September 15

Another One Rides The Bus


Sorry, couldn’t help but reference Weird Al’s homage to Queen’s Another One Bites The Dust.  It’s what I think of every time I consider my kids riding a bus. 

Jake has struggled with bus riding this year, but I’m happy to say we’re finally on to something. 

Initially, he rode the bus with his Special Ed teacher, Mrs. Ford.  She was going to ride along for a couple of days to keep the responsibilty from resting solely on Olivia’s shoulders.  It went really well the first two days.  In fact, we were even considering getting Mrs. Ford out of the picture before he came to depend on her too much. 

Then, he began bolting onto and off of the bus, regardless of adult supervision/attempts to keep him under control.  On the third day, he bolted from the bus, running between it and another bus, before darting into the school where he is to meet his brother.  This ends in him crying in a corner, already apologetic for his behavior, and bracing for the punishment he knows is coming. 

We next toy with the idea of having an authority figure standing immediately off-bus, which should deter things.  The thing is, the Dean of Students is already at the top of the ramp, directing other kids safely from school to their bus.  He couldn’t get much closer. 

Olivia suggests that since all he really seems to be doing is racing the other kids into the school, maybe we should let him race someone “just to get it out of his system.”  God, I love that little girl.  However, what if he loses?

In the end, Mrs. Ford takes Liv’s idea and goes one better:  he will receive a check mark on his reward card every time he loads and unloads a bus properly.  Once he’s filled the card, he will have earned a race with another kid.  At least I think this is how it works.  So far, we’re a couple of days into the new regimen, and it’s working.  For now. 

Whoever said 7th Grade was going to be a breeze was full of it.  Day 7 and we’re still trying to smooth out “getting off the bus.”  Yee-haw!


Category: Autism | 1 Comment
September 14

Hopelessly Unfashionable

Hopelessly Unfashionable

I guess that’s what you’d call me.

I never have been one to really care about my clothing choices – if it’s comfortable, I wear it.

I’ve always had a bit of the old Sensory Processing Disorder.  I don’t like the feel of seams on my body, so the striped rugby shirts my mother used to make me wear were endlessly uncomfortable.  I can’t handle excess lotions or cream between my fingers, and scratchy wool isn’t my thing.

Oddly, I hate being without a belt.  I like the snugness that the accessory provides.  I always feel unfinished in track pants or mesh shorts.  I like cargo shorts with belt loops.  Go figure.

A long time ago, I fell in love with Hawaiian shirts.  I had a closet full of them.  I even carried the monniker “Hawaiian Ryan” for a while.  I decided to embrace it – my email was  You can’t make that up.

Anyway, flash forward to today.  I donned my silky soft, dark blue with pale blue shirt that I picked up in a touritst trap in Florida this summer.  It’s longer than it needs to be, so I tuck it in.  And use a belt.  Duh.

h shirt

I meandered into the kitchen to find Olivia glaring back at me with a look of disgust.  “What?” I asked.  “I don’t like that shirt,” she replied.  “It’s OK, it just needs to be tucked in,” was my argument.  “I don’t think that will help,” she countered. She followed up with,”When you get home from work tonight, I’ll help you pack your bag for Portland this weekend.  I’ll take care of you.”

When did my Pippi Longstocking/Punky Brewster daughter become sufficiently well-versed in fashion rules that she would take to dressing her own father?  Was it her tenth birthday?  Her new admission into middle school?  Who knows?  I do know that Olivia has never donned two articles of clothing that, to my eye, have had anything to do with one another.  But, apparently, I’m hopelessly unfashionable.

I’ll let you know how packing for my trip goes later.

Category: Musings | 3 Comments
September 13

Je M’Appelle Virginie?

Don’t tell Liv, because she’ll kill me if she finds out I shared this, but her French name is Virginie.

When I took Spanish with Harry Rush back in the early 90’s, you were referred to in your Spanish name only if your name translated well into Spanish.  William was Guillermo, Mike was Miguel, etc.  Ryan doesn’t work, but I did get called Senior Casablanca.  It worked.

