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Blessed Woman Problems

I’ve heard of first-world problems and rich people problems. Lately I’ve decided that I should characterize my school indecision as “blessed woman” problems, and in case I had any doubt this past weekend proved it.

Before I explain, let me back up a minute. After a period of relative internal quiet, last week I began second-guessing my second pick for schools again. I knew the consequences weren’t earth-shattering, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had ranked one school above the other based on convenience instead of fit for Simon.

Added to which, I think my brain abhors a vacuum of stress. With our recent spate of illnesses, restorative dentistry, and car repairs behind us (for now, knock on wood), it was time to find something else to fret over. School choice would serve nicely. It’s all ridiculous if not pathological, and this weekend I had a heavy dose of perspective administered to me.

The first dose came from an expert. Friday night, the three of us went out for pizza and ended up making the acquaintance of a couple dining out with their grandson at a table near us. The boy, probably just over a year old, walked over to our table to greet us. His grandpa swooped over to retrieve him, but within seconds our new little friend was back. Well, one thing led to another, my extroversion took over, and the next thing I knew I was at this family’s table chatting about the child and how interested Simon was in him.

Before long, Grandma was peppering me with questions about Simon’s age and school plans. She seemed unduly interested and informed on the matter, and when I asked if she was a teacher I learned that no, she was a principal… at Audubon Traditional. The very same school I attended for grades 1-3, and the school I ruled out early on for its rigidity. After a bit, she asked if I had considered Audubon for Simon. Summoning all my diplomatic powers, I told her that I researched all the possible options and didn’t think the traditional program was the best fit for us.

“And why not?” she followed up.

“Well, and forgive me if I’m misconstruing the program here, but I think of Audubon as being very heavy on structure and discipline. And honestly, Simon hardly needs discipline. He’s structured and rule obeying, he’s eager to learn, and he’s got a long attention span. If anything, we’re trying to loosen him up a bit. Does that make sense?”

“Oh yes, it certainly does,” she said. “The traditional program isn’t right for all kids; I didn’t think it was right for one of my sons. And you know, Mama,” and here her voice lowered and she assumed the authoritative tone of a principal issuing and edict or order, “that makes you a blessed woman. A very blessed woman. I hope you know that.”

“I do,” I assured her. And in that moment, I did. But not as much as I would less than 24 hours later at Simon’s soccer game.

He played at noon, and I found myself chatting with another grandmother who came over to introduce herself to me. This woman is the grandparent to a boy on the team I’ve wondered about since the very first day I met him. He’s very slim, he has a significant overbite, and he makes some odd sounds when he talks. My first impression was that his speech and appearance would be remediated via jaw surgery once he got old enough.

Then last week I handed out snacks and noticed that the boy also has underdeveloped fingers on one hand. That got me to considering other, more serious possibilities, but I couldn’t confirm any of them. The mystery resolved itself when the grandmother turned the conversation to schools and mentioned that her daughter had listed the Brown school first because she thought it would be best for the boy to be in school with the same kids from kindergarten through high school “because of his problem.”

That seemed an opening, so I waded in gently. “I’ve noticed his speech is a little unclear. I assumed he had an underdeveloped lower jaw that could be surgically corrected later on.” Her answer was heart-breaking:

“I wish it were that simple. _____ was born without a tongue. We don’t know why. He’s had all the genetic testing, and nothing came up. It’s very rare; all the craniofacial specialists want to see him. He’s interesting.”

That would be “interesting” in the sense of the Chinese curse. The rest of the conversation covered the use of feeding tubes until age two, the tracheotomy he got immediately after birth, how at first his family worried he’d never speak, and how the condition is so rare there’s not much published on it.

The contrast between our families could not be starker. In the one corner, there’s me fretting with my husband (an adoring and engaged father) over which school is the best fit for our happy, healthy, and bright son. In the other corner we have a single mom trying to figure out what school can best nurture and support her son with aglossia-adactyllia syndrome.

I like to think I knew how lucky I am before this past weekend, but it doesn’t hurt to have the truth hammered home every now and again.

One Response to “Blessed Woman Problems”

  1. blg says:

    Good for you, for recognizing the sunlight under which you spend so much time. And good for you, for maintaining your grace and wisdom when the sunlight is a little hard to find.

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