Month: December 2015
In the night, I woke from a dead sleep, and found it impossible to sleep again.
I had a dream. It wasn’t necessarily a nightmare – but I was afraid to go back to sleep, for fear that I might fall back into that same dark place.
In my dream, I’d been caring for two chinchillas. Chinchillas are exotic pets and, at one point, Dylan wanted one more than anything in the world. In real life, we would never get a chinchilla.
But in the dream, I’d been responsible for these chinchillas for awhile. I was just wandering around one day, when I suddenly remembered that I’d left the chinchillas in a closet for weeks.
I’d given them no food, and no water. I’d completely forgotten them.
So I ran for that closet, suddenly remembering my obligations. I wailed, “No! Nooooo! Noooo! Oh my God, no!” My dream-sobs were so deep and painful, I can hardly believe I didn’t wake myself up.
But I had to know what happened to the chinchillas.
It was dark as I opened the closet door, and the sudden light made the animals blink – but only slightly. They were barely breathing, and didn’t move a muscle. Looking like kittens left outside during a flash flood, I could sense their excruciating pain – and I knew that I was the one who caused it.
I looked wildly around for water, still crying, “No! No!” I started dialing 9-1-1 on my cell phone.
And then I woke up.
In a way, I wanted to go back to the dream, and nurse the chinchillas back to health.
But my stronger sense was that those chinchillas were beyond saving. And while it was my fault, I didn’t want to remember what I had done.
On Christmas morning, Dylan was dawdling in the shower and I was getting some great compliments on my blog post. Since I wrote it for the boys, really, I decided to share it with Shane.
“Go read my blog,” I said. “I wrote it for you.”
Shane ambled over to the computer and sat down. A few minutes later, he got up.
“Okay, I read it,” he grumbled.
“Okay…” I said, hesitating to ask what he thought. A silent moment passed.
I couldn’t stand it any longer.
“What did you think?” I blurted.
“Well,” he said, “now I know for sure that there’s no Santa Claus.”
Gifts are just “stuff.” They are material possessions, not really worth anything important in life. Still, on Christmas, I want you to know…
With every gift you open, know that I thought about you. I love you so much, that I thought and thought about what you wanted most in the world. And if I couldn’t give you what you wanted most in the world, I thought hard on how to give you the next best thing.
Every single gift, even the tiniest one, is meant to bring you joy and happiness, which is what I want most for you in the world. I know that money can’t buy the things that bring the most joy, but with every gift you open, I hope you are completely enveloped in the love that was used to wrap it.
And perhaps most importantly of all, I want your Christmas to be full of those happy, gorgeous childhood wonderment memories that I’ve been carrying with me for all these years. My parents gave me so much, and so many gifts that – so obviously – were wrapped in that same love. And on Christmas, I knew that someone thought about ME.
I knew I was loved. Most of all, that’s what I want for you this Christmas. Please know that you are loved today, and every day.
Merry Christmas. May all your dreams come true.
With the Christmas holiday FAST approaching, I am still struggling to keep Dylan on track.
His last eight grades in Biology are D’s and E’s, and he added a zero to the pile when a study packet was somehow passed out without him ever knowing about it. He got 3 E’s for missing work in Spanish and U.S. History. And while he wasn’t able to find any of his missing work, he managed to find a long-lost Geometry paper at 11 p.m. on Sunday night.
While he got ready for the biology test that he expects will rescue his grade from the ditch, I scoured the internet for new app’s for his new cell phone. Now that he has a phone with no data block (his birthday gift), he can download a much better scheduling app to help him keep track of his work. Dylan spent this entire time upstairs on his new phone – not a huge surprise, given that he “only” had one essay to write for homework.
As I narrowed the app list down to a handful of choices, Dylan walked in, waving his phone in my general direction.
“Look what I did,” he said. And he played a video for me, featuring a Christmas carol with four separate harmonizing parts.
They blended beautifully. There was a low part, a high part, and two melodic parts that simply worked together.
Instead of sounding like an angel, he sounded like four angels.
Since my brain doesn’t work that way, and I have no capacity for harmony, I was blown away. My son was singing in four-part harmony, all at once, and he sounded spectacular.
“It’s my new app,” he said. “I saw it a long time ago and now I finally got it.”
He tried to show me some other (not important) people who videoed themselves on the app – but I wasn’t interested.
I just sat and watched it over and over and over again.
And cried and cried and cried.
On his birthday, while Dylan was at school, I couldn’t stop thinking about this kid named Danny from my high school. It’s been many decades since high school, and certainly it wasn’t relevant in any way to Dylan’s birthday. But still, the memory was stuck in my head all day long.
