In bloom

Good news! My son is graduating this weekend!

I really wasn’t sure he was going to pull it off. Although my son has a brilliant mind, he has been an underachiever.

Paul and I attended the high school awards ceremony this past week. I noticed that 90% of the awards went to 15% of the students. My son received one award for an extracurricular music trip that he participated in.

It was easy to go to the award ceremony when Angel graduated from high school because she was an overachiever. It was different this time around. I noticed the parents that were there and more notably, the parents who did not attend.

Sometimes we just want life to be fair. We want ‘good’ parents to raise ‘good’ kids. For most things, our results are a response to the amount of effort put into something. There is no guarantee with parenting.

We may light the path we want our child to take, they may take a different trail.

I noticed a good example of that a couple months ago.

Parents A have a son that won a lot of awards at the ceremony. He is a star athlete getting letters in a dozen sports. He is good looking, a high honor student, popular, and very involved in his high school experience.

Parents B have a son that is an underachiever, not very athletic, not all that attractive, and is a smoker.

Boy A and boy B are cousins. Boy A ratted boy B out for smoking. Boy A’s parents told boy B that he was a loser and would never amount to anything. Then boy A’s parents confronted boy B’s parents and told them that they were horrible parents. Boy A’s parents told them that if they were good parents then they would have a bright shining star like boy A. Ouch!

Mom B cried as she told me this story. I was appalled and angry. The parents of boy B are great parents. As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Is it wrong to want boy A’s parents to come crashing off of their high horse?

Should you ever confront parents if they are doing everything they can and their kid strays off the path?

It reminds me of how my mother was treated having a violent autistic child. People pointed fingers and blamed her for the way my brother was acting. What a refrigerator mom! It was painful to hear their comments. My mom needed support and help, not to be ostracized and condemned for something beyond her control.

It was great when my overachieving daughter received award after award. Guess what? It made me feel like I was a great parent. But it really was the fruition of her own efforts and good choices.

When do children stop being dependent and start making their own decisions? The line was so fine I didn’t even notice the transition.

I had dreams for my son too. He is a talented musician but earned no band awards because he is no longer in band. All of his previous work and past achievements were not applauded. He still was voted the best musician in the senior class by his classmates. In the fall, we even toured a college for music. He decided to go to tech school instead.

Sometimes our kids will date people we don’t like. They might choose a different career than what we chose for them. They may even decide not to follow our political or religious beliefs. But it is their choice.

Needless to say, boy A’s parents were happy parents at the award ceremony. Boy B received no awards. His parents were not in attendance.

I thought I had everything figured out with the whole parenting thing when my first two babies were happy and slept through the night right away. I was ready to write that parenting book. Well, not really, but you know what I mean. Then baby three came along and was colicky. She cried day and night and rarely slept through the night for over a year.

I realized then that I didn’t have all of the answers. There isn’t an instruction book. If there was I probably wouldn’t follow it anyway. Sometimes things just don’t go the way we want them to. It is heartbreaking as a parent.

Some kids bloom at different times. Honestly, I would hate my children to experience the best years of their lives in high school. There are so many better years beyond that to experience.

Boy B hasn’t bloomed yet. Sometimes he comes to my house along with a slew of other underachieving boys. Several of them are at my house right now. Some come from good homes, others I know are going to struggle. But they are great kids. They are respectful to me, funny, and kind. They just haven’t bloomed yet.

My son is graduating this weekend. I can’t wait to watch how his life unfolds as he starts to bloom, mature, and grow.

Least likely to be athletic

I’ve had a few comments over the last couple of days that really made me think, or I should say laugh. Someone said I must have been a star athlete in high school. A lot of people said to me over the years that they could never run a marathon. They only wish they were as athletic as me. Their idea of a marathon is Netflix, etc..

I suppose if you met me now you would assume that I was always this way. Now I am a lean and muscular marathon runner aspiring to run my first 50k. Before, well sometimes you just have to laugh.

