Adrienne started middle school.
The IEP is still forthcoming, so I had to explain things to teachers, but so far there hasn’t been a catastrophe. All the teachers are friendly. Her favorite subjects are math and gym.
She’s come up with a brilliant way to do her homework. The social studies teacher wants paragraphs written in a notebook, but her severe dysgraphia makes it nearly impossible to picture how to spell a word in the abstract. Her dyslexia is much better than her dysgraphia, meaning she can usually read a word and tell if it’s the right one, so she types out the paragraph on her phone with auto-suggest filling in words and then carefully copies down every letter and space on the loose leaf.
As for me, I’ve been trying to adjust my sleep and wake cycle. This is very difficult. I’ve always had trouble with an odd sort of anticipatory insomnia: if I have to get up early, I don’t sleep at night, and after I get up, I can’t take a nap. I don’t strictly need to get up, because Adrienne prefers to pack her own lunch and bike to school, but I still sit bolt upright when it’s time for her to get up. I’ve only had about eight hours of sleep total in the past three days. I’ll adjust before long. I apologize for not writing very much just now; it’s hard to concentrate when I’m so tired. This post is taking me hours.
I don’t know how to be the mom of a middle schooler.
I have never known how to be the person I was meant to be.
I grew up in a culture where everyone had as many children as their uterus could manage and then some, and I genuinely loved it. I have trauma from so many of the spiritually abusive things I experienced, but being buried under a pile of children wasn’t one of them. It was wonderful. More people should have great big chaotic Catholic families. They are fantastic families. When I got married, I assumed I’d have one.
Of course, I wasn’t supposed to have children at all. I was the ugly eccentric sick child who never lived up to all my talent. It was presumed that I was going to be a spinster; my mother and grandparents wanted me to be a poet and a parochial elementary school teacher. Personally I wanted to be a nun, but I knew my health wasn’t good enough for a convent to take me, and I was afraid this was a sign that Jesus didn’t think I was good enough.. One thing led to another, and I ended up crashing and burning with three-quarters of a master’s degree and a mound of debt that will never go away, in a steel mill town that is the home of an actual cult, married and pregnant, estranged from my extended family. And then Adrienne was here.
And then nobody came after Adrienne.
Most of the mothers I knew just kept having babies until their eldest was having babies– an endless loop of children and grandchildren, never a moment with no little ones underfoot. That is the way I knew how to be a mother, but it’s not the mother I became. I have poly-cystic ovary syndrome. I am a mother of one.
Most of the mothers I knew were happy busy homeschoolers. They banded together to form a homeschooling co-op when I was in the seventh grade. We put on school plays together, went to band practice at the music shop; we pooled our resources for tutors and field trips. I thought I’d do the same, but community never materialized. This last year has been particularly difficult. After the fiasco with the car, Adrienne found herself friendless and lonely for months. It was time for a change. I don’t regret it. I know it was the right choice.
But I still don’t know what I’m doing.
I guess I never will.
Maybe I’m not supposed to.
Maybe the constant feeling that I’m doing something wrong is a symptom of my religious trauma that I need to deconstruct.
Yesterday I picked Adrienne up at school, and she was smiling in a way I’d forgotten she knew how to smile.
Later that day, when she went outside to ride her bike, I found her chatting with a girl she knew from her class, a girl who lived down the block. They spent the whole evening together.
Tonight, she asked if she could take the city bus to school with her new friend and walk home instead of biking, and I said yes. There’s no danger in it. A lot of local middle schoolers take the regular city bus to McDonald’s for breakfast and then walk down the block to the school before first bell.
We’ll see where we go from here.
I am always seeing where I go from here.
Maybe that’s all there is to life: seeing where you go.
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.
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