School

Never Enough

The weeks leading up to the first day of school are often stressful and frustrating. While most people are counting down the days until they are able to drop their kids off and have a much needed break, I am racking my mind for ideas to keep a certain kids clothes on all season long. I am thinking up of all the possible things that could and will go wrong -and solutions for them. I am trying to remember if I signed all the papers, met all the people and agreed to all the things.

Chances are I missed something. Chances are there is going to be at least one person who judges our mishaps along the way, and while this silent judging rarely bothers me -it is a new school, with new teachers, new faces and new people to impress.

All this newness also means there are going to be the inevitable meltdowns along the way -from both the kid and myself. And probably a few teachers. When the school season finally does come to an end, we won’t sigh relief -because it will mean ironing out a new normal, a new routine, a new schedule -just after we got used to this one. I don’t complain about it, I don’t talk about it, and I rarely mention it. It is what it is -it comes with the responsibility and the process. We all have our thorns. This is mine. This back to school business.

I bought all the pencils and binders, books and packs. I bought shirts and shoes and jeans that I know won’t get worn. I bought a lunchbox that will carry his lunch to school and home again -day after blessed day, because hard as I try he will not eat unless he is in the comfort of his home and everything is as it should be. But still, I pack the lunch I know will get thrown away because someone might question if I don’t. I buy the shirts I know won’t get worn -because at least it will look as though I am trying. Not hard enough, never hard enough -but at least trying.

The morning starts the same way it does -every day. With a bowl of cereal and a pile of TV remotes. Quietly in the early hours of the morning he gets cereal and remotes and talks himself through his day. I don’t know what he says, or what he does -but I know it works and I know it doesn’t hurt anyone and so I let him go. I throw the cereal away a few hours later, right next to the cereal from the day before -because he doesn’t eat that kind. Only the other kind. Only after his morning routine. Only once the cereal has been thrown away and the remotes accounted for. Only then.

I try not to show the panic that has settled in next to the guilt, panic about how the day is going to go down, about how the year will pan about, about how nothing ever goes as planned and this certainly will be no different. Guilt over not doing enough, not trying hard enough, over doing too much and not enough. Circles upon circles of endless thoughts.

The drive in is quiet. I step around the fragile questions I am not sure if he has or not -trying to settle my nerves as much as his. Trying, desperately to make this seemingly mundane and normal task -just that, when it is anything but. Trying to fight away the thoughts that crowd my already fragile mind. Hoping, desperately, for a normal moment when it is anything but.

He walks through the school that we just visited not even two days ago as if he has been there for years. He ignores his teachers and gets straight to business making himself at home with something he shouldn’t be touching. “He will be fine.” I tell no one but myself, and then I leave. Because I know after years of doing this that ripping the Band-Aid off quickly is better than slowly.

I am alone with my thoughts for the first time in months. Alone with nothing but myself and the stale air. Alone. The perfect time for all the jumbled thoughts to align and make force. I only dropped one kid off this year. Only bought supplies for one backpack. Only arranged for one kid to go to school. Only made lunch for one box. Guilt for not trying hard enough. For pushing too hard. For not seeing things earlier. For not stepping in sooner. What went wrong, and why? The questions that never seem to have answers flood my mind, because for now -I can’t be bothered to push them aside.

This one has come so far -the one they said wouldn’t. The one they said would never make it to seventh grade -is now entering the seventh grade. The one they said wouldn’t understand laughs at his own jokes. The one they said wasn’t worth it. The one I drug, kicking and screaming, yelling and biting down the halls of school only to be called back ten minutes later because it wasn’t working today. The one that hid in the corner screaming for hours at a time. The one that fought, tooth and nail -everyday, all day. Is now walking into new situations like nobody’s business, leaving me in the dust -the way it should be.

But the one they said would be fine. The one they said was just having a rough year, a rough patch -just needing some extra time. The one they diagnosed, and treated -that one, isn’t here. For reasons I still have yet to understand. The one that was supposed to be ok -wasn’t. He wasn’t here for the first day of school. He won’t be here to get off the bus. Won’t be here to complain about his teachers or homework.

Too much, not enough. Never enough.

