Today I’d like to tell you a little story. It’s a sad story, really. A tragedy in the Greek tradition you might say. A story about hope and love and dedication and generosity that ends in heartbreak and misery. A story about a happy life that was all smashed to pieces by one double-crossing, backstabbing, heartless, little 10-year-old boy.
One day this little boy was given a school assignment. An English assignment to write about the “characters” in his own life. He was furnished with a set of questions to help prompt his thoughts on these real-life characters. Questions like “Who do you look forward to seeing after the school day?” “Who acts as a mentor to you?” “Who do you feel influences your life?”
All good questions. All providing, when considered carefully, significant insight into a little life. And, all given the same exact answer. “My Dad.”
Actually, that’s not true. For the one asking who he’s eager to see when he gets home he answered, “My Dad and my fish.”
I, my friends, rank lower than fish.
To add insult to injury, in his response to the question asking who acts as a mentor, he went even further, asserting his dad teaches him “everything he knows.”
Everything he knows.
That cuts. That cuts deep. Especially since I’m essentially running a goddamn home school in my house everyday after regular school. And, since his father, who suffers from no known, diagnosed disabilities, frequently seems deaf and mute.
I, while not asking for much in return except for a single mention on a page-long questionnaire, am the one doing homework with this boy for three hours a night. I am the one helping him study for his tests several times a week. I am the one scheduling tutors for him so he doesn’t fail out of middle school and wind up a 10-year-old vagrant living in a cardboard box on the street with no employable skills and no way out. I’m the one who read with him every night. I’m the one who signed him up for private speech lessons. I’m the one who went up against the school and fought for the services he deserved. I’m the one who joined a parent advocacy group. I’m the one who ran my own private summer school in the backyard when he was younger. I’m the one who takes him to the library and the bookstore and the museums. I’m the one who made sure he learned how to ride a bike. I’m the one who forced him to take Tae Kwon Do and watched him every single class, smiling through the glass window, to encourage him and to show how proud I was. I’m the one who signed him up for guitar lessons so he would have a skill he could take pride in. I’m the one who answers all his questions. And there are a lot of questions. I’m the one who gave up my entire life. And, in the end, I am warning him, it had better pay off.
So when I go down the list and see I never even factored in – not once (and the responses were not in any way limited in length or depth) – I’ll admit I feel a little insulted.
And, over the course of the week, I let him know. Every time he asked me a question I said, “I don’t know. Go ask your father.” Every time he needed a study partner I said, “Perhaps your father can help you.” Every time he said he was hungry, I said, “Oven’s over there. Figure it out.”
But, graciously, because if nothing else I am gracious, I showed remarkable restraint in my conversations with him. What I would’ve liked to have said – and perhaps did on the phone to a friend, which he just might have overheard because in addition to being a double-crossing backstabber, he’s also a noseybody – was: “I just meet your every freaking need. Don’t mind me.”
But it’s fine. I know where I stand now. And so does he.
Ultimately, after days of enduring my acerbic remarks, the boy went back and changed edited his answers to the questions.
But, I don’t know, somehow I don’t feel he was really being sincere.
What about you? How have your kids ripped out and stomped on your heart after all you give and give and give?
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