Tag Archives: son

Shittiest Year Ever: The Truth

“We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion. The great task in life is to find reality.” – Iris Murdoch

My kid just went through the hardest year of his life.

He had his colon removed. He had multiple surgeries and was in and out of hospitals through the entire year. In the middle of this, he lost his father. And in the process of losing his father, he lost his home. This 22-year-old “kid” (yes, he’s still a kid) had his entire world turned upside down.  And you know what I posted on Facebook through it all?

Smiling faces.

Yep. I posted the triumphs.

The photos of him walking after his first surgery. The photo of his first day home after his first 21-day hospital stay. The photo of him smiling at his new home (my house), surrounded by pets and love.  And, most recently, the photo of his triumphant first day back to work. His smiling first step back into “normalcy.”

Etc. Etc. Etc.

But you know what I didn’t post photos of during all that?

I didn’t post photos of the fear. The sadness. The anger. The pain. So, so much pain. Unimaginable, gut-wrenching pain – emotional and physical.

I didn’t post photos of him waking up and seeing a piece of his intestine on the outside of his body. I didn’t post photos of the bag of waste he wore on himself for months. I didn’t post photos of him doubled over in pain when his remaining intestines would not work properly. I didn’t post photos of the ribs we could easily count and the hipbones and shoulder bones that stuck out grotesquely with no body fat to surround them.

I didn’t post the photo of him as he climbed in the bed beside his dying father with tears streaming down his face.

I didn’t post photos of the fights.

Oh my god, the fights.

I didn’t tell everyone how awful some of the times got between us.

Jeff and I have always had trouble getting along – he was always his daddy’s boy and chose to live with him from an early age. The older he gets, the more I realize why we had so much trouble bonding. We are so incredibly alike. We feel things and we feel them hard. We get angry. We get scared. We love. We hate. We feel it all. Too much, and all at once.  (And, frankly, we both despise that facet of ourselves.)

There were arguments over EVERYTHING over this past year. Especially during those endless four-hour drives to his hospital. I like to take my time. I like to go in a gas station and peruse. I tend to be late for things. Jeff is always in a hurry. He likes to be insanely early for everything. He likes to get in a store and get out.

Every trip was a minefield.

But did anyone see that?  Nope.  Just our “on the road again” smiling faces in the car as we set out on that beautiful drive to yet another appointment. Yet another surgery. Yet another long, drawn-out hospital stay (and hotel stay for me) where we still felt like he wasn’t any better when we left.

And you know what else I didn’t post photos of?

The argument we had this week when he realized that this job wasn’t going to work and abruptly left it. When I got so unfairly angry at him over that choice that I told him he needed to find another place to live. When we fought back and forth over texts for days after he got his things and left. When he cried alone in an empty house that he had to go back to without his dad. When I cried alone in my bedroom because I missed him so much but somehow thought I was doing the right thing to make him a ‘better person.’

No. No one saw any of that.

And why not?

That’s what I’m sitting here asking myself as I write this.

Why didn’t anyone see all that?

Now, I didn’t lie. When I showed you smiling faces, we were really smiling. There were definitely happy times. There were bonding times. There were moments where, even though all of this tragedy was happening all around us, we both knew we would not have been spending this kind of time around each other had it not been happening. Somewhere deep down, even through all the turmoil, I think we both realized we were getting to know one another in ways we hadn’t taken the time to do in the past because we had never been afforded the opportunity.

So, no, I didn’t ‘mislead my public.’ I don’t think any of us ever do that on purpose.

We just conveniently leave things out.

We filter our lives so that they look the best they can.

Sometimes I sit and look at pictures that women post [yes, I’m being gender specific here because we all know it’s usually women] where they’ve filtered themselves to the point that they are practically unrecognizable. I hate to admit this, but I make fun of them. Sometimes even out loud. I make all the jokes. (“Hope they don’t go missing…no one will know what they really look like.” Etc.)

I’m kind of a jerk.

You know what else I am?

A frickin hypocrite.

Because I’ve done that with my life. I’ve done that with my kid’s life. I’ve given him this impossible standard to live up to.  All this darn happiness and strength and triumph. Why do I do that? Why did I do that to him? To me? To us?

