Finding Your Voice

I’ve always encouraged a little activism in my boys. I told them to fight for what they believe in, whatever that may be. That if they believed so strongly in something, they should educate themselves and if they need to fight for it, then they should. That’s how positive changes are made in the world. Whatever they are passionate about and believe in, that’s what cause they should back. I would support them no matter what. Well, I mean within reason. If they aren’t hurting anyone or encouraging anyone to be hurt, then knock yourself out. Well, I mean also within reason. I think people who hate on others and start hurling slurs at another human being deserves a nice knock to the jaw. Not that I would actively encourage that on any platform. I just won’t denounce anyone for it. What’s the joke? Punching Nazis is the American way?

My oldest son has always been hesitant to fight. He wanted to participate in things like walkouts at the school to support the teachers, but he was afraid of the consequences. I told him that was his choice. But that if he was suspended for doing that, I certainly wasn’t going to punish him for it. I’m a firm believer in the right to a peaceful protest. He wanted to go to college and not have any blemishes on his record. I told him that the right school wouldn’t care. As far as I know, he never participated in those protests. He’s boring. I would bet anything my youngest boy wouldn’t hesitate. Mostly because he’s a bit on the mischievous side. And we love him for his… willfulness.

On my oldest son’s Facebook, he posted a thing about a counter-protest on his campus. This protest was for a supposed preacher who was spewing hate on campus. (I believe no true man of God spews hate. If they do, then that proves my side of atheism because that’s a God I want nothing to do with.) That if you’re in the LGBTQ+ community or support them, you’re going to hell. From what my son had told me about him, he walks around the area where the classes are, speaking fire and brimstone. Which, I suppose tracks for Salem, MA. I’m hopeful this is a sign that he has found his voice. That he was going to use his voice to fight for something he believes in. And I’ve never been more proud of my boy.

It’s empowering when you finally find your voice. Whether it’s being away from your comfort zone causing you to stand up more for what you believe in or age or wisdom or newfound confidence in yourself. Your voice, oral or written, is one of the most powerful weapons you have. You have the choice to use it to fight for whatever injustice you feel needs to be fought. You can use your voice to make a difference. And I will always support a strong voice as long as they aren’t used for the wrong things. If they are used to incite violence or hate, then I will never support that. I don’t care what side of the aisle you are on. As long as you’re being respectful and aren’t running on a platform of hate and/or violence, you should use your voice. The minute we stifle that voice, especially because we don’t agree with it, we’re stifling another person’s voice. And as much as it’s hard to think about in this divisive world, they have the right to their peaceful voice.

Find your voice and use it. That’s it. That’s the advice.

Taking Back the Power

We’re all guilty of taking other people’s perceptions of us and using that to prove our worth. But our worth isn’t dependent on other’s perceptions of us. We determine our own worth. The minute that you let others take that from you, you let them win.

Too many times, we shy away from striving for our dreams. Why do we do that? It’s mostly fear, but is it our fear that we can’t do it? That we’re not good enough? Or, does this fear come externally? Are you afraid of achieving your goals because other people will think that it’s silly? It’s easier to just give up on your dreams than fight through all of the noise trying to achieve them. It doesn’t matter if you’re a college freshman or a nearly 40-year-old woman. We all have this believe that we should have it all figured out by a certain age. But let’s be honest here: how many people actually do? I’m willing to guarantee a lot more people died in the world, just winging it because they didn’t have it figured out. Knowing that should give you some type of comfort that just maybe, there’s no age that you need to have everything figured out. And as I always say, “that’s ok.”

You just need to find some passion in your life, no matter how silly you think other people think it is. If your passion is to stay home and raise a family while your partner works, good for you in knowing what you want to do. If you want to be a writer or a teacher or an FBI agent, and you are truly passionate about achieving that goal, the only thing that should be holding you back is you. And if you decide, “nah, maybe not?” That’s okay too. Sometimes you just have to experience it to know whether or not that’s the right path for you.

This can sometimes be the pressure that makes kids more stressed out than they need to be. That they need to apply to college with a specific program and stick to it because they had to have a plan. Then, for some reason, people make them feel guilty for deciding to go another route. Maybe they found that what they though was their passion, really wasn’t. That’s okay. That’s what college is for. I switched my major halfway through. I get it. You have a dream and realize that maybe you don’t love it anymore.

