image The irony of "Amazing Love" sung during worship at my church yesterday did not escape me. It's a song I learned from Jason Hovater, a worship leader from my former church who was killed this last year serving in the United States Army in Afghanistan. I could hardly join in the melody due to the lump forming in my throat. Memorial Day weekend became instantly more meaningful to me in that moment.
I had already been made painfully aware of the coming holiday on Thursday evening. I assisted the little guys for swim team when Coach Rob alerted me to be watchful of an Iraq veteran would had need of a special chair to enter the pool which sat near our practice lanes. I expected to see a hobbling yet proud man slowly limping toward us. Instead, my breath was taken away when I realized the boy, maybe 18 or 19, being pushed in a wheelchair represented an injured war vet! His limbs were drawn in, purple from lack of use, and hanging like stretched dough. I was in the water with the brand spanking new wiggly swimmers, or I'd have gotten out to look him in the eye and thank him for his service to our country. I'm resolved if I see him there again to find someone to watch the kids if I'm helping so I might do so.
The words to "Amazing Love" struck me in a particular way this Memorial Day. "Amazing love, how can it be? That you my king should die for me. Amazing love. I know it's true, and it's my joy to honor you." Sunday, I also inserted "friend" next to King Jesus for these vets wounded and killed. It's amazing love that soldiers position themselves on the front lines to die for me, our country, each day. I remember and honor you.
While I was home moping, because someone needed to stay home after Tater did have a nuclear reactor core meltdown to an everyday situation, the rest of my family went to Helen and Clay's part of the world for The Wine and Swine Event. You know what I'm talking about, the winery in Jamestown which has a wine tasting and hog roast to boot? Tennesseans sure know how to throw a party, don't they? Well, Buck shared with me a little story from the day. Some young girls approached Buck announcing, "Our dad wants to talk to you, because your boys waz makin' fun of us." Buck says, "Tell your dad he is welcome to talk to me." The girls ran down and spoke to a man Buck described as looking both drunk and mean. They returned, hands on hips, "My dad wants You to come to HIM!" I'm thinking I might have screamed like and Apache for our kids to make a mad dash for the van, but Buck, instead, rolled his eyes and walked down toward the angry man with my children in tow! "What seems to be the problem?" Buck calmly asked. "Your boys was hollerin' and making fun of my girls," he spat. Buck allowed our boys to answer, "Since your girls were throwing ROCKS at us, we decided to laugh at them for missing us." Buck noticed the man was not moved, and in fact, was looking for a way to start a man fight,so Buck quickly got the boys to apologize. Then the little girls came clean without their daddy's prompting for hurling stones. Buck took the opportunity to skeedaddle out there fast before he had need of his excellent ninja skills.
As my husband helped me ear candle(didn't help) this morning, Peace sat beside me looking up and reading aloud the dangers of such things in google searches. I was already quite anxious about inserting a flaming candle into my ear. Eye roll.
And I helped set summer goals with each child this morning. Peace wants to concentrate on Life Rank for Scouts and cross country. He also has honors summer assignments for English and Algebra II. Wise One will finish his unfinished homeschool. Peace and Wise One agreed to memorize the Periodic Table of Elements together. We selected spiritual development books for each. Pooh Bear is the official summer sandwich maker. She took orders in a notebook at 9:30 a.m. from everyone. Then sighed and watched the clock till I finally said she could prepare them at 11:52. What an earnest person.
I've been rehearsing for two days now not hollerin' about the grades Tater will bring home on his report card this afternoon. It's a matter of keeping my yapper entirely shut on the matter. Tater will be completely undone if he doesn't make the grades to play football, and me yammering will not help the boy heal. I asked him these questions to hopefully get him processing yesterday morning, "What kind of grades do you think you'll get on this report card? How do you think you'll react? What are the consequences of low grades? Will you melt down if it turns out they are not good enough to play football?"
He told me he'd blow up if he couldn't play. He said he'll be very angry, and he'll be sure we all know it. His ugly is down right frightening. Yep, that's why I brought it up, so hopefully he could think of a way to be sad without hurting us. I called our therapeutic respite provider to get advice on handling a big blast and to give her a heads up we might need her help.
After school yesterday, I asked, "Do you still think you are going to have a meltdown tomorrow if your grades are too low?"
He replied, "No, I've been thinking about it. I will have earned those grades myself, and I think I can trust when I do better you'll let me play though it may not be next year."
You coulda knocked me over with a feather!
Still I'm practicing my own unnatural and contrived gentle reaction to seeing stinky grades attached to my brilliant son. In my minds eyes, when I want to roar at him, "You could do so much better than this!", I'm picturing Aslan's face in all his confidence and those loving eyes while he holds his furry jaw tightly closed. I'm Aslan today. Hopefully. update: While Tater's grades were not great, they are decent enough to play football.
Lunchtime at the co-op. I overhear Wise One from across the room chatting with his friends.
Wise One: You want some? I have no idea why she let me bring it. She usually won't even let me eat it unless it's cooked. I can't believe she let me pack it in my lunch!
