Thursday, August 21, 2014

Until we meet again.

I went to a funeral today.

She and I were inseparable when we were in middle school. The typical BFFs. We had sleepovers, talked on the phone for hours on end, and were each other's world. A long time ago. 

She was a drug addict. 

I remember when we began to drift apart. We all enjoyed alcohol, even as young as we were (sorry m&d), but that wasn't enough and soon she was snorting powders, and I began to move away from her and her drug use. 

I never judged her. I almost always felt sorry for her, and wished things would be different, but judge her I never did. I never saw her as different than me. Sure she made different choices, but her opportunities were limited in many ways, and she was choosing to live her life differently than me.

I randomly stopped by her house a few times and found her still using, as in snorting meth while getting ready was a typical part of her morning routine. 

She would call me when she was doing well. I remember a call once when she had a great job. She bought a nice car and her own condo. She was so proud of herself, and I was really happy for her. Looking back now I think she was trying to prove she was going to be ok. I honestly thought that somehow she would be.

Our last conversation was through text about 18 months ago.  I only know that because her daughter was 6 months at the time, and she is now almost two.  My friend wondered if my number was the same, and it was.  We talked about parenthood and how she was feeling.  I wanted to meet up with her, but I hesitated.  Admittedly, I was afraid of inviting her into my world.  I can't really pinpoint what I was afraid of, but I have wondered since I found out she died if there is something I could have done in that moment.

When we were 12 years old, another friend and I snuck out of my house and some boys she knew drove us to her house. It was after midnight and her mom knew we were there. We didn't cause too much trouble and eventually the boys took me and my other friend home. 

I had a pager back then, and it started blowing up with my home phone number. I knew my parents found us missing and were frantically looking for us. Being a parent now, it must have been terrifying. I remember once we got home and my parents said what they needed to say to make me see the wrong I had done, my father wrapped his arms around me in a way I'll never forget. Again, being a parent now I understand. I'm guessing that he imagined the worst possible outcome to us missing, and in the midst of his anger at and disappointment in me - was love. Absolutely irrefutable love for me.

My parents loved me so much, they locked me in. I was grounded for the rest of the summer, which was at least two months. 

I had my fair share of trouble making after that, but that summer was a turning point for me. As much as I didn't want to admit it then, I really did learn something, and I truly believe that it changed the course of my life.  My friend, however, did not have the same experience.

My friend's mom was an alcoholic. When we were kids, the kitchen cabinet that held the liquor had written in red nail polish "we hate you when you drink". And yet, drink she did. Her mom was a bar tender, and I remember her coming home after work and getting us up out of bed during a sleepover. She'd be talking strangely and apologizing for the death of her baby brother, who died when she was 6 or 7 from a heart condition he had since birth. Her mother blamed herself for his death. 

When I heard about my friend's death, I wasn't really surprised, and I wasn't even sad. I was sort of...numb. The sadness has come since then, as the reality sets in that I will never see her again. That I will never have a random Sunday lunch where we will catch up and share stories of parenting. She will never see her daughter grow. She will forever be known as a drug addict, and people will say what a sad thing it was that happened to her. 

I will not miss her everyday, as it had been years since I last saw her. I will not miss her as a best friend, which we once were, but it was many years ago.  I will miss what could have been, if things could have been different for her, and for us. And hope that they will be different for so many others out there like her. 

I'm sad that she is dead. I wish she could have done something different. I wish there was something I could have done, or could do now. I explained to my boys tonight that my friend died from taking drugs. They are almost 6 and almost 3 and wondered why I was sad. As always, I was honest with them about my pain.

I gave LBZ a bath tonight, and I began to cry.  Concerned, he asked what was wrong.  I told him that I was very sad.  That I missed my friend very much, that I would never see her again, and that made me sad.  He said "well me and daddy and BBZ are here".  What comfort they give me today, and always.

I posted this on my Facebook page today:

“Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives. Such striving may seem admirable, but it is the way of foolishness. Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life. Show them the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples and pears. Show them how to cry when pets and people die. Show them the infinite pleasure in the touch of a hand. And make the ordinary come alive for them. The extraordinary will take care of itself.” ~William Martin

Substance abuse is an escape.  A dissatisfaction with the way things are, to the point of altering reality in a way many of us can never truly understand.  If there is anything I hope to teach my boys, and myself for that matter, is to accept life the way it is, and to find peace and happiness in the here and now.  To stay present, and to rejoice in the simplicity of the ordinary.

Life is full of sadness.  It is full of uncertainty, darkness and pain.  The local news is difficult to watch and digest, and escaping it can be so incredibly hard.  I visited her dark world today.  I got a very small glimpse into what life may have been like for her.  It felt like a dark place of mistrust, substance abuse, child endangerment, family courts, alcoholism and just...darkness.  Yet, at the end of the funeral, I emerged, and reentered my life of success, positivity and light.  But my friend, she never had that out.  She was buried in darkness.  It is all she ever knew in her adult life.

