Life On The B Side

Taking all that life throws at us one moment at a time

Looking Through The Window October 12, 2017

It’s dark when I leave my home in the morning to go to work.

It’s dark when I get home from work in the evening.

It’s a long, tiring, 12 hour day.

 

When I leave my home for work in the morning, 1 child has already been dropped off at school and 1 child is still asleep in his bed.

I don’t get to spend “start of the day” time with either of them.

This is depressing.

 

When I get home from work in the evening, the children have already showered.

  • And the children have been fed.
  • And the children have finished their homework.

This is wonderful.

It makes my life easier in many ways.

This is sad.

I don’t even get to see the clothes they wear to school each day.

I don’t get to nourish their bodies.

I don’t get to help them exercise their brains.

These things are work – And they are a huge privilege.

 

I eat, I wash all the dishes/pots, I shower, I take out my clothes for the next day.

I ask how everyones day was.

I am home for less than 2 hours before it’s bed time for the children.

 

It feels sometimes like I am watching my children through a window.

There, but not THERE.

 

I like my job – and my coworkers.

This is a blessing.  I am not unaware of this fact.

My job causes me to miss doctors appointments and school functions and I don’t get to stay home with them when they have a day off for Columbus Day or a teacher work day.

My job prevents me from doing after school pick ups.

  • Even if there’s been an after school activity pushing the pick up time back.

This is guilt trip inducing.

Not just guilt trippy though.

It’s not that I feel like I should be there.  I want to be there for everything.

 

For everything I miss – Shaunie is present.

She gets all the days off that the kids get.

Her job allows for drop offs and pick ups and for chaperoning trips and for dinner prep and homework assistance and doctor appointments.

This is a heavy load to bear and it’s sometimes exhausting for her.

She does is all anyway.

My boys know they can depend on her.

That kind of consistency and stability and sense of peace is a gift to them.

The consistency and stability and sense of peace that they have is a gift to me.

For this I am beyond grateful.

 

I try on the weekends to make up for the lost time.

We actively seek out and attend family friendly events.

We play board games and we watch movies and we just hang out talking or doing side by side independent reading.

It never feels like enough.

Never!

Despite the best of efforts, quality family time is not always achieved or achievable – even on weekends.

  • The boys have plans of their own.
  • I am catching up on sleep/rest.
  • I am running necessary errands.
  • I am doing house chores.
  • I have other commitments.

 

Then it’s Monday again.

And I am leaving for work when it’s still dark and with one child already at school and one still sleeping.

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Issue # 4 October 4, 2017

If you’ve been here for more than 5 minutes you know our story.

As a baby he CRIED ALL THE TIME.

He didn’t sleep well.  Or eat well.  Or show any signs of being friendly.

As a toddler, he appeared uncomfortable ALL THE TIME and he was delayed in most developmental ways.

(Probably) out of frustration, he acted out in all the ways.  I know what it looked like to outsiders.

He was a handful (to put it mildly) and he tested my patience and my sanity on every level and in every way.

At age 5, he was not able to speak, read or write.  Forget writing; he couldn’t even hold a pencil properly.

Due to his Autism, he was unable to communicate in a way that I could understand.

He gave teachers and therapists and doctors and camp councilors and baby sitters a run for their money.  Many were not up to the task and crumbled.  Some stuck around and a small number are still here watching him grow and cheering him on.

We’ve been stared at.  Scowled at.  Laughed at.  Commented on.  Judged.  Teased.  Abandoned.  Given up on.

I read and researched EVERYTHING that was remotely relatable or relevant.

I spent YEARS being permanently tired and stressed and sad and worried and anxiety ridden.

I went to therapy my damn self.

 

At age 9, my boy is sweet and charming and a delight.  He’s considerate and loving and affectionate.  He is funny and helpful and interesting to speak with.  He has friends and is in clubs at school and is mostly responsible about doing what needs to be done.  He is well nourished and well rested – And always well dressed thanks to his superb sense of style.

He is happy.

(Except when he’s hungry.)

He is a joy to parent.

My boy wrote and illustrated a comic story.  In fact, he’s writing a series of comic books and has just completed issue 4.

This is not a small thing.

He worked hard to get to this point.  That cannot ever be overstated.

