Author: George

I Am Jack’s Drama

I can be a little bit dramatic.  Every once in a while, if the moon is properly aligned and my blood pressure is exactly at 110 over 75 and every angel that needs wings for the day has their wings, I can be the most dramatic person on the face of the Earth. In all of time and space. See what I did there?  I was dramatic in describing how dramatic I can be.  Hey, this creative writing thing is a gift.  It’s not like they teach this in high school.  Oh wait.  Anyway, where was I?  Oh, yes, DRAMA!  My behavior these days is vastly different than, shall we say, in my 20s.  I mean, I would hope that was true of most people.  However, a quick look around Los Angeles shows either the inability or lack of motivation for a beautiful slice of the human race to just grow up.  That’s okay though.  I’ll just do me.  These days I don’t indulge in the type of drama that is disruptive or damaging to my life or the lives of those around me.  I am pretty good at mostly accepting situations for what they are, but I can get a bit wound up when there are certain fears involved.  Finances, personal health, ambition and, yes, my parenting.  These things all ring a particular bell in George’s head.  While I may not be making mountains out of molehills anymore, an inability to accept reality or to accept that you’re doing everything you can in the current moment IS kind of the same as being dramatic.

Jack is not that type of dramatic.  Jack’s drama is not born of a world that invokes an unearned weariness the way mine, and most of humanity, does.  He does not create problems out of thin air.  Jack reacts to things as though they are the absolute worse thing that has ever happened to ANYONE EVER because he truly feels that these mass injustices are the worse thing to ever happen to anyone ever.  If Jack falls at the park the entire park knows it.  Likewise, when Charlie infringes upon what Jack sees as his personal world the entire house knows it.  This same response does not seem to apply to all situations though and is pretty specific on his moods.  While at the park I can witness Jack either not caring if a child tells him that he doesn’t want to play with him or having it send him into a little bit of a “woe is me” isolation.  Like anybody else that is emotional immature (no matter the age), Jack’s reactions are typically out of his control and they can be a bit over the top sometimes.  Not in a scary way, but in a wonderful way.  He gets so damn excited about everything.  It’s like watching some one that was just dropped into the world for the first time and they discover that ice cream exists.  At times EVERYTHING is like discovering ice cream for the first time to Jack.

A lot of this springs from Jack’s inherent nature.  Like me, Jack is very sensitive.  To things both good and bad for us.  He seems to feel more than most and it’s something that I’ve seen provide him with endless joy and it’s something that I fear will one day supply him with tremendous grief.  I don’t like to project sadness onto my son and I try to stay out of predicting the future.  That said, my own experience with being over-sensitive is that the world can seem rather overwhelming at times.  I know.  I know.  “Welcome to the human race.”  However, when I was younger, a lot of that over sensitivity, coupled with an inability to self-regulate my emotions sort of lead me down a rabbit hole of anxiety.  Even simple things seemed too much.  Going to the DMV would give me the sensation that I might fall into a black hole never to return.  It’s not as extreme, but I can see a little bit of that with Jack when new situations are approaching.  He will sometimes embrace them and wrap himself in the wonder of a new experience.  Other times he will cling to what he knows and not want to alter it in anyway.

I can relate to that.  Jack is uncontrollably experiencing all the things that I worked so hard to avoid for a lot of my life.  He is unadulterated emotion.  He feels so much and it much be so damn fast and confusing at times.  My job as his father is to help him sort some of them out, attach some knowledge to them and maybe why he’s feeling them and keep him as safe as reason allows.  My job is not to shield him from them or to make others adapt their behavior to suit him.  My job is not to shape the world to him, but to try and help shape him into the world. Though even that is an impossible task. I suppose my only real job is to be there for him when he realizes that the world won’t bend to his will. Once again, to pick him up when he falls.

