Friday, December 16, 2011

House of Stress

It is Friday afternoon, phasing into evening.
I have just brought my oldest child home for Christmas.  He is stressed.  To the point of tears and then some.  College is more than he thought it was going to be. As I hear some of the details....the missteps, the errors in judgment, the uncertainty about 'how things work', the lack of initiative, of work ethic, of understanding of what needs to be done, of how to divide and conquer, I mask my face and try to stay distanced, above it.  After all, I did my best as a parent, as a model of 'I can', and 'do it now', and 'do MORE than what's expected'.  Where these lessons went, I don't know, but adding parental disappointment, anger, thoughts of 'I told you so' into the mix will not solve this issue.  He certainly doesn't lack in intelligence, but he lacks....something....and I don't know how to give it to him, teach it to him, grow it in him.  I try to hide the anxiety *I* feel.  It sounds like an academic disaster story, and I dread seeing the grades.  There is literally nothing I can do now except stay calm, try to offer the right advice, the right amount of advice.  Help him dissect the problem and take steps to solve it.  I simply cannot take ownership of this because there is little I can do.  It is on him now.  But he is clearly stressed.  And miserable.  What next?  What next?  And how to help?

My 14-year-old gets off the bus.  I'm in the car, reading the paper and have just read an e-mail on my phone from his resource teaching documenting heightened anxiety these last couple days.  He gets in the car with me and says he wants to talk to me privately.  He is stressed, tired of school, does he have to go these last four days?  He hates swimming.  It's so cold and the gym teacher makes him write a paper about swimming every time he doesn't bring his swimming stuff and every time he gets in the pool.  There's a special needs girl in most of his classes whose behavior grates on his nerves and his sensibilities.  He hates how she treats the teachers, her inappropriate and disturbing behavior, her outbursts.  The principal and the gym teacher came in to talk to him and told him he was a smart boy and that made him cry--not in a positive way, but in a guilt-ridden way, as if a 'smart boy' should want to swim, want to fall in step with the masses around him, should should be tolerant of aberrant behavior even when it interrupts the educational process.  He speaks slowly, often losing his train of thought without prompting.  Feigned?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I have a weekend to watch him.  And will consider paying an observatory visit to school on Monday, which may include pulling him out before swimming. 

And now here is my husband home from school.  He, too, has four days left of the chaos they call urban education.  He is an artist, a poet, a writer, and he just received poor marks as a disciplinarian on his annual evaluation.  Since I quit my job as the same, he is the sole supporter of our family and thus, he can't quit.  He lives his employed life in his own private hell of ghetto children who scorn his values and disrespect him beyond what any human soul should have to endure.  He tries to maintain a teaching atmosphere in a sea of jeering, mocking faces that could care less about education or what my gentle husband might have to share with them.  At night, he talks in his sleep, twitches and starts.  School and stress dreams.  By day, he is tense, short with us all, and it's not good, not good.  We have debts and he has years left ahead of him before he can depart.  Will he make it?  Will he make it with his health intact?

I walk carefully through this minefield, my own stresses on hold for now, praying for strength, patience, the right words to keep everyone going.  Strong for us all.  Hold on, everyone.  Just hold on.  There are vacation days ahead.  Retirement looms.  A chance to start over is coming.  Keep the faith, keep walking, and......walk towards the light.

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