The Last Therapy Session

He’s been seeing her because of an uncontrollable rage that began in kindergarten when he hit a friend with a toy truck in the sandbox. The little girl needed stitches. In first grade, his teacher would bring him down to the basement to kick a beanbag chair. By third grade, therapy had helped him transfer his anger from his fists and his feet to his words… and I received a number of reports of him screaming in a wild rage at his teachers for not understanding him, siding with his classmates, not listening.

He morphed from the class Buddha one day to a whirlwind of anger and self-doubt the next.

But he’s a fourth grader now. Importantly, he has a couple of best friends who he seems to have figured out will stick by him when things get rough. The rage is thawing.

So, I wasn’t surprised when his therapist said at the end of yesterday’s session that he doesn’t need to see her anymore. “Let’s move to an as-needed basis.”

The funny thing was that she didn’t “re-neg” when he told her about Christmas Eve – and an unique experience he’s been sharing boldly for almost a month now.

“I saw Santa!”

She didn’t understand at first. “At the mall? Downtown?”

“The real one. I woke up in the middle of the night and forgot it was Christmas, and I thought I heard something downstairs. So, I went down,” his eyes sparkled and his smile lit up like a Christmas tree., “and there he was!”

She grinned back, trying not to look at me. “Wowwwww! Did you say anything?”

“Nope, I didn’t want to get in trouble. So, I tiptoed back upstairs.”

“He didn’t see you?”

“I am very good at sneaking around.” So proud.

“I have never heard of anyone actually getting to see him. You are the luckiest kid in the world,” then with a vigorous nod from him, she transitioned, “So, did you get anything good?”

He listed his presents. A small drone. A t-shirt from his favorite Youtube channel. A game called Timeline. But when she asked which one was his favorite…

“Seeing Santa! That’s the best gift anyone could ask for!”

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There are times when I’ve watched my boys and felt as if I were going to explode with pride.  Today, when my eighth grader gave his This I Believe speech about the power of reading, I was so proud I wanted to tell everyone in the room that I think he’s absolutely amazing. (I held back… until now.)

It was beautifully written, laced with humor and a window into he is. He was also extraordinarily poised standing up before classmates, teachers and parents. Looked up at his audience. Paused at just right the moments for laughter.

But what struck me almost more than that was his huge smile of encouragement, whispered congratulations, and the high fives he gave each classmate as they passed him on their way to and from the podium. Not just his crew of his friends. Everyone.

I’ve seen it before – I may have written about it before, because it seems to come so naturally to him – when he came in last in a swim race, but was the first to reach over the lane ropes to shake his opponents’ hands. Last week, when his friend made his first basket in a game, he was as happy as the hoopster. And in past years, in the math competition, when each competitor moved on to the next round, he greeted them with encouragement, as if they had just impressed him like no other.

So, as I walked away from a great speech about the power of reading, I thought about the power of his very big, genuine smile, greeting his more nervous classmates, his teammates, even his competition with… “you were awesome!” and “isn’t this fun?!”

Questions of Faith on Christmas Eve

Walking out of mass on Christmas Eve, our son asked, “Why wasn’t I baptized?”

Then before I could answer… “I don’t really know what I believe.”

I slipped my hand in his as we walked down the snow-covered street to the car.

“I know I believe that Jesus was a man, and he was good, and he was God’s son. But,” the 10-year-old sighed deeply, “the story of Noah’s Ark confuses me.”

“Why?”

“It doesn’t make sense that the whole world got destroyed, then one guy with a few animals started it all over from scratch.”

Mom’s Silence is Not So Golden

The other day, when I picked up my high school freshman from school, I had a lot on my mind. I guess I was quiet.

About five minutes into the drive, he said, “Well, this is awkward!”

“What?”

“It’s really weird that you’re not asking me a hundred annoying questions about my day.”

“But you complain when I ask you questions about your day.”

“It’s better than this! What’s wrong?!”

I smiled. “Anything cool going on at school?”

“Oh my God, you are so annoying!”

How to Have a Happy 15-Year-Old

These days, there are two guaranteed ways that I can make my teenage son happy.

The first, I practice almost daily. I bring the dog with me when I pick him up from school. No matter how grumpy he looks as he approaches the car, he is transformed if, when he opens the car door, the dog’s face is there ready to give him a good face-licking. Then, instead of sighing about homework or telling me I ask too many questions, he spends the ride home smiling in the rearview mirror and telling me how cute the dog is.

I learned the second way today. The hard way.

The second way I can make him happy is by screwing up… and getting caught.

“Do you know why I stopped you?”

Yes, I got a speeding ticket, cop motorcycle lights flashing, my son grinning ear-to-ear in the passenger seat, and the dog wagging her tail. Apparently, this was exciting for both of them.

As the police officer wrote out my $160 fine for going 33 in a 20MPH school zone (ooops!), my fifteen-year-old laughed heartily. “This is absolutely awesome!”