So, I don’t discount his feelings in the moment.  To do that would be misleading him into believing that there is a wrong way to feel or that some of his feelings are less valid than others.  What kind of message am I sending if I want to have a heart to heart with him when ever he’s angry, but I tell him to “Stop it!” when he gets sad because his brother just knocked down his LEGO bridge?  I’d hate for him to think that being angry is alright, but that being sad is not.  Too often do I see little boys completely able to express their anger, yet somehow incapable of expressing when they are just sad or when they are afraid.  I think it’s important to know that anger is a secondary emotion and that under it I’m usually afraid of something.  I want Jack to know that when he’s angry it’s because he’s afraid.  I want him to know that it’s okay to be sad.  I want him to feel guilt about something he DID, so that later on he doesn’t have to feel shame about who he IS.

All of those might be lofty goals for a guy that is just trying to negotiate who gets to play with which Thomas train.  Sometimes, I’m just stopping the fight and I miss whatever opportunity there might be for all of us to grow.  That’s okay.  With two three boys in the picture, I’m pretty sure that I’ll get another chance.

I Am Jack’s Defensive Strategy

I have to admit to a certain delight in seeing a one year old attempt to go toe-to-toe with a tall five-year old.  It’s so damn bold that it’s almost heroic.  It reminds me of the George Carlin observation about the single weed growing through the crack in the sidewalk.  It’s a thing to be marveled at.  It’s like “Notice me, world!  I exist!”  Charlie is finding himself consistently attempting to get the world to notice him in and manner that he can.  Jack is seemingly rather content with his world and would, so it seems, rather Charlie not be as big a part of it as he tends to be.

When the two of them are playing together it’s basically a countdown to when Jack is going to release an epic HUFF following by “Charlie, don’t.”  It’s a sight to behold.  The same waddling mass of upper body and tiny legs is regarded with utmost love and adoration 20 minutes earlier among other friends at the park, but not that we are home it’s a different story.  Now that they are playing on a turf that Jack has long-held dominion

It’s like walking a tight wire at times, without it necessarily feeling so precarious.  I’ve long ago accepted that I’m gonna pretty much screw up just a tiny amount more than I’m gonna not screw up in the parenting arena.  So long as that’s the case, I can put my head on my pillow at night and drift off to sleep with the knowledge that I’ve accomplished another day of pretty damn good parenting.  My kids are alive, fed, healthy, sleeping well, emotionally rather joyous and I’m all the better for it.  So, yeah, there are a ton of victories.  That doesn’t mean, though, that when there’s a challenge (especially a new one) that I take stock in those victories.  No.  I tend to forget about them completely and focus on the “how do I fix this quickly” of now.  There’s a saying that is pretty common among certain types of people.  Some might call them empathic, some might call them co-dependent.  Generally, these are people who feel that they are endlessly in need of fixing other people.  Making other people happy, sometimes at the expense of their own happiness and comfort.  They feel for others.  It’s not necessarily a good thing.  One consistent slogan that I find myself repeating in regards to Jack and Charlie’s shenanigans is:

“Allow them to have the dignity of their own experience.”

Bullshit, right?  Okay.  Not always.  This is actually, more often than not, what I find myself doing in the never-ending parade of sibling conflicts.  I am very careful to not go too far in either direction.  Jack is five years old and Charlie is one, they are gonna clunk heads.  Sometimes, quite literally.  So, I don’t think that it’s my job to stop every little battle that erupts between the two of them.  Being able to healthily and even unhealthily resolve conflict is a primary growing experience for every kid.  If Mom or Dad just hops in whenever Jack takes a toy from Charlie, or vice versa, then eventually I think they’ll start looking for that same level of comfort in social situations outside the home.  Mom and Dad won’t be at the park when a big kid wants the swing.  Mom and Dad won’t be in Math class when you can’t remember the quadratic formula.  Part of helping to raise my boys is knowing when NOT to be a parent and just let them sort it out for themselves.

