There are a few things I’m mulling over.
The first is that I’ve read a good book. It’s called Family Life, and it’s by Elisabeth Luard. Someone recommended it somewhere,and I bought and read it some years ago, but I came across it a week or so ago and now I’ve reread it.
It’s a memoir. EL is probably about 18 years older than me, i.e. mid 60s. It was written about 12 years about, so she was, say, about my age or maybe a bit older — let’s say 55. She had four children who were just all off — the last one off to school, or off, anyway, fairly recently.
I’m not sure why I’m trying to place it in time, except that memoirs often do that to a person — you want to know at what point in their life, as compared to yours, did they do X. But I guess that, although I had children significantly later in life than she did, because she had four and I had two, she and I were done about the same time in life. And I guess that by the time I’m 55, my kids will be sprung, too. (I had M when I was 32. I was born in 1959.)
There’s much more to her story, obviously. She grew up in England. She married in the swinging 60s, and shortly thereafter started having children. When there were four, they all moved to Spain, where they lived for some long time until she realized that her children were growing up Spanish. They moved to France for a year, and then back to England. There was never much money, although they sort of came from families which had once had money. Her husband was a writer,and along the way she became a painter and a cookbook writer.
She’s the sort of person who was possibly somewhat terrifying to know in person, but who assembled an interesting life. One of the children died. (Actually, two others died in childbirth.) She’s the kind of person who has not had an easy life, but who has had an interesting life.
Here’s a quote I found relevant:
Within the family I had always been responsible for deciding the minor issues, the button-sewing, one might call it: disposition of income, choice of education, where we lived and what we ate. Nicholas occupied himself with the major problems of existence, the dragons: whether to bomb Colonel Gaddafi, the selection of England’s test team, the consequences of chopping down the rain forests – and earning our living.
Kevin had a great aunt who reminds me somewhat of her — she was from a New England family, but she married an Italian Catholic named Rico. They lived in Philadelphia on not a whole lot of money. He was a graphic designer, I guess, and designed the little cannon you used to see on Cannon bath towels. (Maybe you still do.) K and I went to visit her once, when we hitchhiked out to the cape from college. She disapproved of me wholeheartedly, as I was not Tibetan or something else more exotic. Just a white college girl. Anyway, I think they lead a rather bohemian sort of life, but in a New England sort of way, where no complaining was tolerated, and no matter what, you picked yourself up and kept going.
The book makes me intensely curious about the story behind the story — what do they look like? What really happened? Were the kids really okay? N wondered if the kids really felt okay about the whole thing — if they actually fit in in the Andalucian village. I actually think they did, although I get the feeling that the year in France may have been hard.
Luard mentions that London in the 60’s was still in some ways a small town, and that everyone knew everyone. I’m sure that was not true for everyone, but how wonderful if it was true for you. It would make everything much easier growing up — finding a job, finding housing, having connections. It would also mean that moving to Spain, although exotic, was not so completely far away — you still have connections at home, in the center of things. You were still tied in.
To me that sense of coming from a place where you are known seems important. I think it would give you the confidence to try anything — And it would help that that small place was actually the center of things. You would have friends in publishing, in the art world.
Anyway. The other subject for my mulling is N. It turns out, as you will remember, that N has ADHD, of the inattentive to visual stimuli type. She’s quite bright, so for years it didn’t really matter (and we didn’t notice, although looking back, I can see it even then), but by 11th grade, it was showing up in that it was really hard for her to get her work done. Scheduling was an unknown concept. Actually working was difficult. We’ve got help now — she’s got some meds, and perhaps more important, she’s getting some help figuring out how to work, how to organize, how to prioritize, how to keep track of things, how to calendar — and that’s all great.
But you can’t pretend it’s not going to affect her forever. When figuring out her schedule for next year, it’s going to be important that she pick her classes carefully. She can’t have too much at once. She needs to have enough time to get her work done, and that’s going to take her longer than it may take other kids.
And of course, I’m terribly worried. But I think acknowledging that there’s stuff to worry about, and stuff we can do to prepare — all that helps. N needs to get stuff under control so that she won’t worry, and I need to know what the issues are, and to see that she’s getting stuff under control, and than I’m less worried. I’d like to avoid a trainwreck if possible. And maybe it’s not possible, but I think we can, by preparing ahead of time, make the trainwreck less widespread. And yes, she’s going to college, but college lasts 4 years — it’s not like I’m sending her off to the moon and I’m not going to hear for her, or be able to contact her, until she gets back.
Anyway, so she’s got this educational therapist she’s working with, and she is great. She works with N, and I’m not really involved, but every couple of weeks she’ll call to let me know what’s going on, or if there’s an issue we need to watch, and it’s good. N is gaining control, and I see that happening, and I know where the snags lie, and that makes it all seem okay. Known. Under control.
But she’s also got this behavioral pediatrician, and I hate her. All she really does is prescribe the drugs. The condition was diagnosed by the therapist (although the pediatrician had to agree before she’d prescribe, etc.) But she’s just so awful. She’s coming from the complete conviction that K and i are insane parents, who don’t want to let N go, and she’s only going to deal with N, and we should just deal with it and get out of the way. N may well crash. Yes, it’s hard to let kids go. But you have to, so just step out of the way, please.
And the thing is, there’s really no way to argue that you’re not an insane parent that doesn’t make you seem like you are an insane parent.
And the other thing is, if I have the smallest bit of knowledge, and understanding, I can actually deal. I can let N go off to college, and not be worried, and be supportive, and help N not to be worried herself.
It’s only the fact that I’m being denied any explanation, reassurance, or if not reassurance something like, “well, these are the things to worry about” that is making me nervous and worried.
I know N is 18. I know she’s going to move on and lead her own life and have to fight her own battles. She’s actually fairly independent already, and has been since she was about 2. But whether anyone likes it or not, I’m going to be her mother for the rest of our lives, and I would prefer being given enough information to be able to function in that capacity in a reasonable way — getting out of the way, yes, but also aware. She is 18. She’s not 30, or 25, or 21.
Anyway. Coming to the conclusion that this woman is unreasonable, and that it’s not me, and having tried to get her to play ball, and having had her refuse, I’m just going to deal with the therapist. We don’t really need anything more from the pediatrician. If she wants to deal only with N, that’s okay (poor N.) If it does eventually become a situation where we need more from her, we may look for someone else. But really, the therapist is the vital link anyway, I’m coming to see. And she actually likes me, and thinks I’m a genius for noticing that something was up with “such a high-achieving student” as N, and thinks I know my kids very well.
Got to run —