learning to live and love from a new perspective

Archive for September, 2014

The Long Road Home

As I mentioned in my last post, I took a writing break at the end of the summer. I guess it would be folly to think I might in some way “catch up” on the end of vacation and transition back to school. However, while I know I won’t be able to recap everything, there was one incident in that time period I want to write about.

During our years as a family with two very young children, we didn’t get out much. We certainly didn’t go on family vacations. The thought of it made my whole body shudder. However, now that our kids are a little older, we’ve begun venturing into uncharted territory. In the last couple of years, we’ve taken the plunge a handful of times. Family vacations can be challenging in some ways, but we’re always glad we did it.

This year was no different. I’ve been really, really wanting to go to Story Land in Glen, NH for quite some time. This year, I finally got my husband to suspend his dislike of the Granite State… and we booked it.

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Despite one day of torrential rain and hurricane-strength winds, we went and we had an awesome time. We spent two nights at the recently renovated AMC Lodge, and two nights at a family-style B&B where they showed movies every night in the media room and served chocolate chip waffles for breakfast. We hiked, swam in mountain streams, and of course, made our pilgrimage to Story Land. On Day 5, we loaded our tired but happy crew into the car for the long ride home.

The first couple of hours were uneventful. We had a peaceful drive through the White Mountains, stopped for lunch and to stretch our legs, then reloaded for the final stretch.

That’s when the trouble started.

Within 15 miles of our home, we hit major traffic. Construction plus an accident. Traffic came to a standstill. My heart sank to the pit of my stomach.

We were out of snacks, it had been hours since our last bathroom break, and all of the electronics (except the iPad) were out of batteries, and we were stuck. Fifteen miles from home. The thought of abandoning the car and walking the final stretch crossed my as a serious possibility.

And that’s when G started screaming. Not just whining or complaining, but full-body scream. As the final bit of battery juice drained from the iPhone, he looked up and realized we weren’t moving. He looked ahead of us, and saw the wall of cars. “My stomach hurts!!!!!” he bellowed at that top of his lungs, hurling the phone to the front of the car, narrowly missing David’s head. “My stomach hurts!! Let me out!!!!!”

In the space of two seconds, my emotions switched from frustration at the traffic to panic about G. I didn’t know why he was saying his stomach hurt. It was probably because he had to pee, but it could also be that he was hungry. Or maybe just bored. One thing for sure, it felt extremely unsafe to have a passenger yelling hysterically and throwing things from the back seat while my tired husband was navigating heavy traffic at the end of a five-hour drive.

And, in true panic fashion, I froze. I’m usually good in these situations, but I was fried and all my go-to solutions were unavailable. I didn’t have a snack to offer, or an electronic device, or a change of scenery. I froze.

And that’s when S saved the day. As I mentioned, the one electronic device that still had power was the iPad. But it was S’s turn, and she had waited a long time for it. The thought of asking (or bribing) her to hand it over, didn’t even occur to me. And yet, there she was, calmly searching the screen for G’s favorite game, the one with the silliest sounds, all the while talking to him in a soothing voice. “Hey, G, remember this game?” she crooned. “Look over here. I wonder what that silly alien is going to do next.” She patiently eased the iPad into G’s reluctant hands. Slowly, the screaming gave way to a hesitant giggle, as the sounds of beeps and bleeps filled the air.

I exhaled slowly, and began to release the tension in my shoulders. David edged our car onto an exit ramp, and we navigated the back roads to our house.

I’ve written about S before. I’ve written about the jealousy she feels towards G.   I’ve also written about the anger and frustration she feels towards him when he acts in a way that seems mean or uncaring. I’ve written about the anger she feels towards me when I over-react to his accomplishments, and under-react to hers.

But in addition to the rivalry, and frustration, and very challenging moments… there is also a deep and powerful love between the two of them. In moments like the one in the car, I feel so profoundly grateful that G has such a thoughtful, caring sister to look out for him. And I feel so overwhelmingly proud of my sweet, compassionate daughter.P1020688

 

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Take Me Out to the Ballgame, Part Three

Let me start with an apology. I haven’t posted anything in a long time. It was a conscious decision. It was summer, and while both my kids were enrolled in camp programs for the month of July… they were “uncamped” for the majority of August. In order to be present for my family, I purposely put the writing on hold. That being said, I’m sorry if you, my loyal readers (all ten of you!) were wondering where I was.

