Thursday, September 25, 2008


C climbed on to my lap last night and stretched out. I wrapped my arms around his skinny little self and told him how much I loved him. Suddenly, he got to confessing. He seemed to be checking in to see if I would still love him once I learned that twice he had to have talks with his teachers about his behavior in lines, once on Friday and again that day. I quickly assured him that I totally loved him that he didn't need to earn my love and he wasn't going to lose it, but I got curious and asked him to tell me about the line issues.

He explained that while in line he was working hard to follow the rules. Once the class went by "the tree of silence" he stopped talking--completely. The problem, however, was that a couple of his classmates had not. And those of you who know my son, or at least read this blog occasionally, know that C is a rules follower. He follows rules and he really expects everyone else to as well. He has a grand sense of justice and injustice about big things (incredulous and vocal about the unfairness that gay folks cannot marry in CT) and small (talking in line when you are supposed to be quiet, for example).

And here was the root of his line issue. What to do when other kids are talking once they pass that "tree of silence"? C explained that he knew he couldn't tell the teacher because clearly he would be breaking the rules by talking so first he tried a silent shush. When this didn't sway his classmates, he went to his arsenal, beyond the finger to the lips, and pulled out an elbow. Needless to say, his teacher saw him throw the elbow--BOTH TIMES-- and when the class returned to the classroom, C was called out for a private discussion about this behavior. P and I suggested that this would be a really good thing for him to work on in school: he will work hard to follow the rules in line but ignore other kids if they are not. At first, C didn't jump at the suggestion. "But I just can't ignore that. I just don't know how to ignore things." Well, that may be true on one level but that's not quite accurate as he is quite adept at ignoring us, especially when a book is involved.

However, this suggestion suddenly got a bit sticky because we remembered other conversations with our sons about the necessity to speak up when someone is doing something wrong. If kids are being unkind to another child, you must speak up. If someone is asking you to do something that is not right or makes you uncomfortable, you must tell him/her that you will not participate. Ahhhh-- this is a sticky line. Call out the big injustices in the world. Oh, but don't be a tattletale (and certainly don't throw elbows into the mix). How do you explain to your kids when to speak out and when to let it go? I discussed this strange mixed message we were sending C with his teacher this morning. She gave me a solid guideline that they use in their room about "when a child is hurting or going to hurt himself or another child, this is the time when it is necessary to tell." I thought this was a sensible message for this age.

And then, I was driving to school this morning when we reached a busy intersection. Suddenly a siren came screaming from up the street. Dutifully, I pulled my car to the side of the road to let the firetruck barrel past when I noticed other cars didn't seem to follow suit. This got my hackles up. Frankly, it pissed me off even though the firetruck did get through. It was a similar feeling to the times I get supremely annoyed when cars make a right on red when the sign clearly states "no right on red" or when those jerky drivers try to bypass traffic by driving up the shoulder and then cutting in. Dude, there are rules and you just aren't following them. It's just not right. If I wouldn't do extensive damage to my car or possibly subject myself and any of my passengers to possible injury, it would be great--just once--to block one of those jerky drivers by straddling the shoulder right when they come charging up. Yup, the light bulb dinged.

Rules follower. Elbow. Yeah, I get it.

I don't condone it. But suddenly I got it.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Year Later

A year ago, I wasn't writing this blog. I wasn't writing this blog then because I hadn't started it yet. I had thought about starting a blog months before a year ago, but I was so overwhelmed in a new place that I couldn't quite move myself to press a few links on Blogspot and get going. I was overwhelmed with getting my kids situated in a new home and new school. I was overwhelmed by their neediness because they didn't easily get situated in a new home and a new school. I was overwhelmed with hanging with the one who had no school to go to. Mostly, though, I can now admit aloud that I was totally overwhelmed by my own neediness. I lacked community. I lacked friends. A year ago I lacked any context outside of 'mother of' and 'wife to' and I was struggling mightily with that.

When we moved, I had expected instant community. My husband was heading to graduate school and hey, wouldn't all those grad students just hang together? And let's just put it out there-- he was headed to grad school where people were in training to be community leaders (faith communities as he is in divinity school/seminary). Wouldn't the sort of people who went to that sort of grad school be open and welcoming and happy to see us and our three little fellas? But they didn't seem to be for the most part. They were busy. They put their heads down. They had so much reading to do. They hung with the people they already knew. They didn't have kids and only seemed to react positively to those cuddly teethless ones who didn't throw tantrums. And I was lonely and struggling. And I didn't really have anyone to talk to about that.

It's a year later. And I know it's a year later because today we attended a park event that we attended last year. Our experience at today's event made me think of how far we've come in a year. Every time we turned around, we ran into someone else we knew. There were kids S and C went to school with last year. There were kids the boys go to school with this year (F included!). There were families we met at soccer. There were even a couple families we met through P's grad school. We knew a lot of people there and there were greetings galore. And my guys climbed a tree with a neighborhood friend, and compared lollipop flavors with school friends, and took off their shoes and bounded into the bouncy house with kids they knew from other places. And I hugged a few moms and was hugged in return. And walking away from the park, I thought about what a difference a year makes. Instant community did not appear when we moved here. But community has happened-- quietly, slowly, without much fanfare. We know folks and are known by folks. And that feels good.

A year later, I find I haven't been writing this blog either (it's been nearly a month since my last posting). But I haven't been writing for such different reasons. Last year I felt empty. And this year I fill full--abundantly full, somewhat overwhelmingly full-- but full nonetheless. I am working a job where I am learning and am surrounded by interesting people. My kids are all in schools where play matters and their emotional well beings are being cared for. My husband is going to classes, studying, writing, and interning in a church. We are racing out in the morning to get all of us to our designated schools on time with clean clothes on and lunches prepared and packed. We are busy each weekend with visits and music and birthday parties and work. Yes, life is suddenly full and I am finding it hard to find time to write. And while I am feeling a bit crazed by the schedule, the truth is that I would rather feel full than empty.