moonlight, magic, and Milky Way bars are becoming extinct. I recently wrote a column about how Halloween has turned into a pre-planned evening. There are costume contests and parades held on the 31st. Clearly these are meant to be an alternative to roaming the streets, in the dark, in your zombie costume, knocking on neighbors’ doors. Goodbye spontaneity, hello scheduling.

I don’t want to go to the town hall, local hotel, restaurant, or shopping mall. I don’t want pizza parties and goodie bags and bored employees handing my kids Skittles.

I want the kind of darkness only Halloween night can bring. I want pretty, dead leaves scraping driveways, chilly autumn air filling my lungs, shadows of bare tree limbs edging onto the road. I want to see the moon and stars.

Back in the 70s in my day, kids ran wild on October 31st. There was no plan, we just went out. If we were alone, we soon found a group of kids. If we were with a group of kids, we formed a larger group of kids. You get my point.

As parents, we should be performing last-minute costume fittings and checking to see if last year’s face paint has dried out but, instead, we are emailing, texting, and making phone calls, desperately trying to find a place for our kids to go on Halloween. It’s pathetic. And weird. You shouldn’t have to search for a place to trick-or-treat.

Although Halloween is here, there are no lawns covered with headstones. Where are the hanging bats, giant spiders, and jack-o-lanterns? (This was rhetorical but, if you must know, they’re in stores and restaurants.) Oh, won’t somebody PLEASE think of the children?!

I had (more or less) resigned myself to the fact that this is what Halloween has become. But I didn’t like it. And, as I’ve said, you can’t make a day disappear. Unless you’re a warlock or some sort of time-traveler which would be wicked cool. Anyway, what you can do, if you’re evil (or if you have the flu or the water heater in the building exploded or something), is cancel an event.

I miss the days when all I had to do was dress up as a witch and walk out my front door.

 

Walking to Stay Awake

 

ThoughtBubbleMy husband was pacing the other night as I was trying to write one of our infamous to-don’t lists (that’s a to-do list that never gets done). It’s not like him to pace and, quite honestly, it was irritating and distracting.

“What are you doing?” I snapped.

“I’m walking to stay awake,” he answered with a straight face.

I laughed. Hard. But then I realized this was a wonderful example of exactly how pathetic our life had become.

Just to be clear, we do not have infants. We’re not getting up at all hours of the night to feed, comfort, or change dirty diapers. Our kids are eight and ten years old, yet we are still so completely sleep-deprived our days are lived in child-fog. Dude, back off. Child-fog is real.

We walk around like zombies (good-looking ones without the cannibalism thing) and I’m wondering when this is going to end. How old do our kids need to be before we get a decent night’s sleep?

 

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.