09 February 2017

Throwback Thursday: Dances With Wolves

Life is full of challenges large and small, and each day presents another opportunity to accept what we can and cannot change. This is a core tenet of twelve-step programs, but also useful when parenting. I believe our kids join us in the world with their personalities fully formed, but The Captain--bless his heart--places a lot more stock in his ability to shape them. Today's throwback post illustrates that central conflict.

31 January 2011

Dances With Wolves

Raising so many boys is like managing a pack of dogs. Obedience training is essential, and speaking in short commands works best. Every pack has an alpha dog, a title I assumed was mine because I am most often dealing with the litter. But when The Captain is home, the whole structure rejiggers. It's the testosterone. The Captain is our dominant male but, lately, the older pups have been questioning his authority.

Normally, say, if this were a bunch of wolves, the alpha would squelch a challenger and the others would fall in line. But our pack is not so homogeneous. We have a mix of breeds, from lap dogs to Leonbergers. Each one requires a specialized form of discipline. This is a challenge for The Captain. Especially when dealing with Three.

Three is virtually untrainable. In fact, I would go so far as to say Three is a cat. He's happy to live with us because we feed and pet him, but he's not willing to do anything for us in return. He's almost pathologically self-centered, which can be...irritating. And when you point this out to him, he looks at you with a mixture of disbelief and disdain, which can be...infuriating.

So, The Captain and Three had one of their dog versus cat fights this weekend. Lots of hissing and snarling, claws out, teeth bared. It ended with Three asking if he could go live with his best friend, which would actually be a good fit--they're cat people. But because we aren't allowed to give away our children (I've checked), I threw some estrogen on the fire and smoothed things over. The Captain apologized, and we went back to our daily dance, which lately has been less box-step and more cha-cha: one step forward, three steps back. We're going to keep Three, because we love him, even if we don't understand him. We're dog people, and he's one of our pack.

08 February 2017

Turning the Lens

I don't believe everything happens for a reason. I think the universe proceeds along quite tidily following a set of rules that govern the important aspects of  my life, like gravity, with no interest in meddling beyond the chemical reactions that formed me. Everything after that first division of cells--where I grew up, the schools I attended, the friendships I formed--has been a series of random choices and consequences that got me where I am today. To wit: I got accepted to several universities but chose county college, where I met a girl who followed a local band. I got in a fight with my mother, moved in with the groupie, got a fake ID from her sister, frequented a local club, dated the queer bartender and started hanging with his friend who went to Rutgers. A year later I transferred there, moved into her apartment, and joined the co-ed fraternity where I met The Captain.

Basically, I married The Captain because I got a fake ID and dated a gay mixologist.

Sure, there were a few more steps involved--several break-ups and a stint in rehab--and I didn't even mention the part where I got pregnant by the band's drummer because it seemed too outlandish. Either way, it wasn't exactly a master plan.

Consequently, I've also decided to abandon the "I wouldn't change a thing, because it got me where I am today" metaphysical trope. I would ABSOLUTELY change several things, perhaps starting with that pregnancy (*reminder to use birth control, young women readers*). I wouldn't necessarily opt out of the drug addiction, but that's coming from a place of recovery which has given me real insight and strength. I'd prefer my father had lived beyond my nineteenth birthday, thus perhaps slowing the pace of my addiction. I wish I hadn't hurt so many people with my reckless self-absorption.

I wish my children weren't autistic.

I'm probably not supposed to say that one out loud. But the world favors the able and is cruel to people who are different, and my boys face a daily gauntlet of challenges that exhaust them and me. I must be their champion every day--in school, in public, even within their family--ignoring judgment as I cajole or drag everyone forward. This is more daunting when the autistic behavior is particularly douchey, as when Four chose "Go to Hell, bitch" instead of wishing me goodnight.

I have five boys. One has cerebral palsy, two have autism, two more struggle with anxiety, and we're waiting to see if the other one turns out to be the addict statisticians say we're owed. I used to believe God sent them all to me because I was strong enough to shepherd them through life. Now I think it was more science than faith. The Captain and I were brought together by a series of fortunate events, but I can't say our gene pool benefited from the collaboration.

