Friday, July 29, 2011

Letting Go

I'm not sure where to begin this entry. I had written one earlier in the week that, through circumstances that still puzzle me, disappeared into the ether.

It's just as well; it was very angsty.

And I am not feeling angst, at least not as much as I did about a month ago. Actually, things are pretty good. Thanks to Facebook, I met a friend for drinks this week, another and her kids for a swim date, and a third I will meet down the shore with kids in tow tomorrow. All are my 'high school girls,' and I thank God every day I reconnected with these ladies. They never fail to bring a smile to my face.

My kids, naturally, factor into the good cheer. All the work we are doing with Nic is paying off. He's still high-strung and dramatic, but he is also a bit more settled as we move into August. I had been beating myself up about not facilitating interactions with both enough; I get to stop that, because they interacted just fine with my friend's girls at the pool yesterday. Nic sustained conversations on his own with everyone all afternoon. So did G.

Clearly, he knows how, and he can do it when he wants to. This is good to know.

At tennis, for the first time in the four years we've been doing the program, I left G alone to follow directions. And he actually did better without me hovering.

And I found a competitive bowling league for them to both compete in this fall. They will be separated by age--a good thing.

It just seems like all the hard work of integrating and working with them is finally starting to pay off. It's almost like it's happening all at once, even though I know we've been working toward this point for years.

Oh, we're not done. Not even close. We have plenty of hard work ahead of us still. But, how gratifying it is to stand back and watch them do things on their own.

I step back with relief and gratitude. And certainly, they will stumble and fall.

But they have shown me that they both know how to brush themselves off and keep going.

And they wouldn't have had that opportunity if I hadn't stepped back in the first place.

(What can I say? It's been a process for me, too. I've had to take the leap of faith necessary to believe in all of us--and I did.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Pretzels and Ice Cream

Grandmom--my paternal grandmother--tends to make a guest appearance in my consciousness when one of my kids is in need.

My younger guy left his ice cream last night. As I pondered melting chocolate in a tea cup, I found myself, age 4 or thereabouts, at Grandmom's house with my older sister. We spent an overnight, and I can remember it only in flashes.

One my sister and I both remember is the pretzels in ice cream. Present day, looking at the melted ice cream, I remembered the pretzels in the cupboard and added them. Nic came in, took a look, and left, holding his nose.

So as I indulged in this treat, I remembered how the last time I dreamed of her, she helped me with Gabriel.

Today, I invoke her memory as I head into middle school today on Nic's behalf.

I gather my angels around me, knowing that this will only be the first step in a long journey....

Yet. As I cleaned over the weekend, I found Nic's memory book from Kindergarten. And as I leafed through the art and photographs from 5 and 6 years ago, I marveled at how much he has grown--and how far he's come since those pictures were taken....

How far WE'VE come.

So while the road ahead is daunting, I am reminded of what we've withstood so far. What's happened to us. And how we've lived through it all.

What I sit here with right now: Nic's smile and laughter as he he cajoled me into another elevator adventure last night after his class. How we joked--and how he understood my jokes--and how we laughed together. His big green eyes smile and laugh and are full of humor and life.

And I am reminded, yet again, of how much he depends on me still. And how, as charged, I cannot fail him.

By the grace of God. I will not fail.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I dream of eggplant (and other stuff)

Pieces of my past come to me at odd moments lately, as if they are trying to teach me something about my current life.

The current life. Lots of good stuff; Nic played wiffle ball with his cousins at a party on Sunday. Doesn't seem like that big a deal, and in most places and in most families, it isn't. But in mine, it's a huge deal. Nic interacted and played like any other kid....and that, my friends, is a first.

I take joy in these small things. I understand if people don't get my enthusiasm. But, I guess in light of the fact that I, and my boys, have suffered rejection in so many ways the past two months that it's with mixed feelings that I am writing what I'm writing. I've always prided myself on being positive and upbeat, but lately, the face I've been keeping on is just that. I'm worn out. I'm tired to the point of tears. And those things that I depend on to keep me going, well, they just aren't there.

So my mind's been taking trips down memory lane when I am alone in the car. This morning, it was August 2004, and Nic uttered a rare spontaneous phrase.

"He's standing!"

The he in question is Gabriel, barely 10 months old, his big grin revealing all four of his teeth, his fluffy curly strawberry blond hair waving in the breeze, as are his arms, giggling, triumphant and barefoot on the blacktop of our driveway.

I reflect on all the comfort he's been to me over the years.

Another moment: mom, now younger than I am, preparing to make fried eggplant. My sister and I join her, her only comment that I remember was that my dad really enjoyed it. We ate it as quickly as my mom fried it up, hushed, reverent, as if we were performing a ritual of memorial. Which, looking back, I think we were.

So, what do these moments in the past have to do with the here and now?

I don't know. I think they are to remind me that life is still good.

But I am struggling. Although I am working hard to make sure Nic's transition to middle school is successful, worry that my best efforts still won't be good enough haunts me. I'm reminded almost constantly that my best efforts aren't enough--and it's been hard for me to stay sunny and keep smiling.

My best efforts there--not sure how that's working out.

I'll keep trying, and I'll keep looking for that silver lining. And keep hoping for the best.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Address the Fixable

After a month and change of letting the world have its way with its me, I've made a decision. A lot of it revolved around repetitions of the serenity prayer. What can I change? What goes into the "that which I can't" bucket? And where's my wisdom to figure out which is which?

Life teaches much if you are open to the lesson plan. Everyone is open to learning as long as it doesn't inconvenience her. But reining in pride and hubris? The stiff-necked rebellion that comes with humiliation? These things are hard.

I've gone through more rounds than I care to count with the last in the past few weeks. I found myself in our tent on Sunday, in another state, wondering how I was going to deal with Nic's latest round of escapades.

I let myself get quiet enough to hear my instructions. "You have a choice; you can continue to hang yourself on the cross of other people's doings, or you can own what's yours and let others own what belongs to them."

This is where I get strung up, and this is what's been stringing me up since the end of May--I let whatever anyone else is doing spoil my good time, either by trying to own what happened or by trying to buffer other people.

Why? Who knows? But clearly I need to stop because it's making me nuts.

And suddenly, life just got a whole lot better. Nothing has really changed, only my perspective.

But what a difference. If only I could figure out a way to bottle and sell it.....

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Not sweating the small stuff (because it's all small stuff)

So this summer of tackling the hard stuff and saving Nic from himself before middle school starts has already taught me some important stuff--namely, that this is not about me. I tend to get lost in the weeds in spite of myself. But an overnight we spent with friends lent me fresh perspective on my kids, my family, and the way I roll with all of the above.

The visit went well, despite a few hiccups. Nic was able to identify what worked for him and what didn't; he listened to our hosts and heard about it when he didn't. For my part, I spent less time buffering Nic and more time allowing him to assess boundaries on his own. While this was painful for me, it was instructive for both me and Nic. It also allowed me to see to what degree I interfere with Nic learning things on his own.

My intentions are good, but sometimes I overstep. This weekend, I learned how to step back. And guess what, Nic did fine. It also helped that our hosts got Nic and had no fear of correcting him as needed. It's all a matter of degree and moderation. Even our mini golf outing produced minimal drama and maximum fun for all. Really, good times.

And for his part, G had a great time interacting with kids who were interested in engaging him. I need to do more of this kind of thing for his sake, too. It's not easy being Nic's younger brother.

So it was not only fun, but educational, all around.

Boy, do I have a lot to learn. This song showed up on my iPod the other night--and it's amazing how to the point it is....