So, once in a while Jack makes a mean face about an inch away from Charlie’s nose and Charlie starts to cry.  Jack’s line for what his little brother is allowed to do is much more blurred than it used to be, however it’s clearly still there.  The amount of toys that Charlie is “allowed” to play with has gotten larger and some of them even fall into the coveted category.  It’s only when Charlie barrels into one of Jack’s story’s already in progress that Jack will have an instantaneous meltdown.  Like a news report interrupting your favorite sitcom, Charlie pops into the already established world and starts throwing wooden train tracks and Hot Wheels.

Not to be outdone, Charlie certainly has his moments of deliberate offensive strategy.  Every now and then, Charlie will walk right up to Jack and, totally uninitiated, grab a handful of his hair and pull with a “YAAAP!” toddler yell.  I have to do my best to control my laugh when Charlie’s face goes from joyful smile to vengeful furrowed brow after Jack has taken back a toy that Charlie thought he had liberated.  In the sidelines, I have my own personal line of when to jump in and, yes, perhaps sometimes I do jump in too early and the scale gets unfairly tipped.  I stop Charlie from grabbing a train and Jack maybe thinks that I’ll always stop him from doing that, so there’s no need to realize that he needs to accept that his brother is small and will grab his trains.  I’d rather jump in early than too late.  Though, honestly, there doesn’t seem to much risk of anything horrible happening.  In all of this semi-controlled and not controlled chaos, there is the other side of the coin.  That they are brothers and are essentially forced into a bitter friendship.  More often than not though, it’s not bitter at all.  It’s actually quite sweet.

Both of these guys are absolutely crazy about one another.  It’s almost sort of a shame that Jack is at a height of selfishness so that his unconditional love for his little brother goes unnoticed mostly.  Also regrettable is that Charlie is in at 15 month old state of perpetual non-cognitive ignorance and therefore totally unaware of the adoration he has for Jack.  I feel as though I’ve got on a special pair of glasses that allows me to glimpse something that the two cannot see.  Jack tells other kids to leave his brother alone if they push him.  Whenever some one fawns over Charlie Jack makes sure that they know his name and that he is his baby brother.  I see Charlie attempting to mime his brother in all of this burgeoning actions.  When Jack is not around, Charlie has free-run of the Thomas the Tank Engine Table and makes full use of it.  He puts his head against the table, close to the engine wheels and makes “Grrrr Grrrrrr” engine noises like his older brother does.  He wants to do everything his brother is doing and he smiles so wide and full whenever he sees him after school.

I am lucky enough to have a younger brother myself.  I can recall so many fights, but more than that I can recall how my life always felt incomplete when he was not around.  Who knows what the future holds and what type of relationship Jack and Charlie will have in the years to come.  My hope is that they recognize the brilliance in each other.  That they can see through the inevitable bumps in the road that the world will bring to even something as strong as brotherhood.  I have faith that they will see past those troubles and see I just consider myself lucky just to watch this all unfold and, once in a while, step in when I think I have a good idea.  Other than that though, I’ll let these two sort things out among themselves for a while.

I Am Jack’s Magic

Life, she is in session.  I gotta tell ya I’m pretty happy about this whole being a dad thing right now.  Jack is going to be 5 at the end of the month.  Charlie is 14 months old.  I’m on the upper end of my thirties and I’m pretty much tired all the time.  There are times where I wonder what it would’ve been like to be doing this at 27 instead of 37.  Times where I see myself as having squandered the seemingly unlimited amount of energy that my youth gifted upon me.  As it stands now, I do have days where I am looking at the clock and just hoping for the minutes to speed up a bit so that bedtime can get here a little faster.  I realize both the pointlessness of this and how counter it is to what I truly want.  I don’t really want the time to speed up.  I want more smiles with my boys.  I don’t want to rush them into bed.  I want to have conversations with Jack about the things that are starting to cling to his burgeoning personality.  However, my brain starts swelling and my back starts aching and I find it far to easy to rely on the “I’m only human” excuse.  While I am only human, it’s not incredibly healthy to set the bar low for myself.  I know what I’m capable of and when I’m one hundred percent in mind, body and spirit my days seem exceedingly more than human.  I am amazed at what I am capable of pulling off now at 37.  Also, it makes me fully realize how incapable I would’ve been at 27 to have kids.  A walk to the store at that age would have elicted any number of audible groans.  I was all about one thing:  myself.  Despite any protestations to the contrary, I was an incredibly selfish human.  Now:  I’m a little less selfish.