I was that scrawny little kid that ALWAYS was picked last to be on someone’s team. It always hurt when pickings got slim. Which loser would be picked last to be on the winning team? That internal debate of the team captain on who would suck the least of the last remaining few always showed through the frown on their face. I wonder if kids are still allowed to pick their own teams in gym class?

I was the ONLY girl that tried out for cheerleading in middle school that didn’t make the team AND didn’t make the alternate list.

True story, in middle school I had to write book reports on sports to pass gym class.

You could say I sucked. I didn’t have a trophy case full of ribbons and medals. My high school years were certainly not my glory days. I lived the worst years of my life in my childhood.

But now, I actually feel sorry for people that say their high school years were the best times of their lives.

I became an athlete as an adult because that is what I wanted to be. I still think it is funny when people assume I’ve always been this way. I also think that it is funny when people say that they could never run a marathon because they are not athletic enough.

We are capable of doing whatever we tell ourselves we can (or can’t). All you have to do is take the first step. It is never too late to be the person you want to be. Look at me, least likely to be athletic then is a marathon runner now.

 

 

Two steps forward, one back

Yesterday was a horrible day. At least some good did come out of it. Right when I was ready to publish yesterday’s post about my son quitting band, his band teacher called me. She said that Alex came to her and talked about all of the things that were bothering him about band. They had a good conversation and she said that Alex decided to stay in band, although at this time he is failing the class.

If the conflict is resolved(?), do I still post about it? I felt unsettled about the post anyway. Do you ever feel that way? Unsettled about something that you wrote? I told myself that I could always delete the post if I wanted to. I did that once before because I felt so uncomfortable, so sick about it, so unsettled like it was clawing too close to my demons.

Yesterday started off poorly. I got a text right away in the morning that one of the employee’s called in sick. I was planning on leaving a little early to pick Arabella up from her after school activities and staying home. Arabella invited 5 of her friends over from her old school for a pool party. I held off shutting down the pool for that very occasion. In the end, only one friend said that she could come over. She was on the way over when Arabella told her that I had to work later since someone didn’t show up. Her dad wouldn’t drop her off because I wasn’t there even though I would be home shortly.

I felt so frustrated. Having an employee call in last minute screwed up my day. I felt bad for Arabella. It’s hard to make friends at a new high school. I was hoping that she could still stay in touch with some of her old friends.

Then yesterday morning we had a staff meeting. I heard my cell phone go off. I jokingly said that it was the school calling only to find out later that it was. Hearing my cell phone ring during the work day always unnerves me. The school called to tell me that my son skipped out of school. When I got a hold of him, he told me that he just didn’t feel like going to school. I could hear some of his friends in the background and I could only surmise what they were up to.

I was so angry and upset that it was really hard to focus on what I was doing at work. Thoughts burned through my mind about him not even graduating from high school. I was furious. I called him and yelled at him. The conversation ended with me saying that if you can’t follow our rules then maybe you need to find another place to live. He doesn’t realize it yet, but he has it made. What I wouldn’t have given to have an easy breezy childhood like his.

I needed to maintain control, be calm and collected to brood and think. We told Alex that we would meet with him that night to have a little talk. I couldn’t leave work early and Paul had a board meeting after work. The responsibilities never seem to end. Paul did most of the talking during our conversation that night. He was calm, which I was happy about, although I did not feel that way. Apparently one of our new house rules is that our kids cannot skip school. Gosh, we are so mean.

I’m not sure if anything got through to him. But, hey, he is back in band. It’s always two steps forward and one step back with him.

I think once he graduates, I’m going to need a really long vacation. If I can make it until then without going absolutely out of my mind crazy!!

perspective

This morning I paced the floor. I felt anxious and stressed. Only 8 1/2 months to go. But who’s counting?

