I have two siblings. We all live in different cities and lead busy lives. We are more likely to exchange a quick email than to talk on the phone. But by coincidence, I have spoken to both my brothers in the last week – one had a birthday and one had an accident and hurt his foot.
In the course of our conversations, both my brothers asked after M. While I don’t send tend to share all his adventures, they have both spent time with M. While they may not know the details, they know M has challenges. But when each brother asked what M was up to, I realized I didn’t have much to say. He goes to school and daycare every day. Some days are better than others but that’s the way it is for everyone. My youngest brother has three children so he understands full well that every child has his or her ups and downs.
Beyond the normal routine, M got his blue belt in karate a couple of weeks ago. He went over to a friend’s house one day last weekend and another friend came over for a few hours the next day. We all went to see a group who performed Beatles’ songs and had a good time. M did have some trouble at Cubs last week, but he went in and spoke to the leaders this week – there will be some consequences but he has accepted them without any real fuss.
The fact of the matter is that there is no real drama around M right now. He did struggle in the early part of last week, but it was short-lived. He said he would have a good day one morning and he did. Last year, a couple of difficult days usually meant a couple of difficult weeks, interspersed by at least one call from the school. M’s intentions were always good and he had some of the tools he needed to make good choices, but he couldn’t always pull it off. This year, he can decide to have a good day and follow through.
Careening from crisis to crisis with your child is highly stressful. Not just for your child, but also for the parent. M’s dad and I have always been upfront with M – when there’s a problem, we discuss it. M would often rather we didn’t but we aren’t doing him any favours to gloss over the reality. But we did hide our anxiety as much as we could. So M didn’t know when my husband and I would sit in front of the tv at night like zombies, totally worn out from the challenge du jour. M didn’t know that the reason I occasionally came home from work and crawled into bed with a book is because I felt so discouraged about what was happening at school that hiding in bed was all I could do. On these nights, I would usually tell M I had a migraine. Since I regularly get severe headaches, M never questioned my story.
Compared to past years, our home life is almost tranquil. Yes, it can be a bit of a race against time to get M out the door in the morning. And we still have to give him multiple reminders when his media time is over. But he sets the table almost every night and clears his own dishes. He gets dressed in the morning before he comes downstairs. He goes to bed when asked. Most nights, he will ask for a few extra minutes of reading time, but when he’s finished his chapter, he will go to sleep. On the nights when I go to bed early it’s because I am tired from working full-time and having a family. My husband, who also has a full-time job, does a huge amount of the daily work around the house – he’s also often tired. For that matter, this is a common complaint among most of my friends who have kids.
I know that M will continue to have challenges in the months and years to come. At times, he will probably struggle. On occasion, I may even retreat to my bed with a good book in order to regroup. But I am going to live in the moment and revel in my ordinary, boring life.