But, you should never give it up for other people. Don’t give them that power. If you are truly passionate about something, pardon my language, then “fuck ’em”. They don’t dictate your life. You do. Take back the power and do what you want with your life. As long as you can go to bed at peace with yourself, you’ll be all right.

Back to the Grind

I’ve been missing lately, primarily due to illness and general busyness that is life. I’ll be better, I promise.

Among the latest moves in my life was a shift to working back in a normal job, at least temporarily for now. Maybe more permanent later if the option arises. Even if there isn’t another opportunity for me, it’s been really great to be back at it. You underestimate the boosts to your mental to get out of the sweatpants and house for a little bit. It’s refreshing. It’s a little sad missing my boys, but it was time. Even if I’m somehow blessed with another one, it’s still time to be back at it.

It’s still a bit of an adjustment period, especially as I still navigate my writing career on the side. It’s something that I think is important to keep because I like writing and it’s still money. While my writing jobs have taken a hit from COVID, I just take it as a sign that it was time to find something outside of the house. Plus, being home all the time during COVID did take some of the enjoyment I had working from home. But I’m a creature of habit who thrives on routine, so finding a new routine is hard and annoying to get into. I’ll get there though. I’m an intelligent, reasonable, and resilient person. I’ve got this.

This is just a reminder that no mom has it easy. It’s not easy when they work from home. It’s not easy when their sole job is being a mom and homemaker. It’s not easy when they work outside of the office. You’re not going to win no matter what you do. What matters is to not compare yourself to the “more perfect” moms who have everything seemingly together. I guarantee that they don’t. Social media only gives glimpses into an entire story that you can’t see. It’s hard being a woman with all the expectations society places on you, especially when you’re a mother. But, you got this.

We just need to be reminded that we got this. That even on those bad days, we’ve got this. Even if you are too tired to cook and the Burger King is right next door and you don’t care if it’s the 3rd time this week you had fast food because your fridge is still dead. You’ve got this. Even if you feel guilty that you’re happy about being at work and not dealing with tantrums. You really have got this.

And Just Like That, They’re Gone

People always tell parents that they blink and the next thing they know, their kids are being dropped off at their college dorm or moving out or getting married and they are having their own kids. It’s weird to think that 18 years, nearly 2 decades, is such a short period of time. You don’t even know what happened. One minute, your child is walking around a KMart, with his pants at his ankles because nothing ever fit him right saying “Mommy, pants fall” and the next, you’re making his bed at college and taking all of the pictures you can within reason. Did they really grow up enough to be tossed into essentially total independence? Did we do enough to prepare him? I guess time will tell.

We’re so happy that we’re able to give him this experience. We’re happy that his hard work paid off. He’s had a goal in mind since he was little and worked so hard even at such a young age with the goal of going into college and working for the FBI. He’s spent his entire school career working towards this goal and he got into his first choice college. We’re so proud of him. But moving across state may as well be across the country. Though, I’m convinced even if he did go to a closer school, including my own excellent college within our city, him living there would be too far away. You’re really not as prepared as you want to be when the day comes.

The main campus.

It’s a nice campus. It’s bigger in person than we thought. Due to COVID, we didn’t really get to tour the campus ourselves to check it out, so it was a bit overwhelming. We took ourselves on our own little tour, hoping that when the first day of school starts next week, he won’t be as overwhelmed going to class. His dorm is within only a few minutes walk of a small beach and marsh hiking path. There’s this nice running/walking/biking path in the area, which I teased him for not knowing how to ride a bike. He rolled his eyes at me and mumbled, “I know how to ride a bike” and I responded with, “Last I saw, not very well.” He was always much better with his skateboard or scooter than his bike.

It was hard. My husband had his teary-eyed moment when he started packing up our son’s desktop, because he intends to continue his streaming while at college. He later laughed about it saying that he saw more dads crying at the move-in day than the moms. I said it was because we had to be strong for everyone else and we’d have our meltdowns later when we were alone at some random point of time because we folded a towel wrong or something. Admittedly, despite feeling the tears form in the back of my eyes and throat, I haven’t had that moment yet. Maybe after my youngest goes to school, we’ll see if coming back to the lonely house hits me.

