The Good Stuff

The best part of yesterday was the conversation I had with the stay-at-home dad in the waiting room during Annie’s private speech therapy session. Before his son’s session, their therapist discussed the family’s bill with the dad, along with the possibility of seeing his child every other week due to money constraints. The dad tells me this is the first bill he has gotten since insurance stopped paying for these services. I share that we have never gotten insurances coverage because being self-employed has its privileges.

“I like to think of this waiting room as my trip to Hawaii. It’s warm and I’m reading People magazine,” I say.

“It’s your vacation? Well, enjoy. Put your feet up. Maybe have a drink. Relax!” he says.

And we really start rolling, saying they should put a drink cart in the corner. This talk was the most fun I have had in a waiting room in a long time. We laugh, we joke, and we hit upon the hard stuff. He admits he quit his job when he and his wife had children. He thinks about going back to work; they could use the money.

“You can either have time or money. We have the time; we just don’t have the money. It’s about quality of life. I don’t want to lose the time,” he tells me. “I just need to figure out what is the minimum we can do [tutoring-wise] and get the maximum benefit.”

This is the good stuff, right here. Figuring out within this easy going dialogue what we both really think. Paying for tutoring is hard and going back to work full-time would help. I work part-time, but more work and better paying work would help. But unless we end up needing to send Annie to a more expensive private school, I bulk at working full time. When I logged in 30 hours a week to write my last two books, it took a toll on everyone in the family. It was worth it, but all four people in my family love the balance we achieve by having me work just a tiny bit. Don’t get me wrong. We are adding debt to our financial profile thanks to tutoring, and I am scrambling to fit more and better paying work into my time constraints. But I like my life, Chris likes my life, and the kids like my life. Sitting in the waiting room yesterday laughing like a fool with an acquaintance and touching on deeper values made me surge with gratitude. I am finally thankful to wait in tutoring offices and school hallways. Where else can I put my feet up, sometimes alone, sometimes in the company with very smart, funny people who are helping their own kids with their learning issues? I have become friends with our Wired for Reading tutor L, freely talking about our lives with each other before and after each sessions, sometimes as Annie pulls on my hand, asking me to go already.

And today, today I reap the really good stuff. Annie’s report card came home with its usual typewritten note from the teacher, and Mrs. S. assures me that Annie and I are on the right path with these words: “Annie has shown great progress. She participates actively; she is confident and is able to complete her in-class work. Annie needs to continue working on letter and sound recognition, letter and number formation and counting 1-10 and identifying numbers 1-10. I’m so proud of Annie. She is a pleasure to have in class.”

I can feel the lovely sun between the lines of gorgeous black type. This note is better than a million warm, sunny beach days. Who needs a trip to Hawaii? Not the Alton’s.


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