Posted on September 14th, 2014
It’s like the weekend didn’t actually happen, except it did and now it’s over.
It’s like the weekend didn’t actually happen, except it did and now it’s over.
Preface: I don’t like loud sounds. I don’t even like my name yelled through the house by people I love. (I don’t like loud anything, unless it’s very good music.) I don’t yell often. My speaking voice carries, and if I’m happy, you’ll know. But I have a stern voice, a mom voice, and a “do not fuck with me” voice, but a rule of thumb is the softer my voice (and the more formal my language), the angrier I am.
If I can’t speak at all, it’s usually because I’m so angry I’m afraid of what I might say.
I’m frequently asked about kH. How is he doing? Is he better? No, really, how IS he? What is his work situation like now? Is he looking for a new job? Where is he looking?
These people mean well. The questions come from my friends, his friends, and our friends. I don’t like answering them, because in all but a few cases, it’s not any of the querier’s business. But I can answer: “Better, thanks,” or “He’s making progress,” or “His boss still couldn’t find the appropriate regulations if someone smacked [this person] in the face with them,” or “Yes,” or “Everywhere.”
That I can count on one hand the people who’ve asked me how I’ve handled years of knowing my partner is suffering and being unable to do anything to fix it, parenting solo, giving up a job and all the attendant financial and professional pressures, homeschooling, doing all the housework–either speaks poorly of me or poorly of humanity in general. To those of you who do check in on me, please know it has meant everything and, many days, made all the difference.
If you know someone who is in a situation like mine, and you are asking how their partner is doing, please do not say things like, “So when are we going to see kH again?” or “Doesn’t kH like us? Why isn’t he here? When is he coming out again?”
These questions render me speechless, in a bad way. There is the implicit self-centeredness of the question. It can be said in a joking manner and it might be meant kindly, but in my ears it comes out as, “What about ME?”*
And then there is what it does to my brain. It makes my brain implode.
The first time it happened I was afraid of what I might say so I didn’t say anything. Nothing. No response. As well trained as I am to make polite chit-chat…I just…didn’t answer. I moved away and started talking to someone else. I can’t think of another time in my life when I’ve done that.
After that I decided to have an answer prepared, so last night when I got the same question, I was ready. Mostly. If I said what I’d intended (and I don’t remember what I said, because when I am upset, I don’t), it was along the lines of, “I realize your question is well-intentioned, but I don’t know how to answer it. Please excuse me.”
This part I remember: I went in another room and cried.
Because when someone asks, “When is he going to be better?” I have to face the fact the answer is maybe never. Maybe I will be living this half-life for the rest of my life or his. Maybe my daughter will never have an involved dad.** That’s my thinking in the time it takes me to blink once, twice, and decide if I’m going to speak. The next few seconds are when I have a panic attack because the prospect of this never improving triggers it. Every time.
If you really want to say the right thing, try this: “I wanted to let you know I was thinking of you guys and I hope things are getting better.” Because then all I have to say is “Thank you,” and I’m left with the warmth that comes from knowing someone cares. And I can pass that on to kH when I get home, instead of having to keep to myself the fact I don’t know how to answer questions about when he’s getting better. (That’s another panic attack, by the way.)
*The answer to that, if I let myself speak, would be: I don’t fucking care, because this isn’t about you.
**Shit, I knew I shouldn’t have put on mascara before I wrote this.
On our way out of the post office yesterday, we passed a guy who asked if my voter registration was current. It is, so I said so. (Now that I think about it, I’m not sure if he can do that on USPS property–they have some tight guidelines about who can solicit what–but that’s another story.)
Hey, this is an opportunity. Social Studies!
pH: You can vote.
qH: Yes. I started when I was 18.
pH: Adults vote, then?
qH: Yes…But a lot of them can but don’t. (Belatedly realizes this is a teachable moment.) Although there was a time when women couldn’t vote, and people who were other colors than white couldn’t vote,* and people who didn’t own a certain amount of property couldn’t vote.
qH: The people in charge didn’t want to share power.
There was a long pause. We get in the car, and I put it in reverse.
pH: But what about banks?
[I swear to the FSM, we've never discussed Citizens United or lobbying or financial bailouts to her. We don't even talk much about banks in general; we refer to the X account or the Y account, but not the bank itself.]
qH: Um…well, they have other ways of influencing elections. We’ll talk about that at a different time.
*Race is not on her radar yet. She grew up going to a racially diverse daycare (for this city) and has had friends who are all colors. She doesn’t get “white,” because duh, her mom isn’t white, she’s pink. (She self-identifies as “mostly white-ish, but with some freckles, but not as many as Mom. And Mom is pinker.”) Someday there will be harder conversations, but for now we like the fact she just believes in one human race which happens to have different shades within it. Even if it puts me on the red-pink spectrum…it’s fine. I’m pretty left leaning.
