So last week we had parent-teacher conferences. We go to our conferences with Will's teachers to find out how he's doing academically (just fine, thank you very much), and we go to our conferences with Jack's teachers to see how he's doing socially. The reports have often been mixed. From kindergarten through second grade, for instance, Jack had a reputation as a tattletale, which believe it or not, is not endearing. In third grade he was thought to be a bit rigid about rules.
But toward the end of third grade, he made a best friend, who remained his best friend in fifth and sixth grade, and Jack was happy and stopped narking out his peers all the time.
And then his best friend changed schools in sixth grade, and Jack has been in a bad mood ever since.
But in the last couple of weeks, we've started to see tiny changes in him at home. He's been consistently--well, cheerful would be too strong a word for it, so let's say not a total crank. He even makes occasional dinnertime conversation, and seems very interested when the Man and I discuss local and national politics.
According to Jack's advisor, Mrs. E., Jack's social life at school is improving, too. She says Jack was always with a group of kids on the seventh grade's recent trip to Washington, DC, and that he's talking more during the advisory period, where they discuss all sorts of middle school trauma, such as bullying and what to do when your best friend suddenly dumps you. She named names of kids that Jack's friends with. She said that there's more Jack love in the universe than we might imagine.
This, my friends, was a huge relief. For the last two years, all we've heard about is Jack eating by himself in a corner, nose in a book, pretending like the rest of the world didn't exist.
So you'd think with all that good news I'd go home and feel light as a feather. And I did feel pretty good, at least for awhile. But that night I started worrying about all the terrible things that could happen to my children--car crashes, refugee camps, starvation when all the oil runs out. I had a hard time sleeping, worrying about all this stuff.
Why all the anxiety, I wondered the next day. Why the big panic? It's all good. Jack's making a B+ in French, and he has friends. It's the best Jack news we've had since Kristof transferred.
And then it occurred to me that for the first time in two years I didn't have the usual Jack stuff to worry about, and so my brain--my fearful, anxious, primitive brain--had to find something else to latch onto. Something bigger to worry about. Something even worse than middle school. Which, if you think about it, pretty much leaves us with the Apocalypse.
I'm a writer and a stay-at-home mom who keeps meaning to mop the floors because I think it would make me happy if I did. I love books and music and writing, spend entirely too much time in the dentist's chair (I bet I have more crowns than you do), and used to think I was sort of bohemian, but now I wonder. No tattoos. Minivan. That story.