It’s already hard. The first night, it was hard because after our youngest went to bed, we would watch shows or movies that weren’t appropriate for the youngest. We’d connect over these shows, talk about random things inspired by the shows. We’d sometimes group up for Overwatch and complain about how bad the other players were. He streamed with the new shiny webcam that our nephew/his best friend got him as a going away present. We watched, like the weird, stalker-y parents that we were, marveling about the great job we did while also being sad about doing a great job and having him so far away. My husband kept reiterating the point of “if you hate it here, there are plenty of closer schools.” My husband also kept switching between “I hope he loves it there” and “Is it bad I hope he hates it there and comes home?” It’s funny to watch the struggle between wanting your child to succeed at their dreams, but the selfishness of us wanting to keep them our small babies forever.

It hurt a little getting off the Pike back home and hearing a song come on that he would normally sing very loudly to in the backseat. We pulled up to the house to drop off our nephew so he could get his car out of the driveway before we picked up our youngest from my parents. As we pulled up, he still had his “Class of 2021” sign in our yard. It’s been hard to consider taking it down. It was even harder pulling up to see it.

The next morning was also hard. Normally our oldest son, despite having his own room and a very nice, comfortable mattress, falls asleep on the couch. He’s usually too tired from playing video games or streaming that he just goes to bed where his computer is. But he likes having his computer out in the living room because he’s a weird kid who loves hanging out with his parents. I woke up early, as I often do on Mondays to get my husband’s lunch and coffee ready before he goes to his early morning meeting. Normally, I walk into the living room and I have to be quiet as a go in to work and get my husband’s stuff ready. I tiptoed in, only to remember that he wasn’t there. He wasn’t sprawled out on the couch, with his favorite blanket that I got him when we first bought this house 7 years ago. I didn’t have to go over and fix his blanket, even though it’s hot, just because he likes the comfort of it. It was just an empty couch except for our lab/pointer mix Arya, who was laying in our son’s “spot”. She looked at me with sad eyes. “Yes, Arya. Me too.”

I saw the recycling that was still full and normally I would wake our son up to take care of it for me. But he’s not there. Still, I walked around as silently as possible out of habit or even hope that maybe it would trick my brain into thinking he was still here. He’s not. He’s not going to be here to watch our trashy TLC reality shows that we love to watch together. He’s not going to be there sharing the memes from Reddit about the show after watching it together. He’s not going to be there to laugh when I say “kimchi bitches” and imitating the scene from “Nora from Queens”. I’m not going to wake up to hear him in the kitchen and smell the kimchi that he’s eating with chopsticks straight from the fridge at 3 in the morning. Or smell the extra hot yakisoba noodles that he likes to cook up. Or see him walk into the living room with his kimchi ramen, spoon, and chopsticks and watch him quickly take chopstick bites in between Valorant rounds. Or wonder why he has the spoon because he just slurps the broth after the noodles are gone anyways, like normal kids would drink the milk after their bowl of cereal.

It’s the little things that you miss, like the arguing between the siblings or yelling about tossing the clothes next to the hamper, not in the hamper. Or the spilling the kimchi broth as I gag trying to clean it up because I just cannot get over how nauseating it is to me. It’s only been a few days and it’s so hard to overlook that there may be a part of you missing.

It’s for the best. He’s going to be great. He’s going to do great things in the world. I believe that. He’s destined to be the change that he wants to see in the world and he’s determined and smart enough to do it.

What Does Family Even Mean?

Some people go by the traditional definition of family, where it includes a mom, dad, and their kid(s). But family isn’t about some definition. Family isn’t about the blood that connects people; it’s about the love that does. It doesn’t matter if you pushed your child out naturally, had them pulled out surgically, or if you legally or unofficially adopted them. It doesn’t matter if you were born into a family. Family is something that you can build for yourself, with whatever your definition of family is. Because it’s the love and support that matters; not genetics.