Today, Olivia is taking French 1 in Middle School.  The new rule is thus: if your name isn’t French, you pick one from the list.  She chose Oliver, because hey – it looks like Olivia.  She was dismayed to discover that it’s a boy’s name.  Now, with her first choice denied, and standing before the class, she hastily picked Virginie (French for Virginia).  She hates it.  She was super bummed to learn it’s pronunciation.  I like it – she thinks it’s Vir-geenie.  With a “guh.”

That night, the night of the choosing, Gabe was telling me that Gabriel means “strong man of God.”  I told him Ryan was Gaelic for “little king.”  Olivia couldn’t help it.  She chimed in with: “Vir-geenie is French for ‘too stupid to pick out the right name.'”

She said she was going to go back and ask if she could change to something like Ann (her middle name), but since her flip-flop also broke in the first French class, and needed to be repaired – to her maximum embarrassment – that she’s done enough to make a first impression, and will suck it up.


I wrote this post today, unbeknownst to Liv (obviously).  Imagine my surprise when she ran up to me and said, “Guess what? Guess what?  I asked my teacher if I could change my name and she said YES!!  I’m Ann.  It was totally embarrassing, and I think I was sweating, but I did it!” 

Will wonders never cease?

Category: Kids | 1 Comment
September 12

Applachian Trail: A Dream

As a native New Englander (I’d say Mainer, but I was born in New Hampster and didn’t move up here until I was a few months old), I have always had a special place in my heart for the Appalachian Trail. 

gulf hagas, maine, hiking, autumn, foliage

Fortunately, the water wasn’t even knee deep. It was about 33 degrees, however. Everyone did great!

I think that comes from being at the very end of the darn thing. 

As an autism parent, it’s always been Beth’s and my Plan B.  Plan A of course is for Jacob to venture forth unto the world and take his place amongst all the other kids who leave their parents home with their empty nest.  Just in case that doesn’t work, and Jake becomes our long-term roommate, we figured what better way to usher in this new chapter of our lives than to fly to Georgia and walk home?  Gabe and Liv will likely seek secondary education, and we’ll be left with Jake.  We’ll be in our mid-40s, not too old to attempt a 2,100+ mile hike.  At least I hope not.

I love the thought of taking 5-6 months off from the real world and really putting myself (and probably my marriage) to the test. 

A dear friend of mine, Nancy A. Moscone, recommended that I read A Walk In The Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, by Bill Bryson. 

I was looking forward to a blow-by-blow account of Bill’s adventures.  I was disappointed.  I got some of that, but it was mingled with quite a bit of science/American history, which I didn’t mind, but also a growing sense of disdain for the authorities who have, in Bill’s opinion, mismanaged the AT and the flora and fauna along it’s meandering self.  I was a bit disheartened when Bill and his sidekick Katz (SPOILER ALERT!!) quit just north of Monson, in the 100 Mile Wilderness.  I was really (with narcissistic anticipation) excited to hear about how Maine’s terrain compared to that of the lower 12 states along the AT.  I figure, after a lifetime of hiking Baxter, that a walk through Virginia must be child’s play.  

If you’re looking for an interesting read, this book will offer you a little bit of everything.  I’m glad to have read it.  Now on to All The Blue Eyed Angels, by Jen Blood.

There were some great quotes in the book.  A few of my favorites:

  • “Hunters will tell you that a moose is a wily and ferocious forest creature. Nonsense. A moose is a cow drawn by a three-year-old.”
  • “What on earth would I do if four bears came into my camp? Why, I would die of course. Literally s**t myself lifeless.”
  • “Distance changes utterly when you take the world on foot. A mile becomes a long way, two miles literally considerable, ten miles whopping, fifty miles at the very limits of conception. The world, you realize, is enormous in a way that only you and a small community of fellow hikers know. Planetary scale is your little secret.”
  • “I wanted to quit and to do this forever, sleep in a bed and in a tent, see what was over the next hill and never see a hill again. All of this all at once, every moment, on the trail or off.”
  • “I hung up again and looked at Katz. “What is it with this town? I’ve blown more intelligent life into a handkerchief.”
  • “Jesus, I smell like Jeffrey Dahmer’s refrigerator.”

