junior high school Tag

Daddy Thoughts 16 – 8th grade grad feelings

It’s June 7th and I’m pulling my car out of our garage to drive my son to school. I almost hit a car passing by. The dude driving mugs both me and my son. I cautiously throw up my hand, as if to say “my bad” and it was my bad. My mind was going. I was super nervous and I just wanted to do my best to make the day go over as smoothly as possible. I don’t think that was quite what happened, but he graduated. We were there to witness it, to hug him, take photos, cry a little bit (I did) and to just marvel at the fact that he completed an experimental spanish immersion program starting in kindergarten nine years ago. Out of 40 families that started the journey (Black, White, Latino, Asian) only 12 stayed and finished. Now bilingual education is making an impact on parents of all types and there is a huge waiting list to get into my son’s Oakland Public School. We dressed up a bit and we all prepared mentally to celebrate him. There were lots of feelings. I had a lot of emotional moments throughout the week.

A couple of things. Every time my child has crossed a milestone I feel a sense of pride, joy, nervousness, and a wave of emotions that are hard to describe. Add to that, the fact that I am co-parenting him with his mother and my wife is very much involved. I get a lot of help from my mother and step father too. There are times when I marvel at this beautiful child who I watched go from a crib to an air plane. Each time he changes I am reminded of how beautiful and tough life is for all of us and the unfathomable forces we all have been supported by or have faced in order to still breathe at this moment. It is a universe, country, state, city, home, school, extra-curricular activities, parents, friends, teachers, strangers, and a village that raise us.

For the past two years me and his mother have worked out a co-parenting deal because we no longer live in the same state and city. He has been with me and my wife for two years straight, only visiting his mother on holiday breaks and summer. Now, the tables are about to turn. He’s going to live with his mom for two years and then he will visit us during breaks. This has been tough on him, but I’ll come back to that.

His mom was coming in for the graduation and while I think there are some very top notch communicating co-parents who are buddies, we are not. In fact, I think we have both tried to keep it strictly business. Grades, logistics, checking in about the kids growth, and definitely discussing and sometimes arguing about what is best for him and our feelings about this or that. We have an agreement on paper, but we make each other uncomfortable at times. So that was on my mind. Also, the relationship between my son’s mother and my wife is also not one of friends. Although, I have met co-parents who are, we are not there. We may never be. Because I talk to dads, moms, and ask questions I know it is possible to be very good friends with each other, and each other’s partners or significant others. We do our best.

I also had some dad duties to do as always. His school was having a dinner the night before graduation which entailed not only bringing food, but helping to create an art piece that would celebrate the 8th grade class. I don’t think I properly understood just how much hard work my parents endured for me or how much they sacrificed, juggled, and managed to make sure I was taken care of until I became a dad. And this week has been a lot of that, making sure I think and plan ahead to help celebrate him and his class mates. I love him and would do all of the planning, painting, ordering food, transporting of items, etc again. But, I’m glad that is done. Before this week, he also recently went on a camping trip. 4 days without me, his mom, my wife, grandparents,etc. Just teachers. At first he asked me to go with him on the trip. Then, as he started to feel more confident, he told me to stay behind. It made me kind of proud. Happy even, that he felt safe with his teachers and that he wanted to travel on his own.

I’m going to miss him when he’s gone. I have had him so I don’t yet know what its like to not have him. To not be able to cook him breakfast, walk to school, take him to this or that practice, to go to the library, make sure he knows his family, my friends, and is exposed to cool shit. Sure, he spends time with his grandmother and my step father regularly but I feel a deep sense of sadness when he’s gone for awhile. And, I have to remind myself of how he feels. How he is trying to connect with his mom over a smart phone. Its tough and at the end of two years I know he misses her a lot. I know I’m going to cry when I take him to the airport. So, that thought was there this week and will be with me until he goes.

