How can I help you to say Goodbye?

Frank L. Baum, author extraordinaire of the Oz book series, said “Everything has to come to an end, sometime.”  We all deal with endings and new beginnings differently…some of us fight the endings, bemoan our fates, focus on the sadness at each ending, and take those new steps into the unknown as if we were trudging through sap, while others are able to embrace the unknown, look for the excitement in the changes to come, and bravely walk into the future with our faces looking only forward.

As much as I wish I were that second person, that joyful, brave, beautiful soul…I’m not.  I hate major changes.  I run from them, I do everything I can to keep them from happening, and when they slap me in the face before I’m completely prepared for them, I cry, I shake, I rant, and I feel the loss of what used to be to the depth of my soul.  Change is scary to me.  My husband has finally learned that if he wants me to be able to accept something new and important, he has to give me months to adjust to the new idea–time enough to think of all the angles of the change, to accept it in my mind and in my heart before I am forced to accept it in reality.  Of course, he is my wonderful husband–the world itself is seldom so accommodating.

My kids and I found out tonight that they will have to change school districts next year.  This came about due to over-crowding in their old district and us being there on a ‘choice transfer’, which means that we’ve had to request permission every year to attend that district, and they finally are saying that nearly all of their district schools are at capacity and they are not accepting any transfer requests for the upcoming school year.  For my son David, who is in 2nd grade, this is hard, but his biggest worry is that no one will want to be friends with him next year.  I know this to be completely untrue, because he is my most out-going child who is always making new friends wherever he goes.  I don’t worry about him too much–it’s a new idea and it’s scary, but he’ll be fine…I’m sure of it.

My daughter Sarah, however, is 11.  She’s starting 6th grade this fall and has been in her school district, in the same elementary school surrounded by the same peers, since kindergarten.  She’s got very tight, very close friends there, she’s in the highly-capable program and was looking forward to starting pre-algebra this fall at the middle school with all her other friends.  We’d already attended the middle school information night, she had already requested her elective classes, and her teacher is routing the paperwork to ensure she is able to continue in the HighCap classes for both math and English…but now, that can’t happen.  In the new school district, elementary school runs from k-6th grade, so she’s going to be back in elementary school, and surrounded by kids she doesn’t know, all while going through puberty.  (Did I mention previously she’s started puberty?  Yeah, I’ve got a toddler and a hormonal pre-teen…such fun times here.)   There is a lot of new, unknown things coming, and she desperately wants to keep things how they’ve been.  She is understandably broken-hearted, and utterly devastated.

As a mother, these are the times where I’m supposed to be strong for my kids.  I’m supposed to be logical, calm, understanding, empathetic, and able to show them all the benefits and new adventures to come with this change.  I know that’s how I’m supposed to be, but I reacted emotionally when I found out.  I cursed, covered my mouth and tried to correct it with a non-curse word, read and re-read the email a few times, muttering agitated words while Sarah said “What??  What happened??”, and then I told them, while I started crying.  I couldn’t hold back the tears, despite my best attempts.  I still can’t.

I can’t help but keep flashing back to my school years…I was home schooled until 5th grade, so when I started in public school, it was in my last year of elementary school, I didn’t know anyone at the school, I had no idea what a normal school day was like, and I was incredibly socially awkward…I stuttered, too, so life wasn’t fun for me.  Sixth and seventh grade weren’t much better for me, because while I was still trying to adjust to the new social structures, they were in constant flux with the changing hormones of the kids around me.  It was hard for me to get used to those new changes, and every change had the capacity to devastate me, such as a fight with a friend, a change at home, a friend moving away–all those things, such a normal part of life, can be so hard when you’re young.  Change can change who you are and how you view yourself, so sometimes it’s scary.

This school district change is a BIG CHANGE.  I know it’s a small thing to so many people, but to us, we’ve been blessed to have had very little geographical change since I had my children.  Stability has always been important to me–I have worked hard to give my children the stable life that I felt was best for them…but this is change, inevitable and certain, and it’s a big deal.  Maya Angelou said “If you don’t like something, change it.  If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”  This is something that I will have to change my attitude about–I know it, and I know I will have to teach my kids how to embrace the new things to come–but it’s not an easy change.  It will take time for my mind to work it’s way though the change, and more time for my heart to accept it, but I know it will.  It’s just scary now.  I managed to say the right things to my kids before bed, and God willing, I’ll do my best to have more of those nice, logical, empathetic phrases to say to them when they wake up in the morning, but right now, when it’s just me, it’s scary.

