Today marks Margaret’s last day of middle school. Honestly, I couldn’t be happier.
Yes, I’m happy because I no longer have to get up early in the morning and make breakfasts and lunches for Mar and Bill (and myself). But there’s a more to it. Middle school is a trial … for everyone involved.
Margaret went to a great school academically, but the social aspect of the past three years has really taken a toll. She’s has so many successes and was supported by many, really great teachers. But, she also let herself be dragged down by the comments and treatment of her peers.
It was painful to watch. Of course, as we lived through the past three years, I was reminded over and over again about my middle-school years. I kept telling Margaret that at least she’s super cute and doesn't have stupid hair and clothes (I made some really poor choices about hair and fashion for … oh, pretty much my whole life …).
But, the fact remains that teenage girls (and many women) feel good about themselves by dragging others down. It’s like a sport from which many would have won gold medals.
I’m not one of those parents who thinks their child is perfect and everyone else is terrible. I am intimately aware of the harsher side of my daughter’s personality. But, it was so hard to watch her get mired in the mud of negativity and hateful games.
I watched her close herself off and become resentful of pretty much everyone. I kept trying to tell her that the drama associated with middle school would go on to have very little impact on the rest of her life. But what good consolation is that when she’s being pummeled by the slings and arrows of her peers?
The most disappointing element of Mar’s middle school experience was the browbeating she suffered due to her beliefs. She was told numerous times that she was going to hell because she’s not a Christian; she was told she was stupid for being a vegetarian and not a fan of hunting; she was even derided because I drive a hybrid instead of a pick-up truck (what does my car matter to a bunch of young teens anyway? Sheesh).
I kept thinking that if she would just kept those things to herself, she would have been better off. But those other kids who wear their religion and meat-eating like a battering ram are never expected to keep quiet, are they?
Part of me wished we had not moved three years ago and Margaret would have continued going to school with kids whose parents picked them up from school in pajamas every day and she was often praised by her teachers for being clean, well-prepared and ready to learn. Very few would have given a shit if she were eating lintel soup for lunch instead of bologna sandwiches.
But then I look at the opportunities she has had and hope the trade off was enough. She was challenged academically in a way that will be good for her as she heads off to high school and then college. That alone is huge (I cannot thank her teachers enough). She flourished under her wonderful choir instructor and developed a love and talent for music that sends me spinning in delight. She got to go to Europe. Those things should make it all worth it, shouldn’t it?
I hope so.
So, if you see me running around flipping off the middle school, it’s not directed at the hard-working, undervalued, underpaid education professionals who dedicate their careers to helping these young teens on their path to adulthood. No, instead I’m sending my dislike to the institution that forces young teens together into daily situations that allows them to torture each other with their only-partially-formed ideas and thoughts on how they and everyone else should see and act in this world of ours.
Oh, middle school, I’m so glad we’re done with you.
It was Amy’s idea to make the hats.
“I was at Wal-Mart getting poster board, mom, and I saw some plain white hats. I thought it’d be fun to get a bunch and write TEAM ADDY on them.”
Not only would it be fun to attend graduation in matching white caps, but the slogan—TEAM ADDY—was perfect.
So, using fabric markers and puffy paint, we made enough hats for Amy, me, a few friends, and the others that would be coming over from Denver—Addy’s dad, his girlfriend, and his mother.
I wasn’t sure if the Denver group would sit with us at the ceremony, or with me, I should say, as I would encourage Amy to sit with them since she doesn’t see them as often. I couldn’t predict if they’d like the hat idea and agree to wear them. To be honest, I was surprised that Addy’s dad was taking the time off work and making the trip to attend her graduation at all. It’s not that he wasn’t proud of her, and supportive, it’s just that he’s never had any use for ceremonies.
It’s been more than six years now since the separation and almost five since the divorce became final. It was a contentious affair. In the middle of the process, the girls’ dad quit his job and moved across the state, taking a new woman/old high school girlfriend with him. And shortly after that he announced that he wanted the girls to come live with them.
I won’t get into the particulars, but the girls did live with their father for a few years. One wanted to–to give him a chance–more than the other, but they had to stick together. They’ve always stuck together. Their relationship is the heart and soul of TEAM ADDY.
Eventually, the girls made their way back to me. Their father was busy working most of the time; he always had been and that did not change once he took custody of the girls. It was his girlfriend who ended up caring for them.