Another nervous point was trying to organize a dinner with my wife, son, mom, step dad, and my son’s mother. It was tough, awkward, frustrating, and I don’t think I’ll be doing it again. I don’t want to put him through it, and neither me or my wife want to go through it. Co-parenting is hard. You have to be an adult. You have to communicate clearly. You have to put your child first and think what is going to be the best I can do for him, her, or them. Thinking of him, I just try my best to assure him that he is loved. That its ok to be nervous, (I think I’m more nervous than he was), and that I (we) are all extremely proud of him. He graduated with a 3.8 GPA (Amazing!) and had near straight A’s the whole year. He tested into a new high school (top 90%). And he is an awesome kid.

This week’s nervousness, butterflies, and frustration is fading away as he spends time with my mother and step father. Before he goes I get a chance to celebrate his birthday with my wife and our community and I’m grateful for that. High school is up next.

Daddy thoughts 12- Best friends or strangers

Its been over a year since I wrote one of these and its good to be back.  So much has happened in my child’s life, my co-parenting agreement with his mother, etc. But, this one is about what happens when friends change and become strangers or worse yet; enemies. I heard my son getting a lot of advice from his mom on the phone. So I gently pressed him to talk if he wanted to. We had a conversation about a feeling I remember all to well. When somehow someone you were cool with or was really good friends with decides they’re not going to sit with you anymore or that they don’t like you now.

Awwwww man, I know this feeling. It sucks. He did nothing wrong. Kids joke around and all, but it doesn’t seem he did anything to this kid. He went on to say that the kid was no longer laughing at his jokes, but rather he was dissing him. He went on to describe what sounded all too familiar for junior high school or high school. I tried to explain to him that for whatever reason kids change. Sometimes its hormones or something unseen. I tried to ask him if he’d noticed that some of the girls were starting to change externally by different parts of their bodies growing (he told me he tried not to notice that) and that boys are doing that as well; on the inside and out. I told him that he would change too, but that he didn’t have to be mean to anyone. Not mean, like his friend. I didn’t offer it as an excuse, but more of a factor in the strange behavior he was experiencing.

This is so tough and whether you’re a parent or not, most of us have had this experience. It’s a hard time when kids are starting to reach their teens and they start to become aware of themselves and as a result get very self conscious. I know I did. I remember kids who were cool, doing 180’s and acting like complete assholes. I’m lucky that he has not had to get into as many physical fights as I had by the time I was his age. But it still sucks.

I told my son a story about how just one or two things said to me by one of my best friends broke my heart. I didn’t get to the pivotal point in my life when i changed “crowds” in high school, too painful. But, after i listened to him I shared the story with him. I’d had a friend who i’ll call Tae. He was my best friend. He was tough and wasn’t scared of no one! I was, and it showed. I fought, every did. You kind of had to, but if i could avoid it, I would. Sometimes he would stick up for me just by simply kicking it. But this one time we were playing kickball and I totally fumbled a ball that came straight to me in the outfield. My best friend grimaced because he wanted to win so bad and cursed and yelled across the field at me calling me “sorry”. For those who aren’t hip, that means weak, slow, or just less than. Anyway, I held it together for the rest of the day but cried when I got home. I got advice from my dad and his then fiance. The next day it was like my best friend had totally forgot about it. I hadn’t. but I was also too scared to confront him, I mean shit I was only 10!

I shared this with my son to tell him I had been through something similar. Not the same of course. But, that I felt terrible and confused. And that I wished I’d told him how I felt. I encouraged him to share how he felt with his homie who was acting weird. I made sure I told him I’d cried because I wanted him to know that I cry, I get vulnerable, I have feelings, and it’s ok to share those. I told him that he should let his friend know that he’s down to be his friend, but that he should also demand respect and only kick it with those who were kind to him. If this kid was going to be mean, than he should let him know how he felt and keep it moving. What would you say to yours or what have you said to a young child about something like this?

Sidenote: He’s getting to the age where young boys are looking for rites of passage. And one of the most visible ways to show others that you are becoming a young man is to fight or punk another boy. Even though I believe in solving disagreements non-violently, I HAVE TO teach him to fight, to defend himself.