Me: (calling from across the room) What exactly did I let you pack?
Wise One: Cookie dough!
Me: Cookie dough? Cookie dough! Cookie dough. Ta-key-toe. Ta-key-toe. Heavens sakes! Do NOT eat that raw cookie dough. And I might make that Ear, Nose, Throat appointment my allergist recommended after all.
Someone asked to be my friend on Facebook whom I remember quite distinctly taking every opportunity in real life many many years ago to undo me. He was the kind of guy who tried everyday to trick me out of my twinkie at snack time and laughed out loud at me when I fell for it. Yep, I was Gullible with a capital "G", and he was an opportunist.
So, now I'm puzzled. Last time I saw him, and yes, there was no missing the spectacle of him in that crowd, he did not speak to me. I didn't seek him out either, because, ya know, I don't go lookin' for trouble. I'm still at grave risk of falling prey to malicious schemes due to my foundational belief that everyone can become the better person. Which is why I naively said, "Yes" to his friend request. Am I a fool? I'll take my chances. I've been picked on before and still have a large capacity for forgiveness. One of my old buddies has an ax to grind with me and has been known to scrupulously wield it my way on Facebook.
I thought I would die if it ever happened to me, but here I am still alive, breathing in and out as usual. My pride may have a nice hunk torn out of it, but I'm mostly intact otherwise. I figured out a very long time ago that any "I'll never do thats" square up like ghosts ready for a haunt. My personal Dicken's apparitions have sauntered around me freely for years now.
I've done a lot of things right over the course of the last year. From the moment my husband came home from the party last summer where a complete stranger asked if our son had Reactive Attachment Disorder to now, we've been on a good path. I shudder to think where we be if we hadn't discovered a way to really address the deep issues of my boy. I've read a zillion books on the subject. We've found good counselors. We stuck Tater in middle school a few months ago after six years of white knuckling through home schooling.
Here's what I know I really got right. Before I put Tater in school, I met with the vice principal to talk to her about RAD and particularly my son. It's no easy thing to explain that, though a person is 13, he is never left unsupervised. I recall stumbling over words to assure her that he's emotionally a toddler, stuck in pain and grief, and that in many ways, life needs to be as simple for him as a toddler. She volleyed back to me that the school had already had a RAD child, and in her kind manner, informed me that the child didn't last at the school. I appreciated her candor. I shoved a stack of phone numbers at the vice principal. I begged her to call my husband, myself, or the counselors anytime.
Next,I asked for a meeting with all his teachers immediately upon enrollment though it took a few weeks to occur. I toyed with ideas of what to say and wrote many notes ahead of time, working through what teachers might need to know. Did they need to hear details of chaos and destruction storming in his soul? I came to a wise decision just to keep it simple. Since I'd already gone deeply into RAD issues with the vice principal who seemed to get "it", I did not feel a need to do much more than give the teachers phone numbers, suggest a single teacher resource on RAD, and query one big question at the meeting, "What can I do to support you as the teachers of my son?" The sweet and capable teachers gave me a flurry of glowing reports on my charming boy. I kept my peace and my mouth tightly closed about the difficulty of living with RAD. I walked out in great confidence and have held that same confidence as we've interacted along the last few months on a regular basis. I'd shown my best and gotten their best in return. Love how that works.
So back to my spooks. One of my arrogant "It will never happen to me, because I'm so great" chickens came home to roost today. The vice principal called to report Tater had gotten three days of in-school-suspension for ganging up with two boys and repeatedly "play" slapping another boy in the face as he protested loudly. Ironic about the bully post I wrote recently isn't it? I remember thinking while writing, "It's whole 'nother post on bullying and RAD." All this is to say how incredibly glad I'd already been to the vice principal months ago instead of pretending "perfect family".
A part of me is horrified that I've raised a child who simply doesn't know how to keep his hands to himself as he gallops up on eighth grade. Another part of me is relieved, because he's shown at school, what we experience daily at home- lack of impulse control and a general disregard for others.
Either way, I handled the phone call with terrific grace. "Thanks for letting me know" to the vice principal and a positive reply to my son's, "I'm really embarrassed about what I did. I'll take whatever punishment you have at home for me." What were my words to him? A gentle, "I think they got it handled at school, sweetie. See ya when you get home." See, round here, it ain't punishment. It ain't rewards neither, no how. Rewards and punishment are external, and we are working on the internal. He punishes himself enough through self sabotage. He doesn't need to be rewarded, because we truly love him as he is. Faults and all. And this child above all others allows me to experience immense humility in parenting.
However, I am sad for Tater's losses. He was headed on a fun field trip to Wonderworks next week with his class, but the suspension will now prohibit his attendance. Also, I wonder if he's snuffed his great big football dreams for next fall- not sure school policy for disciplinary action effects eligibility. Then there's the larger concern that the school will one day ask him to attend his zoned school instead of theirs, but I don't have to play "what ifs" with that just yet.
On a related note: This morning I heard Ira Glass from This American Life is interviewing a family Saturday who almost disrupted the adoption of their son three times. Adoption is no picnic or walk through the blooming roses. And just to be clear, I have no regrets that we answered our call to adopt. I knew it from the time I was a child that it was my destiny to love the unlovely.
