Letter To My Son: Our First Summer Together

Jake,

Ten years ago, I was pregnant with you. Barely showing but feeling pretty strange dealing with the early stages of being newly pregnant. That could be counted as our first summer together. The first warm months living with the knowledge of your existence and my new role as a mom.

Then you were born in February, a rainy cold month and for the next few months I would bundle you and cuddle you as much as I could. Soon the rain dried up and the summer humidity hit and we spent your first summer keeping cool as much as possible. You wore very little those days, sometimes simply gurgling and rolling around in just diapers.

This was our first summer but in reality it was not truly spent together. I worked through it, keeping us afloat. We spent some time together when I wasn’t teaching or tutoring but for the most part, you were in the care of your grandmother.

In your 9th summer, my job had changed and I was home with you for the first time. After years of spending summer with your grandmother or in a day care or day camp, I was finally getting to be your stay at home mom.

I saw this as an opportunity to share with you new adventures and for us to bond again.

Little did I know this would be the summer I’d let you go. This would be the first summer I’d get to see you and all your abilities, independence, and confidence. I’d see your strengths and know you wouldn’t need me much longer.

We went to the beach together one day to spend some time with our toes in ocean and building castles in the sand like we had when you were little. I had these big ideas for us, that we’d chat and share and build together, never foreseeing that instead I would watch you walk into the bigger waves and play without fear.

Without needing me.

I’m not sad to say this nor am I sad to have seen it happen. All mothers know they will have to let go and let their little ones fly at some point but knowing when is the big secret. Try as we might to hold on as long as we can, there is no fighting the feeling when the time comes to release you.

When you weren’t battling the onslaught of waves, you played in the sand and chatted with others around you, never once reaching into the bag of beach toys you so lovingly played with as a child. I saw those bright plastic toys and battered miniature trucks sitting forgotten next to me.

Together we watched you blossom in front of our eyes. You no longer need either of us. Your toys were now memories tucked into a bag, covered in dust and sand from trips to beach all the times before.

It was then that I felt a little sadness creep up on me, sitting next to your forgotten toys. I felt my breath catch and my heart stutter a step as you ran headlong into the waves, abandoning the hole you were digging, and smiled back at me with joy. You were free and in charge. You were growing up so fast.

You stood up in the water, jumped through waves and ducked under others. You sensed when a wave was too big and you would judge each appropriately, all the while smiling and laughing.

Like life, the waves came at you from many different angles and at so many different speeds. Some were big, some were small. Yet you faced each wave with determination and confidence. As I watched you jump and play and swim, a part of me wanted to keep you back on the shore, hold you close and keep you safe from the unknown lurking beneath the surface.

And yet, as you turned to wave at me before you ducked beneath another wave, I realized you are doing alright on your own. You knew you could swim back to me if you needed something, your anchor on the shore. For the most part, you just swam and gave in to that joyous feeling of weighing nothing in the big, blue expanse that is the ocean. You went into each wave with confidence.

As the water washed in and erased your digging spot, covering it up with new sand and burying your past works, my sadness washed away with it, replacing it with pride and peace.

You will always be mine. From your smile to your stubbornness and your over active imagination, you will always be my son.

I can only hope from here on out that you’ll continue to want me around. The anchor on your shore. The smile that glances back at you as you take on each wave of life.

Your anchor always,

Mama

The Teacher vs. The Mother

My son is blessed with a curse, I am his mother but I’m also a teacher. Fully credentialed, passionate. I fall into teacher mode often with him, working through his homework and discussing classroom behavior modifications options to help him succeed in class.

Recently we were told that Jake would have an SST (student success/support team meeting) to give him a boost in school. An SST, at least as I remember them in the past, were meant to create a plan for that individual child that would be recorded and kept with his file. Areas that needed improvement (reading, math, study skills, testing, behavior) would be brought up and then a plan would be created to help him improve.

Since he started elementary school last year I could tell that Jake would need extra help. He struggled to focus in class and found writing to be exceptionally difficult both in mechanics (a slight delay in fine motor skills) but also in finding motivation to get it done. Last year was difficult and a lot of tears were shed over homework and many meetings with his teacher were had. But the change from last year to this year has been extraordinary. He’s received more support and so far we’ve seen him adapt in areas and improve.

