Thursday, January 20, 2005

when everything seems too hard

Today was not really a bad day. Just a hard day.

DS1 had two major meltdowns in school, the second just at pick-up time. I was able to talk to him alone in the car before we went home. There was a trigger, but it wasn't anything important, he just felt wronged, and he wigged out. He used to do this a lot more, but generally he has better self-control. Not today.

Of course, being older, he has a lot more to say when he wigs out, but it is totally unacceptable for him to be telling the people that irritated him that he's going to kill them.

Sigh does not even begin to cover it.

Like many people when they're upset, DS1 tends towards the hysterical: everyone hates me, I hate everyone, they're always mean to me, blah blah blah, I have no friends.

There, in the midst of a sea of hyperbole, was one true statement. DS1's best friends are his little brother and sister. He doesn't spend time with any other children on a regular basis. Why not? Me.

First, there's school, and homework, and when that's all done, it's right about 4PM, not exactly conducive to after-school meet-ups, especially when the kids he actually likes from school live several miles away. There are kids in the neighborhood his age, though, but they're generally not out playing on school days, either.

Second, there's the issue of supervision. DS1 is now just approaching the age at which I would be only mildly uncomfortable letting him play in the cul-de-sac without supervision. He's a big kid, and I doubt he'd be abducted. The worst that would happen to him is he would crash his bike or his skateboard, but those are childhood hazards every parent has to negotiate.

So I would, theoretically, be cool with DS1 going out to play with other kids on his own. However, DD and DS2 are still too young and small to go out on their own, and if DS1 goes out, so do they, unless there is another adult around to supervise them inside... you see where this is going? We're either all in the house together, or we're all outside together, unless I'm in, and they're in the backyard. On a school day, we're in, because by the time homework and snack time are over, I'm either exhausted or starting to cook dinner or both.

Weekends, now, they are a different story, and there is no reason why my kids can't do more peer socializing on the weekends... no reason, except, again, for me. By the end of the week, I am about dead, and the last thing I'm up for is driving around, picking up, dropping off, socializing, myself. Until very recently, the idea of having anyone else's kids over here was even more horrifying; most of the upstairs looks like the aftermath of a terrorist attack on Toys 'R' Us. If we got the place cleaned up I can handle the company... it's the cleaning beforehand that's the stumbling block.

So, I cried. I cried because I'm sorry my kids don't have any friends. I'm sorry that I've been so sick that I can't do the things that healthy moms do, like spend time in the classrooms and volunteer and throw big birthday parties and have friends over all the time. If I had known I was going to have so many health problems, I don't think I would've had kids. It's not fair to them.

This is the only way in which my kids could be considered underprivileged. They have board games, card games, learning toys and imaginative toys, blocks, lincoln logs, legos, every craft supply known to man, a jillion stuffed animals, countless books and dvds and computers games. They use them, too -- not all, of course, and some things go through cycles of use and disuse. The LeapPad comes in and out of favor, for example, but the Explorer Globe that tells you what you're looking at gets used quite a bit.

They have a good balance of outdoor active play stuff and indoor active and less active play stuff, and they have each other. All three are good at keeping themselves entertained, individually or in pairs or all together. They have boundless curiosity and imaginations, and minds like the proverbial steel traps: tell them something once and it's locked into permanent storage. All of their teachers love them.

I know they're OK -- better than OK, they're all phenomenal. I'm so glad they have each other. DS1 is just at that age where he should be making outside-the-house friends, and I'm being dragged across a threshold into a new era of relationships. I confess, I like keeping them at home, with me. I know that they're not around any bad influences (hee!) and not being exposed to anything dangerous or morally questionable. But I also know I'm going to have to start to let go a little.

For DS1's sake, I have to let him know that I can do things -- like drive him to a friend's house, or have a friend over here -- that will help him make real friends. And I will be able to do those things, too. I will.

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