Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Calm Before the Storm

Life feels a little heavy this week. I'm not sure how else to describe it. The school year is coming swiftly to an end, which means tons of work and stress for both Carrie and me. Emotions are running high throughout the district due to budget cuts and pink slips, and I can't tell if I'm exhausted, frustrated, disenchanted, or just coming down with some late spring allergies. It all feels like an altered state of funkiness and I'm now just as guilty as my students of counting down the hours to June 18th.

I know - sounds more like the storm before the calm, and yet less than a month ago I was raving about how much I love my job because it's rewarding, unpredictable, and so fast-paced that I'm back at home with Amari in no time. Lately, however, counseling in the school setting has left me feeling both unappreciated and ineffective, like a band-aid on a cancer who gets concerned comments from both the doctors (teachers) or the cancer itself (parents) saying, "Umm, Jimmy still has that cancer thing going on in  class. Do you think you talk to him about it?" Turns out the cancer is totally contextual and is completely in remission in my office. Go figure.

I'm just venting. If there are any teacher/friends of mine reading this, please know that I'm speaking very specifically about someone very much in particular whom I know isn't reading this. Please know that I have an infinite amount of respect for the oncology work that you perform on our students. You guys are more like large guaze bandages. See what mean about an altered state of funkiness?

And now for something completely different...

Ahhhh, nothing like Monte Python quotes to change the tone from cynicism to utter futility. When I wrote the title of this entry, I was sitting on my couch - much like I am now - watching the post-game interviews after an exciting, game-winning shot by Ron Artest sent the Lakers-Suns series back to Phoenix with L.A. up 3-2. As  life-long Laker fan, I should have been elated, maybe even giddy. It was the type of shot every championship run has - that little bit of luck that favors the prepared (All-Star loaded) team. Instead I was distracted by the giant shelf of videos to the right of the television, the sharpened hatchet lazily resting by the burning hot wooden stove, the sewing kit full of needles and buttons and scissors, and the countless other lethal objects scattered around the living room. "Jesus," I thought, "This place is an infant death trap."

Last week, two things happened to inspire this thought. First, as Amari slipped into a light, post-feeding nap, I slipped her onto the couch and nestled her gently into the confining rim of the Boppy that had served to protect her in just such instances for over six months. I paused for a moment before leaving her, remembering the many cautions that there would come a day when Amari could not be left alone like this. "She's sleeping," I thought, "today won't be that day." Half way back from the kitchen, I heard Amari's instantaneous, escalating cries. There were no warning fusses of her waking and wriggling, no thud as she hit the floor below, there was just an empty Boppy where moments before my daughter had been resting peacefully in a safe, pain-free world. Lesson learned. No more unsupervised, elevated, naps.

The second thing was less frightening, but also less predictable. Although Amari is getting much more proficient at getting her knees beneath her and rocking back and forth in preparation for crawling, she still can't move forward. Instead, much to her chagrin, she continues to scoot backwards. There have been times, however, driven by sheer necessity towards a pacifier or a large, pink, musical bunny, that Amari has been able to swivel herself in a circle. Nonetheless, with her limited mobility, I felt comfortable leaving her in her favorite play area with a wall behind her and colorful, distracting incentives to her left and right. Moments after I turned my back, she pulled out a new move I now call "The Crab," and managed to move herself sideways towards new, unanticipated hazards. When I returned to the scene, Amari, firmly planted on three limbs, had grasped the lip of the trash can nearby and was seconds away from putting back on several used diapers.

Although I've seen friends' houses evolve as their children have grown, books climbing shelves, sockets being sealed, cupboards growing barren and locked, I hadn't accepted this reality as just around the corner. Carrie has been complaining since Amari's birth that time is going by too quickly, that she's growing up too fast, that she's always going to be moving farther way from us. "First she came out of me," she's said, "then she'll crawl way, walk away, go to some east coast college, become a travel writer in the farthest country away from us..." and so on. Although Carrie has a poetic flair for the dramatic at times, she's absolutely right this time. Meanwhile, I've been taking Amari's wonderful nature and even temperament for granted, assuming that once she can crawl, she'll probably still just want to just hang out in one place - play her keyboard, hang with Creepy Bear, watch sports, etc.

I love my comforting delusions.

Today, when I dropped Amari off at Susan's house, she took her first crawl forward. Propped in the classic lion yoga pose, rocking her body to and fro like a track star prepping for a race, she propelled a single hand forward, kept her balance, then rocked some more. That was it, a single move - subtle. If I'd blinked I would have missed it and I would have been sitting on my couch relishing the most recent step in yet another Laker's championship run. Instead, I'm mentally rearranging the entire house, cursing myself for not putting more energy into my dream of Nerf furniture.

Tonight - sleep. Tomorrow - "redecorating" our future.

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