The last Back to School night I attended was in Connecticut. It was after Ben had passed away, and I was nervous about even walking through the school around everyone who "knew." Mostly I just kept my eyes glued to the floor, walked quickly and collapsed into the welcoming arms of friends. The night ended up not being too bad. Our school family was so overwhelmingly supportive to us....it was a comfort to be back. Last night, I attended my first Back to School event in Colorado. I went with a close friend and chatted with a few other moms. I was absolutely fine with just getting the job done...listening to the teachers....then heading back home for post-soccer dinner with the family.
As I've said in previous blogs, I miss crying at normal things these days. Sitting through the teacher presentations, though, that old feeling snuck up on me a bit. You know...the tightness in your chest, the tingle when tears begin to form. They never fell, but I got closer than I have in months. What was the trigger? As the teachers walked through the expectations for the year and the skills they would teach, I was overcome with a feeling of love for my two girls and gratitude for what these teachers do each day. Even more than that, I was overwhelmed by an urgent question flitting through my brain: This school will teach my girls academics and social skills....algebra, grammar, science. But, how can I teach them how to "survive"? Prepare them for the vicissitudes of life, the good and bad in human nature, that "worst case scenario" that could happen? How to I teach them the true meaning of real love, our interconnectedness, the importance of true friendship and treating others with respect? How do I instill that "survive at all costs mentality" in them, give them the grit necessary to succeed in life?
My seven-year-old walked me through her thoughts on the ultimate end of Earth one day when the sun would expand and turn into a red giant, destroying the Earth, then over many more years turn into a white dwarf and eventually a black hole, where nothing could escape, not even light. [She didn't know the sun isn't massive enough to turn into a black hole, but we'll overlook that for now.] But, how do I teach her that one day she may lose someone she loves so deeply that it may tear her apart...that she may feel them, but not be able to reach them, as if they had disappeared into that black hole? How do I teach her that she would have to just breathe and survive, continue to live and love...that she can survive anything, even if it seems impossible?
What if I fail at these more important life lessons? How do I raise my girls to become self-sufficient, strong women?
I try to be an example for them, but I'm not perfect. I try to focus on these important lessons in our daily lives. I sat with my oldest daughter on Ben's grave during our last trip to Connecticut and told her the truth about our move to Colorado, her daddy being charged and the way in which that ended, the DCF investigation that I tried to protect her from. I needed her to know - we were strong, we protected those we loved, and we made it. I explained to my girls why some of their new friend's parents wouldn't allow their kids in our house after googling our names. I want them to know the importance of finding the right friends, love and understanding. That they don't have to try to be liked by everyone, just those true, real friends who will treat them as they would want to be treated themselves. I do not want them to ever be afraid to tell someone their last name, for fear it may be googled.
Last night, I had to take a sleeping pill to get some rest. It has been a long July and August, we've lost a bit of weight again and haven't slept well. But, the sleeping pill made me dream, and I felt like I was in another world again. I woke up in the middle of the night in the darkness of our bedroom and could not comprehend where I was. I had been dreaming and felt like Ben was there. But, in the darkness I was only confused. The question "Where is Ben?" kept running through my mind. I even woke Kyle up and right before the question rolled off my tongue, I remembered, where I was and our reality. Thankfully, I didn't traumatize Kyle by asking him that question in the middle of the night.
I'm not sure how my brain can still be struggling with that question, this reality of "Where is Ben?" and "Did this all really happen or is it just a dream?" But, it is. Maybe it was triggered by my oldest daughter's "Portrait in Numbers" that was displayed outside her classroom last night. For the portrait, she was asked to list the number of siblings she had. She said "2" and gave their names. There was "Benjamin" as clear as day. I guess she's learned that no matter where he is, he will always be her brother and loved. And, maybe that's one of the greatest lessons of all.
Luckily, tomorrow night we won't have to ponder these serious questions. Instead, we will be at the Dave Matthews concert in Denver. What a great escape from the all-to-serious parts of life. Maybe that is a good lesson for the girls as well...that no matter what you are going through, you have to hold onto what is good, friends who love you and go try to laugh and love a little bit each day. And, music can always help you enjoy life when you need it!
I hope you all have a great weekend! Much love -