Last born twice.

Me and my Mom have this running joke about how she gave birth to me twice. It is essentially true and ironically the second birth occurred  Mother’s Day weekend of 1992.  The Thursday before Mother’s Day my 16 year-old self had decided that it would be pretty cool to take my Mom and Nana out for Mother’s Day on my own dime. The destination?  Tiffany’s, a restaurant that I had not at the time been too, that was well-known for its ribs and cheesecake.

There isn’t much I remember from that evening at dinner save for the fact that it was my Mom, my Nana,  my oldest nephew, and I that had gone out to eat … and the cheese cake.  I had ordered cheesecake for dessert, a cheesecake that unbeknownst to me,  had ground pecans baked into the crust.  Prior to eating this cheesecake, I remembered that I always felt “funny” when I ate the Little Debbie Brownies with the nuts on them that my older brother would bring me from the corner store. They made my throat itch so badly that I’d stopped eating them all together.

After the first bite of cheese cake that feeling I would get when I ate the Little Debbie cakes started only now it was about ten thousand times worse.  I immediately began to spit the cake into my napkin and told my Mom that I didn’t feel well. She sent me to the car while she paid the tab and gathered my Nana and nephew.  The last thing I remember is getting into the car, taking about 20 doses too many of my inhaler because I felt my throat closing, and then going cold. This would be my last conscious memory for two weeks.

When my Mom got to the car she found me passed out. I was sheet white and my lips were a dusky shade of purple.  Panicked and having little sense of direction, she began to drive around the city of Union, NJ searching for the hospital.  This search lasted approximately ten minutes and by all scientific logic I should have been brain-dead, but this situation would defy any logic you could throw at it.

Upon finding Union Hospital my Mom  pulled into the area on the opposite side of the emergency room. Desperate, she got out of the car flung open the doors and began to scream for help.  Her screaming, I can imagine based on her “normal” conversational octave, was enough to wake the dead and ultimately summon a hospital of doctors, nurses, and therapist to my aid.  I was removed from the car and placed on the ground as the team immediately began to care for what appeared to be a dead kid.

My mom was completely devastated as doctors explained to her my limited odds of surviving the anaphylactic shock I’d endured.  She was advised to call my family members so they could come and say good-bye to me. I was given last rites (it was a Catholic hospital I believe) and my family prepared for the worse. That evening in the waiting room, so I’m told, my Nana held a prayer vigil to end all prayer vigils. She prayed with absolute strangers for the complete healing of their loved ones even though, at least in my case, all hope seemed to be lost.  And just like that I lived through the night … and the next night.

Doctors cautioned my mother about being overly optimistic about my outcome seeing as how the odds for anoxic brain injury due to the delay in my treatment were quite high. These predictions seemed accurate when on Mother’s Day the only thing I kept repeating much to my mother’s horror was “Happy Mother’s Day” probably sounding a lot like Igor. However, over the next few days and weeks I gradually returned to normal (or as normal as I’d ever be again 😉 ).  My first memory? Waking up to a Russian woman who was trying to explain to me her open heart surgery by repeating the words “bad blood” with her thick accent and pointing at monstrous wound on her chest. Good times.

My mother is not a huggin’, squeezin’, excessive sugar givin’  sagely advice dolin’ kind of mom. There are times when I wish like hell she was, but then I think about this “second birth” and how people from the community surrounding the hospital where I’d been sick calling in by the droves to check on “The screaming woman’s daughter”.  I think about the lengths my mother went through to get me adequate care for my asthma even begging a pulmonologist who only saw adults to see me when every pediatrician I’d seen had thrown up their hands. Then I think, here I am,  a living breathing miracle over 22 years after my second birth not only alive and well, but thriving in ways I could never have imagined. Today I give thanks to my praying grandmother and a mother that refused to give up on her sickly little wheezer even during times it seemed the world had.  I love you Ma!

Rosie.

Me and the extraordinary Antoinette Rose

Me and the extraordinary Antoinette Rose

Unity Mobs and other side effects of xenophobia.

