Haaaaaaaaappy Valentine’s Day! I hope that today brings you whatever form of either commercially-sanctioned or rail-against-the-MAN celebration you desire. I know that some women tell their significant others, “No, really, I don’t need to celebrate, we don’t need to do anything, honey,” and then they would go sulk when their words were heeded and the day was, indeed, nothing special.
Me, we’re closing in on four years of marriage, and it is still 100% true that I am grateful for Otto every single day. I mean, sure, I guess I could demand/expect flowers or chocolate on this particular day, but it would pale in comparison to, say, how he has never once strangled either of my children, despite what I’m sure has been the overwhelming and natural urge to do so at approximately five hundred different times since we wed. THAT is love, people.
Also, he spent most of Saturday tromping around our local outlet mall with me, which is way better than chocolate. And once you figure that we spent most of that time holding hands, well, that’s kind of the Mir version of a super-romantic day right there.
Things got bad with Monkey last week. Try as I might not to pin all of my hopes and fears on Okay Kid, You Had Surgery And Now You Are Better And Now YOU WILL BEHAVE for his first full week back to school, I was still worried and frustrated and, okay, a little bit crushed when he had a rough few days in there. He had his last follow-up with the doctor who did his surgery, and he proclaimed him “Nearly healed” and definitely on the right track, but cautioned that he may still be having some headaches and not feeling 100%. Well, okay. That’s fine, I guess, but in the meantime, we have to live with him. And school has to deal with him. And hell hath no fury like an enraged Monkey-child.
So I sent emails. I made phone calls. I begged for help to anyone and everyone who I thought might have some ideas. And I increased one of those hippie-dippie nutritional supplements I give him, not because I think vitamins can “cure” him, but because I figured it couldn’t hurt and it might help.
On Friday a couple of my favorite people at Monkey’s school sat down with us and him and put a new behavioral contract in place with him, one which completely spells out expectations for everyone involved. We talked about consequences when responsibilities aren’t met. It was stressed that the entire system is to help him feel happier and more in control. And Monkey nodded and agreed and said that he is really going to try his hardest. I thought it was a good meeting, but I confess to being secretly skeptical.
On Saturday, Monkey was in a math competition at the university. It had both individual and team components, and Otto and I nudged each other and made meaningful eyebrows during the team portion, every time Monkey backed down to a team member or allowed someone else to hand in their answer instead of him doing it.
Their team didn’t win.
Four individual recognition awards were given, and they all went to kids from his school, but Monkey didn’t win one.
Monkey cheered for his friends and applauded for the winning team and when we asked him, after, if he had fun, he said, “It was great! I’m so happy for my friends who won!”
And that was huge.
The kids went off with their dad for the weekend, and Otto and I did the things we do when they’re gone (not that) (okay, maybe a little of that), and when yesterday dawned sunny and warm, we decided to talk the dog for a long walk. So we drove to the park and walked along some trails and looped around the baseball fields and then, as we were headed back to the car, we walked past the dog park and Licorice seemed interested in what was happening in there.
Otto and I looked at each other. “Do you think we should try it?” (Refresher: our first trip to the dog park didn’t go so well.) We decided to take her into the small dog area.
And she did… okay. She didn’t freak out. She ran around a little. An adorable puppy in there DESPERATELY wanted to play with her, and Licorice kept turning and sniffing him, but seemed mostly confused about why he kept pouncing on her. We didn’t stay long, but she didn’t seem traumatized.
So that was progress, too.
The kids came home and I had a stack of new pants for Chickadee, because DESPITE MY WARNINGS that she needs to stop growing so fast, the child continues to sprout like a dandelion. Her current wardrobe is in the style of Emo Flood, if there is such a thing. She tried everything on, modeled for me and twirled in front of the mirror. Then she thanked me repeatedly and took her new clothes upstairs and actually put them away.
If you have a nearly-13-year-old you understand why that felt like a little miracle.
We had a bit of a last-minute scramble to get valentines ready for Monkey’s class for today, and somehow we didn’t have a class list, so I was dreading this process. As recently as November, Monkey could only name about five kids in his class, so we’ve actually made it a bullet point in his IEP for him to build familiarity with his classmates and learn their names. I wasn’t sure if it was working, though.
Last night I asked him to sit down and make a list of everyone in his class—25 other kids—and a few minutes later he brought me a list of 20. I was astonished. With a bit of discussion we came up with four more names. By the time he finished writing out his cards, he thought he’d remembered the last kid’s name, but wanted to check with the teacher to be sure. Still; he knows 24 of his classmates by name. And he painstakingly picked out different color valentines based upon what colors they like, too.
Last night Otto woke me up to announce that he’d figured it out! And he knew how to fix it! And they’d just put a green fabric hanging down at the corner over one of the letters but he could make it work!
He was halfway out of bed as I realized it had been quite a while since he last treated me to one of his sleepwalking episodes, and I did manage to stop him by suggesting that he wait just a second and tell me more about it. I patted his arm as he sputtered about how he just needed to go and adjust this one thing and maybe if he… just… oh, was he asleep? Once he realized it, he apologized, and I tried not to laugh too hard as he sheepishly insisted it had all seemed VERY IMPORTANT even though he now wasn’t sure what he was talking about.
I patted him again and we fell back asleep, and this morning as I poured my coffee he asked me how I’d slept. I made a big show of being annoyed about being woken up by his foolishness, but the truth is that I think it’s kind of cute.
This morning I left each child a movie-theater-sized box of candy at their spots at the kitchen table. For Chickadee, it was a box of Nerds, and a note letting her know that she is my very favorite nerd. For Monkey, a box of Gobstoppers, letting him know that he leaves me gobsmacked in the best possible way.
They were both delighted, both by the candy and my terrible jokes. Mostly by the candy, I’m sure. (Still, hearing, “YAY NERDS! YAY ME, FOR I AM A NERD!” while in my office this morning gave me a giggle.)
I may resent society dictating to me which day I’m supposed to display my affection, but it’s hard to get too upset about a perfect excuse to do a little something unexpected for the people I love most in the world.
We may have turned a corner, here, or this may just be one of those infamous “two steps forward” that gets followed by one or two or even three steps back. There’s no way to know. Still, I have a germ of a feeling going on right now that feels suspiciously like hope.
No chocolate or flowers required, even.