I try, because it’s the only thing I know how to do. Even when I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do. I try, because if I didn’t try I would give up. I try, because there is nothing else left to do. I try, because he deserves more -he deserves better. But it will never be enough. The intermingling of the thoughts, the twisting of ideas, the comprehending of the future. Binding the past with the present and trying to make a future.

It’s hard.

Because it’s never enough.

Of Broken Spirits

I would say probably 90% of time, things are rolling along smoothly here.  By smoothly, I mostly mean we are making progress, gaining speed, and avoiding head on collisions for the most part.  But eventually – That crash will happen.  I try not to think too hard about when it will happen and just know in the back of my mind, that eventually – it will.  It works.  I don’t work myself up fearing the worst (most times atleast) and Im (somewhat) prepared when that crash occurs.  But still, it sucks.  Because nothing can fully prepare you for what all will be entailed in that crash.

Sometimes, you can see if coming from a distance – you know its coming, you embrace, and you get through it.  Yet other times it comes from left field with no warning and you are left scrambling to reassemble some sense of normalcy.  Because what else can you do?

Throughout this entire trek, one thing has constantly stood out to me.  The phrase from a well known man in town, who, after his daughters boyfriend ended up in jail for abuse to his 3 year old grandson, became his legal guardian.  This man isn’t from town, and like a lot of transplants here, came from farming country.  He was a cattle wrangler.  He know what all was entailed in whatever goes in with that cattle.  Nothing caught him off guard.  Nothing surprised him.  He was always ready.  And yet his words have stuck with me.

“It takes a lot to break the spirit of a 3 year old.”

They are the first words that come to mind when something goes down around here.  And often the last words that leave after a long day.  They race through my mind as I try, desperately, to bring the known to the unknown.  They are the words I wish I could paint, with MY words, to make everyone realize just how true that is.  Because indeed, it does.

I do my best to encourage the boys to seek out their dreams, while trying to guide them into their place in this world – whatever that may be.  I fail, 99% of the time.  I talk myself up everyday, I remind myself of those words – in hopes that I will remember NOT to break the spirit of these kids.  I succeed for about 5 minutes in the heat of the moment, before I too, succumbed to the old tried and true ways of life, say the things I wish I wouldnt.

There have been a few situations here, lately, that have kept me up late at night trying, desperately, to find some sort of answers in the land on the internet.  Situations that have left me scrambling to find answers before its too late.  Yet all that I find are the problems – with seemingly no solutions.  And while it frustrates me, it also encourages me in some weird way.  To know that I am not the only one seeking questions with no answers.  To know that not every question has been answered yet.  To know that I am not alone in this world with roads that seem paved for everyone but myself.

And when I do finally find the answers – they arent as I expected.  Instead of fighting for solutions, and racing to beat the problem to the punch, I read between the lines, and deep beyond the spoken words.  Into the heart and soul of the question is where I find the answer.  The answer, that I don’t necessarily like.  Sometimes, you have to let them fall.  The answer says.  Sometimes – you have to let their spirits become broken – so they can be built up again, correctly.

Sometimes solving all the worlds problems – is not easy.  Infact, sometimes its hard.  And goes against everything I have taught myself.  It screams that it cant be right, there must be another way.  There has to be SOMETHING that argues against this.  Instead, I slowly come to grips, that sometimes – I must be wrong.  Sometimes, pain is needed, and pain is good.  Sometimes.  I must stand back, knowing full well that train wreck is coming and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.

I must stand by, and watch.  As the spirits of the very ones I have tried so desperately to protect from all pain and sadness – become broken.  Because only then, will they too realize what I have tried to teach all along is true.  Even if not always right.

What if…

Driving through town the other day, windshield wipers routinely swiping across the window.  Coffee long gone cold, I leaned into the steering wheel a bit harder and waited.  Thinking about nothing in particular, my eye caught the colorful flash of a red coat flapping along side the road.  Inside it was a little boy no older than 10.  He seemed happy enough, walking along the sidewalk towards his home.

A few feet down the road, another group of kids running down the sidewalk towards their homes, jumping in puddles and laughing around.

