Long Time Coming….

I wish I could take credit for the following quote but I can’t. On the way home from the pool this afternoon, Boy shared this from the back seat, “I’m starting to realize that I’m not normal in a good way and that some people are normal in not such a good way.” Preach, buddy.

We had a pretty incredible discussion about what he’d said and why, but I’m going to keep that between us. For now, I’ll just say he’s the bravest, most perseverant kid I know and he cracks my heart wide open, over and over again.

 

Dreams And Visions

So I guess Husband was right. I’ve been constipated. It seems I swallowed a trippy concoction of elation and horror after being cast in the LTYM Baltimore show and it backed me way up. Now that the show is over, suddenly, the words are flowing freely again and I have a lot of loose ends to tie up. Oh God, I’m dying over here. LOOSE ENDS. So easily entertained. Its sad in a way, I know.

In the week before the show, I started having some pretty wild and crazy dreams, something our producers/directors said might happen. I’m going to share some of them here because I feel like it. I started this post before my LTYM wrap up post, but I published the latter one first because it turned into an epic tale of sorts and I worried I’d never finish it if I didn’t publish it. I have some pretty interesting work habits in that I will sometimes publish something before I completely finish the edits because publishing forces me to finish the edits. Ha. Given that this is a modest operation with only 7 readers, I think I can get away with it.

Anyway, one night I dreamed that as I walked to the podium to share my story, Clarence Clemons came out from behind the curtain and met me there. I kissed him just like I did on stage in Baltimore in 2009, then I crumpled up my story, threw it to the ground, stomped on it with my red cowboy boots and WE DANCED. What do you think it meant? I have no idea, perhaps it was the last minute editing process that went on that week, but nevertheless, it was cool.

Another night, I dreamed I was freaking out because I’d forgotten to wear Depends to the show and we all know I have pee problems when I’m nervous or I laugh too much. As I walked to the podium to read, the pee was running down my legs but thankfully, I’d worn my red cowboy boots which collected all of that pee so there were no puddles, just squishy feet, until I slipped on the way back to my chair after sharing my story, gallons of pee pouring out of my boots. I stood up and hollered something about my lady parts being stretched out after childbirth. That one was pretty self-explanatory. Scared shitless.

If you follow me on FB, you know I finally went to get my eyes checked, the first stop on my getting-caught-up-on-my-medical-care-tour. Just as I feared, turns out I can’t see a damn thing. My near, middle and far vision are all crap so I walked out of there with a prescription for progressive lenses. I’ve needed readers in increasing degrees of strength for about 5 years and I have reading glasses strategically placed all over my house, in my car, and in my purse. Kind of like the way I used to throw 10+ binkies in Girl’s crib so that whenever she reached for one, she’d find it. Boy never used a binky, but I would have paid a bazillion dollars to anyone who could have persuaded him to take one. I finally hit the max strength of drugstore reading glasses a couple of months ago, but what finally drove me to make the appointment was noticing while I drive that my far vision is rapidly deteriorating. Not good. So not good, in fact, the doctor told me I’d never pass my driver’s license renewal eye exam without glasses. I won’t bore you with all of the details involving my selection of frames, but it wasn’t a short or easy process. Shocker. For one thing, I CAN’T SEE. That complicated things immensely. Picture magnifying mirrors and my readers with sample frames on top. But also, I hated nearly everything I tried on and I’m highly annoyed I need to wear glasses all of the time, you know, IF I WANT TO SEE. But of course, for me, it’s not that simple.

I DO want to see when I drive or when I’m reading and writing or when I’m looking into the faces of my children and husband, but there are some things I DON’T want to see, like the crumbs on my kitchen counters or the dust on my hardwood floors. I’ve come to deeply appreciate that aspect of NOT seeing. And then there are some things I sure as hell do not want to see like the whiskers growing out of my chin, but I really should see them so I can take care of them before someone else sees them. I really should see skin cancer too. Finally taking a closer look at a “blemish” on my nose that’s been there since last fall sent me straight to the Dermatologist, stop 2 on my getting-caught-up-on-my-medical-care-tour. Waiting on biopsy results. So yeah, seeing is important. Even if you don’t want to.

