Friday, November 13, 2015

The Big Move

Remember the whole mid-life crisis thing I was planning?

(Guys, you know my commitment to questionable ideas -- they are my third favorite thing. Cats and Netflix being first and second.)

Well, after spending weeks researching a small island off of the coast of Nicaragua, analyzing how long we could live there on our savings, determining if the wi-fi signal was strong enough for me to work and discussing it all at length with a stranger I met who lived there for 8 years, I quit my job and took Big Kid out of school.

Not to move to Nicaragua though, I'm going to have to save that for my three-quarters life crisis because I can't figure out how to get two cats, a dog, a hedgehog and a box turtle to an island in another country and I think I should at least visit before attempting it.

(I know that's disappointing. I might have finally been book-worthy.)

Anyway, Big Kid was miserable in school -- beyond your normal tween misery. I'm not talking about the average drama of eye rolling and whining in the mornings, I'm speaking of a defeated sense of sorrow; of waking up with tears in his eyes and retreating more and more into quiet despair.

At first we tried to fix him. We've had similar issues in the past, always around school. He has friends, things seemed fine, just freaking hated school. We couldn't really figure out what was wrong, other than school.

We also tried to fix school. We reached out to teachers, guidance counselors and administration and were met with a bland indifference. They couldn't make any changes because it wasn't allowed or because they would have to do so for everyone.

No single issue was a big deal, I don't have some dramatic tale of injustice. We just couldn't fix anything and neither could they.

Then one day I saw this video about a boy who just wants to be happy. Later that same day I saw on the news that a middle schooler had been arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school. I realized that in the eyes of the adults present, a middle schooler would be more likely to bring a bomb than a homemade clock to the classroom. I looked at Mr. Ashley and said, "Holy shit, it's not him. There's nothing wrong with him. He's just in the wrong place."

I consulted my village and found two camps: the people who acted like we were giving up and the people who urged me to do something and cheered me on. Counselors, teachers, moms, and wise women all told me to trust my gut and relayed their own experiences of feeling marginalized or hopeless and helpless and how that affected who they became. The skeptics either seemed doubtful about my endurance or abilities (don't blame them) or worried that we were setting him up for a life of entitlement.

The truth is: real life isn't like middle school. It doesn't have to be.

I want him to be happy. I want him to feel heard.  I want him to want to learn. I want him to have his own voice. I want him to know his creativity is valuable and powerful and a force to be nurtured. I want him to recognize when a situation isn't right for who he is as an individual and to honor that.

They couldn't help him because then they'd have to help them all. He is my all.

I found myself walking into his room to wake him up on the first day of homeschool and then realized that I didn't have to. I stood in the doorway and mourned the loss of my alone time for a moment as I watched him sleep and then thought, "Genie, you're free," like the end of Aladdin. It all felt a little like giving up my last wish; bittersweet but filled with boat loads of hope.

So he is doing Florida Virtual School (which is actually still public school, making me a bit of an outcast in the homeschool world) and my plan was to continue working. I do freelance writing and marketing and was the digital media manager for a chain of yoga studios. I made my own hours, worked from home, and had what I thought was a pretty good system in place. I finally had everything I thought I wanted professionally -- a flexible schedule, steady freelance work, regular pay in a position I liked, and I spent my days writing about things I truly believe change people's lives. My relationship with the yoga studio changed my world and my co-workers were some of my truest friends.

And yet I quickly found myself miserable. I thought this might be because I'm an ungrateful asshole. I would do the math and tell myself that 20-30 hours of work and 10-15 hours of freelance writing a week is doable and that I'm lucky to have it. I would remind myself that this is what I wanted. I would come up with new ways to carve time out of the middle of the day so I could actually help Big Kid. I would get so mad at myself for feeling like I was doing a half-assed job at everything.

And one day Big Kid said, "Maybe your job is like my old school -- even if the people are great and the work is fine, maybe it's just not right for you right now," and that landed so hard in me that my breath caught in my throat for a minute.

There I was evangelizing to him and the whole rest of the world about finding happiness and feeling empowered and believing in yourself and changing your perspective and I was completely unwilling to do those things for myself. 

So I resigned. It was as easy and as difficult as that. Again, it was bittersweet and filled with boat loads of hope.

One day after I gave my notice, one of my bosses and I were working together, sitting in an empty studio like we had so many times before. I had just been thinking about how I would miss that -- lounging on that floor barefoot for business meetings. She was lamenting about how she would miss my help and when she finished I said, "You know, this is really scary for me too."

She looked at me and asked, "What's the worst that could happen?"

I considered that for a moment -- maybe I would do a shitty job at homeschooling, maybe my relationship with Big Kid would suffer, maybe I would lose my place professionally or lose the connection with my yoga friends...and I knew none of that would happen.

"Well...maybe I'll be bored?" I answered, feeling great relief to realize what was actually at risk.

She shrugged. "Then you can come back. We'll be here."

They'll be there.

Everything that really matters will always still be there.

On the second day of homeschooling, Big Kid looked me in the eye and said, "Mom, thanks for going through all this trouble, and for understanding and for listening to me and making it better," and there he was again -- the actual him, with the spark of life that makes him him.

He's been homeschooled for six weeks now and he's happy.

I've been doing my thing for three weeks now and I'm happy.

So far the only thing missing is the boredom I so feared, but there's time for that.

And that's the story of my way-less-exciting-than-Nicaragua midlife crisis. I don't know if it will be our happily ever after but it's our happily right now.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Latency

"Mom, do you think there are any two-headed people where one head is a boy and the other is a girl?" little kid asked.

"Uh, I don't know. I guess in conjoined twins it may be possible, but I don't know specifically about having two heads and one body and that happening."

"It would make dating nearly impossible! Unless one was gay or one was a latency."

