|Dear Oscar, Edgar, and August,
As the mother of future men in this world, I can’t be certain as to what your take on crying in public may or may not be; however, I suspect that despite our different genders, our philosophies may be more similar than different. I don’t make a habit of crying in public and certainly don’t subscribe to the stereotype that women use tears to get their way. There may be some people who do manipulate with tears–men and women–but that has never been my philosophy in any discernible way. I cry when I need to, when I have to, when there is no other choice. Right now you’re young, and you cry for reasons that vary from scraping your knee to not getting your way. But I haven’t yet noticed your using tears to change our minds or to try to influence our thinking. Your tears are a reaction to circumstances. And that is what happened to me today.
I was at a local business this morning when a series of events transpired that prompted me to question the honesty and forthrightness of said business. Without naming the company or revealing any identifying details, my careful inspection of the bill led me to believe that I was being charged twice for the same services–among other transgressions. I questioned the charges, their method of communication, and called into question their integrity. I was then invited to speak with the owner. And while this letter to you might have been an admonition to be vigilant in all your business dealings–and to do so without becoming overly cynical, there is more to this story and a perhaps more important moral.
In my communication with the owner, who listened and was as accommodating as she could have been under the circumstances, tears of frustration welled up, and I cried–a lot. Though there have been stressors a-plenty that could certainly explain this event, it became apparent to me after reflection that though these may have been contributing factors, these particular tears were not due to grief or sadness or worry or stress. They were due to anger pure and simple–anger at the belief I was being lied to, taken advantage of, and the disillusionment that came along as a result. This was a business I admired, one I had returned to, one that I had recommended to others, one that I had trusted.
Am I proud that I cried? Initially I think I was actually embarrassed; but then I thought about it and realized that my tears were an articulate expression of a significant emotion. When you trust someone or something and that trust is broken, it is a loss–whether literal or figurative or something else. And a loss often deserves your tears. The world may tell you–whether you’re male or female–that you need to suppress your tears (or at least save them for the privacy of your own home). But please remember that there are many societal dictates that simply don’t work in real life. Washington Irving said, “”There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues.” There are many things in life some people see as “marks of weakness”–asking for help, stepping aside, allowing someone else to have the spotlight, saying you’re sorry, tears.
I invite you, as my sons, to see all of the above as marks of your strength–and to forgive yourself when you temporarily give in to society’s unfortunate dictates and believe that they are anything but. Your humanity is a gift, and your willingness and ability to express it even moreso.
When Oscar was too young for me to really comfortably admit, he discovered the battery compartments in many of his toys–and thus the batteries themselves. He was fascinated by them–so much so that he wanted to take them to bed with him at night. Today, at six, he, of course, finds this hilarious–especially since it was his desire to snuggle a handful of AA batteries at night that led to the “no hard toys in the bed” rule. Edgar never really balked at this rule since his life seems to revolve around ensconcing himself in all things soft.
We have also never been fans of “toys at the table,” reasoning that when you’re eating you’re eating–not playing. Oscar and Edgar never seemed to question this–they eat, ask to be excused (usually), then play.
But recently with August we have had to revisit both of these rules since he insists on going to sleep with at least three books every night and demands books throughout the day, including at meals. Could we say “no” to these “demands”? Of course, we could–and some might argue even should. But, as a teacher, I learned a long time ago that fair is not everyone getting the same treatment but everyone getting what they need.
Oscar, starting at age five, needed to watch the Star Wars movies. Edgar needs to touch his food. And August needs to be surrounded by books. And though some may think five is a little young for Star Wars, that touching your food is unhygienic, unsightly, and impolite, and that books in the bed or at the table is inappropriate, I remind myself that for whatever reason, these are the things that are important to them, and that I may in fact be in the company of a future Oscar-winning director, Edgar Degas, or August Strindberg.
I am married to someone who needs to eat his dinner at midnight and who needs to pick up his guitar daily and when you least expect it. And he is married to someone who needs to be alone in the yard for hours at a clip every spring and needs to write when she needs to write. As a couple, we have always tried to recognize and respect each other’s needs and not impose our so-called rules when they interfere with the other’s need.
Oscar needs to disappear into a story he has created, Edgar needs to create sculptures out of masking tape that render our kitchen uninhabitable, and August needs to remove and look at all the books in the bookshelf–and we let them–because it is obvious that they have to. And as the boys grow and learn and are given the freedom to express who they are, I hope they’ll also learn to give others the same freedoms that allowed them to become the fullest expression of themselves.
When Oscar came home from preschool at age four and said to me, “Mom, you know, ‘Positive gets positive’ and ‘negative gets negative,'” I had a feeling his incredibly wise teachers had been imparting to their young charges the important lessons regarding the power of attraction: Be the positive change you wish to see, and surround yourself with positive people who wish only the best for you, and that is precisely what you will attract.
There is nothing good that has happened in my life that cannot be traced directly to the supportive, positive, and caring network of friends and family I am lucky enough to have.
So, when Adoptive Families named this blog one of the best, I turned immediately to the three young men without whom these stories would not even exist, the husband who supports everything I do at every turn, and the friends and family who have stood by, listened to me, and have been positive forces in our lives.