What about the big things you see that others might not, or maybe they do see them but they turn their heads away because they don’t care or they’re caught up with their own little day to day crap? What if seeing those things and not being able or willing to ignore them because of the depth with which you’re wired or something leads your husband to tell you one night that we DO NOT need another cause to fight? Not because he’s heartless, but because he knows you and he knows you periodically have challenges in the moderation department and he knows those causes and your belief in the importance of SPEAKING UP about them are costly and interrupt your ability to stay present sometimes. And that interruption prohibits you from seeing and doing some of the little day to day things that in the end, might just be what your people remember you for when you’re six feet under? I HAVE NO FREAKING IDEA. But it’s a struggle, trust me.

So anyway, I ordered my glasses. They came and I hated them. I took them back the same day and had them put the lenses in the frames I almost chose but didn’t because I let the Optometrist talk me into something that was totally not me. Something a little trendier. What the hell? I’m 52. Why didn’t I listen to myself the first time? I have no idea, but it’s an ongoing theme and will make for some seriously juicy blog material on another day, to be sure.

I wouldn’t say I’m happy with my new frames, but I’m more satisfied. I just can’t get used to wearing them all day long. I wear them to drive, but the rest of the time? I pretty much feel like I’m stumbling home at 3 am from a college party. I have another few weeks to decide if I’m going to say fuck off to the progressive lenses and just get a prescription for driving and keep using my umpteen readers to read, use the computer, and find whiskers and skin cancer. I don’t know.

I guess it’s time for me to get some other crap done around here, but let me share this one last little nugget with you. If you’re not a Springsteen fan, you might not know I pulled the title of this post from the lyrics of the best rock and roll song on the best rock and roll album of all time, and unto the ages of ages, amen. BORN TO RUN. Well, guess what? I did.

Oh, and btw, LOOSE ENDS is the title of a very underrated Springsteen song, just so you know. Still giggling like a fool about that one. Anyway, I wish you all a good day as I sign off to continue tying up more of them.

Tell It Slant

This morning on the way to school, Boy told me about a writing assignment his class will be working on this week. And he’s dreading it because he hates writing. The content is there, but getting it on paper? Not so much. Unless he’s MOTIVATED.

He told me he has to write a couple of paragraphs about something fun he did during this school year. Pretty straightforward. He went on and on about how boring he thinks the assignment is and how much he hates using graphic organizers because they are a waste of his time and how much he detests being told what to write about and how having to write a report about a fun time – no matter how awesome it was – using a dumb paragraph formula is so stupid, bland, like dry, white toast. “And who cares about my personal life anyway?” Yes, he said that. 

Anyway, I told him about one of my favorite quotes about writing, taken from a poem of the same name by Emily Dickinson, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.” He thought about it for a second and then asked, “You mean stretch the truth? I can’t do that, Mom, because this is a nonfiction assignment.” No, it doesn’t mean stretch the truth, I told him. What I think it means is tell YOUR truth, but do it using your own creative view of the event. It’s called creative nonfiction and it doesn’t need to be bland or boring if you “tell it slant”. He thought about it a little bit more and then remembered playing a video game with a friend recently during which they imagined being transported into the game itself. He asked if I thought his teacher would go for it, reporting on the play date with some weaving in and out of the video game. I told him to pitch it to her, and to advocate for WHY he wants to write that way and then he went OFF about how the only way he’s going to get through school in one piece is if “these teachers get with the program and stop with all of these boring assignments.” Yes, he said that.

I really do think his teacher will be cool with his proposal. If not, I’ll get with her to figure out another way to motivate him. If he can keyboard and if he’ll use a graphic organizer and if she’ll let him add some illustrations and if he can write whatever it is she wants but he can “tell it slant”, HE’S GOT THIS. I hope.

Stay With The Story: LTYM Baltimore 5.9.15

Well, I did it. A little over a week ago now, I got up on stage to share one of my motherhood stories with 300+ people at the LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER show in Baltimore. And guess what? I’m still alive to tell you all about it. Ha.