Recently for a movie night, our family decided to watch “Instant Family”. The premise of this movie is that the main couple want to adopt a family. While the movie itself was a cute, heartwarming, but silly movie, it sparked a conversation in my family that proves just how powerful art can be. Our oldest, who was essentially unofficially adopted by my husband from around the age of 1, understands that it’s not about the blood relationship. He knows that my husband was there for his first t-ball game, any school event, band concerts, and anything else. He screamed his name with pride from the stands during sporting events and screamed as loud as he could at his graduation. Even after having his own biological child, he never treated our oldest as anything other than his son. It’s definitely something that warms my heart all the time, watching the bond those two have.

After watching the movie, my oldest talked about how he wants to adopt too. He said it wasn’t just the movie, but also seeing the way that his father is with him shows him that you don’t need to be there for the child’s birth to love them. From someone who insisted that he never wanted kids to deciding that he wanted to adopt when he’s older was something incredible to see. Even prior to the movie, my husband and I have considered fostering/adopting. In the future, when we have more money and a bigger home, then that’s something we probably will do. Even my youngest has decided that he wanted to adopt, because “so many kids have no parents and that’s sad”.

The whole point is that you can create a family of your own choosing. You can adopt or foster or have your own kids. It’s about the love that you have for the child, not how the child became a part of your family. Or, you can choose to not have kids at all and surround yourself with friends and family that you love. There’s no single definition of what a family is. Sorry, forget that. There is a definition of family that I follow: People who love and care for each other, always offering support. That is my definition of family.

Don’t resign yourself to society’s expectations for what a family is. Have as many or as few kids as you want. You shouldn’t be pressured to do something like get married or have kids because that’s what a family is supposed to be. That’s someone else’s definition of family and that doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Make your own definition of what family means to you.

The Last Weekend at Home

It’s back to school time. That means that some of us parents are sending our kids back to school at the local grade/middle/high schools. But there are some parents that are spending this time getting ready to either send their kid back to campus or sending them there for the first time. This is the last weekend at home with my oldest, before we pack up the car and travel across the state to send him off for his first day of school next weekend. It’s a bittersweet moment. We’re proud of him for getting accepted into the different colleges, especially his top choice. We’re happy he chose one close-ish to us (about 2 and 1/2 hours away). We’re happy to take our first trip up to Salem, despite the fact we’ve live in Mass practically our entire lives. We’re scared and sad because he’s going to be gone and who knows when the next time he’ll come home is. It’s a lot of different emotions that every other parent in this position is probably experiencing right now.

This weekend will be dedicated to him. We’ll have a nice game night. We’ll take him out shopping for stuff for school. We’ll spend every second that we can with him making as many last minute memories that we can so that he’s setup for success when we drop him off at campus. Then, during the week, we organize his stuff and pack it. Maybe we’ll work in silence, not wanting to talk about it. Maybe we’ll reminisce about some hilarious memories. But we’ll likely sit in silence as we make sure his clothes are cleaned and packed up. Focusing on the task at hand rather than the emotions. That’s how we roll. Makes sure he remembers everything that he needs from home and make lists of what we need to get the day before we leave. We’ll talk about how nice it will be having his own dorm and not having to deal with his little brother annoying him. We’ll console his little brother, who will miss his big brother despite his protests that he won’t. “Because he’s super mean to me.”

It’s exciting for him. He gets to have this experience that neither of us really had. We gets to live on campus and make his own way in life. He’ll do well. He might struggle or fail at something. It’s all a part of the growth process. Every year of his life prior to going away, we focused on raising a child that was as confident as he could be, as self-sufficient as possible, and with a passion for learning. This is where he’ll learn if he really wants the dreams he’s had his entire life of solving crimes and impacting lives. This is where he continues his growth that he started in the comforts of his home. This is where he can exceed expectations or disappoint himself. That’s all a part of becoming an adult. As parents, we can only hope that we did enough to prepare him.

I’m not worried about losing contact with him. I’m sure he’ll at least send a meme or hilarious Reddit post for me daily. I’m sure he’ll call regularly, at least once a week. He should be taking this time to enjoy himself in between his studies. He should be meeting new friends. Taking full advantage of this experience that he’s lucky to get.

I don’t know a lot about this new chapter because it’s not something I’ve experienced. I have no wisdom to share. But what I do know is that he has a massive family behind him full of family and friends, that is here supporting him. He knows that he has this support. He knows that we believe in him. I’m so excited that he gets to have this moment and he’s worked damn hard for it. He will be the change. He will be great.

