Friday, March 30, 2012

Waiting for Morning

"Mom, remember the night I couldn't fall asleep?" Nic asked recently.

There was no one time that immediately sprang to mind, and I said so. Truth is, Nic didn't sleep through the night with any kind of consistency until about third grade. He persisted.

"You know, that night where I tossed, and I turned, and I ended up at the foot of the bed."

OH. THAT night. And I do remember him at the foot of the bed, finally asleep.

"How old were you, Nic? Do you remember?"

*shrug* "First grade, maybe?"

"And why couldn't you sleep?"

"I was just waiting for morning."

The phrase jars me in a way Nic's random proclamations often do, and haunted me in the early morning hours as my little one climbs into bed with me and falls asleep. Lately, he's needed me more at bed time, and often wanders in the wee hours like a little ghost looking for me. And this morning, I realize with a great deal of dismay, he's grinding his teeth in his sleep.

Nic has ground his teeth in his sleep ever since he's had them. Gabriel has not. Until now.

So again, I find myself seized with fears in the darkness, wondering yet again if I am doing enough for him, what am I missing? What else do I need to be thinking about? Has the bus stop ruined him for life? How can I fix this? Is he already broken beyond repair?

I think of people I knew, and one person in particular who my mom said was a troubled soul.

I thought for a moment. "He was always a troubled soul, mom."

She was quiet a moment. And agreed.

So to what depth troubled? To what extent broken?

I find that I, too, am waiting for morning.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Why Bother?

Sometimes I have to ask myself the question: why bother?

Sometimes, these moments, where Nic's teammates help him run in the 1600, are the reason.

I remember the same place cheering Nic's completion of his first 400 last year and thought that moment would be a hard one to top. But when I heard one of Nic's teammates ask an official "Can we run with him?" as Nic struggled into his last lap, I could have cried. And watching those three boys--who had just finished their own 1600s--trot alongside him in the last 300 meters, it was all I could do NOT to cry.

But I do feel the unasked question: why make him run? Why do this when you know he'll never finish first?

He likes his team. He likes to be near them, even if he isn't always sure how to interact with them. And he can outrun most of the kids in his gym class, which has its own set of bragging rights, even if the people in the stands don't know that.

Why bother? Because Nic is a part of a team that would not be the same without him.

And that's a good enough reason for me.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


"Mom, it's okay if I'm an alternate." Pause. "What's an alternate?"

Thus begins my first stage/sports mom experience. Last year, a small team enabled my elder son the experience of Penn Relays; this year, a larger team relegates him to 'alternate.'

Don't get me wrong; as a coach, having alternates is a good problem to have. The downside: all the senior boys got to run last year. This year, there will be disappointment.

"We're doing this on times," I told the kids at the end of practice yesterday. "Fastest kids go. I'll be posting everyone's times every week."

We had a fifth junior boy join yesterday, which pretty much guarantees that Nic is not going to run. The force of this disappointment surprises and vexes me.

"But mom," said Nic, "You still have to coach, so we still have to go."

It occurs to me that the other alternates may not feel this way, and that Nic, who can either run up or run down this year only, is peculiarly situated to be an all-around backup, if need be.

And he is absolutely okay with this. Isn't that the very essence of teamwork?

And isn't it awesome that Nic gets that?

As much as I model for him, he models right back to me.

And I am okay with that.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Super Powers

I always wanted to be invisible. This seems as good a place as any to start. I am--have always been--painfully shy, an observation that makes people who think they know me laugh out loud. But no, I spent the better part of my life wishing I could blend better into life's furniture and background. But God had something else in mind.

Because there is Nic, who is the antithesis of shy and retiring and is everything and more than what I was at age 12. Nic has all my tectonic force and emotional storminess minus the female circumspection and decorum. He lays everything bare without any thought of what it could cost him.

Which led me to ask the question: where the HELL did he come from?

My answer came to me this morning while I drove into work, thinking of conversations I've had with colleagues and a conversation I had with a fellow mom last night about some one who feels compelled to move because of her family's ostracism from their neighborhood and my response: "I know what this looks like--can you have her contact me? Email me? I'd love to talk to her."

This was one of those moments where I was saying the words, but they were as new to me as they were to my listener. Because as I listened to this stranger's story, I heard my story. I watched my little one perambulate around the room, humming to himself, and I noticed a few sets of eyes looking at him.

Yes. Ostracism. I know something about this.

For all the self-flagellation I engage in about not being a better model to my boys, I realized this morning that Nic is OUT THERE because I am OUT THERE. For the last 10 years I've been knocking myself out--sometimes literally--to ensure that my boys are part of the community. And the pains I have taken are starting to pay off.

Take the sacraments. All I had to do at any point in the last 5 years is ask Fr M to administer sacraments to Nic. It's been my preference, however, that he receive the sacraments in the community, just like every other kid his age in the parish has done. Nic's behavior posed a big limiting factor to this; Gabriel's does not. Gabriel, consequently, will make his sacraments on the same timeline as his peers. And I just got the green light for Nic to make his sacraments of Penance and Communion with G. Nic will then make confirmation with his class next fall.

The point here is that my boys do this with the community. And it looks like, at long last, this will happen.

I look at all the other things we have going on right now: track, scouts, swimming, bowling, music, and I realize that all these years I have been throwing myself out there, getting thrown to the mat, picking myself up and dusting myself off, Nic has not only been watching, but he is also doing. For better or for worse. I am teaching him how to be a proper warrior. And he's learning. He is not always right, or quiet, or neat, but there is nothing half-hearted about the way he rolls. Not even his laugh.

I asked for invisibilty; I got armor instead.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Slouching hopefully down the mountain

I'm sitting here at G's weekly music lesson, trying to wrap my head around the last little while. We went skiing last Friday; metaphors swirl around the whole idea of edging to the top of the hill, taking a deep breath, and then letting the speed and wind of racing downhill take your breath away.

It's some of that; realizing that once and for all we have found something that Nic can do and, reasonably, leave him to do on his own and he'd be fine. And realizing that slowly, he's coming to do all the things we'd expect a boy of 12 to do on his own.

As I told our story again--for the first time in 18 months--to back to back classes yesterday, I realized anew that my children are both wildly surpassing everything I ever hoped they'd be at these respective moments of their lives. We're up to 5 team meetings so far for Nic this year--and we all laugh. Because the kid has a sense of humor and is writing his own story--that someday he will tell in his own way. That he tells every day in the way he lives.

At our encampment with scouts at the Battleship NJ, we had our first uneventful encampment--ever. It was exciting for what didn't happen. My boys carried on just like the rest of the pack, and Nic even got to run a television camera during one of our many stops throughout the ship.

I did an interview with Dr Dan Gottlieb for Voices in the Family just about two years ago, and at that time I told him that our family looks just like any other family. It feels that even two years from that moment, that statement is, possibly, more true now than it was when I said it.

But that's how it's been going. Bit by bit. Day by day. Year by year. The boys continue to gain ground; certainly not at the speed of their peers, but my God, to think that I ever expected--or dreamed--of any less.

Their success has always been a product of finding what works for them--throwing stuff against the wall, and seeing what sticks. Lately, lots of stuff is sticking. We're hard pressed to eliminate anything from their busy schedules, because they are getting so much out of everything.

Sooner or later, we will slow down, and take a deep breath. But for right now, all of us, we are just enjoying life. And each other.