Article

Stress

conversations with hank

 

Hank: (pacing about in the hallway, nervous, frustrated)

Me: (in bed, lights off, resting, my RA/AS pain on a sliding scale from one-ten: one being a paper cut with lemon juice and ten being slowly mauled to death by bears I am a five: mild car accident involving whiplash and collarbone contusions)

Hank: (obviously wanting to talk to me, but knowing I am unwell is hovering)

Me: Hank?

Hank: Yes, my mama? Can I get you anything?

Me: Can you come here? Sit here with me and tell me what is on your mind. You’re thinking rather loudly.

Hank: I’m sorry, mama. It’s just I don’t know what to do. I am a little upset because papa says he has to drive me to my new school because it is too far to walk and now he is upset that he has to get up even earlier in the morning because my school starts at 8:30am so I need to be at school by 8:25am and Molly doesn’t even go to her Ama (nanny) until 9am but her Ama’s (nanny’s) house is right across the street from my new school so now I can’t walk to school and I’m ruining everything and I am a bit upset because I was really looking forward to my independence.

Me: Be calm, don’t panic and don’t forget your towel.

Hank: Huh?

Me: Trust me, this is important advice.  First, your papa’s stress has nothing to do with you. You cannot take on another person’s stress.  Stop that habit right now.  Taking on someone else’s worries and fears it is the worst thing you can do for yourself. If you stay calm you can help the stressed person, but if you too decide to also be stressed then you take on all their toxic worry and are in equally bad shape. I love you papa, but he thrives in stressful situations you don’t.

Hank: (deep breath)

Me: I don’t agree with your papa that your new school is much farther than your old school. They’re different directions, but not very difference distances. I bet you have a handy app were we can figure out who is correct quickly and accurately.

Hank: Oh yah, I can look on Google maps!

Me: Wonderful. We can examine the route and see if your father’s hypothesis is correct or if mine is correct.

Hank: Great idea, mama.

Me: I am incredibly smart.

Hank: (digging his phone out of his pocket, pushing buttons)

Me: (resting my eyes for a second)

Hank: Mama, you’re right! My old school trip is just five minutes shorter than my new school trip.

Me: Now this is a wonderful argument to take to your papa who is convinced that the walk to your new school will be impossible for you.

Hank: It’s just a few minutes more. I will have to leave with plenty of time and way earlier than papa and Molly, but I am not worried and I know some of my friends will be walking from here as well.

Me: And tomorrow we can research the bus route. I bet there is a bus that will get you very nearly to your school that you can take on rainy days.

Hank: My friend Clara takes the bus everyday.

Me: Then most probably she will be on the bus you’d catch and you can sit together. The best way to help a person suffering from stress is to have options.

Hank: I want to know about the bus, but can I tell my papa about this now?

Me: Of course, but be sure to phrase it in a helpful and calm tone. Your objective is to win this difference of opinion not frantically add more stress to your papa’s evening.

Hank: I understand. You rest mama.

Me: I will. Thank you for coming to me to discuss your dilemma. I am happy we could problem solve together.

Hank: (bounding out of the room, showing his findings to his papa, winning the walking to school debate and celebrating with a triangle of Toblerone)

Article

My Childhood Is Over

conversations with hank

(Not too late, Pai (Hank’s dad) and I in bed watching a movie, kids in bed… or so we thought when there was a knock at the door)

Pai: (pausing the movie)

Me: Come in.

Hank: (sniffling)

Pai: Is everything okay?

Molly: (from their shared bedroom) Mano (brother) sad. Don’t cry, mano (brother).

Me: Hank?

Hank: (wailing, floods of tears) MY CHILDHOOD IS OVER!!!!

Molly: (from their shared bedroom) MANO!! PAPA! (crying because her brother is crying)

Me: Oh honey, come over here.

Pai: I’ll get the girl.

Me: Crawl up here in this big bed right now.