Thank you for inspiring me to write these stories, and thank you so much for reading. I do what I do for you, and I can do what I do only because of you.
On Saturday the two cutest dates under four feet accompanied me to Providence to see “The Lion King.” It was a blissful afternoon–short on the bad weather I had feared and long on excitement. When we took our seats, Oscar and Edgar asked about souvenirs. I told them that at intermission we would walk over to the souvenir stand, see what they had, make some decisions, and maybe pick up something on the way out. Simple enough. Time for the show.
At intermission we made our way to the lobby to investigate the souvenir inventory; and of course every other patron in the theater had the same inspired idea. As we waited in the amorphous conglomeration of people that loosely passed for a line, the boys craned their necks as best they could to see what was in the case. When it was our turn, Oscar asked the efficient gentleman behind the counter, “Excuse me. Excuse me. Do you have a stuffed toy of Scar?”
In case you do not know the story of “The Lion King” or the names escape you, Scar is the villain.
The young man, who was clearly on autopilot, stopped in his tracks, looked at Oscar and said, “No. Not Scar.” Then he listed the 85 other plush toys they DID have. Then he asked Oscar, “Why Scar?” to which Oscar replied, “Because he’s the most intriguing character in the play.”
And that was that.
Oscar might have been disappointed by the fact that they didn’t have his choice, but what came next was better than any souvenir–a discussion about conflict, plot development, and motivation that this English teacher could never have imagined having with her six-year-old child. He even wound up making the final point over sandwiches at Subway: “Mom, no story could exist without a ‘bad guy.’ In ‘The Lion King,’ without Scar, everything would just be peaceful. And that would be nice, but there would be no story.”
Oscar, though there is not a villainous bone in your body, as intriguing goes, you, my friend, have Scar beat, and I look forward to (and hope I can keep up with) your future analyses!
When your child has a referral to and appointment at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, a number of conflicting and unrelenting feelings move through and wash over you: worry and apprehension to be sure but also relief at perhaps finally knowing, finally having an explanation for what has been plaguing your child–and of course hope at the potential for a solution.
This week we will begin our journey at Hasbro as we endeavor to understand what may (and may not) be the cause of a battery of symptoms that have us and Edgar’s pediatrician concerned. Preliminary paperwork has been filled out, and from that alone we are getting the sense that Hasbro’s reputation for being thorough is well-earned.
The opening page on their website reads, “On behalf of the entire pediatric gastroenterology, nutrition and liver department, we feel privileged to care for your child.” To know that in this professional setting Edgar will be treated with the care and respect he so justly deserves gives me comfort–because if you think it’s a privilege, as a physician, to care for Edgar, imagine the privilege I feel being his mother.
It’s so hard to be “cool” when your child receives an award–when someone outside your circle of family and friends notices how hard he’s working and how well he’s doing. And it’s even harder to maintain your composure when your six-year-old child tells you why he thinks he won it.
On Wednesday, Oscar received the “Good Citizenship” award at school. It is given out on Wednesdays to a student in the Lower School, which encompasses Grades 1-5. According to Oscar, his teacher said he was selected for getting good grades and being a very hard worker. Though Don and I were not there to see him receive it (because the recipient is “top secret”), we heard that when he was called up, there was a round of applause and accompanying “woot-woot’s” from his classmates. And if that weren’t worthy of parental pride itself, what came next was a moment I’ll never forget.
When we got home, Oscar and I looked at his award. I told him I wanted to get a frame for it, and we talked about how proud everyone was of him and his accomplishments. Unprompted, he looked at me and asked, “Do you know how I learned to be a hard worker and to try for good grades?” I said, as I could feel a moment about to unfold, “Tell me.” And he said, eyes locked with mine, “From you and Dad. You show me what it means to work hard and to do your best.”
Show him . . . That’s it. You can tell children to work hard and get good grades, but the biggest lessons they learn are from what they observe their parents doing. Every time Don or I got up–exhausted or sick, and got dressed and went to work, Oscar was watching. Every time we worked at something until it was right or the best it could be, Oscar was taking notes. Every time we put our own pain aside (whether it’s from major shoulder surgery or a run-of-the-mill headache) and tended to our family, Oscar paid attention.
As a parent, if there is anything that inspires you to be the best you can be, it’s that . . . knowing your child is watching. I have come to believe that my children have made me better–and now I think, thanks to Oscar, I’m beginning to understand why.
When we learned this weekend that Blue Man Group was scheduled to come to the Providence Performing Arts Center in March, it took Don all of two seconds to hop on his computer and order up two fabulous seats–one for him and one for Edgar. We knew it would be precisely up Edgar’s alley, and our instincts were spot-on. One poorly streamed YouTube video was all Edgar needed to see to decree that he intended not only to see Blue Man Group but to become one of them.
As we watched the video, I uttered, “They’re really unbelievable.”
He asked, “What is ‘unbelievable’?”
I responded, “Amazing!”
And he remarked, his voice soft and full of wonder, “I want to be ‘unbelievable,’ too!”
After a trip to two stores, at your request, to get blue face paint and a Blue Man Group DVD, a hunt through the house for the perfect black turtleneck, and your ability to fashion two red “drumsticks” out of materials already available to you, I would argue, Edgar, that you already are!