Thursday, June 7, 2012

A sub best eaten alone.

Last night, there was a concert at the elementary school. My two best "mamas" and our families sat together and we watched our daughters, bedecked in their finery and so very proud of themselves, perform. This was Isabella and Gillian's last performance with the elementary chorus. Next year, they move on to a different chorus and as fifth graders will have their own lockers. And bras. Braces possibly. Boyfriends. It was bittersweet watching them and hearing their sweet voices. I am desensitized behind my video camera and am concerned with getting the picture. But my dear friends had tears in their eyes. They were the emotional wreck I become when I watch the video later. Over and over again. Our children are growing up.

This morning, I awoke to a pot of fresh, hot coffee. Seth is fifteen and this morning he had my eight year old up and in the tub with her clothes in a little pile, ready for the day. After her bath, he blow dried her hair and styled it for her. When Sage was born, Seth cut her cord. They have always had a bond. We are having difficulty getting Sage to pay attention and focus, to the point where sometimes it takes her twenty minutes just to put on a pair of socks. She needs constant reminders. This morning, when I ran short on patience, Seth said, "Here, let me try." Considering the last few weeks Seth and I have had, it was a jaw dropping moment.

Seth has devised his own personal schedule. He tries to go to bed at six pm and then wakes up at 2am to do homework and enjoy the very early morning peace and quiet before the rest of the kids get up. Sometimes this just does not work out and yesterday he fell asleep on the couch at four pm and was still sleeping when I went to bed at ten pm. I know that Seth deals with a large amount of daily stress. Having a large family means that I don't have the luxury of much one on one time with each child. I am often spread very thin and watching my eldest, knowing that I cannot go back and change a thing and that my time with him at home is drawing to a close, I feel regret. I love having a huge family. I love the chaos and the laughter, the noise...even the mess sometimes. I know I will miss having stuffed animals on the floor and spilled milk at the table. I have learned to appreciate the crayon marks on the wall and the hand prints on the windows of my car. I do wish I had more time for each child. I am blessed to be able to stay at home with them. I may be poor but I am rich with love. And even though it may be difficult on all of us when I am sick and in bed, I would not trade these years with my children for anything. Not even a high paying job. Seth and Ian are irish twins and with this comes a kind of intense sibling rivalry that I don't see with the other children. Because Ian is autistic, it just adds to the problems that Seth deals with on a daily basis. A disabled brother means that Seth stands out in school at a time when all he really wants to do is blend with his peers. He has a brother he can't possibly understand and this is frustrating to Seth. Like me, Seth is a fixer. He just wants life to go smoothly. In a family this size, with three special needs children, it just is not possible.

When I spoke to Seth's doctor about the problems we were having, he encouraged me to allow Seth the illusion of control and power. I was told that in a single mother household, the eldest (especially if they are male) take on a large amount of responsibility. Even when I'm not intentionally putting that responsibility on his shoulders, he still feels the weight. The obligation. Seth's doctor told me to try to give Seth a chance to use that responsibility and to give him privledges that reflect his status as the oldest son. This week, instead of fighting Seth at every turn, at feeling insulted and judged when Seth tries to point out a different way of doing things-I listened. I try to do things like make sure he has the biggest helping at dinner. I try to implement ideas when I can. Usually, when the children are arguing, I will take them aside in private and speak to them. Or let them work it out themselves. Siblings are good practice for life. But Seth felt like I was NEVER taking his side. He was not HEARING me take his side and it bothered him. He felt that because Ian was autistic, I was giving him special favors and I was being unfair. I usually say to the kids that there is just no way to BE fair in this situation. Even Stevens never works. I treat them differently because they ARE different. And I have very high expectations for Seth which is why I push him harder. Being the oldest also makes him a guinea pig. Anything positive I have learned about parenting, I learned by making a mistake with Seth. It can't be easy to be him. This week I made sure that he heard me taking his side. A new pair of Leo Gutti jeans and a Hollister shirt from ebay helped, also. I don't think there is anything wrong with a little bribe here and there. I even let Seth drive.

This morning, I was so amazed that there was coffee and laundry in the drier. I was so proud of Seth for taking Sage under his wing. I decided to buy Seth lunch at Subway and take it to him. Lunch for two and I headed into the school with a big smile on my face. Usually, I have lunch with Sage and just as she is leaving I am able to catch Isabella. When Isabella is finished, I run to the high school cafeteria and sit with Riley for a bit. Ian will duck into a doorway and hide if he sees me coming so I know that my time hanging out with Riley and his friends is probably limited. Seth has not wanted me to have lunch with him in years and I thought that the sub would be persuasive. His friend's were definitely jealous of the big lunch but Seth was worried that his friends would think it wasnt cool if I sat with them. And he did not want to be the guy sitting at a table alone with his mom. He suggested that we take a drive and eat while we drove. What a great idea, but one I will have to implement next year. We were running out of time. I looked at Seth and I knew it was important to him that I understand. And I did. As much as I had hoped for a little time with Seth at lunch, the object was to show my appreciation and make him happy. So I grinned and gave him his food and then I left him to do his "thing". I'm working very hard to understand that he is growing up. He wants to help and if I give him a chance, he will. He wants respect desperately and respect is a circle. When I show him that I respect him and that I am listening, he responds. I am blessed that he feels it is ok to tell me how he feels and knows that I will understand. I hope the doors of communication stay open for a good long time. I miss the little boy who would throw himself into my arms in the middle of the classroom but I'm very proud of the man my son is becoming. It takes daily work, on both our parts. We are very different people. He does not understand that I love the simple life, that I'm happy not working if it means I can be there for my kids or that love means something different to me than it does to him. But we are learning to respect our differences and work together.

I still have a few years of childhood left with my girls. I still have ample opportunity to show all five of them that they are loved. I hope that three years is enough time to teach Seth what he needs to know in order to thrive as an adult. It is never too late to start again and I don't want to have any more regrets. Perhaps this is a week of new beginnings for a boy who is growing into a man and a mom who is never too old to learn.

No comments:

Post a Comment