Hank: (weeping, falling into my arms)

Me: (giving him space to cry)

Hank: It’s over.

Me: Is it?

Hank: (stuttered speech) It is. It’s over and I am not ready.

Me: (holding him tight)

Hank: (sobbing)

Me: (listening)

Hank: I’m not ready.

Me: I agree.

Hank: I have been pretending.

Me: (nodding into his shoulder)

Hank: I have been pretending that everything is okay, but I am not okay. I don’t want to grow up. I don’t want to give up my blue blanket (his childhood lovie that over vacation he said he no longer needed and asked me to pack away) and I don’t want to go to a new school.

Me: Change is the hardest.

Hank: I don’t want to change.

Me: One of the only things you can count on in life is change. Change cannot be avoided and you will learn to evolve with those changes.

Hank: Everything is changing too fast! My body, my life! It all hurts.

Me: (rubbing his back, soothing tone of voice) Growing pains aren’t just physical. I am listening.

Hank: I didn’t know. I thought I was doing so well. Then we were all on the couch, eating popcorn and I just kept thinking, “I don’t want this to end.” And then that thought kept growing and pounding in my heart and I just…

Me: Growing older, changing schools, learning new things and making new friends these changes are unavoidable, but you don’t have to change.  You don’t ever stop being you. You never have to stop being the you you are right now, because this Hank (putting my hand on his heart), now Hank, is a very special someone to know. Aging, loving, learning are all apart of evolving, but you never have to stop being yourself, this self. Stay you don’t change you.  Stay you while your world evolves to meet you. People don’t tell you that.

Hank: They don’t.

Me: But it’s true. Your body will change, you will learn algebra and geometry and know where Kazakhstan is on a map, but you can still be this Hank, the Hank you are today, when you’re 14, 35, 67, 105. And if you give yourself permission to be you, stay you, while the world changes and you evolve with it then you will be ahead of the game, because you are a wonderful person and adding a bit more independence and responsibility to the person you are will only add to your special, caring, precious heart. Don’t listen to the lying parts of your brain, to what media claims and kids at school say that cause you to doubt. Listen to me. Do you trust me?

Hank: Yes.

Me: Then hear me when I tell you I never grew up. I never grew up and I am better for it. I am the same me that brought swamps in ziplock bags to kindergarten and who hated school after 3rd grade and lived inside her imagination and loved to draw and sing and go cloud gazing. I am the same person who was artsy and avant guard in middle and high school, who cried in movie theaters and standing in front of paintings. I am the same person I was when I was your age and I have a mortgage and student loans and take a large amount of pills to manage my doenças (diseases). I am that same person who is a mestre de oleiro (potter) and an author and a blogger and your mother. And I miss my frog, Walter, my “blue blanket” from when I was young every day of this part of my life since he was lost when I thought I had to let go of my childhood things.

Hank: You do?

Me: Absolutely, he was my lovie and my favorite huggable confidant!  He was a printed pillow of a frog in a waist coat with spectacles and everyone feels the way you are feeling right now! Everyone! But the correct answer is to not grow up! Evolve instead! Let the world change around you while you evolve to meet it’s demands, but whatever you do, don’t grow up. Be you, the real you, this you and support your wild and precious heart while you learn and grow and add new tools to your life toolbox.

Pai: (with Molly in his arms) And sleep with blue blanket. (tossing Hank’s lovie into his arms)

Molly: Hi Mano (brother)! Feel better?

Hank: (engulfing his blue blanket with relief and love) Hi Mana (sister), I’m feeling better.

Molly: I’m feeling better, too.

Hank: You are?

Molly: Yah! Me, too!

Hank: Let’s go to bed, Mana (sister).

Molly: Yah. (head on her pai’s shoulder)

Pai: (leaves the room to tuck Molly into bed)

Me: Thank you for telling me how you feel.

Hank: (sigh) It was sitting with me for a while. I was trying to be strong, but I couldn’t keep it in.