So, as I come to another birthday in the life of my first child I am finding myself reflecting a bit.   I am trying to be more aware of the moment I am now occupying.  There is a lot of joy and a lot of hardship going on in life right now.  A lot of smiles and a lot of tears.  No, that’s actually not true.  There are a lot of smiles and really what there is room for a lot of tears.  But, the tears themselves have been few and far between.  There are there when they need to be, but they are typically replaced with laughter.  It’s the laughter that comes knowing how happy you are to be alive.  The laughter that comes when I look at Jack.

I look at Jack and I’m amazed at the boy he’s becoming.  It’s so hard to fathom him as anything but the person he now is.  I cannot fully recall his little butt on top of a changing table.  I smile with the recollection that he used to say things like “I wanna go down downstairs.”  Which made sense.  Downstairs was a place and he wanted to go down to it.  Jack is amazing.  Jack likes lizards.  He’s got a great sense of humor.  The girls in his class like him a lot.  The boys like him too, but the girls really like him.  I’m not sure, but I think it’s a mixture of being incredibly handsome and incredibly kind.  He is both of those things, if he is anything.  Jack also has a good amount of attitude.  He can be pretty quick to tell me and his mother to stop talking and it’s become a question of how to react to this.  While I don’t want my son to fear me, I do want him to respect me.  I’ve long maintained this idea that “because I said so” is more than enough reason.  I am the parent and I am in charge.

So, while I’m trying to control the uncontrollable I’m also keeping alive a 14 month old.  Not just any 14 month old either.  For his age Charlie is incredibly large and incredibly strong.  Combined with that he also seems to be incredibly smart.  He breaks down boundaries that Jack never attempted to even touch.  He pulls socket protectors out of outlets.  He can open “baby proof” plastic containers.  He knows where we keep the snacks.  Like his brother also, Charlie can have quite the little man ‘tude.  It’s borderline hysterical to see him go on the offensive against Jack.  Charlie has a smile that is very distinctly his own.  It is not mine or Jack’s or Allison’s.  When he unleashes his wide grin it is very much the trademark and property of Charles Kirby Ricciardella.  Charlie is amazing too.

So, can we now see why I’m tired all the time?

So, I sleep.  Big deal, right?  I’m tired and I sleep and I try to stay out of the silly idea that I HAVE to do the whole thing over again the next day.  Ya see, as I said before, I can be pretty selfish sometimes and I’ve got this very strict definition of “what I want”.  This is doubly true when it comes to how I must spend MY time.  I have, lately, been allowing myself to feel the squeeze that comes with a lack of time.  The things I want to get done are not able to be fit into the window that exists between the boy’s bedtime and my own.  When life infringes on what I want I get a little grumpy.  Not so much vocally, but my thought life can suffer.  In a way, that is the worse way to suffer.   If I’m not being true to myself, it’s going to be very hard for me to be true for anyone else.  If am not maintaining a healthy attitude and well-being for me than when I am trying to serve my family I am merely going through the motions.  If I can love myself first, only than can I truly love others.  Perhaps that seems corny, maybe even trite, but I’ve found it to be true.  My experience is that if my state of mind is lopsided, I am going to produce lopsided results in my life.

That’s why I prefer to see the things I HAVE to do as the things I GET to do.  I know I’ve said it before, but it’s imperative for me to find a consistent amount of gratitude in even the most benign situations in life.  I’m late for a meeting?  Yeah, but I got to see a butterfly on the way or I heard a great song that I’d been trying to remember the name of.  My son fell and skinned his knee?  He got back up and his brother got to see him get back up.  A loved one is sick?  I get to practice the act of love and not just the words of it.  I get to laugh with them and cry with them.  I get to experience all of this and it’s just so fucking beautiful.