Talking to Your Kids About Death, Part II

A few years ago, I wrote about talking to kids about death. The only time I have ever had to talk to my kids about death is when it was someone that they didn’t really know much about, outside of stories I would tell. In that blog that I linked, I discussed talking to my oldest about his biological paternal grandfather dying. Otherwise, it was all abstract talk. I tell my youngest about my grandfather, his namesake. I keep my memory of him alive by telling these stories and my son likes to hear about “Grampa George”. I have never had to tell them about someone that they actually knew dying. Death was sort of abstract to them. They knew it existed and that it’s inevitable. But they never had to experience the actual feeling of true grief and figuring out how to process that.

That was until recently. A schoolmate of my youngest lost a battle that no parent should ever have to watch their child go through. How do you tell your child, especially a child with anxiety issues and has trouble processing/dealing with emotions, that someone they knew and regularly interacted with has passed? A child that’s the same age as he is? I’ve seen cancer and what it does to the people suffering from it and the people around them. It’s a slow and agonizing spirit-crushing illness. And to have to tell your child that another child they knew has passed from it isn’t something you prepare for. You prepare for the passing of their grandparents. Great grandparents. Older relatives. Not for their friends. That’s too tragic to consider, let alone plan for.

I tasked my husband with it. His personality and temperament more closely matches our youngest, which made him much better suited for the task. Plus, if you read the blog linked here, you can see that tact isn’t my strong suit and I would have made matters much worse. Part of being a parent in a partnership is that you get the ability to pick the tasks that are best suited to your skill set. My husband was a rockstar. He eased into it. “Remember your friend that was sick?” Our child responded, “Yeah, he had an illness that made his hair fall out.” My husband paused for a moment and told him the sad news. It took our son a few minutes before he realized it. “But, he’s young. Kids aren’t supposed to die. Parents are supposed to die first.” My son wasn’t wrong. “It’s sad. We talked about video games a lot.” My son seemed fine after talking about it, until it was time for bed. Then it all came back to him, as nighttime is perfect breeding ground for anxious thoughts to take over your brain. We didn’t sleep that night.

Books can tell you what they think you should know about having this conversation with your kids. But your kid is unique. I always say that you can read all of the parenting books that you want, but the problem is plans are great until you have kids. There isn’t any cookie cutter solution for dealing with life, especially life with kids. They don’t follow a rule book. When dealing with sensitive matters like death, you need to focus on the best approach for your kid. My husband is better with easing into the hard conversations, where I’m more of a “blunt, to the point” person. And I cannot stress this enough, there’s no way to plan for telling your child that a schoolmate/classmate has passed away.

After the fact, while my son was processing the news, he kept asking “Why?” The simple answer would have been (excuse the language) “Because cancer sucks. Fuck cancer.” He kept saying it wasn’t fair. It isn’t. In times like these, I revert to my Catholic-ish upbringing. “Because it was his time to be an angel.” “You can talk to him anytime because he’s up in heaven.” “Maybe your Grampa George can help take care of him now.” Even if I don’t actually believe in this, it doesn’t mean there’s no comfort for my son in hearing these things.

Talking about death with your kids is as hard as it is inevitable. It’s a delicate topic to address. I don’t think it will get any easier, but it’s important to be as open and compassionate as possible. Answer any questions in an age appropriate way. Show your support. Remind them that it sucks but how their loved one would want them to live their life anyways. That they will always be around them in their heart and memories. That grief sucks and never gets any easier. That there’s a part of you that will always be sad in some moments, but that there’s also a big life of experience that the deceased would want them to live.

Cancer sucks. But I’d like to point out a couple of my favorite causes to support, which are very close to my heart that could always use a little help.

The Jimmy Fund

Make-A-Wish

It’s Time to Celebrate

In a few short days, we will be coming together to celebrate the hard work of my oldest son. Graduating high school is a major milestone. It’s a massive achievement, especially with his courses to graduate with honors and considering the cluster that the past 2 years were. Graduating high school isn’t easy, especially when the world is stopped in the middle of a pandemic. It does make you pause and reflect on how far he’s come, from being the smallest kid in class to being at least sorta the same size as everyone else. Sorta.