Actually, I’d say I’m MORE ALIVE because, truthfully, I don’t remember the last time I felt SO completely present. I don’t remember the last time I felt like what I was doing in any particular moment was THE most important, most meaningful thing I could be doing. I don’t remember the last time I felt so overwhelmed by such love and support, joy and beauty, heartbreak and hope. I don’t remember the last time I felt this connected. I don’t remember the last time I felt this level of pride in a group of human beings working together on a common goal. I don’t remember the last time I was this kind of proud of myself. I don’t remember the last time I was so brave, even though I was so scared. It was SO worth it, SO beyond anything I could have ever imagined, and without a doubt it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

You might remember the post I wrote about how I got involved with LTYM and how unnerved I was by my decision to audition. I don’t think I’ve been able to fully articulate yet the horror and elation I felt when I was selected as a cast member and I don’t think it’s going to happen here today either because I’m still kind of overwhelmed by it all, ok? Those feelings of horror and elation stayed with me to varying degrees for the three months leading up to the show, except for when I was able to slip into a state of denial which was increasingly difficult given that our producers kept emailing us and scheduling meetings.

You might remember the post I wrote about how I’m not the greatest with living things. I understand that spelling it out in the way that I did made me look pretty much like an asshole, but its significant here because this LTYM experience challenged my challenges in that department, forced me out of my comfort zone in ways that I didn’t expect, in ways that I didn’t even want initially, to be frank.

You might remember some of the posts I’ve written in the past few months, like this one, in which I share the heaviness and pain I feel about the current state of our world, how ugly it feels to me so often, and the way the ugly sometimes screams much louder at me than the beautiful, and how much I hate that. This storytelling movement turned that upside down for me and I hope I will never forget it. I am going to work to stay connected to these people and to this movement, not in an effort to turn my head away from the ugly realities we face, but so that I can be part of a movement aimed at building connection and beauty, and maybe in our collective beauty we can even change some of the ugly. Because LTYM is beautiful, pure and simple. And needed.

From the moment we came together for our first rehearsal in March, I felt myself being pulled into something way bigger than myself. And usually, the only time I experience something like that and ALLOW it without running the other way is when I’m at a Springsteen concert. This was obviously a much more intimate setting and so it was a challenging dance for me. I was pulled in, I backed away (my favorite step), I was pulled in again…and again…and again…until I started practicing a new step, reaching out for my fellow cast mates, pulling them in closer. Did you ever see The Breakfast Club? This experience felt kind of like that – people brought together by chance, connected in ways they don’t yet understand – but instead of taking place in the course of only one day, we revealed ourselves to one another over a couple of months. As we shared our stories, our community was lovingly knit together, stitch by stitch, with yarn so strong it was not to be unraveled. We became trusted strangers with an undeniable bond. Our paths never would have crossed had it not been for LTYM and our passionate, dedicated producers Taya Dunn Johnson and Arlene Jackson, and I am exceedingly grateful. The unrest in Baltimore after the horrific killing of Freddie Gray made the unity we created that much more meaningful, healing.

As show day approached, I was pretty much scared shitless. I never considered bailing or anything, I was just really, REALLY scared. I’m not so much a spotlight person and I’ve never spoken in public, so the fear isn’t so hard to understand, right? About a week before our show, I went to see the LTYM DC show with our producers and one of my fellow cast mates. As we walked down the aisle to our seats, I grabbed my cast mate and apparently I dug my fingers into her shoulder, deeply, because I was having some sort of holy-shit-what-did-I-get-myself-into-and-HOW moment. But then, watching and listening to the DC readers as they shared their unique stories of motherhood in the context of the bond they clearly created together helped to calm me down. And as each story was revealed, I became an integral part of their experience. It wasn’t something to be feared anymore. In fact, after the show, my cast mate and I looked at each other, hugged, and she said, “we’ve got this” and we really believed it. We might have different experiences but after all is said and done, we are all the same. We’re just people, mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, doing the best that we can. There was no place more important for me to be in that moment than right there, witnessing the motherhood stories bravely shared by that group of people. Because sharing our stories is brave. Being vulnerable is brave. Being present and witnessing the stories of others is a gift and it breeds understanding and compassion. Our stories need to be heard because LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL AND LIFE IS HARD. And it’s only in the sharing that we know we are not alone, and really not so different after all.

I think thats what helped me to cool my jets and pushed me to let go a little more, to breathe more deeply, to open my heart more fully to the opportunity I had been given, to the stories I was witnessing , and to the story I was getting ready to share. I wanted to be brave more than I wanted to stay scared. And for your information, I suck at that in general. I couldn’t have done what I did that day without my 12 fellow cast mates and our producers by my side, but I came to believe that WITH them, I could. And so could they. And we did.