I don’t judge other parents, mostly because I don’t know what is going on in their lives.  I don’t know what has come together to make them make these decisions on the behalf of their children, and I certainly am not capable of making any better choices.  I have my hands full with my three.  But watching the little boy run down the road, my mind went to other thoughts…

Mainly Josh.

Would there ever be a day where I could let him take the bus, both to and from school – alone?  Would there be a day where I could actually trust not only him, but the world, that he would make it home safely?  I have read stories.  Stories about kids getting lost.  On the wrong bus.  Drivers mistakenly taking kids to other destinations.  And while I know in a small town the dangers and worries are on a much MUCH lesser scale than that of a big city – but I still wonder.

Years ago, my friends got on the wrong bus and accidentally got off at the wrong stop.  Their parents searched for them for hours – and it wasn’t until an accidental run in with another friend did they discover their kids were, actually, ok.  But what if they weren’t?

There are so many what ifs when it comes to kids.  So many dangers and problems, and things you hope to protect them from.  There are so many things you know you CANT protect them from.  So many dangers and fears, and worries.  So many things that you have to set aside to simply let them grow up.  Trust.  You have to trust a world that has offered nothing for you to trust in.  But if you let yourself think about all the things that could possibly happen – you would never let them leave the house again.

You can only do so much, for so long, before they grow minds of their owns, and start making demands such as wanting to be left alone.  And while you know they need this, something still pulls at you – What if?  What if something happens.  What if the bus gets lost.  What if the bus drives off the road.  What if it forgets them.  What if they get off the bus – and another car doesn’t stop.  What if they forget their stop, and get lost.  What if they get kidnapped.  Or hurt.  What if?

And that’s just for taking a bus a few minutes down the road.  What about when they get older.  And want to drive.

Much of the same conversations I had a few years, are repeating themselves now.  Why don’t you trust me.

And much of the answers are the same.  Its not that I don’t trust THEM.  Its that I don’t trust the OTHERS.  I don’t trust people as much as some think I should.  I don’t give people enough credit, and am not open with them as much as some would like.  I don’t freely hand over the keys.  I don’t know everything that goes on in this world, or this town.  But I know enough to know that I don’t WANT to know.

I know enough to know that the sight of a yellow bus, and a small child is enough to send my mind into over drive.  Because while the day may come that I feel I can trust Josh enough to take the bus to and from school alone – I fear there might not ever come the day that I trust everyone else.  And that in doing so, I will hold him back.  Somehow.

That by protecting him from what I can, I am holding him back.  Putting a damper on his life.  That because he doesn’t talk back like every other 9 year old out there, I am taking advantage and not letting him be free.  I want to let him go, its not that I want to hold him back.  Its that I don’t want to lose him completely, and the world around me has not proven that they can be completely and openly trusted.

I watched the little boy run down the road and wondered if his parents faced many of the same fears I do.  Maybe they fought with the decision, willing to give him freedom without losing him completely.  Maybe they had no choice.  And maybe this wasn’t even a problem for them.  A fear they never had to face.  Sending kids to school is a part of life.  Riding the bus -a right of passage.  Its just something that happens.

But Im not quite ready to give up the small bit of control I have.

Im not ready to add another fear, and Im not ready to have to worry, once again, if he will make it home or not.  And since he really isn’t complaining that much – I will keep on driving him to school, walking him in, and spend the rest of the day worrying he made it home ok.

Because its all part of life, and Im not going to complain.

Good-bye Summer

Its that time of year again.  The time where every other parent sighs heavy relief that school is finally back, and the other parents are left clinging to whats left of their children because they are growing up so quickly.  For whatever reason, this year it seems that most parents are having a hard time with this whole back to school thing, and while the advertisements for “Great deals” are as heavy as ever, the push to get the kids ready – hasn’t been there this year.  Ive had to check a number of times just this past week when school actually starts, because really?  Im not ready either.

I read a post I wrote last year this time, and nodded in agreement with everything I said.  Because once again – I am having a hard time with this whole raising a special needs kid business.

