Awesome in the face of adversity

This is my favourite time of year – cool, foggy mornings! crisp evenings! coloured leaves! Thanksgiving! hoodies! – except when it comes to my boy.

Pertaining to Max, this is one of my most hated times of the year. Changing routine! New classes! New teachers! New EVERYTHING! Anxiety! Hype! MELTDOWNS!

Historically, Back to School has been hard, and I’ve typically met it head on with a set routine, a bottle of wine and a box of Kleenex. But this year? I almost don’t want to even risk typing this, lest I jinx everything, but…this year has been off to a pretty good start.

This has, in fact, been the best start we’ve ever had.

Now, I’m not so naive that I don’t realize it could all go to hell in a flaming hand basket real quick – we’re not even two months in, there’s still plenty of time! But it’s going good, dammit, and I’m going to ride this high for as long as I can. There’s been a lot of change for Max to adjust to this Back to School season, and I’m really, really proud of him for the way he’s handling it. Sure, there have been some bumps in the road and a couple of (real nasty) meltdowns, but for the most part, he’s gotten through the first month and a half of school much better than I thought he would (and has in the past). The notes his EA have written in his communication book have said things like, “Great day today!” and “Max worked very hard today!” And the most shocking of them all, “Max worked hard on improving his work effort and behaviour this week.”

I read these notes and part of me wonders, is she delirious? Does she have the right kid? But I see a change in him too, a maturing – a growth and understanding, of himself and his surroundings – that makes me realize how fortunate I am to be a part of his life, the journey he’s on. And how proud I am of him for being so awesome in the face of adversity.

Last week we were sitting on a bench outside the change rooms at the pool, waiting for Vic to finish up after her swimming class. As a woman walked by with a achingly beautiful baby in her arms, I leaned over and said to Max, “You were that small once, you know.”

To which he replied, “Babies are like dolls. Except they grow up, and then they die.”

This? Is one hell of an interesting journey.



The one with the razor

“Mummy, I’m feeling a bit…worried about something.”

I was leaning across the bathroom sink, plucking my eyebrows, waiting for Max to finish in the shower. It’s part of The Shower Routine: I busy myself by plucking either my eyebrows or those six rogue chin hairs that make me feel like a goddamn witch, popping zits or putting away laundry while Max goes through the Shower Steps (Step One: get wet. Step Two: spit water and spray snot all over the shower wall. Step Three: wash butt. Step Four: repeat Step Two. Step Five: wash body and hair. Final Step: splash around while repeating Step Two). That night I was plucking my eyebrows, so my glasses were off when Max stepped out of the shower and announced he was worried about something, which meant I was, by all intents and purposes, legally blind.

I glanced in his general direction, tossing him his towel. “About what, buddy?” I stepped off the oval bath mat in front of the sink, so he could step on to it – a key part of The Shower Routine – but he didn’t move.

I squinted over at him and realized there was something wrong – something REALLY wrong – with his forehead. With his hair. I could make out a big chunk of his bangs missing and a huge part of his scalp, exposed.

I gasped.

“I’M REALLY WORRIED,” he blurted out.

I fumbled for my glasses. “Max!” I lurched across the bathroom and grabbed his head. No blood, but my kid had essentially scalped himself while he was in the shower. With my razor. There was a patch of hair about the size of Australia missing from the front of his head.

“Max, oh, buddy. What…uh…oh my God. Right to the scalp, eh? What were you thinking?”

He stepped over to the bath mat and looked at himself in the mirror. I watched as his mouth curled downward and his expression went from slight confusion to one of sheer horror. I realized then that he had absolutely no idea that what he had done in the shower would alter his physical appearance quite so drastically.

He slapped his hands over the patch and started to wail, and I spent the next forty-five minutes talking him through a pretty intense breakdown. When I saw Barn’s headlights flash across the living room wall I ran out to the driveway to fill him in. When we were finished talking he walked through the front door, hugged Max, who was whimpering on the couch, and took him straight to the barber shop.

So now Max is rockin’ an extremely short ‘do. The patch is growing in quickly, but for a few days he got some strange looks, mostly from adults. The kids at school seemed pretty accepting of the fact that one day Max had a head full of hair and the next he was bald, with a continent-shaped scalp patch right at the front. (Is it bad that I keep wanting to call him Gorbachev?)

The lessons Max learned from this: 1) it doesn’t matter what you look like, your friends will like you even if you have scalped yourself with your mother’s razor. And 2) Do not, for the love of all things holy, touch your mother’s razor again, you got it?

The lessons I learned from this: 1) take your goddamn razor out of the shower when you’re finished with it, asshole. And 2) whenever you think you have this parenting thing locked down, you are wrong.

Really wrong.


It’s not a wine glass

We slip in to our regular routines like they’re comfortable sweatshirts, though where Max is concerned it’s a bit too easy, and I suspect a meltdown is on the horizon (it was – a doozy). We tumble through the front door just after three, the kids kicking their shoes off in one fell swoop. Lunch bags are disassembled on the kitchen counter, hands are washed, snacks are inhaled. Victoria and Max flop down on the couch and indulge in television and Minecraft respectively, though it’s not long before Victoria has wandered in to the living room where I am sitting and is giving me a detailed tour of how she has set up her binder.

“I put my highlighters in the pockets here,” she says with gusto. “And my scissors in this pouch, here.”

I nod. “I’m impressed with your organization,” I say.

“This is what I drew today.” She flips a school notebook open to the first page filled with images that are supposed to be representative of her personality. I see a music note, an iPod, a pool and a…

“What’s with the wine glass?” I point to what looks like gigantic goblet with buttons on the stem. “I think your teacher would frown upon the thought of you drinking so early on in life.”

She turns and looks at me, mouth agape. “Mom,” she states.

“What?” I reach over and brush a chunk of errant hair from her eyes. “You’re a bit young to be drawing pictures of wine glasses for school, is all I’m saying, love.”

Still with the pointed stare. “MOM. It’s not a wine glass. IT’S A TRUMPET.”