Thursday, September 12, 2013

Second part-time around

Much has transpired since my last blog entry about our family’s addiction turmoil. As I strongly suspected she might, my daughter has all but disowned me and her siblings. She moved out when I refused to delete the entry and our periodic contact has been hostile and alcohol fueled – on her end. On my end, I have refused to respond in kind and have tried to enjoy a relative calm that we have not had in the house for a few years now.

The biggest change around here though, has been my procuring a part time job at our local supermarket. It’s an easy job in a pleasant place – which I frequent many times each week anyway. Granted, I am surrounded by much younger co-workers but they are respectful and there is a sprinkling of my similarly aged employees and some even older. I enjoy being able to clock out and leave the job there. That hasn’t been the case in most of my adult employment.

The kids are adapting to my not being here constantly and I think they even kind of like it. I find myself redirecting some responsibilities to them and note the pride they take in reciting the “done” list when I come home. I think my youngest is actually getting his homework done in a more timely fashion since I am not here to “bug” him to get going on it. Okay – that might have more to do with his ipod dying recently and with a new one not on the horizon until the holidays, he figures he may as well do something – even if it is homework.

Here is what is weird-ing me out.  Many of my friends, acquaintances, etc… seem a bit odd when they seem me ringing on a register or bagging groceries. I have been trying to decipher their faces and I may be wrong but I think what I am seeing something akin to embarrassment for me. This was not at all anticipated as they have not known me to work in any professional capacity since my arrival here in town and many of them knew I was seeking employment. In fact, most of the people I know in town, I know from doing volunteer work in the schools and community theater.

So let me set the record straight for you my friends. I am happy to have a local job that allows me to be close at hand for my kids. (My commute time is about 4.5 minutes – not the 600 plus miles I used to log each week!) I am happy for the income to augment my other endeavors. And last but not least - according to my older son, a trip to the store with me was like a “social hour” - I am happy to see all of you when you come in. So come in, see me and be normal. It’s all good…unless I have misinterpreted your faces…and you are really worried about it NOT being some nameless cashier/bagger who is examining each and every item you have chosen……. Just kidding.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Family addiction

For the past few years, I have refrained from writing about my older daughter’s addiction to opiates. That is partially because it has taken most of my facilities to deal with the varying stages of “recovery” but mostly because I believed, for most of this time, that is was her story to tell; not mine.

So what has changed you ask? This morning I did what any self-respecting adult would do. I had thrashing hissy fit in the bathroom – complete with smashing and throwing – in response to some disrespectful, uppity, self-satisfying comments she made to me on her way out the door. All that my fit managed to do was scare my younger kids and show that, after two years of seemingly much worse circumstances, I was at my post traumatic breaking point. I smashed up the bathroom so I wouldn't smash her. Her response? She snidely told her little sister to call someone to deal with “her” because she didn't “have the time for this” – or something to that effect – then she flounced out the door – sanctimoniously accrediting my behavior to menopause. I am not proud – but this was most certainly not hormone induced. It was born of pure anger and frustration. I own it.

So let’s start at the beginning. By the beginning I mean – from the time she first told me of her heroin addiction. I now know, from that exact point, it was not just her story – it was mine too. I will admit that parts of this story may not be chronologically accurate as much of it is a blur and other parts my mind has chosen to scramble. So be it. The active and emotional content is authentic.

As Cossette in Les Mis
To say that I thought I knew my daughter so well that this was all a huge surprise - would be a lie. When she came to me in July of 2011 and told me that she couldn't stay for her little sister’s 13th birthday party because she was trying to kick a two year long heroin habit was a shock but not something I berated myself for not “seeing”. My daughter had been raised by her father since she was five years old. (That was the result of a two year long custody battle and is a long story for another time.) Her father and I sent her off to college with all of the normal expectations. Well, maybe more than normal expectations as she was such a smart, vivacious, talented and happy girl. She always acted in school and community plays, was a National Honor Society inductee, popular and active with her good group of friends, took voice lessons and performed beautifully in recitals and loved spending time with her little sister and brother. Some would say she was a bit of a drama queen and relished the limelight and they would be right. Her father used to claim – to anyone that would listen – that this was the kid who could be tossed out onto the streets and successfully make a life for herself. Basically, she had the brains, looks, personality and confidence to accomplish almost anything. She had also recently met the guy who would become her first serious boyfriend.

