Four. That’s how many times my family of two adults and two children uprooted and relocated, this year.
Right about the time that I last posted a blog, we were scrambling to figure out where to go after getting a letter saying our apartment would simply not extend us a lease renewal. That letter was drafted and supposedly dropped in the mail exactly 60 days before the end, so despite a lot of people insisting our move should have been paid for, it wasn’t. I wasn’t shocked, but I was rather angry.
We dealt with it. Some friends lent a vehicle, another lent a roof in exchange for labor, and we got on with it.
Those that have been reading may not be surprised to learn that one child’s school dropped her like a bad habit. Whilst her teachers paid us a home visit with grocery store gift cards and well wishes, the principal had concocted a whole dramatic situation without any verifiable basis, all in hopes of removing our child from the district altogether. Parents had suggested home schooling in the past, and with that instance came our enrollment into K12. The district told us that it wasn’t an option because of this, that, and any other. To our great relief, we not only got her enrolled, but had computer and books in hand within almost one week!
This adjustment put me in the position of full time “Learning Coach” because, well, being such is not for the faint of heart! For a long time, I had thought of homeschooling as something that well off families would do out of dissatisfaction with public school. Turns out, much like ourselves, that it is the only feasible solution to educating certain challenging kids.
My partner was out for full time employment, opting to focus all of her efforts on her small business. I figured that I had managed production and handfuls of people before, so managing just her in a small shop would have been fine. A few weeks in, our little girl was locked on and doing almost all of her work every day without fuss. Mom, however, just wasn’t seeing the sales she needed. I gave it a good hard ponder before deciding to get myself back to work. Three emails got me one interview that same day, and I started punching a clock right after the weekend.
Meanwhile, she whom I am restrained from naming, had a fucking field day of our situation and threw all the weight of her attorney at me over it. My entire year was speckled with court appearances and an enduring bitter taste of injustice. I struggled with feeling betrayed by the government I went to war to defend. I overcame the feeling slowly but surely as my veteran status turned out to be a key factor in getting help.
Now working full time for a shit wage a painful commute away, I had no time for working on the house we were staying in. The owner was peeved, and we had no choice but to move out. We also suffered a break in, and considering the items stolen, we pretty much know who it was. Perhaps the most painful part of this year was my decision to move in with a coworker to appease the court. That is, I moved in, sans family. My girls moved in with another friend for an incredibly short time before disaster struck and forced them to move back in with Nana and Papa.
We just suffered. For months, we just put one foot in front of the other, tired, beaten, apart more than together, and absolutely heartbroken. The gavel came down with me under it, and we just… suffered more. There came days that I simply didn’t leave the bed except to use the bathroom, neither sleeping nor being fully awake.
Somewhere in the midst of getting help, our caseworker asked me to submit documents proving disability. It had already been a painful long process and, in that moment, I couldn’t recall whose disability this help was being based on. I focus so intensely on the matter of what we are all able to do in each situation that it hit me like a bag of bricks to face the reality that all four of us has our own issue within our being that we struggle with aside from all the external strife. We really are a bunch of disabled individuals.
The day finally came. I got the call, and it was great news: we were accepted to receive help getting a roof over our heads. The lady held on in silence…I think most people shout, jump, and cry for joy. I only had a deep breath and a thank you to offer. Good as the news was, it couldn’t begin to settle the sour feeling in my stomach of what I had just lost.
I carried optimism in spite of it all, and looked forward to reuniting the family and being walking distance to work. Then came a little accounting error in my employer’s favor, which they tried to rectify at my expense. After the manager spent copious time yelling and having a childish temper tantrum over it, I threatened small claims court. The situation blew over, I got paid what was owed, called it good riddance, and got a replacement job at a slightly better wage working for an absolutely wonderful couple from Poland.
Right as all that excitement settled down, it was back to school for the kiddo. Her mom took up the role of learning coach, and I could almost hear the bell ringing to start the next round. I don’t know what it is about moms and daughters, but it seems like they just can’t help but dig at each other and get each other’s goat. Kiddo loves to play mom, and has many games in her repertoire. There’s the “I need ___ first” game which is a slightly less absurd version of the “I don’t know where my ___ is” game usually played with something that is immediately in front of her, sometimes while staring at the very thing for extra annoyance. There’s the rush through the lesson game, where nothing gets read and blanks just get filled with nonsense and doodles (if anything at all). Given enough pushing, she will even flop out of her chair and roll around on the floor crying, “it’s too hard!”
Mom pushed every day, but to absolutely no avail. Every morning began with growling and groaning at best, sometimes outright screaming at worst. Doing work was like pulling teeth. I did what I could in the time off that I had to move her forward in her learning. The truth of it was that having spent her time in public school being ‘OFP’ set her learning way behind. Now in 4th grade and being manipulative as she is, it is really difficult to tell in each situation if she genuinely doesn’t know something or she is just head fucking us.
Coming into our new apartment wasn’t a complete relief. Now located a good hour out of downtown by car on a good day, I have been feeling somewhat stranded and isolated. It was a straw that broke my back, so to say, and I decided it was time to stop asking for improvement and demand it. Nobody likes yelling or spankings, but when it comes to this child screaming NO!!! over doing anything she’s told, we have found no other solution. I hit my breaking point. I decided that shit was going to get better one way or another.