Buck's sweet Uncle Martin passed away quite unexpectedly in his sleep Sunday morning, so our fam could use your prayers. I believe I'm going to stay home with all the kids and take care of biz while Buck makes the long drive alone to Pennsylvania for the funeral. Peace and Tater have finals next week. Pooh Bear has a dance recital, and Wise One doesn't want to miss his last sixth grade youth group night. Also, I couldn't imagine any person willing to apply meds to our one-eyed cat whose blind eye is oozing and also to the goatie with scours.
It's a hard decision to make for me not to go. Maybe I'll celebrate Uncle Martin's life here in some small way. He was a fun loving man with a beautiful family who will miss him terribly.
And Pooh Bear wants to invite anyone to her performance Friday night beginning promptly at 6 pm at our church. It's a free event and will be splendid.
When my son Peace was eight, he came home from vacation Bible school at church and explained to me that he'd been bullied by a five year old whom he did not know. The the spunky, mean little kid was a head shorter than him, but he kept after Peace the entire evening and had my boy cowering in a corner like a cornered cockroach about to be squashed by a shiny and black pointy toe on a high heel. I remember taking this as a terrific opportunity for Peace to learn and practice anti-bullying skills. First I made Peace understand how an entire demeanor can project "victim" by role playing the part with him. Next, I taught him how to puff up his chest, move towards the offender, and firmly state, "You stop it right now!"
Apparently, he's learned well. Peace tells me from time to time about high school jerks looking for trouble. He's gone right up to a complete stranger in the library muttering cuss words near him and stood his ground, "Hey, say it just a little louder. The librarian can't hear you." His I-mean-business approach sent that guy high tailing it out the glass doors. Another acquaintance of Peace became offended by Peace asking him not to have his trash talkin' friends around. The classmate began to escalate his behavior toward Peace into bullying. When the young man tried to knock Peace's books from his hands, Peace stepped forward and said sternly, "That was brilliant. Better NOT happen again." And it didn't. In fact, the kid has become down right friendly with Peace.
I watched Oprah today on the subject, and dog gone! The therapist taught a child on the show the same strategies I taught my son seven years ago. Thank God it was none of that wussy "Just ignore it, and it will go away" stuff. I won't abide bullying. Goodness, two weeks ago, I watched an older boy scorn another child's reading skills in my class. I stopped what I was doing to have a not-on-my-watch chat with him.
Oprah's show opened with two mothers of boys who'd hung themselves after verbal bully attacks in the last two weeks. Words can kill. I found myself weeping for them and their loss. It bolstered me to fight even the silly "Loser!" remarks so prevalent today.
The proverb "Thoughtless words cut like a sword. But the tongue of wise people brings healing" became literal to me today. Lord, let me be wise.
It must be hard times. I got a call today from our family physician's office regarding a balance for Pooh Bear of $3.16. I don't remember ever getting the bill, and I can't believe they phoned us about such a little amount. Of course, we'll pay it when we receive the statement, but does anyone else find this astonishing?
I have terribly mixed feelings now that my son with attachment issues has made the football team at his school. On one hand, he could be an unbelievable athlete. On the other, he self sabotages himself at every turn. The two weeks before football try-outs he was incredibly difficult to live with at home. His non-stop chatter and arguing became unbearable.
The next part of this post requires a bit of explanation. The Big Six are Tater's primary therapeutic home work: respectful responsible fun to be around fast and snappy right the first time mom and dad's way
I bet when a person not involved with an attachment disordered child reads this lofty list, one might think, "Outrageous! Kids can't always do those things." And that is right. Perfection is not required, just reflection on "a good way." When asked by his attachment therapist this week, how was he keeping to The Big Six on a scale of 1-10, he said, "Seven or Eight". I turned my burning face away and bit my tongue nearly in half. Buck and I had agreed before in a private conversation together that a 4 on that scale would have been generous. Obviously, self reflection is not this son's strong suit.
Buck and I have debated privately about the school's requirement of a 2.0 gpa as an incredibly low standard, especially for Tater. The boy is brilliant yet entirely wrapped up in survival that it hinders his studies. We do not find it wise to let our son eek by with a "C" average when we know without a doubt he's honor roll material. Buck contacted the football coach before try-outs and stated that we would not allow our son to practice or play if he had any grades below a "C". Buck urged the coach to tell us not to let him try out if he did not agree. Then Tater's report card yesterday revealed he was not passing social studies, because he turned in assignments late and incomplete at times. Not a surprise to me since our therapist insisted we not remain Tater's homework slaves, and I know that excellent teacher gives lots of homework. He just can't get all social studies homework done on the fly like he may be able to do for other subjects. You'd think the boy would have run home from school and hit his upcoming social studies project with a vengeance to raise his grade. Instead he's been outside shooting baskets in the rain and riding his sister's scooter though I recommended otherwise. It's something I will never understand.
We'll see how it goes and pray that this football opportunity will raise him to a higher level of thinking.