Her first semester of college passed with lots of communication and photos. She had fun dorm mates and her grades were on par with her high school grades. She pined for the boyfriend after Thanksgiving break but that was solved when he transferred to her Vermont school. In hindsight, this is when I should have seen the red flags but those flags can be confused with normal signs of growing independence. After a year of college, kids should detach from their parents a bit and their patience for hanging out with younger siblings is bound to wane…right? Every waking minute was spent with the boyfriend or making plans to be with the boyfriend. Again – not so unusual.

The second year of college passed and I did begin to notice small things like a certain lack of hygiene and some weight loss. Again, being a college student in Vermont requires a certain unkempt look and devout vegetarians will often lose some weight when they rely on available college cuisine and/or don’t cook. I registered these things as choices rather that symptoms.

The third year of college came down with a crash. The communication with my daughter was sporadic and the photos of her on Facebook were beginning to disturb me. Her demeanor was manic at times yet lethargic at others. In my defense, not many parents would see this in their 19-20 year old and think “heroin”. So I didn't.

That summer, between her junior and senior year, she told me about her drug use and addiction. Actually, both she and her boyfriend were addicted. They were trying to stop and the side effects were horrendous. That’s why she felt that she couldn't stay home and participate in her sister’s birthday party. They were trying to get clean before an upcoming WWOOFING trip to Hawaii. (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) Basically, they were going to Hawaii to work at a bed and breakfast to get out of their college town and away from the drug culture they had become ensconced in.

They went off to Hawaii and I went off into a world of information gathering about things that I never thought I would have to know. Even armed with the knowledge of “typical” withdrawal and “other” people’s stories, I was not prepared for what was to come and how watching it happen to my own beautiful child would affect me – and all of us.

They went to Hawaii armed with some amount of Suboxone; a drug used for the treatment of opioid dependence.  They returned and, I later learned, used again as soon as they landed. My daughter started her senior year still addicted to opiates – in any form she could get them.

I am not sure what to say about her father’s part in this. He had moved to upstate NY and had recently remarried, in secret, the day our daughter left for Hawaii. I know that he was as sad and as terrified as I was and was also willing to throw any amount of money into her recovery as needed. So while he fully financed sessions at a yoga recovery center, an energy healer and eventually a drug rehab center attempt, he was more focused on his new wife and her need to be the center of his attention. It was very clear that the emotional and physical load was all on me. You don’t know it when you are carrying it but it is kinda heavy.

Shortly after the beginning of her senior year, my daughter was convinced to allow me communicate with the physician’s assistant, associated with the university, that was her primary caregiver. Most of our conversations centered on various medications that would ease her withdrawal symptoms but her continuing drug use made those moot. I finally received a call from a councilor at the university who stated, point blank, that my daughter needed in-patient treatment and needed to leave school – immediately. He had found a bed for her at a Vermont facility but that a bed wouldn’t be available for at least a week – but that she needed to leave school now or, based on her usage and mental status, we risked death by overdose.

The weeks that followed should have been the worst. I thought they were at the time. The trip to retrieve her from Vermont was filled with so many emotions. My gut reaction was to take care of her. That’s what most mothers default to.

Nothing I read could have prepared me for what was to come. I wasn't prepared for my daughter to beg me to stop so she could score just a little bit and then scream at me when I refused. I learned how to park in unnoticeable spots so that she could smoke weed to help alleviate withdrawal pain. I learned that the passenger air bag compartment on a Toyota Corolla won’t explode no matter how hard it is kicked in frustration. I learned that I could, at the same time, both love and hate a child of mine.