Why did I make us think we had something to prove to someone?  Why did I subconsciously show him that he has to be tough all the time? That he has to be such a success?

Screw that.

Life is hard, y’all.  It’s so incredibly hard. And sometimes we’re going to make the wrong choices. Many times, situations are not going to have a silver lining.

They just aren’t.

Some of you may not know, but I write for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Later this year, my eighth story will be printed with them. My publicist sent me an email a month or so ago about an upcoming book title regarding overcoming tough times. They wanted to know if I was interested in writing a story about any possible tough time I’ve overcome lately in my life.

Ha! Seriously? How serendipitous. This was going to be right in my wheelhouse. Let the typing commence.

When I sat down to write this, that was my intention. I was going to spin out the best overcoming tough times story they’d ever heard.

But nope. Not this time.

Somehow the truth just started flowing out of my fingers and I am powerless to stop it. It’s time to be real. It’s time to admit that life is hard. Things hurt. Things hurt so bad that you sometimes can’t breathe. You sometimes spend almost an entire day in bed because you are too sad to even try to get up.

But then the next day, you do.

You just do. Because you have no choice.

So there you go. The other side of this horrendous, pile-of-shit year that my kid just went through. That I just went through. That our family went through.

And are still going through.

This is the real us. And you know what?

That’s okay too.

It just is.

Blogging Break: My 2020 Writer’s Block

“You may be able to take a break from writing, but you won’t be able to take a break from being a writer.” – Stephen Leigh

It has been almost two years since I wrote in this blog. I realized that with astonishment today as I looked back at my last post dated July of 2019. When I started this blog, I couldn’t imagine even going a week without writing in it. And yet, here we are. (Funny how life likes to make liars of us, right?)

So, why the absence?

Wow. Where do I even begin? I guess we’ll start here:

In October 2020, I lost my ex-husband.

(Ok, I know that’s a strange thing to say. How can I lose my ex-husband?  Yes, Kevin passed away – but is that allowed to be my loss?  Trust me, I struggled with that almost more than the grief itself. Was I even allowed to be grieving? What right did I have?)

But I digress. A little back story:

For the last five years or so of Kevin’s life, his health started taking a drastic turn downhill. In his late teens, he was diagnosed with Becker muscular dystrophy, a progressive disease that causes a slow deterioration of his muscles over time. He had trouble walking for his entire adult life, but those last five years found him in a wheelchair. Our son Jeff, now 22, spent his older teen and early 20 years taking care of his father. While watching his younger sister move away and go to college, Jeff stayed behind in their little small town with his dad. It was just the two of them – father and son; caregiver and patient; roommates; friends. His dad and I had been divorced since the kids were very young, but I still lived close by. I had remarried my wonderful husband Richard and we all got along just fine. My husband and I even rode over and played cards with Jeff and Kevin occasionally if you can believe that.

Then 2020 struck.

I know we all have our 2020 stories. But man. Ours was a doozy.

The year started with my son getting drastically sick. We took him to the local hospital where he was promptly admitted, diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, and, after a 20-day hospital stay (complete with a transfer to a larger hospital four hours away that specialized in his condition), had his entire colon removed. A seemingly healthy 21 year old kid now had an ostomy bag. Needless to say, this put a bit of a damper on his caregiving for his father. Suddenly, Jeff was the one needing care himself.  After some heartfelt conversations with my husband, we decided I needed to go stay with them to help.

I began living part-time with my ex-husband and son.

To outsiders, this was quite the strange situation. But to us? I don’t know – it just worked. My son needed me. And, even more than that, he needed to know that his father was being taken care of. Now, at this point, his father only needed small things. A little help with household chores and things like that. But that was soon to change.

In June 2020, the very day that my son and I returned home from his second week-long hospital stay for a second surgery, his father was attempting to walk down the hall to greet us at the door, and fell.  He broke his femur.

He was whisked away in an ambulance and, like his son, was transferred to a larger hospital where he would stay for close to a month. When he came home, his need for care drastically increased. He was no longer able to take care of his basic needs. Already suffering from muscular dystrophy, there was no way his other muscles could work in place of the leg that he had so badly broken. With little to no upper body strength, he couldn’t even transfer himself to a sitting position – meaning he needed help with pretty much everything he did to care for himself.