His teachers and therapists worked hard to get him to this point.  They continue to work hard.  The job is not done.   I will forever be grateful to all the strangers we meet at the start of every school year who go above and beyond to help their students.  Not because they will see any financial or professional gain or even get any recognition – But out of a general goodness of heart.

Family and friends have been unwaveringly accommodating and understanding and kept showing up for us and kept inviting us out and made lots of efforts to provide a happy and welcoming environment for him.  No matter what behaviours were displayed.

 

We never gave up on him or treated him as though he wasn’t smart or couldn’t accomplish things.  One bad day or minute was just that.  One bad day or minute.  We shook it off and started over with fresh optimism the next day.  Or sat on the floor in the bathroom to take a few deep breaths.  Chin up, smile on, back straight – Try again.

We never spoke about him as though he wasn’t there.  We never assumed the worst.  Only the best.

We kept going out and kept signing him up and kept asking for help.  We celebrated every bit of progress in a big way.  The people who love us, celebrated with us.

 

I’m so proud of my Jay Boogie and so very thankful for the support we’ve had throughout the years.  I just need to say that.  That support made all the difference.

 

Lots of kids struggle – Whether it’s due to their environment or their neurology or their physiology – Or any other myriad reasons.

Lots of parents are not coping well or responding appropriately.

Shaming, bullying, ignoring, abandoning, abusing, isolating our children is not the way.

Shaming, passing judgment, laughing at, ignoring parents who are struggling is not the way.

 

I wish every kid (and parent) who needed help, could get it.  No matter their family situation or their zip code.

What are we doing if we are not helping our children to be their absolute best?

 

 

That’s all I’ve got.

Well … that and a couple pictures of Issue # 4.  It’s freaking awesome!!!

 

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Fun But Tiring Weekend September 25, 2017

It started out on Friday evening with me asking which game they wanted to play.  We decided on a thimble, a car, a cat and dog.  Yup, Monopoly.  It was our first time playing non-junior monopoly as a family and it was pretty good.  We had a couple moments of disagreement about whether something was legal or not and we had someone (NOT ME – lol) who was very gassy, but we laughed a lot which is always my favourite thing.  Jay needed some help with his money math but that was ok.  In the end, even though Ace and I kinda partnered up to take Shaunie and Jay down, those darn railroads did me in.  My last 3 rolls landed me on railroads and cost me $200 a pop.  In the end the Ace/Deenie team lost by about $400.

 

On Saturday we spent the morning hanging out at home and doing some cleaning and tidying.  We also, finally – after FOUR delivery attempts – got our full couch.  We’ve been living with half a couch for about a month because they keep coming with 2 of the same side.

At around 4pm, we arrived at 6 flags in Maryland.  Ace and I had a good time going on rides and Jay had a good time forcing Shaunie to go on rides.  (She’s not a ride lover).  We drove go karts and the kids and I did a bungee drop thing.  It was the first day of fright fest, and I expected it to be a little scary but it wasn’t at all.  If you wanted to be scared you have to pay more to go into the haunted houses.  We opted out because they said it’s not recommended for kids under 13.  In a couple years, we’ll try again.

We spent Saturday night with everyone’s fave – Aunty Juddles.  The adults stayed up till the early hours of the morning talking and laughing and it was nice.

 

On Sunday we attended my jobs annual Family Picnic.  They really did a great job of making it fun for the kids.  Rock wall and zorb ball and mechanical shark (instead of bull), petting zoo, pony rides, bouncy castles, gladiator battle zone, carnival games with prizes, face painting, ice-cream truck, snow cones, cotton candy … you name it.  For the adults, there was an open bar.

 

We got home at around 5 pm and by 7:30 everyone was ready for bed.  Shaunie and I managed to stay up long enough to watch one episode of a show.  It was good and we’re looking forward to watching another tonight.

 

And now, here we are.

Even though they went to bed so early, I still had to wake Ace up this morning.  As we were brushing teeth this morning getting ready for work, I said to Shaunie:  “Another early night for everyone tonight?”  She eagerly agreed.  That one night of decent sleep was not enough to adequately recuperate from the weekend.  But it was fun and definitely worth it!

 

How was your weekend?