On the day of our show, we arrived hours early at The Jeanette and Harry Weinberg Auditorium on the campus of Mercy High School to go through all of the preparation required when pulling off a live stage performance. There were 2 dressing rooms at our disposal but we all piled into the same one for the first little while, just to feel the might of our togetherness. We sweated it out a little as we waited for our last cast mate to arrive because we weren’t complete without her. We did our hair and makeup, we got dressed, we we voted on shoe choices. Yes, it was unanimous, I went with my red cowboy boots. We had cast photos taken. We had a quick dress rehearsal, made sure we knew our places and took turns speaking into the microphone. I admit I had a brief inner meltdown when the stage manager told a couple of us that we needed to speak up, that we needed to project more. Yeah, dude, projectile vomit, I thought. But it passed.

Then the doors opened to the public and we had about an hour to wait together backstage. We laughed, we held hands, we didn’t talk too deeply about too much, we simply looked at one another as if to communicate, you can do this, we can do this. We peed, and peed some more. We made sure our spanx weren’t dipping below our hemlines. We nibbled on little snacks so we wouldn’t pass out from low blood sugar. One of my fellow readers made beautifully braided sisterhood bracelets, one for each of us, and we tied them onto our wrists in solidarity. We have a yogini in our tribe and she led us through a breathing and guided meditation exercise that literally grounded us and further bound us together by our roots. Our producers led us in prayer and we had a group hug, took the last few selfies.

  

And then it was time. Just like that. After months of anticipation and work, it was time.

  

We lined up to take our places on stage.

And then one by one, each of us rose to stand alone at the podium, in the spotlight, with a microphone, our stories in print before us, our sisters behind us, breathing strength and courage into us, our roots forever intertwined, the audience there to witness what we came to share. Like I said, I don’t remember the last time I felt so present. I deeply inhaled and exhaled as each of my fellow cast mates was called to read. I watched her. I felt her. I listened. It was as if I was hearing each of the stories for the very first time. I was in awe of the beauty and pain and hope and hilarity that made up our collective experience. And I was in awe of the bravery, our bravery.

  

As I read my own story about mothering my son, I remembered something a recent LTYM alumna shared with one of my fellow cast members, who shared it with us in kind. Stay with the story. Stay with the story and all will be well. And it was.

I think I’m going to make a big fat gigantic STAY WITH THE STORY poster to remind me to, you know, stay with the story. I think it sums things up really beautifully, don’t you?

Stay with the story.

P.S. And then we had margaritas.

  

And So It Begins, Again….

We happily went to sleep last night in a full house. Me, Husband, Girl and Boy back together again all under the same roof. And then this morning things went from quiet to crazy in a split second because Boy woke Girl up at 6:45am. He just couldn’t wait to start catching up with her and I don’t think he believes that she’s really home for the whole summer. He’s missed her so much, I think we underestimated the impact her absence would have on him, actually. So, yeah, he was IN HER FACE. And she was exhausted from many late nights with little sleep. Kaboom.

Good sister that she is, Girl stumbled down the stairs and planted herself on the sofa to try to be present with Boy before he left for school. He was more jacked up than I’ve seen him in weeks and he was bouncing off the walls, wanting to ENGAGE, and I hadn’t had anywhere near enough coffee yet so I just wanted to run out of the house I’m not even kidding. Then he started talking about all of the crap he’s gonna show Jake Clemons tonight when he comes to perform in our living room. And I jumped into that mess and said, “WHOA” and then I reminded him that we have an agreement about tonight, Jake is the star, not him. And then Girl goes, “Ok, people, listen up. Mom won! The E Street Band’s JAKE CLEMONS! is coming to our house! tonight! so can we please, PLEASE! try to be normal for once!!?” Good question, kid. LOL.

Transitions, even good ones, can be a bit tricky for Boy and I think the excitement of Girl coming home and the news that he still has to go to school today – which really pissed him off – and all of the commotion around getting ready for Jake just threw him off balance. He eventually regrouped and found something to do that helped him chill out until it was time to leave.

He stole his sister’s iPhone and started texting her friends. Lucky for you, Girl sent me some samples.

Apparently, the kid CAN write if he’s sufficiently motivated. And, WOW, all of the keyboarding work he’s done this year has really paid off too.

