Ruth Ayres hosts a weekly celebration on her blog. I appreciate this invitation to reflect on the positives of my week.
March is also the Slice of Life Challenge. I am in awe of the hundreds of slicers who have the stamina to slice every day. I’m trying to do it on Tuesdays and Saturdays this month.
A few weeks ago, I lost my Fridays.
Fridays had been my favorite day of the week. I don’t (usually) have to go to the office. One week is winding down, and the next week isn’t winding up yet, so I don’t (usually) even feel like I need to do much work. Work can wait until Saturday or Sunday.
We live in a district with four-day-a-week school (which I would have loved as a teacher and have hated as a parent), but my son spends the day at the Boys & Girls Club. Friday nights are pizza night, so I don’t even have to think about what to make for dinner.
Friday was my day. The only day of the week when I was guaranteed to have time to myself and sometimes even by myself. Fridays always felt somehow removed from time, this wonderfully unscheduled day where I could read, write, sit, stare, work out, catch up on laundry–but only if I felt like it.
Perhaps most importantly, Friday was my day to rest and gear up for the weekend marathon of parenting. My son comes from a background of trauma. To heal him, we provide 24/7 intensive in-home residential therapeutic treatment–and I get to be the therapist and the mom. Therapeutic parenting, it’s called, and it works. But it’s also hardcore physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually demanding work. A good weekend is a marathon. A bad weekend is more like the Badwater Ultramarathon–the one where you run 135 miles nonstop through Death Valley. But hey, according to Wikipedia, nobody’s died doing it yet!
And then I gave up my Fridays.
Since my son doesn’t have school on Friday, it turned out to be the perfect day to go to dyslexia tutoring in Rapid City, sixty miles away. He sees a phenomenal tutor who manages to keep this antsy kid totally focused on manipulating sounds, letters, words, for two hours straight. I’ve been trying to get him to accept help with reading for two years now, and finally, he was ready. Losing Friday seemed like a small price to pay if he could learn how to read.
I thought losing my Fridays was going to hurt. I did some preliminary mourning before the first one lost one even rolled around.
And that first Friday was every bit as brutal as I imagined it would be. Even though my son had been to tutoring a couple of times already, he still had a massive freak-out and refused to go. I had to pull out all the therapeutic techniques to get him calm, regulated, and, ultimately, in the car. He was fine at the session, and then the reaction set in. Another massive dysregulation that took the entire evening and required all my skill to manage.
The next Friday was much the same. And the one after.
But now, two months in, we have our routine, and I love my Fridays once again. It’s no longer stressful for my son to go to tutoring. He has a cheerful morning and willingly gets in the car. I buy him a sandwich from Subway, his favorite fast food. He sits beside me on the drive, singing to the radio, coloring or sketching, and saying “Mom, look!” at least three hundred times. I drop him off at our excellent tutor’s house and then I swing by a nearby coffee shop for a latte and some sort of outrageously oversized sweet. I sit in my car for a few minutes, listening to my favorite podcast, Books on the Nightstand, and sipping my coffee. Then I return to the tutor’s house.
The hour and a half I spend sitting on her couch waiting for my son to finish has become one of my favorite times of the week.
I don’t have access to Wifi so my computer stays in the car. She lives in the hills, and cell service is sketchy so I often can’t even get Twitter to load on my phone. I can text message my mom. That’s about it.
There are no dishes to wash, no laundry to fold, no errands to run. No pets to demand attention. I can’t do any pressing work. I can’t even check my email. There is nothing to do and nothing to distract me.
I bring a giant bag of books with me–often 10 or 12 because I don’t know what I will want to read. I bring my notebook in case I feel like writing.
I make myself at home. I kick off my shoes and tuck my feet underneath me and settle down with my book.
I read a few pages, then stare off into space, absorbing what I’ve read and listening to the murmured voices of the tutor and my son sounding out letters and discussing tricks for memorizing sight words. I love listening to my son during these tutoring sessions. I appreciate good teaching, and our tutor is a very good teacher. My son is a resistant learner–resistant to learning anything from adults. He should be a challenging student for our tutor. And yet he’s totally engaged and focused with her. He accepts her help, and even more incredibly, accepts her correction and tries again. It’s rare for him to be so calm and even-keeled for such a long chunk of time. I listen and try to figure out what her secret is. How does she make this so effortless for both of them? I keep telling her how amazing she is, but since she’s only seen my son fully compliant and regulated in her presence, she has no idea just how incredible these two hours are every week.
I used to have six or seven hours to myself every Friday, and now I have just two, and even those aren’t really hours to myself. My son is only a partition away. I can hear his voice. He has a ten-minute break between sessions and he wants me to watch him jump on her trampoline or shoot hoops or listen to him “play” her electric keyboard.
I try to sweeten the trip to Rapid each week by promising my son something a little extra. Afterwards we might get ice cream or go to the park to shoot hoops.
Yesterday, one of his major life wishes was fulfilled when we took him to a store that sells four-wheelers and dirt bikes and he got to spend an hour looking at and sitting on dozens of shiny, sparkly man toys. He was light-hearted, playful. He seemed to forget about the anxiety he usually feels when he has a new experience.
“That was fun!” he said when we got in the car to head home. “We’re having a really great day!”
It’s a rare and wonderful treat for my son to let himself have fun, to let himself have a really great day.
We spent our morning today looking at the photos and videos I took yesterday and reminiscing. Never mind that the good memories were just made yesterday. Letting himself make a good memory and revisit it for pleasure afterwards is also new for my son.
I love my new Fridays.