Once the wedding was over, I almost shrunk into myself even more if that’s possible. My relationship with my son was deteriorating and his problems at school were coming to the forefront. Freddy had been held back in first grade because I was moving jobs and he had gone to three different schools that year. When we landed where we landed the teachers and counselor recommended that he repeat the first grade for his own good. At the time, it didn’t seem like a huge deal but it came back to bite us in the ass when he failed 7th grade and summer school was not an option because he couldn’t make up the necessary work.
He came to me with tears in his eyes and was so ashamed of himself for failing. I tried to tell him that this was just as much my fault as it was his. I had been so wrapped up in the disaster we were living that I’d let my motherhood duties slide. Although we had fought through his ADHD with no medication and I had spent so many hours advocating for him at school, it just quit being as effective in middle school.
I tried asking the principal for a 504 representative to help with a special education plan for my son but was told that wouldn’t make a difference, he’d have to repeat the 7th grade. The principal and my relationship had declined into an adversarial association. Freddy had gotten into trouble for fighting and for being restless and disruptive in class and the principal had little to no people or management skills and there was no gray area to him. Kids were either good ones or bad ones. It should be noted he took a demotion the following year and was no longer the principal. It didn’t help us however, Freddy was doomed to repeat the 7th grade and what made it worse in a tiny town with the entire K-12 in one building, he’d be in the same classes all day with his little sister.
I was cleaning the bedroom and hanging up clean clothes and I had pulled Tucker in to talk to him privately about Freddy. When I told him what had happened and how upset Freddy was and he could see my obvious upset, he told me that Freddy was playing me. I looked up at him in complete disbelief, stopped in my tracks with hangers in my hand. Of all the reactions I thought I’d get, this one did not occur to me.
“Yeah, he’s playing you. You’re his mommy and you always rush in to defend him even when he’s wrong. You’ve turned him into a first class momma’s boy pussy that comes crying to momma when things don’t go his way.”
“You know even if that’s the case, even if I decide he’s being a little player and pulling the wool over my eyes, what do you suggest I do? Put him in the same grade with his sister?” I looked at him with what I know could have only been interpreted as disgust on my face.
He studied me and was silent for a tick and then quietly said, “It would teach him a lesson.”
“Yeah,” I said. “What lesson is that...that I don’t give two shits about the fact that he’s been struggling and he’s been affected by our lives being drastically and systematically flushed down the toilet over the last four years?”
He came unglued then. Seriously unwound. I could see it coming and I knew as soon as the words were out that even though I meant them, it was the worst possible thing I could have said.
He got up off the bed where he’d been sitting and came towards me, “You think I have ruined your lives? You think that everything is MY fault when all I’ve tried to do is support my family and take care of them?!”
I just looked at him, I couldn’t speak. I was paralyzed between wanting to say, “Yes you egotistical, maniacal sociopath.” And “Honey, that’s not what I meant.”
He advanced a little closer and backed me up into my closet. He was right in my face and my back was pressed up against the hanging clothes. It was barely contained quiet fury when he said, “Fuck you.”
I found my strength and quietly returned, “No, fuck you. Fuck you and all your pie in the sky bullshit that never leads anywhere. Go get a real fucking job and then we’ll see about who is really supporting their family here.”
“Oh so you’re the only one that works? You’re the only one that does anything for this family? What about your car? What about the rent that I pay? What about all the time and effort I put into making sure we have something to eat?!”
I advanced on him then. The physical bullying pissed me off so badly that I pulled myself up tall and walked him and me out of that closet. “YOU??!” I poked him in the chest then, “You fucking shuck and jive and con and beg people for money every day. Don’t think I don’t know we’re behind on the rent. Don’t think I don’t realize that all my saddles are gone…that you’ve pawned all of our tack and everything else that isn’t nailed down. Where’s my DVD/VCR player? Where’s my sapphire ring? Where’s my topaz ring? Where the fuck are all the trophy buckles?”
He sat back then and sank back onto the bed. I could see it. I could see that I’d won and he’d revert to the sweet complimentary suck ass that didn’t give me shit about anything for a while at least. He knew that I was at a breaking point over my son; he knew that if he pushed it much further I’d pack my shit up. He looked up at me and said, “I know you’re frustrated baby, I know this is stressful on you but I think you’re being too lenient on him and he needs to learn his lesson.”
“What…like the lessons you teach your kids? Because you’re such a hardass with yours? I don’t think so. I’m not going to sit and listen to you tell me what a shitty mother I am. I already know how shitty I’ve been for the last 4 years and I’m done putting my kids on the back burner for you and yours.” I turned and grabbed more clothes to hang them up.
He continued to sit and stare at me. I knew he was deciding how he could get me to say nothing was his fault and still not piss me off even more.
He changed tacks then…“You don’t have to be here if you don’t want.” His voice had a hard edge but it wasn’t quite an angry declaration. “I don’t want any motherfucker hanging around me that doesn’t want to be here.” You know I’d heard this exact same line a thousand times…I don’t want any motherfucker hanging around me that doesn’t want to be here. To which I had almost always replied with, you know that’s not it baby…I love you blah blah blah. So when he pulled it out of his trick bag, he expected rote.
Instead, I walked out of the closet and stood in front him. “Are you waiting for me to throw myself at your feet and declare my undying love? I’m tired of fighting over what you know is true. Don’t make shit any worse than it already is, please. I’ll make sure not to discuss my concerns about my children with you any further.” I turned and left the room in search of Freddy to tell him we’d be doing homeschooling.
I couldn’t do it. Freddy couldn’t do it. We almost killed each other over my obsession with getting him to sit still so we went to the doctor, we went to a psychiatrist. We got Adderall. It helped us both for weeks. I got the 7th grade and 8th grade material from the school. Lesson plans, books, etc. I laid out lessons for him every day during the summer before I went to work thinking we’d catch up and he could start high school when he was supposed to. I checked him books out from the library and had him read and then had to read them myself so I could test him. I gave him science worksheets and math homework. One night, while I was fixing supper, we were going over charting ordered pairs. I was having to learn the lessons the night before because all my mad math skills were rusty and we were both getting frustrated this particular night.
He wasn’t getting it and I only barely got it to explain it to him. As Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Charting ordered pairs seemed really stupid to me but I touted its importance in the scheme of his schoolwork.
Finally after struggling over a problem, his head bent to the book, he threw his pencil down and said, “Mom. No one is EVER going to hand me a hundred dollar bill and ask me to ‘chart it up’. Why do I need to know this?”
I stared at him with dish towel in hand. I had no good answer for him.