Oh, and if you’re looking for something fun to do this weekend in the Millinocket area, check out the Trail’s End Festival, Sept 12-14.

The cutoff from the Appalachian trail.

The cutoff from the Appalachian trail.

owl 2

Pre-hike selfie.  Notice how happy everyone seems.



September 12

And I Shall Name Him George

Do you remember that old Loony Tunes (I know, I thought it was Toons, too.) episode where the big dumb abominable snow-man gets a hold of Daffy and loves him so much that he ends up mauling him half to death?

I feel that way about my blog sometimes.  It’s a funny thing.  I want it to succeed so much, but I don’t really know how.  I want to say all the right things, but my reluctance to post anything I’m not 100% thrilled with usually keeps me from posting anything, in the fear that it isn’t good enough.  A bunch of lousy posts will drive away an audience, but a lack of content will, too.  Catch-22, anyone?

First off, I have define “succeed.”  It’s therapeutic and all to have an outlet for your feelings, and to share tips/tricks that you’ve learned with others, but in the end, it needs to be sustainable.  In a perfect world, I will find out how to get my site to generate enough cash to allow me to quit my weekend job.  This would allow me the free time (what’s that?) to get to be the Dad I want to be.  Another catch-22.  I work two jobs and try to write a daddy-blog, which takes time away from my family, in the hopes that I can use one to eliminate the other, so that I can be the Dad my kids need.  Does that make any sense to anyone?

“Quit writing the blog and spend that time with the kids” is the first rational thought that comes to mind.  It’s a good thought, but it reminds me of the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again, hoping to get different results.  I’ve been working two jobs, nearly 7 days/week, for a long time now, and I’m no better off than where I started.  True, my bills are paid, and I can afford a few creature comforts, but we’re not sitting back, letting the good times roll.

I should say that I have no intention of getting rich online.  I’d just like to get my bills paid, have a few creature comforts, and get a couple of days off/week, instead of a couple of days off/month.  Too much to ask?

So, I find that I’ve been writing less in part because my current theme lends itself to big, formal posts with featured images and titles, and stuff like that.  I don’t really want this to be like that anymore.  I want something more “diary-ish,” but still with room for big fancy posts.  So, I’ve switched to a notebook theme.  We’ll try it for a while, and go from there.  I know – crisis of identity.  Probably.  Don’t judge.

Let me know what you think of the new look in the comments below.


Category: Musings | 1 Comment
September 10

Are My Hee-Haw Roots Showing?

honky tonk

The only thing I hate worse than country music is old-time country music. 

Or so I thought.

Beth and I got season tickets to the Penobscot Theatre Company in Bangor.  We usually go to the theater a couple of times per year with our theater buddies, Nancy and Stew.  Our lives get so busy, it’s hard to agree on a date that works for everyone, and more often than not, things don’t work out.  To remedy this, we randomly chose a performance night (Friday of opening week), and bought season tickets. 

As the director of the drama department at church, Beth has intimate knowledge of what goes into putting on a dramatic production.  As husband-to-the-director, I do, too.  So it’s that much more fun to watch professionals do their thing. 

The only problem with season tickets is you are financially obligated to go to all of the productions.  Including the first one of the season, called The Honky Tonk Angels.  The show, created by Ted Swindley, is about three women who all leave their homes and their problems in order to follow their dream of becoming Nashville country music stars!  It was an absolute scream! 

The show featured 31 songs, and a loose plot based even more loosely on those songs.  For instance, Angela, queen of her double wide trailer, reminds us to “Stand By Your Man.”  Darlene is actually a Coal Miner’s Daughter who was dating the very same Billie Joe McAllister who threw something off the Tallahatchie Bridge.  And Sue Ellen is so fed up working her “9 to 5″  that her and her boots, which were – you guessed it – made for walking, quits on the spot and hops a Greyhound for Nashville. 

