Simple questions, like “How are you?” became irritatingly complicated to answer in the coming days.
Sometimes I lied, and said “Fine.”
I had a few friends that I was really honest with on hard days, like when my facebook feed was filled with end of school celebrations, where parents sang the praises of their children’s all-A report cards and high test scores.
I usually have great perspective on celebrations–I love to see and congratulate the success of others.
But my pain was new and my wounds were raw.
I had just found out that my son failed first grade and the Facebook posts hurt.
On June 2 I wrote this message to my friend, Debbie:
I peruse facebook and a homeschool mom friend shares about how she just got her test scores back for her kids and both of them scored above or at grade level. And her daughter has autism! I am so happy for her! Then I feel like an absolute failure because my son failed first grade and I wonder what I did wrong and what I could have done differently. In my head I know it’s not my fault (or maybe I don’t) but it sure feels that way.
I logically knew that my child’s failure was not my failure as a mother, but my child’s pain was my pain, so it was all wrapped up together and, honestly, it felt like the same thing.
My friend was able to soothe and comfort me, reminding me of that comparison is the thief of joy. Yeah…you think I would have learned that lesson when I taught it to my kids a few weeks earlier.
My wounds started to heal a bit.
But a few days later, at the end of school awards ceremony, the scab got ripped off again.
I sent another message to Debbie:
Struggling today. I went to the end of school awards ceremony. Micah got an award and Benji didn’t. It is such a small thing, but it seems like such a symbolic reminder of the whole year as well.
I was crushed for him. I have never been one of those parents who thinks everyone deserves a trophy but damn it I wanted my kid to get a trophy that day.
But he didn’t. And it was hard, both for me and for him.
I watched his face when his classmates got awards and I saw him hang his head when they moved on to the next class.
Then Micah’s name was called. I braced myself for Benji’s reaction.
I didn’t need to worry.
I watched Benji’s face light up with genuine joy. He smiled and clapped his hands and my heart almost couldn’t hold the weight and beauty of that moment.
Debbie gave me some more good advice that day. She shared a story about how, when she was in college, she and her roommates orchestrated a “Celebrate Debbie Day” or “Celebrate Makaela Day” to help each other get through the stress of finals week.
So, I said “Screw Awards Ceremony!” The Mengs declared a family holiday–Celebrate Benji Day!
Benji got to choose a day that was all about him: the menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and a special activity (swimming!). It was a day all about him, which is pretty special for any kid, and especially for a kid who is a twin and had never even had a birthday to himself.
Despite all the bad news, the failure, the stupid award ceremony, all the stress, and struggle, and painful comparisons– we were going to choose joy.