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03/28/2011

Two minutes' self-indulgence

Happens every time: I can take bad news with great aplomb, as long as no one is kind.  Tell me hard facts, and I sit up straighter, but use that tone and I crumple.  That was me on Thursday, sitting in a meeting about Charlie — not the hitting meeting, which was five minutes in the principal's office, only long enough for me to think, I wore my Confederate flag bikini for this? but another, an hour and a half, all about our boy and the trouble he's having in school.

I was fine as long as we stuck to plans and procedures.  I nodded intelligently through percentiles and programs.  I remained detached during a recitation of Charlie's less amusing idiosyncrasies.  (I won't reduce him to a list of behaviors, so let's just say he has some.)  I was fine until I brought up my most urgent concern, that the problems Charlie's having in the classroom are dampening his enthusiasm for being there and reducing what little engagement he has.  I was fine until the principal agreed, saying, "Some of Charlie's light is going out."

Speakspell Said so kindly it made me cry, silently like I do, but still.  If you're going to say shit like that, Mr. Awesome Empathic Principal, ditch the tone of concern and hire a robot to do it for you.  Or maybe a Speak and Spell.  Because I cannot be a badass with tears dripping off my nose.

The upshot, the short version — because typing even that much has a tear wobbling on the edge of my eyelid — is that Charlie is being evaluated to see if he qualifies for special education.  I will be shocked if he doesn't.

Don't mistake me: That's not the problem.  I mean, we all have something, right?  Getting picked last for sports teams or not having dates in high school or needing Xanax to get on an airplane or looking in the mirror and not liking what we see: Whatever it is, we are all, in some way, irregular.  I've known too many families of every stripe — happy families, successful families, regardless of their challenges — to assign it any stigma.

The problem for me is me.  I am finding it really hard to shake an ugly idea: that we should somehow be exempt.  That because we had it hard early on, now we're due for unremarkable-ever-after.  That, Jesus, hasn't that all been enough?

Through our years of infertility, I was never really inclined to feel especially hard done by.  Oh, I hated it, but never did it feel like we were unjustly singled out by Fate, the universe, or God.  Where some would say, "Why me?" I was content with "Why not me?"  If infertility was the worst thing that had happened to me — and at the time, it was — I didn't have much to complain about.

The same is true now.  I haven't lost perspective entirely; this is not the worst thing that's happened, not by a long shot.  Charlie having trouble is, after all and more importantly, still Charlie, and, my God, how lucky am I?  And it's real, what he's experiencing, and it's hard for him and us, but I know it could be worse, so drop the melodrama, Julie.  Cut the crap and get on with it.  I know it's not that bad.  Nevertheless, I am furious, with the kind of anger that's made more frustrating by the fact that it has no target.  There is no one to be mad at.

It's the same old anger, I guess, but this time it's being fueled by a feeling that embarrasses me (which is why I'm sharing it here in the quiet with only two or three of my most intimate friends who can be counted on not to judge me for it).  That feeling is entitlement.  Oh, come on, I think, listening to the neurologist muse, or seeing the school's number on the caller ID.  Come on.  Do we really deserve this?

And I hate that feeling in myself, because of course the answer is no; of course it is.  Deserving's got nothing to do with it.  Better people than I have it worse than we ever will.  No one ever deserves this kind of difficulty.  Therefore, kind of, if you think about it, well, we all do.

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