Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Year of Firsts

For Ben, and really, TFH and me as well, it has been a year of firsts: first day of kindergarten, first school concert, first field trip, and today, the culmination of it all - first LAST day of school. As the bus pulled away from the side of the road today, Ben's face was pulled into a knot of despair, tears spilling out of his eyes. Let me clarify something, Ben has not been a big fan of school. His schedule confused even us: kindergarten every Tuesday, Thursday, and every other Monday. It took Ben nearly all year, but in a huff of impatience and irritation, two weeks ago he finally asked me "Is there a pattern to my school days?" - patterns being one of the focuses of his kindergarten year of learning. Frequently, lately, Ben has announced on school mornings that he does not want to go to school, that he wants to stay home with me. I am attributing this to the fact that I am working more. I am away from home for days on end, and Ben is in the care of his father, whose parenting style differs greatly from my own, and normal routine is thus disrupted. For us adults, a disruption of our normal routine is annoying, irritating, and (usually) unwelcome, but we are, for the most part, flexible, and adjust. In my own job, flexibility factors BIG. A perfect example of my need to be flexible just presented itself to me this past week. My trip - normally a three day / multi-leg trip with two short layovers - fell apart on the second day due to mechanical failure of both of our airplane's air conditioning packs. We were on the ground in San Juan, PR with 277 people on board an aircraft with the temperature slowly climbing up to 110* F. The captain made an announcement that we would return to the gate, let everyone off while they tried to fix it or (hopefully) find us another aircraft. We were extremely lucky. There was an airplane that had been sitting - broken, but now fixed - at a gate in San Juan for the last three days. Once we finally got everyone and all their bags and cargo, and mail, and food, etc. etc. onto this lovely, cool airplane, we were no longer legal to finish out our trip sequence that day and had an unscheduled (short) layover in Orlando, and were flown back to base the third day. I lost three hours of much needed time (= pay). But at least I was able to make it home as planned. It was irritating, annoying and unwelcome. But I did not dissolve into a puddle of tears as the airplane finally left the gate. For Ben, this last day of school represents the disruption of all disruptions. There is no schedule for the summer. Due to the fact that we must fly standby on my passes to get anywhere, the planned trip to Illinois to see Grandma and Grandpa is not even definite. Last summer, when Ben was just 4, we tried to fly out to see them for a weekend, but after spending nearly six hours at the airport, walking from gate to gate, and getting "bumped" off of every flight - even trying to route ourselves through Dallas or St. Louis - we finally returned to our car and drove home. Ben was beside himself. It is just so hard for him to understand. And it's hard for me. I still feel so new, so inexperienced at this parenting job. While I am fully able to adjust to disruption in my professional life, here at home we seem to be all about rules, and routines and bedtimes. This is, I believe, very important to the personal growth of my child. I really do believe that if Ben were not able to rely on some sort of routine to guide him through his days, he would be confused, and fearful, and tearful a lot of the time. This is what happened today, I think. We made such a big deal about this being the "last day." Maybe Ben is just not equipped, yet, to deal with such a big disruption, even if it does mean he gets to stay home with me now. This is probably going to be the "Work More / Blog Less" summer for me. TFH is on vacation for all but two weeks this summer, so it is my chance to contribute to our bank account again. I have offered to host a round of Monday Missions in the fall, and I figured we'd start after US Labor Day and do four consecutive Mondays beginning on September 10th and ending on October 1st. I hope you all have a wonderful summer, and I'll try to keep up with you as I can. You have been a terrific well of support for me - you have helped me more than you could ever know. God Bless you all.