When I can maintain that attitude I open myself up to all the magic that I wouldn’t see otherwise.  It’s only then that I can see that I’ve never had it any better than I do right now.  It’s only then that I never want bedtime to come.

I Am Charlie, Jack and George.

It has only taken a year, but a flow is starting to be established.  What was once a whole lot of chaos is, slowly, being reorganized into slightly smaller piles of color-coded chaos.  That way I can easily keep track of what chaos needs to be taken downstairs and thrown into the washer and what chaos could probably go a few more days.  Then there’s the chaos that comes with three boys and three bathrooms and keeping all of those clean.  So, you’ve basically got to just accept that there is one bathroom where there is SO much chaos that you can just never enter it.  You might as well just board it up and write “DON’T OPEN.  DEAD INSIDE!” on the plywood, but you don’t because that would be crazy.  Oh and, typically, this is the bathroom in the master bedroom.  So, yeah, the wife just loves it when that becomes the one that hasn’t seen the non-chaos side of a sponge in months.  But, hey, there’s a whole lot of this chaos piling up and I’m raising two boys over here.

Ok.  Everything got white for a second.  I’m back now.  Where was I?  Oh, yeah.  Everything is fine.  Well, no.  That’s not true.

Except that it kinda is.  On August 17th we celebrated one year of having a tiny human being in our family named Charlie.  Charlies growth has been astounding, not only to us and his doctors but (I believe) to modern scientists and philosophers as well.  He’s a BIG boy and he’s really smart and he’s scary strong.  He’s already attempting to put his own socks on.  He’s regularly using common words and trying to say more and more all the time.  I have yet to decide if it’s cute or scary that he’s so used to one of us saying “Okay, Google” to the Google Home that he is trying to do that.  What am I talking about?  Of course it’s scary.  In one short year, which went by like greased lightning, he has gone from a bumbling blob of instinct to a nuanced juggernaut of will.  Ya see, Charlie has a plan, and it’s typically counter to whatever it is everyone else wants him to be doing.

A while ago a few people told me that it’s nearly guaranteed that whatever the first child didn’t do the second child is sure to do.  This is proving to, mostly, be the case.  Charlie is breaking through every barrier that Jack never even attempted to.  Jack always seemed to have a natural sense of boundaries.  He was kind of aware of what he could and could not do and, to a degree, even what he should and should not do.  This is anything but the case with his little brother.  I had, when Jack was around 10 months old, perfected my “Disapproving Dad Tone” of voice.  It worked on Jack probably longer than it had any right to.  Now, when I use the same tone with Charlie I am greeted with a full head turn, a toothy grin and a certainty that he is going to do exactly what I don’t want him to.

But, so what, right?  I mean, that’s part of the whole experience.  I get to have those types of interactions today because I’m part of something larger.  Seriously larger.  With that larger comes commitments in both time and energy.  Jack has started elementary school and I’ve volunteered for a few positions.  I’m happy to do so and I enjoy the hell out of these type of relationships and interactions.  Not only because I like being social, but because I am providing the example to my son.  If he sees me involved, even if it’s not in the conscious forefront of his mind, he will know that what he does is important to me.

So, now that Charlie has turned one I feel like I get a unique opportunity to actually start getting to know him.  That might sound weird, but it’s how I feel.  In some ways he has gotten the short end of the stick.  When you have another kid at first you work so hard to make sure that the first one is getting ignored, but you fail at that on some level.  There is absolutely no way to perfectly divide the attention.  Up until recently, Jack was off two days a week from Pre-School and we’d all go and hit the town.  Now, five days a week, it’s the Dad and Charlie show.  Just in time too.  He’s starting to understand things.  He’s starting to want to play more specifically and not just tumble his way through whatever toys might be on the floor.  His choices and what he likes is really starting to come into focus, at least a little bit.  It’s time to start hitting the museums and zoos with just Charlie.  It’s time to start providing him with the same options that I had provided his brother.