Initially, I was angry. Hurt. Incredulous that the court said she would be the one to raise my daughters instead of me. But rather quickly that anger turned to gratitude and appreciation. For if she was not there, not in that household and not available all day, every day, as she was, then I’m not sure what would have become of my daughters.
She transitioned them into a new home, new schools, and through some tough teenage years. She didn’t parent exactly how I would, but she did parent. She parented my children.
It was the beginning of the teamwork. The village. On the first Mother’s Day that rolled around, I sent her a card, thanking her for all that she did for my girls, thanking her for being a good mother, explaining how grateful I was for the village.
She called me immediately upon receiving it and thanked me profusely. The team became stronger.
We became friends.
Not being their real mother, Addy didn’t feel that pressure from her to be like mom, to go through childhood and high school the way mom did it, the way mom would want you to do it. I credit her presence, and the lack of mine on a daily basis, for Addy discovering her true self—her free spirit; her hippie style; her creativity with music, writing, and art; her brash humor; the eschewal of the high school experience that I had in mind for her. The girl knows herself better than I have ever known myself. And she’s only 17.
The power of the village.
There were tough times in that household, as there are in most. There were several occasions when she was on the verge of leaving him. I prayed she would. Get out. Get a better life for yourself. She was a friend, a fellow woman. I cared about her. But I prayed harder that she would stay. Oh, please stay. Find the strength to stay. And she did. She stayed. Addy–in her honesty and boldness and love for her–told her to leave. Go to a happier place. She explained to Addy why she couldn’t leave; she loved them both and she did not think their dad could handle raising them on his own.
She stuck it out for the team.
I’ll never understand Addy’s father’s style of parenting, of loving. But I will say that he is a critical player on the team. He works hard, he earns good money, he pays his child support. He teaches different sorts of lessons. He does what needs to be done, in a business sense. He has been cordial and cooperative.
Eventually—slowly but eventually—he and I became friendly again, too.
The strength of the village.
And then there is Jim. My Jim. My Jim who is patient and understanding and embraces that I am first and foremost a mom. He loves my girls and has always been there for the three of us. Another pillar in the village.
I remember, five years ago, hoping that we would all get to the point where we could come together for graduations, weddings, births, all the important things that might come up in our daughters’ lives. I imagined us in the same room, being cordial, the anger long gone, the hurting all healed. I wondered if that could ever be a reality.
We are at that point now. And it feels good. It feels healthy.
Recently, Addy was diagnosed with depression. We’ve all been supportive and tried our best to learn more and understand better what she is going through. We’ve teamed up to figure out how to parent a teen with depression, as it is no easy task, perhaps harder even than parenting a teen without depression.
And I cannot leave out the extended family members—grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins—who are also on TEAM ADDY, as well as friends, teachers, coaches, bosses. The village extends beyond all understanding.
Though we split apart years ago and live in separate cities, we’re one village.
So the TEAM ADDY hats mean a lot to me. I know mine will be around for years to come.
I saw Robin a while ago and I started apologizing for being such a bad blogess.
My excuse it that our family has fallen into this really comfortable routine. There's breakfast, school, lunch, after-school, homework and some kind of sport a few days a week. Not much is new. The boys are either doing swimming or baseball. The school is the same and there aren't any surprises in the way of homework or disipline or even what's packed in the lunch. And thats' fine. We're busy living and growing some kids who need lots and lots of practice at attaining life skills.
Robin said she didn't care. Everything doesn't have to be new to be interesting. "I want to see pictures of Kip and Cletus and the kids."
Okay then ...
Here's Kip: He's 2 1/2 now. He's all trained up and doesn't kill chickens. He can roll over, play dead, and listens pretty well most of the time. His job is to take the kids to school. He's spoiled and gets spooned nightly. He also smiles.
And here's Cletus. Cletus and Kip are best friends. He likes to cuddle. He's getting older and grumpy. Soren has been trying very hard to make friends with him, but he mostly prefers adults and Kip.
And, here's Soren and Jonas: award recipients as they exit kindergarten and second grade.
So, there ya go, Robin. I'm going to take your advice and just keep posting pics of life as it passes us by and hope that's good enough for our readers.
Better late than never has been the theme of our presidential birthday celebrations lately. Last night we finally got around to celebrating James Buchanan and Harry Truman.
Buchanan wasn’t that interesting either in food or politics according the Ashcrafts. I guess the most interesting things about him was that he was the only bachelor president. He appointed his niece as the First Lady. I didn’t know you could “appoint” someone to that position.