When I was talking to my daughter about change tonight, a song came to my mind, one that I heard sung by Patty Loveless when I was young.  It’s called “How Can I Help You to Say Goodbye? ( https://youtu.be/z4F_cXGQN9k ) It’s a country song, so it’s a tear-jerker, but I’m hoping that I can take some of the wisdom from it and help my daughter to say goodbye, and let her know that I’ll be there for her.  Life is never going to be easy all the time, we all have to face changes and uncertainty, so all we can do is hold tight to our faith, and ask God for the strength to take those new steps forward.  Proverbs chapter 16, verse 9 says “A man’s heart plans his way, but The Lord directs his steps.”  Well, Lord, here are my feet, ready to follow your path.

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I Cried Three Times Today

I cried three times today.  It wasn’t that terribly unusual.  Nobody ever tells you that you’ll cry more in your first two years as a mother than you probably cried your entire life up to that point.  The tears seem so close some days, that you feel like you’re clutching onto the dry eyes as a lifeline–as if to let those tears flow will will start a torrent that may not stop.  Or maybe it’s just me.  Maybe I’m the only mom who ever feels that way.  I doubt it, but since we mothers don’t talk about how HARD simply holding onto our sanity is some days, maybe it is just me.  I’ve been a mom for nearly 11 years, and I’m convinced I’ve cried my very own lake by now.

It’s different every day, yet somehow it’s all the same.  It’s the constant demands on my attentions, the never-ending messes that need to be cleaned up, the fights that never seem to end unless I step in the middle, and the complete absolute lack of peace unless both older kids are gone and the youngest is sleeping.  It’s the constant nagging feeling that it shouldn’t be this hard, and that I must be doing something very wrong, yet the contradictory knowledge that I’m not alone in this feeling and that most parents feel this way.  Someone asked me how it was going, and I responded that I was hanging on by my fingernails which I’ve bitten off completely.

Today it was the corn tortilla stuffed down the bathroom sink drain, the concentrated juice spilled and tracked all over the kitchen floor and into my bathroom, the chips dumped on the floor about three feet away from me–before I even figured out what he was doing–the cable receiver box that was reset yet again, the screaming, and the absolute stubborn refusal to nap despite how exhausted he clearly was.  I often post about my toddler terrorist incidents, and today someone commented “You must have the patience and fortitude of a saint.”  I don’t.  I really don’t.  On a near-daily basis I flirt with thoughts of running away, I try to hide in my room, and I cling to my sanity like a drowning woman clinging to the last bit of flotsam she can see.

Daily I feel love, pride, astonishment, horror, disgust, anger, irritation, sadness, fear, hope, and peace.  In the Fifth Harry Potter book, Ron Weasley responded to a description of one girls feelings by saying “One person can’t feel all that at once–they’d explode.”  I understand why he would think that way–sometimes I do feel like I’m going to explode.  I have problems understanding how I can honestly love these kids SO much, yet be so mad at them that I think the top of my head will blow off.  It’s really confusing that I am so happy to talk to them and hear their voices, yet I can get to the point where I’d give nearly anything for them to just be quiet.  I think the contradictions are what really push me to the edge–if it were just one way or the other, I’d be able to figure out how to deal with it, but all the double-edged swords just push me to the very brink of what I think I can handle.

But oddly enough, I do handle it.  So do other parents–we just handle it, we do our best and keep going.  We keep fighting every day simply to raise these kids of ours, hoping that we’re not causing more problems than a hug can make better.  We love them, we do our best by them, even when that best isn’t what they want, and we don’t give up on them even when that awful voice whispers in our heads that life would be so much simpler without them.  I know–I’m mentioning things that we’re not supposed to talk about…We’re not supposed to want to give up, or wonder what our lives would be like without them.  We’re not supposed to mention that sometimes we think about just getting in the car and driving away from all the chaos.  We’re not supposed to say that we cry just because we can’t get them to stop crying, or that punishing them can sometimes hurt us even though we know it’s what’s best for them.

I want to say it all anyway.

Parenting is hard.  Kids can build us up and destroy us in a single day.  They can take us from laughter to tears, from joy to terror, and from peace to insanity.  It can go the other way, too, however–tears to laughter, terror to joy, insanity to peace, and from the bottom of the barrel to the top of the world.  People say parenting is rewarding, and it is, but like any reward worth having, it takes a LOT of hard work to achieve it.  I’m up for the challenge most days–after all, I’m still here, still trying, and still loving these children more than my heart feels like it has the capacity for.  But some days I feel like it’s going to break me.  Some days are just “those” kind of days, where every single hour is a struggle to get through, and you just can’t wait for bedtime when you can find some peace again.  Some days are the kind of days where the toddler just won’t listen, and the kids won’t stop fighting, and the messes don’t stop coming.  Some days all you can do is cry.  Mama said there’ll be days like this….