Friday, May 16, 2008

Constantly astounded... my children. Sometimes it's a good thing and sometimes not.

My son has been a struggle lately. I don't know if all teenagers tend to think this selfishly, but he's been over the top lately. His attitude tends to be harsh and dark. However, one thing happened recently that has smoothed out the edges and improved relations in many areas.

Son lost his iPod.

Now, he won't say how he lost it. I asked again the other day, and for a moment an embarrassed little grin flashed across his face. Then, he looked down and the mask fell again. "It's just gone, okay?"

Check. There's a story there, but I'm not getting it yet. I suspect that there's a teacher at school with a new iPod. I apologize to this individual for the truly sucky music on the thing, and I hope it doesn't put them in the bad mood it put my son in.

I had a horrible realization recently, though, that my attentions have been completely unbalanced lately. I don't mean with Ranger in the picture -- that's actually on a good schedule for my kids' sake. Ranger's days off are in the middle of the week. We cook dinner at my house, with the family, on Tuesday nights. We go out on Wednesday nights, while my kids are at their church activities. He goes back to Moab on Thursday. My weekends are completely open with my kids. No dates because Ranger works two hours away, Friday through Monday.

The attention problem is that my son's negativity soaks up all the energy I have. He's high maintenance because his behavior has been so out of line. He's been belligerent, difficult, dishonest, and destructive. We've been walking on eggshells. I have to watch him constantly. When I've told him "no" on something, it's become a horrendous argument. It's been unbelievably sad and hurtful to me.

A few things happened at once to help this, though. He lost his iPod, all on his own. He started playing his guitar with two groups of people: one group is headed by a man at church he considers "cool", and the other group is made up of kids who want to promote positive values through their music.

Yes, my son is highly influenced by his friends. I call it the Chameleon Effect. But it's working all right at the moment.

He's also going to spend a couple of weeks, right after school is out, helping my sister. She still doesn't have the use of her right arm and her husband (a Marine) is being sent out for a month. My mother is there helping now, and Son will go next week. They live simply. It'll be a good thing for him to see, and do.

Now that he's settling down a little, we tend to spend time enjoying him again. Then this realization hit me, along with the guilty.

In the shadow of all of this is my daughter. She's nearly 13 now. She's turning into a young woman. Her interests are maturing. About three weeks ago, she starting showing up in my room at bed time. And she hasn't gone back. She can't explain why she doesn't want to be in her room right now, but it didn't take long for me to see that she's sticking close to me. At the end of the day, she's craving Mommy Time.

So, I'm not arguing about her sleeping in my room for now. Her brother has sucked up so much attention during the day, so she's carved out the night as her own. It breaks my heart a little that this has happened, and I didn't notice sooner. She's an astounding kid. They both are. And I don't want either one to forget it or think otherwise.

I went to her school's end-of-year open house. They've been studying Africa. The kids had to select a topic relevant to Africa and do three projects on it. The hallway walls were covered with colorful posterboards on a variety of topics. Most were about what I call "friendly" topics. Industry, textiles, music, food, etc. Then, I spotted my daughter's neon-orange beacon.

She cut the poster into the shape of Africa, free-hand. I watched her do this and was astounded that her art skills had come so far. I really should learn to not be astounded by the talents of my kids, but they find a way to surprise me all the time. Even when I'm mad at Son, I'm astounded by him. Now, Daughter's topic astounded me.

Child Soldiers in Africa. She'd pasted a photo on the board, of a young boy holding a rifle as big as he was. His face was in a hateful grimace. On his back, though, was a backpack. A pink teddy bear backpack. The photo broke my heart. The poster broke my heart.

Her teacher had laptops set up, so parents could view the photo story projects that some of the children put together on their topic. Queued up on each screen was a splash page for one of the projects. A close-up of an African child's eyes, with a title over it. And my daughter's name.

The teacher was excited to see me. She gushed (sincerely) about Daughter's projects and grasp of her topic. She'd queued up my child's project because she wanted everyone to see it. Not just because of the quality of work, but because it was so astoundingly moving.

I sat and watched it. She'd built it in Windows Movie Maker. As the splash page faded, the opening notes of Nickelback's "If Everyone Cared" started. The images were perfectly synced with the words and pace of the music. "...iron bars can't hold my soul in..." was sung over an image of children behind a door of bars. The words she added were minimal, but powerful.

The teacher and I had tears in our eyes when it was finished. Then, she showed me my daughter's poetry. It's actually been included on the school's literary site, but I'm just going to copy it here, to wrap up this post.

The point here is this -- all of this creativity and growth in my daughter has been happening under the shadow of the turmoil in my son's life. I feel guilty because I've allowed my attention to be so divided, so consumed by the demanding lows and the welcome highs of one child's behavior, so that I've missed what's happening with my daughter.

Son is going to help my sister soon. When he does, my daughter and I are going to take a short trip together, to see the sights of Salt Lake City. She's excited. She wants to go to BYU, so we'll cruise through there. Son and I took a trip when he turned 12, so it's her turn now.

And now, the poem:

There is a place
Far, far away where you are,
Where I live.
The heat is unbearable,
The water is dry.
Everything is peaceful,
Heat beaming on us,
At home,
Doing schoolwork
Mother screamed,
Father yelled.
Outside I saw,
The looming enemy above their cold, bloodied bodies
Glaring at me with blood-shot eyes.
Taking me;
Taking me
To a place
Full of children
Both young and old.
Soon now.
All I knew,
There went,
There goes everything I loved.
A gun in my hands;
Bigger than my own body.
To be fearless--
To not be afraid of challenges
A challenge
Right before me.
As we hid,
I hid with these kids,
These kids who fight.
As we hide,
We hide from a village.
We attack.
The enemy, right there.
I shoot,
I shoot with a heavy gun;
The gun is bigger than my own body.
There goes their lives.
There goes my life.


RONJAZZ said...

You obviously have children of talent and passion. I never had it in me to be a parent, partially because of my upbringing, my job, etc. So I always tip my hat to someone like you. Hang in there, my dear...:)

Blogget Jones said...

Oh, thank you! That's flattering. The toughest thing about parenting, IMHO, is that the rules keep changing. Doesn't seem fair to me! LOL

Lady in red said...

sometimes we forget the important things but when something reminds us and we open our eyes our children really are something to be proud of.

There are those who class any child from a 'broken home' as a lost cause......that is so not true. those children who are talented don't stop being talented because their parents split up.

All our children should be cherished for the special people that they are regardless of the talents they may or may not have. Like you I am lucky to have talented children.

I feel very lucky to be the mother of my children as I am sure you are yours

muse said...

Maybe her topic is what is haunting her and keeping her from her own bed. I have been blessed with two very gifted sons. So alike at times it seemed they shared one brain. One of them is logical, math, science and the other is all about the art, music and literature.

Loved the post...I will return.

Blogget Jones said...

Lady -- AMEN! I can't agree more. I really am humbled by the blessings I have in my life, in my children. Even when they drive me up the wall, I cherish them.

Muse -- I hadn't thought of that as the root of her new sleeping habits. That could be. She was most disturbed by how these children lose their parents. Thank you for pointing out that helps a lot.

And my kids are like that, too -- the analytical one and the "artsy" one. They keep me hopping!