Soren didn’t like him that much because no matter how many times I told him, he could not say the name Buchanan. He called him Boochanman. As we sat down to dinner he read the one sentence he had written about Buchanan in his notebook out loud. “Boochanman was in the Civil War and people called him ‘Doughface’.” That cracked his brothers up. Marty was like “What? Who’s Boochanman? What president are we on?”
Despite his best efforts, Marty could not get Soren interested in Buchanan.
Then it came my turn to explain the food. According to the Food Timeline, Buchanan liked to eat “Calf's Head Dressed as Terrapin,” Apees & Muscadine (grape) Pie, and “Confederate Pudding.”
I told the family that I thought calf’s head sounded pretty good. It probably tastes like chicken nuggets. They disagreed wholeheartedly. I don’t have a clue what an Apees is, and Confederate pudding is too politically incorrect for my dinner table. There is a recipe HERE though if you’re interested.
We moved on to Harry Truman. I explained that Martha Truman’s recipe cards have been uploaded to the Natioanal Archives website. I chose this one:
I tried my best to stick to the recipe. I'm not sure if Chili Sauce is the kind of ketchup-type condiment I had in my fridge, but that's what I used. I also don't know what Kitchen Bouquet is so I used Italian Seasoning. Eh — whatevs. I love how she used to use a layer of bacon, then scratched it out. Why would you ever scratch out bacon?
Soren liked Truman's picture. "He looked like a good guy." And, he liked that he got to read more about WWI and WWII.
And the conversation at the dinner table turned into the swapping of war stories from there.
Soren asked for Mrs. Truman's leftover meatloaf for lunch this morning ... nice work Mrs. Truman.
Confession: There are some days when I can SO relate to Homer Simpson when he does this:
Fer reals. Homer nails parenthood right there.
You know how you hear stories about boys breaking windows ... and everyone chuckles .... yeah ... I'm not laughing.
First there was a window in the breakfast nook that suddenly developed a strange crack. Of course, nobody knows where this crack came from. We ignored it. Until winter weather made the crack CRACK. One day, Soren took after a fly with a dish towel and that crack turned into a shatter. Replacement of window No. 1.
We live in a older house which means it's been remodeled a number of times leaving one particular bathroom window in a vulnerable place, the landing of outside stairs. BAM — suddenly another shatter appeared that looked an awfully lot like a foot may have kicked it in. Again ... nobody knows. Replacement of window No. 2.
This next one I'm fully prepared to hear some blame for. You'all are going to raise your eyebrows and whisper stuff like "well, if she would have been watching them better ..." Fair enough.
Marek grabbed a BB gun and took a direct shot at our patio door. When it shattered, it sounded like water was being poured off our balcony. Marek ran into the house and screamed "I'M GOING TO MY ROOOOOMMMM!!!!" If he could have spanked himself, he would have. Replace of window No. 3 was postponed because .....
the next day a neighbor came to report there was a small hole, most likely from a BB gun, (hmmm, who could that be?) in his window. It was followed by a very polite lecture about not letting my boys play with guns, balls, baseball bats, and whole number of things that he'd apparently witnessed going on at my house. Replacement of window No. 4.
If I have to replace another window this summer, I swear I'm going to go Homer on one of these boys.
Sure, someday we'll sit around the Christmas table and laugh about that summer the boys broke out all the windows. But, it won't be anytime soon.2 comments
It was with a heavy heart and some trepidation about sharing such a personal topic that I wrote about my daughter's depression.The blogging community, my family, local friends, and other online readers responded–overwhelmingly–with support, cyber hugs, words of wisdom, analogous feelings and struggles, and names of books, articles, and blogs that we should read. Haute Mama Robin commented with “Depression Lies” and pointed us toward The Bloggess, Jenny Lawson.
I couldn’t believe the response. Not just the support, but the fact that no one seemed to think it was weird that my daughter and I wanted to share what she’s going through. So, thank you, everyone–you da bomb.
On top of her depression, my daughter was physically sick. I listened to her cough all night long, though I was sure she was sleeping through it. She emerged from her bedroom every morning for more than a week with her hand cupped below her mouth, wakened each morning by coughing up phlegm. She slept a lot and said she didn’t feel well and stay bundled up in a blanket, even on warm afternoons. She didn’t talk much at all. Of course, I thought all the latter–sleeping, bundling, silence–were related to the depression, which they were, but there was more. As it turned out, she had strep throat.
