Month: July 2016
Dylan has had a busy summer. To be fair, it’s not his fault that I revolved my entire summer around his schedule. But I did.
So when he came downstairs asking to go to Hershey Park with a friend, I may have overreacted a bit.
“Mom, can I go to Hershey Park next Friday?”
“Look at the calendar and tell me what you think.”
Dylan looked at the calendar. “It’s my last day of Driver’s Ed. Can I reschedule it?”
“NO, you cannot reschedule Driver’s Ed.”
“But it’s Hershey Park and it’s the only day I can go!”
“I am not rescheduling your last day of Driver’s Ed. In fact, I have revolved my entire summer around your plans, including this class. Your entire family has been doing absolutely nothing so that you can go to Driver’s Ed for 14 days in a row! AND you are going on vacation the next day!”
“But I won’t get to go to Hershey Park!”
“No, you won’t get to go to Hershey Park. You will only get to go to Kennywood for a day and Cedar Point for two days. Awwww, poor thing!”
“I don’t know why you’re getting so mad at me! I just wanted to do this one thing on one day and you’re getting so upset!”
At this point, I may have started to blow a fuse, because I walked away.
Later, I came back with the calendar. I pointed out the four days in June that we’d had together, before Dylan went on the Appalachia Service Project trip. I pointed out the five days after the trip and before camp, when we’d been able to schedule a zipline excursion for the family. Then I showed him the entire month of July, where he was either at camp or scheduled for Driver’s Ed class for three hours a day, for two weeks. Then I showed him the eight day vacation plan.
I remembered that we still have Groupons for a drive-in movie and a tubing trip, which we’ve yet to schedule. I remembered that my nieces are coming into town, that the county fair is yet to come, and that Dylan will be singing at an event in August. I thought about Dylan’s voice lessons and his trips to nursing homes to sing and his volunteer work at the collegiate baseball games.
I didn’t bother mentioning these to Dylan.
I did write a lengthy note to him, complete with email addresses and phone numbers of all appropriate contact people for Dylan’s enormous number of upcoming commitments. Then I told him to keep his own schedule.
Dylan said, “You can’t just dump everything on me all at once like that, Mom.”
“Yes, I can,” I said. “You are 15 and a half. You are plenty old enough to keep your own schedule. If you don’t learn to do it now, you won’t be able to do it for college!”
“But I need you to help me with this stuff,” he said.
The hardest thing about raising Dylan is that I can’t tell the difference between what he needs from me because he has ADHD, and what he thinks he needs because he’s never tried to do it himself.
There’s no doubt that he needs help. There’s no doubt that he has a disability.
And there’s no doubt that when I intentionally “drop the ball,” Dylan never, ever even picks up the ball – let alone runs with it.
“So basically you want a secretary,” I said.
“Basically, yeah,” he said. “Is that a problem?”
Yes, I thought. That is very much a problem.
Last night, Bill took Shane to a concert.
Shane has been waiting eight months to see this concert. He got tickets for Christmas, when he really liked one Nick Jonas song on the radio. His Christmas list asked for “concert tickets” and Nick Jonas was one of the few musicians on tour in this country whose tickets were on sale before the holidays, so those are the tickets Shane got.
Dylan asked me, while Bill and Shane were gone, why I didn’t get to go to any concerts. After all, Dylan got concert tickets for Christmas, too – and the two of them saw Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood. (I love Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood.) So Dylan was confused as to how Dad got all the fun.
I reminded Dylan that I saw Skrillex with him, and also saw Taylor Swift with Shane last summer. We also saw Imagine Dragons last summer – one of Shane’s favorite bands – and Twenty One Pilots this summer, as a family. In case that was insufficient, my dad also took Shane to see American Authors – Shane’s absolute favorite band – along with Andy Grammar.
Shane counts these as “celebrity sightings.” So when there’s a special guest, or an opening act, Shane counts those as “celebrity sightings,” too. Halsey opened for Imagine Dragons. Shawn Mendes opened for Taylor Swift last summer, and has since become a household name for many tween girls. And Jason Derulo made a guest appearance, as well.
For Shane, it’s about sheer numbers. He likes to say he saw … however many celebrities he’s seen. It’s a big deal to him. We can’t afford to keep paying him for these “sightings” at such an alarming rate, but we are happy that he’s happy.
Last night’s tickets were on huge sale – but the concert came with a huge count of celebrity sightings. It wasn’t just a Nick Jonas concert, for example. It was a Nick Jonas and Demi Lovato concert. Mike Posner opened for them. Then Brad Paisley joined Demi, as a featured guest. Then Nick came back out and joined Brad and Demi – just before Joe Jonas also appeared. It turns out that Joe is not only one of the Jonas brothers from back in the day (2013) but now he is the lead singer of DNCE, singers of one of my favorite songs, Cake By the Ocean. That’s like getting two bands in one, and Joe wasn’t even on the ticket!