Having someone in the home that is withdrawing from heroin while awaiting a rehab bed will change you and everyone else who witnesses it. My younger kids were mostly relegated to their bedrooms or friend’s houses if possible. Their sister’s erratic behavior was terrifying. She would sit starring at the television for long spells than suddenly throw herself to the ground screaming, crying and moaning. In the past, the kids would have fallen over each other to hug and comfort her but they were now afraid of her. They, at least, held on to the hope that once she went to the hospital, she would be “better” and be “back” to being her. They believed that because I told them that.

I am trying to think of a way to describe her at this point and the best I can come up with is – she was a shell of who she had been before. She was still her. I know this because I could not let her out of my sight except for brief naps when she slept. Her older brother helped by following her when the intense restlessness would take control and she needed to walk and I couldn't go with her. Her moods would swing wildly as the week went on. One minute she would be cheerful and hungry – so I would make her food. The next minute she would be frantically texting to find Suboxone, weed or alcohol and the food would be forgotten. The keeping track of the over-the-counter and prescription drugs - Clonidine, Trazodone , Zoloft, Imodium, Tums, Ibuprofen … made me feel like a pharmacist at times.

We got through the waiting and sprinted to the Vermont rehab center when the call came. It was with such hope that I drove away from that facility. Granted, they were a cold bunch and the reception was not so warm and fuzzy but they were professionals right? Here’s another thing I learned: Atheists don’t do well in 12 step based rehab programs.  After leaving the medical unit of the rehab center, she lasted less than one week before she was calling both her father and me, begging to be taken out. When we gently refused, she walked away from the facility. She was found lying in a street later that night and was taken to the hospital via ambulance. She left there the next day a returned to her boyfriend and their apartment. Both tried to resume their studies and plan for the upcoming holidays. Both claimed to be clean.

Thanksgiving came and the kids and I cooked a turkey and planned a mostly vegetarian meal that my daughter was due home to share with us after a visit with her boyfriend’s family in New Hampshire. My older son was visiting his father and relatives in Virginia. That afternoon brought a phone call from the boyfriend’s mother. She felt the need to bring my daughter to the ER due to near constant vomiting through the night. We waited. The ER doctors determined that my daughter had attempted to abruptly quit opiates (heroin) and suffered what is called rapid detox syndrome. Had she not been brought to the hospital, she most likely would have died. She returned to us a few days later, leaving Vermont and school for good.

This is when the story should turn to one of perseverance with some ups and downs but with a realistically modified happy ending. I wish. Much of this time was spent with her telling me more about the height of her drug life in Vermont. That she now needs to dress to hide her track marks should have made many of these stories not so shocking to me – but they still were. Some of the situations she willingly entered into and people she counted as friends could have been straight out of a Law & Order episode. Maybe that was how I had to think of it to handle it. Now I wonder how it was that she survived at all.

Granted, to the best of my knowledge, the heroin is gone from her life but it has been replaced alcohol abuse and a near nightly weed haze. At her father’s suggestion, we “tapered down” her alcohol consumption by me allowing her only one beer per hour. That worked – until she left the house – which became the norm. One late night brought a call from a local hospital. My daughter had been found in her parked car in a nearby town by an AAA driver coming to repair her flat tire. The driver called police who called an ambulance as she was unresponsive. Police had to break a window to get her out. She became responsive, jumped from the back of the ambulance at one point and was nearly tazed before they could catch her. This was all told to me by the hospital nurse as my daughter was still too drunk to be allowed to leave on her own. I drove to collect her from the hospital late at night only to have her bolt from my car as soon as we got home. A call from our town police informed me that they had found her passed out at the local McDonald’s and could either bring her home or take her back to the hospital - my choice. They brought her home. It took us a day or so to figure out where the car was. She was angry at the world that night - but mostly me. She wasn't charged with anything as she wasn't actually driving.

Reality tried to set in over the next few days. When she heard about the happenings of that night, she decided to try rehab again – this time for alcohol. We did some research and made some phone calls. We even packed for and went to her chosen center only to leave when she realized that her father would never agree to pay the $3000 co-pay for a 30 day stay. She didn’t attempt to call him based on his assertion that he would not pay for any more “hocus pocus” counseling after the last rehab stint.

