here is another piece from the past for you to enjoy while I continue to work on my next book and to promote my memoir, Straight Enough.
“Mom.” D’s voice carries down the stairs from his bedroom loft; I don’t respond. “Mom.” Why can’t he come find me if he wants me? “MOOOOM!” When D’s volume hits a level, I can no longer ignore, I stomp up the stairs. He’s perched on the edge of his bed, his sweatshirt spread flat across his lap.
“What do you want?” He looks up at me, clearly as annoyed with me as I am with him.
“Mom, why didn’t you try harder to get this stain out of my sweatshirt?” He thrusts the garment at me. I shake my head. Every morning it’s the same thing, I attempt to get myself ready for work while simultaneously move D towards getting ready for school, and every morning we end up in some ridiculous standoff. He pushes the sweatshirt closer to me, continues his interrogation.
“Did you try all the stain removing products?” He hasn’t even brushed his hair yet by the looks of it. I can feel an angry twitch beginning at the corner of my eye. I want to remain calm, so I clear my throat, take a deep breath.
“Well, you did not tell me it had a stain when you first threw it in the wash, so I went ahead and washed it. That set the stain making it nearly impossible to remove. When I did notice it had a stain, I treated it several times and re-washed it, still to no avail.” His eyes widen.
“So, you just gave up?” His voice cracks. Is he on the verge of tears? I search his face certain he must be pulling a fast one on me, but his tight expression says otherwise. Compassion, and at the very least, patience is what I strive for. But his unforeseen reaction only serves to fuel my frustration further. I throw my arms in the air, raise my voice a little too sharply.
“Listen, half my life is likely over. I am not going to spend what precious moments I have remaining scrubbing a stain out of a six-dollar sweatshirt. You’re young. If you want to scrub at that stain, have at it. Knock yourself out! But I’m done. Now get ready for school!” He reluctantly drops the sweatshirt and gets up from the bed. I feel instantly ashamed for my outburst. Today, of all days I should have behaved better. I glance over my shoulder before leaving his room in an attempt to soothe the blow. “Hey, the stain will likely fade over time,” I smile, “most stains do.”
The drive to school is mostly silent and finally I pull into our usual drop off spot and unlock the doors.
“Okay, honey, see you in a couple of hours. I love you.” My heart has softened and I want to leave my child off with warm feelings instead of my anger.
“Love you, too Mom.” He shoots me his sweet grin and steps out of the car. I watch his back until he is out of sight and then reluctantly pull away from his school. Today is the last day D will attend high school. My next stop will be to the district office where I’ll officially withdraw him. I walk slowly up the steps, pull open the heavy front door and step up to the receptionist’s desk. With a heavy heart I explain to her why I am here; she looks at me with a confused expression.
“So, you want to take him out of school?” I nod.
“Do you want to homeschool him?” she asks. I chortle out loud as I’m transported back to a time when a six-year-old D dangled from my pant leg, begging me to home school him. Would things be different today if I had? I apologize to the woman behind the desk and again attempt to explain that I want to fill out paperwork to withdraw him permanently from school. She picks up the phone to call for her supervisor who office’s upstairs. A few moments later another woman appears. This woman patiently listens as I once again tell my story. She nods, thankfully she understands. She retrieves the proper paperwork and lays it out on the desk before me. The tear that rolls down my nose and lands right where I need to sign is involuntary and the woman from upstairs leans into me, puts her hand on my shoulder. “He can always come back,” she reassures.
I appreciate her kindness. I wonder if she can feel my failure. I wonder if she knows this is my second son to drop out, that I couldn’t inspire even one of my children to finish school. When I’ve finished, I thank both women and make my way back to the car. Inside my silent vehicle, I lean into the steering wheel, close my eyes and breathe. I remind myself that D has never had a decent day in school. That it’s been a constant struggle accompanied by tears, fighting, and anxiety, both his and mine. I’ve threatened, bargained, bribed and finally agreed to let him drop out of school. He would have without my permission in less than six months when he turned eighteen. Why make him or me suffer any longer? But I can’t help wondering if I’m giving up. For sure I’m giving up on my dreams and expectations for what I believed his life should be. But then that’s it, isn’t it? His life, not mine. This is about D and his wellbeing, not mine. I need to accept the stain this decision leaves on my ego and then let it go. Besides, I remind myself, it will fade over time, like most stains do.