Now this isn’t some sort of paid endorsement, but I would highly recommend getting your butt to Bangor and supporting your very own, professional, local theater.  Ticket prices are pretty reasonable ($15-20), and it’ll be well worth your time.  Blane and Suzy, I’m talking to you!

honky tonk




September 5

The Routine – Adventures in Autism

Here's the routine, as seen on the kitchen table, on top of an assortment of backpacks and lunch boxes.

I had the unenviable, though highly enjoyable, task of getting the kids off to school all by myself this week.  Beth’s starting a new job, and needed to be out of town for training. 

She had to leave by 6 every morning, so the house was up and moving a little earlier than usual anyway.

I’ve discovered that the best way to get a family of kids off to two different schools in two different towns is excessive use of forethought and some pre-planning.  For instance, the next day’s hot lunch menu is consulted and preparations are made ahead of time for the picky kids.  Assorted books and papers and folders are neatly tucked into back packs the night before (when possible).  We haven’t gone as far as laying out outfits yet, but I suspect we’ll get there – Liv is NOT a morning person!

This was a short week because of Labor Day.  There were only 4 days.  By the end of day two, I realized that the best way to keep three kids on task with the assorted dozen or so steps from bed to car would be to create a road map, or routine.  I enlisted the help of all of the kids in deciding what should be on the list.  I even tossed in a few of my own – make your bed, and make sure your laundry finds its way to the hamper.  Once the list was ready, I had Olivia break it down into three categories: FIRST, THEN, FINALLY. 

Here's the routine, as seen on the kitchen table, on top of an assortment of backpacks and lunch boxes.

Here’s the routine, as seen on the kitchen table, on top of an assortment of backpacks and lunch boxes.

I figured it was sure-fire. 

I was wrong. 

While going over some last-minute things late Wednesday night, I found an incomplete assignment of Jake’s.  It wasn’t going to take us long, but of course he never mentioned it, so it would need to be done in the morning.  

Thursday morning, Jake comes flying down over the stairs, fully dressed, and proudly announces, “I’m done FIRST!”  He clearly meant the FIRST section of my routine.  Everything was looking up!  He was trying to power through NEXT when I tried to get him to attend to his homework.  Here’s the problem.  Apparently, control of the television in the morning is a hot topic around the house.  Jake has been known to run downstairs immediately upon waking just so he can grab and hide the TV remotes from his siblings.  This Thursday morning, he was struggling between two forces – his need to follow the ordered list, and his need to dominate the TV.  It was a tough power struggle to be in the middle of.  Needless to say, Gabe and Liv made it to FINALLY before he did, and iCarly won the day.  Jake was mad.  

Thursday night we made sure all scholastic work was finished before settling the kids in for the night.  Jake found a spot on the back of his bedroom door for the ROUTINE.  We had already declared his control of the TV.  If the other two wanted to, they could watch Netflix on the computer in their free time.  Mind you, we’re only talking about 20 minutes or so, but hey, that’s not the point.  

Friday morning (this morning), things went much better.  Jake stuck to his ROUTINE, as did the neuro-typicals, and Mario Kart 8 was the entertainment of choice.  Liv played on Pinterest anyway, and Gabe was Player 2.  Everybody wins.  

If there’s a moral, it’s this:  

Kids really like to know what it expected of them.  For kids like Jake who take longer to process (GO TO SCHOOL was his suggestion by the way, and it came 10 minutes after I asked), a written schedule can be really soothing.  Also, just because you write it in permanent marker doesn’t mean it won’t need some tweaking.  Or a lot.  

Four school days down.  About 167 left to go!  Wish us luck. 

Category: Musings | LEAVE A COMMENT
September 3

8 Books In 6 Weeks

8 in 6

8 in 6

Here’s the true litmus test as to how hectic I perceive my life to be: how much reading have I gotten done? When things get really crazy, I retreat into the world of literature. Fiction, mostly. An avid reader, I get almost panicky when I’m finishing a book and don’t yet have the next one lined up.

