Monthly Archives: October 2012

October Goals Update

I didn’t forget! I said I’d post another update mid-October, and here it is. (It’s not the last week of October yet, so it’s still totally the middle!) My younger son was home sick from school for three days this week, and it’s amazing how much I depend on those two hours every morning. They go by so fast, but you sure notice when you don’t have them. This month has been a mixed bag in terms of progress:

1. Blogging. I mentioned this on twitter last week, and got some great feedback from some other bloggers that was a huge help, but I hit a huge roadblock in writing about my conversation with a high school bully. I was writing about it every day, hating everything I found to say, and then trashing it and starting over. So I’ve set it aside for a little while, but hopefully will soon figure out a good way to write about it. The conversation was really good, and I feel like I learned a lot.

2. Writing. It’s moving along, if somewhat more slowly than I’d like. I’m going to take a little break from it for the month of November, and will be working on a new project for National Novel Writing Month. It seems like a good time for me to try a challenge in terms of increasing my output and getting myself to a place where I can write something on a plan instead of just when the feeling comes along.

3. Exercise. This has gone very well. I’ve been working on Couch-to-5K for six weeks, and am seeing big gains in terms of my ability to to push myself. This week, I did an 18-minute run that wasn’t broken up with any walking. Looking at my route on Google Maps, it looks like I ran about a mile and a half. I’ve been super fanatic about sticking to my schedule, and have been running every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning without exception. If you had asked me six weeks ago if there was any way I’d be able to do the workouts past the first couple of weeks, I’d have told you there was no chance in hell.

4. Weight Loss. This is also going very well. I’m a little more than halfway to my goal! Last weekend, I had to buy new jeans because my old ones were literally falling off. This is going to sound awful, but now if I look in the mirror, I feel like I look like me again. It feels a little shallow to say that, and I’m surprised that I feel that way. In the spirit of full disclosure, I should say that I gained a pound last week, and was furious at myself about it.

5. Skin. About a month ago, I had my first appointment with the new dermatologist. Fingers crossed, but he seems kind of like he might be a normal human in possession of some empathy. I wasn’t sure that was possible! Regardless, one month in, I’m definitely starting to see results. My skin is markedly improved, and that plus the weight loss … just feels pretty great!

Expect to see a November goals update at the very end of November, so I can rate my NaNoWriMo success.

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Raising a Redditor

Andrew’s class earned themselves a Pajama Day. I’m not sure exactly how this prize is unlocked, but apparently it has something to do with filling a jar with marbles. “Ten marbles to Hufflepuff for correctly spelling SITS! Twelve marbles to Slytherin for deciding not to eat the paste today!”

Andrew thinks that Pajama Day is one of three major holidays. Christmas, Halloween, and Pajama Day. Thanksgiving? Yeah, it’s fine, but it’s clearly second-tier to Pajama Day.

I knew we were going to have a problem when he came downstairs in his baseball pajamas. They’re cute. Blue flannel pants printed with baseballs and bats. An orange jersey that says … oh, geez, does it really say that? An orange jersey that says, “Boys Rule the World Phys. Ed. Dept.” How had I not noticed that before?

I’ve considered myself a feminist for as long as I’ve known the word. Growing up, my best friend was a girl, and I always had a basic awareness that there seemed to be different standards for boys and girls, a different set of rules. And I knew that was stupid.

Adulthood has made the different sets of rules even more clear, and there’s little that’s been as personally frustrating and infuriating to me as watching my friend pushed out of a job when she had a child. The systematic way in which she was undermined so that she’d have to wonder, “Was this my failing? Did that really just happen?” was truly disgusting.

Gay men often seem to have difficulty with the concept of feminism and sexism. There’s this casual idea that if you’re gay, you just can’t be sexist, so when you say and do sexist things, you don’t really mean them that way. It’s just a joke. I’m constantly disappointed when gay men fail to understand that homophobia is a subset of sexism and misogyny. Homophobia only exists because people believe in these fundamental differences between the genders and try to enforce them.

So I’m not sure how Andrew has worn that shirt to bed so many times without my seeing the message. But this morning, I had this image of him wearing it where other people would see it, and I was horrified. I checked with Austin.

“So … Andrew’s shirt. I’m not imagining that, am I?” I asked.

“Nope,” he said. “Not imagining. He can’t wear that to school.”

It was almost time for school, so there was no way to switch shirts without a conversation. We brought down a new shirt, one with a baseball on it, so he could still wear it with his pajama pants. He wasn’t happy about it.

Austin tried to explain that the message on the first shirt kind of says that boys are better than girls, and that doesn’t seem like a very nice thing to say. Andrew sulked, but he gave in and switched shirts. But not without a parting shot:

“I don’t know why you care. The girls would all know it’s just a joke.”

I explained to him that some of the girls might not think it was a funny joke, that it seemed more like a mean joke to me.

