Here are two recent snippets from our life in the past few weeks. Most recent first, in reverse chronological order. Which is cool. Kinda like bow-ties.
Driving the two youngest children down the mountain to a dentist appointment, I get a call (on speaker phone) from an unknown number.) Dialogue translated below:
“Hellooooo.” Says the voice.
“Hi.” I reply.
“How are you?”
“Fine, who are you?”
“My name is “C–,” she slowly drawls, “I’m calling from the organization ‘Kesher.”
“Oh,” I say surprised. I had called the organization weeks ago, exchanged emails, begged for someone to get back to me. I completely forgot about them.
“You called me a few days ago…..?” C slowly questions?
“Well, it was weeks ago-”
“But I don’t check my voice mail all the time, so I only heard your message a few days ago.”
Really – did she just say that out loud? “Uh, yeah, I called,” I replied, “But I’m driving at the moment. Can we talk tomorrow?”
“I’m not going to work tomorrow,” C replies.
Again – really, out loud? “Um, when are you at work?”
Quiet silence. C has resumed slow drawling (the way you indulgently speak to a three-year old). “Would you like me to call you in one half hour?”
“I’m on the way to a dentist appointment, I really can’t talk now. And I’m driving at the moment, could we talk another day?”
Another annoying quiet moment. I’m driving and want this conversation over. Eventually C drawls again “Would you like me to call you in one hour?”
“I’m driving C. Have a good day, bye bye.”
As I re-type this, it occurs to me that my heavy English accent might have been responsible for her slow syllable pronounced drawl. It could also be that she believes this an appropriate way to speak to extra-ordinary people. If I were weak and vulnerable I would be hurt that this turned into another dead-end.
Good thing us extra-ordinary people aren’t pushovers. If ”C” can’t keep up, then she can get out of the way. I’m driving.
Parent-Teacher conferences: When it’s just you and the teacher, face to face, with no ability to hang up the phone and blow raspberries in the privacy of your own home.
I couldn’t sleep in the nights leading up to this dreaded event. For extra-ordinary families, this almost always involves a terrible confrontation where you either emerge victorious (yeah right), or run away crying with your head hanging in shame. My middle child who also attends the school is usually regarded as ordinary, so at least I had one happy conference to pick me up. I scheduled that one for last so that my night could end on a happy note.
A substitute has replaced oldest daughter’s homeroom teacher, who is on maternity leave for the next three months. I prepared myself to explain and excuse oldest child’s behavior, once again. Of course no one briefed her, of course no one would let her know about previously arranged agreements. Starting over.
I walked into the room. “Hello, how are you?” asked the teacher. And she was smiling.
“Fine, how are you?” I replied. “I’m first daughter’s mother.”
She kept smiling and said “Nice to meet you! Your daughter is such a sweetheart.”
Really? She said that out loud? The principal could have heard her - and then we would have had an “incident” on our hands. Maybe the substitute was just too new, and had my child confused with someone else.
I sat down. “First daughter has ADHD, you know.” I blurted out. In retrospect I really wish I hadn’t denigrated the positive feedback that way, but I was just in shock.
“Yes, I heard,” replied the substitute. And then she continued. ”Her grades are very high, she’s really advanced. She’s a great student. Sometimes she gets a little over-excited but really she seems fine to me. Here’s her report card – the homeroom teacher filled out the top part. I don’t know why she graded her so low, she seems great in my class. I’ve given her these grades down at the bottom of the card. Your first daughter always brings all of her materials, always completes her homework, she’s really a sweetheart.”
A sweetheart? When was the last time I heard an adult say that about my kid? Actually, now that I thought about it, a lot of people have said that about my kid. My friends and family who know and love my first daughter, and who have been reading this blog, have responded in person to many of my posts with comments like “You know, I just don’t know why this is happening. You first daughter is such a good responsible girl, I think she’s just great.” I would politely thank them for their comments, and just assume that they weren’t seeing the “other side.” I shouldn’t have lowered my expectations so much.
We continued to talk happily and honestly. She was very familiar with what kind of support oldest daughter needed, and together we came up with a plan for how we would communicate in the future. And the night didn’t end there – I then met with oldest daughter’s English teacher, who also replied that my daughter was such a good girl. She was very bright, and a good student. “You know,” the English teacher continued, “You should know that your oldest daughter told me that she doesn’t like the English language very much – she said this in English. But as long as she has good grades, we have nothing to worry about.”
Wow! Knock me over with a can of silly putty! Could this night have gotten any better?
I met with second daughter’s teacher. I’ve always had a lot of respect for this woman. In a school that seemed very chaotic, this teacher was incredibly organized and serious. I smiled as I sat down.
Hellos were exchanged. Then, she was all business. “For the past several weeks, your second daughter hasn’t been bringing the correct books to school. Normally, I’d say that this is her responsibility to manage, but it’s clear that she’s going to need some help. Didn’t you see the notes I wrote in her journal?”
“Uh… no, I forgot to check.” I replied lamely.
“Please do check,” she replied. “Second daughter also hasn’t been filling in her reading chart - and I know that she enjoys reading a lot. Everyone else in the class has already completed at least one chart, but your second daughter hasn’t yet. Please follow up with her.”
“Ok,” I replied quietly. What was happening here? Second daughter never had problems before, at least none that required parental intervention. That was first daughter’s job. I started recalling how other extra-ordinary parents had warned me that the siblings of extra-ordinary children run the risk of being overlooked….
“And of course, we must move forward arranging her occupational therapy.” We knew that second daughter had a speech problem since she was a toddler. As the years have gone by, I’ve been quietly hoping that this problem would just go away. Life was just getting too complicated… we took her from speech therapist to speech therapist – the last one finally informing us that the problem wasn’t her speech, but that her shoulders and neck appeared to be extremely weak. Occupational therapy was supposed to be the next thing to try, and the school would provide it. But apparently parents must jump through a few hoops first, and I hadn’t figured out which hoops I need to jump through… and of course there was the quiet hope that she would just improve. We’d been doing hand-stands and barrell-racing at home to see if we could tackle the shoulder-weakness as a DIY project. We definitely breeded giggles, but the shoulders are still not up to par.
“The other three kids in the class who need therapy have already started their sessions, but your second daughter doesn’t have all the arrangements made yet. Please attend to this, I don’t want her to miss out.”
I promised to do better, and in the subsequent days, I did Arrangements for pre-therapy interviews were set. Second daughter is double checking her daily schedule, and has handed in one full sheet of books that she read. Getting back on track…
[Conclusion - set in the modern period, tonight.]
Mistakes. I keep wishing I could promise my children a life without mistakes. Clothes without holes, meals without sugar, television without stupidity. Parents with undending patience.
All I’ve got is pockets full of do-overs. And I will do everything in my power to make sure my children never lack an opportunity.
Ending with a song – again. There’s a wonderful musical called “Sunday in the Park with George”, which is a fictionalized account of the life of the painter Georges Seurat. One of the best songs, “Move On” has some of the best life advice I’d every heard: “I chose and my world was shaken – so what? The choice may have been mistaken, the choosing was not. Just keep moving on.”
Listen and enjoy.