The chaos, or whatever you wanna call it, will always be there.  It will get smaller and more manageable and just when I’ve got it licked, I’ll find a brand new pile under neath it all.  I like to think less and less than I have actual problems these days and more and more that I just have experiences in which I grow.  Yeah, that’s a much healthier way of looking at things than I’m used to but, like Charlie, I’m slowly starting to come into focus.  I’m starting to realize, like he is, like Jack is, what it is that I’m supposed to be doing here.  For a long time, I had hinged most of my being on two things:  my parenting and my alcoholism.  Those are part of who I am, but those things are not who I am.  An old-time in a meeting I used to go to would say constantly:  I’m a human being first and an alcoholic second.  So much truth in that.  I’m more than a dad, more than a husband, more than a son, more than a friend.  I’m more than a recovered alcoholic that helps other guys get sober.  That work and my passion for it is integral to everything else and will always be my priority, but it is not the end in and of itself.  It’s the beginning of the journey that I now get to take.

Besides all of that, I am George.  I am an artist.  I create.  I am really looking forward to this.

Be well, everyone.  More to come….

I Am Jack’s Elementary

Hi there.

It’s been a minute or two since I’ve been here.  A whole lot has happened in that time.  I know have a four-year old (almost five) and a ONE YEAR OLD.  Charlie turned on last Thursday.  I cannot believe how quickly the time has flown by.  He is breaking every boundary that Jack never even attempted to already, so it looks like we’ll have our hands full.  Charlie is, as strange as it may sound, the “easier” of the two right now.  I hate to put the entirety of raising children and the plethora of tasks, headaches, joys and suffering involved into such a small box that it could be labeled as “easier” or “harder” but I’m going to do that for the sake of clarity.  Right now, Charlie is kind of like an amazingly cute and sometimes overly annoying accessory.  He goes wherever I want to go and while he might have an opinion to the contrary, he certainly doesn’t have much of a say.  Jack is the focus of all my fascination and frustration right now.  He’s recently taken a huge step into a larger world. Easily the biggest milestone in recent memory is what occurred on August the 14th:  Jack started his first day of Elementary School and now I HATE EVERYTHING!

I know it’s been a while, so I needed to refresh my readers with my flair for the dramatic in a…well…in a dramatic way.  I, truthfully, have nothing but a vast amount of gratitude and excitement about my oldest son’s journey into academia.  Well, I’m not certain how much academia is involved in Transitional Kindergarten, but they seem to get pretty serious about this Pete the Cat fellow.  I think we all know how good that guy is at imparting lessons, especially concerning shoes and the various colors of said shoes.  In all seriousness, Jack is now a student of a different variety.  There was a properness that I was not expecting in the experience of enrolling, attending orientation and his first day.  Now, I’m not sure what I was expecting, but when it dawned on me that Jack is now going to have a principal something began to twist in my stomach.

Now, that’s really what I’d like to talk about here.  Not so much Jack’s experience with his first days of school, but more my reaction to the lead up and how it’s been going since he started.  I’ve talked to a few other parents and experience vary, but the main points are all still present.  The way I chose to react to, what should have been, a rather joyous occasion in our lives threw me for a loop.  Now, I can be a pretty anxious person to begin with.  It’s not exactly part of my alcoholism, but the two do usually tend to go hand in hand.  For years and years I drank to avoid feeling the response to the world and the people in it that my mind would produce.  I drank to avoid the lump in my throat.  I drank to avoid the tight chested-ness.  I drank to avoid feeling anything at all.  Then one day you take the drink away and I go from feeling nothing to, suddenly, feeling everything.  It’s now up to me to find new ways of providing myself with a sense of ease.  It’s either that or I live with the lumped throat and the tight chest and the horrible relationships that come with isolation and arrogance.  If I do that, then I’m pretty much on my way back to drinking.  So, I find other ways and usually they work and work quite well.  They’re not new or technological.  I find comfort in the same things that humans have been doing for thousands of years:  I pray and I meditate.  It takes different forms, but it’s all the same thing.  I seek.  I find sometimes, but mostly I just seek.  I seek new relationships and new experiences.