Did I tell you that in the midst of the goings-ons this week we learned that our A/C wasn’t working? No biggie really, except for the fact that 50 PEOPLE will be in my living room tonight, including a bunch of middle-aged menopausal women. So obviously, I had to get someone out here immediately. To be honest, I was going to let it go until next week, especially since it’s not that hot out, but my sister said, “HELLNO! you get them out there now”. So I did and the A/C dudes got here in the middle of our craziness this morning so that was fun and it also required my insistence that Girl drive Boy to school, which actually worked out fine because he kept texting her friends which was also fun.

Let’s see, what else? Oh, a handful of people notified me that they can’t come to see Jake tonight and so I was dealing with his management about the logistics of that whole thing and, finally, I think we’re all straightened out. Husband and my brother-in-law are doing Costco and hooch runs and my sister is coming over in a little bit to help me move the furniture around and string some lights. In the meantime I think I should get out of here to take a walk for my mental health, don’t you? I promise I’ll report back here in the next couple of days about our big night, ok? Its gonna be great, I still can’t believe it’s really happening.

And we’ll try to be normal, but I can’t promise.

Girl Takes Boston

As I write this, Husband is up on the North Shore of Boston helping Girl pack up her dorm room and tomorrow he’ll bring her HOME for the summer. Earlier this afternoon, she took her last final exam and officially finished her freshman year of college?! She told me on the phone the other night that she’s both happy and sad that the year is over, and I understand those feelings completely. She’s very ready for a break from all of the hard work and to be home with family and friends and her beloved car, but she’ll also miss the new friends and professors and wonderful school she’s come to love so much. Good thing she gets to go back and I’m sure by August she will be READY. She’s had an amazing year, a year of great accomplishment, big fun and huge personal growth. Beyond anything she could have imagined, I bet.

What follows is something I wrote last August and I never published it because I didn’t start blogging until a month later. Its been sitting in a file on my lapotop and I figured today would be a good day to share it.

We’re back home after taking Girl up to Boston and we’ve refocused, kind of, in an otherworldly sort of way. We caught up with Boy following his weekend with my parents and we’re all set for his first day at his new school tomorrow. He’s understandably both excited and nervous. Me too. I hope we did the right thing by leaving him here this weekend, I still don’t know. He doesn’t want to talk about Girl at all right now which is unlike him, but that’s ok. He will when he’s ready, probably at bed time. His best buddies are hanging out with him at our house this afternoon, they’re squeezing out the very last drops of their summer vacation together, so on first glance, things seem the same as always because his friends are here so frequently and Girl was hardly ever here this summer. And yet, things feel suddenly and stunningly different. Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t be happier or more excited for Girl. She has so much to look forward to. She chose thoughtfully and we’re confident that this is a really great fit school for her – even though the President of her college is revealing himself to be a bit of a politician, or in other words, untrustworthy – and she’s well equipped to have a successful first year even with the potential bumps in the road that many freshmen encounter. Her move-in and associated tasks went smoothly, she’s enjoying orientation which continues through Tuesday, and she seems to be comfortably settling into her dorm. She’s looking forward to the Wednesday start of her classes, hopeful that my promises of what higher education will add to her life are true. 

  

All great stuff for a kid who was giving me a coronary a year ago this time by telling me she didn’t think she wanted to go to college anymore.

We got through that, thankfully, and we moved into full-on college prep mode. But as much as I worked to get all 4 of us ready for her departure in lots of different ways, NOTHING prepared ME for leaving my kid on that college campus. The one in Massachusetts, 8 hours away. She handled the long weekend with quiet strength and happy anticipation, even while she was obviously a bit anxious. She briefly cried a couple of times but kept on going, taking it all in stride, wisely trusting that it was all part of the process. She was almost serene at times, which truthfully surprised me a little, and she was so appropriately funny too. As the family portion of the weekend came to a close and the traditional signing ceremony concluded in the chapel, it was time for students and parents to have an opportunity to wrap things up together, and for parents to leave campus. As in LEAVE Massachusetts. Without our kid. Girl made it clear that she didn’t want a sobbing scene in her dorm, she didn’t want a lot of words, she simply wanted to walk the quad with us for a few more minutes, so that’s what we did. We walked together peacefully. 

And then suddenly she stopped walking. She looked at us in a way that clearly communicated, “Ok folks, it’s time for you to go now”, sweetly smiling, tears brimming her beautiful, sweet eyes. We high-fived and hugged her, told her that she’s totally got this and that we love and adore her. We said “see ya later” – not goodbye – and then she turned and walked away from us, never looking back. I will never forget it.