He overslept. Things were going so well the whole two days since school started, until today that is. He left at the time he should’ve been at school which is problematic since we moved further away. He had over a half an hour drive before picking up two friends on the way.

My son will be the death of me. If I disappear from the bloggosphere someday, you’ll know why.

Being late stresses me out. But since I am not one to be late, I am stressed out vicariously through my kids.

It put me in a really negative and anxious mood. I know I shouldn’t let my kid’s tardiness affect my day. But it is hard to just let it go sometimes.

Then I opened up Facebook this morning and saw a memory from a race I ran several years back with Lisa and her teen daughter that recently passed away in a car accident. We all placed in the small town race and were showing off our medals. Lisa’s daughter won’t be going to school today. She won’t be graduating, going to college, having a family…any of that. Maybe if she overslept she would still be alive, instead of falling asleep behind the wheel.

It really puts things into perspective.

Will my son’s tardiness be something that I will think about next year? It is incredibly frustrating today. Sometimes I need the little reminders to be thankful for the days we have together. I only have a few months left with him under my roof.

I’m trying to let go and not let his mistakes ruin my day.

 

Arabella’s letter

Our local high school encourages parents to write a letter to their child upon entering high school to be given to them at graduation. Sounds like an easy task for a ‘writer’, but it is not.

I don’t remember what I wrote for my oldest daughter and she never let me read it after graduation.

A few years back, I wrote the letter to my son and shared that letter with you. It was easier to write because quite frankly I was moved. We were going through some really hard times with him. Times a lot harder than him going to an underage drinking party at someone’s cabin. Let’s just say that I had a lot of words of wisdom and advice to share..

But it is not all about my middle child and his ability to rock the boat today. It is about Arabella, my baby, the child I have little in common with. She doesn’t even look like me. She was a horrible baby. She cried non-stop for the first year, day and night. After that first year, she has been easy going and probably my easiest child to raise so far (although we are only a year into the teen years). She has been practically a straight A student and seems to have her head on fairly straight. What kind of advice could I give her??

Well, here goes…

Dear Arabella,

As I write this on your first day of high school, I can’t believe that you are graduating already.

I have to wonder…Did you start your own business yet? What will the future hold now that you will be out from under our wing?

I remember the day you were born. You were the ‘famous baby’ in a published photography book. Your dad proudly showed the book to every visitor that entered our house for years.

Then came the first day of school. You were afraid to let go of my hand just like now I am afraid to let go of yours. It doesn’t seem possible that childhood could fly by so quickly. Now you are graduating!

We are so proud of you, not just on this one day. We are proud of your past accomplishments and are excited for your future endeavors. We know you will go far with your intelligence, persistence, and leadership skills.

Love,

Mom & Dad

Momster, life as a ‘mean’ mom

And just like that summer is unofficially over…It is windy, rainy, and cool with high temps in the lower 60’s. For today, I put the shorts and t-shirts away…oh and…THE KIDS ARE ALL BACK IN SCHOOL!

My youngest child just started her first year of high school today. How do I feel? To be completely honest…I just want this parenting thing to be over right now. Harsh, I know. Perhaps this won’t be a popular post, unless you are or have recently been parents of teenagers. Then I don’t even have to explain and probably wasted my time writing this post..

A few weeks ago, we took our oldest back to college for her second year. It does get a lot easier the second time around. We moved her in early since she had practice before school started. She was the first roommate to arrive on an unseasonably warm day. Her apartment was stifling hot and did not cool off quickly. She decided to sleep that first night in her underwear. She wasn’t aware that her foreign roommate would be moving in that night at 3 AM. Welcome to America! Awkward!

I received another call this past weekend about my son and the underage drinking party he attended at a cabin last month. To recap, my son was supposed to pick up a girl to take to her family’s cabin (to be more exact, to the cabin of her recently widowed grandmother) but she got busted by her parents with alcohol. So she told her friends to party without her. She explained how to get in if the door was locked. About 20 kids showed up and trashed the place.

