Snapshot - FamilyEducation

Snapshot

January 18,2011
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

We had a lot of fallout this year, dealing with the aftermath of T.'s birthday on Thursday, her party on Saturday, and a special play-date we had at our house on Sunday with T.'s BFF from her preschool days who hadn't made it to the party on Saturday. T. herself dealt with the anticlimax of it all well on Monday, but Sunday and Monday L. was a mess.

He was ugly and vicious with his words. At ten, he's moved beyond lashing out physically as much but boy, can he produce some words.

Nothing went right.

He didn't want to leave the house to do anything.

Did I mention he was ugly and vicious with his words?

I ached for him, but I ached for T., too, and for all of us. I wanted to wrap my arms around L. and push some big red OFF button, stop the round-and-round chaos of emotions spinning in his head that were causing him to relentlessly do battle over anything and everything, and to lash out at those he loves. But we also needed to protect T., and make it okay for her, and it's hard to be split that way as a parent. I wished, as I do often, that we had family close by, or family who could have stayed through Monday, and given L. the time and attention he so needed this weekend, and that we just couldn't give him.

The ugly details from the rest of the weekend lie buried inside our walls, between the four of us--suffice it to say that by Monday mid-morning I felt completely drained, and I needed OUT. We managed to convince L., after much drama, to go on a family bike ride that afternoon and we loaded up our bikes, and helmets, and headed down the road to the neighborhood greenway. I still felt resentment, exhaustion, anger, even, burrowed all around inside of me but when I took off on my bike, and the cold wind cut through my hair, I felt it all loosen a little. We rode far, and Scott and I took turns staying with T., who is still all start and stop when it come to bike riding. On the way back L. and I shot ahead, in a burst of speed and rode for awhile, until we stopped at a wooden bridge. We waited for Scott and T. to catch up and I looked up and saw a hawk circle above, and listened to the bubble of the creek below. L. propped his bike up and leaned into me for a moment.

I held my breath.

"What's on your mind, Mama?" he said suddenly.

You! I wanted to shout out loud to him. I wanted to take him by the shoulders and bore my words, my love, my whole spent self into him. You! You're always on my mind, every minute. Every single minute, it seems.

But instead I put my arm around him. "Oh, I was just watching that bird." 

"What bird?"

"That one," I said, pointing up. But the hawk was gone, quickly, quietly, and the tops of the trees were like fingers holding up the sky.