Necessary losses

August 27,2010
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.

In the car yesterday, riding home from a dentist's appointment, L. and I got to talking about "the old days." "This is really nice," L. said to me. "You know, just you and me spending time together, like it used to be." "I love doing this," I told him. "I really miss how that used to be," L. said. "Do you miss it, too?" Oh, L., how I miss it. How I miss it with every fiber of my being. And I told him so. L. wanted to know if he'd have "time off" between elementary school and middle school; not just the summer, but a whole year, maybe, like it used to be, a long, long time ago when L. was very small, in those golden days L. still remembers, and clings to so much. "Why can't kids ever go back to that?" L. wanted to know. "How come once you start school that's just it, and you keep on going and going and never go back?" His question both stumped me and broke my heart, too. I felt it crack a little, inside, like it does when my children ask me an unbearable question, a question that needs a better answer than the one I can give. I thought about all those cliches--ones about how we all have to grow up one day, or how about that one about life being like a merry-go-round--you get on and you can't get off. Instead we talked about life's "necessary losses"--the ones that are a vital part of everyone's lives, sooner or later. Life's losses and gains are inextricable from each other, and it is through that perpetual rocking between the two that the most emotional and even physical growth occurs. I don't know if my answer satisfied L.--I'm not sure it fully satisfies me. ************ Settling into a school routine here is still very much a work-in-progress, even though L. just completed his fifth week of school. The first half of the school year is always a difficult time for us. Every year since kindergarten it has taken L. months to get acclimitized to the conditions of the new classroom, the teacher, the expectations, the curriculum. Nothing we seem to do each year has helped cut down on this process. L. just doesn't do well with change, or with learning new ropes. Until he feels comfortable in a situation his body and mind are always in a state of panic and stress. This year has been no different. We've been logging a lot of hours lately in e-mail correspondences, letter writing, school visits, teacher meetings. One to two times each week one of us has had to drop by L.'s school--sometimes to pick him up because of a nervous stomach or headache, other times just to reassure him that something physical he's worried about isn't, in fact, something to worry about (hence the dentist's appointment yesterday). My theory about all this is that when he's in a state of anxiety and stress his senses become over-sensitive, so that even the smallest thing--a bruise on his arm, a sore gum, for instance, suddenly turns into an frightening problem, and this feeds his anxiety. It's a good thing, really, that both Scott and I work five minutes from L.'s school. All this is to say we're very ready for the weekend. I'm looking forward to the chance to dip our toes back into those summer days--sleeping in, going to the pool, spending time with the kids without worrying about the clock, or where we need to be next, or how much has to be done. Happy weekend--I hope it's just the weekend you need!