April 2008 - Posts
"Marry in haste; repent in liesure." This from my sister, my confidant. I won't go into all the gruesome details, but having adult stepkids is hard, hard, hard. The fact that my husband raised them alone for 13 years after his divorce makes it harder. Eight years into our marriage, they still cling desperately to each other like Titanic survivors. Nuff said.
Now for the bright spot: it's my sister. She gently counsels me, and helps me laugh at myself,,,and anyone else I'm pissed off at at the time. I don't know how I'd make it without her, and frankly, I'm amazed that I did for so long. We were always so different. She's been married to the same man for 32 years; I'm on my third marriage. She had her boys young; I had my boy at 41. She stayed close to home; I wandered...a lot. She was the good one; I was the wild one.
In fact, a few months ago, my mother, who's 84 with mid-stage Alzheimers, was commenting on what an easy teenager I was to parent. (What?! I was an absolute horror show, and I swear to God, if my own child turns out to be like I was, I'll hold him under till the bubbles stop!) Thinking I'd go along with Mom's soft-focus memory, I said "That's right, Mom, I was always the good one, and Liz was always the wild one." My mother hesitated briefly as a tiny region of her muddled brain sputtered to life, then she replied: "I never should have told you I have Alzheimers." All these years, and all the damage to her brain, and THIS she remembers!
My mother's decline and dementia has been heartbreaking, infuriating and guilt inducing for both of us. It's a horrible thing to still want and need your dead mother, without ever being able to grieve her protracted passing. At the same time, we have to continue making nice with the accusatory, paranoid, irrational, shrew of a woman who animates the corpse's body. The only gift in my mother's illness has been the new, improved relationship with my sister.
Sometimes my sister is the only thing that keeps me sane (though others of the husband persuasion might argue to the contrary). Not only do we share each other's grief, we laugh about it...and then we cry some more. But mostly we laugh. We may go to hell for making fun of a demented old lady, but at least we won't go to prison for homocide!
It's my sister's birthday today, and I've never in my life celebrated the day of anyone else's birth with as much feeling and appreciation as I do hers. Love you, Lizzy, because I know that you know how close I am to tears as I write this. Have a good one.
The ongoing saga of Jack: It really did seem cruel to deny Jack the Mommy time we'd planned, and sometimes I think backing off all the punishment and allowing for a time to be close again does more to improve behavior than all the denied privileges. Do I sound like I'm making excuses for myself? Well, maybe I am. The thing is, I'm conflicted. Here's what I know:
We had a great time, and laughed together for the first time all week.
Jack was a sweetheart, with lost of nice manners and I-love-you's.
Jack's behavior at home and at after school has improved; He was on green Friday; earned his white belt Saturday morning, and allowed to watch an hour of cartoon Sunday.
So far, so good. A special thanks to those who advised and encouraged me.
Is parenting this hard for others, or am I lacking the gene?
Jack's on red again! This time the little yellow note says when all the kids were lined up to go to their karate class, he got out of line and sat down at one of the computers. When he was told to get back in line, he said that was the only place he was allowed to play computer games, and refused to get back in line!
I have some stuff to do this afternoon down at the coast, and I was going to pull him out of school a few minutes early so he could go with me, but that's out now. He's still begging and crying. I'm crying too, but only in the car where he can't see or hear me.
Jack's in trouble again. This time the little yellow note from his after-school dojo says he wouldn't stay in his seat, but usually the notes say he wouldn't stop talking, or clowning around. I think it's all pretty typical 6-year-old boy stuff, but a couple weeks ago we freaked out when we got one that said he punched another student; follow up with the teacher confirmed what Jack said all along--the other kid did punch him first.
His infractions aren't usually very serious, but lately there seem to be a lot of them. The dojo uses a green-yellow-red chart to track behavioral problems. For yellow, we take away TV and computer privileges for the night. This time, because he was on yellow Monday and on red Tuesday--and because we're seeing at least one yellow note a week--we also took away his GameBoy, and he doesn't get any of these privileges back until the weekend--if he stays on green for the rest of the week. We're keeping our fingers crossed.
Jack went to bed last night crying and screaming "It's not fair!" This kind of battle takes so much out of all of us. We've tried spanking, but finally figured out that if it makes Mommy and Daddy cry, we need to find another way. We're all worn out from the battle.
I was still drinking my coffee this morning and watching the last seconds of the story about the plane crash in the Democratic Republic of Congo on TV when Jack crawled into my lap. I turned off the TV, and Jack asked if people had died in the crash. I told him yes, at least 40 people had died. After a second he asked how many people lived. When I explained that they don't give that information, he asked "Why don't they say how many people lived? Why do they only tell you the bad stuff?"
All those little yellow notes aren't really all that important.
I know it's still early on a dreary Monday morning, and happy people can be a little hard to take at this hour. So, if you're not in the mood for Miss Merry Sunshine, you are hereby advised to avoid me till you've had more coffee, 'cause I'm just back from a terrific weekend.
Besides getting to take two naps, I got to spend time with my son at a wildlife festival on Saturday, and at a six-year-old's birthday party on Sunday. My two-year-old granddaughter spent the night Saturday night; now that my boy is too grown up and way too cool to give out many hugs and kisses, having a baby around who's so generous with her affections is a blessing.
My old friend, Kathy, was in town for the weekend, and we met up with her at the festival. Last night my husband and I had dinner with Kathy and Jeff, another good friend, and afterward Kathy spend the night at our house. We sat up till after 1 AM, talking about everything from home decor to neurogenesis--an indulgence I'll pay dearly for later in the day.
We're enjoying a kind of renaissance in our marriage right now, and we've been married long enough to appreciate these good times, knowing that they don't last forever, but will come again. My husband and I don't get many date nights these days, so a night out with grown ups is a really big deal for us. And, because neither Jeff nor Kathy has ever been married or had children, it was kind of nice that our conversation wasn't limited to talk of our kids.
As if all that isn't enough, I came into work this morning (to a job I love, by the way) and found an email from another old friend who, after a long search, has just gotten a wonderful job. Even with a master's degree and 15 years of experience in his field, he had a hard time finding a good job; I don't guess we'll ever know how much his physical disability had to do with its being such a long time coming. For the last two years, rather than stay at home wallowing in self pity, Dorohn got up early every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, caught a bus, and did volunteer work at our local HIV/AIDS service organization, where he logged thousands of hours. His enviable faith is such that he says with absolute conviction that it's not God's plan for him to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair, and one day he'll rise to his full height of 6' 2'' and walk again.
I know from experience that this much happy talk early on a dreary Monday morning can make you want to puke, but I make no apologies. I'm acutely aware right now of my good fortune to be surrounded by so much joy, love and support from my family and friends.