And then, he started getting worse.

At first, we thought maybe the fall and subsequent break had just weakened his muscles to the point that he had lost all energy. But soon, he began getting sick to his stomach. And then, the tell-tale sign – his skin starting turning yellow. After some bloodwork, it was determined that his liver was not functioning properly and he was, once again, shipped off to another hospital for more tests. Meanwhile, our son had his third surgery (the second of a two-surgery series that involved removing his ostomy bag and placing a surgically engineered “replacement” called a j-pouch) and was not healing as well as we had expected. So, with our son recuperating at home, and Kevin’s mother and I taking turns between caring for Jeff and visiting Kevin in the hospital (during the small windows of time we were allowed given the COVID situation), life became a bit hectic, to say the least. And, within a few days, we were given the diagnosis for Jeff’s dad – it was cirrhosis of the liver.

At first, there was a hope. Even though his cirrhosis was extremely advanced and treatment was probably not an option – there was always the chance of a transplant. Even with Kevin’s preexisting muscular condition, there was a possibility he was a surgical candidate. So off he went to another hospital – where we were soon to receive the devastating news: the cirrhosis was too far advanced. He would not survive the transplant surgery.

Kevin was told there was nothing that could be done, and he was sent home to live out his last days.

We were hoping to have 6 months to a year with him but, sadly, that was not to be. Less than a month from being sent home, he passed away early one Sunday morning while the rest of the family was sleeping and I sat by his bedside, holding his hand.

There’s so much more I want to say about his passing – and I’m sure I will one day when I find the words – but that’s not what this blog is about. What it is about, I’m not sure really. I just know that somehow I need to vomit this last year out onto a screen. As I read over this, it seems to be reading as a news report, and I’m sorry for that. But I’m still, even all these months later, trying to learn to feel what has happened to our family. I’m just not there yet.

After Kevin’s passing, Jeff’s condition proceeded to go downhill. At first, we all assumed that it was just emotional. Of course he was mourning his father – his best friend – so he’d need a little time to be able to concentrate on healing and adjusting to life without his ostomy bag. But soon, we began to realize the problem went deeper than that. He continued to lose weight and could not eat without immediately rushing to the bathroom to lose it all, one way or the other. When the kid who had just the year before weighed 182 pounds hit his lowest weight of 110, it was obvious that he was not thriving.

So back to the hospital he went.

Which brings us to now.

After a two-week hospital stay that ended at the end of January, my son is now on a PICC line where he receives his nutrients in liquid form that go from a tube in his upper arm that extends directly into an artery in his heart. Just since being placed on this line, though, he has gained over 30 pounds. It’s working!

After the year we’ve had, I’m almost hesitant to start to feel any hope; but yet, I do. A small part of me is truly hoping that maybe this time, the worst is behind us and there’s an end in sight to all of this disaster. Maybe that’s why I feel drawn back to this blog? Maybe a small part of me is ready to start processing what has happened to all of us? What has happened to me?

I don’t know.

I recently started therapy. (Zoom therapy of course as COVID still looms over us. Ironically, this whole story has existed amidst a pandemic and I’ve barely mentioned it…) I’ve only had one session so far and I found myself sitting there at first wondering what I was even doing. Why was I there? But as is the case with good therapy, the answer suddenly presented itself.

I have forgotten how to feel.

When there was so much requiring my attention – requiring my participation – I had no time to stop and process anything. No time to decide how I felt about it because it wasn’t about me. It was about my son. It was about my ex-husband. It was about my grieving daughter. It was about everything and everyone around me that needed me. They needed my presence. My action. My feelings would just have to take a backseat for the time being.

But now?

I don’t know. Maybe now it’s time to try to get out of my head, and see what’s going on in my heart. I haven’t checked in with that fella for a while. Maybe I better make sure he’s still there.

Thanks for listening. Maybe I’ll see ya again soon as I start the journey back to figuring out what’s in this jumbled head of mine.

***

I’m a Vigilante. And Here’s Why.

