Monday, August 6, 2012

The Great Desire

August in central Texas is hot.  Boiling, blast-furnace, holy-cow, bake-cookies-in-the-car hot.  The kind of hot where you let the dogs out just long enough to potty, then they come right back in.  It's so hot the little geckos are getting in the house to cool off.  I don't know that much about lizards, but when they're looking for cooler temperatures, I'm sure it's hot!

When most people are staying inside and enjoying the air conditioned relief, people like my husband and thousands of band and football kids are outside preparing for Friday nights, contests, and playoffs.  And even more wives, husbands, and kids are at home while Dad or Mom goes out to teach drill, plays, and fundamentals of every kind.

We do our best to get to the band hall to see daddy and support the band. This year our best yields a lot more than it did in recent years, thank goodness.  That's due in part to the kids getting older, and a lot to my decision to be involved regardless of convenience.  It's just time.  Band is such a part of us... even how we met... that I have to do what I can to make sure the kids are exposed to it.

Our start has gone pretty well.  When we've been to the band hall, the drumline kids have been sweet and understanding of Ryan trying to play everything in sight.  But we don't want to take advantage of their good nature.  This is time they're giving from their summer, well before school starts.

We're looking forward to our Friday nights.  Ryan has even asked a couple times about football games. "You want to go to a football game" he says, in his newscaster voice as always.  If I don't answer in the next ten seconds, it'll be "You will go to a football game, mommy."

Last year, when we did go, things fell apart when he saw the pit instruments under the band stands.  The rule is that our kids don't get to do things the big kids don't get to do, so there was no playing on them.  Add to that the fact that it was already well past bedtime (kickoff is 7:30 and we go to bed at 8:00 or 8:30 during the school year) and a different environment, and you can guess what happened.  It was a disaster.  The other kids often throw around a football behind the band stands, but that's just not in Ryan's realm of experience or interest.  Honestly, sticking him back there to play ball is like cramming a square peg in a round hole.

We have a plan in place for this year, and I'll share that as it unfolds.  It does involve our being at the band hall more so that he and the littles get used to the rules.

But no matter how many well-meant, aren't Mr. Senzig's kids cute trips to the band hall and games we make, there are still a lot of hours spent with people who don't quite converse.  Don't get me wrong, they're awesome kids.  I wouldn't trade them.  But take a family with a special needs child, add a job like band directing or coaching, and there will be a lot of time with a parent feeling quite lonely.

While band isn't the only lifestyle that tends to yank mostly dad out of the picture, it's the one I know.  People like military wives?  Y'all are in a class by yourselves... and you're inspiring.  I couldn't do what you do, hands down.

That said, this is still not the easiest gig in the world.  There are still days when I see Eric walk out the door and want to beg him to stay.  There are afternoons when I feel like he's given so much to all these other kids, and I just want to be able to make a trip to the school to see him do it without it being a major production.

Discontent creeps in.  

Words like always and never start to describe my daily activities.

Words like thankful and grateful and fun are crowded out of my heart.

All I can see is a hamster wheel of dishes, laundry, diapers, cooking, and refereeing.  All I can hear is whining, arguing, fussing, and screaming.

This is where I have to hit the mental override.  My heart doesn't always make sense.  It whines, it cries, it gets tired.  It tells me it's not fair, that I deserve an easier ride than this.  A more fun ride, full of laughs and more breaks than work.  That there's got to be something more than the hamster wheel.

Clean things, and they get dirty.  Pick up toys, and they find their way to the floor again.  Paint, and it peels, gets chipped, and needs it again.  Mow, and the grass grows.  Feed them, they get hungry again.

For a long time I haven't wanted to take a break for fear I'd never be able to get started again.

Is this all there is?  Things don't look like they'll change anytime soon.  It's one thing after the other.  Putting off being happy till marching season's over?  All-region band season is coming.  Then it's the concerts.  Then it's the holidays... and that's good.  Then it's area, then solo and ensemble, then spring concert... it goes on and on.  There's always something.  I bet even if you have no idea what all those things are, you still get it.