"A latency?"

"A Linksys? A Lextancy? Expectancy? No...that's not it. You know what I mean. Anyway, how would they handle the whole nipple thing?"

"Wh-what nipple thing?"

"Would they have to wear a shirt in public or not? It's really hard to say without knowing what the boob situation would be."

"Right. It might be best to just mind your business on this one."

Saturday, October 17, 2015


"Mom, I have something to tell you," Big Kid announced yesterday.


"I identify as a goose."

"A goose?"


"Hmm. Wow. How long have you felt this way?"

"I've always known."

"Well, you know that I've always said that I will love you no matter what, right?"

He nodded.

"But I hate geese so this is a problem. Do you see yourself as a golden goose? Or the scary, flappy kind that poops everywhere and will steal a sandwich right out of your hand?"

"The scary, flappy, sandwich-stealing kind."

"Ugh. I had noticed the sandwich-stealing thing. I mean, I'll work on it -- I have no real valid reason to hate geese anyway so maybe it can be a life lesson for me. I just don't see why you can't be a cat or something less like a goose. "

"Yeah, but if you're a goose, you're a goose."

"Right. That's kind of the whole problem with being a goose -- the goose part. But it's fine."

Later his brother was telling an unrelated story about ducks and he interrupted and said, "Excuse me but as a goose, ducks are practically my cousins. CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE!"

I almost died laughing. I am so grateful that I am his mother goose.

Friday, October 16, 2015


I'm in my bedroom with the laptop because it's late afternoon on Friday and I am done. DONE. D-O-N-E.

The kids started fighting over which one of them should be on the computer about an hour ago so I intervened and thought I straightened it out. The fight continued though and I retreated.

Some people would call that giving up but I call it teaching independent conflict management. Real world life lessons, people.

At some point the fighting turned into rambunctious play fighting, which is still annoying but less so and it was then that I overheard: "Dude, don’t give mom more material for her blog. That's what's about to happen. Do you WANT the world to know about this? I’m telling you to put some pants on and chill out before you end up embarrassing the whole internet. "

I'm intrigued. But still not enough to go out there and investigate.

Sorry internet.

But also, thank you for being a positive parenting influence. We're doing good work here.

 (Someone just said they can't breathe which pretty much means I have to go out there, although I am sure he can breathe since he's also yelling.)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Special Like Everyone Else

I saw this sweet story about a college kid who offered comfort to a man with special needs.

I don't know what I would have done in a similar situation -- felt awkward at best, maybe scared. Would I have held his hand? Would I have offered my shoulder? I wish I could say, but I know what little kid would have done.

At 9, little kid loves people. All of them. He strolled through the halls at orientation giving casual high fives, calling everyone by name, giving passing teachers a friendly head nod and a knowing look.

He was nominated for student council and wants to organize a club for new and/or lonely kids where they could play games and make new friends and learn the intricacies of the game Four Square, a huge part of their school's culture and social scene.

He is borderline obsessed with new students who can't speak English and goes out of his way to befriend them and learn words from their language while teaching them words from ours. I get updates on their progress daily.

It's all so easy for him.

He has a classroom nemesis whose questionable behavior fascinates him and was outraged when he caught her making fun of the special needs class. She was mocking their behavior and he told her that she had needed help when she was a baby, and they do too; that it's not their fault and they are just like everyone else.

"You have to do something!" Big Kid exclaimed as the story was retold. "She can NOT behave that way, you MUST get an adult involved next time so she can learn!"

"I am working on her! The adults know but it's the kids who need to show her it's not cool with us!"

He came home one day and told me he had encountered a child having an absolute meltdown in the office -- kicking, cursing, physically struggling against his mom and the vice principal who were trying to usher him out of the lobby.

He saw little kid and stopped and said, "I'm not leaving! I want a hug from him!!"

"What did you do?" I asked, intrigued and a little nervous. I don't know that I would want to hug a kicking, screaming, cursing stranger.

"I asked his mom if I could give him a hug and she said yes, so I did. And, you know, it was a really good hug. I was pretty surprised. It made him happy and he went home, and I was happy since it was a nice hug."

It made me happy too.

He came home yesterday and said, "Mom, you know how my friends and I treat the kids from the special needs class just like everyone else?"

I nodded.

"Well, today one of them slipped the bird! Just like that, slipped someone the bird!! I had to tell a teacher since I would do that for everyone else and she didn't seem surprised. He must have been a regular bird-slipper."

So I know what little kid would have done on the bus that day. He would have offered his hand, his shoulder, a hug.

Unless someone slipped him a bird, then they would have been reported.

Just like everyone else.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Note to Self

I went to yoga today.

The teacher was one of the beautiful, deep, free-spirit types; she was wearing a loud navy blue shirt with a large pink floral print and leopard print leggings.

"So...the outfit," she said, acknowledging her unconventional apparel immediately.

She went on to explain that she had been looking through photos with her parents when they came across a photo of her wearing it.

"So, tell me, what about that shirt goes with those pants?" her mom had asked.

The class laughed then because it was very clear that nothing about that shirt went with those pants.

"Well, the shirt is a shirt, and the pants are pants, and shirts and pants go together," she quipped. "That is my very favorite outfit, probably that I've ever worn," she went on to explain.

"Then you should wear it tomorrow," her mom said.

And she did.

And there was a deeper message around that story -- about happiness or yoga or doing what you want or something but I was so busy screaming, "THAT IS THE KIND OF MOM I WANT TO BE," inside of my head that I missed it.

It's as easy -- and as difficult -- as that. Acceptance and celebration of who they are, even if I don't quite get it.

"Then you should wear it tomorrow."

I couldn't do the handstand thing she was trying to teach us yet, but I still learned a lot.