“Sometimes justice is better served by those who have experienced the pain.”
― Mark W. Boyer

October 1. We all remember it, and will for years to come. The day that a lone madman decided to rain down bullets on an unsuspecting crowd of country music fans at a concert in Las Vegas, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds more. Our hearts broke for our brothers and sisters as we could only imagine what they must have been going through.

And then, as some idiots among us never fail to do these days, some decided to turn this horrid, random incident into a political one. No, not just to discuss gun rights (which is a worthy discussion that needs to be had) – but to place the blame on one “side” or the other.

Cue a local preacher rant.

I live in a small, highly conservative town in North Carolina and one man – a man of “God” – decided to post on Facebook about what happened. He posted a news link to the shooting and used the following words as his caption:

“Welcome to multiculturalism. Thank you Democrats, the media, and liberal education.”

Okay, let me give you a minute to let that sink in.

Take all the time you need.

Yes, my friends, you read that right. This PREACHER – a man of “God,” – decided to place the blame for this lone, white, unaffiliated, non-religious madman’s actions on multiculturalism (different races and religions living amongst one another), democrats (you know – most of whom want to tighten gun safety laws), the media (because um…yeah…I got nothing), and liberal education (whatever the hell he wants to claim that is – acceptance of LGBTQ? Beats me.)

So, needless to say…this pissed me right the hell off.

I screenshotted this atrocity and shared it on social media. I posted it to the church’s website (to no avail because it didn’t seem to bother them).  I contacted the preacher directly who told me, and I quote, that this was “none of my business” and that he would not “stand by and watch liberals destroy his county.”

*Ahhem.*

And then, as some would enjoy telling me over the next few weeks, I became a “vigilante.” I continued to post about it – to remind people of who this man was and what he was teaching his congregation. I continued to post on the church’s website, even though they continued to delete my posts. I even thought about posting a sign on their church to show them who their preacher was. (I decided against that one because it was blatantly obvious that the powers that be didn’t care who he was – they apparently agree with him. Or at least they don’t disagree with him enough to do anything about it.)

Eventually, I was told even by people who agree with my stance on this that “vigilante justice” was not the way to go.

Now, before we go any further, I have to just go ahead and admit that I’ve never been one to listen to anyone else when they try to tell me what to do. Whether they’re on my “side” or not, and whether they’re even “right” or not. Is it healthy for me to continue to feel this anger towards this preacher? Maybe not. Is it productive? Maybe not.

But am I going to stop? Nope. And here’s why.

You know what “vigilante justice” is? I looked it up. While it’s often accompanied by ‘destruction’ (I haven’t torn anything up…yet…) it’s basically just simply taking “justice” into your own hands….whatever that justice may be. It’s also defined as being rationalized by: “the concept that proper legal forms of criminal punishment are either nonexistent, insufficient, or inefficient.”

Okay. I can dig it.

So, basically, what everyone is saying is that since there is no “law” against what this man has done – then I’m taking the nonexistent law into my own hands and seeking some other form of “punishment.” Some other rectification.

Well, hell yeah!

That’s exactly what I’m doing.

This man is leading a congregation. He is shaping minds. Some minds are already formed and agree with what he has to say, but the ones I’m concerned with are the ones that aren’t shaped yet. The young minds. The children.

Let me tell you my story.

I have two children. I have a 19-year-old son and a 17-year-old daughter. For a large part of their childhood, I was a single mom. I was tough and I did what had to be done, but I’ll admit it: I was lonely. I was lost. I had a very religious grandmother who had a large hand in my raising who had instilled in me that it would be wrong of me not to raise my children up in a church. So, for the most part, I did just that. Now, granted, I skipped around to different churches and never really found one that suited me or my beliefs so I didn’t stay in any for very long. But I did go. And I drug my kids along with me.

My daughter? Let’s just say the church thing never really stuck with her. She has always been wise beyond her years and was always a ‘questioner.’ She was a bit like her mom – just didn’t quite “fit it” anywhere. I’m not saying she doesn’t believe in a higher power – that’s between her and her god if she chooses to believe in one. I’m just saying that she was always a questioner of the “rules,” – especially the ones that didn’t make any sense.

But my son? Now that was another story. I honestly thought (and still do sometimes) that he’d end up becoming a preacher. He has such a deep sense of belief and a black and white sense of “right” and “wrong” that leaves no room whatsoever for questioning. He knows what “is” and “isn’t” and that’s just all there is to it. Period.