It was the 80s. Cyndi Lauper was reppin’ Cap’n Lou Albano hard.  The then WWF was in its golden age and was the happy ending to many children’s (and adults) Saturday morning brain freeze. There were the rivalries. Oh, the rivalries! Rowdy Roddy Piper vs. Superfly Jimmy SnukaRandy “Macho Man” Savage vs. The Ultimate WarriorGeorge “The Animal” Steele vs. any turnbuckle he encountered. The rivalries that really made you lick your chops though … I’m talkin’ the ones that would unite the neighborhood bully with the lithe bookworm whose ass he’d just kicked the Friday afternoon before; were the USA vs. the “Evil Foreigner” grudge matches .  The USA would usually be represented by the Sergeant Slaughters or  The Hulk Hogans of the world. The  “Evil Foreigner” would be represented by some one like say, The Iron Sheik. The shit felt real as hell too. It felt like the world was going to end and evil would run rampant throughout the planet if Sergeant Slaughter got snared in The Sheik’s deadly Camel Clutch.

This sort of sentiment is not new and it echoes throughout American life. It’s like the US can’t find shit else to unite about except a tragedy reigned down upon our innocent souls by a real or imagined demonic boogie men (exclusively from somewhere else, because you can’t honest and for true be American and evil simultaneously) or our hatred of other countries/races because of their refusal to bow down to our natural superiority.  I don’t say this from an “above it all” place either.  I was sitting on my couch, crying uncontrollably, and singing God Bless America on September 12th 2001 like many other Americans. As far as I was concerned, on that day, “W” coulda rendered the entire middle east dust. The fact is, at that time,  that level of violence on American soil was extremely foreign, at least to my generation. It felt like a complete violation of who we were and something had to be done, right  then, right there,  no matter the cost. America … FUCK YEAH.

Over ten years of hindsight has removed the rose-colored glasses that allowed us to continue the view of America as “Police Officer of the World” … well  some of us anyway. Many now recognize that we  may need to sweep around our own proverbial front porches before we go about taking on the liberation and democratization of nations around the globe.  However, lately when it seems every week POTIS is headed to another American city to give a speech of condolence and empowerment, the Unity Mob mentality seems to have grown and mutated (with the help of social media of course) into this beastly caricature of stock American values that rages like a new pimple for about a week, but is salved by a healthy dose of baby KimYe coverage.

As horrible as I felt about what happened in Boston, I could not help but cringe while listening  to the post capture rhetoric that began to sound like Oscar speeches. It’s fantastic that they caught this guy alive, and that we’ll  hopefully be able to peek into the mind of people like him to find out why they carry out horrific attacks like the one at the marathon, but does there need to be an exaggerated sense of celebration in a major American city being on lock down (to the tune I’ve heard of $33 million a day?!)  There were Lock Down Parties.  Jesus M. H. Christ what does it all mean?

At this point, I’ve become a little unpatriotic to some, sacrilegious to others,  and probably both to Newt Gingrich who would probably call me an ungrateful black slut if I ever made it onto his radar, but I would really like to know where the extended man hunts are for the crime trodden streets of the inner city of Chicago? Do they  not occur because you can’t encapsulate the issues of the inner city into a neatly boxed media package that can be consumed and shat out in under  a week? Where are the Unity Mobs when our kids are being fed directly from schools into prison by a sub par education system? Where are the Unity Mobs when young black and latino teens are privy to being target by NYPD on a whim because the police have carte blanche to determine who “looks” like a criminal? Is it that these segments of America not worth getting fired up over to  the angry masses?

Or are they so busy warming up their typing fingers for the new big “it” tragedy? Maybe they’re somewhere wracking their brains trying to figure out where the dreadful folks who do this type of thing come from? Well I’ve got a theory. I believe they come from Us. Yes, the great old US of A that has been creating sociological problems and ignoring the repercussions since inception.  We made these monsters, and instead of chasing them down desperately trying to connect them to the “other” via religion or race, maybe we should be trying to figure out and take action to heal the parts of our system that is creating such beautiful minds with a propensity for death and destruction.

Rosie.

Martyr May I.

The conversation usually goes like this:

Person: Wow! Congrats on getting into NYU! That’s an incredible opportunity.

Stacey: Aww, Thank you. I’m really excited.

Person: Is your son going?