In a few days (9, to be exact) he will be turning 9.  In years past, the birthday number really didn’t do much for me.  Sure he was getting older, but look!  Progress!  We can do this!  But this year, the progress has slowed.  Some back tracking has been done, and the realization that he might not be able to mature past this age?  Is more real than ever.  His differences are more and more obvious to not only the kids around him, but to him as well.  And the harder he tries to put them aside and “blend in” the more obvious it becomes.

With school starting in a few short weeks, I am left with a sick sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.  One that makes me want to wrap him up, once again, and protect him from the cruel world.  Because his innocence is still somewhat intact, despite what hes been through.  I wish, once again, that he had parents devoted to helping him succeed.  Not just a lousy excuse for an uncle who can barely remember to make it to his appointments on time.

I wish, for his sake, that he had better.

He has spend his entire summer just being a kid, for as far as the summer would allow.  He followed Dylan around like a lost puppy, threw rocks in the river, and watched the bears feed in our back yard.  For the entire summer I didn’t think about problems with school, and socializing, or comparisons.  He was Josh, and he was a pretty darn cool kid.  His differences didn’t stick out – because there was nothing to compare him against.  His shortcomings didn’t stand out like red against white.  He played, he laughed, he got dirty, and he spent the summer just exactly as he wanted.  Because we had nothing to accomplish, and nowhere to go.

And now.  Its fall.

Its time to stuff feet into a bigger pair of shoes, wrestle the pants on and pray they stay on for the majority of the day, and begin the daily struggles of making it outside in the pouring rain on time.  And of course, the differences.

When lined up, among peers, the differences are like night and day.

Gone are the carefree afternoons of leisure.

Some could argue that I could have done more for him this summer, and their arguments would be legit.  I should have.  I could have.  But at what cost?  I still believe that he is a child who needs to experience childhood.  I still believe he needs to run and play, and scrape him knees, and overcome his fears.  I still believe that he is a boy with a wild sense of adventure.  And I still believe there will be enough hours spent inside, learning from the books.

This year, as summer comes to a close, its hard to say good bye.  Because I don’t honestly know what next summer will bring.  Hes different than he was last year.  His peers are different.  Hes entering an age where differences are not tolerated as well.  Hes going to a school, with a naïve sense about him – unaware of what lays ahead.  And how can I prepare him, when I don’t even know?

All I can do is soak up the days with him, and hope that somehow, the gaps he has – are filled, not widened.  And that the holes he has, are filled, not deepened.

The conversation I never thought of having

The notes from school have been positive.  “Everyone loves him.”  “He is doing GREAT! ”  “He loves all his classmates.”  And perhaps my favorite this year was from an old teacher who scribbled a small something about loving to see how much he has changed this year.  But when I dropped him off, his teacher pulled me off to the side…

In years past, Josh has been what most would call, a problem child.  The one parents hate to see coming.  The one that throws the fits, and gets his way because well, what else can you do?  Months of hard work on the parts of everyone, and Josh would go to class without too much of a fight, but interaction was slim to nothing.  If someone tried to play with him, they would be met with ear piercing screams and the cold shoulder.

Really, it was anyone best guess as to what was up.  Finding him help, or a solution was near impossible, because it was really hit and miss.  Good days combined with bad days.  Notes from his teacher almost always started with “He had a good day BUT…” and then she would list off the numerous things that he had done wrong.

So when she asked to talk to me this morning, my heart sank a little.  It has only been a week since he has been back in school.  Was he already having issues?  She started off with a little introduction to what he has been up to, what his likes and dislikes seem to be, and I braced myself for the but.

“But…” she started.  “We have been having a few issues with….keeping his pants on.”  It took all I had to keep from laughing, and instead settled on trying to hide my smile.  She continued to say that Josh has no problems “Making himself at home.”  But that the pant issue was a bit much.  I told her I would think of something, and left as quickly as I could, just so I could release my stress from building up to the moment with a long laugh.

Josh is doing good in school so far.  His first week was a success.  His only problem?  Is that he is perhaps TOO comfortable with things.  This, after only a week.

Really, it was the needed break I have been looking for.  And while I know a lot of parents would be mortified to learn that their child freely takes his pants off in school, I couldn’t help but smile.  Hes ok.  He will be ok.  We will be ok.

