Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Well-Intentioned Trip to California

Tues 912

At the apt at last for some solitude.  I’m stretched pretty thin and grateful for some actual quiet.  It’s odd, because it’s not as if it was that loud at Mom and Dad’s.  And it’s not as if the boys really misbehaved all that much, or even that my parents (particularly my mom) did.  So it’s a little odd that the boys would be saying that she had driven them crazy.

So, all of the elements of a very weird trip:

The nightmare getting out of here.  The suspense and the checking to see if our plane would be flying at all.  The drive to the airport with the trouble beforehand where the car (a Subaru, but with rain, not snow tires) could not get up our driveway and Gary/Connor had to put on chains.  Then one of the chains broke or something and it was scraping all 3 miles down the steep road to the bridge.  The airport more empty than I’d ever seen it, which I’d hoped was a good sign, but turned out to be bad since there were no restaurants open and the boys were hungry.  Our flight delayed a half hour and moved to another gate.  Getting boarded, only to find out that we were going to sit in a tin can for an hour and a half, as we had to be de-iced and were second in line.  Then we sat there for 3 with no food service, although the flight attendants offered us water.  Arriving in San Jose at 1am after some of the worst turbulence the boys have ever experienced, and up close to the worst I have.  Then Dad had told David we were coming, so so much for the element of surprising David for his 50th birthday.  I guess he felt more comfortable having some company waiting with him at the airport and he thought it was too late for my mom.  He went to pick us up around 11, which  seems a little odd on my dad’s part because I texted him when the imminent departure was revealed as a false start and a cruel practical joke.  (We had to put our seat backs and tray tables up and stow our carry-on--to push back 6 feet from the gate!)  At 930pm--our original departure time was 755--I texted him to tell him that the de-icer had run out of solution and had to go get more, which would take about 30 minutes, after which they’d have to take another 45 minutes to de-ice us.  I don’t know why he didn’t figure out that the earliest we’d be leaving the ground at that point would be 11:00.  Yet he said he and David had been at the San Jose Airport since 11.  I might have been able to spell it out more but I buttoned my ‘lip’ because when I texted him saying that I felt like I’d died and gone to hell he texted back, “Keep a stiff upper lip." And, "This too shall pass."  So at that point I decided, “OK.  I’m miserable, there’s no end in sight, and you’re telling me how I should be taking this?  Fine.  I don’t feel like texting you any more.”  And I didn’t, other than an update at 1050 saying that we still had about another 20 minutes of the 45 minute de-icing process.  At that time they were probably at their airport in San Jose.  But still, he should have been able to figure out that we hadn’t even left.  But maybe if he hadn’t been sending me irritating platitudes I would have kept texting him and he’d have had a bit more of a clue.  He probably has no idea how obnoxious that was.

A short trip curtailed further, as well as the reserves the boys and I were in possession of:  In a perfect world we would have gotten there before it was too late Saturday.  Hell, in a perfect world my brothers' birthday wouldn’t have been the same weekend as Connor’s competition  (which was canceled anyway) so we could have had an earlier flight.  We’d have been rested when we got up on Sunday and would have had enough time to go bowling or something before David came over for dinner.  Maybe the boys would have awakened early enough yesterday that we’d have had time to go do something.

My dad said several times that he felt bad because they’d “forgotten” how to entertain kids.  I told him that it wasn’t about them being entertained; it was the circumstances.  It was a quick trip to begin with, and had been severely impacted by the storm in Portland that kept us from getting to San Jose at a reasonable time, leaving very tired and depleted boys, who then slept in so late that there wasn’t really time to do anything else.

Circumstances unfavorable to connection and me feeling a sense of responsibility for them connecting:  Sadly, they don’t have the kind of relationship with my parents where they want to be with them for their own sake.  My parents don’t have an attraction for them where they are happy just being in their company and would be motivated to get up earlier specifically to have more time with them.  So, in a way, their staying in bed was evidence of that.  And it would seem that the solution would be for me to go in there and get them up to force them to go out and pretend to have lots to say and pretend to want to be in their company.  And I think that’s the dilemma that I felt weighed down by:  knowing that my parents are wanting to connect with the boys, and knowing that what they’re looking for isn’t really optional; if the boys don’t have the kind of feeling toward them which would make that all come naturally, they then expect them to pretend.  How my kids feel about my parents becomes about whether or not THEY (the kids) are good people, because GOOD people LOVE their grandparents, and their not feeling particularly loving feelings or desire to be in the company of their grandparents means they must be bad people.  So if you don’t have those feelings inside of you you’d better conjure them up as an act of will, and to the extent you fail to fool yourself is the extent to which you are weak-willed and contemptible.

At least I don’t feel that K and J’s kids can one-up mine at all as far as pretending to feel compatibility and coziness with my parents.  In fact, I think that my parents, my mom in particular, are inclined to attribute coldness and indifference to them, but it’s not really fair that they do.

Remembering something that a guy I knew in high school said once:  “Courtesy is given, respect is earned.”

So the timing of the trip was horrible.  The boys had to leave in the middle of a rare snowstorm and they’d have just as soon stayed in town and enjoyed.  Especially since school was closed yesterday.  So, it’s like all this cool stuff happened that they missed because of going to Calif, where they were tired and cranky most of the time.  And then they were even crankier because they wanted to enjoy being snowed in.

Then there was all this history homework that Scott had because he’d failed to realize that what he was doing in class he was also supposed to be doing at home; and what he had done in class was spend all his time on 1or 2 elements out of about 10.  He had some major catching up to do.