My high school had a Sadie Hawkins dance. For those whose school did not have this absurd tradition, this was a dance where the girl was supposed to ask the guy to a dance.
And I was a girl.
I was not popular by anyone’s standards, and – while cute enough – not even remotely confident about the way I looked. I adored a lot of boys from afar, and went out with very few. So I spent days agonizing over who I could ask that I liked – but who would also be a little “below” the caliber of football player or cheerleader.
I wanted to ask someone I thought was cute, which narrowed the field to about half the guys in the sophomore class. But not someone so cute that he’d be asked by every girl in the school. In other words, I wanted to ask someone who was good, but not too good.
Probably I should have just asked someone I actually liked. Instead, I analyzed the situation to death – and finally decided upon Danny.
Danny hung out with some of the popular kids. He was skinny and had long, stringy, black hair. I thought he was adorable. But no one really considered him popular, since he didn’t play any sports. He wasn’t very smart, either. But he was okay – good enough, but not too good.
It took all the courage I had in the world to ask him to the dance. I was twiddlebug-quiet and very, very shy. I caught him during lunch period one day, when he was walking alone.
I squeaked, “Danny?”
He turned around and looked at me, confused.
“Will you go to the dance with me?”
He smiled and, for one micro-second, I thought he was going to say, “Sure.”
Then he laughed. He laughed and laughed and laughed. His laughing was genuine and loud, and hearty for his skimpy frame. It was as if I’d told him the funniest joke he’d ever heard. He just laughed and laughed.
It may have gone on for two seconds or two hours. I felt the tears welling up in my eyes and willed them back down.
Eventually, Danny just turned and walked away, still hysterical with laughter.
I can’t remember if I went to that dance, or even if I asked anyone else.
I did look up Danny on Facebook. He is a nobody now, as he always was, with a life that – according to Facebook – revolves entirely around his motorcycle. He has tiny teeth and a long, stringy, black goatee. So in a way, I feel better.
But in another way, I don’t feel better at all.
I sent Dylan and Shane, on their own, to get ice cream after school. Because the ice cream place is within walking distance from their schools, students often gather there.
Midway through their unsupervised time, I got a text from Dylan:
“nadia invited me to go to panera btw”
“when?” I texted back.
“after this I guess”
“we’re having movie night tonight”
We have a weekly pizza and movie night, which was already in jeopardy because the kids had eaten so much ice cream.
“yeah but I’ll be back by 6”
It was already 4:00. I wasn’t even picking up the kids until 4:30 and Panera was not next door.
“what are you going to do at Panera if you don’t eat?”
“I’ll probably just get a cookie and talk”
That’s what Dylan needs – a cookie after his $9 bowl of ice cream. And I barely know Nadia. Is she old enough to drive?
Me?!? I thought she invited him…?
So Dylan wants me to pick him up from the ice cream place, drive him to Panera, drive Shane home, then turn around and drive back to Panera and pick him up? So that he can have a $3 cookie after his $9 ice cream?
I picked up my phone to rant into the voice activation system. I punched the microphone button and opened my mouth.
But nothing came out.
“I’m dumbstruck,” I finally texted. “The answer is NO.”
“why?” Dylan texted back. “are you busy or…?”
I didn’t bother to reply.
I was too busy driving to the ice cream place to pick up my kids – and take them home.
Last week, I drove some chorus students to and from a “field trip” so that they could sing together.
That morning, I got a text from Dylan:
“Could you bring me a black dress shirt before 11:30?”
He’d forgotten to wear the appropriate attire. Not only that, but Dylan doesn’t own the appropriate attire.
We had a text conversation, which I won’t bother to repeat. But it ended with me saying, “Do you think I am your personal assistant?”
Then I called Bill, because Dylan said that Bill had a black dress shirt that Dylan could wear. We all believed that said shirt was clean and hanging in the closet.
But in the course of our conversation, Bill mentioned – oh, by the way, the tuxedo pants have a broken zipper.
The tuxedo pants that Dylan needs to wear for tomorrow’s concert. The pants that have been hanging in Dylan’s closet for three months, in anticipation of tomorrow’s concert. The pants that Bill knew last week needed to be fixed, but he forgot to mention it to me.
So first, I went to the gym. This was very good for my stress level, which was severely – and not imperceptibly – rising. I decided that I would find the black dress shirt, and take it to the school, even though this allows Dylan exactly ZERO consequences for his actions. If I hadn’t been driving, I could have let him stay at school and miss the concert – like he missed the school picture, when he forgot to wear appropriate attire. But I was driving the kids, so I was driving him.