We just have to figure out how to keep those pants from getting yanked off upon entering a class room full of people he feels comfortable with.

I guess it could be much worse.  It could be more than just the pants.

Maybe then…

I was reading something earlier, a simple yet honest post, just a small glimpse into the world of another person out there. A conversation she had with her six year old boy, the small things she planted in his head while preparing him for life. This life that is coming to eventually take him away to bigger and better. The ground work, being laid. And while the ending got me a short smile, I couldn’t help but just want to go hide.

This week has been a big mixture of complicated and confusing. Two things I don’t deal well with. I took the week off, and only told a few people, because I didn’t want to deal with the questions like “You did WHAT?” Because taking a day off is something I rarely do, let alone a week. But the thing is, I am just overwhelmed. With this whole kid thing. I often mentally calculate out the years left until they reach that magic age of 18, foolishly assuming that then my job here will be over. Thinking somehow that if I can just make it to that age with them, then they will be ok!

Which couldn’t be further from the truth.

The ground work. It still needs laid. And I honestly don’t know a thing about laying the ground. Especially for a kid who doesn’t talk, and I really don’t know whats going on in his mind or how to get through to him.

I sat through different meetings this week, listening as different people discussed different ways to help Josh succeed in school this year.  Last year we got off to a rough start, but after sorting through things, he did pretty well, considering.  We called it success.  And this year, are looking for the same results.  But its hard, because while I know he has the ability to learn, and the people to make sure he does, I worry about the other side of things.  The things we don’t talk about, the things that don’t get discussed for hours on in.  The things that normally, I might not worry about, but feel I must with him.

He either doesn’t use his words to explain things.  To say whats on his mind.  To say what he thinks.  What he likes.  What he doesn’t.  He communicates in different ways, yes, but there is only a limited window to knowing what REALLY goes on inside his mind, and lately, that window has been getting smaller and smaller.

As he gets older, and starts to form more opinions of his own, and starts to realize other things that he might not have noticed before – I wonder how he will process it all.  How will he get answers to questions, when he doesn’t have the words to ask them.  How will we know what he knows, and what he doesn’t, and how am I suppose to ensure that he grows up well rounded and complete – when I don’t even know if he understands ½ of the things that are said to him.

I worry about him, but more than him, I worry about his future.  I worry that I have messed up the only opportunity he has for some decent ground work to be laid, and he will grow up not knowing.  Not knowing the small, yet important things in life.

Maybe someday, if we make it to someday, he will be able to tell me.  And then maybe, just maybe, I will know.

 

But then again…maybe he already knows.  Maybe, he already knows.

Without the words, I hope he knows

School is officially over for the school year.

Every year, at the beginning and end of the school – I get flooded with all sorts of thoughts.  This past week has been filled with every kind of “Sign this sign that” paper work imaginable.  Its almost as if the schools wait until the very last week to cram everything in.  It makes people like me go nuts.  Or maybe its just that I don’t pay attention until the very last week.  And the first week.  I pay pretty good attention then too.

Almost every year I look back through the things I have written about the school year.  This has been a challenging year, but there wasnt much to read about it.  To be completely honest I wasn’t sure what to expect with Josh when things rolled out for the year.  I barely understand what an IEP is and could probably only tell you about ½ of whats on there.  I really don’t understand as much as I should, and the fancy names they give to things just furthers my confusion.  All this is to say that when I went in with a stack of paper work for Joshs teachers, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I went over the past few years I have had with him, and remembered the little guy who was so scared to go to school for the first time.  I recounted the many times tears and blood was shed.  I thought over the preschool episodes that really, prepared him for school in a social way more than anything.  I thought about his first kindergarten graduation, and how proud we were of him.  I thought about how patient his teachers were and are with him, and how little thanks or credit I give them.

When this year started out, I really wasn’t sure how it would end.  His first “real” year in school.  His first “real” taste of actual school work.  Sure, its JUST first grade, but its not preschool.  And its not kindergarten.  And he isn’t in a class with kids who are “just like him” all the time.  It was a jump, a stretch.  Something that no one knew if it would work, or fail.  A test, if you will.  I really havent talked to his teachers that much this year, aside from the notes that get passed back and forth, and the occasional “Im sorry we will work on that at home” – I have heard very little about how he has done.  Both socially, and academically.

