I hate it when I feel like a failure. It stinks. I stink.
Today, was only one day after the National Day of Thanksgiving. Yet, I holed up in my room with two books and a bag of Sour Cream & Cheddar potato chips. I never do that. Well, not with potato chips, anyway. But such was the day.
It probably had a little to do with the-day-after-Thanksgiving recovery. I did bake six pies over a 24 hour period leading up to the actual feast. I also prepped several side dishes and made a triple batch of rolls. Not that I was actually hosting the dinner, no, my awesome sister-in-law volunteered for that. She took care of the turkey and potatoes and two different types of stuffing and four additional pies. And she got to orchestrate all the madness of timing all the dishes to be hot.
I just brought extra sides because my kids are such picky eaters, last year they only ate a few bites of turkey and some black olives.
I was mortified.
My sister-in-law is a follower of Rachel Ray and is always coming up with cool new ways to fix traditional foods. The turkey this year had a glaze consisting of orange juice and soy and lost of other stuff that made it scrumptious! I made sure my kids had no idea as we loaded up their plates with turkey and dished up the straight-from-the-can sweet corn and the straight-from-the-box stuffing. They actually ate fairly well this year, and had two helpings of pie. Some even had thirds.
So Thanksgiving wasn't bad, it was actually pretty good.
I guess it was partly the lead up. Monday, I spent at my oldest's middle school, shadowing him. The poor kid is genuine and kind ... and seems to get close to failing at least two classes once a semester. This time it was three classes. So, I prepped some colorful printouts about his learning disability and things that help him the best to share with each teacher as I came into class. Wouldn't you know, three of them were gone. I couldn't very well give them to subs. I sat in his classes and observed and checked out where the assignments were posted and reminded him (discreetly) to write them down in his planner. I worried the whole time I would embarrass him, but the sweet kid told me on the way home it was the best day of middle school ever.
The next day, I spent a lot of the day cleaning before Grandma and Grandpa pulled in from out of state. This mostly involved bathrooms and kitchens (I have five sons, remember), but then I saw my home with new eyes and saw the ugliness of the fixer-upper that I had such grand plans for. That flooring, still awkward mismatched tile and industrial style carpeting. And the mess of a family of seven didn't exactly help the ambiance of Home Sweet Home. Well, Grandma and Grandpa were here to visit the family, not inspect my home, right?
I told myself I was right, but knew not-so-deep-down, my standards just weren't the same as my mother-in-laws. But when she showed up on the doorstep two hours earlier than I expected, all I could do was smile and push the vacuum back into the closet.
Things actually went well for the next little bit as the elementary school kiddos came home and basked in Grandma and Grandpa loooove. Then the front door opened and shut and one of the kiddos shouted that my oldest was home and that he was crying.
"Shut up!" echoed down the hallway and the library door slammed shut.
Uh-oh. I went to check out what was going on with my middle schooler. It took a while for that poor boy to speak through his tears. Every time he seemed to have it together, he'd look up and a little brother was peeking through the door or I could hear the little boys in the hallway wondering loudly why big brother was crying, and he'd melt again. Finally I told them get out of there with some lovely language that I am embarrassed to say did not reflect my upbringing, or sound wonderful in my in-laws ears, I'm sure.
I sat, feeling as though my heart was being put through a juicer as the tale finally came out. Bus ride home from middle school and someone farts. The smart-alec kid who's been a source of irritation in the past decides that my kiddo is the one who cut the cheese. The other kids lay it on. Teasing. Razzing. My kiddo tries to brush it off, but ends up just slouching in his seat with his hood over his head. When he gets off, a couple of sixth graders from the front of the bus get off too. They can see evidence of tears and start in on him. The fact that they are sixth graders is even worse degradation for my seventh grader. He tells them to quit, but unfortunately, their homes are in the same direction as ours from the bus stop. So they and a couple of kids from the other middle school who just got off their bus are following my son, joking, teasing him about being a cry baby. The leader is right beside him. My son kicks at him sideways. The other kid kicks back. My son elbows him away. The other kid punches him back. Then they are hitting each other. My son calls 'Truce' and the other kid shrugs, 'Whatever' and laughs with his buddies as my son walks as fast as he can the last two blocks home.
Poor kid. He's so shaken by the idea that he's actually gotten into a fight. He is convinced I will be disappointed he didn't 'Turn the other cheek'. My blood is up and I say, I probably would have done the same thing, no matter what I taught him before. I give lots of hugs and assurance that the other kids were the ones to start it.
And I second guess myself wondering if I have turned my son into a victim somehow. Wondering if I should just tell him to slug the other guy next time. Wondering if I should protect him more.
I know this is bullying. Yet I know that there is no anti-bullying law when he gets to college or into the work force. I wonder where is the line for protecting ones child and letting him 'grow up' and learn how to be tough. Part of me wants to enroll him in the nearest karate class and another part of me wonders if its my fault that he cries so easily. I was so proud of his tender heart and compassion for others just the day before. He is such a GOOD kid.