We hadn’t completed everything by the time we left for the airport (and it had taken a huge effort and lots of his rage lashing against me to get as much done as we did), and we wasted great big shitloads of time cramped on the plane.  He didn’t want to do any of it at my mom and dad’s.  And since a lot of it was poster stuff, it needed to wait until he got home.  I suppose he could have finished up the final draft of his Vikings project, but there just weren’t that many waking hours.

So, I just feel kind of bad about all of this.  I feel bad that the trip timing screwed things up for the boys; I feel bad that they missed what would have been really fun for them; I feel bad for my parents who would really like to connect with them and don’t have the capacity to be introspective about what they need to do to make connection possible (and come from a background that would put the burden on the boys and blame them if connection isn’t forthcoming); it was definitely stressful for me to never be sure whether or not it would spiral out of control between the two of them, especially with the aforementioned ordeal and late hours in getting there.  It was just another trip that didn’t line up right for there to be good experiences, and in the absence of good feelings I’m afraid it’s easier to think badly of my boys, and more particularly Scott.  And Scott sometimes makes it easy for people to think badly of him.  

It seems we’ve had a run of disappointing trips to California.

And it wasn’t for lack of their trying, either.  They really wanted to have some fun things to do with the boys.  And while it seems like the boys were inclined to blame them, THEY, the BOYS were the ones who stayed in bed and so didn’t leave time for anything else.  And me, I simply didn’t have the energy to not only just sweep them out of bed, but create the atmosphere that would sweep away their resentment and help them to at least keep an open mind.

I understand that both boys don’t understand the bigger context of their discontent, which is that our already short trip had been significantly shortened further, as had our  resilience in just getting there. There simply wasn't time to do some things that might have made for some better memories.

But then the coup de grace was finding a message from his English teacher Allie saying Scott had not done any of the classwork that they’d been working on for a week in their research project.  So, in the past 2 weeks, there’s been an issue with Scott’s math that required a struggle, the stuff with history, and now THIS?  So when I sent an email in response to Allie’s I copied his science teacher Carolyn too because god knows what else is lurking out there that he’s supposed to have completed and hasn’t. 

I got that message just before getting on the return flight to Portland and decided it would be best to wait before talking about it with him.    Then when we’d landed and were driving home Scott started freaking out in the car about how he had too much to do, hates school, doesn’t want to go to school.  Then once we got home he was demanding that I go talk to him in the bedroom and once I was in there he was crying and saying he had too much to do and I was feeling like I was going insane.  I was actually becoming impatient with him and wanting him to just buck up because he was wasting his time with crying and wailing.  I tried to point out that the longer we stayed in there the shorter was his time to get it done and that he needed to just get started and he’d feel better if he did.  So I didn’t bring up the Allie stuff, and didn’t even bring it up this morning.  But, I sure as hell do wonder what it was he was doing in class if they were doing all this research that was supposed to be going into his folder and his was “empty”.  Did he look like he was working, I asked in the email I sent this morning.  What on earth was he doing when everyone else is working, if they have stuff to show for it and he does not?  At least with the history class he did have pages and pages of notes, even if they were only answering one question instead of about 6 or 7.  At least it looks like he was doing something.  What was he doing in Allie’s class, and how did she not notice he’d got nothin’?  And, is it asking too much of her to ask her to monitor him and see how he’s doing with these classwork assignments?  If nothing else it seems like this is an indicator that you can’t just assume without checking that he is accomplishing something meaningful.  And it certainly warrants more questions:  why did this happen?  Did he not understand the assignment?  Did he not understand it was part of a bigger assignment?

I forgot to mention that he’d also hurt his foot climbing a fence at the high school by my parents’ house and was off-and-on complaining about it.  He said something about feeling like he had to go to the doctor.  There was some mild swelling.  He’d been able to get back to my parents'.  And while he insisted on using crutches (my parents happened to have some), he wasn’t using them all the time, and he’d do some fooling around with Connor that I don’t think he could have done if he’d injured it seriously.  Just watching how he used it unconsciously when he wasn’t thinking about it kind of told me it wasn’t seriously hurt.  But periodically he’d think about it and say he couldn’t go to school with it.  At one point he said that Gary always takes him to the doctor when he gets hurt  (Gary tends to overreact). 

He was a basket case last night.  Kept saying he couldn't go back to school with a hurt foot.  And he said I wasn’t being myself, either.  That I wasn’t talking to him the way I usually do.  And I’m not sure if it was because I was just so depleted that I couldn’t take him to the place where he seems to regain his equilibrium—in other words a failure of ability on my part—or if he really needed ‘buck up’ kind of talk.  Because he was hurting himself by spending all of that time crying when he could have taken a big chunk out of what he had to do if he’d just get started.  It was a vicious cycle, I think, where he realized that the crying was keeping him from doing what would make him feel better, and that very fact—that he was crying and not getting started—made him want to cry more and made it harder to get started.  I think he was really looking for me to help him find a way to where he COULD get started, but with an easier heart—rather than the will-driven, stomach lurching starting when everything in his body is screaming against it.  I have a lot of sympathy for that, and in fact, wonder if that’s analogous to what’s going on with me where I can’t seem to get started exercising and finishing up this divorce stuff. 

It really would have been so much kinder to have had our flight canceled, well before we left to drive to the airport.

P.S.  I actually was proud of my sons.  They bore up well under the ordeal of the flight to California and didn't make things worse for themselves or others around them.