So here I have two very different children, now almost grown adults.  One who’d end up leaning towards the conservative, Christian way of life, and the other who’d lean toward the progressive, open-minded way of life. One strict rule follower and one champion of the underdog. Very different people, to put it mildly.

And then…bam. A few years ago, my daughter announces that she’s gay.

Suddenly, momma has to put her money where her mouth is. I’d spent my life running from this religious teaching that being gay was a “sin” because I just didn’t believe it. And now, I had the chance to look all that indoctrination right in the face and decide, once and for all, what I was going to do with those heaps of spoon-fed “knowledge” I’d been given all my life.  What did I choose?

To hell with it.

This was a turning point for me. No longer would I drag my children into a place that was going to tell one of them that she was “dirty.” No longer was I going to open up a dusty old book written by men a couple thousand years ago and that told me that my child was going to burn in hell. Screw that noise.

I’m out.

But that posed a problem. I still had a son.

As of this writing, I have not seen my son in a month. We have not spoken – in person or by text – in over two weeks. He has decided (after a multitude of disagreements – not just his sister’s sexuality) to “cut ties with his liberal family.”

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I don’t care. Because I do. When I allow myself to think about it, I can’t stop the tears. But here’s the thing. I’ve spent my entire life overcoming men who have told me who and what to be and think. It has taken me years to discover who I really am and to teach my children to be who they really are. Am I going to undo all of that so my son will love me?

I can’t.

I just can’t.

So, why am I so angry at this preacher?  Why can I not leave well enough alone and let it go?

Because I’m angry at myself. I want to prevent other mothers from making the same mistake I did. I want the scared, lonely single mothers of the world who are looking for a place of refuge to know that places like the one where that man spouts off his vile hatred have the capacity to turn your children against you. I want to give them the knowledge that I didn’t have. I want to stop them from leading their child by the hand into a place that tells them that their cult-like beliefs are worth more than their own family.

I want to stop them from doing what I did.

Vigilante justice, huh? When you have a personal connection to something, you are more passionate about it. I am a Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor. When I hear of a fundraiser to raise money to help fight this disease, I’m more apt to donate to it because of my personal history with the disease. Am a “vigilante” against lymphoma? Sure. There’s no “law” against lymphoma, but you can bet your tushy that I’m going to fight it when and how I can, even if it’s just with a small donation when I can afford it.

The same goes for bigotry.

If you’re an individual who believes in everything the Bible says – if you believe that homosexuals are going to hell and “liberals” are evil – then here’s the thing: I’m just not going to like you. That’s all there is to it.  I don’t think you’re a good person and I don’t want to be your friend. Sure, you’re allowed to be who you are. Go ahead. But I don’t want to be around you and I don’t want you to be around my children. However, my children aren’t children anymore.  They are grown and they can make their own choices. My son can make his own choices and he might very well chose to have people like you as his best friend. And he can choose to shut out the people like myself and his sister.

But would he have made these choices if I hadn’t exposed him to this line of thinking?

I don’t owe anyone an explanation. But here it is nonetheless. I just can’t stand down. I can’t watch this man slowly inch his way in between more mothers and sons of the world. I can’t watch him welcome more innocent minds into his cult and not at least warn them about it before they step into his fold.

I just can’t.

Call me a vigilante if you must. But I want to stop this from happening anymore than it has to.  If I prevent just one child from being indoctrinated into that madness, then I will have done what I set out to do.

I miss my son.  And this is all I know to do.

***

Silly Kid Quotes #12

“Children are remarkable for their intelligence and ardour, for their curiosity, their intolerance of shames, the clarity and ruthlessness of their vision.”
– Aldous Huxley

Funny kiddo time again.

This is a precious brother/sister moment from my son’s exploratory surgery last year. Gets ya right in the feels, man.

sillykidquotes12

Silly Kid Quotes #10

“The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of childhood into maturity.”
– Thomas Huxley

I’ve almost let these silly kid quotes fall by the wayside. Can’t let that happen! It has been a while since I’ve posted one, so we’re way overdue here. Time to remedy that.