I kept getting texts from the concert venue; my husband was nearly as excited as Shane.
It was an exciting night for everyone.
While watching a completely fictional TV show, I heard a woman describe how she felt about the children in her life:
“I love them like… If something happened to them, I would die. My heart is so wide open. And they’re so fragile. I don’t know how you live like this.”
I had to pause the show, rewind, and listen to it over again. It’s a good thing I watch TV “on demand” or it may have gotten by me. But I listened to it again.
“If something happened to them, I would die.”
I thought and thought about this. And then I thought some more. Because honestly, I think about this all the time. It’s the reason I worry so much about them. It’s the reason I’m a bit too … involved in what they do.
I don’t think I can live if something happens to them.
My children have been lectured so often about safety, in so many aspects of their lives, that their little brains are full of things they probably never needed to know. They know what to do if they see a gun, or find out someone has one. They know what to do if someone grabs them from a crowded play area and runs off. They know the dangers of mosquitos (West Nile virus) and ticks (Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme disease) and bed bugs (just annoying).
They know how to read labels on processed foods, and what contains obscene amounts of sugar. They know that fruits and vegetables are essential to their overall health, and that fruit juice is not. They know about nitrates and caramel coloring and the difference between real food and the stuff most Americans eat. They know that their plates should be colorful, and not because they are eating rainbow-colored Goldfish.
They know that car crashes are the leading cause of accidental death among children. They know that, when they get their driver’s licenses, they should drive like all the other drivers on the road are deaf and blind. And they know that any number of drivers could simply plow them down on the street when they are walking, so they need to be extra vigilant when crossing.
Because if something happened to them… I would die.
This doesn’t seem right, or even okay.
In fact, it’s more likely that something will happen to them and I will not die. It’s likely not to be something catastrophic, for which we are all supposedly prepared. It’s likely to be a broken limb, or pneumonia, or a broken heart. And I won’t die when those things happen – or any of the other things for which I am completely unprepared.
I will be here for them, no matter what, for as long as I possibly can.
Everything else is up to God.
It’s just hard to remember that most of the time.
During Carnival at camp, Shane had just enough tickets to play “Dunk the Counselor.” In this typical carnival game, kids were given three balls to throw at a target, which would – if they hit it – knock the counselor into a pool of water.
Shane could hardly wait to play. But when he was only a few spaces from the front, Evan showed up, and cut in line. He stood two spaces in front of Shane, who had been waiting ten minutes for his turn already. Evan made some kind of “deal” with the kid in front of Shane, so he could get a turn to dunk the counselor, too. Evan just didn’t want to wait like all the other kids.
According to Shane’s description, Evan is nearly a foot taller than the rest of the kids. He was well-liked and people wanted to do whatever Evan wanted them to do. So Shane stood, silently seething, while Evan took his turn before Shane.
But Evan didn’t just take his turn. Evan made a huge production of throwing each ball – and all three balls missed completely. Then, since he didn’t dunk the counselor, Evan ran up to the target and started shaking it with all his might, trying to knock the counselor into the pool. The counselor held on for dear life, not allowing himself to be dunked, while Evan broke every rule and kept shaking the target.
Meanwhile, Shane patiently waited his turn.
Finally, Evan gave up and darted off. The counselor gave Shane the nod. And Shane, finally able to take his turn after nearly 20 minutes, lifted his arm to throw.
“ATTENTION CAMPERS!” the announcement boomed, just at that moment. “CARNIVAL IS NOW OVER! ALL CAMPERS RETURN TO YOUR STATIONS!”
Shane never got a chance to throw a ball.
Two days after Shane told me this story, I asked him to write a letter to Evan. I was concerned that Shane was burying his anger about this all-too-common situation, and I wanted Shane to be ready to speak up next time something like this happened.
So Shane wrote the letter. And I went over it with him.
I circled Shane’s powerful words: “What you did wasn’t right.” I pointed out that Shane could, next time, say that out loud. He could work with the other kids behind him in line, and stand up to Evan – tall as he was – so that the kids who were doing the right thing would be allowed a fair chance. I told Shane that he should deal with his anger when it came up, rather than shoving it all down and not saying anything.
Shane listened politely. Then he said, “I did deal with my anger. I was really mad for like two hours. And then when I was going to bed, I thought about it a lot. And then I wasn’t angry anymore. I even got to be kinda friends with Evan after that.”