The parents of this girl spent Labor Day weekend up north at the cabin and found more disturbing things. They left a message for me to call them back. As far as I know, they have not been in contact with any of the other parents.

Naturally, I was upset all over again and called back inquiring about the disturbing things. Apparently, the disturbing things were broken glass and blood on the carpet. My idea of disturbing things are needles, drug paraphernalia, and evidence of satanic rituals. They called several times now to just talk about things, to commiserate.

I am starting to wonder if this is the start of some bizarre friendship.

At freshman orientation, I spoke to Arabella’s teacher. She ran her first marathon last year when I ran my second. I felt like we had this quasi-competitive relationship. She is an attractive woman in my age group. We finished a few seconds apart. I asked her if she competed in anymore marathons since last summer. She said that she was trying to get back into shape. She also commented on how popular my posts are on Facebook. We are not Facebook friends and I didn’t think she even knew my first name. Although, she did call me about once a week when my son was in her class over nothing much really. Does that make us friends?

These relationships with other parents are so confusing! I wonder if she will call now that my daughter is in her class since she is a straight A student.

I have been the mother of teenagers for 6 years now. I have over 5 years to go..3 years, 8 months, and 10 days until my youngest is an adult. But who’s counting??

I am growing weary of it…the constant stress, the constant worry…the constant feeling of poking myself in the eyeball with stick pins..make sure to put your clean laundry away instead of leaving it on a pile with the dirty clothes on the floor.

If my son decides to go to college, and decides to go to a school nearby, I don’t want him to live at home to save money as previously discussed. I want him to leave and live his own life. I already nag my husband enough and don’t need another adult to nag..

I suppose this is a natural part of parenting teenagers…the not wanting to let go followed immediately by the desire to set them free..

A good friend of mine said that we shouldn’t make our home too comfortable for our adult children to return to. They should want to leave. Although her son flunked out of college and moved back home. So the whole idea is not working out great for her. She is beside herself.

So I am happy as another school year starts. I want my kids to mature, to grow up. I want to be their friend someday as adults like I am with my oldest child. I am ready for the work to be over and the fun to start! My adult daughter calls me her best friend…sometimes she tells me too much about what is happening in her life..

I no longer want to be the ‘mean mom’ that enforces curfews, grounds them when they have drinking parties at someone’s cabin, makes them clean their rooms, and otherwise teaches them responsibility as they resist my efforts to nag them into becoming fully functioning adult members of society.

 

Journal 4

I decided to move on from journal 3 to journal 4.

There were a few things from journal 3 that I didn’t want to get into with you. When I was a child, my dad was cruel towards us. I am not ready to face that demon yet. I just want to face growing up with a violent autistic sibling…so much easier?

I will talk about my relationship with my dad some other time…later perhaps…maybe when his feet no longer touch the ground on this earth.

So far journal 4 is a bit of a steamy romance written when I was 17. In high school, we were required to write in a journal everyday for English class. I honestly can’t believe some of the things that I wrote. What if the teacher randomly collected our journals??

So far I am planning on burning this journal. I want to purge its existence off of the face of this planet.

How can it be that I want to destroy a part of me? A part of my life?

It is all foolishness people…It is about hating my parents, wanting my freedom…feeling bored and depressed…wanting more…waiting for a letter in the mail or a phone call from that special someone…trying out new things like drinking and smoking cigarettes…and don’t forget the steamy romance…Blaahhh

Normal teenage experiences re-read as a 40 something year old with kids that age..I almost threw up!

I want my kids to think that I was always old and dreadfully boring! I am doing a great job keeping up the facade.

Best to burn it before my teens find it and discover that I was once young and dumb…

Then I have to take the thought one step further….Will I think that the things I wrote on here when I am in my 40’s are immature and dumb when I am in my 60’s? Time will tell..but paper is so much easier to burn!