I know he is a bright kid, and wasn’t as worried about him, as I was the rest of his class.  And his teachers.  His poor teachers.

So when I dropped his stuff off, I was surprised by all the good things they had to say about him.  I wondered at first if they got the wrong kid, because none of it sounded like Josh.  Atleast not the Josh I had been “Told” of.

But there I stood.  Hearing words of praise about the little guy we all love so much.

I cant really explain just how proud I felt of him in that moment.  Knowing that HIS accomplishments do NOT come easy to him.  Knowing that any ounce of success was not to be taken lightly, nor was it done with little thought.  Knowing that he struggles, but he tries.  So hard.  And his hard work?  Is paying off.

She showed me some of his work.  Work that was done BY him, and him alone.  And while Im pretty sure she went through the same thing with the rest of the parents in his class, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment and pride for him.  Knowing that each mark on that paper represented more than it does for the other kids in his class.  Knowing that just a few years ago it was all we could do to get him to go IN the class room.  Knowing that it took months of practice to get him to hold a pencil, and even more months to get him to use it.

I just cant say how I felt walking out of his school last week.

Words fail me.

I am, so proud of him, but I always have been.  Being “proud” just doesn’t seem to do justice.  His accomplishments, his success, his story, its all a part of who he is.  To say I am proud now seems to say that I wasn’t before.  To say I am proud of his accomplishments says that I wasn’t proud of him before.  When the truth is…I have always been proud of him, and always WILL be.  No matter what.  But to not acknowledge these accomplishments, is to say I don’t see how hard he works at things.  And I do.

The thin line, it trips me up once again.  I struggle to say just what I want.  The little guy blows me away, and makes me smile bigger than I even thought was possible.  Even in the struggles, the lows before the highs, I hope he knows.  I hope he knows all that I cant find words for.  I really just hope he knows how proud I am of him then AND now.  And not JUST because of these small (yet so major) accomplishments, but because of who he is.

If only he knew how much I strive to be like him.

I hope she knows

“Its because Im FAT!” She belted out.  I nearly choked on my coffee, but choked on my words instead.  And like a bad movie, the past five years raced through my mind.

We were driving to town, she had missed the bus.  The third time in less than a week.  I was silently complaining about all the times I had driven her to town, wondering why she kept missing the bus when clearly she had enough time.  Teenagers, I had decided, were the worlds greatest procrastinators.  Putting off a simple task such as running a few feet to the bus stop, and instead slowly shuffling down the hill as if it were a three day journey through the desert.

She talked.  Like she always does, about anything under the sun.  Friends, school, life in general, homework, and boys.  The newest topic in her vocabulary and one I wasn’t sure I was comfortable with.  She always ended that conversation with the final words of “But don’t worry I don’t like any of them.”  As if that were somehow supposed to make me feel better.  The fact that she had now noticed them was enough to send my mind into panic mode.  It also meant that they noticed her.  Which really didn’t sit well.

“I don’t fit in…because I don’t have….” and she went on to list a hundred and one privileges I have denied her.  Things like online accounts, a drivers license, a cell phone, and R rated movies.  What happened to the simple life?  The days where she wanted a puppy and would be happy forEVER if I would just let her have a puppy.  I silently scolded myself for caving for a puppy.  If I hadn’t, maybe she would still want it, and wouldn’t have set her heart on “Bigger and Better.”

Which is where we were when the above statement was blurted out.  “I don’t fit in.  They don’t like me.”  She continued on, working herself into a fit of almost tears, and then stopped.  “I don’t even have a boyfriend.” she said in an almost whisper.  A wave of relief rushed over me.  But she didn’t stop, and instead continued on about how all her friends have boyfriends, and how all her friends have driving permits, and all her friends boyfriends have drivers license and cool cars, and how they go out late and watch those movies.  And she doesn’t fit in because she doesn’t have any of those things.  Not even a cool boyfriend.  Because.  Shes fat.

