Need to Know Basis

Me and the girls 1996

When Devyn was in preschool, she was sent home with a note.

Dear Mrs. Noyce,
We did a special craft today that required cutting.  After passing out the scissors to the class, Devyn carefully handed them back to me, informing me that you don't allow her to use scissors.  Cutting is an important skill in preschool.  It is important that she is allowed to use scissors.


The thing was, I never told Devyn she couldn't use scissors.  But I never had her use scissors at home. So Dev assumed she wasn't allowed.  I felt so stupid.  How did all those other moms know to have their kids to use scissors.  I never even thought about scissors skills. 


I thought that one of the great things about getting 2 kids to high school before adding more kids to our family is that, I had 17 years of parenting experience under my belt.  I would be a better, smarter mom than before.  I would learn from my mistakes.  I was probably going to be amazing.

Me and the boys 2011
When I look back at the 'scissor letter', I have to laugh.  I actually felt bad that a note was sent to me from the teacher.  One thing I know now, that I didn't know then, is that raising the girls was absolutely no preparation for raising the boys.  Scissor skills would be the least of my challenges.

Mikias was home only a couple of months when he started swimming lessons at the YMCA.  We were leaving the family locker room after a lesson when Mikias took off running.  This was becoming routine, so I was ready.  But, instead of taking his usual left turn out of the locker room, he ran straight across the hallway and opened the door to a group exercise room.  The lights were dim and I initially thought the room was empty. Instead, a classroom full of people were practicing yoga.  No one moved when my still damp little boy darted between them, laughing as I chased him.  Maybe they didn't know what to think when a small black boy being chased by a flustered white woman entered their space.  After about 30 seconds (it felt like an hour) of chasing him, it became clear to me that I wasn't going to catch him on my own.  I whispered (pretending we hadn't already disrupted the peaceful calm of the room) "If someone could just grab his ankle when he passes, we'll get out of your way."  Someone did.  We left.  No one smiled at us.

Not too long ago, I was folding laundry while Mikias and Jemberu were playing loudly. .  The phone rang, I decided to let the machine get it. It was just too loud to talk on the phone. Then Mikias did something he had never done before.  He answered the phone.

His voice still raised from the game he was playing with Jem, I heard him say loudly, "WHAT IS YOU NAME?" Oddly, the boys English skills deteriorate when they are playing loudly but even so...
He handed me the phone still yelling, "HE REFUSED TO DIVULGE HIS NAME, SIR!  I MEAN MA'AM!"

I tried to laugh it off with my caller,  "I apologize for my secretary, first day on the job!"  I laughed again but he didn't laugh with me.

Since the boys joined our family, I have had hundreds of moments like that.  In fact, just the other day, I was watching the boys baseball practice while chatting with one of my favorite moms.  Jemberu yelled from across the entire field.  "Mom!  When I was trying to make a catch, I missed and the ball hit me right in the NUTS!" He illustrated his outburst by grabbing his crotch area, keeling over and yelling in mock pain.

When it comes to certain skills, be it scissors or phone answering, I don't plan ahead.  I am probably cutting myself too much slack when I tell you that I teach them on a need to know basis.  It seems only fitting that the details of being the mother of these kids is only given to me on a need to know basis as well.  When we were deciding to adopt, I did not need to know that I would often feel embarrassed or ill equipped.

I am so glad that I didn't know what I was in for. I didn't know that hundreds of strangers would tell me that I have my hands full (as if I hadn't noticed).  What if I had known?  Would I have chickened out, played it safe, kept our family size to four?  I shudder at the thought. While it is true that I have felt frustrated and/or embarrassed hundreds of times, there have been thousands of moments that make it all worth it. Thank goodness for getting information on a need to know basis. While it may be true that my hands are full, my heart is even more full.