Mother-son Skype chat,
heads talking across the miles.
I can see Sweden!
Once you sign on to be a mother, 24/7 is the only shift they offer.
~ Jodi Picoult
Just finished a Skype session with Zebu who is in Sweden. He’s been there about ten days now and feeling more settled, especially after getting this issue resolved. I carried the laptop around the house so he could see the dogs and cats in their various poses of slumber and he told us of his many adventures.
The son who demanded I hold him for the first year of his life now eats breakfast paste from a tube and purposely gets lost in an unfamiliar city.
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring
will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
~ T. S. Eliot
On Saturday, Wildebeest drove for six hours to come home and see his brother before Zebu leaves for ten months in Sweden. (In the time-honored tradition of all young adults, Wildebeest brought his dirty laundry with him.)
A few minutes ago Wildebeest hugged us all goodbye, loaded up his clean and folded laundry, and headed back home. He’s leaving one home for another.
I’m hyper-aware that whenever I refer to this, the childhood home we made for our sons, as HOME, I run the risk of minimizing the lives our children are creating for themselves. But I also want them to know they are always welcome here and will always have a home with Zippy and me. This is their home. We are their home. So I use “home” to refer to here and there, wherever there may be.
Wildebeest is currently on the road, migrating back to the life he’s chosen for himself. I miss him already, but will see him the next time he comes home.
Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.
~ Matsuo Basho
Zebu has completed two years of college and is getting ready to study abroad for the next year. He just finished sorting through an accumulation of notebooks, folders, and binders filled with paper from high school and the last two years.
He came across personal notes that made him cringe, Calculus test scores he’d rather forget, and class notes from his all-time favorite class so far, a Latin American history course.
He believes it’s from a high school English class and as he held it out for me to see he said:
“This may or may not be evidence of me cheating on a vocab test.
I honestly don’t remember.”
I honestly don’t care.
Gaining perspective is a beautiful thing.
Zippy and I are back home after helping Wildebeest get settled in his place. He’d sublet for a couple years to some friends who, while nice young men, are not the tidiest people. To be clear, Wildebeest is not all that tidy, either. However, he was disgusted by some of the mess his friends left behind. But the key word here is “some.” All sorts of stuff that elicited an eew from me didn’t trouble Wildebeest all that much. Or Zippy, for that matter.
My son and my mate have a much higher grime tolerance than me. On the Tidiness Spectrum, I’m closer to one end and the menfolk in my life are nearer the other. So for the last few days I tried hard to reconcile their places on the spectrum with my own. Was I always gracious and tolerant of our different outlooks? No. Did I maintain my cool and refrain from shrieking things like “How do you not see that this bathroom tile is in serious need of scrubbing?!” Um, no. Did we get angry with each other? Yes.
There were moments when it felt as if Wildebeest and I were reenacting scenes from his childhood. He and I have always triggered reactions in each other, and this week we fell back into some of those patterns. But. There was progress. This time around I disengaged and put down the sponge. Literally. I did very little cleaning and instead focused on the basic tasks I’d offered: painting and steam-cleaning. And then Zippy and I packed up, told Wildebeest we loved him, and drove home.
Where we arrived to find Zebu contentedly sitting ankle-deep in the dog and cat hair that had accumulated while we were gone.
Yesterday was tough for a variety of reasons, but I didn’t realize how much of a toll it was taking until late last night when I was practically giddy with happiness. What happened?
I received a follow-up phone call from Wildebeest who earlier in the day had expressed major angst and panic about a college assignment. He called back to explain how he’d managed to turn SS Catastrophe around and emerge victorious. As we talked, Wildebeest’s insights into his earlier behaviors and reactions, and my efforts to disengage from his panic, made me feel as if a heavy weight had been lifted. It was one of those Gold Star Parenting Moments.
Right after that call Zippy and I went to the high school to watch Zebu play his last home basketball game. He’s a senior this year and it’s been a disappointing season for him. He was seriously injured during a pre-season conditioning workout and ended up in the hospital for three days with a lacerated liver, and then couldn’t play for eight weeks. By the time he came back, his confidence was low and he never really hit his stride. But I’ve been mightily impressed with how he’s carried himself throughout those disappointments, and so was especially thrilled for him last night when he played his best game of the year. Talking with a relaxed and happy post-game Zebu felt like an absolute gift.
So that’s how my emotionally difficult day ended on a giddy note. As we got ready for bed, I repeatedly told Zippy how much better I felt; I was like an awestruck little kid taking out a shiny new toy to inspect over and over. I couldn’t stop staring at the Happy.
We all make our own happiness in this life, I can’t create it for my children and they aren’t responsible for mine, but it sure feels good when those positive feelings overlap and we’re all basking in the glow.
. . . but you can’t make him drink.
(This message brought to you by Parenting Lessons I’m Still Trying to Learn.)
** (photo from OpenImageBank.com – Wildebeest at a river in Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania)
I'm this side of exhausted.
image from morguefile.com
Thanks for asking, though.
It starts out like this:
image from morguefile.com
And somewhere along the way, turns into this:
image from morguefile.com
We just survived an incredibly difficult weekend
and are all more tired than usual but (mostly) intact.
Here's to a new week and a fresh start.
I'm trying to keep this in mind:
Children begin by loving their parents;
as they grow older they judge them;
sometimes they forgive them.
Wildebeest is a junior this year.
Attention to detail has never been his strong suit.
Last year at registration I paid for him to take some test,
I don’t remember which one.
It wasn’t until the end of the year I thought to ask him about it.
Whatever it was, he hadn’t taken it.
Money and opportunity down the drain.
This year’s registration included an optional fee for the PSAT.
I paid for it, sternly telling Wildebeest he had to pay attention to announcements,
and take the test this year.
I just got an email reminder that the exam is Saturday morning.