She found a series of part-time jobs that would bolster her sense of self for brief periods but they ultimately meant one thing – more money to drink. She has been fired from most of them. Before moving to Minnesota for a job, her dad came back during one of her “up” phases and bought her a car. “It will give her something to take pride in, take care of….” (Yes – please. Question the wisdom of spending $10k+ on a car but not $3k on wanted rehab. I certainly did.) He has not seen her since. It took less than a month before I got a 2 a.m. hospital call from her. She was very drunk. The nurse on the phone said that she crossed lanes and crashed the car into some mailboxes while returning from a pool hall in a nearby town. Police found her unresponsive so an ambulance was called. The nurse said that if I was going to come get her, I should bring clothes as hers had been cut off her in the ambulance. No one told me what hospital so I went to the closest one only to discover that she was at a different one forty minutes away. It was now 4 a.m. I got home in time to get the kids to school. She took a cab home the next morning. It took us a few more days to find her car. She had earned a D.U.I and a 6 month license suspension this time.

So today, right now, she has a new part time job and a new boyfriend. That means she is on top of the world and everyone one else is stupid, wrong, jealous or just plain beneath her. So it begins…again. Are the days of waiting up for a drunken daughter to be dumped off at the house and then gather her passed out self from in front of the garage and get her at least to the sofa so she doesn't get rained on or burn down the house with a forgotten lit cigarette over? I can only hope. She just texted her sister saying that she was at a friend’s house and would be back tomorrow. (Um – suspended license – remember?) She said that she just needed a break from Mom.  It makes me wonder what might have happened if I had said that at any time over the past few years?

This probably could have been a two part entry but the urge to get it all out was intense. I am not such a martyr that I can’t be very angry with her behavior. (She is certainly going to be pissed at me when/if she reads this!) At this point it feels never ending. I am worried that while dealing with my daughter’s addiction, I have not been the mother that my younger kids deserved. Depression and despair have too often taken control. Most days I can’t even remember who I used to be – before all of this. There have been many casualties in this story. I mourn for my daughter’s possible future as I once saw it. I miss the faith that I once had in her ability to make wise choices. I worry that she will never again believe in herself. I am sad that she has lost the respect and affection of her younger siblings. It’s sadder still that she doesn't quite realize that yet. I hope she gets it back some day. Mostly I hope that she discovers why she feels the need to punish herself – and stops.

To my fellow parents - feel no pity please. This has happened to many other parents of many other kids. Lots have much worse outcomes than this. Horrifying outcomes. Just know this -  getting them into college doesn't mean that they are launched. I remember sitting in a college orientation lecture for parents and the speaker warned us of the perils of being a “helicopter” parent. Screw that. With my younger kids – I will hover as much as I want.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

How much does "great" cost?

We live in a great country. We have freedoms that can’t be fully appreciated until you fully understand the lives of those that don’t have the same liberties. Most of us, especially the young, don’t understand. Even our lowest income families live comfortably when compared to what is the norm for many third world countries. Why do we continually fail to understand that there is a cost to this greatness?

Again, for what seems too many times over the past few years, I find myself watching news coverage of yet another heart rending disaster. Moore, Oklahoma has been hit by a massive tornado and the destruction and loss of life is staggering. I tear up as I hear about a teacher who covered of six of her students with her own body. Later in the broadcast, I stare at her in awe was she is interviewed.  She is not camera savvy and she keeps pivoting away. I mentally tell her to face the camera so I can see her beautiful face. As she scans the front of the Moore City Hall with her back to the camera, she explains that she was hoping to see some of “her kids”.  If your kid was one that she squished beneath her, how much would that be worth to you? Would you give up a Disney vacation to cover the cost of having that caliber of teacher?
Gene Blevins - Reuters
First responders and rescue workers are evident in every shot, from every angle. Their faces are impassive yet intent. They exude competence despite what they are surrounded by. But wait – if they are there, so quickly on the scene, does that not mean that they too live nearby?  Do they know if their families are safe? Do they too, no longer have homes? The coverage cuts to local news and a story about local town announces that it will have no choice but to significantly cut the budgets of the police and fire departments.  Really?  I can’t recall the name of the town but I can bet there are at least one or two multi-million dollar homes. It’s Connecticut.

