Friday, May 30, 2014

Double Digits

He's ten today.

Today he's ten.

It's a leap closer to adult-hood, to independence, to becoming a person who doesn't need me and who eventually moves away into his own space, his own life.

He is never going to be one of the Little Kids again.

Birthdays can be traumatic. I love him so much, and I love watching him grow into someone who is so smart and compassionate, and so perfectly himself. But I miss the little boy he used to be.

Happy Birthday, Nicholas!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Bias In The System

I used to go to everything.

When Nick started school, there would be multiple opportunities to volunteer. I jumped at them all. I wanted to do everything. I wanted to work in the library and I wanted to help out in the classroom. I wanted to make all the parties and go on all the field trips.

Oh, I had my Gwyneth Paltrow moments of difficulty. I had an infant and a toddler! It was so hard trying to balance these things around pre-school and childcare! And how hard is it to find time to run and buy groceries when I chose to dedicate my time re-shelving copies of The Magic Treehouse and Captain Underpants.

Also, our town seems to be overflowing with volunteers. I have been turned away for field trips because there were too many parents trying to go. I have signed up to bring juice boxes for parties and realized three other moms did also, and all of us over-bought.

But I was there. And even if I didn't make the volunteer times, I was at every concert, every classroom sendoff, every presentation.

Here's the things about Bias. If something is biased in your favor, you might not notice it. But if it swings in the other direction, it becomes really clear.

I am not stupid. I've always known that the school system was biased toward families with a parent at home. It's one of the reasons I chose to stay at home. I wanted to be the kind of parent who could be there for my children.

But now that I'm working, the frequency with which I am asked to leave work for concerts, meetings, assemblies, classroom presentations, is astounding.

You might be rolling your eyes. I mean, it's JUST a classroom presentation. And then a spring concert. And then an end-of-year classroom party for the parents. Not a lot. But that's only for one child (I have three), and it doesn't include the volunteer appreciation assembly (9am on a Friday) or the parent / teacher conferences, or the special field trips that other moms are signing up for.

It sounds like I'm complaining, doesn't it. Say one work to the school administration and all they hear is a mother who doesn't want to spend time with her children, who isn't invested in them. Secretly, I feel they're rolling their eyes and thinking "THIS is why those kids are having such issues! See how disengaged the mother is? Why can't she just make an effort?

Let me say this again, just incase either of us forgot. I am not stupid. Nor am I uninterested or unsupportive.

I WANT to be there for my children. I want to make every party every classroom presentation, every concert, every meeting. I want to go on all the trips and know all the children's names. I used to do that. I liked that.

I can't do that any more. I can't leave work every time. Not every time. Not for three times the fun. I would be at the school more than at home.

The thing is, my kids could also use the support right now. Those other kids? The ones where the moms are all friends and the girls are all giggly and practicing cheerleading at age 8 and wearing heels at the violin concert? I'm going to be mean and say they probably don't need to see parental support as much as my boys right now. Because Circumstances. Because Divorce. Because Working Mom.

I think that children with two working parents probably need to see their parents faces in the crowd more. And if the parents have jobs that are flexible enough to allow them to come to the concerts and class meetings and such, well, good for them.

The people who need support are the ones with the hourly jobs. The ones that are less flexible. The ones that don't pay as much and are more strict with time and less secure. The families under more financial constraints. Those kids probably could use a friendly face in the crowd. It's sad to have your teacher make a special announcement that she'll record your presentation for your parents later, when the other kids have smiling pairs of adults in the back row. It's tough to be the one kid without a parent during the end-of-year party. On top of everything else.

I don't know what the answer is. I know end-of-year parties can't be moved, but I'm not sure why parents need to be involved. Not that I think removing other parents from the classroom is fair just because I can't make it. I know concerts are fun. I know you get more kids to attend during the day, when they're at school anyway. I know we already get plenty of parents during the day. Moving it to the evening would conflict with soccer and cheerleading. It would disrupt the routine of the status quo.

I'm just frustrated at a system that is so clearly set up for who I used to be, and not for who I need to be today.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Jenga and Ice Cream

I had a hard day at work, I told the boys.

