Letting Him be a Man

Harrison is 14. I have decided that this age is, undoubtedly, one of life’s most cruel jokes. I teach 8th graders all day, every day. This year it’s seven periods a day of English Composition and English Literature–no Drama classes on my plate. No fear, that hasn’t stopped the drama from unfolding around me.

I recently taught my students¬†Romeo and Juliet. One of the early lessons was on different types of love–unrequited love, romantic, friendship, and love of family honor. After going into great detail with stories of love from my own life (oh, so many stories to share; Jeremy Carter, you second grade heart breaker), my students were anxious to corner me after class and share their own painful experiences.

“Mrs. Tintle,” one particularly dewey eyed student said after getting me alone. “I think I’m experiencing unrequited love!” Little sob, dab dab, sniff sniff.

“Oh sweetheart, do you want to talk about it? That’s so hard to care for someone–”

“No no, I don’t have unrequited love, someone has it for me.”

Life is so hard when you’re in 8th grade.

9th is tougher. My son is at his third school in three years, my fault completely. He lives by the whims of his working mother; where I go, you go also. Here in Las Vegas the public school system is awful. Last year was awesome at our private school, but they moved across town and I couldn’t get the resources I needed for Rex there.

So when I found American Prep Academy it was a game changer. There is a high academic and personal standard here that all students are expected to not only adhere to, but embrace. The problem is, there is a high academic and personal standard that all students are expected to not only adhere to, but embrace. Academics. High. Hard. Standards. First year of High School. No friends. That is Harrison’s life.

I recently learned that the three most traumatic things a person can go through, in order of awfulness, are death of a child, parental divorce, and moving. We all experience one or all of these situations in life, but I sometimes forget that when my kids are miserable or acting out, there might be a reason, and I might be part of it.

This is where Jason and I have landed. Harrison is an amazing person, but the last year we have watched him withdraw from friends, family, sports, everything. He has survived this all with his nose buried in a book. All the moves and schools and new church groups and lost friends. Let’s face it, we have no idea what we’re doing here or how to fix it.

Enter brilliant family counselor. So much we don’t know and so much help available. It’s like these last few weeks we’re starting to see our kid again. He’s playing High School Lacrosse now, he’s let himself make a few friends at school, and best of all is the unexpected group of friends he has landed in our neighborhood from church.

We just…we want our kids to be happy. We all want that. Sometimes, though, we don’t have the power to fix their problems. Having older kids is my favorite part of motherhood to date, but there is so much I don’t know.

A few of my tops with Rex

It’s already practically mid-January and the days are disappearing faster than a tray of lemon tarts on Thanksgiving. We try so hard to convince our kids to not fight. Like a few weeks ago during the holidays, my Christmas mantra was, “All I want for Christmas is love, you little rats!”

We had an almost perfect shopping trip one afternoon before Christmas. I had to go to Sam’s Club because we were out of dinner food (hot dogs and chicken nuggets), and lunch food (hot dogs and chicken nuggets), and quite frankly, there was a mammoth sized laundry pile just waiting for me at home. Not ready to climb that mountain.

Miraculously, my four kids joked and laughed the entire way through the store with nary a sassy word. It is possible that this moment of joy was, in part, due to Georgia choosing to ride in the cart and play on my phone.

“Mom,” June said in the paper plate aisle, “Who’s your favorite kid?”

“Oh, that’s easy,” I said, “Definitely Rex.” This was met with a cacophony of dismay.

“What?!” Georgia said, shooting daggers at me. “Oh great. You just HATE me!”

“Wait,” Harry said, “I thought I was your favorite?”

“Stop!” Rex yelled, “Mom, please don’t say that! Just say we’re ALL your favorite kid!”

I smiled at this and looked down into June’s lovely green-eyed, freckled little smiling face, and was delighted to see that she is apparently my only child who is confident in her claim to my heart. “Yeah,” I said to her with a wink, “Definitely Rex.”

My favorite Christmas moment, though, was Christmas Eve when we got to church in Elma and ran into my brother, Steve. “Hi, Rex!” Steve said.

“Oh, ah, hi! Do I know you?”

“Rex,” I said, smiling and nudging him, “This is your Uncle Steve, my brother.”

“Oh,” Rex said to him. “So, are you a Valentine?”

“Rex!” I was feeling embarrassed at this point, “Of course! He’s my brother!”

My sweet autistic 12-year-old, who has not only met his Uncle Steve literally dozens and dozens of times, but even looks like him, looked over at me and said, “Wait, are YOU a Valentine?”

That afternoon Rex and I were up wrapping presents. “Look,” I said, “Let’s just review the family song about your aunts and uncles before the Christmas party tonight.” Years and years ago I made up a simple little ditty to help my littles learn the names of my 10 siblings. It’s worked miracles on family visits.¬† “Okay, I’ll start you off. First there’s Koni…”

Blank stare.

“Come on,” I said, “next it’s one of my brothers…”

“Hmm,” Rex said, “Otto?”

Otto? OTTO? “No Rex, there is no Otto in our family.” I started to sing the Mommy’s Sibling’s song as a refresher. “Koni, Bart, Bruce and Steve, Marilyn, Kerry–let’s just stop there. Okay, repeat those back to me.”

“Oh, okay. Let’s see here, ah, Koni, Bart, Chris and Steve…” Chris? Really?

“No, Rex, there’s no Chris in our family. It’s Bart and Bruce, no Otto, no Chris.”

Living away from family is tough on the little things, like name recognition. Or just names in general. Either way, in Vegas we live, and for the time being, in Vegas we shall stay. It was sure wonderful to get all those Valentine hugs, though.