It's not a certain job.  It's life.  

But is that all there is?

Keep in mind that I'm writing this having just finished dinner with three kids... one of whom threw up his lunch in therapy after spending the whole therapy session practicing eating a whole non-preferred sandwich.  It's true.  There's nothing autism leaves alone.  We're currently thrilled to be able to stretch him in to eating a different shaped, different brand macaroni and cheese.  Not pasta with whatever on it... just mac and cheese.  He still refuses the chicken nuggets he once loved.  All that after I made Eric a lunchlike dinner, loaded the kids, and took it to him at the band hall.

My patience is wearing thin.  I remind myself that I'm in the coolness of air conditioning, dealing with our three kids and not 85.  I remind myself that so many people's spouses won't come home tonight for whatever reason, and that some won't home home ever.  It helps momentarily, but remembering these things doesn't always help.

He bangs his fist on the table, gutturally yelling... pulsing... the same sound in anger and frustration at having something non-preferred set in front of him.  I give him a time out from the table. It's short, because escapist behavior doesn't solve anything.  It sets us back.

I remember how proud I am of him.  I remember how lovely it is to walk into the stadium proud of what I hear and see.  I used to do this job.  I have no excuse.  I cannot complain.  Do I want him up there working?  Absolutely.  I know what it takes.

Then I realize it's not about band.  It's about contentment.

He sneaks a chicken nugget to his brother's plate.  He's not as smooth as he thinks he is.  Either that, or I'm not as blind as he thinks I am.  He's finished his macaroni and cheese, and was rewarded for that.  Now it's eat a chicken nugget, get to play video games.  He yells and hits the table again.

I miss it.  But how much do I miss it?  I still get all teary-eyed at my first rehearsal of the year.  Do I miss it that much, or do I just miss the kids I taught?

Yeah, I miss it.  But was I always content while I did it?

No.  Same effect, different wheel.

He's switched seats now.  His brother and sister are through and playing.  He takes a chicken nugget and repeats the deal.  "First chicken nugget, then vSmile" and awaits a response.  He takes a bite.  Then another.  I'm becoming cautiously optimistic.  He's already thrown up once today while trying to eat something he doesn't like.

I wonder how it's going out there.  I wonder how the drill is working.  I wonder if morale is still as great as it was in the first week.  I pray that it is.  I pray for the kids.  I pray that the directors will shine the love of Christ on the kids whether the kids realize it yet or not.  I pray that optimism and positivity will reign, and hard work will flourish.

Ryan's dancing around the kitchen now.  He's repeating, in Ryan echolalic style, lines from the video game he wants to play.  A glance at the nugget tells me he's in the home stretch.  He knows he's in the home stretch by his behavior.

Maelynn and Richie are in the floor pretending.  They're having such fun with random little things in the floor, and their play chatter is precious and musical.

While I'm looking away, Ryan pops in front of me, asking for vSmile.  He has a confidence about him, and well he should!  I ask if he finished his nugget, and he spouts his usual, lilting, "you did iiiit!"

We celebrate and dance, make up little cheers about how great he is and how proud I am of his accomplishment... because it is quite an accomplishment for him.

I remember other accomplishments, too.  Kids running up hugging me because they... or we... made a superior rating.  Kids clobbering me, thrilled and proud, because they made the region band... or area... or state.

But I also remember making a band who had just received a quite disappointing "2" at marching contest, meaning no area and no state marching contest, mark time and play through their show the following Monday.  They hated me for it, but with tears streaming down their sweet, hard working, heartbroken faces, they did it.  I remember drying their tears on the day of the contest, too, along with my own.

No life is without highs and lows.  But is that even what it's all about?  We can't stay high on achievement all the time.  Even if we tried, failure at some point is inevitable.

Stay tuned.

Thanks be to God for all these experiences.

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