Monthly Archives: May 2010

Loserville

I had an experience this morning that was so unpleasant that I immediately put in in my mental “trash” bin, hoping never to retrieve it.  That is, until my drive home from grad school this evening.  I’m cruising past fields and watching the sun dip down beneath the treeline, talking to my sister on the phone.*  My sister and I typically talk in tangents, both listening to the other but also having an internal, simultaneous conversation of our own.  We’re used to it, and we can totally pick up on the other persons inner-monologue.  We hear it, even though it’s audibly silent.

Sara was talking to me about important things such as her health and family, both of which I care about much more than this unpleasant experience.  But she was telling me about a new pair of athletic shoes she purchased (which was an off-shoot of the larger discussion of health).  We were discussing the differences between New Balance shoes purchased at Kohl’s versus a specialty store.  Although it’s the same brand, the cheaper version leaves your feet welted with blisters after a mere 5 block stroll.

Then she paused and interjected, “I feel like you have something to tell me. Like you’re thinking about something else.”

She caught me. Typical.

Her athletic shoes tangent got me thinking about my own Mizunos.  I wore them this morning at the gym. Which got me thinking about my workout this morning which happened to contain one of the most humiliating experiences of my gym membership thus far.

I told my sister the story of my morning: no air conditioning in the house, feeding Jackson, cleaning up, doing laundry, getting 3 bags stocked and ready for the gym, getting jack dressed and in the car, all the while getting drenched in sweat while I’m bustling about.  I decided to continue with a slew of spin classes I’ve taken lately.  However, in the madness of my running around the house, I realize all of my favorite workout pants are in the laundry.  Then I think that I should try out the spin shorts my mom had given me a year ago. They are small, tight, and padded.  Not my typically preferred workout choice.  Nevertheless, I decide that my legs had gotten pretty buff by now (Jack is almost 2; I joined the gym when he was 4 months old), and I think for one day I can be like the other girls and sport tiny shorts, especially in a dark spinning room around other spinners.

I fly into the gym, drop of Jackson, scan my card, organize my locker, and race to the spin room waiting to feel the fans and hear the booming music.  Silence.  The only thing I noticed was a “Spring/Summer Schedule” posted outside the door of the spin room which had eliminated the 9:30 a.m. Spin Class I had depended on.

Here I am: tiny shorts and no spin class. I decide to be brave and venture out into the cardio area, confident that my legs look fine and these shorts are completely normal.  I even conjure up the bravery to hop on the only spin bike in the cardio area (which, if you’re a spinner, you know this takes a good deal of preparation), which is strategically placed in the front and center of ALL cardio machines.  Everyone is grooving around me, and I’m getting started on the Spin Bike stage.  If I was dressed like a spinner for one day, why not act like one? I look at the clock above me and set out on a course that would take me on a 50 minute ride.

My first pedal turned, and the small spandex rim around the bottom of my shorts rolls so quickly up my leg I barely had time to notice.  My next pedal turned.  The same happened on the other thigh.  Now my short shorts are rolled up as underwear, and I am in front of every single person in the gym.  My already-insecure-bike-ride became a flash black to middle school humiliation.

I spend 20 minutes trying to get this biking experience to work. I stand on my pedals, crank up the dial, and do some climbing as a way to unroll the shorts.  Then I proceeded to pull them down awkwardly low, which would buy me some time before they sprung back up.  Unfortunately, they came down too low. WAY too low.

I surrender. I get off the bike, try to do a few other machines, attempt some weight-lifting, all the while feeling like the entire world is circling around my shorts.  They are the focal point not only of the whole gym, but of the whole universe.  If it were a movie, the camera would have been circling me in slow motion with all the extras pointing and laughing. Humiliating.

The truth is, I think I actually looked okay in the shorts. And I don’t think anyone noticed me pulling them down.  Most people were watching tv or jamming to their own music or thinking about their own insecurities.  Why did I feel like such a loser?

I’ve been feeling confident about most directions and happenings in my life. God is doing amazing work, and I’m watching it unfold before me.  How is it possible that I let one pair of tiny shorts define who I am?

I am more than my legs, more than those shorts. Sometimes it feels like we never leave the walls of our middle schools.  I probably won’t wear the spin shorts again, but if I do, I would hope that I could do so securely, rolling them down my God-created, pregnancy-stretched thigh with confidence.

*Josh and I just got new phones. They’re awesome. But I don’t know how to use it.  I look like a bumbling idiot when I try to answer a call, especially when I do so while driving.  I feel as cool talking on it as I would wearing leather pants.

I told you so

Jackson David has developed a new sign of endearment towards me, but I never thought I’d have to have the “Violence is not Affectionate” talk quite so soon with my son.

