February 16, 2008

Patience: This Is Only A Test, Or Is It?

First off the good news. The England cricket team is staying at our hotel. Not that I care about cricket or even hope to understand why on earth they keep running between those sticks. But the players are awfully cute.

Okay, there's more good news. I'm alone. No, get your mind out of the gutter! Not alone so I can take advantage of the handsome men. Alone so I can recharge my batteries. And let me tell you--my batteries are pretty low.

Why are they so low? I'm glad you asked. They are low because I've had to use every last ounce of patience in my body, and even pull some out of thin air (who knew you could find patience in thin air!?) in order to deal with Jerry's super duper whopping case of homesickness. He's having such a hard time.

I'd say about five nights out of the eight that we've been here he's cried. But the night before last was the worst. He was hyperventilating and hitting himself (something I've never seen him do before) and even hitting Warren. It was just awful.

Jerry ended up slumped on the floor of his bedroom saying he felt like he would lose his mind if we didn't go home. Warren ended up angry in another room with the door shut. And I ended up sitting with Jerry wondering what on earth I could do to help him through this.

Jerry went to summer camp for three weeks last year and the first week and a half was really tough for him. He was very homesick. I nearly went to pick him up but the woman that runs the camp said she'd seen kids that needed to go home and Jerry wasn't one of them. I decided to see if he'd warm up to it. He did and now he can't wait to go back this summer.

So I asked Jerry what had made that first week at camp bearable and he said his counselor, Nick. Nick just listened, Jerry said, and really felt his pain in a way that "a parent never could."

So I promised I would do my best to listen and help him work through his homesickness. I didn't talk about making the best of our situation or being in a really cool place or any of that.

When Jerry finally calmed down he wanted me to tell his dad he was sorry. He expected his dad would probably want to apologize too and asked if I would tell Warren to come talk to him in the bedroom.

Warren said no. He was that angry. Now this made me really angry but I didn't say anything. Well, I said I thought he should try to remember that he is the adult, then I went back to Jerry and made up an excuse for why Warren wasn't with me.

It was tough. I felt like I was walking a very thin tightrope. I knew that Warren had every right to feel angry and I needed to allow him to have his feelings the same as I was allowing Jerry to have his. But I felt Warren's feelings would ultimately damage his relationship with Jerry so it was hard to just let them be. I did though. Maybe I should have tried to talk to him more about it at the time but Jerry really needed me to be with him so I left Warren to his anger, poured Jerry a glass of water with some Rescue Remedy, and read him a story.

Warren did end up coming into the room later but I don't know what was said. I left to get ready for bed. I only know that the following night Jerry was aware that his feelings, which were perfectly legitimate, had made his dad angry.

The next night we almost had an encore.

Warren had gone out to a rugby game. (That's another sport I just can't wrap my head around. Why do they keep going once the guy with the ball is down?) So it was just me and Jerry at home. We watched a little television then Jerry started to talk about missing home, got teary and started hyperventilating again. I was prepared to let him go through the feelings again but then he started talking (almost yelling) to me in a way that I really didn't like. He was looking at me like he hated me so I stopped him and said "No. We're not doing this again."

He looked at me with the same piercing eyes and said "So much for being a good listener."

That hurt. But only for a second because I realized being a good listener doesn't mean you have to let someone talk to you in a way that you don't like. I said as much and he said "sometimes I wish you never were my mother."

You'd think this would really sting but I knew how much pain he was in. I just said, "I'm sorry you feel that way." But then he came over and gave me a hug and cried and said sorry and I said I didn't actually believe him anyway. How could he not want me as a mother?

I told him he was going to have a bath (I had tried asking the night before and he'd said no) and started to run the water. While the water was running he started to hyperventilate again. He said he thought he must be losing his mind. He was clearly frightened by this surge of emotions. Then something clicked for me.

He's going through puberty.

He was homesick, yes. But he was also dealing with emotions that were far more powerful than he'd ever experienced before. All of a sudden I knew how to talk to him about what was going on. I explained that at this time of his life his emotions would sometimes get the better of him. They'd probably be really strong and swing from one pole to the other but that's perfectly normal. That's puberty. He's not losing his mind. He's 12. And yes, he's homesick. And that's okay. We'll figure out a way to work through it.

Throughout all of this I was so thankful for the unschooling philosophy. I don't know how I would have handled these situations without starting from a place of honoring Jerry's feelings--all of them--but I'm pretty sure it would have been disastrous. It allowed me to honor Warren's feelings, too. And even though I still felt angry at him, I didn't yell or tell Warren to stop feeling that way. I knew if I was honoring Jerry's feelings, Warren's had to be honored too.

So last night Jerry had a bath and showed me how you can transfer air from one glass to another under the water. He tried to float on a Ziploc bag full of air and checked out the effects of various amounts of air and water in the bag. I read aloud from the first chapter of a The Sea of Trolls. We watched a Chris Rock movie in which he was elected the first black president of the US, and talked about the historic election that was about to take place and how Obama wasn't much like the character Chris Rock portrayed. We made brownies, then we went to bed.

At one point this morning I realized I'd surprised myself these past few days. I'd shown much more patience than I knew I possessed. But then it occurred to me that this is probably just the beginning. The patience, what was in me and what I had to draw from the air around me, that I'd used this past week was probably just a drop in the hat compared to what I'll need to get through the next five years of parenting.

I almost cried. Will someone please tell me it's not going to be like this for the next five years?

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