To be completely honest, I don’t even know where she came up with these thoughts.  Except I do, because she told me.  Her friends told her.  That if she wants the boys to like her, she needs to be skinnier.  And prettier.  And for the love of all things good in the world, buy some name brand jeans and get a cell phone!

Why does this world have to be so complicated?  So confusing?  So hard?  Doesn’t she have enough to worry about without the constant pressure that she just isn’t GOOD enough?  I didn’t even know what to say.  Or where to begin.  And suddenly, it all made sense.  Her missing the bus.  Her no longer loving school, and no longer begging to be with her friends.  Her happy go lucky attitude seemed to disappear over night, and I hadn’t noticed.  Because I was too busy being upset over taking her to school…but if I hadn’t…

Getting her to school on time no longer seemed to be a priority.  The five minutes I had to get to work really didn’t matter.  And instead, I pulled off into a parking lot.  “Where are we going?” she seemed a bit frantic.  Was I really doing the right thing?  I never know anymore.  This life, these kids, these teenagers are getting the best of me and I am constantly in a wash of not knowing what to do, because it always seems to be the wrong thing.

We spent the morning, her and I in a little diner carved out in a corner of town.  Watching people rush by, hurrying to work.  It was mostly empty, inbetween the rush of the day, just her and I.  Like old times.  Talking about lifes little issues, and the problems that don’t have answers.  I watched her, all grown up, sitting across from me talking about real life problems, wondering when.  When did it happen, when did she grow up?  Why hadn’t I noticed?

I told her the only thing I could think of.  That I was sorry.  Sorry that she had to go through all this stuff, and that she didn’t have anyone who could answer her questions.  Sorry that people put her down.  And then I told her that she wasn’t pretty, she was beautiful.  And that while I know it didn’t mean much, coming from me, I love her, and she will always be special to me.  No matter what.  I told her that sometimes people put others down, to make themselves feel better, and that I thought she needed better friends.  We talked about all the things I don’t “Let her have” and I told her that if she really felt she needed those things, we would discuss it.

And then I told her to go kick some butt because I knew she could.

Her goofy carefree smile returned, I took her up to school, late, and as I got the third degree from the principle, her and I exchanged a knowing look.  She smiled, gave me a quick squeeze and ran off to her class.

I don’t know if anything I am doing is right.  I don’t know how to deal with these kind of problems.  I can only wish she had someone else to help her along in this life, because I know it is made ten times more difficult with just me there.  I hope she knows, truly knows, just how special she is.  To more people than just me.

Just being

I think this year is really, the first year that I have dove off the deep end trying to smooth things out for the kids, before they went to school. Either because I really didn’t have time, or because there were three different schedules that I was trying to compete with that I just didn’t think about it – Im really not sure. But either way, I didn’t rush in with expectations, didn’t tell their teachers every dab of details, and really, didn’t do a whole lot in the way of preparing things for them. I kind of left that hanging, if you will.

Looking over the few weeks of preparation, the meetings, the visits, the teachers, the STUFF, I see little glimpses where, I was asked a question, but didn’t see anything out of the ordinary for it, so I answered and moved on. Things like “Are you the parent?” would have had me a mess a few years ago, but this year, I apparently had no second thought when I said “Im their uncle, their legal guardian.” And left it at that. There were looks of confusion and wonder that I literally, passed by, and didn’t think about until now.

And its let me wondering. Have I really come to the point where I accept things for how they are, or did I just get too busy? Was that right? Was that wrong? And now, a few weeks too late, Im beginning to wonder – are they really ok?

I mean, sure I sighed GREAT relief when they all made it on the right bus, and made it home at the end of the day. I sighed an even bigger sigh when I found out that Josh did good on his first day, and well, quite frankly, the rest has been downhill without another thought. The rush of the mornings to get things going right, followed by the hectic after school programs, extra work I have picked up, and the end of the summer activities, and well…there hasn’t been a whole lot of time for thinking about the things that maybe I should have done.

To be honest, I don’t think I have even asked the kids how school has been. Except for that first day. Because that’s kind of expected. Ive been busy. Busy with life, and kids that are growing way too fast. Busy trying to juggle my schedule, and theirs. Busy trying to make life work, and I really, havent had time to think about much else.

