I know I keep saying it, but I really cannot fully express how much I’ve loved this summer. This is our fourth summer in Georgia and the first one that’s felt like everyone is okay and life is good. The stress level has been relatively low and the kids are happy and mostly healthy. Basically I never want this summer to end, ever.
But it’s going to end in a couple of weeks, and we’re starting to brace for impact.
It’s funny; I had a post planned, yesterday morning. It wasn’t anything earth-shattering, but it was going to be about how good summer has been for everyone, but most especially for the kids. Just the day before, I’d taken Monkey to meet up with a new friend for ice cream, and we’d ended up waiting for them for over half an hour (unavoidable problem, and they didn’t have my cell number to let me know) and I had finally, gently, told him maybe they weren’t coming, and let’s get some ice cream anyway, and then they showed up and everything was okay, and he didn’t bellow “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?” or anything awful, and I thought to myself: Man, this summer has been great for him. He’s really growing. He’s getting there.
But I was wrong.
I sat down to write that post, yesterday, and was interrupted by the unexpected and early return of Monkey and Otto from Monkey’s summer social skills program. Monkey had been asked to leave.
Take a moment with that, if you will. My son is attending a social skills program run by his therapist, because he experiences significant deficits in this area, and he was kicked out.
I sat with the shock of it as Otto filled me in, and I said something on Twitter and my wonderful, beautiful pals who have my back were all outraged on my behalf. Because isn’t that why he’s THERE, to learn this stuff? How can they kick him out? I love it when the Internet gets all indignant for me. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy.
But the truth is that I take no issue with the doctor’s decision. With basically no warning, Monkey attacked another kid. And just as we experienced last year in school, he had to be restrained, he fought like a feral animal, and in the immediate aftermath was completely unrepentant. By the time they got him out of there, the entire group was in tears. Because of my child.
Later, at home, he was my Monkey again—deeply ashamed and sorry. Self-loathing and frustrated and asking me, “Why do I always do this? Why do I ruin everything?” And we cried together and I had no answers.
School starts in two weeks. My careful optimism about sending him to the middle school took a giant hit, yesterday. None of us are sure, now. I worry for his safety—always—but I also worry how much erosion his self-esteem can take. Each incident like this steals a piece of him. I can’t take another year of watching him disappear.
As Otto and I lay awake last night having our eighty billionth “What does Monkey need and how do we get it for him” conversation, Monkey was off with his dad. Yesterday Chickadee came back and Monkey left, and now we have one Monkey-free week to try to convince ourselves that he’s okay.
What a contrast: yesterday morning’s meltdown vs. the return of the teen. Chickadee is taller and lovelier and more grown-up every time I haven’t seen her for even a few days. Last night was a flurry of preparation for this morning, and we got up early today and I french braided her hair for her (I keep promising to teach her how, but the truth is that I rather like that she lets me do it) and she headed off to her first day of band camp.
Only a handful of eighth graders are joining the high school marching band this year, and just as I felt on her first day of middle school, I had an oh-my-God-they’re-so-tiny-next-to-these-giants moment when I dropped her off this morning.
The truth is that Chickadee decided to try marching band even as her best buddies scoffed and derided the notion, and I stand in awe of her resolve. Once again, she’s breaking off from the pack. This may be a one-year thing, or this may be the start of something that stays important to her for a long time. We don’t know. She doesn’t know. But she decided to do it, and off she went. This year she’ll do marching band along with a couple of high school courses, all in preparation for hitting the high school for real, next year, where the countdown to launch really begins.
Sometimes it feels like she’s flying away just as Monkey falls down with a resounding *SPLAT* one more time.
The advantage of that, I guess, is that it’s easier to let her go. Even though part of me misses her and wants to keep her little forever, I’m all too aware of the alternative. So I cheer for her a little louder, feel a little prouder.
I know Monkey will fly, too, just in his own time. I know we have to be patient.
I just never knew it was possible to feel this proud and this sad, all at the same time.