Up this week is my oldest son, Jeff, with proof that those kiddos never outgrow the silly kid quotes.

jeffprom

Silly Kid Quotes: Week 4

“Children have to be educated, but they have also to be left to educate themselves.”
– Ernest Dimnet
If your Monday is going anything like mine is, I’d say you could use a little helping of Silly Kid Quotes right about now, am I right? Up to bat this week – my oldest: Jeff

He’s 17 now, but this is a little conversation we had last year:

sillykidquotes5

Silly Kid Quotes, Week 3: Riley

“The soul is healed by being with children.”
– Fyodor Dostoyevsky

This week’s silly kid quote comes from our Riley.

Ah, Riley. He with the quiet, gentle soul, much like his father’s. And yet, also like his father, once in a while he’ll bust out with something hilarious.

Case in point:

sillykidquotes3a

Comments

Dear Commenters:

If some of you are wondering why your comments on my last blog are still saying that are “awaiting moderation,” I would like to explain what and why that is.

What this means is that I, as the blog site operator, can “moderate” what comments are allowed and which ones aren’t. And why are you receiving this message?  Here’s why.

I’m sick of it.

I truly am. I am sick of the bashing of a CHILD.

Now, I allowed many comments to go through that are against what I’m saying. That is fine…this is a highly controversial issue and I understand that many will not agree with me. You are welcome to your opinions, just as I am welcome to mine. Childhood sports is apparently a hot topic – a much hotter topic than I myself even realized. This blog has blown up. Am I sorry for that? Absolutely not. It’s a topic that needed to be discussed. Too many people sweep things under the rug and hope it goes away. I am not one of those people.

However, the comments from the people who actually know the parties involved – those are the ones that are really upsetting me. Why is that? Because they mention my son specifically. And the knowledge they have (or think they have) is only knowledge that would come within the school. Meaning: these are comments from faculty and staff of the high school.  Comments that are BASHING a student.

I have a message for you. I know you used “fake names” and “anonymous” for most of your messages.  But there’s this wee little thing about the WordPress site that you might not be aware of.  When I receive an anonymous message, I also receive this:

comment

To temporarily protect whichever staff member this one happened to be, I have blackened out your info. But I have it. I have your email address.  Oh, and in case it’s a fake email address, I also have your computer IP address.  Don’t know what that is?  It’s a little number that will track your message right back to your computer. YOUR computer.

And you know what else I have?  Techie friends. They’re pretty handy…you should get some of those.

I feel certain that the Board of Education for the State of Virginia would be thrilled to know what kind of staff members it has working at Grayson County High School. I’m sure they’d love to know that the staff is calling attention to one child’s past, and threatening to list the info (some true, some not) on a public, social forum.

And I can’t wait to tell them.

For those of you who have already commented – consider yourself informed.  For those who want to comment in the future in the same manner – heed my warning.

I’m sick of it.

But thank you for reminding me why this needs to be done. The corruption in this school is sickening.

***

“The fight for justice against corruption is never easy. It never has been and never will be. It exacts a toll on our self, our families, our friends, and especially our children. In the end, I believe, as in my case, the price we pay is well worth holding on to our dignity.”
– Frank Serpico

Open Letter to the Grayson County School Board

“I don’t care what kind of pressure to win that you face from the administration. If winning is your primary goal as a coach you have significantly lost your way and as a consequence, you’ll actually win less.”
Alan Goldberg, PhD

[Before reading and commenting on this, please see announcement here. If you have already commented and your comment is not showing up, you may want to take a little gander as well.]

Dear Superintendent:

Although you have already been made aware by telephone of this recent situation at the high school, I wanted to proceed with providing something in writing for the files.  I am copying all parties involved.

Last week, after a boys’ varsity basketball game (another loss), my son pulled his coach outside the locker room to speak to him privately.  He asked him why he and a few of the other upperclassmen were constantly remaining on the bench while the coach allowed the younger, recently promoted JV players to play instead. This behavior had been taking place throughout the previous nine games of the season.  My son had not mentioned anything to the coach prior to this particular night, and had handled his disappointment with a maturity beyond his years.  All parties will agree that he also handled this private conversation with the coach in a very mature, calm manner as well. The coach, possibly upset because of the recent loss to add to many others, responded to my son with, “They get to play more because you’re not as good as them.”