I think of the universe as an ordered world--perhaps even divinely inspired--but then left to its own devices.  The Captain and I weren't fated to be together, but we are still sharing a life. My children weren't sent to me because of my fortitude; rather, they've taught me to be resilient. Loss hasn't depleted me. It's worn away my edges, leaving me softer and more forgiving.

I think things happen for no reason other than to prepare us for when they happen again. We are given building blocks and rudimentary directions to design our own life, which more often than not becomes a kaleidoscope. With each twist, the colored bits of paper are pushed and pulled into shapes we never imagined. Chaos becomes beauty. And that is reason enough to keep turning the lens.

02 February 2017

Throwback Thursday: Diorama Edition

Today is Throwback Thursday over there on Twitter and also here on the blog! The Diaries have been sitting on a shelf for a while, so I've decided to dust off some of the old chestnuts for new readers. Or old readers, who may wonder if things have improved. Please don't ask me that.

I hope you enjoy this classic Diary page, one of The Captain's favorites.

25 October 2011

Death by Diorama

I was going to write a profound, philosophical post today because lately I've been doing some deep thinking. But I decided to rattle this one off instead, because it combines two of my favorite topics: my complete exasperation with my children, and my shortcomings as a mother.

I had to drive Two back to school to get his lunchbox and planner, because he ran around at lunchtime getting teacher signatures on a permission slip. He didn't make it back to the cafeteria, so his friends grabbed his stuff. He's had the permission slip for two weeks. It was due yesterday. We retrieved his planner, and I explained how it was, indeed, his fault that his planner got left at school. He debated all the way home.

As we walked to the front door, he said, "Hey, do we have any paint?"

"Why do you need paint?"

"I have to make a diorama."

I opened my mouth to speak, but there were no words. I think I may have looked like a robot with a glitch, as I sputtered incomprehensibly.

"When is the diorama due?" I finally asked.


I don't know why this still shocks me. Two is the King of Procrastination. Three is the Prince, and he can use ADHD as an excuse. Two cannot.

"TOMORROW??!!   Fuck you, Two. You suck." Yes. Those are the words that finally bubbled up and out. "I cannot whip up a diorama in an hour."

"You don't have to. Just tell me where I can find a shoebox and some paint. It doesn't even have to be that good. Some guy in class made his out of Play-doh."

Blinking like I was having a seizure, I went to the kitchen and opened my laptop.

"What must your diorama depict?"

"The Siege of Yorktown."

He wanted to whip up a fucking SIEGE in the hour before he had to go back to school for chorale practice.

A Wikipedia search revealed TWO battles at Yorktown.

"Which battle--Revolutionary or Civil War?" I asked.

"Uh...the one in the 1800's?"

He was wrong. It was the one in the Revolutionary War. Or at least I hope so, because we painted a bunch of our World War Two plastic army guys red and blue, to distinguish between the British and the American forces. Sure, the French were there, but they got lumped in with the Americans. I was lucky to find watercolor paint at all, so I limited the number of figures.

We found one slightly bent shoe-box, because I no longer keep diorama supplies on hand. It's usually an elementary school project, so, WTF high school history teacher?  I shoved the box into shape, and we cut up the lid to create "Redoubt Number 10" which was basically a platform that we smeared with dirt and grass and surrounded with toothpicks. We perched our Redcoats up there, and glued the blue G.I. Joe/Revolutionary Forces in the grass below. The intent was to show how the Americans defeated the British via stealthy trench-digging. Or, in our case, their superior 1940's firepower. Historically accurate it was not.

All the while I was helping, I was bitching about how Two needs to plan his time. He knew he had to have his permission slip signed; he knew he had a project due.

"Yeah, Mom, it's my project, so just let me do it."

"I'm helping you because I need you to graduate, get into a decent college, AND LEAVE!"

That's the truth, people. I love him, and perhaps I'm coddling. I'm sure I'll miss him when he's gone, but he needs to get out of this house in two years. He can fuck up in college, fail out, go get a job, as long as he doesn't come home. My efforts are focused on getting him through high school and out the door.

To that end, I'm willing to glue toothpicks until my fingers bleed. Because he's killing me.