Category Archives: parenting

Beach Brawl

There are times I say nothing. There are times I decide that I’m going to let it go, rise above and turn the other cheek.

There are times I decide that I am not going to do that.

Ethan was having a particularly hard time on the beach last night. He is apt to do that. He went from ‘happy man’ to ‘I’m going home’ within the hour. Doritos and a coke had no bribery value. I believe he was using the ploy to visit the men’s room as a mode to get closer to the parking lot. He asked that I not come with him. So, I went incognito and followed at a distance. That’s when I saw it unfolding.

There were a group of what looked like 20-somethings following closely behind him. I saw the nudges and pointing before the comments started. I know how this goes. I’ve seen it far too many times.

There was laughing and whispering, pointing and a girl shrieking ‘stop it – you’re so mean!’

‘I want to buy the poor guy a donut’

‘Look at his head’

‘Nice shorts’

Then, ‘Fat r-word’

I waited for Ethan to walk ahead and enter the men’s room. Then it was my turn.

‘I hear you running your mouth you ignorant piece of crap! You must be some tough guy to pick on someone like him! Yeah, you – keep your head down and keep walking.’ Some more followed.

But from him and his pathetic, little group there was only more laughing and shoving of one another and looks of shock. They thought he was alone and they could carry on their recreational mocking in private. How dare I talk back, right?

Bullies count on you to be quiet. I explain it to the boys all the time. They expect you to be hurt and embarrassed. They expect complacency. They count on you to be placid. I tell them to meet those kind of people where they’re at – head up and mouth open.

On our way back from our journey, I noticed the same guy sitting with a large group of people. I expected it was his family. When Ethan was a safe distance toward our group, I approached him.

‘You know, jackass, his life is hard on a good day, on a bad day it is something that a piece of garbage like yourself wouldn’t know what to do with. People like you make my whole family’s life harder. He deals with more shit then you probably ever will and you need to know that ‘what comes around truly does go around’. I hope your family here knows what a scumbag you are.’

He said he didn’t do it. He said he didn’t say anything. He said he was ‘trying to help’. Lying sack of crap.

That’s when his dad got up and used ‘fat’ in front of the B-word. He said I was making a scene. I informed him that if his son wanted to make Ethan a spectacle, that I’d give the same back. Let’s make a scene. I may have referenced his height. I may have made my sailor-father proud with the string of swear words I put together.

And then, I walked away. Tears welled up and I started to break down. But that was ok, because by then I was back with the people who care deeply for me and Ethan and the rest of my family. I am glad they were there and that I was not alone.

I am writing about this scene, because it is rattling around in my head. It brings up my worse fears and greatest disappointments. I become sickly aware that someday Ethan will be a grown up and I will not always be there to defend him. Then I remember, that he has three brothers, being raised by me.

I am still debriefing this situation. I play out alternative endings and rehash my tirade. I am thinking about how I want these things to play out in the future.

I wondered ‘what would Jesus do?’

Jesus did some yelling and table-flipping.

I am not Jesus.

Theresa Giudice did some yelling and table flipping.

Oh well. I am glad I got this off my chest. Thanks for listening.

sunset

This is the sunset the boys and I pulled over to enjoy after we left the beach. Terrible picture, fabulous moments.

7 Weeks Away

Gavin will be spending 7 weeks away from home this summer. The first week will be spent at high-adventure Boy Scout Camp and the additional six weeks as a staff member at another BSA camp.

There will be a seismic shift on the Costello household with Gavin gone. He is often a bastion of reliability, he is a good conversationalist, and he is full of fun & frivolity. He is the only one who can hold down the whole fort, besides Dennis & I.

He is also a teen…and well, things can get a little hard when your a teen. And things can get a little hard when you are the parent of a teen. You know – the ‘regular’ stuff.

But, truth be told, I am really glad he is leaving.

I am glad he will be leaving behind the monotony and mundane tasks that winter brought us. I’m glad Algebra & Anatomy have been put on hold for firebuilding, metal-working, ecology, and canoeing.

I am glad that he will be disengaged from all his gadgets, screens, the internet and TV for a period of time.

I am glad that he will be surrounded by fresh air and lake water, trees and grass, bugs, birds, forest creatures and nature sounds.

I am glad he is carving out a space where he can cultivate his independence – where he will be responsible, solely, for himself, including his own health and hygiene. Please tell me he will be responsible for his own hygiene 🙂

I am glad that he will experience a time to discover who he is outside of the circle of his three brothers. I am glad he can investigate who he is outside of the centrifugal force of family life.

I am glad he will be developing serious leadership skills in a structured and progressive program like BSA. I am glad that he will be forming new relationships and navigating the balance of the responsibilities he’s been given with personal time & relaxation.

See, I’m glad he’s leaving.

“In scouting, a boy is encouraged to educate himself
instead of being instructed”

~ Sir Robert Baden Powell

Don’t Try This At Home

Do not, under any circumstances, mix homeschooling some of your children and sending some of your children to educational institutions.

