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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Bag Balm on the rug

Today, it started with the paint. Red and black paint, to be specific. It was my fault–I left it on the table. I know better by now, but regardless, I left my acrylic paints, brushes, and painting palettes on the dining room table.

I didn’t want to sing to him tonight.  I didn’t even want to spend anymore time with him.  It’s been a long day with this challenging toddler, and between fighting to recover from an awful cold and still trying to take care of the normal family meals, kid pickups, and grocery shopping, I’m just completely worn out, and I didn’t even want to spend that special time with him that normally we both love.   That doesn’t happen much.

Today, it started with the paint.  Red and black paint, to be specific.  It was my fault–I left it on the table.  I know better by now, but regardless, I left my acrylic paints, brushes, and painting palettes on the dining room table.  I’d been running herd on the kids since 6:30am, and it was a fairly normal morning until it was almost time to go.  I made that dreaded decision that all moms of toddlers have to make sometimes–I decided to go use the restroom before we left, and I figured that the toddler couldn’t get into TOO much trouble in those 5 minutes, especially since I’d forbidden the older two to watch TV or play on the computer–“What could happen?”  Right.

When I finished in the restroom and went to get the kids out the door, I found the toddler in the dining room…with red paint all over his clothes, on his arms, on the floor, on the table, on one of the chairs, and red and black paint in the palette and on his chosen paint brushes.  Of course, since I was in a hurry, I freaked.  I FREAKED OUT as only a mom confronted with a small child with paint everywhere can.  I put the older two to work cleaning up the floor, table, chair, getting clean clothes for the toddler, while I stripped and scrubbed up the toddler.  We managed to get everyone out the door and the kids BARELY got to school on time, but it was handled.  I needed to reupholster those chairs anyway, right?–the fabric is ugly.

After dropping the older two at school, we took care of the shopping.  It wore me out, but I accomplished it, got home, and put groceries away while letting the toddler play in the (fully-fenced)  backyard.  After I finished, I noticed that he had been awfully quiet, so following my intuition, I checked the front yard, and sure enough, he was happily playing with his tricycle in our driveway.  He has lately been climbing to reach things, and this one was a trellis he climbed on to reach the latch on our 6-foot privacy fence.  Apparently it’s time to start padlocking that gate.

After a bit of a race, a visit with the neighbor whose house he ran to, and a drag home, it was nap time.  He fought it, of course, as has been his custom lately, but I got him tucked in after singing about 10 songs to him and giving him kisses.  At least I thought he was tucked in.  About 30 minutes of quiet time later, I hear the doorknob rattle, so I went to investigate.  I’m not sure that words can truly do justice to the scene that met my eyes, but I will endeavor to try.
I first noticed the doorknob was a bit gummy, but I didn’t think much of this at first.  My attention was all for the toddler standing there with his pants off, in a swim diaper, with his arms, legs, hands, shirt, rug, and carpet covered with what I later identified as Bag Balm–a wonderful moisturizing ointment we use as diaper cream.  The smell of it was everywhere, and he was so greasy I didn’t even know what to do with him.  Try and clean him up with wipes?  No, he was standing there holding out his hands and saying “clean hands…clean hands…” and behind him I could see the wipes container on the floor with wipes pulled out of it and covered in Bag Balm, laying crumpled on the rug.  Obviously we were beyond wipes.  Wipe him off with his shirt?  No, that was beyond redemption–I couldn’t see a clean patch on it.  I was going to have to strip him and drop him in the bathtub.  Once I did that, I saw what he had attempted…there was bag balm all over the inside of the swim diaper he had pulled on, and all over the privates of his that he could reach–he had simply wanted to put bag balm on his bottom.

I never was able to get him completely de-greased, despite my best attempt, but we made it past that, barely.  He fell asleep in my arms on the couch and was still sleeping when we left to pick up his siblings, but when we got home he woke up with a vengeance, full of little-boy piss and vinegar.  His favorite trick lately is climbing up onto the counters in the kitchen, and he has perfected the art of knocking over our baby gates so quickly it’s laughable.  I spent the rest of the time that I wasn’t in the kitchen actively cooking or preparing dinner dragging him off the counter tops and trying to keep him from destroying the rest of the house.  So, over all, it’s been an exhausting day today.

I’m sure he’ll get past this phase–they always do–and sometimes it’s really cute, but some days it’s just exhausting.  Bone-draining, soul-drenching, mind-numbingly exhausting.  He’s such a boy, all motion and excitement, stubbornness and cuddles, and I know he will do great things, but for now, I just want to survive tomorrow.  One day at a time, right?  Mama said there’d be days like this, but she didn’t mention anything about the Bag Balm on the rug.
I did sing to him, but we held it to only four songs.  Mama’s tired.

bag balm james

bag balm