Right or wrong. Its how it is.

I look at them, and sometimes wonder. Wonder how they got to where they are today, and how they will get to where they need to get, but lately…I havent even had time for that. Its been one thing to the next, with little time to stop and think. Which is best, I think. No time to think, no time to second guess. Just do what needs done, and that will be that. I know that’s changing, when “Summer” is completely over, and fall activities have dropped, and we are into a normal pace of life again, without the in between schedules – I will have time to process it all. I know I wont have the answers. I don’t think I ever will. I wont be able to ever understand how they made it here. But right now, I think that’s ok.

To answer questions without a second thought. To see the kids without second guessing. To live. Without questioning. To just be without worrying. I know it wont last. So for now, Im just enjoying it. Im just enjoying, being. Without a second thought.

To the teachers of seventh grade:

August 2011,

What you have coming for your class is your dream student. The one who is quiet, doesn’t talk back, and most always finishes the work he was told to finish. What you have is an almost 13 year old boy. Entering into a new stage in his life. A new school, with new teachers, and new surroundings. He wont ask you for help, and he wont tell you if he doesn’t understand. He would much rather fail a grade than he would ask for help.

Hes the quiet kind. The sturdy one. A boy of few words, but the words he does speak are usually words worth hearing. A boy of few friends, but the friends he does have are friends worth having. True friends. Who will be in the same classes as he is this year. You will have a group of very well behaved boys, I can tell you that much.

I have to ask one thing, however. Just because he is quiet, and doesn’t case a problem. Just because he doesn’t raise his hand, and hardly ever speaks, and just because you will probably never know his name unless you look at your paper work, please don’t pass him up. Please don’t over look him, and let him slide by.

You probably wont even notice him. He will slip in, and slip out. Preferring to go unnoticed, undetected. You wont have to call his name (which you wont know) a hundred and twenty times in a period. You wont have to send him to the principals office, and you wont ever have to worry about him getting into trouble. Atleast not yet. His time is coming. For now, he will be there when you least expect it. When you are over your head in something, or need one word of encouragement. You wont know where he came from, and you probably wont know where he goes…but he will be there, in that moment. Its who he is. Its what he lives for. Its how he works.

He struggles in things, and takes a little longer to finish stuff. He works hard, but doesn’t always succeed, and never asks for help. Please help him. He might be there longer than the rest, he might need to have something explained to him a hundred and one times – and even then, he might walk away simply not knowing. It takes him longer to read things, and he doesn’t do good under pressure. He isn’t very social, and would be perfectly happy to be left alone in the corner with one item, than in a room with a thousand people, and hundreds of activities.

I can almost guarantee you that he wont cause you any trouble. Unless he does, and then it is one of those random moments where the boy inside took over and he let loose the past 12 years of being quiet. But most times, you will just laugh. Because he will say something or do something so completely random, that you just cant help but laugh.

Don’t put him with a partner who is a girl. Oh help us all if he has to talk to a girl. Or walk past one for that matter. Were working on social/life skills, and maybe you could help him out by not putting him in one of these situations. He will drain of all color, and the only words you will get out of him is a few stutters. Its not that he doesn’t like them, its that he gets nervous. It will be a while before I have to chase them off. Its ok with me. Don’t push it.

I know he will grow this year. Both mentally, physically, emotionally. Hes growing now, and will continue to. Hes changing, and I think you might be one of the last class rooms to have a quiet, calm, slow tempered boy. Next year Im envisioning a loud, obnoxious, wild and rambunctious teenager. I know. Laugh with me. I just had to throw that out there.

Help him grow, teach him what you are suppose to, and leave the rest to other people. Hes not abused, or behind. Please don’t give him these ideas. Hes doing good where he is at, and is outgrowing this awkward stage in his life. Stuck somewhere between the quiet little boy, and the full blown teenager who wants to come out. Help him with the things you are to help him with, and watch him…He wont disappoint.

His spelling sucks, and his handwriting isn’t much better – I could say he gets that from me, but I wont admit to anything. Enjoy him…its not that hard.