That means it’s time to bring all of the family together to celebrate with him. To share your pride with them in that moment, while also praying that maybe this is the day the apartment people aren’t taking over your entire front of the house so that your guests at least have someplace to park. Not holding out hope though. Apparently they prefer walking halfway down the street rather than in their actual parking lot, choosing to take up every spot in front of our house and on some occasions, even our driveway. (Rant over.)

It’s stressful looking around the house and thinking “There’s no way to get everything done by the weekend while also working”, especially since my husband has been working overtime since last week and my youngest has decided this is the week for sporadic anxiety attacks to take up my time. That’s what you do as a a parent though. You suck it up and just drink more coffee as needed. You plan the menu, get to cleaning and cooking. I’m fortunate enough that I can easily bribe my nephews, one with just pizza and the other with pizza and the promise of sharing his aunt’s precious recipes. I like the company and I like that at least someone has an interest in learning the family recipes. My oldest son does sometimes, but his will to learn recipes is overcome by his love of gaming and streaming.

The most important piece of this puzzle isn’t the food that will be eaten or even the worries of parking or not having the house clean enough for guests. The most important piece is the people coming together to celebrate in this moment. A celebration we wouldn’t have been able to have a year ago. It’s the conversations that people are going to have while they are eating or just sharing their pride in my son’s accomplishments as well. It’s about family, both the ones of blood and the ones that you choose. These are those special moments that you’re going to remember more. I’ll occupy myself with cooking and serving guests, hoping that I don’t just start crying both of pride and of sadness that my oldest will be going away in a few short months.

He deserves this. He deserves the world and the world is now his to take on. He’s going to do great. He’s going to do great things. And I’m thankful for the tribe that helped along the way, ensuring that he was setup for success. He grew up knowing he was loved and supported every step of the way and that matters. That helped create the compassionate, narcissistic monster that we know today. (Kidding about the narcissism, mostly. Kid has an ego, for sure.)

It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Gets Hacked

My son has anxiety issues. His anxiety, while it has slowly started to get better, is still very much present in our lives. His triggers include any blemish on his body (anything that’s bleeding, a scrape, even a bruise), bad weather, loud noises, when something looks “not right”, and tech related issues which he then goes worst case scenario assuming he’s been hacked. Of all of his triggers, the most common and worst of them are cuts and tech related issues. It’s not easy trying to figure out ways to validate his feelings while also trying to calm him down and thinking about ways to prevent a future attack. Especially since sometimes these episodes can be hours long affairs.

I never compare parenting struggles, but honestly there’s nothing more trying of your patience. You need to remain calm as your child is pacing frantically around the room, practically hyperventilating as he goes through all of his thoughts out loud. It’s a helpless feeling knowing that whatever you could say can be misinterpreted and worsen the situation. Sometimes, maybe because I’m a bad mom, I just watch it unfold because I have no idea what to do otherwise and I’m afraid I’m going to start pacing around the room just as frantically because I don’t want to make matters worse and my heart hurts. Yesterday, my son woke up at 7 a.m. from a nightmare that he got hacked and the computer didn’t work anymore. I held him while he calmed down, knowing that when he has his nightmares, he just needs cuddles. But then every flicker or anytime the computer lagged for a minute, he just remembered his nightmare and starts pacing around the house in a panic that he’s just been hacked and what is he going to do and his email has something from Google about compromised passwords and what is he going to do and maybe he needs 2-step authentication or check to see if Linus Tech Tips can help but he can’t go near the computer because of the hack haunting him.

My husband is an IT god among men. Fortunately in his new position at work, he spends most of his time at his new desk. My son called him 4 times in a row before he received a tech answer that satisfied him and he was able to get over his episode. He was fine for the rest of the day and excited when Dad came home to talk to him all about what he learned about computers after they talked. He’s 8 and knows more about computers than most adults I know, myself included.