(Here, as we say in theatre, is a “beat”. The length of the “beat” usually depends on how many times I’d been asked that question within 48 hrs. The extent to which I go to explain my choice is directly proportional to the level of maternal guilt I’m feeling that day, but it all boils down to this:)

Stacey: No, He’s not going (… insert excessive rambling here as needed.)

(Next, the reaction. It varies and is typically some combination of: 1. A “beat”, some type of facial grimace, followed by an expulsion of air … usually from the mouth and then 2: Oh … )

Person: … who is he staying with?

Me: …my mom.

(Now, the conversation either ends here or rambles on in some awkward dance between my guilt and the other person’s judgement/the judgement I perceive them to have, then dies an even more awkward death in pregnant silence.)

This post is not an explanation of why my son will not be moving to New York with me. This post is about the fact that this question is always the first to be raised with mothers pursuing lofty goals.

I have watched my mother, and countless other mothers “sacrifice”, martyr their peace, happiness, and in some cases their physical existence for children who didn’t benefit one way or the other from said sacrifice. In some cases this “sacrifice” was ultimately the child’s downfall. Why? Because all that additional motherly love was enabling, that’s why. Mothers and specifically single mothers have for far too long worn the badge of the martyr, forfeiting any dreams or potential they had before they gave birth. It’s as if your goals and desires for yourself can’t exist in the same space as parenthood, or if they can, those goals and desires had better damn well be minimal and involve a papoose. (I just pictured my 5’8” 155lb 14 year-old strapped to me as I navigated Washington Square and died a little.)

Ye verily I say unto all the mothers who think they have to give up happiness and personal satisfactions in order to be a “good” mother … fuck all of that … in its entirety. I am a 37 year old woman with a lot of life left (hopefully), and a lot of shit I want to do. I love my son immensely and will not cease to handle my basic parental responsibilities, while also continuing to do everything within my power to guide him into a successful life. That, for me, is what parenthood is about. I refuse to give up my life as a testament to what a wonderful mother I am. I would rather live a full and purposeful life that can serve to inspire and empower my child into a better way of living. My pursuit of a full and purposeful life just happens to involve me being away from my kid for a while. This is not an ideal situation, but it is not Life’s job to serve up ideal situations. Besides, I’m pursuing graduate education for baby Jesus’s sake, not smoking crack. (Unfortunately, the latter in the eyes of some, seems to be a more acceptable reason for a maternal hiatus :/.)

Then there’s the shitty male/female double standard. If I were a father, even a single father, I don’t think anyone would give a second thought to me taking off to school or even better enlisting with the military and leaving my son with family. In fact, it’d be encouraged. This, in the eyes of some, makes a father joining the army, potentially being deployed to war, and killed a better choice than me, a mother, pursing higher education. I don’t blame fathers. Hell, I don’t even blame the people who ask me this question. It’s kind of just the way things are. We exist in a patriarchal society where the man goes out hunts the meat, clubs us over the head then …

Maybe you think I’ve written this assuage my guilty conscious and maybe you’re right. Maybe I don’t give a fuck* what anyone thinks. Maybe I do, but I shouldn’t because it’s my life. Square biz, I don’t know a parent who doesn’t have regrets about choices they’ve made raising their children. I know I will have regrets a plenty, possibly with the decision to leave him in Charlotte for two years topping the list. Time will inevitably reveal the decisions that will land my ass in a shitty nursing home per my son’s request. However, If I look at my parenting job so far I can honestly say the danger of me stewing in my own juices while medical staff is on break is pretty remote. All I can do is check with my gut, check with Sonny Jim, and pray for the best

Rosie.

*Please read the linked article ad nauseum. You will either become completely reckless, stop being afraid of what people think and live, or both. Shouts to KNKYTHT for sending it to me, it was the highlight of my week.

Give it away now.

Ever since this post and the circumstances surrounding it I have been or have made an earnest effort to be less attached to material things. I’ve found myself giving away earrings I once thought I could never part with or losing some other “treasured item” but being okay with it, sort of like the baby who gets their pacifier taken away, after a few days they’re fine.

Alas, I think my tolerance for letting go is wavering. After conceivably the worse weekend I ever spent in a hotel (there were children, there was screaming, there were ungodly bodily secretions), I lost two of my favorite bracelets. Grounded me would be okay with letting them go, accepting that these items had had their time in my life and it was now time for them to move on to the next owner. The thing is, I’m not grounded me, and I can’t get those two fucking bracelets out of my mind.