Me: You did the right thing.

Hank: I feel better now. I feel like I can do this. I was so sure on the 13th (when school starts) it was all ending.

Me: Oh no, some things will change and evolve, but who you are, as long as you let it, will always be the same. You just have to give yourself permission to never, ever grow up.

Hank: Why don’t people know this? Like, why don’t people talk about this?

Me: Because it is a sad fact that so very many people in the world felt the exact same way you do right now, but forced that painful, terrified feeling deep into their soul and grew up with a broken heart because of it.

Hank: Like, so very many people. Like…

Me: Most people?

Hank: (deep sigh of recognition) Yah!

Me: I know.

Hank: But why?

Me: Because the world isn’t fair, because not everyone is born to the right tribe, because sadness is a trap, because comparison is the thief of joy, because…

Pai: Because they didn’t have you for their mother.

Me: (blushing)

Hank: (deep sigh) I feel better. (hugging his blue blanket to his face) Goodnight. (bouncing off the bed) I love you, papa. I love you, my mama.

Pai: Love you (wrapping Hank in a hug).

Me: Wait for me. I wanna tuck you into bed.

Molly: (from their shared room) Me, too. Tuck, me too!

Me: Right, be prepared for the coziest nests I can possibly make.

Hank: (tears replaced by giggles dives into bed and soon is fast asleep)

Article

Our (soon to be) Preteen

conversations with hank

 

(while very slowly (painfully) climbing the two story staircase to my mother-in-law’s apartment at the end of a lovely and our last day of vacation)

Me: Go a head, Hank. I’m gonna take this slow.

Hank: No, I want to walk with you. I don’t mind and I’ll be here in case you need me.

Me: (smiling, wincing due to my RA/AS)

Hank: I can’t believe our holiday is over.

Me: Tomorrow we go home.

Hank: I can’t believe I haven’t been home in two months.

Me: It wasn’t the same without you, but I am so glad you had such a wonderful adventure, alone and with us.

Hank: I can’t believe I start my new school in two weeks.

Me: And since you have punched fear in the face for two solid months: being away from your parents, going to new places, making new friends, helping lost tourists…

Hank: (giggling) More than once!

Me: Being adventurous with food and learning how to ride a ten-speed bike starting a new school should be a piece of cake.

Hank: Ha! You’re funny, mama. I can’t believe that I’m going be ten in a few weeks. I mean TEN.

Me: Me neither. You were just born yesterday and I am 27.

Hank: (positively purple with laughter)

Me: You’re going to be a tween.

Hank: (deadly serious) Actually, I prefer the term pre-teen.

Me: Noted.

Hank: And I am going to start changing and my voice will get deep and I will get acne and have to shave and I will have… what do you call random emotional outbursts?

Me: You’re entire life?

Hank: No, mom! Seriously… OH! Mood swings.

Me: Heaven help me! I think we are safe for another three years, although, your sass has definitely increased.

Hank: Ten is when everything changes.

Me: Truth.

Hank: I am actually excited to be more independent.

Me: When you become a teenager I am going to back off. By the time you are 13, 14, 15 I am going to stop talking and start listening. By then you will have absorbed all the mama wisdom you’re ready to handle and unless the words, “Mom, I need your advice,” fall out of your mouth I am going to trust that when you need to talk you will know I am always, always listening.

Hank: (determined) I am just going to focus on school. I am going to raise my math grade. I am not interested in dating or drama.

Me: (riots of laughter echoing down the stairwell) Good thing since YOU’RE GONNA BE TEN NOT 25!

Hank: (reaching the apartment door first, turning back) And mama?

Me: (wincing up the last two steps) Hum?

Hank: Never, ever stop talking to me. I never want you to stop. (walking into the apartment and not looking back)

Me: (taking a moment to savor the last bits of my sweet, sweet nine year old before entering the fray)