You will not be able to avail yourself of the somewhat lovely and bohemian lifestyle allowed by homeschooling – like not having to get up at a truly undesirable hour of the day. Rise, prepare breakfasts, pack lunches, and oversee the washing the dressing of two of your charges. Make sure they possess the litany of items needed for a day away from home and the masses of papers that are shuttled back and forth. Books, tissues…did we pack lunches?

You’ll need to assure that one kid get on the bus on time and that you transport one kid yourself…to the school….on time. Oh yeah, that reminds me. Do not pick the same schools for the two children attending school. I mean, that would just be easy and boring. It is even less boring for you if one attends a private school with a certain culture, rules and ways of doing things and the other a public school that does things totally differently. Then, keep them straight from one another.

Now, for the two children who are benefiting from home education – do not have them close in age. Make sure they are years apart so that you cannot arrange for any activities for them that overlap. Do not have them share learning styles. Again – booooorrrrring. You don’t want boring – you want challenging 🙂

This will also allow for some other situations that will really keep you bringing your “A Game”. When you have your ‘homeschooling’ clan out and about, make sure you can be home in time for school pick up and the bus drop off. Also, be sure that after a nice long day of homeschooling, you are able to help the child, whose school does not have the ‘no homework’ policy that the other kid’s school has, with homework.

This all works best when you have four boys, who share no virtually no interests, have radically different needs, and all have ‘things’ that make each of them incredibly challenging in their own right, but a force to be reckoned with as a pack.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

DSC05635

The bookends

 

Handsful

I said it right there at the kitchen counter. I just said it.

“Really Dennis! Who thought having four children was a good idea?”

Oh! Ma! God! Did I really say that?!

Just like the very young ultrasound technician who gave me the most horrified look and judgmental stares when I cried because I found out Sean was not, in fact, a girl. Get over it.

Sometimes I think unhappy thoughts. Sometimes I think downright dark thoughts. Sometimes I just wonder out loud why I had four kids. Is it really so wrong?

Today was one of those days when I had washed and dried 7 loads of laundry and there was barely a noticeable difference in the laundry room. Still so many piles.

I have a list of phone calls to make regarding medical issues and school stuff, camp decisions and working papers, appointments and bills and all manner of issues regarding….the kids. The list, printed on the cute, organizer paper labeled ‘To Call’, is a joke. Maybe a list of who I DON’T have to call would be shorter.

There is a pile of papers on my desk, leaning to one side that contains items like info on Mikey’s school trip, Gavin’s application to the vocational high school, Ethan’s prom and Special Olympics papers, library schedules and information about programs and classes. It is teetering. Like my sanity.

Can I watch a show? Where is the antibacterial cream? Have you seen an Indian Jones hat for my Lego minifigure? Is there something else, besides THIS for lunch? Unending questions. X4

It gets rough. Really rough. Sometimes it helps me to say appalling things out loud. I feel like if I say it, then I’m just not thinking it, and I can make it seem less like an elephant in the room – or in my brain. So there. I said it. I said out loud that sometimes I find it completely overwhelming that we have 4 kids.

I know enough now to know that the tide will turn. I will not get stuck with this thought. I already know, that some days (or weeks or months) get long and tiring. I know that sometimes it feels like the light at the end of the tunnel is a train and I know that sometimes, it actually is the sun.

4 sons.

I have my hands full. Really, really full.

Thank God.

So, So Sick

Ethan is sick. Poor guy. It sounds so simple, but it’s not. The final diagnosis is pneumonia – just like Gavin and I.

IMG_0481

We have a pull out couch in our kitchen – thank goodness. It has served us well during the last few weeks.

We’ve come to call Ethan ‘the ox’, because he misses so many illnesses that come through our house. It is really shocking given the circumstances that we faced the first seven years of his life.

As an infant and young child, Ethan was often critically ill with breathing troubles brought on by both reflux and a cruddy immune system. Sure, he had the ‘normal’ kid stuff – but he got things twice as bad, they lasted twice as long and he got them five times more often than other kids. He had scarlet fever – several times. I cannot count the amount of times he had Coxsackie, Fifth’s Disease, Roseola or Rotovirus.

Oh God. Rotovirus. May you NEVER.

It is hard to remember. It is hard to go back. They were very lonely days for sure. I marvel that Dennis and I so quickly developed a skill set that allowed us to do it on a near-constant basis. We planned our first ever family vacation when he was almost 7. In NJ. We lasted 4 days…before he got sick.

His current illness reminds me of that time. It also reminds me of how blessed we are that him being this sick has been few and far between in recent years. We are so fortunate that he got stronger and healthier. We know kids who did not.

He has come so far it’s remarkable.

I never forget that Ethan is loud, demanding, funny, obsessive, opinionated, silly, and requires ‘line-of-sight’ supervision.

I do often forget that he is really remarkable. Truly.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
— Albert Einstein