It was ugly for a bit. I didn’t hold back, and I made it clear that it would stay ugly until everyone started straightening up. Before long, my partner and I came up with a response protocol that we agreed to stick to. Turns out that both the girls fully agreed the yelling was by far the most unreasonable response, much worse than a swat on the butt. I have a pretty good drill instructor voice, there are stories about just how big the ‘startling radius’ of it is, but suffice to say it gets reactions. Coming to terms with everyone’s yelling was an important point because, damn, I sure get screamed at an awful lot by the exact two people who claim my yelling (back) is excessive! I made a big point of getting the promise of not being yelled at, big enough that they couldn’t conveniently forget it. Now, when voices get crazy I can calmly press the point and most of the time the voices settle down.
As for the schooling, we spoke with the teacher about the struggle. She had been offering suggestions but nothing really worked. Finally, I made the call to back off on the kid. Mom was to focus on her business and avoid any argument over schoolwork or lack of. The teacher and staff took the extra time to conference with kiddo about the situation and it was left at that.
Once October came around, I started getting antsy for my partner’s shop to start seeing holiday orders. There were a couple inquiries for fairly involved custom jobs. Seeing as she is early in her journey as a woodworker, one order was simply outside her ability and the other wasted a bunch of her time just to end up wanting to be shown the craft rather than pay for her craft work. I worked my butt off and it at least held us over. Orders finally started trickling in right as my season wrapped up, and things were looking up.
November started off bright, but dropped off sharp at the second week. We kept pushing production in anticipation of getting Black Friday sales, but my confidence in the holiday sales carrying us was gone. My partner picked up an hourly job, then promptly lost it thanks to an emergent medical procedure. All of my work was on hold for the holidays. It was frustrating for the lack of income on my end, but at the same time reassuring that owning a small business can, in fact, bring the kind of comfort that allows a person so many weeks off.
My partner got back on the job hunt quick as possible. An interview in the last week of November turned into pre-employment papers and orientation in the first week of December. Finally, a few short days in the second week got her a terribly skimpy paycheck in the third week. It had been a while since suffering the biweekly grind, and the stress was thick enough to cut with a knife. I can’t even begin to explain how those pay cycles destroy and keep people struggling. It is absolutely the worst aspect of any job, and it is quickly becoming the very worst aspect of every job. There is hardly a bill out there that will accept payment a week or two out when you will actually have the money. Until then, life is just a sick fucking game of late fees and overdrafts.
Despite the dismal numbers of the business, a last couple sales still put groceries in the fridge where the biweekly check fell short. I had been talking about closing up shop, like maybe it just isn’t worth the time to keep up the effort. Days like that, when a paycheck comes so hard earned, so untimely, and so insignificant, followed by a surprise bout of dough, dashes the thought in an instant. It has happened so many times, the cool drink of water when we are dying of thirst, that employment feels more and more absurd with every lousy paycheck that hits the bank like a drop of water on a hot pan.
As my work went quiet, I had more time to put into homeschooling again. The teacher was shocked at what happened during the ‘cease fire’ between mom and kiddo. It had clearly been a while since she had to see a student just not doing at all. Entire days went by without even logging into school, tests were tanked in rapid succession, and progress ground to a halt. The teacher made the threat that she will be stuck continuing 4th grade next year if she doesn’t step it up. It was a weird conversation to have, but I had to first inform her that getting that child just to be present for 5 days in a week was already great progress. Public school couldn’t keep her in the classroom for two hours on most days, much less doing anything productive. It may be substandard, but we have to call it a Win anyways. As for repeating the grade, it ceased being a threat years ago. I fully expected public school to make her take second or third grades over, given the absolute lack of everything including her presence in the classroom. But, public school didn’t have the backbone to do such a thing. You can’t make threats to a child with ODD, you can only spell out the consequences and only when you can follow through with them. We threatened taking a grade over, she called bs, and the school proved her right by letting her float by anyway. After four grades of that crap, she doesn’t exactly respect education. I told the teacher to accept taking two years as a viable course of action and not bring it up again.
As much as the kid fights just for the sake of fighting, the hidden truth is that she is never going to cooperate with anyone that doesn’t show themselves to be an ally. I guess the tough part is trying to accurately identify her fight, and sometimes the challenge is in winning the struggles that aren’t supposed to be hers in the first place. A computer that dies constantly, school materials being scattered, and not having a proper chair to sit in are all terrible barriers when stacked on top of mixed fractions.
Beyond that, there is an element of humility. We have long ago learned to tag team because sometimes, she’s just ‘got your number’. You want to tell her how it is, set her on the right path, but find yourself wielding logic in an absurd circus of shouting. Sometimes, you have to admit defeat and let the situation stand at a loss. Some days, I have closed the books, packed it up, and opted for walking some laps. It happens.
December is winding down much in the same fashion. I can’t say I’m satisfied with what came out of this year. It was a wholly unacceptable, absurd circus. Logic had no place among the powers that be, and all I can do is accept the failures with humility.
I unplugged for a bit, from work, from projects, from schooling, from everything. I unplugged from worrying about money and making decisions. I had hoped to feel refreshed at some point, but I only grew antsy to get busy again. I sat down to a couple different projects waiting for the wind of inspiration to set sail. It didn’t. So, I have stayed unplugged and decided to figure out where I’m going from here, where this business is going, where my projects are going, and where this blog is going.
See you in the new year! ✌