As for the zipper, I was venting while walking around the track with my mom at the gym. I had no time to get the zipper fixed, of course, because I would be gone all day with the field trip. I was only venting, having completely forgotten that my mom knows how to sew.
So, because I have a great mom, she drove to my house to look at the tuxedo pants. They were shoved in his closet on top of his sweatshirts. (We found his tuxedo shirt balled up at the bottom of a nice carry bag.)
The zipper problem wasn’t something she could fix. So, because I have the greatest mom in the whole world, she took them to a tailor who could fix them – allowing me to rush off to the field trip with Dylan’s shirt.
When I got to the field trip, I asked his teacher if Dylan had a jacket to go with his tuxedo. I vaguely remembered seeing jackets. She looked on a nearby rack and didn’t find his name.
“Where’s your jacket, Dylan?” I asked.
“It’s at home,” he said.
“I looked at home, and it’s not there.”
“Yes it is!” he exclaimed. “I know exactly where it is!”
A few short hours later, Dylan was home, scrounging through his closets. The jacket was nowhere to be found. We shrieked at each other – him claiming never to have said he knew it was home, just that he thought it was at home.
I was just randomly shrieking.
Meanwhile, my mother picked up and even paid for the now-fixed zipper. She brought it back to us, like new. Dylan would have been wearing safety pins if it hadn’t been for her.
I got a text in the morning, less than 12 hours before the concert: “My jacket was on the rack with my name on it, at school.”
“Great,” I said. “Glad you found it.”
I woke up, well before dawn, and wrote Dylan a letter. Given our propensity for loud arguments, I just couldn’t talk to him anymore. One of the things I wrote about now sounds eerily familiar – like maybe I’ve done this before….
You asked me for help – years ago – with your classes. You were quite young, and you needed my help. You couldn’t remember what your homework was, or when it was due, and you couldn’t turn in classwork even though everyone else in the class did.
So I helped. I helped and helped and helped. I helped until I was utterly exhausted. And you continued to do the same things, over and over, expecting different results. You continued to not do your homework, not know when things were due, and not turn things in. And yet – I continued to help.
The rule of “‘E’ = No Electronics” will stand. That is not going to change. And yesterday, as usual, you told me all of your homework was done, that you had no homework or studying to do, and that you were doing fine in all of your classes.
Today you have an ‘E’ in Spanish. You have two ‘D’s and an ‘E’ in Biology. You still have four E’s in Geometry. You are putting in only a tiny amount of effort, and your grades reflect that. You are spending your time texting and playing the piano, and your grades reflect that.
You’ve been getting away with this for years. You have ‘extra help’ from the school, who allows you extra time. You have teachers who are asking YOU if you’ve got everything turned in. And yet, you don’t turn in things on time. You don’t even seem to know they exist.
There will be no more electronics until the E’s are cleared up on Edline. It’s the one thing we can control. The rest is up to you. I give up. I really, really, really give up.
And then, for the millionth time, I gave up.
The Steelers were playing the Colts.
On the very first play of the game, Steeler Jacoby Jones caught the kickoff, returned the ball for about eight yards, then fumbled the ball – and the Colts grabbed it. The Colts took possession at the Steelers’ eight-yard line.
As a Steeler fan, this upset me slightly. I assumed the Colts would run that ball right in for a touchdown, and the Steelers would be losing by seven points in less than 30 seconds. Then they would spend the rest of the game trying to make up for the deficit.
But as a parent, all I could think about was Dylan.
This is what Dylan does to himself every quarter, I thought. He digs himself a huge hole by not finishing his work and not studying, and jumps right into that hole. Then he spends the rest of the quarter trying to get himself out.
At the beginning of the second quarter, for example, he got a ‘C’ on a unit test in history – and has been furiously digging his way back to an overall ‘B.’ He turned in several things late in both English and Biology, leading to a meeting at the school and low grades to start him off, so that he’s digging – again – furiously, trying to bring up his grade to something above average by the end of the quarter.
Then I thought, I can’t even shut off The Mom Brain while watching Steelers football. What is wrong with me?
Luckily, I tuned in to the game in time to see the rest.
After the initial fumble, the Colts got four yards on a rush, then threw an incomplete pass. And on their third play, the Steelers defense intercepted the ball in the end zone – and the team got the ball back at about the place where they’d had it after the first play of the game.
It took the Steelers 51 seconds to dig themselves out of that original hole. Three plays later, they intercepted the football, getting it back to its rightful owners, no harm done.
It usually doesn’t happen quite so fast, or easily, for Dylan.
The Steelers also stayed in it for the long haul – and won the game, 45-10.
“The long haul.”
That’s where my hope lies.