Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Days in LaPorte and Long-distance Parenting

A couple weeks ago we found out that Major Man's best friend's mom was dying. A major stroke and they removed the feeding tube... and we waited.

It felt horrible and morbid and so much like last year when we were waiting for Major Man's dad to pass away.

Do we book flights? Do we tell work? Do we go before they die or after? How can we get the best flight price so we don't go into debt? Can we get childcare?

Thankfully we live in the same neighborhood as my mom and she came through (again).

After I'd been here in LaPorte just one day, my son had a rough day at school. So we texted and phoned and tried to understand what was going on and help the principal arrange for my mom to get him - he was angry and throwing a tantrum and using swear words. He couldn't be in the classroom and I couldn't do anything about it.

It's a helpless feeling - like something is just happening to you and you can't do anything about it. I wonder if it's the same feeling my son experiences when he is having this trouble. My mind races and all I can think is "make it better, make it better, make it better". It's hard for me to put the responsibility on my son. He's eight. He needs to be responsible for his actions. He needs to make his own choices and maybe it's best when I'm not able to help him. Not able to make excuses.

I try to deconstruct what happened. What was said, who heard it, is it he-said-she-said or legitimate? Is he lying? Are they lying? I try separate what happened and his behavior.... try to tell him over the phone that even though he says he's not lying and even though he's mad and even if he's completely righteously angry... he's still responsible for his own behavior. Using swear words and ripping up paper is not the way to go.

At one point he had written two swear words about another child in his notebook and this little voice inside my head started whispering (don't make a big deal about it... shhhhhh). Because I wait for the day that a teacher says my son *can't* write something. Because - helloooo - I'm a writer. Unfortunately I haven't figured out in my own mind how (if) the freedom of expression should be limited in the classroom when it comes to writing. Speaking, yeah... writing? I'm not sure.

As my son gets older, I have to curb my instinct to protect him, to allow him to fall and fail more often when it's within his own power to make his own decisions. But it's so hard. I half expect the teachers to protect him but I know it's not possible in a classroom with 17 other students.

My son (8 years old) gets a long with girls quite well - he is an emotional kid at the best of times and when two girls started whispering and leaving him out of a conversation he reacted poorly. I try to tell him that it's ok if they don't want to play at that moment and it's ok for them to have a private conversation... and the school tells all three of them that it's important not to let others feel left out.

Major Man is good at this sort of thing. He can separate and evaluate what happens at school and identify where a kid should be responsible for his own behavior and when the school needs to step in. Maybe it's because this is his step-son, I don't know... all I know is that all my logical behavior seems to go out the window and Mama Bear takes over and I have to rein her in. It's more frustrating but easier to do when I'm thousands of miles away in another country... and phone calls cost a dollar a minute!

But the funny thing is - I feel the distance whether I'm right there or far away. I feel that there's nothing I can do to cross the chasm between Mother Protector and supporting my son's independence by making him responsible for his own actions. Either way it's parenting from a distance.

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