It was my turn to listen. Shane had handled his anger like … well, better than most of the adults I know. He was angry. He stayed angry for a while. Then he thought about it, and made a conscious decision to go forward with his life in spite of what had happened, to not hold a grudge.
Shane handled the entire situation better than I would have.
After all the hoops through which I jumped to get him into the class, Dylan dropped his online summer class.
He was registered on the first day of registration by an overzealous mom who’d heard that it was tough to get your first choice of dates if we didn’t register early. Not only did I register on the first day, but I hand-delivered the registration at 10 a.m., with my check, so that there’d be no chance of it getting lost in the mail.
(Yes, you would think online registration would be available in 2016. But this is the public school system.)
Anyway, Dylan (and his class) got a note from his teacher, who explained the requirements for the class. Dylan would be required to do about an hour’s worth of work per day, and comment on the online discussion at least twice a week.
Unfortunately, Dylan was going to camp in the middle of the class, and there was no access to online anything at camp. So even if he were able to work ahead – which was the plan – he would have been unable to keep up with the required online discussion.
When I went back to the class schedule to see if we could find a more appropriate time for him to take the class, every single section was full. There were two dozen sections – lasting all summer long – and they were all full.
While I was online though, I found a section called, “Is Online Learning For Me?”
The sub-headings were:
Are you self-disciplined and motivated?
Are you able to set aside time each week to complete your online assignments?
Do you have good communication and writing skills?
Are you comfortable with computers?
I hadn’t seen this section before. If I had, perhaps I could have saved myself a lot of time and aggravation. Dylan is quite good with computers. But the rest of these questions were rather daunting. His computer skill seemed suddenly insufficient.
“Dylan, why don’t you just take this class in 11th grade?” I said.
It is required for graduation, so he has to take it sometime. And we could get our money back for the online class, so it was like getting $300 for NOT doing something.
“That sounds good,” he said.
And while he texted his friends and played the piano, I went through the laborious project of undoing all that I had already done.
Both of my kids had a blast at camp. They went to River Valley Ranch, which is a Christian-based camp. I sent them there because it seemed to be the closest thing to stereotypical summer camp that I could find – a week without electronics, with woods and acres of fields and night-time games and campfires. I thought they’d make new friends and spend lots of time running and swimming and playing. The boys went for the zip line, the swimming pool, the ninja warrior course and the gaga pits.
They came home talking about God.
Apparently, there was half an hour every evening devoted to spiritual discussion. There were adult speakers and small group chats, centered on stories from the Bible. The kids now know the Bible better than I do.
On the way home, both boys were very philosophical. They spoke wisely about their beliefs and what they heard, and what they believed about what they heard. They talked about what they didn’t like, and how sometimes the counselors contradicted what they believed the Bible said. They talked about how powerful the week was for them, and how they had new friends – but also felt reconnected to God.
I had no idea, when sending them to this camp, that they would even notice a Christian influence. But they noticed not only the evening stories, but the kindness of the counselors, the trustworthiness of the campers, and the way their new friends treated them with care and respect. They noticed the Christian nature of the place.
Unlike much of the world, then, these people actually live by The Golden Rule.
They had other fun, too. They rode the longest triple zip line on the east coast. Shane played 11 hours of gaga. Dylan dove head-first into a mud pit. They climbed a warp wall, swam in a gorgeous pool and ran around outside after dark. They did chariot races and tug-of-war-type games and archery tag and and skeeball and human foosball and miniature golf. They had a carnival and a luau and milkshakes and snow cones. They sang songs and did chants and danced and laughed and cheered.
I was just happy to have them home. Their experience – one that they will hopefully replicate annually for years to come – is just a bonus.
Bill took a week off of work this week, just to spend time with me after we dropped off the boys at camp. We planned lots of fun activities, and had a very nice time. I tried very hard just to enjoy my time with him, but I still spent much of the week lamenting the missing children.
I learned a lot this week, too. Here are the Top 10 Things I Learned After the Kids Went to Camp:
10. Laundry can be done much less often than I thought.
9. It takes nearly a week to fill up a dishwasher with only two people in the house.
8. Our house is way too big and way too quiet.
7. I need to find a way to coexist with my husband when he retires – one that doesn’t revolve around where/how/when to pick up/drop off the children.
6. It is actual work to fill up the calendar when the kids aren’t here.
5. Having the kids out of the house is fine; it’s just nowhere near as much fun.
4. Bill and I still have the exact same communication problems we had before Dylan was born.
3. I have no real reason to get out of bed in the mornings, except when I play softball.
2. I can spend an entire week carrying around my cell phone, waiting for it to ring, just in case the kids call.
1. The kids are NOT going to call, even though they said they would.
I overheard some people discussing an upcoming wedding.
