Stop, Go

At first her tone sounded potentially cheerful, ‘upbeat polite’, I suppose one might say. Having just had her son over for an afternoon playdate, I listened expectantly for a thank-you, an invitation for future such dates or some such gesture of routine civility. But within a micro second I heard the tone change, and after a slightly hesitant preamble, it came. The verbal cease and desist order. And then, abruptly, a hangup. Holy crap. I had not seen anything like this coming. My body flooded with a dull, sick feeling. And then, in another wave, came the cold shot of adrenaline. It reminded me of the way I’d felt in the wake of the flipper’s news that soon there’d be a house at the foot of our driveway. But worse. This was the mother of a child my son would likely spend the next eight years in a classroom with. And these kids really, really like each other. Oh no. A terrible, nauseous feeling began to grow in my stomach. It was nearing midnight when I heard the message. Sleeping pill or not, this would likely be a horrible night of sleep, and some unpleasant dreams were surely ahead.

In my past life as part of the public school community, my blog and its contents were never an issue. A casual mention of a classmate or pal perhaps accompanied by a pic wasn’t seen as something invasive or threatening; in fact, just about the opposite. It was a social thing, a bright and cheerful pause in one’s day, an online photo album for sharing. Granted, in the past year I’ve become aware how very different the feelings are in our insular community at Elihu’s new school, and I understand the stance on media in general, but I truly never worried – or even thought twice – about any controversy or disapproval over including my son’s classmates in brief mentions. Cameo roles and passing comments, smiling group shots or occasional close-ups of childhood moments hardly seemed threatening. But I do realize it’s a parent’s right to opt not to have their child’s image or information posted on an international bulletin board. Me, I’m fairly transparent, as readers will know. I kinda feel like you’re either pregnant or you’re not. Some information is already out there, irretrievably so, for the eons. You’ve already jumped in the pool, like it or not, so why not enjoy the water? But I suppose there’s the other side too – why give folks more information if there’s only a modest amount out there to begin with? Having one’s data on an insurance form (never mind the folks that list has been sold to) isn’t quite the same as the smiling countenance of one’s child shining as a beacon for all to see. (For a moment I consider the fear that indigenous people have about the camera stealing their souls. Could this be it? I laugh to myself.) I still don’t feel the threat personally, but I concede that I just might be missing something.

Anyway, I get it. And in an instant I was piloting my eight year old G4 thru all the fixes and retractions that I could find. At first I didn’t see much of anything – no name associated with his picture directly – and found his name mentioned only three times. But I changed the text right away. Deleted the pics too, although I did so with some sadness, as the joy just radiated off the screen. Really? I thought. I pondered at the threat these posed; was I putting the two of us in harm’s way on the blog? What wasn’t I getting here? I just couldn’t see it myself, but it didn’t matter. Keep going, get it all gone. I combed thru till I was satisfied he was gone, then emailed his mom an apology. She’s outwardly an affable person, but I don’t have an exceptional feeling of warmth or connection with her. I think I’ve tried, but granted, everyone’s busy, and most are trying to keep up some measure of professional demeanor on the outside. So I factor that in, and in retrospect I can’t say I’m entirely surprised at the situation. But I’m anxious about things now. Cuz this is our world, and we will live in it side-by-side with this family for a while yet. I just don’t want ill feelings in the air. I don’t need warm and cozy with everyone (although I’ll always try for it!), but I need a level playing field for sure.

