The quietest act
Posted on December 18th, 2014
I don’t think I’ve been vague about this, but 2014 has been the worst year of my life.
I do not accomplish great things as the world measures them, although remaining sane this year was probably the closest.
There are no intellectual triumphs. My current novel is a mess as I shift from third person to first, and that happens only when I get a few minutes to write.
There are no court opinions with judges cribbing from my brief.
I make no arguments in courtrooms.
I have no clients receiving six-figures of justice after suffering decades of shame.
That is okay. It is hard for me, but it is okay.
Now my life is measured in my daughter’s education, drives to lessons–endless lessons–the a-ha moments, the rare bits of time I get to write, the friends I have in real life and online, the museums we visit, sunsets, sunrises, the sight of Anna’s Hummingbirds in the snow.
It is the life that I never wanted, but that I have, and that I have been making peace with.
Today was the last day of swim class. The last day of swim class involves each of the children of a certain swim level going down a long waterslide several times. The big slide day is THE day. The kids talk about it all class long, over weeks. Last time, I think pH went down three times and could not stop talking about it for days afterward.
So today I waited by the slide to take the video.
pH’s class never went to it. When I realized class was over and they hadn’t gone down the slide, I looked up to see pH pointing over at me, to her teacher. I saw some very sullen children.
I saw my seven-year-old put on her brave face for me, the mother she fights with constantly. I am either the best person in the world or the worst, but there is nothing in between.
I have seen my daughter blue and barely breathing. I have seen my daughter having an anaphylactic reaction. I have seen my daughter sobbing over a false friend.
But the brave face from a girl who has had days of hard meltdowns over minor disappointments (and who is experiencing a fair amount of pain from her missing top incisors) broke my heart.
She said, “Really, Mama. It’s okay. We’re all upset. But we ran out of time. But it’s okay.”
I wrapped her towel around her. “You’re disappointed.”
“I really wanted to–” her voice started to crack, so she stopped.
I took her certificate from her teacher without looking at him. I knew he had another class right away, anyway. I also knew he had a tendency to run late, although I didn’t mark him down for it in the survey because pH liked him so well.
Also, I have a policy of non-intervention. I don’t helicopter (although I did throw in once during her OMSI class today, but bear in mind I’d been eating rice cakes instead of real food). During extra-curriculars, I try to read all lesson long (regardless of the type of lesson) because I don’t want to appear to undermine the teacher or that I don’t trust pH to do it herself.
Besides, I don’t like to get people into trouble (unless it’s a safety issue).
But her bottom lip was quivering.
I knocked on the door to the office.
With all the noise of a large indoor pool switching lessons, I don’t think my voice raised above 40 decibels. My effect was very low, lower than when I order at my favorite restaurant. All I said was, “My daughter’s class ran out of time and didn’t get to go down the slide, and she is very disappointed.” I was offered coupons for free swims. I shook my head, put my hand on pH’s shoulder, and said, “No.”
Now we had a seven-year-old putting on her brave face for her mother and two other adults. (The other children had already left, disappointed.)
The lead instructor walked us out to the stairs, realized they’d just turned off the water for the slide, got the water for the slide turned back on, went up there with her, and she got to go twice.
You know what? It felt better than winning in court.
Thank you, Multnomah County EPCC.