So I ask my self:

Q: Is it about the bracelets?

A: Not likely.  It’s really about how tossed I feel with this impending move, my son’s general unhappiness and the difficulties he’s having in school, and the feeling that I have zero control over anything that is happening in my life right now. The least I can do is hold on to the things I love, huh Universe? Are you even fucking listening at this point?!

But I digress …

I am not going to return to the hotel in a desperate search for my two favorite bracelets that were so fucking awesome and made noise when I clapped and it seemed like I had musical instruments with me everywhere I went and fuuuuuck!!!!

Re-digressing …

The reason I’m not going back is because I, at my foundation believe that I am going to live and more beautifully simple and musical jewelry will come into my life. It’s just that I need to live with the uncertainty of when and how this new jewelry will show up.

Q: Am I even  talking about jewelry at this point?

A: Not likely.

I just want this transition not to feel so fucking crazy or at the very least once again enjoy and be willing to do the things that I know help me feel better. So when my new jewelry shows up I’m ready to handle the abundance of its beauty and musicality, but be willing to let it go … all the way … if I need to.

– Selah

Rosie.

PE: The Unseen Enema!

I’m not sure if I ever feel “special” or “wanted”. I have determined the reason for this is an undiscovered birth defect that children in the future will be tested for.  They may even develop a vaccine.  It’d play out something like this:

(A happy couple with their new baby in tow, walks into a pediatrician’s office for baby’s first appointment. The doctor sits behind the desk, shuffles mindlessly through papers. It is apparent that all tests and labs are normal. Then he stumbles upon a piece of paper that causes him to stop and furrow his Andy Rooney like brow.)

Doctor:  Mr. and Mrs. Happy?

The Happies: (anxious) Yes?

Doctor:  I’ve got some difficult news.

Mr. Happy: What is it?

Doctor:  There is something terribly wrong with little Johnny.

Mrs. Happy:  Oh no!  But I did all the right things during my pregnancy! I exercised, ate the right foods, kept my pot smoking to a minimum, and refrained from contact with undesirable societal elements.

(Mrs. Happy dissolves into tears.)

Mr. Happy: (stiff upper lip) Alright doc.  Lay it on us.

Doctor: Little Johnny has PE.

Mrs Happy:  Oh My God No!!! No no no no no no no nonononononono! aaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!!!

(Mr. Happy slaps the shit out of Mrs. Happy)

Mrs. Happy: (to Mr. Happy) Thanks Honey. (to Doctor) Um, what’s PE?

Doctor: Perpetual Emptiness. No matter how much or how little love and affection you shower that little sonnovabitch with, he’ll still feel like a useless sack of shit, and act accordingly.

Mr. Happy: So, there’s a name for that now?  Thanks modern science!

Doctor: Yes, there is a name, and we are mere decades away from a cure!  Aboriginal children at a camp in a remote area of New Zealand are currently being used to test the vaccine.  When those little bastards stop bouncing off walls and spontaneously combusting we’ll know we’re almost there.

Mrs. Happy:  What do we do in the mean time?

Doctor: (ponders) Well it’s too late too abort.  There’s always abandonment or general disinterest in his life.

Mr. Happy:  Does that work?

Doctor:   I don’t know.  Go ask your father.

(Mr. and Mrs. Happy share a puzzled look.)

Doctor: Go on, get him out of here. There’s nothing else I can do for him.

(Mr. and Mrs. Happy leave with Little Johnny in hand.  Three months later, they divorce.  Six months later, Ms. Happy, under the assumed name of “Thunder Clap”, begins a lucrative career in striptease.  Little Johnny?  I’m not sure, but it is likely that he’s well on his way to becoming the savior or condemnation of modern society.)

The End.

(Cue Cape Fear theme music.)

I may suffer with PE, and we may be saying hello to my son’s great-grandchildren before there’s a cure, but dammit I know you like me! You really like me! (Please say you like me 😦 … and want me :/ .)

Alright I’m done being a jackass.  Happy Valentine’s Day to the all the lonely hearts!