Every day is different. He could go several days without an episode. He can have an episode every day. He can have several moments in a day. You can’t avoid triggers, because you’re supposed to help him figure out ways of coping. Sometimes getting him to do his breathing exercises works. Sometimes you just put his noise-cancelling headphones on and he’s fine. I prepare him ahead of time that a storm is coming because if he hears the thunder, it’s game over immediately. At least if he knows it’s coming, he lasts until he sees heavy winds, then he starts pacing around frantically reminding himself that Mommy has a plan in case of a hurricane or tornado and she knows what to do to keep me safe and his brother is a certified lifeguard and has his first aid certifications so if something happens, he can help too. How when he gets any sort of cut or scrape he needs a bandage and how Mommy doesn’t understand that he needs a bandage because this scrape is the most important thing on his mind right now. You just let him have the bandage, even when you can’t see a mark.

You never truly know patience until you have to manage sensory disorders and anxiety and whatever other mental health condition can be thrown at you in the form of your children. It’s hard enough dealing with your own mental health issues, let alone also managing your child’s. You always have to walk a delicate line. You get judged or funny looks because your kid won’t go into the cafeteria with loud noises or won’t wear a Halloween costume to a school Halloween function for whatever reason he rationalized and you just go with it because all that matters is that they are happy and participating the best that they can. You treasure those good days more than you normally would because you know just how bad those bad days can be.

But the most important thing is that they know that you love them through it all. Even when they are thrashing around and keep hitting you during an anxiety attack. You just hug them harder. Even when their defiance seems unable to be overcome. Because when they are smiling at you, they smile bigger since they know that you were there for them when they weren’t behaving or acting out or having an anxiety attack. They know that you would fight all of those triggers if you could. You were patient with them, even when you think that you weren’t. You did enough for them when you thought it was impossible to help. They just want to know that you love them and that you are there for them no matter what. Even if you have to buy a 100 pack of bandages a week.

And He’s Now a Graduate

I think I was waiting for some emotional moment to happen when my oldest graduated. I expected to be overcome with sadness, but instead I was just immensely proud. I expected to mourn his milestone into adulthood, but instead I was really excited to see him transition to this next chapter of his life. I reminisced in my head about his kindergarten graduation. I bragged to anyone who would listen about him. (Sorry social media. But kinda not.) He’s now a graduate, moving onto this next adventure of his life: college, which is clear across the state from us.

It’s hard. It’s hard to put all of this to words. I spent the graduation not being able to hear anything and making jokes about how the mayor is only good at public appearances and giving speeches. I was just focused on getting him through the day, doing the walk he didn’t want to do. I told him, “I don’t care if you don’t do the walk. This isn’t for you. I care that your grandparents are going to be pissed at me for letting you not walk. I just don’t want to listen to it. So, suck it up buttercup, you’re doing it.” I explained for him that graduation is about the family being proud of their graduate. Hilariously, after all of that he keeps asking me for any pictures I had of the event. Not bad for someone who didn’t want to do the walk.

It’s easy to feel sad about this. You remember them as babies and somehow you blink and they are planning their college adventures. They are on a program for dormmates that’s essentially just Tinder, where you scroll through and select the people that you think you can spend the year not arguing with. You may even make a friend for the rest of your time at school. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m not letting myself focus on the sadness of my oldest leaving sooner than I’d like. I’m focusing on the other things. Like how great it’s going to be for him at his dream school. Like how I need a new couch and a fixed bathroom door before I can throw a party. Like how if I break down, I know everyone else will follow. But if I show strength, they will all know it’s okay. I know my role in the world, and that’s it.

My boy graduated within the top 70 of his class of 291 students and he graduated with a fancy Pro Merito recognition. He finished his grades with a 90 in AP English and had honors all 4 years of school. He had his choice of colleges and a future wide open to him. I’m so proud of his hard work and the man that he’s become. He’s caring, compassionate, and kind. He’s trying to figure out how he can use his future career to have a positive impact on the world. He wants to help people and wants to work in law enforcement, trying to do his part to make the system more honest. He has lofty ideals that I hope for his sake (and the world’s really) he can accomplish. I have faith that he’s going to do great things. I have faith that I did everything that I could to give him the foundation of intelligence, confidence, and compassion to achieve everything he wants to.

My boy is a graduate. The world is now his to do what he wants with. And I wish that I could say that I could not be any more proud of him than I am in this very moment. But I know that he’s going to keep making me even prouder when he goes out into this world. I just hope that he’s ready for the world.