Maybe I should share an excerpt with you for a good laugh…Or maybe I will just burn it instead!

I haven’t decided…

???

 

Prom…the good, the bad, and the not so ugly.

There was this 17 year old girl (Ali) that got the part of the floozy that I wanted in the musical. She pulled it off a lot better than I thought she would as someone rather inexperienced in life and love. She has the body that many would envy with long gazelle like legs and curves in all of the right places. She also has a kind and compassionate heart…truly beautiful inside and out. She almost seemed to feel bad that I didn’t get her part although it wasn’t a big deal.

After the show one night, Ali told me that she was missing her junior prom. She bought a dress, had a date, and couldn’t go because it was the same night as the show.

She spoke with regret…lamenting a missed prom…while at a theater full of beautiful costumes, wigs, and makeup…including a stage with music, lighting, and speakers. It seemed like a no brainer to me…I decided to throw Ali a prom. We picked out lovely dresses and had a dance party with most of the people that were lingering about. Almost everyone got into glamorous costumes and danced the night away.

Afterwards, people started treating me like I was Mother Theresa. I became (gulp) almost popular. People told me how wonderful I was for throwing Ali a prom. Ali was even crowned the prom queen. I really felt uncomfortable with all of the praise. Maybe because I had more fun at her prom then I ever did at mine.

I missed my first two high school proms because I was home schooled. My autistic brother was too violent to be in school, so we had a retired school teacher come out to our house to educate him. My mom pulled us all out of school during this time. We weren’t treated well at school because Matt was the first violent autistic child in the school district. Apparently, it was the family’s fault he acted the way he did. For 3 years, I was not in school.

When I was a sophomore, there was a boy I wanted to go to prom with. I finally got up enough courage to call his house. He wasn’t home, so I ended up talking to his mother under the guise of some church fundraiser we were having at the time. I don’t think he ever knew I called for him. I didn’t have a prom date and didn’t attend the school.

So no luck for prom!

I went to my junior prom with my boyfriend at the time, Timmy. My mom picked out a dress for me and brought it home one day. It was ugly and I hated it. But I wore it anyway. We got our pictures taken at Timmy’s house. His step-dad grabbed my ass. Timmy was angry when I told him. At prom, another girl told me that someone wore the same dress that I was wearing the previous year. She also said that Timmy was planning on breaking up with me after prom.

After prom, Timmy and I got into a huge fight on our way to an after prom party about him wanting to break up with me. We sat outside the party in his car on the road. It was pouring. Several people stopped asking if we had car trouble, but the screaming and tears suggested otherwise.

Not a good prom.

Then senior prom came along…my long term boyfriend Bobby and I just broke up. I was heartbroken…so I started dating Bobby’s next door neighbor and friend. Nothing exciting happened beyond a few hickeys on my neck to get back at Bobby. Boy did that show him! Lol…But, I was planning on going to prom with Bobby’s friend. He didn’t have his license. When I went to pick him up, his sister said that he left for the weekend to go on a fishing trip with his dad.

So, I went to prom alone in a cheap thrift store dress with hickeys on my neck. At prom, a low status guy asked me out… I thought to myself…Sure, why not?? I didn’t like the guy, but I was feeling miserable and alone at the time. The other kids found out about it and laughed. Someone had the DJ announce ‘congrats Alissa and Donny for making a love connection’. We broke up the next day.

Not a good prom.

So this past weekend…I threw Ali a junior prom…Maybe I feel guilty for having so much fun. It was like I was redoing my prom all over again.

Sure, it was a nice thing to do…but I am not a saint for doing it.

I just wanted her to have happy memories. If nothing else, she will have a lot of interesting stories..

It was a great prom!

A simple gift

Most of the time it is the trials in life that shape and mold us into people with character and strength. It makes us better people.

But if I wholeheartedly believe what I just said…than why do I want the opposite for my children?

