A family's story

One of my favorite movie scenes of all time is in the original Parenthood movie. The elderly grandmother talks about how some people go around life as if it were a carousel, it predictably goes round and round, but doesn’t have much excitement. There are others who choose to ride the roller coaster, messy, unpredictable, but much more fun and adventurous. With the chaos going on around Steve Martin’s character, the camera shifts to make it appear that he’s on a roller coaster…and he looks pained…but his wife looks calm and is enjoying the ride. It is an excellent example of a metaphor.

Lately, I feel like the Steve Martin character. We are riding a humdinger of a roller coaster around here…complete with ups, downs, twists, and loads of unpredictable excitement. I am grimacing much of the time….I feel uneasy. I wish I could get off of this ride and opt for a little time on that carousel…but I know that is just not our ride.

Last week was the last day of the regular school year. I could feel myself inching up, up, up the rungs of the coaster. If we can just get through this ride…it will be easier. Only one more day…only one more hour…. And then the report cards came home. Words like “still struggles” “regression”, and “anxiety” peppered the boys’ notes and IEP progress reports. The free-fall of the coaster came. A pit formed in my stomach. Some screaming relieved the pressure as my own anxiety and concern peaked.

To be fair, we also saw phrases like, “works and tries hard”, “met goal”, and “really improving” on both boys’ reports. Both boys also achieved good grades in their respective favorite subject matter (Jake: science, social studies and art) (Tate: math). The coaster swerved to the side, promising a slightly smoother ride than I was imagining…I could catch my breath. The tension in my shoulders released. I felt the sun shine on my back.

Jake went to visit his grandparents and spend some time with his cousins at my in-laws other home in a resort area. He was missed. Tate and Cole bickered and fought and hit and whined a lot while Jake was gone. They missed their brother…the peacemaker. The one who helps keep life in our household at an even pitch. I missed him, too. I never realized how much I depended on Jake for help with his brothers…whether it was to mitigate some bickering or to fetch a snack or beverage for them while I was busy. I had constant demands on my attention, and I was feeling woozy. It was as if the roller coaster was spinning me round and round and upside down. I felt overwhelmed and frazzled. I clawed at, and clenched the safety bar with my hands…not letting go for dear life.

Hubz has continued to be swamped at the office. His absence around the house is hard, anway, but it adds a layer of complexity and difficulty when we’re in a state of flux and routine is shot and the boys are struggling to stay “together”. Hubz and I barely had time for each other several nights last week because he worked until 7 or 8 and then had to get online once he was home. Or he just needed to decompress and didn’t need to hear me rambling on and on about the frustrations of life with 2 boys who couldn’t agree on which tv show to watch that night. Again, that roller coaster threw me for a loop. I struggled to keep my balance.

Like any ride, however, there is promise for smooth sailing. Today, Jake started summer school. Tate starts ESY on Wednesday. We finally got Tate’s summer ABA schedule. It is still a bit sketchy, but something that I can at least use to walk Tate through his new routine. We’re going to make a visual schedule today. Cole is going to attend preschool day camp starting tomorrow, as well, so he won’t be as bored at home, either. That roller coaster slowed down a bit. We’re just coasting now…and the pit is gone from my stomach. I’m able to take a deep breath and enjoy some more of the scenery. I can smile and let some of my guard down. Not all of it, as I know that the next hill is coming…but today, in this moment, I can breathe and release my death-grip from the safety bar….


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