This past week marked my 6th complete week of teaching nearly-full-time at Black River, and I’m well into my 7th.  The past month and a half has been transitional, challenging, rewarding, and exhausting, for both me and my offspring. Jack has adapted well to his routine of going to Jean’s house with daddy in the morning (mommy is long gone, away at work), spending 2 half days there a week and 2 long, full days.  The first week or so, when I pulled the Mazda in the driveway covered in hopscotch, I could anticipate Jack’s reaction. He would, dependably, look for me out the finger-painted window, meet me at the door, and give me a hug that only little boys know how to give their mommies. (We now refer to these as Koala hugs).  Over the following weeks, I’d open the door and have to do a little search before finding my son deeply concentrating on a project, dance move, or book with his friends.  Recently, however, I received another form of affection. Or, as I have come to understand it, deep longing.

Yesterday when I went crept down the back hill to Jean’s swingset, I noticed Jackson playing in the sand.  I’ve been missing a lot of his daily activity lately.  When I’m not teaching, I hate to admit that I’ve turned on “Shaun the Sheep” (his favorite cartoon/claymation series), put Jack in his chair with juice and animal crackers, and sprawled my papers all over the couch, grading them for hours at a time.  However, I took a moment to watch him draw in the sand with a stick.  When it comes to your own child, there is nothing more miraculous than watching him/her move and operate independently from you, omnisciently.  His lines in the sand were deliberate and special, and I noticed it with my full concentration.  Once the ache to hold him overwhelmed me, I called to him. “Hey Jack! Mommy’s here!”  He ran toward me so quickly, tossing his stick afar.  I did our usual swoop and began the cuddling routine.  Just as I was about to say “How was your day?”, I noticed his face turn from happy to sad.  The little corners of his mouth actually turned down, and the curved bottom lip soon followed.

Just as I reached to stroke his face with consolation, I received the most painful slap across my face from him that I could ever have imagined.  Just when I realized what he had done, and before I could say “no, no”, he grabbed onto my hair, double-fisted, and managed to pull a small handful of it out.  In a moment, he became aggressive, trying to find an outlet for the big emotions bottled up in his little body.

Jean interjected, “Jack! What are you doing? You’ve been so good today!”

I put him down, rubbed my slapped face, and knelt down next to Jackson, telling him it’s ok, but not to hit mommy.

Today, I spent my morning giving 11th graders their American Literature Final Exam.  This was a proud moment because I had taught a good portion of their content, I had written and revised some of their exam, and I was confident that I had prepared them for it.  The students got cramps in their hands from writing an essay, shaking their wrists in order to keep going…develop the thesis…provide resolution. I collected the exams at the end and had the privilege of sending the students on to their senior year, where English 12 awaits.

Upon walking home, I was ready to relieve my mother-in-law of her half-day commitment of babysitting so I could administer the exams.  I expected to crawl on the floor, immediately engaging Jack in a wrestling match.  Instead, I got another full-on attack.  He came at me with his tiny, but forceful, double punches and, again, managed to grab my hair and pull for dear life.

My mother-in-law assured me he had asked for me many times, and he had been an angel.  Once I did the no-no’s and fought off a few more attempts, gripping his warm arms in my hands, he began to relax.  He proceeded to climb on me, wrapping his arms tight around my neck and his legs around my waist, like a Koala bear.

We hugged, rocking back and forth, for several minutes.

I now have no doubts about the reasons for his behavior.  Although Jack is still learning where play ends and where roughness begins, he knew what he was doing with the slaps and punches.  He was punishing me.  Seeing me again was almost painful, because it reminded him that I had been gone.  His little spirit was hurt.

Thankfully (although also sadly), my teaching assignment at Black River ends in a few weeks and, from this point on, will only require a few hours of teaching per day.  My son will have his mommy back and, hopefully, from here on out, I’ll only get the Koala hugs when I retrieve him.

This experience has taught me something profound, although there are people in my life who most likely want to shout at me, “I TOLD YOU SO!”  I don’t blame you.  But, I have witnessed the effects of my absence on my child for the first time.  I thought Jack would miss me, but I honestly didn’t expect him to miss me so desperately, to feel lost without me.  Therefore, as I move forward with graduate school, I am  straying away from the search for a full-time teaching position.*  I cannot bear the weight of grief of hurting my own child through the path of my own choices, and I honestly will never understand parents who can.

Teaching is what I was created to do, and I look forward to seeing how God unfolds that in my life.  He opened the door for this substitute position.  He will open another.  Until then, I am honored to embrace a higher calling that He has for me: mom.  There is not…nor will there ever be…anything more productive or purposeful than a Koala hug.

*Just for the record, God, if You want me to teach full-time, I will do it.  But something tells me you’re stirring my heart in another direction right now.  How about you supply a part-time teaching position and make everyone happy?