Did you staple your fingers again? Andy asked.

My first week at work I actually stapled my fingers together. That happened. But not this week.

Nope, I said. It was just a hard day.

It was a good day at work, actually. I learned a lot of new things and was happy to learn them, but as things need to be completed by certain times the day wasn't very forgiving to my learning curve.

The first two weeks I went back to work, in January, I cried every single night. I was so tired, so overwhelmed. I felt incompetent at work. I felt out of control at home. The careful balance I'd created over the past 10 years of childcare and laundry, housework and homework, came crashing down like a Jenga tower with the wrong piece pulled from the bottom.

The thing about these block towers that come crashing down? They can always be rebuilt. Sure, the new tower won't be like the old tower. But maybe it'll be even better. Maybe you can build that extra part on the corner and expand the fortress walls... or rip the wallpaper down in the bathroom and pick a nice paint shade to brighten the place up a bit.

I keep having to remember that.

So, Thursday I had a hard day. It was crazy and frantic and I left wanting to do nothing but kick my shoes off and go to sleep. It was all I could think about when I picked the boys up from karate.

But then came the Ice Cream Social.

Every year the PTA has an Ice Cream Social at the school. Everyone is invited. The teachers and volunteers serve small bowls of ice cream and large bowls of toppings - gummy bears, sour patch kids, sprinkles, cherries, chocolate chips - they have chocolate syrup and whipped cream. Everything but nuts. No nuts.

Everyone goes to the Ice Cream Social. All students and their parents and their siblings and next year's kindergarteners and their families and siblings. The kids eat large bowls of sugar and go running around playing ball at the back of the gym or on the playground, and parents try to have conversation where they make themselves heard.

Last year we went to the Ice Cream Social, and it was not a good experience. Oh, I bet it was for the kids. I think the kids were fine. I think that they were too distracted by Ice Cream and Loud Craziness to notice anything was amiss. But for me, it was a defining factor in making the decision to proceed with divorce. Without going into too much detail, that night was the last straw. Now I don't usually make rash decisions, especially where my family and my children are concerned, so know there was plenty of thought that went into it before then. I'd weighed my options, I'd given thought to what I wanted, what I needed, what all the choices would mean.

And then came the Ice Cream Social.

Last straw. I heard the snap. I felt the pull of that Jenga piece and the wobble of the tower as it started to crash.

Thursday at karate the boys reminded me the Ice Cream Social was that night. And I'd promised them we'd go.

I was tired from working a new part of the job, overwhelmed with what I was going to do for dinner. Lonely. Missing my family, missing my friends. Making plans for the long weekend that didn't include cookouts and friends or trips to the beach, but laundry and vacuuming and putting screens in windows, and working number magic with finances to allow me to pay my bills, send the boys to summer camp, and buy a new car. I was in tears already with the lot of it.

And here comes the Ice Cream Social.

I cried.

I went.

I took the boys.

And it wasn't that bad. I mean, how can a bowl of 1 part ice cream 2 parts chocolate sauce 3 parts topping be bad? There's some good that comes out of that. And watching the boys scramble around for a few minutes in a large group of other boys? That's good, too. These are good moments.

And yes, I felt more out of place than ever, sitting there, trying to be a normal looking mom. Yes, I was tired from work and wanted to be home. And yes, I was and am still harboring resentment towards the school figureheads for certain interactions we've had this year. BEcause the principal wears those dresses and calls the children kiddos and smiles and nods at me while not outright saying anything but insinuating that my child might not be good enough. And also because for some reason I was seen as not good enough to work in this place.

But whatever.

Despite all of that, I survived. I ate my ice cream and then went home and went to sleep.

And the next day I woke up and the sun was shining. I worked out and make the boys breakfast (cereal) and got them to school and I was feeling pretty OK. Actually, I felt rather good and upbeat.

Because we move on. We pick up our Jenga blocks and we stack them again, one at a time. We go to build a different block tower, one with stronger walls and a better view and a hiding place for all the treasures we've collected.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Cleaning Strike

I spend most of my off-work hours... working.

