Thursday, September 7, 2017

No need for pity. Thanks though.

Cate's class was scheduled for a "community service day" a couple years ago and she was so excited. So when she got into the car upset the day before the service day, I was baffled.

"Mom!" She said, "We are working with our same grade tomorrow at the community school we are visiting."

"Oh?" I asked.

"Yea, Mom, and I don't think we should call that SERVICE! That might insult them. If they were say in KINDERGARTEN then it would be ok to call it service. But they are OUR AGE!!!"

Ah, well, I started and stopped. I took a deep breath. I started again. Finally, I just looked at this child who was far brighter than her age and told her she was absolutely correct. I suggested she just try to make new friends and enjoy the day. She should take the word "service" out of her mind and view the day as "networking."

That interchange with Cate has been resonating in my head lately. Part of moving around the country means we have had many opportunities to meet new people, to experience different communities -- some large scale and some smaller. And without fail, we reach a point where our people fall into a few categories:

1. Those who truly just get us. Oh, they see the obstacles our family has faced and is facing but they just saddle up next to us anyway. They aren't looking for reward -- just for some reason they see something in one or more of us worthy of friending. Isn't that a blessing? I thank God every day for those willing to walk with us in friendship.

2. Those who want to get us but are just a little bit confused: This happened often when the kids were younger -- people who thought it would be "good" for their children to hang around my children. Oh boy. Can you imagine for a minute how it feels to be told that "I like having your boys play with mine. Mine need to realize how lucky they have it." Can you feel the pain of that?

3. And finally...those who want to make us a project: They might as well label us "Community Service Project". Believe it or not, I know that it was one lady's religion -- she would not allow me to "thank" her for her assistance because that would negate the good she did in helping us. I am serious.

But usually it is much more subtle than that -- people see us and think we need help. Oh please don't get me wrong, sometimes we do. If you want to grab the door for Benjamin, we are so appreciative. If you want to move some seats so he can gain easier access to the theatre, church, movie. Please do.

But if you are being kind because it makes you feel good about yourself to help my poor pitiful family then please do us a favor and walk away.

If you have no interest in knowing us but feel compelled to "serve" us -- please hear me when I say we are good. I know your heart is more than likely in the right place but for goodness' sake, you acting out of some belief that you have life better than we do, really doesn't help us.

When the triplets were four years old, we were in line to meet Cinderella at Walt Disney World. The Fairy Godmother saw an adorable little girl in her Cinderella gown, one little boy in his walker, and another using his little power sticks. She motioned for us to come to the front of the line.  Wade and I urgently shook our heads no. We were willing to stand in line. We were fine. But the parents in line in front of us had noticed and those moms and dads parted like the Red Sea motioning us through.

I wept all the way to Cinderella. I cried tears of sheer gratitude for the families that recognized the challenge for my boys to stand for a long time. Please don't misunderstand me, I was extremely grateful.

But even then, part of me was afraid that those families just felt pity for us and I just couldn't handle that. So I cried some more.

The Cinderella families were the first but there have been other seasons where complete strangers have reached out to meet the needs of our family -- to yes, serve us. They have brought meals during surgeries, sent care packages during recovery, loved us well in hard hard times.

And so I keep wondering about the difference. What makes that ok and the other -- the ones who act like they want to befriend us as a project -- different?

I kind of think it is almost fly-by service -- those who know of us through one group or another and choose to sign up for a meal, etc. There is just good-heartedness with no real need for return. (Wow! Aren't those givers amazing??)

Alternately, the ones who seem to want to be our friends as a project have a distinct sense of condescension towards us. You can feel not only the pity but the sense that it is because they are so superior in their family's lack of special needs that they feel beholden to care for my motley crew.

And so I feel a lot like Cate worried the community-school children would feel about her class coming to theirs.....I don't NEED to be served! I need to be friended.

A family who needs friends...maybe even football fans...but not pity.

By the way, when I picked Cate up after that day she jumped in the car eagerly:

"Mom! Would you believe I walked in and immediately saw one of the girls who went to camp with me last summer?!! We got to be partners for the whole day! It was awesome!"

Isn't partner far far better than project? Isn't friend the very best thing of all?

Carol - The Blessings Counter

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Apparently August is my blubbering season.

