Tuesday, August 19, 2014

And On To Another School Year...

I'm ambivalent about the end of summer and the start of the school year. If all of my kids were in school, I would probably look forward to the start of school more, as a chance to have some quiet in the house. But since I will now have two at home and two at school, it's kind of a toss-up whether I prefer school vacations or regular school days.

The advantage, for me, of non-school days is not having to deal with drop-off and pick-up. If I don't have to worry about being back in time to pick up one or another of my kids from school, then we can take longer afternoon outings, plan errands, pop out for lunch or dinner, or just hang around the house all day, and no one has to be tossed into his car seat in the middle of a nap or playtime.

On the other hand, when my kids are in school, the house is quieter. There are fewer personalities to deal with, less arguing. It's generally more peaceful. (Although, I expect this to change as the baby moves into toddlerhood and buts heads more often with his brother.) Plus, when the kids are in school, I feel like at least for some hours of the day they're not simply staring at a screen all day, they're not sitting like lumps on the couch, and their brains are engaged. They're socializing and playing and learning. So when they come home and want to veg out, I don't feel as bad about it.

I generally despise "schlepping." Going from one place to another, strapping all four kids into the car, getting all four out of the car, into the car, out of the car, entertaining three while the other is at an activity, going to pick up one or two while the others are just along for the ride. I don't like being bound to strict schedules and having to disrupt everyone else's routines for the sake of one. This is family life, and no one is more important than anyone else, but I feel bad that the babies tend to get slighted and spend so much time in the car. I also dislike feeling torn between supervising homework and supervising toddlers, neglecting one child because the other needs more support, and leaving the older ones mostly to their own devices because the younger ones still need me so much. I think it all balances out in the end, but in the moment it is hard for everyone.

I am excited for my 5-year-old to finally start kindergarten, though! For the first time, two of my kids will be at the same school, together, every day. I won't get into the insane kindergarten schedule this school has that I am not as excited about. He's counting down the days until he starts. He's so excited. He really craves friends and learning and I'm sure this will be a great year for him.

My biggest is starting third grade, which blows my mind. I know kids get bigger and older and move forward through life at what is apparently a staggering rate, but third grade feels so big. I'm mostly excited for him. I hope he'll be challenged and rewarded for rising to that challenge. I hope he'll solidify friendships, learn all sorts of new information he can pepper his conversation with, and start really diving into what school is all about.

We'll settle into a routine and work out the kinks as the year goes on, and before I know it, it'll be summer again, with it's relaxation and stir-craziness. I have the feeling I'll really appreciate summer break by the time it rolls around next June!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I Can't Face Telling My Son About Robin Williams' Death

I am very, very shaken by the news of Robin Williams' death. I read about it on Facebook yesterday while my oldest son was sitting behind me in the office, using his computer. I couldn't help but verbalize my shock. "Oh my God," I said. "Oh my God. I can't believe it. Oh my God."

"What, Mommy?" my son asked. "What happened?"

"Oh, um, an actor died. I'm just really surprised. He was only 63."

"How did he die?"

I stopped. It was only just being reported. Suspected suicide...struggle with addiction and depression...suicide by asphyxiation...died after a battle with depression and addiction... I couldn't. I didn't want to explain. I didn't want it to be true. Why couldn't it have been an aneurysm, or cancer, or a heart attack, or a car accident? Something tangible that I could easily explain as an external force, a tragedy.

And yet, depression so severe that a person cannot live with it anymore is a tragedy. A horrible, silent, gut-wrenching tragedy. But it's so much more hidden and so much more unrecognized, and it should be treatable. It should. It just feels so unfair.

I didn't know how to say this to my tender seven-year-old. How could I explain that some people get so sad that they kill themselves?

"Oh, um, they don't know yet. They just found out about it," I lied. I couldn't face the conversation.

"But why are you so surprised?" he asked. As if to say, he was 63, and sometimes people die, and it's not like you knew the guy.

"I guess I just wasn't expecting it. He's a really well known and loved actor, and 63 is still pretty young," I said. How could I tell him that this was a man so full of life and light? How could I explain that it was unbearably sad to see someone so admired and successful struggle through such a dark tunnel that he couldn't find his way out? How could I convey the depth of grief I feel for someone I've never met and yet could make such an impact on me and on so very many others?

He's probably already forgotten about the whole thing. After all, Robin Williams isn't a household name for him the way it is for me. One day we'll watch Mrs. Doubtfire together, or Jumanji, or Hook, and he'll ask if the actor is still alive, and I'll tell him he's not, and he'll ask how he died (because he's that kind of kid) and maybe then I'll be far enough removed from the shock and grief to find the words. But right now, I just want to protect him from that kind of knowledge. The kind of knowledge that sometimes the world is unfair and diseases take people from us who had so much more to give.

If you're hurting, please seek help. And if you think someone around you is hurting, please reach out. Depression is a disease just as much as cancer or diabetes, and no one should suffer alone.