So, sometimes I feel like I am Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog’s Day. I had these two kids almost twenty years ago now and they are almost raised, and now I have a two year old and I am doing it all again. It is like Nitezsche’s concept of eternal reoccurrence; well, sort of. And the first time around, I was one of the youngest mom’s in the school and the second time around, I am the oldest. And here’s a confession: I really don’t like participating in all of the extra work sent home from the school to us parents to make things more “fun.” Example, every time Hannah or Ethan had to put together a poster board showing their family (which seemed to happen at the start of each school year in grade school), I wanted to run for the hills. Particularly after the divorce–that certainly makes the whole family picture timeline thing kind of awkward. Anyway, I used to think I was a Debbie Downer on these projects because I was too young and still too close to the required homework of college and law school (in fact, Hannah was born while I was still doing law school homework, and Ethan, while I was studying for the bar exam). Now, I guess I am saying that I am too old and tired and I’ve been there and done that. The truth is, I am probably just an imperfect mother in this particular way. Although one year, I did help Hannah construct an award-winning Valentines Day box that looked like a patchwork quilt with pictures of fabrics taken from magazines–I owned lots of Country Home magazines back then with vintage quilt photos that we cut out at patched together on her box. I guess that project sort of tapped into my creativity gene. But for the most part on these extra projects, I delivered half-hearted “C” work, at best.
So when I received a note saying that we were supposed to decorate our children’s bikes and bring them to school for a St. Patrick’s Day parade yesterday, my internal imperfect mother gave out a huge groan. Instead of decorating the bike on Thursday night, I went to see The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo with Hannah, who is home on break. And let me just say, that movie rocks. One of the best, most suspenseful movies I’ve seen in a long time. Usually I try to avoid reading best-sellers, but I am going to read the Millennium Trilogy now, for sure. I see how Steig Larsson weaved his passion for uncovering neo-Nazi groups and his disdain for violence against women into the plots of these fictional stories. I love this kind of intelligent writing.
Anyway, when I woke up yesterday morning, I looked at Josh’s undecorated bike. I thought about taking the bike, purchased at the Goodwill for $2.99—another sign of the return-parent (that is, you realize how quickly they move through the plastic-bike stage and so you don’t go out and buy a $45.00 Little Tikes tricycle/bike the second time around), and thought “well, at least it has a green seat.” But then I thought, “Oh come on, you have to do something.” And so, I wrote Josh’s name on and an index card in green ink and I drew two of the most pathetic shamrocks you’ve ever seen on the card. I then taped it around the seat of his bike with green “Merry Christmas” masking tape that never really proved to be too adhesive in nature, and so it kept falling off. Finally, I placed an old green stocking cap of Hannah’s, that says “Irish” on it, over the handle bars. When Hannah strolled into the kitchen for breakfast, she took one look at the bike and confirmed it for me. “That’s pathetic,” she told me.
Later, I arrived my standard five minutes late for the parade. Even outside, I could hear the loud voices carrying across the cold March wind and I started to run for the door, already knowing how hard this would be for Josh (because of his sensory processing disorder). I pulled open the door and looked through the sea of children and bikes decorated with shiny green shamrock garlands and streamers. I finally saw Josh frozen on his bike in the hallway at the back of the toddler class’s line. I could tell that Josh was in a full-on sensory overload state and filled with anxiety. I went to Josh and I could see he was about to cry and didn’t know what to do. I picked him up and carried him and his bike to a quiet room. Once you learn that your child has SPD, you also understand that you cannot “force” your child to participate in social activities against his or her will. It is a fruitless (and actually unkind) endeavor. I am glad I got there when I did. Poor Josh. I should have realized that the bike parade wasn’t for him and just opted him out in the first place. The same thing happened during the Halloween parade but I guess maybe I was just hoping he had made some progress since then because now he can actually walk down the hallways and say “hi” and allow eye contact when a teacher from one of the upper classrooms walks past. But a whole hallway of new people was just too much for Josh.
Anyway, the parade ended and when we were getting ready to leave the building, only two kids remained in the hall and they were Josh’s classmates from the toddler room so Josh opened up and wanted to play. Josh started running the halls with his two boisterous friends. At one point, they ran past Josh’s bike and Josh stopped, pointing it out to the other kids. Josh said, “Ook (look) at my bike. It’s rill-wee (really) nice.” Oh, how I love my “second-time-around” kid.
[Post script–when I told Chris about this later, he asked, “Are we bad parents?” He then brought up the fact that I’ve long since abandoned wrapping gifts in wrapping paper. Instead I cover boxes in those stretchy lycra reusable book covers. This past Christmas, Chris actually went out and purchased some wrapping paper for Josh’s presents and wrapped them himself saying, “this boy still deserves the excitement of really unwrapping presents.” So I guess maybe I should hand the extra school projects off to Chris. Maybe he’ll engage more wholeheartedly.]