Having a blog is a lot like hosting a radio program. You go on doing your thing in one small room, to nobody, for no apparent reason other than to hear your voice in the headphones, crisp and clear and perfectly equalized. It feels like it’s just you; there’s absolutely no evidence that it’s not. Then the phone rings. And once again, you’re almost dumbfounded that it’s not just you, alone there in the room playing music and recounting obscure anecdotes about the songs. You’ve got an audience! Of thousands! And one of em is calling to let you know how much they enjoy what you do! Really?? It’s still humbling and flattering, and of course, that one call (representative of the hundreds of others who aren’t so motivated – or geeky – as to actually call in) establishes for you that you are connected to your human family. You are. To your relief, you’re reminded that you’re not alone. And although it doesn’t happen often, something else also happens every now and again. That one other call. That one person against whom you’ve unwittingly caused offense, the person who for some reason has reacted to your broadcast in just the opposite way from the majority. And of course, since the perceived affront was the last thing on your mind or your agenda, you’re stopped in your tracks for a moment. But then you realize that this is a big planet, and it stands to reason that not everyone will feel the same way about things. So you shake it off. And then you get back to sitting alone at your desk, doing your thing – simply because you enjoy doing it – and hoping that somewhere out there just one other human being is smiling along with you.

Sometimes all you can do in the wake of a mistake or misjudgement is stop and apologize, make right your actions as best you can, and keep on going. And just when you think you know better, you’ll find you don’t. Funny how surprises can still be surprising, even when you know to expect them! I guess it’s all part of the adventure. You can plan all you like, but you can’t be prepared for everything. And life is certainly different in action than it is on paper.

As my son and I are often fond of saying, ‘you never know until you go’.

Nanny, Mommy, Me

I’m watching the five (almost six) year old daughter of my out-of-town guest while she visits some friends and enjoys some Latin dancing in Albany. Forgot what it is to have a younger child in my charge. More work in some ways, less in others. She is a girl, after all, and we all know girls just get things sooner than boys. Maybe I’m partly to blame – perhaps I’m too doting at times – but there’s no doubt that she’s naturally inspired to do some things for herself that wouldn’t occur to my son.

This girl, like Elihu, is bright and creative and a lot of fun to be with. There are also interesting differences, not limited to age or gender. First, I’m taken aback at how much she sees. My son’s world is much different, and being with a child of ‘normal’ vision brings up a couple things for me. First, I’m relieved. Relieved that I don’t feel the constant sense of loss, of maternal protection that I do with Elihu. While I’ve certainly gotten into a natural routine and groove with my near-sighted, colorblind child, and don’t really dwell on it, his limited sight is never out of my awareness. Yesterday, Lilas spotted a great blue heron flying overheard. Something my son would give anything to see for himself. He is hardly one for self pity, but if he’d been there in the car with us when she saw it, he might have even been disappointed to the point of tears. And the horses far, far off in a field. They hardly exist for me anymore – and I don’t point them out to Elihu; there’s no need to as it would only make him frustrated. She spotted them right away. My heart eases. It’s so nice to know she sees everything I do, it’s good to know it’s all there for her.

Her seeing color is interesting too, and again I feel a little relief. I can just tell her to look for something by its color alone – no longer do I need to do the mental reconnaissance and describe everything by its location, its shape, its shade… Not a big deal, but an interesting difference to me nonetheless. Aah, but vision issues aside, there is such a leap that is made between six and nine. Elihu has recently turned a corner of sorts, and has become a very capable young boy. That in of itself has provided me with some long-awaited freedoms. He does so much now that I have to constantly remind myself how little he needs me. It’s time now – it’s right and fitting – for him to be doing more. And yet, in spite of all he can do, Lilas has done some things on her own that he wouldn’t think of. Mostly in the grooming department. ! I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have a girl, now I think I have a bit of an idea. And it’s ok that I don’t have a girl. I’m not a very pink sort of gal myself and might grow short of patience with all that Barbie kind of stuff. Having said that, I do enjoy giving her my ‘sparkly lipstick’ to put on before we leave the house. I haven’t forgotten entirely that sometimes it’s fun to be a girl.

We’re off to some errands. I’ll enjoy the ride as we see things far outside the window, I’ll have fun talking to her and having lunch and visiting places that look interesting to us. For now, I’ll just enjoy this step back in time to being mommy to a younger one. But I look forward with great anticipation to a little alone time after she and her mom depart. I’ve been a non-stop mom for a good long stretch. I can’t wait to be just me.