Whatever the analogy, it hit me recently when I was struggling to work from home. The boys had been sick in the middle of the night. After midnight, Liam vomited and was hysterical in his crib. Henry was extremely pale and felt warm to the touch. I went online at 2:30 am to notify work of my absence Friday. Then I turned off the alarm clock and we slept until 7:30. Wouldn't you know, both boys woke up feeling perfectly fine. I was glad there was nothing seriously wrong with either of my sons but not happy to have wasted a sick day. I just know I'm going to need a weeks' worth down the line sometime soon.
I tried to keep the boys quiet during the day. If we're too sick for daycare, we're too sick for fun, was the message I was trying to send. But of course, they weren't sick. They proceeded to mess up the house and fight with each other all morning. All I could think about was how much paperwork was left on my desk and how my last minute sub plans were probably not cutting it.
At nap time, I went online to write the first of two reports that are due next week. For annual reviews, I must prepare an Individualized Education Plan for all my students. Before I started revising IEPs, I read and responded to six parent emails. The days' correspondence was filled with anxiety from moms regarding school behavior, homework completion and comprehension. I had one eye on the clock as I finally logged in to the special education site where reports are created. Would the boys sleep long enough for me to finish? No. Would they be quiet long enough for me to make a dent in the task? I hoped so. I decided to tackle the most difficult file first. I had barely typed my password when Henry showed up at my side. No nap for him. I handed him the Leapster with its Go Diego Go game. I told him that he had to sit on the couch and not talk to mommy. Clearly hypocritical of me since I am a big proponent of the messages in Boys Adrift; but I was desperate to not fall further behind.
Henry was content with his game so I was able to work. I began typing statements of the student's strengths and struggles in the middle school setting. This boy does not have a delay or a deficit, he has a disability. I reflected on his progress during the first semester. There are many positives to report but in so many ways this boy is far, far behind his peers. As I typed, I couldn't help wondering what the future holds for him. Then I glanced over at my son; a healthy, typical preschooler. His potential is unlimited. (Or as I ponder in my darker moments, only limited by my parenting.)
I can ask my not-quite-four-year-old to sit on the couch, be quite and play an educational game. He will do it not just because he wants to please me, but because he is physically and mentally able to comply with the request. He is polite, kind-hearted and intelligent. He follows two and three step directions. He gets along well with children of all ages. I'm certain that if he were given a kindergarten readiness test today, he would pass with flying colors.
At that moment I realized that I was looking at a child who is easy to parent while reporting on a child who is not. I often struggle with the ordinary, everyday challenges of raising two young children by myself. But in this particular moment, I realized that no matter what the particular difficulty-of-the-day is, I have no right to complain. Ever.