I understand budgets and the need for them. I can prioritize, re-allocate and conserve really well. It may be a happy accident that I can demonstrate daily, that if my kids want to do or buy something, they will have to sacrifice something else. It’s a pretty simple concept at its core. Nationally, it gets a little trickier but isn’t it the same premise? Granted, I do have a “don’t feed the neighborhood” policy but that is mostly to thwart a gang of adolescent boys from mindlessly eating their way through whatever is at eye level. (It happens.) This policy is more about waste than conservation. 

Our wealthiest citizens live in a country that has facilitated the garnering of that wealth. They had the freedom to do that. How can they, many a staunch conservative among them, look at what has befallen a modest suburb and then look away to attend to their own fiscal needs?  If the excessive liberties of the wealthy few continue to reign supreme, maybe we are not, as a whole, as great as we think we are.

So yes – let’s do something for the people of Moore, Oklahoma. Don’t post pictures of a pile of teddy bears being sent to kids who don’t have roofs over their heads. Don’t rally us to send school supplies to schools that don’t exist anymore. Don’t ask me to knit mittens. Why do I need to “like” a Facebook page in order for that company to send a contribution? Let’s give them what they need. At this point it will probably be cold hard cash (via relief organizations set up to handle just this sort of need) to obtain fresh water and food, to replace destroyed clothing, to buy flippin’ toothbrushes…to help them rebuild.That will force most of us to forfeit something personally. Do it. I am all for “sweat equity” but do this if you can and do it quietly, without accolades. Make only your kids aware what you do and make them part of it. Use it to teach them about civic awareness, how to vote their conscience later in life and to be thankful that we have the liberties to do so. Let it be the best freedom we have. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Look it up

More than just happy adults, I want my kids to be realists. This will serve them so much better in life. I don’t think they should go through life anticipating only worst case scenarios but there is something to be said for fully exploring what COULD happen. That knowledge might better allow them to take steps to avoid it or, at the very least, accept it without paralyzing shock – and move on.

Recently I have watched my biggers struggle with the negative fallout from some of their own life choices. Clearly, we make choices based on our own experiences but failing that, we make them based on what we have been taught. I fully believe that it falls on the parent to “teach” so for that reason, I must take some responsibility. I can always blame their other parent…and I do…frequently and while that satisfies me greatly at times, it does nothing for them so I move on and try to re-teach them from an adult point of view. This re-teaching is often the equivalent of the “look it up” response used by parents who don’t know an answer to a question. (C’mon. Admit it.) When I say “look it up” to my biggers it means “I don’t know. I have not experienced this before. You will need to research it, maybe make some calls, do some reading. It’s what I would have to do but I’m not going to do it for you. Trust me. I’m doing you a favor.”  Then I walk away and act like I am all involved in doing my own thing while my insides tumble and I watch to see if anything takes.

These days, it seldom enters my mind to try to “fix” things for the littles. Though I do have the benefit of hindsight from my biggers, balancing this without shirking the core responsibility of what parents should do, is the hard part. When I do choose to “fix”, I generally back it up with an explanation, (not a defense), of why. These explanations run the gambit from safety issues to logistical solutions to this was “my bad” so I should correct things. I have never formally punished or grounded them. From my own childhood, I can remember only focusing on the punishment and not on the behavior that created it. Also, at around age eight, my youngest pointed out that if I was so tired of his behavior why would I want to keep him “in the house… around you… for a whole week?”  Good point.

