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[child] In which The Child makes me proud; very, very proud

One of my editorial policies on this blog is not to talk about the troubles of others without their explicit permission. I spend enough time narrating my cancer, I don’t need to drag the business of my friends and family in as well. But sometimes their troubles intersect mine. Those intersections can be occasionally brutal. Last Friday, for example, my father was in the ER at the same time I was in the infusion center for chemotherapy. That made for a deeply miserable morning across our entire family. As it happens, he is fine, and I am whatever I am on chemo, but no worse than expected to be sure. This past Friday morning, those things were not obvious.

[info]the_child carries a heavy load these days. In addition to the usual assortment of issues any teen aged girl weathers, she is working hard to come to terms with the meaning of the circumstances of her birth and her adoption. She is coping with the hideous stress of my illness, now over four and half years on, and the high likelihood of my early death. Like all of us, she has to manage her own, individual inner demons as well. And finally, she is significantly learning disabled, as I have mentioned a few times here before. This causes numerous issues in school, not the least of which is a fantastically elongated homework load given the length of time it takes her to process and comprehend written text.

Her grandmother, [info]tillyjane (a/k/a my mom), has been a hero of the revolution for spending up to five and six afternoons or evenings a week providing [info]the_child with mentoring and structured guidance on homework. This is a job I have done in the past, but simply cannot do this year, due to chemotherapy destroying both my cognitive capacity and my ability to stay awake. [info]the_child herself fusses like any teen, but underneath it all is quite diligent and dedicated in the face of great challenges.

Yesterday she brought home her first major grade report. Her high school runs on a lesson block schedule rather than a semester schedule. Every three to four weeks, they switch main lessons, and focus on that through the block. So this was her first significant high school academic evaluation, the equivalent of an end of semester grade in a key subject.

She got an A- for the lesson block in Civics. With a very positive write-up from her teacher.

I am proud of her. Very, very proud of her. A daunting amount of work and stress and effort has paid in ways that exceeded even my highest expectations.

Some things just need to be said: You go, kid.

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[child] Happy fifteenth birthday to the Child

It’s [info]the_child‘s fifteenth birthday today. She is being very low-key about it, but I just wanted to mark this anniversary of the beginning of her first voyage around the sun by saying how much I love her.

She’s my kid, after all.

Happy Birthday, Bronwyn.

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[cancer|child] Academic parenting in the time of chemotherapy

Yesterday evening, Mother of the Child and I attended the first class meeting at [info]the_child‘s high school. She’s a freshman, just begun, in the same Waldorf environment she’s been in since pre-K. It was a good meeting, we spent some time with one of her teachers and got to speak to both old friends and new acquaintances among the class parent body.

[info]the_child is severely dyslexic. She was formally assessed about fourteen months ago, but that was mostly a confirmation of what we’d suspected for a while. She is very intelligent and very determined, but the dyslexia can make even routine academic tasks into real challenges.

I’ve generally been the primary resource for homework help these past few years. And with her text processing issues, she has needed that help, and continues to. At the same time, this is high school, and the beginning of the slow transition to higher education and adult independence. As [info]the_child herself says to me, “I have to do this myself. It’s not like you’re going off to college with me.” So for developmental reasons, I have to let go.

However, I am starting chemotherapy tomorrow. I won’t finish this treatment course until sometime next April, and won’t be feeling like myself mentally or physically until sometime next summer at the earliest. In other words, I am checking out for the entire school year.

This means I have to let go of my role as homework helper right now. Abruptly. And it’s killing me. [info]tillyjane (a/k/a my mom) is stepping into the role in a big way. The school is very interested in helping her, providing [info]the_child with the needed dyslexia accommodations in keeping with Oregon law and Federal law. But she struggles with accepting the help, due to not wanting to be different, and feeling like she is somehow achieving an unfair advantage over her classmates.

The cancer is taking me out of the homework equation. Which is, in the end, probably a good thing. [info]the_child is absolutely right about her need for independence in this. But it’s very painful to face in the now. I have to let go of so much as this disease continues to rob me of both my present and the future. Letting go of my ability to guide and mentor my daughter is just one more bitter loss.

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[child] Wit of the Child

Me: “I see you have your morning grumpy on.”

[info]the_child: “Without my morning grumpy, I wouldn’t be me.”

Me: :: laughs :: “Well, that’s true, and you are a bit grumpy today.”

[info]the_child: “Are you saying I’m grumpy?”

Me: “Uh, yes.”

[info]the_child: :: laughs :: “Got you.”

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[child] Wit and wisdom of the Child


Me: “You can entertain all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t entertain all of the people all of the time.”
[info]the_child: “Unless you give them ice cream. Free ice cream.”

[info]the_child: “You don’t want my DNA in here? You don’t want to make a tiny me out of cookie dough?”

Photo © 2012, Joseph E. Lake, Jr.

Creative Commons License

This work by Joseph E. Lake, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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[science|child] We went to Mars for a little while

Last night after our return from the coast, [info]the_child and I scooted over to the OMSI for their Mars landing viewing party. This was held in the planetarium there, with NASA’s JPL feed projected on the dome, and a second projection of a very sophisticated Mars lander simulator.

We’d planned on meeting [info]davidlevine and [info]kateyule there, and had even saved them seats in the planetarium, but by the time they arrived the ushers were directing people to overflow seating in the theater. @rick_lovett did find us there. He was on assignment for National Geographic (I think) covering public reactions to the landing. [info]the_child wound up talking to him for a while.

The planetarium was packed. As David said to me in a text, science is popular in Portland. There was a big turnout of uniformed Civil Air Patrol cadets, and a ton of regular people. Interestingly, it was a cross-section of folks. Not just obvious geeks is what I mean. They had a few speakers and presentations, but mostly focused on the NASA feed. Plus there was a giant, inflatable Curiosity in the lobby.