She’s ready. She did it. Her way. A sign of things to come, I’d say. Husband and I walked to the parking lot, stood outside our car and held each other while we cried and said all of the stuff Girl didn’t want to hear us say, because it’s all tucked away in layers in her heart already.

  

We drove half of the way home and stayed the night in a hotel in Connecticut, right outside of NYC. It was a very modern place and we continued to talk and cry our surreal tears through dinner, and up until it was time for us to call it a night. As always, Husband passed out in 3 seconds and I most certainly did not. I alternated between thinking HELLYES the kid did it and playing with the remote control for the toilet and wondering if the people at her college will love her and inspire her and challenge her and care for her and believe in her like we do. And I wondered what I’ll do with the part of me that took care of her. I told myself that I’m going to have my hands full with Boy and his new GT/LD status. I told myself that just as she’s making her way, growing and sharing her gifts, I’m going to work on growing and sharing mine. I told myself that I’m going to finally start that blog, because I promised her. I began to tell myself that maybe I’ll start looking for a very part-time job but then I smacked the shit out of that crazy talk and tried to get some rest.

It’s been 24 hrs since we got home and we miss her A LOT, in a way we haven’t missed her before. Our hearts are heavy even though we are so incredibly happy for her. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt this way before. Sincerely happy and hopeful AND sad. Not grief like a permanent loss, just sadness because it’s time to start a new chapter of a story I love, and in some ways I don’t want to, even though I know the story isn’t ending. It’s beginning. Again. I don’t know. But anyway, she’s exactly where she should be right now, doing exactly what she should be doing. I can’t wait to see what the year has in store for her and what she’ll do with all of the opportunities before her. As the cover of the journal she gave me for Mother’s Day says, “I do believe it’s time for another adventure.” Just as she’s doing, we’re embracing this change, we’re allowing ourselves to feel it and we’re going to move forward through it as we experience our own new adventures. And of course we’re here cheering her on, and we have her back, always, and I hope she never forgets that.

Tonight, as I left Boy’s room after tucking him in and I walked down the hall towards our room, I had to stop myself from going into Girl’s room for a catch up chat and to say goodnight, my routine with her for years. She’s not here. She’s away at school. 

God be with you as you sleep, Girlie. 

Super Power 2.0

I wrote the original version of this essay in January – and beefed it up in the weeks following – for publication here on my blog and it ended up being the piece I chose for my audition for the LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER Baltimore show. Once I was selected to be in the cast, I had to pull it from my blog until after the show, per the agreement I signed with LTYM. I’m sure you know by now that our show was on Saturday, May 9 because my FB and Twitter are flooded with photos and articles about it. I SWEAR I’m working on a post that I hope will do justice to the transformative sisterhood and storytelling movement I’ve been lucky enough to be part of since that cold February day in a Baltimore public library meeting room. In the meantime, here is the edited, slightly shorter, stage version of Super Power that I read on show day. 


I spent a recent morning telling one of my kids that his high sensitivity is a gift, one that thankfully includes a lot of creativity and fun and joy, but also, I know, a lot of pain. And of course my kid cried harder as he told me how much he hates it, that he didnt ask for it, that he doesnt want it, that he feels like his insides are being torn apart when he feels things so deeply this way. He wailed as he told me how angry it makes him. I told him it’s ok to be angry and to hate it, that I still hate it sometimes too. He sat up and looked at me, absorbing the possibility that I might understand because in some ways, I share his experience. And then he asked me to pray for him and I did, while in the privacy of my mind, I also shook my fist at God a little. Because navigating this high sensitivity with my son – which, yes, translates into GIGANTIC PAIN IN THE ASS sometimes – and addressing his associated special needs has been a lot. And I had the audacity to believe we were past the a lot part after years of Early Intervention for global developmental delays and a moving target of diagnostic theories. But were not.

 

The Early Intervention we bombarded him with was highly successful. By all accounts my son is a miracle, once teetering on the edge of an autism spectrum diagnosis, and now most certainly not. We thought we were out of the woods until he hit a wall. We’re still in the process of peeling back more of his layers, but most recently we learned that he has severe ADHD, and that hes highly gifted with a significant learning disability, all of which necessitated a change of school program for him this year. New school, new kids, new everything, rough times for such a highly sensitive little boy.