Oddly, my youngest seems to have a better handle on reality than his siblings. I could say that is because he has a brilliant mind and is capable of comprehending concepts beyond his years but it most likely has more to do with being on forth in a series of four. He didn’t get the hyper-vigilant parenting that the biggers did.  I have actually said things to him like, “This is gonna suck for you.”, when he does something irresponsible or just plain stupid. I am choosing to believe that maternal responses like that have nudged him toward handling things on his own when he can. Sometimes his handling skills are questionable and that becomes our jump off parenting point. One time, while defending a friend on the bus, he was told to sit in the “front seat of shame”. Telling his perpetually mean spirited bus driver that she was being unfair and miserable because she hated her own life probably hit too close to home. Righteously repeating it for the assistant principal was a clear expression of his conviction. My reaction? I listened to his side, congratulated him on being a good friend, talked about how he should consider expressing his opinion is a less disrespectful way because really - adults hate that - and ended with yes, I should be able to pick him up from detention. My point is - he didn’t run home to ask me to do something about it. Were it not for the call from the assistant principal as per school policy, he was fully prepared to take his punishment without my ever having known about it.

Instead of “fixing”, I have begun to rely on something I like to call conversational reality checks. The key is to keep all parental advice in the context of an actual conversation, preferably one that they have initiated. This can be tricky. Segueing into the dangers of freshman hanging out with seniors while interpreting an episode of Grimm requires skill.  Trying to parallel the potential gang mentality of my youngest son’s group of buddies, (locally known as the “lost boys”), with religious and political intolerance can be exhausting.

Some of my conversational reality check technique is rubbing off on the biggers. My older daughter answered the door one evening and was met by a group of sad “lost boys”. When she asked what was wrong, they told her that one of their dogs had been run over – horrifically - by their own mother - in front of them. They wanted to share this with my son who was not home. My daughter did what she felt best. She hugged them and then told them, “I’m so sorry. Don’t worry. Things get much worse as you get older.” That’s my girl.

Sometimes late at night, I go outside and feel the presence of my dad. I look up and ask him “How do I do this? What parts are the most important?” I imagine him answering me from the stars in his Mufasa-like voice - “Look it up.”

Monday, March 11, 2013

Time to paint again

Queen Tessie Ailish Laraia, "The Evil"

I need to admit that I have a weird fascination with dogs in clothes. Not real dogs dressed up  - they hate that - but just depictions of them in outfits that may or may not represent their personalities. I recently completed this painting as a gift for some great friends. For the record - they titled it themselves. Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

There is no "I" in Theater

I would like to be able to open this post by saying something like, “It’s play season again!”, but alas - it’s almost always play season in our house. For the most part, being involved in theater is a well-rounded activity for most kids. I still expect good grades - better than good actually if they want a shot in hell of getting into a decent college with some good scholarship chances. Actually, the status of their grades is a factor in whether or not they will be allowed to audition for a play. That’s how serious we are about it. Being able to participate in a play is a privilege. It’s also a commitment that comes with sacrifices at times. It’s work. There are good lessons for kids to learn.

Though my kids choose to be involved most of the year, early spring is an especially active time for local theater – both within the schools and with the community groups. Audition dates are penciled in and choices are ranked based on musical vs. non-musical, what group is producing, scheduling conflicts and the all-important – which friends are doing which shows – duh.

But wait…my youngest son is about to start a s-s-s-sport? This is new - a true first for us. (Pretty sure that ski club doesn’t count.) This will be good. Right? My hope is that he will benefit from things like routine physical activity, sportsmanship, dealing with competition and possible failure and hopefully - since he has been raised primarily by women - a hint of guy bonding that doesn’t revolve around an Xbox. We realized that he probably shouldn’t audition for a local production of Oliver. He is already part of his middle schools play so adding yet another rehearsal schedule to a volleyball schedule wouldn’t be prudent. Really? What 12 year old boy doesn’t want to be in Oliver? Well - mine apparently.

I have been pondering this change to our family dynamic for a few weeks now and I have come to some conclusions. Theater and sports are not all that different. Both require hard work, a certain level of commitment, the ability to understand your strengths and weaknesses and accept your best place on the “team”. The last part became abundantly clear after a recent round of auditions. My younger daughter auditioned for said Oliver. For the first time ever, she became very attached to one particular role. She focused her all of energies and all of her hopes on landing this one role. As she conversed continuously in a Cockney accent, I watched with some trepidation as her hopes rose higher and higher. I felt that she had a shot at it but so did many others.