And then I whispered to Austin, “Dear god, we’re raising a redditor.”

(Secret Spirit Day Bonus: His t-ball shirt is purple!)

Schrodinger’s School

The other day, I joked to Austin that “first grade is like the black box on an airplane. We’ll only find out what’s inside when it crashes.”

In some ways, I think no news is good news. I’ve had very brief conversations with the school psychologist and with the special education teacher who supervises Andrew’s classroom. It sounds like there’s not much to say because the things going on are the things we expect. But I’ve found myself missing the daily communication that came with preschool and kindergarten.

When I pick up Jordan from preschool, his teacher always lets me know how his day was, even if it’s just a quick “great day today, buddy!” directed at my son. When it’s a more complicated day, she tells me about the specifics.

This week, though, I had one of those phone calls that I was a little surprised I hadn’t received in the last six weeks. Andrew’s gym teacher called me.

“I just want to start by saying that Andrew is fine. He hasn’t been injured. Parents are always worried when I call,” she began.

Her list of concerns about Andrew’s behavior in her class was exactly what I would expect. He fails to follow directions, doesn’t attend to tasks, and can’t keep his hands to himself.

“Yes,” I said, “those are definitely the kind of challenges Andrew has in a classroom.”

It’s why he has an aide in his classroom, but it sounds like the gym teacher isn’t really kept in the loop on that. Actually, it sounds a little like she’s left in the lurch with no assistance.

I couldn’t help feeling that she expected me to have a solution for her, something I would say that would fix the problem. It’s something my best friend and I had talked about just the other day, too, that we’re just not shocked enough when teachers call us.

“I swear to god,” she said, “the next time his teacher calls me, I’m just going to say, ‘My son is autistic?!?! I had no idea!'”

It’s hard not to feel like you’re falling short as a parent when people keep looking to you for solutions that you don’t have.

Riding in Cars with Boys

If I want to know what Andrew is thinking, I just need to put him in the car. The five minutes between dropping Jordan off at preschool and dropping Andrew off at his elementary school are often the five most informative minutes of my day. I find out all kinds of things — did he get in trouble at school yesterday? does he have a new best friend? is he worried about something? All kinds of things that I’d never hear about if we weren’t in the car together for a few minutes.

This morning, I spent the entire ride to school being compared, unfavorably, to their mother. The boys were telling me that their mother loved Halloween, and always had the best Halloween decorations. Apparently she baked special Halloween desserts, too. Now, I can’t say how much of it is true, but I can tell you that my sons, especially Andrew, believe it. He spent a lot of time and energy telling me how much better Halloween, and life, would be, if I had more Halloween decorations and made more Halloween desserts.

Now, I’m no stranger to being compared to others and found to be wanting. My kids compare me to my husband all the time, and tell me how much more fun he is, how much more reasonable, and how much better. I make the rules, and like that episode of Modern Family where Claire and Phil traded roles, it wouldn’t work any other way. Still, when the boys ask, “Is Mark coming to the zoo with us?” and cheer when the answer is no, it stings a little.

I know they don’t really mean it, and they fall over each other in a race to tell me all about whatever adventure they had.

It’s harder when I’m compared to their mother. I know a lot about the reality, and they mostly just have mythology. To them, Mommy was perfect, a mythical creature made out of hugs and love.

Really, isn’t it better to remember her that way? There’s no question in my mind that she loved her sons, and that’s certainly what they remember. If nothing else, showing her children that she loved them was something she did well. A success in a long, sad string of failures.

I’m never sure how best to respond to their grief over losing their mother. All responses seem insufficient.

The other day, again alone in the car with the boys, Adele’s “Someone Like You” came on the radio. Now, that cd was in my car for months. They’ve probably heard the song hundreds of times. This day, though, Andrew said, “This song makes me think of Mommy. I really miss her.” Suddenly, a car ride to Nana and Grandpa’s for dinner was filled with sobbing from both my children, crying over the loss of their mother.

When we got to my parents’ house, grief was quickly forgotten in the impulse to look at Grandpa’s pumpkins and ask Nana to sew a rip in a stuffed animal. My mother could see it in my face, though, and we spoke about it briefly.

“You know,” she said, “Jordan is older now than Andrew was when the boys moved in with you.”

I nodded, not sure where she was going.

“At the time, we talked about how mature Andrew tried to be, and how he used to have such adult conversations. Try to imagine Jordan having the kind of conversations that Andrew used to have when he was four.”

It’s impossible. Jordan has the kind of conversations that four-year-olds have. He tells you about his toys. He tells you what camouflage is. Andrew used to say things like, “I know that Mommy can’t take care of me now, but how does the judge know that she’ll never be able to take care of me? I don’t think he can really know that.”

Carrying that weight on his shoulders, it seems only fair that I should have to carry the weight of subpar Halloween decorations.