It was a near breakdown. I could see it in his crumpled face, the heavy slump of his shoulders. The clock kept ticking up through the minutes, but his To Do list had not yet ticked down near none.
I did things I usually wouldn’t. Emptied the dishwasher. Brought ice cream to his homework. Agreed to make his lunch. These were small things. I couldn’t read 40 pages for his book club or tape whatever needed to (maybe) be in his social studies notebook with a response. I couldn’t skate his hockey practice or run his cross country workout. Last night those were all things he tackled on his own. I could bring ice for his swollen wrist. He couldn’t use it yet, because that’s his writing hand.
I could gently suggest stopping for the night. But I couldn’t call a hard stop while the tension was tight in his body. I could see it. He needed to cross something (anything) else off his list before he could rest. Even a post-practice shower cleared the sweat but not the worry.
Because he’s mine and I know him so well, I could read him, know what would push him closer to the edge or (just possibly) hold him back from it.
He settled onto his bed stiffly at first. Eyes closed before the lights were even off. But it took several minutes before his body relaxed into the sleep it had stumbled upon.
As I was writing the narrative portion of this post I considered several directions the reflections might take. Why are we still giving so much homework? Why is some of it busywork like taping things into notebooks in such and such a way? Are kids overscheduled? Why do we let our kids be overscheduled?
But what I was thinking about most are the teachers and children around us every day at school. My own resolve was worn thin last night because at the same time I was trying to help my son negotiate a difficult day, I was receiving texts (every 15 minutes) from a colleague who was also feeling more than a little frayed around the edges. She was feeling her own pressures, and added to them was the anxiety of the teacher next door to her, of supporting a new team.
We all feel the strain when it begins to impact us, when our own patience thins, when our edges unravel. I’m thinking that the key is to notice each other before it gets that far.
Let’s all look at the world through the lens of looking out for each other. We can’t carry each other’s mountains. Sometimes we aren’t even sure what those mountains are. But for our families, our children (and at school they’re all our children), our colleagues, and even strangers, let’s try to pick up a few loose pebbles so they might avoid stumbling over those hazards. Let’s share a smile and a gentle greeting. If they need it, let’s offer a hug.
Today at school we’re having a Character Trait Parade. I’d struggled with what character trait to represent today. I’d decided to be the Book Fairy–but many words could describe that.
Now, I think I know what I’ll be.
This morning my son’s light popped on earlier than usual, and without a wake up call. I’d anticipated the possibility of a stormy start inside our house as well as the blustery rain outside, but there were only a few clouds. Q resolutely dressed and packed for another long day. He brought his cereal and his remaining homework to the table and got down to business.
And when it was time to head out for school my middle schooler came and hugged me. Then he headed out, headphones in, mood calm if not relaxed. He’ll be fine. As if in solidarity the rain and wind had calmed as well.
Personally, I’m rooting for thunder this afternoon to cancel the cross country meet. We could all use a night off…you know, except for homework and hockey.
Maybe the weather will also be considerate.