Rosie.

The green-eyed monsta.

Today has been good.  I would venture to say, great.  It’s my son’s first day of 8th grade (Yippie!)  I worked out for a recorded breaking 90 minutes! I actually enjoyed every bit of it, finally overcoming the suffer-the-workout mentality that usually plagues me.  I ate a healthy lunch see:

 

 

 

 

 

Then … BAM! just as I’m trynna get my snooze on before work this guy shows up:

the green-eyed monsta

Yep, Envy/Jealousy shook me up out of my light doze with social networking notifications which were just too tempting to resist a peek.  No sooner than I’d gotten a gander I began to wish I hadn’t.  By the time I finished scrolling through my eyes began to well up.  I saw pics of my would be classmates at Tisch Asia enjoying their new adventure in Singapore and beginning their school year.  I saw pics of people’s “honors children” and felt inadequate because I felt I had failed at parenting because I don’t have an “honors” kid.

I could go through and list all the wonderful things about my life, and their are a great many, but I think what matters most in this moment is that I’m comparing my existence with someone else’s to my detriment. This is a pattern with me which often leads to self destructive thoughts, or worse, self  destructive behavior. SO, before that train leaves the station.  I’ll do this:  Pet and love on the green eyed monsta (sort of like those annoying e-pets from the 90s).  I’ll do this by pulling my head out of my ass and sending love and positive energy to others. Ready?  Here we go!

To the NYU Tisch Asia 2012 students

You are a group of incredibly talented individuals whose work I greatly look forward to seeing in the years to come.  Please enjoy this time in your life. Savor it like a good meal. Create boldly and fearlessly.  You are there to tell a story that no one else but you can tell. Instead of envying you, I’ll be hopeful that our paths will cross next year.

To the child that I honor

Zion no thing or no one has enhanced my life more than you.  While I will always ask that you strive for the best, I also understand that you are NOT your grades.  Middle and high school can be such awkward times.  I promise to stay out of your way as much as possible and let you grow. Instead of envying other parents for having honors students, I will wish that every parent has a child as loving, funny, creatively gifted, and charming as the one I have.  I love you.

To my e-friends

It is very difficult for a self-centered, co-dependent, recovering low-self esteemer like me to be in the newsfeed of social networking sites.  Everyone is  a rock star on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram … or at least it seems that way.  Know that first and foremost we are living breathing humans with lives offline that are sometimes wonderfully complex, sometimes sad, and sometimes nothing short of miraculous. I admire you ALL so much, and while I may not speak to all of you each and every day, I do suppress my inferiority complex long enough to peak in every now and then to see if you’re okay.  Sometimes things are great: marriages, babies, new careers. Sometimes things aren’t so great:  death, illnesses, break-ups.  Without our permission life is happening. Let’s let it. (I for one would like to “let it” more offline than on … I’ll work on that) Either way, Instead of envying you,  I’ll wish you the best, fullest life you can possibly obtain!

There.  I think the monsta is full, and it is about time for me to head off to the best job I’ve ever had (and I’m actually not being sarcastic!)  Life is good just where I am. Yep. It is.

Rosie.

…and a little musical for dessert for you Mr. Monsta!

This Old House.

Recovering from co-dependency is being ripped away from everything you once knew to be true and being shoved out into the cold to figure out a new truth on your own (seeking outside support is highly recommended from my experience). Each step I take toward my new truth leaves a trail of uncertainty, fear and regret on my heels, just waiting for me to slip and fall back into my old ways of operating. The misconception I’ve had is that I can’t make mistakes. If I did –– I believed –– it would mean I was completely wrong and should never have left the comfort of my mother’s strangling skirt strings.

Thankfully, my beliefs are growing. They are the tiny multicolor buds in a flowering garden of possibility grown out of determination to do something different, and the desire to find out who I was really put here to be. In my heart I know I was not meant to be ordinary. Not that there is anything wrong with ordinary, it’d probably be easier on my tiny co-dependent soul if I were. I know I’m not though, in the same way a dog knows it’s not a cat, and a transgendered person knows that there is something not quite right with the body they were born into. So the work I’m doing now, is necessary.