I tried to caution her about her expectations. It was one of those classic parental dilemmas. How do you inject some a possible reality without shaking your child’s confidence? Why do we, as parents, do this? Because we know we absolutely do NOT want to handle a possibly heartbreaking negative outcome. (Just to tie in the sports theme here, let me admit to Monday morning quarterbacking this insight.) According to her, auditions went well and we settled into the waiting mode. Teenage texts flew back and forth and practicing for the next auditions intensified. Then… the cast list came out… early. We were not prepared. (That’s me pretending preparedness.) Damn instant, social media! We had just settled into a Redbox when I noticed the posting.

“It’s up.” I said.

“No. Wait. Don’t tell me.”
“I’m not gonna look yet.”
“If you look, don’t tell me.”
“No. Wait. You don’t look either. “
“I’m gonna look.”
“Someone will say something or text me so I better look.” she said.

We looked at the same time. I try not to look at her because she hates that. I hear quiet sniffling. She didn’t get it. I continue to read. Her name is listed further down for a bit – but named – speaking part.

My greatest hope is that we are thinking the same thing – if she hadn’t so set her sights on that one role – she would be thrilled with the part she did get. I hope that she is thinking that the girl that did get the role is an excellent choice. The recipient is talented, one year older, has worked hard at theater and has always been a “team” player. If I was allowed to speak – which I somehow know I am not – I would ask her if she wants a hug. Sometimes words don’t work with a smart kid. Stating the obvious or other platitudes won’t make her feel any better. So we sit and pretend to watch Men in Black III knowing that we are going to need to re-rent it.

I am guessing that this is how parents of sport kids feel when your kid’s team loses - not because your kid played poorly but because the other team played better that day. Sometimes we just have to watch as our kids suffer losses knowing that, while it is killing us and making us feel inept as parents – we are making them stronger people.

Another theater mom recently asked me if I had any insight in to the most recent auditions since I was there. Her daughter was hurt by the abrupt dismissal of the kids that the director & music director did not wish to hear sing again. She said that her daughter was considering not doing the drama club anymore because she felt overlooked. First thing I disclaimed was any involvement in the casting on my part. I show up to hand out forms and attempt to quiet excited high schoolers – then I come in to paint sets. Casting is not my thing. The second thing I tried to explain was that two nights of auditions were being packed into one night due to an early snow dismissal and the availability of our hired music director. Things had to move right along. I did feel a little complicit as my daughter was one that was “called back” to re-sing so I went on to try and express how many of the kids that tended to get roles were the kids who have put the time into theater. My daughter did six shows last year, with four different groups. Sometimes she had an actual part – many times she was part of an ensemble. Each show was an opportunity to get better at what she loves to do. My friend’s daughter is a sweet voiced, cheerful kid – one of my favorites - but generally only does the school shows. I haven’t heard back from her yet.

 Maybe I should have put it into a sports analogy. (Spoiler alert: I never bought into the whole trophy-for-every-kid-just-for-participating/there-are-no-winners-or-losers theory.) Is a “coach” expected to address each player personally, taking into account every player’s individual circumstances or does he make line-ups and calls based on the players’ performance histories and capability levels? Does a coach reward players based on improvement and choose the best player for the position all in an effort to create a winning team? Can a player skip practices and work-outs most of the season then show up and expect to play in the big games? Even if your kid is a good player, there will always be those that will get more playing time for many of different reasons. Sometimes it’s as simple as lots of players are trying out for few openings, (or lots of girls trying out for two girl roles). Sometimes your kid doesn’t get the spot on the team – no matter how good her Cockney accent is.

Hey - I might be okay with this whole s-s-s-sports twist. There is quite a bit of crossover. I have even seen heat exhaustion, pulled muscles and broken noses happen in theater. Though I am sure that it will raise many other interesting quandaries like - what does one wear to a middle school volleyball game?