I had all good intentions of returning to my writing with a burst of positive energy. I wanted to tell you about what a smooth transition it’s been back to school this fall (it’s been beyond awesome!). I’ve also been wanting to tell you about the lovely developments I’ve seen in my children’s relationship with one another (and how S is the most awesome big sister ever). In addition, I’ve been so excited to share news about my latest projects. I’m helping a group from G’s preschool kick off a fundraising campaign for an accessible-for-all playground at the school. I’m working with a team from Gateways (Boston’s central agency for Jewish special education) to create an innovative new program for preschoolers with special needs. I’m chairing a first-ever Special Needs Advisory committee at my synagogue– and it’s off to a great start.

I look forward to writing about all of those things. But today, I need to write about something else.

Little League.

G had such a great experience in T-Ball… that when it came time to sign up for some activities in the fall… it seemed like a no-brainer. While spring is the big season for Little League, they do offer a small, six-week season in the fall. G said he wanted to play again, so it seemed like a done-deal.

However, when I went to enroll him, the website informed me that he was ineligible for T-Ball. T-Ball was for pre-K and K. G had graduated to the “Farm League”. I read the description of Farm League. According to the description, Farm League was an instructional league with a focus on skill development. I was disappointed the site wouldn’t allow me to register G for T-Ball, but it seemed like Farm League wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.

Fast forward to the first day. I was at a meeting in the morning, and David brought G to the game. When I arrived, G was on the field with his team. It took me a moment to find him, but there he was, way out in left field, with his back to the batter, and his eyes gazing up to the sky.

It was terrible. G had been the oldest kid on his T-ball team. Among his peers, he often stands out because of his silly behaviors. However, among a group of 3-6 year olds, he looked pretty good.

The opposite was true in Farm League. Now G is among the youngest. There were a couple of kids on the team who zoned in and out… but for the most part, the kids on that team looked like they were really there to play ball. A batter from the opposing team stepped up to the plate. The ball zoomed towards the batter. Contact was made with a loud crack. Whizz… the ball flew to midfield where it was snagged by an outfielder who snapped it to first base, completing the double play. And G continued to watch the clouds.

One of the coaches was really nice. He spoke to G with a kind voice, called him “buddy”, and kept a smile on his face the whole time. The other coach was gruff. He spoke to all the kids with a sharp tone, but seemed to be particularly impatient with G.

The kids seemed to be indifferent to one another. It was a huge team (fourteen players!), and the first time they were meeting each other was on game day. It was also very hot– high eighties on the 7th of September, which led to some lethargy. For the most part, the kids were focused on the game, but not paying too much attention to their teammates. The same was true among the parents. Attention to the game, but not much socializing going on.

The game continued. G went up to bat three times. The first two times, he missed several pitches, so they moved him to the T. He made solid base hits, and continued to score a run. The third time, they started him directly on the T. He hit a solid base hit, and ran to first. The next batter popped it almost directly to the first baseman, who caught it easily, then tagged G out.

I expected G to lose it. There were no outs in T-Ball. But, fortunately, one of the coaches (the nice one) was right there by his side, explaining with a smile that it was really unlucky that the hit went right to first base… and that G did a great job trying to outrun the baseman. G responded to the coach’s warmth, and spoke about the unlucky hit for the rest of the day with a smile on his face.

When the game was finally over (90 minutes, compared to T Ball’s one hour games), we said good-bye to the coaches and left. G seemed satisfied with the experience, but I felt deeply, deeply sad for the rest of the afternoon and well into the evening.

 

It was a hard thing to watch.

It was hard to watch the other kids focus on the game, while G was looking up at the clouds.

It was hard to watch the team leave the field, while G was still standing out there, and none of the players or the coaches noticed.

It was hard to watch G’s confusion when he got tagged out.

It was hard to watch G hit from the T, while most of the others were hitting the pitches.

It was hard to watch the frustration on the coach’s face, knowing that at some point, G’s teammates will pick up on it.

 I felt the powerful weight of responsibility on my shoulders. Did I make a mistake signing him up? Should I have called the league manager and asked questions about Farm? Should I have tried to override the system to keep him in T-Ball? Should I have practiced with G over the summer to try to maintain his skills?

 I don’t want to hold G back. I want him to try things and have new experiences. If he’s unsuccessful, I want him to learn from his mistakes. I don’t want to be overprotective. However, I don’t want to throw him in the deep end before he can swim. I don’t want him to fail at something he might like if he had the right support. It is a constant, constant balancing act. And days like yesterday make me feel like I’m up on the tight rope without a net. I make a million decisions about G every day. One day, I’m going to screw up and put him in a situation that undermines his confidence completely.

I soldier on. I fundraise for playgrounds. I create new inclusive preschool programs. I chair Special Needs committees. I create awareness. And I hope, fervently and with every fiber of my being, that we will continue to find the nice coach, the understanding neighbor, the patient teacher. So that if I screw up, there’s a net there to catch G.

 

 

 

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