Friday, March 28, 2014

Greener Grass And Fences And Shit: Why We Are No Worse Off Than Anybody Else

I sometimes speak in a proverbial shorthand I learned from my father.  It started years ago, when my mother, a catalog-shopping enthusiast, told me I needed to be more careful with my money.  My father, blown away by the irony of my mother offering financial advice, attempted to tell her that this was like the pot calling the kettle black.  Only it didn't come out that way.

"Pots and kettles and shit!" he shouted, waving his arms in some kind of gesture meant to indicate a connection between us.  "I mean, are you kidding?!"

A new way of talking was born.

I've taught proverbial shorthand to my colleagues, and it's served us well as educators.  Like when we call a meeting to discuss the attitude problem of a student, and meet the surly parents.  "Wow! Apples and trees and shit, huh?"  Or when we give up our lunch periods to tutor kids who don't show up.  "Oh, well, you know.  Horses to water and shit."  Or even the notion that we have to jettison the entire existing curriculum to accommodate the Common Core.  "Really?  Don't you think that's just baby and the bathwater and shit?" 

Note:  It's imperative to add "and shit" to the abbreviated phrase.

Anyway, this all leads me to my point, which is, "Greener grass and fences and shit."  I mean that we sometimes get it into our heads that our NT friends have happier lives than we do.  But I don't think they do.  Their lives are different, for sure.  Easier?  Most likely.  But happier?

There are times when it's almost impossible not to compare.  After spending an afternoon at a friend's house, Big Bro was uncharacteristically quiet.  I asked him what was up.  Didn't he have a good time?

It turns out he had a really good time. He and his friend played soccer and basketball and manhunt with her younger brother.  Then they went swimming and ate pizza and played video games--all three of them, all day long.

"It's just...she gets to play with her brother.  It must be nice.  My brother doesn't play like that."  And there it was.

I tried to explain how different the circumstances were.  Laura and her brother were a year apart in age.  There's a five year age gap between our boys.  Apples to oranges and shit.  But he wasn't having it. 

"Look," I said.  "Our family is different.  But there is no less love in our house.  Yes, Laura and her brother play together, but they also fight like cats and dogs.  Your brother doesn't play ball with you, but he does idolize you.  To him, you are better than Elvis and the Beatles and Derek Jeter all in one.  We do things differently here.  But we still love each other just as much."

That doesn't mean it's easy. 

One night, when things were getting particularly "interesting" in our house, my husband got frustrated.  "Other families get to watch movies together.  Other parents get to relax a bit.  Why is nothing easy?  Why is everything such an effin' tractor pull?"

And I responded, "I don't know.  But nobody is any happier than we are."  And I meant it.  I mean it.

We were once an NT family--just the three of us.  Were we happier then?  Of course not.  We had our worries and stresses and arguments.  We didn't know at the time that our lives were relatively simple.  We didn't know that a few years down the road, we would be installing locks on every appliance and door.  We didn't know that we'd be in this club we'd never asked to join, but has the most amazing members.  All we knew is that our family didn't feel quite complete. 

Well, it's complete now.  He's our miracle.  And yes, it's hard.  We're on our toes 24/7 and we don't get enough sleep.  But we get to celebrate every little milestone.  We get as excited about the boy playing Candy Land appropriately as we do Big Bro making the honor role.  They both bring us such joy.  We're going to worry about some things that other families don't worry about and they're going to worry about some things that don't cross our minds.  And that's cool.  Everybody has their shit.

And shit does get weird around here.  Sleep is interrupted all the effin' time.  Our conversations revolve around meds, therapies and meltdowns, as well as report cards, scout meetings, and baseball practice.  Every outing requires Navy Seal-level planning.  There is often some kind of food substance stuck to our walls.  And we watch an awful lot of Raffi.  But we laugh an awful lot, too.  My kids are funny.  I mean, the boy was naked and trying to hang rosary beads off his junk!  That's good comedy!  We have dance parties in the kitchen to Harry Belafonte and the Beastie Boys.  And I can hardly wait for the weather to get warm so I have an excuse to blast the kids with the garden hose.  Oh, how we all laugh!

Other families likely have cleaner houses.  Other families definitely have quieter houses.  But I don't believe that other families have happier houses.

Home and heart and shit.