It's strange. I finally ordered gold stars in bulk from the art store, but I haven't picked them up, haven't been giving out very many at all. That is me all over...Just as I begin to commit to something, I begin to back away, in fear.
To be fair, the end of the school year with two little kids is a whirlwind of last days. Last day of chess, last day of Hebrew School, soon to be last day of school school and all the gifts and baking and parties that those last days bring. My head begins to swim as I sit in front of my calendar with all the little sheets of paper for school trips and requests for cash and the harder currency, time.
I have also been busy writing difficult,highly personal pieces for my memoir class, which takes up psychic energy that is often hard to find amidst the swirl of running a household, keeping us all smiling and not sick.
My husband gets a huge gold star for his amazing efforts to support me in my non-remunerative tasks, to keep himself up while the economy is down, while his job and the people who work for him and with him struggle to make sense of the changes the new environment has wrought and adapt to them out of necessity rather than desire. He gets up in the mornings and writes to clear his head, often gets himself to the gym, then works a full day and comes home to cute but crazy kids and a wife who is constantly figuring herself and her life in an insane weekly therapy group masquerading as a memoir class. It can't be easy.
I have in the last few days given out some gold stars to great, deserving people. After my memoir class Tuesday night, frustrated with the dynamics of the group and the tensions that rise between people who are trying to open up and really see themselves and those that are digging their heels in the sand in denial, I ran into a fellow parent at my sons' school who had begun reading my blog and told me he enjoyed it, that it resonated with him. I was incredibly pleased. It reminded me why keeping up with the blog is important, why sharing real thoughts instead of just mundane details of life is so crucial. It is hard raising kids, and there are so many details to keep track of that it's easy to get mired in the maze of paperwork. But it's so much more important, so much harder, to keep track of the emotional life of a family.
The other day, at a publishing party for my kindergartner, he shared with me his adorable book on snails and I began to write on the separate comments page how, "I loved this book..." Oscar began to yell at me and cross out those words. "No, Mommy! You can't write that! You have to write about snails!" he said.
"No, honey, you had to write about snails, I have to write about what I think of your piece, and I loved it."
He wasn't hearing me, just shaking his head and crying and crossing out whatever feelings I wrote down. Finally, it occurred to me. He is never sure what to write about it in class, his teacher often tells me. But here's a kid, like me, who is never not talking, who always has something to say, who tells you how he's feeling. He thinks, somehow, that feelings are not valid things to write about, only facts. His snail book repeated over and over the two things he knows for sure about snails: that they're slimy and have tentacles. Not whether he likes them or doesn't, what relationship he has in his little brain with the little suckers he finds often around our courtyard, that we kept as pets for a time a few summers back.
I tried to explain. "Sweetie, we can write about our feelings, not just about facts. You know how you feel and sometimes maybe that's all you know. That's OK, that's valid!" Other parents had begun to look over as he cried, as I let him let out his feelings. Someone suggested it was Monday morning blues. I don't think so. I think this was a necessary conversation. He was blocked in writing, as so many of us are, as I often am, by feeling the need to say something for sure instead of just saying how we feel. Finally, after his teacher came over to concur, he let me write some things about how I felt about his snail book, he wiped his tears.
At Target, later, I bought him a notebook, a cute monkey notebook, and gave it to him after school with express instructions to write in it his feelings. I remember that Eli, his older brother, loved writing in a little diary for a time, writing his feelings. It's important. Oscar was happy with his notebook, with the assignment, and he immediately began a list: Happy, Angry, Mad, Sad...and talked about how many times each of the feelings had occurred that day, making little check marks next to them. At one point, he came over to me and gave me a hug.
"Oh!" he said, "That reminds me of another feeling: loving!" He jumped off me to write it down.
"That's my favorite feeling," I said.