Finally, old friend, you are at peace.  Rest there, dear friend.

Until we meet again.

Monday, August 4, 2014

I wish the world was different, but it's just not.

What a sad, but necessary truth for an almost 6-year-old to learn.  BBZ has been struggling lately in the world.  In May, he moved from his predictable, 3 teacher staffed preschool to a day camp run mostly by college students and attended by kids going into kindergarten through age 14 or so.  He went from the typical daycare setting to a laid back, less structured play time.  I suppose I should have known this would cause some struggles, but I guess I didn't really know, since this is my first experience outside of daycare for my boys.

He immediately found out about Pok_mon cards.  This was pretty exciting for us because he seemed to have made some really great friendships because of these cards.  He used some of his money to buy some, so he could trade them at camp.

It didn't happen immediately, but we began to notice through his story telling that kids were swindling him.  They would trick him into trading a card that was worth more, or they would do other unfair trades.  One day, he came home so excited about a card he got in a trade that he could barely contain his excitement.  When I asked him if I could see the card, he explained that the kid didn't have it that day, but that he would bring it the following day.  When I asked him if he gave the kid his card yet, he said yes (of course he had, my sweet and honest boy had not yet learned that people can be cruel and untrustworthy).

So I explained to him that he would probably not get the card.  He had such a hard time understanding this.  I explained that sometimes people will do things that don’t make sense, to end up getting what they want.  I gave him the words to use the next day if the kid didn't bring the card.  I suggested he tell the kid that he wanted his card back unless he had the card that day.

Truth be told, I wasn't sure what he would do.  When he came home the next day and I asked what happened, he said that the kid did not bring his card to school.  When BBZ told the kid that he wanted his card back until he brings the one for him, the kid and the others boys said there was no trade-backs.  I then said to him that I guess this boy is a person he won’t be able to trade with again.  If he has shown that he cannot be trustworthy, then maybe he shouldn't play cards with him anymore.

What a sad lesson to have to learn.

Next, BBZ was having a hard time during the aftercare program.  He was crying a lot, and having trouble having fun.  I can see why, really.  It’s just a big room with some games and teachers, but very little structure.  I think it is probably a typical aftercare program, as I understand them.  One day, he was barely able to tell me why he was so sad.

It turned out that his favorite camp counselor wasn't there, and the sub refused to have the kids put sunscreen on before heading out in the afternoon.  We apply sunscreen at home, and then the teachers do a second application in the afternoon.  BBZ heard the regular teacher say to the sub “hey, we need to put sunscreen on the kids” and the sub apparently said something like, oh its fine.  This really bothered BBZ.  At first I was kind of surprised by how much it bothered him, but it didn't take long for me to understand.
N and I are both rule followers.  It bothers us like crazy when people don’t follow the rules.  It makes sense that this would bother BBZ too.  So I explained that people won’t always follow the rules.  We cannot control what others do, we can only learn how to cope with a world that can feel very disappointing sometimes.  He was confused, and it broke my heart.

A few days later, his aftercare teacher said that he was very sad during his time with her.  He had told me that the teacher instructed the kids to leave their P cards at home, so of course we did, because we follow the rules.  Well, apparently the other kids didn't, so he was feeling sad and left out. (that doesn't seem like his problem as much as theirs for not enforcing the rule across the board, but whatever)  So again, I had to explain that some people follow the rules and others don’t.

I then began to really struggle with how to support him.  He was sad every time I picked him up from aftercare.  He talked about how much he didn't like it.  I even thought about not working anymore so he wouldn't have to deal with this.  But then it hit me.

This is the world we live in.

My sweet, innocent, naive little boy is growing up, and will soon be in a world where people are not kind.  Where they take advantage of others.  Where they want their way, no matter who is in their way.  While this was a sad revelation for me, it was also one that showed me how important my role as teacher is for my young boy.  He needs to learn how to cope in this world.  He needs to be able to stand up for himself, and to know that he can choose how he wants to live his life, even if he sees others breaking the rules.

Oh how I wish I could protect him from this place.  When we were making the decision to start a family, this is what I didn't want.  I was so unsure about bringing a child into this broken and dysfunctional world.  But as a baby and young toddler, I could shelter him and show him only what I wanted him to see.  He’s past that now.  I could change things to continue to shelter him, but I don’t think I want to do that.  As hard as it is to see him learn the truth in the world, what I tried so hard to keep him from so far in his life, he needs to learn and understand how to get by and cope with the way the world is.

It’s such a sad realization to know that I can no longer protect my child from the big bad world.  If he doesn't go toward it with tools and coping mechanisms, it will find him, and he will not be prepared.
I still get frustrated with this world.  I have to make a conscious effort to see the things I want to see, and leave the rest behind.  Hopefully, my boys and I will travel this path together, and see some great things along the way, too.