More mom guilt. First, I don’t understand her depression as well as I want to and I don’t know exactly how to help her. Worse, she was quite sick for more than a week before I took her to the doctor. And the only reason I took her was because she said to me (finally), “Hey, mom, wanna see what I’ve been dealing with for the past week?” and opened her mouth in my face, shining her cell phone on the back of her throat.
It was the most disgusting throat I’ve ever seen. Hugely swollen, bright red, coated in pus, sides almost touching, just a tiny opening.
Wow, I remember thinking, she really is sick. It’s not just a fantastic notion of her depressed imagination.
Anyway, the transformation I saw in my baby was amazing as an increased dosage of Zoloft kicked in right about the same time the Amoxicillin did. Mentally and physically healed all at once. Her vibrant self returned.
I was taking an art class after work when my phone rang. I picked up because it was her. “Mama, whatever you do, don’t eat. I’m cooking dinner.”
More like whatever else I had planned for the evening, just cancel it. Cooking dinner? Out of her bedroom? Moving around? Planning and following through with something? Inviting me, ahead of time? There was no way I was going to miss this.
I hurried home after class and found both daughters and the family dog on the couch, starting a movie, waiting for me. It just happened to be one of my favorite movies–What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? I dropped my things and sat right down. Addy said that we were having dinner in the living room. The dinner that she had made was layered dip and chips. Perfect!
I watched Addy just as much as I watched the movie. She was the happiest I’d seen her in weeks. Carefree, playing with the dog, able to sit through the entire movie without retreating to her room. My daughter is healthy and happy, I kept thinking to myself.
By the time the movie ended, it was dark. The girls were tired and said good night. “That was a fun family night,” said Amy, who I know has been concerned about her sister.
Once alone, the floodgates opened. Tears streamed down my cheeks. No wailing, no sobbing. Just silent tears. Not tears of fear or pain or frustration. Tears of relief. And they just kept coming.
I guess I was carting around a bit of stress these past few weeks. I don’t recognize it at the time. I just keep pressing on. Do what needs to be done. But then, when there’s a break in the action, it all comes out. This time, luckily, it came out as relief. Relief that my daughter is healing. Healing before things got worse, healing before something terrible happened.
In the morning, I told Addy about my tears, about how relieved I was to see her acting like her old self again, to see her happy.
“Mom, I just want to do things now. Before, I had to try to talk myself into doing the most basic things–getting up, washing a load of laundry, talking to people. It would take like a half hour to talk myself into something and I’d be exhausted before I even did it.”
I didn’t say anything. Just listened. I need to learn. Learn to understand how this disorder operates, how it affects my daughter. By understanding, perhaps I can be a better support system for her.
“There were, like, several days in there where I was convinced you and Amy hated me. I knew you didn’t. You wouldn’t do everything you do if you didn’t care about me. But, still. I had to put so much energy into telling myself that it wasn’t true.”
This comment made me remember something. “Oh! I made you something in my class.” I went and got the oil craypas water-color relief on fabric. Depression Lies, it said.
“Ha! Good one, Mom! I’ll hang it my dorm room.” She paused and I’m pretty sure she was thinking about the same thing I was: Yep, you’re going to make it to that dorm room.
“Man, I didn’t realize how sick I was. I don’t really get it until I come out of it. I feel so liberated! I feel happier than I’ve felt in a long time!”
“Well, if wanting to cook dinner is a measure of happiness, then you’re way ahead of me,” I told her, laughing.
“Oh, Mom,” she said, “you da bomb. Dot com.”1 comments
We are coming up on the end of the semester. To add to the end of the year craziness, I decided I wanted to get all of our home improvement projects done before summer starts. I'm not exactly sure why; probably so I can spend the bulk of the summer lying around.
For the last week, Bill and I have been working in the yard, getting the sprinkler system up and going and rebuilding a portion of our main deck. I also found some great metal chairs at Goodwill that I repainted. I'll have before and after pictures when those projects are complete.
In the meantime, here are some random pictures because it's Wednesday and Wednesdays need more randomness:
This is painting done by one of my very talented students for his research project in my History of Graphic Design class. After it was graded and I gushed over how much I love Alphonse Mucha, he gave it to me. We are very excited to get this framed and hung in our house. This painting makes me so happy.
Here is Quincy wearing my band's t-shirt. I think Riveter needs to start a line of pet wear.
And because I already started with the pet pictures, here is one of my kitten (who is not much of a kitten anymore), being her normal, naughty self:
We have a pet door that the dog and older cat use to come and go as they please, but Dali is too a-scared, so she pretends to hunt birds from inside ... hanging from the screen door.
Happy hump day!3 comments
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