(If we consider the first day of K and 1st the first two, that is.)
My intention isn’t to make this blog all about my adventures in homeschooling. There are lots of blogs about homeschooling. But this is a landmark day for us, and, well, it’s a big part of what I do.
I woke pH this morning (correction: I encountered an already awake pH this morning) with a “Get up, it’s the first day of school!” Which made her roll her eyes.
I’m having to ease her back into math, because she’s resisting me, and while she knows she has to do a certain amount of math each day, there is much wringing of hands and whining, so I have to leave her in the room by herself or there will be a near constant, “I can’t do this–Mama, it’s too hard…I can’t, I can’t…” Pause. “Oh. Never mind. My brain figured it out.” I am calling math “games” and using computer generated work as much as I can to make it as fun as possible.
Reading comprehension is interesting. The second grade materials are too easy, but since she’s reading books for pleasure that are more difficult, I don’t mind. I consider the reading comp to be test prep and teach multiple choice test strategies when I can, e.g., “You said these other two answers are silly and that one is wrong, so…”
After two months of not making her practice handwriting, she’s having to write. In this one area, her perfectionism is working to her/my benefit. She is very upset if she perceives that I am unhappy with a letter she has written (seriously, like I care?–I had horrid handwriting throughout childhood and my husband considers my handwriting now to be an abomination…but you should see his).
For writing, I used an Angry Bird noun/pronoun exercise I found online, and after we did the exercise, she had to write a sentence with a pronoun. (She wrote: “He does nothing.”) Then she was to write a paragraph about her favorite Angry Bird (that would be Stella), but that’s daunting to her; I had her narrate the paragraph to me. I wrote it, then she copied it. Her only writing mistakes were because she misread my handwriting…so perhaps kH is right. I think it’s perfectly legible, but you can judge for yourself.
I’m not sure how to approach social studies yet. I included it because there were a lot of blanks for subjects in this planner AND we have a tendency to have history/social study-like discussions that lead into researching topics (or if I know the answers, explaining them) that would count as social studies. But I want to pick a topic she has a natural interest in, and work from there. Probably on the next library visit we’ll find something.
She sits on an exercise ball while she works, or I should say, she rolls around and somehow manages to write and not fall off the thing as she’s working. But it has improved her ability to work for longer periods of time before needing or asking for breaks.
I also give her a list of words and make her look them up in her children’s encyclopedia or dictionary–I pick high-interest words, but I’m trying to get her addicted to reading the encyclopedia the way kH and I both did as kids, and almost–almost–wish we had a physical, adult encyclopedia for her to browse.
Today also included her first swimming lesson, which is A. Big. Deal. I couldn’t get her to put her face in the water until very recently, and I was becoming increasingly distressed I had a child who didn’t know how to swim. (I learned when I was pretty young, and while I stopped lessons when I was…eight? nine? I lived in pools in the summer and love to swim in a warm ocean, but remain creeped out by swimming in lakes.) She wasn’t all that happy about putting her face in the water today, but she did, and it’s progress. Also, I’m hoping she sleeps very, very well tonight.
(I’d really like at least two hours tomorrow morning to get some real writing done.)
First day of school: September 2.
Tomorrow, we aren’t taking pH to school with fingers crossed that it will be a good fit for her. I will not cry in the car on the way home. I will not worry about accidental exposure to peanuts. I will get a pass on the muttered, “Get me out of here” when I pick her up. I will not hear the teacher complaining about how emotional she is. I will not hear that she “isn’t able to do the work” or (not) hear the stunned silence when I show the teacher the work she’s more than capable of doing at home. And thank the FSM for that.
Tomorrow I will be teaching my daughter, at home, on purpose, from the very beginning of the school year. It’s official, and I have the paperwork from the district to prove it. Without the pressure of removing her from a toxic environment, I’m experiencing anxiety about whether it’s the right decision (although I have the pro/con lists to show it is). I’m nervous that I won’t be any good at this (although in looking at where we went from November to last week, I’m…pretty much rocking this). Although I think it’s silly, I will worry about socialization (although she did fine in camps and made friends). What can I say? I’m a worrier.
Tomorrow we will be working our way through math and reading and writing and science and art and music and various and sundry other topics. (Actually, holiday though it is, we did some of it today, too. pH’s screen time is tied to completing work and she is a creature of habit, so she keeps asking what she can do.) There are trips to museums and concerts and libraries and other, random outings. There are martial arts and swimming lessons now, and a group of other kids, once a week, at one of the museums.
Tomorrow the leaves will be a little more yellow. The day will be a little shorter. And I will continue doing the thing I said I would never, ever do (and simultaneously transforming into a taxi service) because right now, it works.