 

Mothering my highly sensitive children has been a full-time gig for me. My son’s high sensitivity is off the charts, and it’s especially tricky because he’s also an extreme extrovert. Maybe you can imagine a scenario in which every stimuli, every single piece of input that is encountered by your brain, body and heart, no matter how subtle, impacts you on the very deepest level. And instead of finding ways to shield yourself for respite, you seek more. That’s how life is for my son, nothing gets by him. EVER. He engages with people and his surroundings in ways that are profound, extraordinary. It’s utterly amazing, and it can also be exhausting, overwhelming for all involved, especially him. It’s not a choice, it’s how he’s wired. 

 

 And while it’s the honor and joy of my life to guide these children on their respective journeys, truthfully, sometimes, it also drives me to drink and cuss like a sailor and fantasize about running for the hills or the beach or anywhere but here.

 

What was I saying? Oh yeah, I prayed. Dear God, how I prayed, because I want this kid to be able to embrace who he is and I want him to believe that there is room for him and his differences in this world, that he won’t be wrecked by them.

 

And after I prayed, I told him that this gift, this talent, this high sensitivity, is actually more like a SUPER POWER, one he has to practice how to manage and how to use for good because with great power comes great responsibility. Yep, thats it, just like Spider-Man. Responsibility to himself, and to others. He cracked a cautious smile. He said hed rather be a normal kid who is appreciated for being a good athlete or something instead of lying awake at night wondering about the meaning of life, and that hes disappointed in our society for not appreciating gifts like his. Somebody help me. My heart. The kid just turned 9 years old.

 

I went on to tell him that as he grows, he’ll understand that the world needs people with hearts and minds and wiring like his. “For what?”, he asked. “To create, for one thing, and to pay attention to stuff that really matters, to see things that others might not see, to share it, to put it into words”, I said. “Or comic books, or graphic novels?”, he asked. “Exactly”, I said. 

 

I told him that his SUPER POWER isnt something he needs to fix, not at all. Its more like a long, exciting, mysterious journey to collect and fit together pieces of a puzzle. He asked how long this journey will last…”HOW LONG, MOM?”

 

didnt want to tell him that it will likely be a large portion of his lifes work for as long as hes here on this earth, work that will sometimes wear him out, discourage and overwhelm him. I didn’t want to tell him that he will need to be vigilant in that work and the resulting fatigue so as not to shut off parts of his heart like I sometimes do. No, instead I told him that while it took me well into my adulthood before I even began to identify and understand my own high sensitivity, his older sister has become a pro at managing hers and using it for good too. She’s proud of it, even though it’s really hard sometimes. And finally, I told him that because we know so much more about this now, Im certain that with our support and the many tools available to him, he will put his puzzle pieces together much faster and he’ll get to a comfortable, confident place much sooner. I told him that he’ll continue to learn to unleash and manage his awesome energy – or “funky flow” as he calls it – in a beautiful way, energy he feels is sometimes frustratingly locked up inside him. 

 

My story of mothering my son doesnt have a neat and tidy beginning, middle or end. Its a continuously flowing river of little moments that fill our days, and as we do this life together – often joyfully, sometimes painfully – I realize more and more deeply who my son is in the world, beautifully different, but worthy, nonetheless.  I’ll never stop lifting him up or affirming him and I’ll never stop praying that he will learn to enjoy and celebrate his gift and to use his SUPER POWER well, not try to escape it or hide it or interpret it as defective. Amen.

 

 

 

What Now?

As the weekend came to a close, I was talking with Boy about something that happened outside with one of his friends.

He’d chosen to do something so completely unlike him that it shocked me. He walked away – literally and figuratively – from his friend when an issue that has become a pattern between them since late last fall crept it’s way into their interaction again. And this time, instead of whining, pushing back, getting angry, etc as he’d done many times over the winter, primarily because he felt increasingly ignored, misunderstood, and his coping mechanisms were shot, Boy just walked away. He was done. And swallowing the same old crap just to have someone to play with – someone he thought was one of his best friends – became an impossibility for him. At least on that day.