Here’s what I’ve been through since mid-July, in order:

Brilliance, by Marcus Sakey (453 pages)

The premise of this book is that since 1980, approximately 1% of children born are in “brilliant” in some capacity. Think Rain Man without the associated autism. Some are low-level (tier 5), and some can do some amazingly, and often frightening, things (tier 1). It’s my vote for the next Hunger Games-style trilogy. Give it some time, and I’m certain it’ll be coming to a theater near you.  A great read!

A Better World; #2 in Brilliance series, also Marcus Sakey (390 pages)

Not quite as good as the first, but then the sequels rarely are, but still worth it. The third book hasn’t yet been written. I will purchase it when it’s available; because I want to – not like Mockingjay, where I felt I HAD to.

To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee (12 hrs and 17 min through Audible)

A life-changing book. I put out on Facebook that I wanted to read either TKAM or The Stand, by Stephen King. My responses overwhelmingly lead me to TKAM. I’m so glad. I somehow missed this book in high school, and I’m not sure I’d have appreciated it like I do now. I think we could all stand to be a little more like Atticus. Plus, with narration by Sissy Spacek, it’s an experience to be savored.

Jet, by Russell Blake (229 pages)

I forgot my headphones at home when Beth and I went to Florida, so I didn’t have access to TKAM, and was finishing up A Better World. The lady next to me on the plane recommended Jet. It’s a James Bond-in-a-dress type book. I have to admit, it was perfect reading when pool-side; what I refer to as Pop Lit Junk Food.

Jet 2: Betrayal, by Russell Blake (239 pages)

Don’t judge me. Jet only took a couple of days and it was worth the $3.99 to see what happened next. Or so I thought. I will not be purchasing Jet 3; just sayin’.

Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald (4 hrs and 9 minutes through Audible)

Listed as the #2 greatest offering to American literature as of 1960-something by I forget who, this little nugget, as narrated by Jake Gyllenhaal, was a nice distraction. FYI – Ulysses, by James Joyce was first.  I hate to say this, but I didn’t get it. I mean yes, I get it. Not all that glitters is gold; be careful what you wish for (and why), etc. But I didn’t love it. Sorry F. Scott.

The Stand, by Stephen King (1213 pages, or 47 hrs and 52 min through Audible)

I finally broke down and got this bad boy when my new Audible credit dropped. I even gave $5 more bucks to have it on my Kindle as well. This way, when I was done listening, I could pick up my Kindle and the story would “sync” and be right where I left off. I could listen all the way home from Bangor, and then switch to reading once I got inside and hit the couch.  Sweet. Beth hates it when I do this, so let’s keep it between us, shall we? I read this book in about the 8th grade, and I didn’t much care for it then. I enjoyed it this time around, but was mostly impressed that King was able to keep my attention for 1200+ pages. Not my favorite, but I’m glad I revisited it.

In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote (368 pages)

In all fairness, I’m only 73% through this one, but I’m planning on finishing it before the weekend. We had been discussing my cousin Shawn’s favorite books when I was debating between TKAM and The Stand. For the record, The Stand is his favorite King (check!), his favorite Capote is ICB (73% check!), and his favorite overall is Atlas Shrugged. Maybe that’s where I head next. I’ll reserve my opinion on ICB until I’m finished.

So, there they are – my 8 (almost) books in 6 weeks.

Some winners – some losers.

Those are my opinions, and I welcome yours.

Category: Musings | LEAVE A COMMENT
September 2

Day One – A Look Back

Day One Review

I love meal times like the one we had tonight! Beth got home earlier than expected, and it was nothing but “Mom!” “Mom!” “Mom!” for our entire meal time. Everybody was fighting to get to be the one who got to tell Mom all about their first day at school. And when I say fighting, I mean excitedly jostling for position. The mood was great!

