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.”
“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.