Boy kept himself quietly occupied for the rest of the evening, he was tired after a very active weekend. As bedtime approached, I asked him how his heart was doing, and that’s when he said, “a little sad, but ok”.  He calmly talked about what had happened outside – and what it meant to him in the context of their friendship – with so much insight it nearly knocked me over. While Boy seems to view this whole thing as a symbol for the upheaval he experienced this year, something shifted inside of him during this weekend’s episode and he decided he wasn’t doing going to fight it anymore – he was beyond that – but he wasn’t going to take it lying down either. So he just walked away from his friend. On his terms. Which included walking home alone, without the knowledge of his friend’s supervising parent until Boy had already walked through our front door.  That part still makes me so angry I could scream.

We talked about what makes relationships tricky sometimes is navigating differences, choosing who you will keep plugging away with, deciding when to let go.  We talked about how it takes TWO to keep a relationship going. We talked about how changing interests, priorities or circumstances can create distance between friends. We talked about how all kids and their parents see – or don’t see – and address situations from their own perspectives. We talked about how we might have handled this situation differently had the roles been reversed. We talked about how deeply he feels things and how meaningful relationships are to him and how many kids are not as mature as he is in that way. And we talked about how as much as we might want to, we can’t control or change other people, only ourselves. You might be surprised to learn that I still struggle mightily with that last one. Ha.

And then he looked up at me and asked, “What now, Mom? Are you telling me there’s something else I need to change about ME? Is there something else I need to do to make my friend like me again? You told me things would get better if I used my tools, if I didn’t give up. Well, I didn’t give up, things ARE a lot better, but why is ok for my friend to ignore me over and over again, but I’m still the one with the problem? Why have I been the one who had to work so hard all year to feel better about everything and why was it ALL my job? It isn’t fair. It seems like just because we found out I’m a GT/LD kid and I had to change schools, my friend suddenly sees me as not good enough anymore. How is that right? Why couldn’t there still be room for me? I wouldn’t have kicked him to the curb like that, especially if he was having a hard year. I guess we weren’t really friends. I heard you and Daddy talking about me after I came inside this afternoon. Daddy said I’m special, I feel and see things others don’t. I know that means I’m different, but why is that a problem, why is it MY problem? My other friends from my old school still want to play with me, they don’t ignore me when they see me, so why is it different with him? We were best friends. I thought so, anyway. Why did my whole world have to change? We were together all the time. How could he just forget about me?”

Those are some pretty excellent fucking questions, are they not? I felt a throbbing ache in my heart and I bit my lip so I wouldn’t cry. Nothing hurts like feeling disposable. Nothing hurts like helplessly watching your child be ostracized. I wish more than anything I could shield him from the pain that comes from experiencing these things so deeply. We tried all year long to keep this friendship going, but it’s time to let it go. We’ve spent too much energy on it, maybe undeserved energy, I don’t know. As I watch this unfold, I see clearly now that Boy’s friend simply lost interest in him. Or maybe his friend just couldn’t handle that Boy was not as socially easy going as he’d been in the past. In fact, he’s been whiny, impatient, angry, even more sensitive than usual. And yeah, they’re just kids but the fact is that Boy has come to the painful realization that his friend didn’t care enough to hang in there with him during his bumpy transition to his new school, even though they were inseparable for three years, even though their friendship was deeply reciprocal, even though they promised. To be frank, I think that SUCKS because Boy is absolutely right, he would have valued their history, and their friendship enough to keep it going in some fashion, even if in a different form, even if infrequent. And I sure as hell would have encouraged and facilitated that somehow given the circumstances and the information confided along the way. In fact, I would have insisted on it. Because it was the right thing to do. There was a teachable moment that got lost in the shuffle and it hurt my son. This might sound harsh, but who needs enemies when you can find that bullshit in your own front yard, in the face of your best friend. So yeah, he’s hurt and I’m disappointed because I expected better from this kid’s mother. Your kid doesn’t know what to do when his friend gets upset? Teach him. Let him completely and cruelly turn his back on his friend during a rough time, without a word,  because he’s uncomfortable with differences that are becoming more apparent? NO. But whatever. It’s just been a really hard year. We’ll both learn from it. Seriously, though, who goes through this level of heartache at 9 years old?

I stooped down, looked into his eyes and told him he doesn’t need to do another damn thing. YOU DO NOT NEED TO DO ANOTHER DAMN THING, DO YOU HEAR ME? JUST BE YOU. I’ve never been more proud of him. For not giving up. AND for letting go.

Note: I’m going to leave this right here, just like this, even though the original piece I wrote is much longer, and while writing it was cathartic, sometimes less is more.