Gabriel had a great time. He loves his new teacher, and he was thrilled to learn all about her. She likes Whatchamacallits for candy, her favorite color is blue (I think), and she is strongly against words like “hate” and “stupid;” and especially against phrases like, “I can’t.” She’s a woman after my own heart.  He’s pretty sure that there’s to be a paper bag sent home that he’ll fill with five items that describe him. He’s afraid it may have already been sent home, but he can’t find it. We’ve improvised with a bag of our own, ‘just in case.’  Gabe is super-excited about tomorrow.  It’s shaping up to be his perfect day: gym class AND chicken burgers for lunch. 

Liv had settled in by lunch. I mentioned in my last post about her core group of girlfriends being in the other class. This in and of itself was only half of the problem. There’s this girl (Girl A) she was afraid of in her new class. Afraid of is a strong phrase, but she was really worked up at the thought of this girl being in her class. They supposedly got along like oil and water. Well, as it turns out, Girl A is pretty cool. It seems Friend B (who shall remain unnamed), in a jealous attempt to keep Liv to herself, had fabricated some things about Girl A that weren’t true. This was meant to keep Liv from befriending Girl A. It worked very well. Without Friend B, Liv was free to discover that Girl A isn’t too shabby after all. Cue  heartwarming Hollywood ending.

Jake was mad that Mom didn’t drop him off, OR pick him up from school. He’s still holding a grudge. This didn’t help Mom at all. There was a brief incident with the bussing. Liv was ushered onto the 5th/6th grade bus. She noticed Jake sitting with his chaperone on a bench outside the school. She alerted the authorities, who spoke with the principal, and before she knew it – she was whisked off of her bus and onto Jake’s 7th/8th grade bus. Crisis averted.

Jake still maintains that “buses are scary,” but Liv swears there weren’t any more than 7 kids on the whole bus. How scary can 7 kids be?

Everybody was full of cheer; new rules; old friends.  Gabe thinks it’s hilarious that I have all the homework tonight, what with filling out student information worksheets x 3.

Good times.

As is usually the case, it was way more worry than it needed to be. Or, to look at it another way – it worked out because we were prepared!

Until next time,

Big Calf Guy

Category: Musings | LEAVE A COMMENT
September 2

The First Day Of School Blues

We did mug shots this year.  For the life of me, I couldn't get Jake to frown.

Today was hard. 

I didn’t think it would be, but it was. There were too many “firsts.”

Beth began the training for her new job today, about 90 miles from home. She needed to be in Ellsworth from 8 am until 5 pm. That meant, for the first time ever, no Mom for the first day of school. Add to that the butterflies surrounding a new beginning (and terrible ragweed allergies), and nobody got much sleep in my bedroom last night.

It’s Jake’s first day of 7th grade. We’d done all we could to make the first day a success. He’d had his extended school year at the middle school. He knows his teacher, and his special ed team hasn’t changed. Even his 1:1 ed tech is the same. Still, there were nerves. After the kids had gone to bed last night, Jake came downstairs and told us that he was “scared of tomorrow.” Also, that he was “a little bit nervous” and unable to “get some sleep.” This morning he confessed that he was “scared of school buses.” He’s never ridden one for school. Sure, there’ve been field trips, but he’s not had to use one in a typical fashion. He and Liv are going to take the bus from the middle school to the elementary school, where they’ll meet up with Gabe and go home with Beth. Once she’s done her training, of course.

We did mug shots this year.  For the life of me, I couldn't get Jake to frown.

We did mug shots this year. For the life of me, I couldn’t get Jake to frown.

Liv was freaked because it’s her first day of 5th grade, which means it’s her first day in the middle school. New teacher, new building, new expectations, and – wouldn’t you know it – her core group of “best friends” are all in the other class. Every. Single. One. This means no built-in safety net of familiarity. What if she didn’t know where to go? Where to stand? What to do?  

