cafe mama

finding magic every day

the ask . october 21 . 2011

monroe behind net
To be an army wife is to always be on the ask.

Oh, we have plenty already, we mothers of many small children. Take a six-year-old: on any given Thursday, he may be bringing home a fundraising packet, a school photo order form, a notification of a field trip or lice outbreak. Who knows? It's time for sales, then: raise funds, order photos, sweep hair. For the nine-year-old, asks both simpler and more complex, ask the prescriber for a refill, ask the desk for an appointment, ask the doctor for a referral, ask the babysitter to be here early (or late), ask the school district, "may I please have enrollment?"

No, I may not. Stuck between a rock (home schooling) and a hard place (the inevitable perfect storm of stressors in a behavioral classroom), stuck, I fear, by my bold and intemperate criticism of the school district. Yes, I'd have enrollment, had I not sallied forth with that piece in Oregon Humanities.

Say you have a boy who wakes up in the middle of the night crying. Loud sobs, from quiet breathing sounds to loud wracking sobs in no seconds flat. Say you have two of those, one all the way to nine years old and he understands jokes you wouldn't have understood at 15. He's smart as cookies and whips and he is the sharpest knife in most drawers and he lashes out and swears a blue streak when he thinks he's lost a friend and he cries in the middle of the night. Say you call a school at the end of August with half a hope: that this boy can go to school and do well for once. No, half is far too much; your hope is in the single-digits, percentage-wise. 7%, we'll say. We're good at assumptions.

He can't go back to school, not yet. A few phone calls trickle in but you are always on the ask and you don't call and call and call because it's hard for you, this asking. He'll go to Buckman, you think in mid-September. He'll go to Ockley Green? You ask, perplexed (it's eight miles away, you have no car, and yes there is transportation but -- you picked him up one day out of five in the last year and the one before) in the middle of October.

Time goes on, and you think about your rights to a public school education and somehow suspect that very little good is visited on the child of the mother who marches around town demanding her rights. You walk into his old neighborhood school every day without him and see his old classmates and wonder if he could -- if you could -- ever be a normal ordinary kid with a little brother in first grade and a bunch of friends he's known since he was five, and a mom who doesn't shake, spurt tears, with the very idea of getting involved. She has, you have, we have been down that road before. All those missed PTA opportunities litter your past like gloves on a marathon course. Too much, once you got going, more than you could handle.

What a mother needs is a handler. A doula, all the time. A second-in-command. Someone who can listen to her needs and do some of the asking, or even step in now and again. Call the school; show up out of the misty morning offering to watch the kids while she runs; fold a lick of laundry just because. Take a kid under her wing, say; off to some activity I'll never sign him up for on my own. Swimming lessons. The climbing gym. Karate.

I have never been good at asking for things, at calling phone numbers, at running errands all day Saturday, at inviting people over. I am an "E" with an "I's" anxiety, happy to share my passions to crowds, to millions! but never one for walking up to someone, looking her in the eye and saying, "this is what I need, now... give." Give childcare, give a ride to Vancouver, give chicken feeding and cat-letting-out, give laundry folding, give rights and responsibilities. I build up to it like a 5K race, all jogging and setting deadlines and yoga and high-knees, and I'm really going to do it at 1:20 on the nose, and the time passes and I know I've missed the start again. Do it again.

Tomorrow, again, I'll be on the ask -- the pleas, please, for filling of forms and relaxing of consequences and forgiving of faults. For now, I sit, letting the "i" roll into introspection once more. I don't have to ask this: come, read, fill your heart up, empty it out.

Do it again.

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read my previous post . <a piece of publication . october 15 . 2011