The most difficult part? Not having the full support of the people I love, my family. While some members have supported my transition into being a full time artist from day one, others have been a harder sell. Now with me doing something as “impractical” as moving to Singapore to pursue a degree that I can get in the States, it feels like the bottom is falling out. Those that were supporting me are wavering and I’m in a revolving non-verbal stand off with those that don’t. It hurts. It hurts like fucking hell, but if I look back now I don’t know if I’ll ever get the courage to move forward again.

Building on a shifting foundation is rough. It feels like I’m flipping an old and rusty house. With every repair I make I find a new issue, like termites or a leaky roof. Termites and roofs be damned, I’ll build over, under, and through if I have to because I’m sick and tired of the rickety old abode of my life. There is a garden out there, that’s waiting to wrap itself around a regal brick home on a solid foundation to compliment it’s beauty.

Rosie.

Black Mom’s Burden.

I am the mother of an intelligent, articulate, talented rambunctious 13-year-old boy.  As a mother my natural expectation, barring any unexpected illness or accidents, is that I will see him grow, get his heart broken, break hearts, learn to drive, graduate high school, go to college, start a career, get married, raise a family, raise children … in short my son should bury me; not vice versa.  An inconvenient truth in these great United States is that as a black mother of a black son there are other things I have to factor in like:

1. Getting him through a public school system that does not instill in him any cultural sense of self and within which I have to do battle to ensure he receives the basic knowledge he needs to survive adulthood.

2. Teaching him the realities of institutionalized racism.

3.  Keeping him out of the back of a cop car.

4. Preparing him  for the reality that he may end up in one any way because he “fit the description.”

5. Keeping him ALIVE in a society where black boys like Trayvon Martin can be murdered simply because he fit the fear based convoluted description in someone’s head.

… and this is the short list.  I have to fight this fight within a society that refuses to acknowledge any of it or either chooses to lay the blame at the feet of the “black community” and its “leaders”, whoever the hell that homogenous group of folks might be; this society that views the election of a black president as a “game over” for racism, all the while ignoring the rise of neo-racism in the form of “ultra conservatism” that has resulted from that election.

One foot in front of the other, one day at a time; I’m am raising a self sufficient, independently thinking black male that can not only be a productive member of society, but who can also be a vital asset to any community he chooses to be a part of. I pull from as many resources as I can to make sure he gets what he needs. I do everything in my power to instill in him a base sense of morality. Damn it, I am doing my part. It is so fucked up and utterly frustrating that I cannot rely on the society within which I live to do its.

No matter how  hard we as black moms of black sons try it seems we’re still behind the eight-ball. It’s the reality of our situation, but it is by no means a reason to sit in victimhood.  We have to continue, along side our men and any others who would chose to be a part of the solution, to engage and empower our boys. We can only hope and pray that one day society will catch on.

During our ride to school chat yesterday I asked my son how he felt about it all. Unfortunately this type of racism did not shock him. What did bother him, and me for that matter, is the rising level of “anger” and threatened violence surrounding the situation.  To use his words, “What is fighting gonna do? If they wanna get angry and do something there are plenty of other things they could do besides fight somebody.” So true.  I cannot begin to fathom life without my son. Today, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin have to.  They have my deepest sympathies.

Rosie.

 

Growing Old

As I sat in the car today and listen to my mother talk about things she needed to do to get the roof on her house repaired my heart broke a little.  She seemed so … helpless.  Over the last couple years, due to some of the plans I’m making with my own life, I’ve been forced to sit with the realization that my mother is getting older. It’s like watching your favorite super hero give out on super power. When I was a kid, I knew she was invincible. I believed in her like evangelicals believe in seperatist Jesus. Don’t most kids though? Parents seem so “big” when you’re so small. If they’re really good they feel like they can protect you against any and everything.

Society never really prepares us for the emotional transitions of adult-hood, particularly the aging of our parents.  Sure, they tell us what adults should have, what they should wear, how their supposed to think.  Most of which has never served me in any meaningful way. I’m an adult with all the trimmings, but on a lot of days I don’t feel much older than 15. This works quite well for staying young at heart, not so much in the area of being fiscally responsible.  So how is an emotional “15” year-old cope with the fact that her Mom, her own personal Wonder Woman, is fallible?