Paul and I are both (gulp) intellectuals. We try to provide an environment that stimulates learning and promotes education. We read the kids a lot of books when they were young. Paul and I both love to read. Paul spent half of our children’s childhood working on his Master’s degree. He spends hours researching topics of interest, such as, making a geometrical chart with the wind trajectory and sailing co-ordinates to try to improve his race to learning how to rewire his boat. They always see me writing.

We thought that our children would embrace learning, and most of them do. That is why we had such a hard time the last several years when our son kept bringing home failing grades. We knew that he was smart.

We weren’t expecting him to be just like his dad…

Paul grew up in a completely different environment. His mother, Martha, dropped out of high school before she got pregnant with him as a teenager. She tried over the years to get her GED, but never could pass the test. When she was in her 50’s, she went back to school to get her CNA certificate. Paul, the kids, and I watched her walk down the aisle in her cap and gown to receive her diploma. She was so ecstatic. It was the first degree that she earned in her life. Her excitement saddened me.

When Paul was in 4th grade, he moved from Chicago to a small rural town in Wisconsin. He moved up with his mom and grandma. Due to a brief marriage, Martha had a different last name than Paul. Paul shared the last name of his grandma. This was a very unusual situation back in the 70’s in that area. The kids picked on him because he had no dad. He had a mother with a different last name and still no dad. Everyone thought that Paul was stupid because his mother was intellectually slow. Paul thought that he was stupid too.

He didn’t have a parent that valued education. On parents day at school, he sat alone. His mom couldn’t take time off of work because she was a single parent and had bills to pay. She did what she had to do. He didn’t have someone in the house that could help him with homework. He didn’t have a dad to play catch with.

He failed a high school class and had to take remedial summer school. He ended up going to college because a friend was going and he thought it would be fun. He went to college, did too much partying, and still got bad grades. It caught up to him eventually.

Paul ended up getting kicked out of college for a semester. He went back to his small town and got a factory job alongside his mother. He noticed how poorly his mother was treated there. He couldn’t see himself living that way for the rest of his life. The next semester he went back to school and decided that he wanted to work hard to get good grades. He turned his life around. He even applied for law school, but got rejected.

Sometimes Paul feels like he could’ve been so much more..

He wanted a better life for our children. He gave them something that he never had, although it seems so simple, so basic..

Now it is up to them what they will do with this gift.

 

 

 

 

 

More encouraging “notes”

Back in January, I wrote a post about receiving a hand written thank you note in the mail complimenting Angel and I for singing at church. The encouraging note really meant a lot to me and I decided to pay it forward. I would write a hand written encouraging note to someone that I thought was deserving. I found that person.

I decided to do something a little different today. I am posting a video of my daughter singing I Could Have Danced All Night from My Fair Lady at the senior mother-daughter banquet. The person that I wrote the note to was Angel’s high school choir teacher. This teacher went above and beyond. She took the students on several trips, even international trips, where Angel had the opportunity to sing in several countries. This teacher puts in long hours before and after school practicing with students. Then more hours to prepare for solo and ensemble, concerts, workshops, Christmas caroling, shows, musicals, and probably countless other things that I don’t even know about.

This teacher demands perfection and she gets it. She holds her students accountable for how they treat others. She makes sure that her students are at practice when they are supposed to be and has impeccable organizational skills. She has devoted her life to teaching and making this world a better place. She has the ability to take students where they are at vocally and bring them to their fullest potential.

My daughter has decided to go on to college for a career in vocal performance. A lot of her decision was influenced by having a remarkable teacher. I am thankful for everything that she has done. So I decided to tell her that.

Many years ago when I was in high school, I would’ve given anything to have had a choir teacher like her. If I did, I know that it would have changed my career path. I would have walked down a different road. Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if I did. That dream is fading away from me, getting harder and harder to reach with every passing year. Even though I am a bit envious, I am happy that my daughter will have a chance to walk down the path that I never tread.