All the Forms

School started earlier this week. We made various trips for school supplies and shoes a full size larger than just a few months ago. We filled up bags with binders and Clorox wipes, pencils and tissues. We carried them into the school, placed them in lockers and desks and met the boys’ teachers.

My job this week in addition to chef, chauffeur, cheerleader, counselor, organizer, and employee has been to fill out all the paperwork. All of it. Double time. Our address, approximately eighty times. Their birthdays, written wrong on at least three forms; it gets confusing as they were born two years and one week apart. Whose form is this? What year were you born? Which day? I always get November right. 

My favorite forms are the ones that ask for information about the two of them. Their likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, learning styles, motivations. I love these forms. 

But I don’t always know what to say. 

One form even told me it was okay to brag. But doesn’t every mom think their kid is smart. (They are.) But smart comes with its own challenges.

I once attempted to discuss these challenges in a public setting. I learned quickly not to do so. But my two smart kiddos deal with perfectionism, fear of failure, test anxiety, and organizational problems are just the tip of the iceberg. 

Last year, my younger son was singled out in a class because he is a known reader of a particular series. Every time the series was mentioned, kids would look at him and tease him. Harmless? Perhaps. Except he’s the introvert of the two and doesn’t enjoy being put on the spot, feels anxious when everyone turns to look at him. Both boys are sensitive to this despite our older son having more extroverted tendencies. I love being on a stage, but if you call me out in a small setting—like that of a classroom—I will shut down. Apples don’t fall far from their tree, it seems.

Our older son attempted to pick at, not on as the intent was to engage, not chastise, his younger brother earlier this month. Our younger son doesn’t want to play football while our older son took on seventh-grade football with extreme gusto. I took the older boy aside and explained many things; about how we’re allowed to have different interests in this family, how we support one another in those interests. I went on to say how he wouldn’t be playing football at all if we didn’t act in this regard as football scares the heebie-jeebies out of me. There is space for each of us, even and especially in this family. I push them to understand this so they can realize there is space for each of their classmates, friends, and teachers, too. 

All of this is to say that I want the boys’ teachers to know that we care most about how they feel at the end of the day. We want for them to try their hardest, yes, but we also want them to come away from their educational day with a good feeling in their stomach. Part of that revolves around the way they treat others, teachers, staff, and students included. Part of that revolves around giving their best effort in all opportunities. And part of that revolves around being treated with kindness, grace, and compassion as well. 

We have been very lucky to have amazing teachers thus far, and thanks to an amazing school, I don’t doubt they’ll continue in this regard. I do hope that my sons find their place this year. I will do my part to make sure they arrive home, now at separate times due to extracurricular activities, to a mother who loves and supports them in their journey. 

I wrote on two of the forms that I feel lucky to be their mom.

But that doesn’t even scratch the surface. 

Food Is My Love Language

Popsicles on the front porch, sun settling into the hill,
darkness descending like the sugary juice down my arm.

Taco salad, bean tacos, beef, chicken, Korean, fish;
soft and hard, sometimes on Tuesdays, always delicious.

My grandmother’s macaroni and cheese, served alongside pork
chops, dipped in applesauce; this is my youth, my memory, too.

Haluski, cabbage rolls, pierogi upon pierogi,
sauerkraut on the first day of the new year, for luck;
brown sugar sweetened but their lips still pucker.

The ribs their father makes, following his mama’s recipe.
He is known for them, at the fire station, at home;
it is one of his masterpieces, beloved by all.

Salads without dressing, though this is of their own doing.
Absurdity is what it is, but they happily crunch along.

Shrimp at the beach, four ways. Peel and eat, skewers,
in the pasta, over grits; their father and their uncle,
a Bubba Gump operation on the shores of North Carolina.

Waffles on Christmas morning and other holiday delights:
My stuffing, even though one claims not to like sausage.
That deep fried turkey, so golden and crisp.
Cookies, cookies, cookies, cookies.

Homemade pizza, every Friday; kneaded by hand,
rolled out and baked on a stone in the oven.
Pepperoni half for one, mushrooms and banana peppers the other,
cornmeal scattering across their plates, the table.

New recipes, three or four a week. Some flops, like the
sour lemon rice, others added to the rotation, instant favorites.

I joke, “If I love you, I will cook for you,” but
it is the truth; food is my love language, one I hope
they’ll remember me speaking when they take a bite
of something, long after I am gone.

Food Is My Love Language