At school pickup yesterday – dabbing with Sam. Can I tell you how much of a better person Vince is than I am? He is kinder, more generous, friendlier person. He is nice to all special needs kids – he’s willing to play with all of them. I can’t remember the number of times he has been in waiting rooms full of special needs kids who are talking incoherently, looking off into space, physically disabled, or flapping their hands and without a hint of hesitation Vince just starts engaging them in play. The mom of the other kid usually will watch with wide open eyes and mouth agape and will rush over to me and will say, “I have never seen ____ play that way. Can I have your number? Let’s set up a play date.” Nowadays, he doesn’t get a ton of opportunity to see other special needs kids on his own, but he’ll still be willing to go on “playdates” if I ask him as a favor. He will take $20 of his own money and spend it all down to make sure all his friends get to share popcorn, see the movie, get jawbreakers if his pals are short on funds. He forgives me over and over again for the missteps I do as his mother, every time I raise my voice or mete out punishment too harshly. All these good qualities come from his father. I’m always learning to cultivate these traits in myself by taking cues from Jeremy and Vince.
What is my skill that I contribute? It’s being a good student. These days, in light of all the things going on in the world, I’ve been thinking it’s such a useless talent. What good is doing all of your homework or following a rubric or whatever it is that I’m good at when the world needs kindness and generosity? Anyways, I’m a naive, naive person when it comes to Vince and schoolwork. He is doing better, but it’s so many little things that I didn’t think that I’d need to teach him because it is so obvious to me. For example (above just knowing the material), he ran out of time on a math test and lost points. I asked how he did the test – he said there were 10 questions and he got stuck on #6 and then ran out of time. I’m like – oh – that’s not how you take a test. You run through the test, answer all the questions you can easily first marking and skipping the ones that are hard (60% of the time), then go back and work on the hard ones (20% of the time), and then double check everything (10% of the time) – then you have 10% of time left over in case any of those steps go haywire. Then there is the above science rubric. Setting aside how much I dislike the assignment in terms what I think should be assigned in a science class, there is the skill of making it easy for the teacher to want to give you all the points. Which means starting each sentence with the prompt of each point of the rubric and marking each section clearly. 1. Changes in gene are responsible for cell cycle related mutations and loss of control because…. 2. The data says that inherited risk vs environmental risk… Would I ever write a paper in this way about biology and cancer if I had my own free will disconnected from the constraints of the rubric? No, never, it’s a terrible paper. But all I’m trying to do is maximize the points from the directions of the rubric. And Vince’s project kinda covers all the rubric points, but not so clearly that the teacher can just go, check, check, check. Also, this is a quasi-group project and Vince is less willing than I am to disregard his team’s input even though they are taking him in the wrong (scientific) direction. He is more concerned with the smooth functioning of the team than forcing on them the answer that I know the teacher wants. So when he brings home the result of the team’s discussion (let’s fund a bladder cancer treatment center rather than the more obvious and easier defended breast or prostate cancer center), I’m like – well, we could argue that, but the data doesn’t bear it out, it would be a more complicated argument to sustain; he first thinks about his team and what they would say rather than immediately changing directions (as I would) to be a rogue breast cancer center builder.
On the Metro platform last night, I asked Jeremy if it was worth still working on all this with Vince. Because it’s always a tradeoff, there is me pushing and him resisting. There is tension where I want only good will. There is elevated stress in both of us which bothers me. I’m a big fan of de-escalation, of diffusing the stress. I’m conflicted and it’s a shit-ton of patient, close work. Jeremy counters my ask by pointing out that while I have more conflict with Vince than he does, I’m rewarded with more closeness with him as well. I do get the funny teenage stories of sneaking out at 2 am, of various mild adventures and lots of snuggles still (though not for very much longer I suspect) all of which I lovelovelovelove.
Last night we went to Jeremy’s work party. The mood was festive despite the recent turn of world events.
As the tension in the world escalates, I find that it is spilling over into the household. We are more on edge with each other – a little more wounded in our daily lives. I’ve had to stop looking at Facebook, Instagram – so much shrillness from all sides. I hesitate to read the news because it makes me anxious. Jeremy and I are bickering a little more than usual – with the universal marriage refrains of (from both of us and not so clearly worded at times) – “I’m doing so much for the family and feel taken advantage of” and “You are not listening to me, not hearing what I want/need”. When we start talking about what’s bothering us, the same sentences could come from either/both of our mouths. Our marriage, one of the most even-steven even among the general cohort of marriages which strive for even-steven-ness, has always been low on bickering and still remains very low, but even a slight uptick, can be send the world slightly askew.
So in this season, I’m trying to be more generous and kind even though the world does seem to be going the other direction. To turn towards each other rather than away. Towards love, kindness and generosity!