 

Back To School – The 4th Grade Edition September 20, 2017

OK.  So.  We may need to ask our tutor if she can increase her hours and spend more time with our Jay Boogie.

If you ask him, he will say that school is going “pretty great“.

It is, if you only consider the social aspect of it.  He likes his teachers.  He and his classmates are getting along well.  He says his best friend is Abby.  He has joined the art club (which I’m very excited about for him) and he’s happy with his before and after care program.

 

The problem is that school isn’t only about your social life.  There is that pesky little aspect of it that involves academics.  Jay has always been the sort of person who learns things at his own pace and when he is ready to learn them.  For the most part, that’s been totally fine by me.  I didn’t stress out about when he’d be potty trained.  Then one day, he just was.  I tried for a hot minute to teach him to tie his shoe laces when he was 5.  Traditionally it would have been the appropriate time for him to learn it but he was not interested and for years we let it go and bought him slip-ons or velcro shoes.  I figured that when he was ready, he’d learn.  This past summer he did.  He was 9 years old.  For the past couple of summers I gently nudged him to learn how to ride a 2-wheeler.  It didn’t go well.  Again, I left it alone.  Lately though, he’s been outside on his scooter and he’s doing a fantastic job of balancing on one foot and steering the scooter down the entire length of the curb; even making turns.  I had never seen him do that before.  I think a 2 wheeler is not far away at this point.

 

For so many life skills, I can follow his lead and bring it up when he seems ready.  That doesn’t work with multiplication and division though.  He needs to know how to do 4th grade math and he needs to do it now, if he’s going to stay in the program he’s in.   The tests are going to come on his teachers schedule – Not his.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I know it’s not appropriate for all kids to be in a general ed setting with general ed expectations.  It may not be the right setting for him and we may be pushing him too hard and too fast, but my gut doesn’t tell me so.  I think he can do it.  He just needs to put in the work and maybe a little more effort than other students.

 

I know, as a kid, it sucks when other students seem to be learning things quickly and you are struggling.  It does nothing for your self-esteem.  But I cannot let him move to a different class (a special ed class) just because it would be an easier road.

I also know that homework isn’t fun.  It’s never been fun for anyone.  Still gotta do it.  Complaining and whining will not make it better.  Leaving your agenda book (with the assignment in it) at school will not make it go away.  Saying “I don’t know” to everything we ask, will not make us do it for you.

 

We, (Shaunie especially), really do try to help him with his homework and his studying.  Shaunie finds videos that explain things in fun ways and we give him rewards for completing tasks.  We give him breaks and try to cut things into small chunks and we don’t leave things for the last-minute.  (We’ve been studying for his social studies test since last week.  The test is this coming Friday.)   When he finally has a breakthrough we make a big deal about how proud we are of him and the pride he feels is evident.

 

I talk to him and I stress the importance of practice and studying and doing your best.  I tell him that nobody figures out everything the first time they try it and nobody gets all the questions right on all their tests.  I want him to know that getting 3 questions wrong on his “Fact or Fiction” quiz does not mean he is not smart or that he is not a good student.

I tell him that we will do whatever we can to help him.  I remind him that his teachers are there to help, even during a test, so if there is a question he doesn’t understand he can raise his hand and ask them to explain it.

 

What I will not tell him is that I spoke to his Aunty Juddles and she told me that she has Advanced Placement Science students in high school who do not know their time tables and who use a calculator for everything so even though I should still encourage him to learn them, it’s not the end of the world if he doesn’t learn them all this year.

 

It’s not the easiest job getting this kid through school.  Shaunie has a  couple more gray hairs and our pockets are about to be a little lighter thanks to extra tutoring, but with some (or a lot of) help, I know he can do it.  And even with all his protestations, I am so dang proud of him for the effort he does exert and all the topics he has already mastered.

 

Send wine or beer.

 

One Week In – The Middle School Version September 12, 2017

He was the same person on September 5th (the first day of school) that he was one day earlier on September 4th which will henceforth be known as BMS (Before Middle School), yet things were totally different.

Yes, he is the same person but parenting him is different.

