This kid. Like most people, I post about the good stuff that happens with my kids. Like when he went to the county for the spelling bee. (That’s him with his certificate in the photo.) Or the funny stuff, like when out of nowhere, he asked me about very explicit sex stuff in front of the waiter at a restaurant a couple months ago. Stuff like that. The stuff that entertains and brings joy and laughter and that, for some kids, comes easy. Spelling comes pretty easy to my kid. So does his unabashed open and honest curiosity, and a willingness to talk about stuff people like to pretend don’t exist or at least those subjects that people are uncomfortable talking about. And I want him to be able to talk to me about stuff.
But this year is a little different. This year wasn’t all good. This year, he took on a pretty hard math class, and he struggled a little bit for the first time. He said things like, “I’m not good at math.” He also struggled with disorganization. He struggled with motivation. He didn’t turn all his homework in. He didn’t like ELA (that’s English to us old folks) any more. He still read constantly for pleasure, but he wasn’t enjoying school. At one point during progress reports, he had a failing grade in more than one class. (He may have gotten that from his mother, too, admittedly. Genetics are a bitch.) He had been scared to tell us he was struggling and things spiraled and we had no idea.
So, we told him he could always tell us anything. And then we buckled down. He lost some privileges and we set guidelines for what we expected out of him. We also, concerned about his motivation about school, suggested to him that he might want to consider applying to a theme school for the arts. We took him to the school to learn more about it. He learned about the academic requirements for getting in and staying in the school.
We saw a change in him. He was inspired by the students who talked about school and how much they liked it. He decided to apply. He worked on the application himself. He prepared for the music audition and put together writing samples, and sought out recommendations from teachers and counselors. He auditioned and got a spot, knowing that he could not go to the school if he didn’t get his grades back up.
And he did. He got his grades back up. Not all the way to all As and Bs all year, as he’s gotten in the past, but enough to keep him eligible. He worked hard at it.
So, it was odd to see him walk across the honors stage and just get the one award for the spelling bee. The one he didn’t have to work that hard to get, because it comes naturally to him. (Not that we weren’t immensely happy with that award too – we were.) But just the one – No Principal’s award, or Cougar of the Year (no laughing), or Scholar’s awards. And it was actually the proudest I’ve ever been of him, knowing how much he worked this year, knowing that he finally struggled and faced some adversity and he rose to the occasion, even if they don’t give awards for that. Knowing that he wanted something and he worked for it.* (Side note: How many other kids faced adversity and came out the better for it and never got a certificate or accolades for it? Guess that’s a post for another time.)
I was proud of me, too. It’s been a rough year for me. The roughest one I have had yet in my life, by a mile. I suspect that I will have harder ones. I’m proud of the fact that even when preoccupied with all of the other work/life/health issues my family dealt with, that we as parents didn’t drop the ball on supporting the kids.
I’m proud of what I’ve learned about life and about myself. I’m learning to be okay with getting by, with being thankful for my two healthy children. They don’t need to be child prodigies, Einsteins, stars, best in class, fastest, brightest, anythingest. They just need to know that I will love and support them, no matter what. Heck. I’m an adult and I needed to hear that lately from people I love.
Difficulty can make one stronger, but I was already pretty strong. Difficulty actually brought me to my knees and humbled me and taught me about getting to the other side, and about acceptance. I’ve learned to be more open-minded, less judgmental, to see more than one side of things, to not make assumptions. I’ve learned that even really good, smart, decent, loving, respectful people make mistakes or become bogged down in things they cannot for the life of them figure out how they got into in the first place, and that they are often right there in the muck of it all with other good people, all of them and everyone around them unable to face, much less say, their truth. Instead they can’t figure out how to communicate, so they shut down and numb themselves with the thought that what they’re feeling is normal. I know now that you can bury a feeling with all you’ve got, but it will find a course out into the light.
I’ve realized that the most I can do is try to rectify wrongs and the things I’ve left unsaid, and if I can’t fix them, at least I can acknowledge them. I realize that some things just happen and there isn’t a discernible reason. That coincidence or fate or happenstance are all just words for change and change is inevitable. That some things cannot be prevented; That some things cannot be fixed. That sometimes all you can do is be honest with yourself and those around you, and then hope for the best. That sometimes what you get is not what you might have wanted, but that you might be amazed at and admire how people handle things and what they give back to you. That you end up respecting them more for hearing your truth, and telling you theirs.
I’ve learned that being honest is more valuable than acting out of fear. I’ve learned that fear is often just being scared of hurting those we love, or of losing their love or admiration. That sometimes you find yourself in a mess because you were trying not to hurt or lose others. But when you put honesty out, you will likely get it back tenfold, even if it is painful and scary to hear. And you will know how to proceed. You find a place where you realize that everything will be okay, except when it’s not, and you’ll get through that too, hopefully with some semblance of grace and peace. (And hopefully with more yoga and less wine.)
I’ve learned that all the facades and paths and channels and expectations we are given are just guidelines and that I have to make my own way, because there is no one right way to live, and that my way is truth. When I follow the truth in my head, heart, and gut, the gnawing, sick, churning and burning in my very bones will go quiet and I will know which direction to take.
Truth is, deep down I knew it all along: I just never had it tested in such a complete and totally tectonic plate-shifting way until now.
And so I sat in that gym today, watching my boy walk across the stage and afterwards, I hugged him and told him I loved him, and took his photo out in a sunny courtyard, and I felt a peace and gratitude that I have not felt in a long while. Sure, he’s the best speller. But more importantly, he’s good enough at all the other stuff. And I’m good enough too, even if I am not the most perfect daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, employee. I’m good enough if I actively seek my truth, and support those who seek their own truths, even if they are different than mine.
If you are reading this, and you need to hear it, know this: You are good enough, too. Just follow your truth.
*Bold, because if he reads this, I want him to see that I was immensely proud of him today, and that he inspired this post, and that I want him to always follow his truth.