What I mean is, when I get home I have a lot of things to do. I need to feed the boys, make sure they do their homework, practice piano, take a bath, and get to bed at a decent hour. When they boys get to bed I have laundry to fold, snacks and lunches to pack, and school folders to sift through. I do so much that I hardly have time to write anything. In fact, I fell asleep yesterday writing this and had to finish it tonight.

If I decide I need a few moments to myself to just sit and read, write, or even to swap out long pants for shorts, I need to steal the time from another task. 

I'd been trying to get together with a friend of mine for weeks now. For most people, this doesn't present a problem. Most people I know can easily (if they so desire) squeeze a visit with a friend in between work and home or other social visits or obligations. Not so with me. With me, I have work, and then I have the boys. The boys have piano and karate and t-ball. They need to be fed and bathed and helped with homework. They need clean clothing.

But life without seeing friends isn't worth living, really. So I picked a night and went ahead to see my friend. I'm glad I did it. I really am.

But my house isn't. It's so messy. My living room is so messy. My kitchen counter is so clustered. Every single toilet in my house needs a good scrub, the floors are all sticky, and there are dirty socks in every hallway and stairwell. Dust and pollen cover every surface. And my windows really need a shine.

It's because I chose to spend time with my friend, because I choose to spend time with my boys doing other things. This is why my house is such a mess. Because I decided somewhere along the way that it was more important to have a little bit of a life than a perfectly clean house.  It doesn't mean I'll never clean. It just means I'll spend time resting and doing other things, too.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

It's Not a Comeback, It's a Return

OK, so I went away.

I went into hiding because I wished to live more secretly, to front only the essential stress of life, and see if I could not learn what life had to teach and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Or something. Thoreau said it better.

I took a break.

It was unintentional, at first, but after some thought I realized I actually still have a lot to say. I simply hadn't been saying any of it because it would LOOK BAD.

For a long time I've been writing this blog with some idea of how it would look from the outside. I didn't want to point fingers. I didn't want to hurt feelings. I didn't want to sound too depressed or too callous or too anything that might attract attention because then people would either ask questions or challenge me and I hate being challenged because that requires that I stand up for myself and stand behind my words. I am, quite often in fact, able to stand behind my words, but there are other times where I was just full of hot air caused by a condition called "Being A Passionate Human" and I have absolutely nothing to back me up and I have to admit I'm wrong. While I have no problem admitting I'm wrong, I really really hate confrontation and conflict.

For example, one time my FaceBook Friend Meg made some comment about the Red Sox and the Yankees. I don't usually comment willy nilly on FaceBook, and I especially try to stay away from anything to do with sports, but I made a comment on my friend's post which included the phrase "Yankees Suck." It was tongue in cheek, mostly, because as I said I don't follow sports and I also take exception to putting down another team on a regular basis as a way to cheer your team on.  (FYI - "Yankees Suck" is a phrase many red sox fans use to show their support for the Red Sox. I know, I don't get it either.

Anyway, my one little comment resulted in a huge tirade by some die-hard Yankees fan who cited many statistics in support of his view that the Yankees do NOT, in fact suck. And that the Red Sox might actually be the ones that suck. His comments were long and scathing, and when I tried explaining that I was kind of joking and that I didn't give a flying fig and finally that I didn't actually even understand the statistics he kept flinging out there, He refused to listen and kept ranting about how angry he was about people like me.

People like me.



This happened probably two or three years ago and I still hesitate to comment on things beyond "Oh, your baby is so cute!" and "Happy Birthday!" and then I spend fifteen minutes debating over adding a line about having a piece of cake.

I hate confrontation.

You know what you can't have without confrontation?

A divorce.

So anyway, I've been thinking a lot. I've been thinking that this is one of the more interesting times in my life, and here I am, falling silent. What good does that do anyone?

I've been thinking that I don't really care about offending people anymore, or saying too much, or doing the wrong thing, because I'm not getting a second chance.

So I'm back. My posts may not be a lot more interesting. But I plan on giving this another go-round. I plan on being honest and putting it all out there and if people don't like it, they don't have to read it. It's not like this is the news or a newspaper.

It's ONLY the internet.