On day 1, I made a plan to go to work late so I could walk him to the bus stop.  It was his first time taking the bus after all.  As we turned the corner we saw the other children at the end of the block already waiting – with nary a parent in sight.    I had to stop walking and bid my boy goodbye before the other children noticed us.  As I watched him walk away, he got smaller and smaller.   He made his way to the curb where he would wait and I saw that it wasn’t all in my head.  He was at least a whole head shorter than all the other students.  It was hard turning my back and walking in the opposite direction.  I never had to do that BMS.

On day 2 the students were assigned their lockers and Ace was given a top locker but he’s not from a family loaded with tall genes so he couldn’t reach it and they had to swap him with another, taller, student.  He’s still not quite grown.  Yet, he was so excited about the freedom he now has to roam the hallways in between each class.  We talked about how it’s now his responsibility to get to all his classes on time and to collect, from his locker, whatever books he will need to bring home in order to complete homework.  None of this was an issue BMS.

3 days in, I was getting questioned on whether or not he can take a cell phone to school because he is apparently the ONLY one who does not have a phone.  He was asking if friends could come home on the bus with him after school.  (Ahm, no. Friends can’t come over when no adult is home and we need to get their parents contact info – Same as BMS.)  After just 3 days, he was asking that we not wake him up so early in the morning and he’s taking it upon himself to make his own dinner.  Mind you, it’s microwave mac and cheese but still.

 

I believe there’s an upcoming school dance, which I’m sure parents are not invited to.  I know they will have teacher chaperones but I don’t remember going to a “no parents allowed” school dance until I was in (the equivalent of) 9th grade.  He’s getting jokes now that he didn’t used to get and he’s more concerned with how his outfits look and his little brother is no longer allowed into the bathroom with him at any time.

 

All these developments make my brain go a little haywire.  I think about the time I went to a school dance and had promised to meet my Grandma in front of the school by 11pm but I was too busy on the dance floor to notice the time and the next thing I knew, my Grandma was there, in our auditorium, looking for me.  How embarrassing!!!

It’s a good memory (now), and I love getting those triggers, but it makes it very real to me that this time with my Ace is going to go by very quickly.  Looking back at it now, my teenage years FELT like the longest ever at the time, but they were over in a flash.

I think about the lyrics to a song from the Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack where his mom sings to him:

 

And I knew there would be moments that I’d miss
And I knew there would be space I couldn’t fill
And I knew I’d come up short a billion different ways
And I did
And I do
And I will

 

He’s growing up and the truth is, even though it’s scary at times, I do love to watch it happen.    He’s the same person, but now that he’s in middle school, it’s calling for a different kind of parenting.  I will try to do it all right.  But I haven’t.  And I don’t.  And I won’t.  All I can do is my best and hopefully he will look back and say his memories are good ones.

 

*Note*  He’s one week in and he says it’s been great.  He swears that Middle School is better than Elementary School and much to his own amazement, he thinks he will enjoy History class.

 

Phone Calls September 6, 2017

Last week Thursday I got a phone call.

It was not a call that I wanted to receive.

My Aunt had been hospitalized.

I was sad and worried – But mostly concerned about her and her comfort.

I spent the weekend either calling or anxiously waiting to receive a call to get updates.

Good news! – She was treated and released.

I am still worrying because I know she will not follow the doctors orders to relax.  It’s not who she is.

It’s hard being an immigrant and living in a different country from your loved ones and not having easy access to help them.

 

Last week Friday I got a phone call.

It was not a call that I anticipated.

The boys step mom was in the hospital – Getting ready to have her babies.

That call altered/canceled any plans we had.

We had to go pick my boys up late at night and prepare a bed for them.

I got to see them sooner than I expected which made my heart happy.

Good news! – Everyone is doing well and my sons now have twin sisters which they are very excited about.

The new mom is an immigrant and all her family live in another country.  I’m sure that’s not easy for her.  I hope she gets the support she will need; one way or the other.

 

Last Sunday I made a call that I did not want to make.  911.

Shaunies Grandma needed to be taken to the hospital.

We were scared and worried.

We had to cancel plans to attend an engagement party/bbq for good friends and instead spent the weekend making sure that she was as comfortable as possible.

Good news! – She was treated and released.

We still worry because she’s home alone quite often and is not good about letting someone know when she’s not feeling well.

If necessary we are only a 4 1/2 hour drive away.

“Only” is relative when it’s your Grandma who you love more than anything and she needs you.