[Let me interrupt here by saying that, (1) this is absolutely not true. My son and the other benched players have the same set of skills that the others do and twice as much heart.  And, (2) no coach should ever…EVER…speak to a child in that manner.]

So, after hearing those words from his coach, my son (who’s heart and soul was in this team and his fellow players), fought back tears and shook his coach’s hand and told him to have a nice rest of the season.  He then came upstairs and told myself, his father, his step-father, and his grandfather what had just taken place. He was in tears, which is a rare occurrence for a sixteen-year-old boy, as I’m sure you can imagine.

And, as I’m also sure you can imagine, this did not sit well with his family.

[Let me interrupt here yet again with a story. One day I stopped at a gas station on my way to work. A sweet little black dog started to come up to me. Thinking, “aww, he loves me,” I bent down to pet him. Instead, he walked straight past me, proceeded to pee on my tire, and then went back to his spot and lay back down. This, my friends, is what had just happened to my son.  But, I digress….]

After hearing of what happened, I proceeded to go downstairs to speak with the coach. I remained outside the locker room waiting for him to come out. I was approached by the athletic director and two of the assistant coaches, who all told me that any incidences that happen in a game have a mandatory 24-hour wait period before they can be discussed. While I did understand this rule, the incident in question was not something that happened in the game. It was something that happened after the game, when my son was humiliated by his own coach. So, I remained where I was waiting to speak to the coach. Once we realized that the coach had actually snuck out the back door of the locker room to avoid speaking to me (cute), the athletic director offered to call the principal to discuss the matter. I took him up on that offer. I spoke to the principal, to the assistant coaches, and to the athletic director about the situation, but not to the coach, who had snuck away to avoid facing his actions.

While on the phone with the principal, she offered a meeting during the day the next day at the school. I explained to her that I work out of town and that timing would not be convenient for me. So, she suggested (as a first step) to speak with the coach and my son privately first thing in the morning, to which I agreed.

However, this is far from what happened.

My son’s grandfather called the high school first thing in the morning to arrange for him to be at the meeting due to my son’s father’s physical limitations that make it hard for him to get into the school. After a series of holds (one of which exceeded 20 minutes), my son’s grandfather was told that he was not “allowed” to attend the meeting. The school then proceeded to have the meeting, which did not in fact take place just between the coach and my son, but which included the coach, an assistant coach, the principal, the vice-principal, and the athletic director. And my son. Alone, with no one on his side. The principal insists that they were “all there for my son,” but that is highly unlikely due to what took place.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

During this meeting, the coach first blatantly lied and said that he did not say that to my son. He then proceeded to imply that “if he had,” then “isn’t that what coaching is all about?”  (The principal also suggested this when speaking to me on the telephone later…that every child has a “role” on the team. Apparently my child’s role was to be told that he was no good and just be there as a practice dummy for the “real” players during practices.) Well, Mr. Coach. And Ms. Principal – let me explain something to you.

No, that is absolutely NOT what coaching is all about.

I have been a coach myself. I just recently coached a running team that consisted of all girls…all of varying speeds and abilities…and I would never, EVER, look at one of them and tell them they weren’t as good as the others. No, a coach’s role is to nurture their players, both mentally and physically, and help them become the best players they can be. Telling them they are not “good enough” and keeping them on the bench where they can’t get any experience are not the way to do that.

But look at me digressing again.

So, after the highly inappropriate meeting of many members of “authority” ganging up on my son, he was sent back to class and nothing was accomplished.  He was still off the team and the coach still insisted that nothing was ever said to him to cause all of this.

Our family was irate. I spoke with the principal who, as I implied earlier, reminded me that “even if the coach had said that to him, that is a coach’s role,” and then my son’s father followed up with a phone call with regards to his disapproval of the way the situation was handled.  He went to the school and, very painstakingly, made his way to a repeat meeting that included the same people, minus my son who did not want to miss his first day of classes in the new semester. At this meeting, nothing was accomplished either, and the coach was the first to get frustrated and get up and leave – before the meeting was officially over.  Mature behavior? I think not.

