I've been teaching myself about small steps these last few weeks without realizing it. Planting one foot in front of the other rhythmically, and deliberately, all the while trying to keep my eye on the destination. Sometimes it falls behind a tree that blocks my view...other times it falls behind a mountain, but still I look toward it, knowing that it will reappear on the horizon soon enough.
Two weeks ago - almost, I was sitting in the reinstatement meeting for my son's last in-school suspension and his father was trying hard to press the point that he has in fact made tremendous progress since the beginning of the school year. The educators all shuffled in their seats and hummed about it, "Yes, but we need to deal with what is happening now." His father and I are not fools, we know this. We discussed some strategies for helping the boy calm down in situations of stress, at least when the staff could see it coming. As we left the meeting, only the teacher, a counselor, the father and I remained in the room. The teacher expressed concern about this business of setting up special procedures to help my son cope in situations that are difficult for him. "I am not a parent," he said with a certain tone that annoyed me, actually, "but from an educator's point of view I'm very concerned about him learning life skills. As an adult, if my boss tells me something I do not like, I do not have the option of getting time and space to calm myself down or special tools to do it."
"And I am concerned about the idea that it is reasonable to have adult expectations of a seven-year-old child." I locked his eyes and continued. "Most certainly he will need those skills as an adult...he also has quite some distance to go before he is an adult. Perhaps we should be focused on helping him grow into an adult, not become one overnight."
A few weeks later in my weight loss quest, I read something that tells me that one of the biggest problems people face in "diets" is that they look at them as temporary confinements while they reach for a goal. Once they reach the goal, they go right back to their old behavior. You should never continue on a diet plan that you can not envision yourself keeping up, once you meet your goal, the article said. It made me think about the goal oriented approach I've always used in such endeavors. After I went and got a snack of trail mix I'd been denying myself, I reflected upon how many times I started off an exercise program trying to walk four miles in 45 minutes every single day, or push my way through an advanced aerobic workout despite my lack of grace and health because "By God I was going to do it this time!" I've repeatedly ignored the warnings to start slowly and to be gentle on myself. And then because I couldn't fulfill these lofty goals, I gave up and labeled myself unworthy. So on Tuesday morning when I really didn't want to walk, I thought "Eh, well then I'll just go out and stroll around the neighborhood a little, just to wake up." Of course I ended up walking two and a half miles and feeling exceptional about my day.
Two nights ago the ex-husband and I had an actual civil conversation about the boy's latest suspension and both of our frustrations about them not giving the boy credit for his progress, even though it is visible and steady. Not to worry, by the next night I made an innocent remark on the phone that sent the ex into a characteristic rage, yelling loudly at me and trying hard to insult me. I simply hung up, but it bothered me a lot. I worried about how my boys can cope with such a personality. Granted, I don't think I bring out the best in the man anymore. But I tried to just close my eyes and focus on my destination, happy well-adjusted young men bringing me degrees, awards, life lessons, and of course grandchildren. This morning when I sat down at the computer, there was an email from the father titled "Apology." And indeed, that is exactly what it was.
Rome was not built in a day, it was built in a moment.
In fact, millions of them.