 

Last Sunday was Ace’s birthday.

We made the best of it – Even though much of it was spent at a hospital – And we had to cancel plans for him to see Nanas.

Shaunie brought home a cake just as the kids were going to bed but they were allowed to stay up and have some.

We made a plan to take him to an amusement park.  His choice of an activity.

He received calls and messages from family and friends near and far.

He received more cash gifts than ever before and more gifts yet are on their way.

I expected him to hear from all the people who should love him – and he did hear from most – but there was one phone call that never came.  That message was received loud and clear.

I am disappointed but he’s fine.  He knows who his family is and that it often has nothing to do with blood.

 

Being Mothered August 28, 2017

As soon as I saw the title of the following post by Mary Tyler Mom, I knew I would love it.

(You can click the link to read her post) –>  i-miss-being-mothered 

 

Oh how I understand that feeling.  I’ve thought this many times over the years, as I’m sure other people have as well.  I just don’t recall ever seeing someone write about it.  Missing your mom, or in my case, your Grandma as a person, is different from missing being mothered.  As Mary says, “I have no shame in admitting I miss being on the receiving end of things I can only hope I am providing my boys.”

My mother is alive but she never mothered me.  That was my Grandma’s job and she passed away when I was 22 years old.  Prior to that I had already been living in a different country than her for about 5 years.  I wasn’t mothered for nearly long enough.

I missed everything about my Grandma during the years that I was living here in the USA and she was in Jamaica.  But during the long months away, I would look forward to seeing her again and having her answer my innumerable questions about life.  It was a treat when she cooked something just for me because she knew I loved it.  I would bring home clothes that needed mending and she would fix them for me; even though I was fully capable of doing it myself.

In one of our last conversations, I remember making a point of telling her how well I was doing and how happy I was.  I wanted her to know that I was ok.  I wanted her to go in peace and not to be worrying about me.  But I wasn’t ok and I needed her.

I never got to try on wedding dresses with her or ask her how she managed with 2 young boys.  I didn’t have her to call when I was feeling sad or overwhelmed or just needed to know that someone was in my corner.

I miss her holding me in the crook of my elbow as we cross the street, even though I know how to look left, right and then left again.  I miss her reminding me of all the things I need to remember.  I miss having someone who I can go to for a few extra dollars and someone who I can ask to draw the clothes design ideas that come into my head.  I miss having her be my alarm clock.  I hate the aggressive beep beep beep of an alarm and as long as she was around she never forced that on me.  Instead, she would come into my room and gently say my name and rub my shoulder until I woke.  She wrapped my school books and dug prickles out of my foot.  Now I have to dig my own damn prickles out.  (Maybe I should stop waking around bare-footed).  I miss her washing all my clothes before I leave Jamaica to come back to the States so that I don’t have to deal with a ton of dirty laundry fresh off a vacation.  (Although my Aunty J does that for me now).  I miss her brushing my hair as we watch TV.  I even miss her forcing me to do things I don’t want to do, but should do.  From graduations to promotions to receiving awards to finally finishing a craft project, no-one will ever be as proud of you as the one who mothers you.

She was just always there with a smile and a hug and a willing ear.  She was a back rubber and a hand holder and a forehead kisser.  She was a willing guinea pig if I baked something and a willing audience if I wrote a song and a willing partner if I wanted to play a board game.

 

It’s very lonely growing up without that.  There are so many things that mothers and daughters are suppose to share.  I see the comments on Facebook.  Moms liking and cheering on everything their kids post.  It makes me feel good to see it.  I hear the stories from my friends.

“My parents came by this weekend and my mom cleaned out my linen closet.”  

“I went shopping with my mom and she bought me 2 dresses.”

“Thanks for the compliment but I didn’t do that.  My mom planted those flowers.”

“My mom took the kids to the movies so I could get a mani/pedi.”  

“My daughter asked to have a ‘sleepover’ with me in my bed so when I woke up in the middle of the night I went and got her so she could wake up next to me.”

 

I think it’s lovely.

 

I get lots of other things.  I get Auntied.  I get friended and I get wifed.  This post would never end if I mentioned all the ways that people carry me through life and how grateful I am for all of it.

 

I do still wish I had had more time getting mothered though.  That’s not something that anyone can replace.