I have to go back to Instagram to sort out what April was about. I was winding up two years of being PTA president for a experiment-as-school our district was conducting and about to dismantle. That stunk. Track Meet Saturdays started up. Sam turned 12. We decided to send him on a weekend trip with Paul. We are well connected in small ways which looked like: companion stand-by fares to San Francisco from a friend who is a pilot, a free place to stay in Oakland at a friend's apartment, access to a hardcore show that we might not have otherwise known about (Paul introducing his first born to his first love).
Sam has born the brunt of all our decisions (good and bad) the last 15 years. There are the average burdens of being the oldest child of siblings; of having parents who worked and went to school; of living in the relative hazard of constant home renovations… Of being the first to parents in their 20s who were bad at making plans outside of the day-to-day living you have to do when you're just getting by. Then there are the smaller ways that resentment creeps in… a family who looks out of the ordinary; having to often hear "no" when things or experiences have a higher cost-per-capita (both emotionally or financially) than we could take on; experiencing embarrassment when one or both of his parents advocacy around education, social justice, etc., affects the way he is treated. There are also the good things– the life affirming things– and the things that money can not possibly buy him that he has been privy to because of who his family is.
In many ways Paul and I struggle with similar impacts to our family life. I think that folks assume that I am the driving force behind this circus– that Paul is some kind of suffering hero behind the scenes. Folks would be wrong. He is certainly our hero, but our life is not heroic and our choices fall somewhere between what's best and what's right and what won't kill us. Sam sees that, I think. In all of our bumbling he sees the suffering of the world and he knows where he's got to let the light in. He's also in Middle School, which is its own adventure fraught with injustice and hormones and more often than not, we drive him to the moon with frustration. So, they went to San Francisco and saw all the stuff you see in SF when you are 12 and on vacation.
We started seeing a family therapist this year. We take one of our kids often and then Paul and I see him separately to talk through what's working/what's not working. One of the things he asked us to do first was to define our family values in a way that our kids would be able to repeat back to us when asked. As things come up, we can frame our decision making for them using our family values as a rubric. So. Safety. Security. Compassion. Respect. Education and homework fall under (future) Security. Looking after our bodies falls under Safety. Educating ourselves about anti-racism falls under Compassion, Safety and Security. Not acting like a jerk falls under all of them. You get the idea. For some of our kids, we are teaching them to move around in a world that was not built for their edification. For Sam, we are showing him when he needs to speak up and when he needs to get out of the way. Where we fail at always modeling this, we hold onto the hope that all of the talking will take hold somewhere deep inside of all of our kids.
I also started affirmations with the little boys in the morning before they leave for school. They HATE it. They hate looking in my eyes and repeating "I am loved, I am valuable, I am trustworthy, I am kind, I AM WISE." But they do it. And in a year with fewer cuddles, and more conflict and frustration, their hugs are increasingly getting tighter. They hold on as hard as I'm holding on to the hope that they hear all the words that matter and forget the words that don't.
Alcatraz was his favourite part, I think. I mean. Of course it was.