I look at it as a wonderful way to make new friends. She’s outgoing, doesn’t do drama (yet, I’m a realist), and people are drawn to her. I wasn’t half as worried as she was.

liv collage

Gabe was a cool cucumber this morning. He had a cold lunch packed (in case the café served something he didn’t like), his new sneakers made him feel fast and tall, and he was headed back to his old stomping grounds. In fact, I never even took the van out of drive. I stopped, gave him a quick kiss, and off he went to carpe some diem.

gabe collage

Liv had initially wanted me to stick close to her until she got her bearings. But, I told her, all the other kids assemble in the gym prior to the beginning of class. Jake and I use the “secret” entrance with less traffic – that just happens to be by his classroom. We walked up the drive together, and then we parted ways. When Jake threw open the door, he saw his Spec. Ed director, Miss O. He stopped mid-stride (I don’t think his foot hit the ground), and he made a hasty retreat back into the school yard. I heard a mumbled, “you’ve got to be kidding me” muttered under his breath as he passed me. I opted to give him some space. Miss O went to him after a spell and he was lured into his room. There he found Mrs. P waiting. He made a bee line for the corner of the room and hid his face, saying, “I’m scared.” On the one hand, it’s disheartening to see your child like this (especially when he’s 12), but on the other hand, it’s so encouraging to see him put voice to his feelings instead of just “reacting.”

I was glad we came early.

After some gentle coaxing, and being given a little space, he came out of his shell a bit and started unpacking his things. I took this opportunity to check in with his bus chaperone and give her a head’s up to his fears. I also touched base with the principal, for much the same reason. I waved to Liv in the bleachers of the gym. She and her friends waved back – they were having fun. One less thing to fret about.

Everyone seemed to know their role, and I felt good about having fulfilled Beth’s only mandate for me that morning: “Make sure Jake gets off to a good start!”

It’s worth it to mention that at this point, I was the only parent in the building. Middle school is nothing like elementary school. There were no parent-paparazzi with their incessant picture taking and mothering. I went back to check in with Jake after the other 7th graders had filed down the hall and saw him with Mrs. P, reviewing his handout like the rest of the kids. Of course, the teacher, Mrs. R, made a point to stop talking and recognize me in front of the class. I told her I just wanted to wave goodbye to Jake, and when I did so, he put his head down on the desk in an embarrassed fashion. If there’s anything more age-appropriate than a 7th grader being embarrassed by his Dad on the first day, I don’t know what it is. It made my heart swell 2 sizes.

I cut through the library and stood leaning in a doorway, waiting for the 5th graders. All of a sudden, I was struck by an idea – Liv probably wouldn’t want me to come to her room and ooh and aahh over her, like we’d done in years past. She’s a 5th grader now. I was instantly crushed, but just as quickly proud of the idea that if this were true, she was going to be OK after all.

I saw her walking down the hall amidst Mrs. D’s other kids, and we did a very subtle eye-contact/sign-language thing that only those very close to one another could pull off. It took about a half a second, and I don’t think anyone else saw it, but the transcription would read:

“I’m here if you need me.”

“No, Dad, I’m all set. You can go.”

“You sure? I’ll stay if you want me to.”

“I’ll be fine. Just go to work.”

“You got it. I’m out – have fun. I love you.”

“I love you, too. Now scram!”

Feeling proud of myself for only embarrassing one of my kids in front of their whole class, I turned without saying word, cut back through the library, so as to not be more noticed than necessary, and let myself out the back door.

On the way to work, I kept going back to how nervous I was. It’s like at the end of the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movie Gabe made me watch on Labor Day. At the end, Leonardo apologizes to Master Splinter for leaving the sewer when they were not yet ready. Splinter tells him that yes, they were ready – it was he who was not ready to let them go. That’s pretty deep for a talking, mutated, Ninja rat.

I think that’s every parent’s fear as well. I don’t take for granted one single night that my kids are safely tucked into their beds, at home, safe and sound. I want to be there to shelter them from the world’s evil, and help them solve all of their problems. I’m mature enough to keep this to myself (mostly), but it’s there. Succeed or fail, they were going to have to do it on their own; and I didn’t even have Beth’s shoulder to cry on.

A review of day one will be forthcoming soon.

As always, thanks for listening.


Category: Musings | 2 Comments