I call the school to report the bullying, and of course, almost everyone's gone home. I'm told the principal will call me when she gets the message.
We're both shaken by the whole episode.
When I go to fencing lesson that night, I bring the family so they can see what I've learned the past ten weeks. But because I was sick the week before, I've hardly practiced and the awesome-sauce I've poured on the past few weeks seems to have dried up. I barely make it though the footwork and the instructor is calling my name more than any other's to remind me of my stance, of my sword grip and to for goodness sake RELAX! Hmmm. Not quite the strong, cool-mom image I want projected to my kiddos that night. Sigh!
Wednesday, I start early baking pies. Then we go to a doctors appointment. I preface this with the fact that we had an awesome family doctor when we lived in Virginia. Since we moved to Arkansas, I've put off finding a pediatrician and just taken the kids to the little clinics that the local hospital has in the Walmart stores. Close, convenient, cheap and no commitment if we don't like it. But after my 10-year-old was in the hospital half of September, I got on the stick. I already felt like a #momfail before, but now we parade in with all five kiddos and when the doctor gets down to business, we have a lot to talk about. Auditory processing disorder for the oldest, recovery from surgery with the next, learning disability and possible ADD for #3 son and for the fourth I start to mention possibility of ADD with him and the doctor, noticing his behavior in the small room pipes up. "And hyperactivity?"
Gosh. It's obvious.
The kids were doing actually pretty good considering. But you put five boys in a doctors office and .... it gets overwhelming pretty quick and it makes it even easier to see what you don't want to see. That bright little first grader has very few filters and acts like a mexican jumping bean.
So I got a fistful of referral cards as I left the doctors office.
I took comfort in knowing I had resources. I have insurance to pay for it (at least mostly). And my youngest has no medical conditions. Yay!
Then why did I feel like I had just failed a mommy exam?
I tried to put it behind me as I prepped for Thanksgiving dinner. So, my kids might have issues, but they weren't going to embarrass me with their picky eating this year. One thing I could control.
The morning after Thanksgiving and I groan because its my oldest's birthday and I have hardly done a thing to prepare for it. I have a cake mix and a tub of frosting, the flavor he requested. Point for me. But I realized that I had very few things for him to unwrap. True, he was getting piano lessons, like he'd been asking for. And the grandparents had given him some lovely gifts already or mailed. And a gift from an aunt sat on the piano ready to unwrap. But I had been planning on buying him a new pair of jeans. He needed them. And he could use a couple of t-shirts. And maybe the latest cool Lego set. Or something else I didn't know he needed until I saw it at the store.
But it was Black Friday. And I was whupped. I couldn't bring myself to face any crowds. I felt fragile, like I'd break into tears or screams at any minute.
I started second guessing myself. What else could I give him? I HAD bought him a couple of novels at the book fair when I was with him at the middle school on Monday. We were planning on taking him to the movies with his brothers and Grandma and Grandpa. But we were going to the discount theater, which meant seeing 'Brave' not 'Wreck-It Ralph'.
I knew the boys would like much of 'Brave' if not all of it. And wasn't I educated enough to want my boys to identify with female protagonists as well as male video game heroes? But somehow that morning while I baked the cake, I felt like I was totally letting my son down. After all he had dealt with this week, didn't he deserve a fun movie tailored more to his interest? I wanted to blame my husband. It was him who was the tightwad, not me. It was his fault that we couldn't go to the perfect movie and have to settle for a girl movie.
When we got to the theater, my opinion deepened when my husband wouldn't spring for popcorn. I thought about using my own cash, except I knew I had exactly $13 in my purse. And wouldn't that make for a semi-great present if wrapped in nice scrapbooking paper? So my 4-year-old bounced between his daddy and me throughout the entire movie whining for popcorn. When we got home and my husband promised the little terror some popcorn, I reminded him of the broken microwave. Not to fear, he took himself off to the little grocery store down the street and bought a bag of popcorn. You know the kind you put in an air popper (not that we have one any more) or cook over the stove in a thick-bottomed pan. So as my husband set up making himself the hero of the day, I couldn't stand the good cheer in the kitchen and took myself and a bag of potato chips up to my room to wallow in my anger and self-pity and panic at trying to figure out WHAT to give a thirteen year old for his birthday without going to the store.
I almost got clear before dinner. I faced my lovely family and prepped something easy.
Then I couldn't find any birthday candles for the cake. I almost sat down on the kitchen floor and started bawling. My husband came to help. Not that I appreciated it at the moment. And he did find candles. My son didn't even notice that we could only find twelve. He never counted them.
And when he opened his certificate for piano lessons and his ticket to go shopping for new jeans and t-shirts with Mom or Dad and his little envelope of cash and the Civil War historical novels for middle graders that I had gotten at the latest SCBWI conference, he declared it the best birthday ever.
Yet, I still feel like a BFI truck backed into my yard this morning and dumped its contents onto my front porch. Why? I dunno.
But I'm hoping that writing it all out will prove cathartic and that tomorrow will dawn a brighter day.
Until then, I am grumpily yours,