There were two more games last week that took place after these events. My son attended them to cheer on his team.  Talk about maturity. At both of these events, while all other parties involved spoke to my son (including the athletic director and assistant coaches), the coach did not. In fact, at one game, he was walking towards him, saw he and his grandfather standing there, and proceeded to physically turn around and head the opposite way to avoid having to speak to him.

Is this the kind of person we want leading our children?

In the days following this incident, I have heard a few things that may shine some light on the happenings of last week. I have learned that another sports team was caught doing something that was against the rules, but were allowed to resume. Perhaps a punishment was enacted, but the team members continue to play. Most notably, however, I have also learned that the principal and the coach have been “buddies” since high school.

Now, you have to understand, I didn’t grow up in a small town. I grew up as an Army brat. So, this small town “good ole boy” politics is something that is brand new to me. And it is something that does not sit well, to say the least.  I will not allow this to lie dormant.

Something must be done about this situation. What we, his parents, want is this: we want our son’s position reinstated on the team and we want the coach’s and the principal’s behavior in this situation to be addressed by someone in a higher position. We want our child to be believed and treated with respect. We want everyone involved to act as maturely as our son has and put this situation behind us, with a better understanding of what a coach’s role should be.

I will anticipate a speedy response to my request. I am making this letter public on my blog because, while I may not be able to enact a change, I can definitely enact awareness of the situation. My next step is the local newspaper (with names inserted), but I’m sure we’ll be able to come to an understanding and a compromise before it has to go that far.

Sincerely,

Melissa Edmondson
(A highly upset and fiercely determined mother)

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One Day This Won’t Matter

“I have no right, by anything I do or say, to demean a human being in his own eyes. What matters is not what I think of him; it is what he thinks of himself. To undermine a man’s self-respect is a sin.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I know. I know.  One day this won’t matter.

One day, I’ll look back on this situation that infuriates me and I’ll realize that life went right on. No one died. The earth didn’t stop spinning. The sun didn’t stop coming up every morning.

I get it.

But by God, today is not “one day.”  Today is today. And today…it matters.

Without giving specifics (which I want to do sooooo bad), I’ll just say that I’ve had a “disagreement” with my kids’ school recently regarding the way some of the people in authority have handled a certain situation. I have tried so very hard to raise my kids to respect authority (heck, I even blogged about it), but sometimes…sometimes authority is just blatantly misused. It really is. Sometimes, just because someone is wearing the “I’m the boss” hat, that doesn’t mean they’re in the right.

My child took a chance and courageously spoke out against the way he and some friends were being treated by the coach of a sports team. And what was the result?

He is now no longer a part of the team.  And not only that, he got sent off with a little jab about his own abilities and aptitudes in the sport. Great coaching, huh?

Now, granted, with the way things were being handled on the team (politics, politics, politics), I’m not entirely heartbroken that he doesn’t have to be a part of it anymore. But you know what? He is.

And that sucks.

Where do you draw the line, people? How do you raise your children to respect authority, and yet also teach them to stand up for themselves when the authority is corrupt?  It’s such a thin line…such a gray area. Where’s my parenting handbook?  Anybody got one I can borrow?

*sigh*

So, no. One day this won’t matter. One day we’ll look back on this moment in my son’s high school career and we’ll laugh about the insignificance of this particular incidence to the rest of his adult life. One day.

But today? Today I have a heartbroken kid who just got a cruel life lesson handed to him the hard way. Sometimes, even though you are doing the right thing and standing up for injustice, it may not work out. You may have to suffer the consequences for it.

So, the question to ask yourself is this: Are the consequences worth taking the risk?

courageI’m proud of my son and the courage it took to stand up for what he thought was right. I just hate that it sets the example for other kids to sit back and shut up because if you say something, you’ll be punished. That’s not what these kids need to learn. That’s not what the world needs to see.

There’s a healthy respect for authority. And then there’s a misuse of authority. It’s up to each of us as individuals to try our best to discern the difference.

And boy, that one’s a toughie.

One day this won’t matter. Really. It won’t.

Or will it?

***

“In matters of truth and justice, there is no difference between large and small problems, for issues concerning the treatment of people are all the same.”
– Albert Einstein