Thursday, September 10, 2009


Lately I've been so tired. Depressed, even. Perhaps the dog days of summer are getting me down (and the fact that the air conditioning is broken at work). Mostly, it's the return-to-school blues, the chaos of the boys' schedules, the expectations, both spoken and unspoken, we have for our kids as they face another year of public education.

I'm reading Rafe Esquith's new book about raising extraordinary children. It makes me tired and depressed as well because I know I'm not doing nearly enough to rouse my sons from mediocrity to greatness.

I share a secret with my friend MaryGrace, who is bringing up four little girls. We celebrate parenting high points -- recitals, awards, good report cards -- and support each other through the low points -- self-doubt, recriminations, regret. "Remember, we don't have to be good mothers," we tell each other. "We just have to be good enough."

Those two boys are going to be something special, Jill tells me. You're doing a great job, says Crystal. Stop reading all those parenting books, says my husband. You're driving yourself crazy.

Tonight, TeenGuy opens up at the dinner table. Usually he wolfs down the food and heads out to hang with friends. But today, a surprising revelation: "I had a good debate today." And he tell us that one of his classmates made a political remark, some offhand statement, and my son said, "Bullshit" -- in front of the teacher -- and then came back with a fact, which left the other kid sputtering until a third boy got into the verbal fray.

TeenGuy beams.

SO and I are appalled. "You cursed in the classroom?"

He assures us the teacher didn't mind. "She even gave me a thumbs up!"

"You don't curse in the classroom. That is very disrespectful."

He shrugs it off. Later, when we are alone, SO says that throwing out a somewhat objectionable word and a single fact does not constitute a "debate." Yet I can't help but marvel at my son's courage.

That, I think, is extraordinary.