I called the counselor to make sure he was registered.
She said, "Yes."
And then she told me about meetings they’d held with the juniors
back in September, and about the study guides they’d been working on.
I sighed heavily and hung up.
I just finished texting with Wildebeest (I know, I shouldn’t do that during school). Turns out:
A) he knew about the test
B) he hoped to skip it
C) he does have a study guide
D) he’s been using it
What started out as just another one of those forehead-to-palm moments,
turned into a not-so-bad parental episode.
Whenever we avoid total and complete disaster, I consider that progress.
1) Sometimes you just want to pack a bag and run away
2) but since that’s generally frowned upon, you hunker down
3) and hope for a shift in attitude and behavior.
4) The wait feels like forever, but that shift always comes,
5) and when it does, the sun shines and the birds sing.
© 2010 Tracy Abell
Wishing everyone a weekend filled with blue skies, calm waters, and an overall mellow vibe.
A while back I wrote about my new motto.
And last week I finally did something about it.
I contacted at Silver Freckles
and asked her to make my very own bracelet.
Last night I came home to find a package waiting.
Not only did it include my gorgeous bracelet
It also included these notes
I love my bracelet, Laura.
Every time I look at it, I think of you
and remember you believe in me.
And I start believing in myself all over again.
Thank you so much.
FREE TO A GOOD HOME:
One male Wildebeest.
, you’ll take him, right?
You’ve already got so many what difference would one more make?
Of his own initiative, Wildebeest spent part of his spring break with my mother in Florida.
They both had a great time.
When she called yesterday to say he was on the plane, she brought tears to my eyes
with all the wonderful things she had to say about him.
I was so proud of him.
Thirty minutes after getting home, Wildebeest got angry about something
and proceeded to lash out at his favorite target: me.
Without directly addressing my writing, he said just enough to get me doubting myself.
I started thinking I was delusional about having an actual writing career in which money is
part of the equation.
All those good feelings about Wildebeest disappeared.
All my confidence in myself was gone.
So who did I turn to?
If you’re not familiar with this book, I can’t recommend it enough.
This is my dog-eared copy of Stuart’s (aka Al Franken) daily affirmations.
Stuart is a member of various twelve-step programs (OA, DA, Al-Anon, etc) but
despite his best efforts sometimes goes into Shame Spirals.
Stuart’s shame spirals usually result in him taking to bed with a case of Hydrox or
several boxes of Animal Crackers (the OA component at work.)
Stuart makes me laugh (every single time I read his affirmations), but he also
hits on some truths.
Last night this one resonated with me:
Do yourself a favor and get a copy of this book.
I just got off the phone with Zebu’s middle school principal.
The rumors are true.
Next year school will start at 7:10 A.M.
You read that correctly.
7:10 of the freaking A.M.
Our county, the largest in Colorado, did not pass the mill levy last November.
Budget cuts are necessary.
Transportation is getting the axe.
The district is cutting 16 drivers and buses.
The buses used to serve one or two different schools.
They will now each serve three or four.
For most of the next school year Zebu will walk out of our house into the dark.
And wait for the bus.
In the dark.
His school day will end at 2:05 P.M.
The sun will be high in the sky by then.
What time does school start in your area?
Wildebeest is 15.
Wildebeest decided he wanted dreadlocks.
After several failed lunch-hour attempts by friends
to dread his hair, Wildebeest mentioned
another dread method: neglect dreads.
Wildebeest started sporting a snarled head of hair.
I assumed neglect dreads.
And said nothing.
Until he mentioned we needed to order the dreadlock kit
he’d researched online.
The kit with wax.
I said, "But you’re doing neglect dreads."
He said, "No."
I said, "Then what’s going on with your hair all snarled up?"
He said, "I’m too lazy to comb it."
(Insert EXCLAMATION OF YOUR CHOICE)
Yesterday we spent several hours combing out the hair
we’d coated with a half-bottle of conditioner.
I’d comb for a while and then leave him to it,
all the while hoping he’d just give up and ask me to cut it all off.
But the next time I’d go in to where he sat in the bathtub in swim shorts,
he was still working on it.
Tears of pain and frustration in his eyes.
I’d comb some more, apologizing when I yanked his hair.
Still hoping he’d give up and have me cut it.
But then something happened.
I started to root for Wildebeest.
I wanted him to stick with the agony of the comb
until the very last snarl was smoothed from his head.
I didn’t want him to give up. Give in.
I wanted Wildebeest to keep his long hair.
His major accomplishment.
His freak flag.
So at the end, it was me combing out the last snarls.
Him in tears.
Me crying for my stubborn son who always does stuff the hard way.
I wept, wondering if his life would always be this way.
Him choosing the rockiest path.
We finished. Both exhausted.
I wish I had after photos but I don’t.
Despite the abuse his hair was smooth and silky.
Wildebeest is reconsidering getting dreadlocks.
He has a whole new appreciation for the fact that
dreadlocks require hours of backcombing.
I’ll go with whatever he decides.
Can’t you smell that smell?
I gave this dog three baths today.
Coco’s apparently the kind of dog who doesn’t just like skunk-stink on her face.
She likes the full-body experience.
She found leftover skunk-stench in the yard and rolled in it. Twice.
Coco is Wildebeest’s dog.
Doesn’t that make perfect sense?
Anyway, he helped with this last bath.
When we finished he said, "That was no fun at all. Not even a good bonding moment."
I didn’t say anything but between you and me, I felt a bond.
This evening Zippy and I go to the high school for Wildebeest’s parent-teacher conferences.
I’m not looking forward to it.
In fact, my neck and shoulder muscles and the top of my scalp are tight. Very tight.
I could sure use some laughs about now.
So if you’ve got anything funny you’ve been waiting to share, now’s the time.