[info]the_child very much got into the spirit of things. Especially the nerve-wracking period of time once the lander was committed to de-orbiting. The room reflected the tension of the JPL team. She asked a lot of questions, some of them quite insightful and some of them inane. Those latter were her bleeding off her own nervousness.

Interestingly to me, she was able to articulate the basic issues of lightspeed lag and simultaneity simply from paying attention to the NASA feed. We wound up having a long talk about that in the car on the way home, and also about conservation of momentum. Newton’s first law isn’t intuitive to her. She’s still trying to wrap her head around that one. I love the way her brain works.

As we all know by now, Curiosity touched down successfully. [info]the_child and I went home and crashed out. (Or at least I did.)

Of course we could have watched this in my living room on our laptops. It’s not like we were at JPL, let alone on Mars ourselves. But the shared experience of watching with a group of interested, fascinated fellow citizens was worth the trouble. The group energy of science isn’t something one gets to be a part of very often in everyday American life. The wild applause and the beaming pride at the successful landing was very uplifting indeed.

And, hey, Curiosity is on Mars, and my kid got to think some big thoughts.

As I said to Rick at the event, history begins here.

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[child] Privacy and parenting

Yesterday I was speaking on the telephone with a friend in Seattle who had spent some time with [info]the_child on her recent visit there. The friend mentioned in passing having had some serious conversations with my daughter about things which were said in confidence. I assured them that I was fine with this.

Which is a funny feeling, in its way, but also very true.

Mother of the Child and I have always tried to respect [info]the_child‘s privacy, even from very early on. In age appropriate ways, of course. Children, especially young ones, have so little control over their world. Allowing her space and time of her own has always been a method of empowering her.

This plays in multiple directions. She has, for example, come to me in the past and said, “I want to talk to you about something that happened at school, but you have to promise me you won’t tell anyone.”

To which my response has always been, “I’ll try, but I cannot promise that. If the health or safety of another child is involved, I can’t not tell their parents. How do you think I would feel if someone else knew you were in trouble, and didn’t tell me?”

So far in this situations, she has accepted this, and has shared her confidences with me.

Now, closing in on her fifteenth birthday, [info]the_child is developing independent friendships with some of the adults in her life. I honor this, I love this. Especially when she builds trust and social connection with women who are self-actualized and empowered.

I don’t think she can have too many role models, and the more varied they are, the better. Her mother and I do the best we can, but we suffer from the fatal deficiency of being her actual parents, and thus our advice and experience is deeply suspect to her teen aged mind.

All of which is to say, I continue to respect her privacy. Which at this age feels risky. I mean, she could be drinking, or acting out sexually, or, or, or, or… But I remember what it feels like to be fourteen-going-on-fifteen. I remember what it feels like to be a teen, seeking my independence and trying to set my own boundaries and resenting the way I still needed my parents for what felt like almost everything. And this is a child who has proven herself trustworthy and sensible over and over and over.

Her privacy is a critical part of her growing maturity. Letting go of my parental control of her life is a critical part of my growing maturity. So when my friend mentioned there had been confidences, all I could do was smile and be happy.

Our life is a river, and the current is starting to carry [info]the_child away from me. Which is right and proper and as it should be, and I celebrate her maturation process.

But still, letting go is hard to do.

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[child] She comes home tomorrow, musings on parenting and mortality

[info]the_child comes home tomorrow on the evening train from Seattle. [info]lillypond, a/k/a my sister, is picking her up at the train station at the same time I’m picking [info]seanan_mcguire up at the airport, then we’re all meeting for dinner, along with [info]mlerules, Team E— and [info]kenscholes (assuming he’s over his case of the screaming crud by then). Which will be an apropos welcome home for her, as the last time I saw my kid was when I took her to the George R.R. Martin party in Seattle two weeks ago.

This summer she has flown to California by herself. She is training back from Seattle tomorrow by herself. She has spent time with her grandmother learning to use the Portland area bus and light rail system, and is now allowed to make trips around town by herself. She is also seriously talking about what kind of job she wants next summer, when she’s fifteen and a half. One of the current favorites of hers is working in the office of our family attorneys (with whom she is friends) because, “Lawyers know how to get people to tell them things, and I’d like to learn that.”

I think my little kid is growing up.

Every step closer to adulthood, to maturity, is one less brick on my chest over the cancer. Perhaps my greatest fear is dying while she’s still in childhood. It is a terrible thing to lose a parent at any age, but that is the way of the world. (Consider the alternative, that the parent loses their child.) Losing a parent before you’ve really gotten a solid start on finding yourself is much, much harder.

As it happens, there has been a recent cancer death in Mother of the Child’s extended family, which has me pondering once again parenthood and illness. And of course, the leading echoes of what is to come for me on these next tests, as always. To see [info]the_child being a little more mature, increasingly self-reliant, and better directed… those are a comfort and a blessing. They are to every parent, I know, but it all has a special meaning to me.

Love that kid.

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[child] She is coming home tonight

[info]the_child has been in California for a week, visiting her best friend who moved away. She’s coming home tonight. Yay!!!

Even though it’s been nice to have a break, Mother of the Child and I have missed her dreadfully. It will be very good to have her back.

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[photos|child] Going to eight grade graduation

Yesterday was [info]the_child‘s eighth grade graduation. (They called it a “promotion”, I think.) The event was held in a church a bit north of the school, and was absolutely lovely. My whole extended family attended, and Donnie Reynolds shot some more footage. [info]the_child spoke (twice) and was part of several musical and spoken word group performances. They are all so young and beautiful and capable.

Where did these kids come from?

I didn’t take a camera into the graduation, but I did take some photos of [info]the_child and Mother of the Child before we left Nuevo Rancho Lake.

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