 

The Zion Chronicles: Eatin’ Lightenin’ Crappin’ Thunda!

I remember my elementary school guidance counselor Ms. Kenney. She was a short black woman with a warm smile, a compassionate temperament, and a no shit taking attitude. I remember loving the way her office smelled. I also remember spending hours on end there in 6th grade. You see, 6th grade was a tough one for me. I was some how elected whipping girl for that year and as such was picked on ad nauseum.

During my time in the fetal position on Ms. Kenney’s couch, eyes damn near swollen shut from crying, I would fix my cloudy gaze on this one “inspirational” poster on her wall. It was the cutest, puffiest, cuddliest kitten clawing for dear life to a rope with a knot on the end. It read: “When you’re at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” Inspirational posters, I’ve found, are wasted on children. At the time, I had no idea what the poster meant. I didn’t know that I was that damn kitten and that Ms. Kenney was trying her best to help me hang on.

It frightens me to think of what would happen if my story had been set now. With all the suicides among kids due to bullying, I’m sure I would have been another headline. It doesn’t seem rational to the lucid adult mind why a child would want to kill themselves, but being THAT kid in the 6th grade I do. The pain! There was an incredible amount of pain and self hatred. It hung heavy over me like a dank cloud every morning I woke up. I’d wake up hating the fact that I did. I’d wake up wishing I were somewhere, somebody, or something else. Weekends were hallowed times where I could retreat into me, read, watch television and eat until I damn near popped. Monday’s dropped me off at the gates of hell again. I cried every one. If I looked it up I probably had about 45 days out of school that year.

This past summer when I knew I was sending Zion off to the 6th grade all those old feelings came rushing back. “Would his 6th grade year be like mine?” “Maybe I shouldn’t send him. ” were thoughts that raced through my mind from July all the way through August and occasionally still do. Thankfully Zion’s social adjustment has gone remarkably well. Maybe it’s the school. Going to a school full of artsy fartsy mainly free thinking kids must be pretty cool…I guess. Maybe he’s cooler than I was. :/ Anyway, Zion’s major obstacles have come where I least expected them with academics, and in many ways his 6th grade year has been just as rough as mine was.

I’m happy to report that things have improved dramatically. It’s taking a full on team effort with his teachers, his EC facilitator and myself, but I’m definitely seeing some turn around. What I’m most proud of is my improving patience which has resulted in our improving relationship. It took me accepting that my expectations of him were unrealistic. He is not the student I was. He does not like to read like I did. He is not me. To think I bosted how I was never going to be the parent that tried to relive their existence through there child, but there I was doing just that. I wanted his 6th grade year to be better than mine. I wanted to save him from what happened to me, to see him succeed and in his success he would some how redeem my 6th grade year. To my dismay, none of that shit was based in any sort of reality.

Fact is, the 6th grade/middle school is a huge transition for all children it can and often is awkward and painful. I have to hang in there with him and be the knot that he’s hanging on to when he’s at the end of his rope (and some time that knot is my mom. That’s okay too). I strive to be attentive without smothering. I try to discipline without being a dictator. It’s a tricky balance especially being a single parent, but we do just fine most days. When I read about kids who’ve killed themselves because of the sheer pressure of being a kid in this day and age, it scares the hell out of me. I ask Zion a million questions. He answers two. He seems okay. I try to have faith that he is.

I have visited his guidance counselor’s office and didn’t off hand notice any inspirational posters. She, while quite pleasant, lacks Ms. Kenney’s certain I-don’t-know-what. She’s a new generation of guidance counselor. Maybe it’s the sheer number of children and variety of issues she has to deal with on a daily basis. Her office is not the cozy nook that I remember Ms. Kenney’s being. It was quite dark with a slit for a window and had cement walls. No leather settee like Ms. Kenney’s. I have empathy for her plight though, and wish that I could pop in and hang just one inspirational poster on her wall. While I didn’t really understand what it meant, it was comforting to see that little kitten when I went to her office. Say! I’d always been rather fond of Mick the trainer from Rocky. Maybe he oughta have done a series of posters. They would have looked something like this…

…I so would have gotten this one. Yep, me and Zi will just keep eatin’ lightenin’ and crappin’ thunda until we get through it. Together.

Rosie.