The week before Jack started school we started to prepare him.  He knew that he was going to a new school, but we did little shifts in his schedule to make it less of a shock.  Me, him and Charlie embarked on a week full of fun exploits.  The whole time Jack was filled with nothing but excitement.  The Friday before he started school we had his orientation.  It was great.  I volunteered to be a Class Parent.  Jack loved his classroom and immediately started taking a look at all the books.  My boy was going to Elementary School.  This was happening. That was when something started to tighten in my chest.

I was thrust into a very old feeling.  A feeling that I have not had in quite some time.  I was in full on fear-based anxiety.  I was quickly able to pinpoint what it was all about, but there it was.  Showing up and sitting on my chest.  Now, I’m glad that I have the awareness now of what it is and that it will go away.  So, I don’t let it stop me.  I just keep doing and anxiety is just sitting there, taking up some space in my being for a little bit.  I talk to other people about it, but it’s still there.  So, I take the power away from it.  I acknowledge it and I, for all intents and purposes, talk to it.  In hindsight, I think it went something like this:

“What are you doing here?”

“I’m here because your life is about to dramatically change.”

“I know.”

“Do you?  Do you know that you’re going to be unable to protect him from shitty kids?  That you’ll probably only hear about a fraction of his school day?  That he might not eat his lunch?  That he might walk into school the first day and freeze, pee his pants, get made fun of and hate everything forever!?!”

“No.  I did not know that.  But, I’m cool with you being here, so long as you don’t stay long.”

“Oh, I’m gonna stay as long as I want.”

“No, you’re not.”

When I’m in fear, I am anything but rational.  That aside, I’m not going to let that fear rule me.  I’ll never be the type of person to just stay in bed.  I’ll never be the type of person that allows life to just move by around him.  I don’t stand still unless I have good reason to.  Not anymore.  I have a healthy relationship with my emotions, for the most part.  So I don’t pretend to not be afraid.  I acknowledge it and accept it.  Jack went to his first day of school, I went to pick him up and excitedly asked:  “How was it?”  He looked at me and said:  “Good.”

That was it.

Did I also mention that I’m pretty bad at managing my expectations?  Well, I am.  He treated it as business as usual.  I prodded a little and he was digging the new books and the new kids, but the synopsis was basically “Yeah.  It was a new school.  No big deal.  Let’s go home and have a snack and play with those Transformers that Grandma sent me.”  This actually went a long way towards relieving some of the anxiety I was feeling about the change.  Jack was going to be fine.  Why the hell did I think anything differently?  It made even more of a difference on the second day when he exploded out of class more excited than I had ever seen him.  He wanted to tell me everything and was armed with an array of brand new songs.  Jack’s third day was the difference maker though.  I wanted to wait a few days before I spoke to his teacher.  I know how chaotic those first few days of school are and didn’t want to just be another talking face in the 5 minute window that we have to grab out sons and daughters at dismissal.  Jack needed to head back in to use the restroom, so I got a moment to chat.

“He’s got such a great heart.  He’s so funny and so kind and he’s just great.”

This is what she said about Jack.  It wasn’t that he stays in his seat.  It wasn’t that he reads incredibly well for his age.  It wasn’t that he is smart.  Now, those things would have all been great as well, but I felt so grateful that what she was able to zero in on after only 3 days with Jack was that he’s “so kind”.  He is kind.  He is funny.  He does have a great heart.  He has those things because he has great parents that love him and he has those things because that’s just who Jack is.  It was the best gift I could have gotten.  My chest loosened and the lump in my throat went away.  Once again, seeking out new experience and new relationships provided me with a new sense of ease and comfort.  Sometimes it takes a little longer.  Certainly longer than a swig from the bottle used to, but the reward is so much larger and so much sweeter.

I’m really looking forward to this school year.  Thanks for being here with me.  Be well.