It is my third Fall as a college mom. I was kind of cocky as summer drew to a close -- I have this down pat, I thought. I didn't fall completely apart when one college kid spent his summer in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, and one spent her summer in the middle of Texas, and one spent his in Virginia (granted, he took me with him but still).

I commended myself for my level of maturity. Yes, you read that right. And yes, I know I should be talking about the level of maturity that Mason, Claire, and Benjamin have reached but the thing is, I never doubted they would rise to the challenge of college. On the other hand, I have fully and completely doubted that I could rise to the challenge of letting them go.

But in early August, I really thought I was getting there. I was eager to hear about their latest adventures. I gladly discussed new room decor, apartment life, and back-to-school supplies. I have to say I was pretty proud of myself.

Let's be honest, I fully intended for inspiration to hit any moment in order to write a piece of literary genius encouraging all the first-time-sending-their-birds-out-of-the-nest-mothers out there that would be absolutely epic and full of life-changing wisdom!

Instead, today, I turned into a liquid puddle of emotional slush and realized I am still not so very good at this college thing.

So I concede this -- the triplets' junior year of college -- that I may never have the wisdom to teach other moms how to let go. But if you need a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen to you brag, or a great big hug, I am here. And it would be my honor to walk with you in this season!

Yes, Little Red is playing football! So thankful that the triplets' college schedules allowed
 them to be home for her first game to celebrate her -- to invest in her life! 

Carol - The Blessings Counter

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

White House Dreams.

Mason moved back to college today while I am a gazillion miles away. Claire is still serving in Texas. Benjamin is working hard to get Ralph Northam elected governor of Virginia. Cate and I are here as part of Team Benjamin and will drive him home this weekend just in time for her to start school Monday morning.

So I am not sure if I am weary or nostalgic or a healthy mix of each but as we continued our sight-seeing of Washington, D.C. this morning with an early morning tour of the White House I was enveloped with memories.

The triplets were just beginning first grade when we hit a road block:

Little Benjamin needed to leave the classroom for a scheduled bathroom break at an inconvenient time for his teacher.  His attendant would take him but rather than wait for her to help him head back to class, Benjamin would speed back as fast as possible. 

Unfortunately, his teacher insisted the door be closed as she taught. Benjamin had no way to let himself back in.

He came up with his own solution. He started using the tray on his wheelchair to "knock" on the door. His friends would hear and one would come running to open the door.

I honestly thought he was a genius.

His teacher did not agree with me.

She stopped us at pick-up one day and strongly encouraged me to help him find a different solution.

I was just learning my Mama Bear role, mind you. But I was not happy. As the evening progressed I got more upset. I was absolutely convinced that this teacher -- who I truly adored -- was destroying his self-esteem. My internal Mama Bear voice was screaming that this was going to completely affect his love of learning. Completely. 

By the time I had these precious young learners to bed, I was beside myself trying to come up with a solution that salvaged his self-esteem, that allowed him to continue believing in himself, to keep soaring toward higher learning! (Because you know, first grade.....)

My trio had been in bed long enough for at least two of the three to be sleeping soundly when I heard Benjamin crying and calling for me.

Here we go, I thought. He is crying because he is so upset about this incident at school.

I rushed to his bedside.

Honey, what is it?

Mama, I am worried. He was crying.

I know, sweetheart. But Mama can fix it. Tell me what it is.
(Oh I was fairly seething by now. I was ready to storm the doors of the school the next day.)

Mama, I am worried. I am worried that WHEN I am elected President of the United States, they won't let you live in the White House with me.

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. But I knew enough to hug that boy close and assure him that WHEN he is elected president he can make them let me live in the White House.

Benjamin taught me a lot that night. Some issues just aren't issues for him. His dreams were not so easily shattered as needing a new plan for knocking on the first grade door.

So today,  as we toured the White House -- a tour that is part of our time in D.C. made possible because Benjamin is volunteering in the Virginia governor's election -- I was reminded of that sweet night more than a decade ago.

Benjamin assures me that his dreams today are more geared toward working with our political system than actually running for president.

But as his Mom, I couldn't help but smile as we took the behind-the-scenes tour to get to the elevator (I wasn't allowed to take pictures there sadly.) of the two of us rolling through the halls of the White House all these years after his little tears brought me rushing to his room in fear that we couldn't be there together.

Go get your dreams, Benjamin. Wherever they may lead you. I will forever be on your team!

Carol - The Blessings Counter