The woman was going to be a bridesmaid, having just recently gotten married herself. She and her husband are young, perhaps in their mid-twenties, and they have no idea what’s coming – or how fast it’s going to come.
I had a series of related thoughts:
I will never again be a bridesmaid.
Hopefully, I will never again be a bride.
I will never again have a baby, or a baby shower, or any of the things that come with giving birth.
I will never again be pregnant or breastfeed a baby.
In fact, my babies are almost grown. I will never have another child in elementary school.
I am old. I gave birth later in life, so it’s likely that I’ll be a very, very old grandmother – if I survive to be a grandmother at all.
I don’t have the luxury of waiting for grandbabies.
I rarely get invited to weddings, or baby showers, or kids’ birthday parties anymore.
I often find myself at funerals.
No one is asked to be a bridesmaid at a funeral. There are no squeals of delight there, like there are at baby showers. There is a lot of silence.
Sometimes there is laughter.
I hope there is laughter at my funeral.
I hope people remember my wedding, my baby shower, and those precious years when the babies were young and I was fat and all I cared about was staring at their little faces.
It’s still all I care about, although my kids are irritated now when I stare at them.
I am not sure that anything I did before giving birth mattered very much, if at all.
I am sure that people who don’t have children don’t understand this, even a little bit.
And I’m not sure I’m right.
But I am sure about the laughter.
I hope there will be laughter.
After Dylan went away for a week without a towel, I was extra careful when giving the boys a packing list for camp. It’s their first week of camp ever, for both of them (and will be much harder on me than it is on them).
This time, I made a fresh packing list and didn’t depend on the pre-made list from the website. That didn’t seem to work for Dylan before, so I worked extra hard on the new list.
I separated items – like “toiletries” became an actual list of toiletries, not just a vague title for what might go into the boys’ new toiletry bags. I put large check boxes next to each item, so that they could actually check off each item as they packed it. Their list was long – but easy to read, simple to follow, and in an order that kept clothes with clothes, bedding with bedding, etc.
After half an hour, both boys insisted that they were finished with packing. There were huge mounds of clothes and things on my bed, waiting for me to put them into their suitcases. It looked like they had done well, but I wanted to be sure they had everything they needed.
“Where’s your list?” I asked Shane. “Did you check off everything as you packed?”
“Yeah,” Shane said. “But I didn’t use a pencil.”
“Where’s your list, Dylan?” I asked. “You left on your last trip without a towel, so you checked off everything in the little boxes, right?”
“No,” Dylan grumbled. “I didn’t need to. Everything’s in there.”
“You’re sure?” I asked. “Don’t you want to go back through using the check boxes? I made them special!”
“Everything’s in there!” he insisted.
So I went in to pack. And there was a lot of stuff there – nearly everything on the list.
There was only one thing missing – and it was missing from both piles. Both kids had completely overlooked one item.
They both forgot to pack a bath towel.
Dylan’s report card arrived while he was out of town. Exam grades hadn’t come out online, and we couldn’t know his exam – or final – grades any other way, so we opened it while he was gone.
I carried it into the living room, along with my reading glasses. Then I sat down and opened his report card.
I almost fell off the couch.
Dylan got all A’s and B’s on his exams. He got a C on his computer science project, which was also an “exam” grade, because he didn’t do the second part as per instructed. But he kept his B in Computer Science.
His final grades for the year are astoundingly good: 3 A’s, only one C (in Biology) – and all the rest B’s. In the Honors courses, those B’s are weighted, too, so his weighted GPA will go up. Most importantly, he took challenging classes and got these grades, so the colleges will know that he is willing to challenge himself.
Sometimes I forget that he does better when he’s challenged. Dylan prefers to use his brain. Unfortunately, he finds studying to be incredibly boring. He likes quizzing himself on the computer. But re-reading something once it’s been read? That’s too dull. Boredom is Dylan’s worst enemy.
In fact, when we were looking at his schedule for tenth grade, I asked him if he wanted to make it easier on himself.
“Do you want to drop out of Honors Government and just take regular U.S. Government?” I asked.
“NO!” he adamantly exclaimed. “Why would I want to do that?”
He wants to be challenged. He wants to do well – but he also wants to stay intellectually engaged. So that’s what he’ll be doing in the IBCP program. Next year, his classes include two honors courses and a college-level (AP) class. So he will, indeed, be challenged.
I can’t help but imagine what he might accomplish if he were to – someday – turn in his work on time.
Absolute miracles could happen.