Even so, his teacher and school staff have seen a need for more and so in we go to the depths of the public school support system to get him what he needs to keep up this momentum.

I’m pleased, thrilled even. But the bigger concern of mine is, do I go in with teacher mode on in the background or am I there to just be his mother?

Any teacher who is also a parent must know how this feels. To have the knowledge and educational background to teach in the system and run meetings like this but understanding you are there for your own child and not a student. To be his advocate and to bridge the gap between home and school but nothing more.

How do I turn it off? How do I stop teacher mode and instead go in as mom? Is it possible? It must be and I think the next couple of weeks until the meeting takes place I’ll be talking and working out a way to have both sides of me be there without one stepping on the other. To blend the two.

My son is my son first, and not my student. So I must be his mother first. His mother always.

Born Angry

Can a human be born angry?

This is the question I’m asking a lot these days.

Our son is having quite a tough transition lately from his private school to his public school. From his single mother household to his newly married mom and step-dad. And issues we’ve dealt with in the past with his anger and tantrums are raising their ugly head.

I remember the doctor’s appointment in which I confided with his pediatrician that his tantrums were more than I could handle. That he had been removed from a daycare due to his rage over taking a nap. And at the time he was only 20 months old.

Through his doctor and a program called Help Me Grow, I gained access to early intervention programs to help me with my son. We did a developmental screening where we found he had a slight delay in his fine motor skills. But in all other areas we were fine. Until we discussed his behavior and the tantrums.

It was in this area that the most red flags began to fly. Jake was an angry little boy. He’d tantrum violently and I often found myself at the mercy of his little fists and kicking feet. And though I had a background in education and child development, I was finding myself flying by the seat of my pants when it came to disciplining him. I had no clue what to do and I was doing most of it on my own.

We went through some therapy and got a little help. A term was tossed around, a possibly key: ODD or oppositional defiance disorder. I laughed at first thinking it was just another multi-lettered acronym for the pharmaceutical companies to push more drugs. But as Jake aged and his temper ebbed and flowed, I wondered if, for him, it may be true.

Now we’re back to square one. He’s defiantly resisting most everything at home and many weekends are spent dealing with his anger and frustration. When good things are planned and outings are scheduled for fun, they often are cancelled due to a time-out or a day long grounding because of his anger issues.

And I find myself a tired, sad mommy again.

It’s hard not to feel helpless when your child seems to butt against anything you say or do, even the positive stuff. When you tell him today will be a good day and he responses with a “No it won’t”, it’s hard to keep your spirits up. When you want to do fun things together as a family but in the back of your mind you prepare to cancel your plans because you never know if something will trigger his anger before you even get to the car.

And I’m balancing a brand new marriage to boot. Not only am I dealing with the frustrations of parenting a particularly explosive child but I’m also trying to find a place for my new husband in all this parenting stuff. The two seemed so fine together and loving before the wedding but now it seems to be a war of wills to vie for my attention. And I’m exhausted.

So exhausted the tears are burning the backs of my eyes just tying these truths.

I want to roll up in bed and never get up. I just want to sleep, read, and sleep again.

That is my selfish side speaking. And apart of that voice is another little tidbit that’s niggling at me. I don’t want to be one of those activists moms speaking up for their child and how to accommodate them better in life. I don’t want to have a child with special emotional needs. I just want…normal. I want to love my son and have him love me back. I want to be a newly wed planning to make a new baby, too.

I want a family that isn’t torn in half by rough nights, big fights, and have me standing in the middle.

I feel very unprepared for this and I’m starting to unravel at the edges. They say the first year of marriage is the toughest and I can’t agree. The marriage is actually going fine. It’s the parenting in the 7th year that’s been toughest. And we have 11 more years of closely parenting a child that fights like a cat caught in a bag, flinging and screaming, when all we want is for him to do a chore. To clean his room. To find his soccer gear.

Can a human be born angry?

I’ll lean towards yes…