According to the supposedly unwritten laws of social media, I'm everything but "Facebook-fähig". If Facebook were to be a person, he or she wouldn't hesitate one moment to declare me unfit. In reality, Facebook is a mind-set, a mentality, a sign of the times that represents the common social standards for my generation. It tells us when to applaud, and when to pay attention. At the same time, once the praise fails to appear, conclusions are rapidly drawn. Zero thumbs up equals boring: nah, time to look elsewhere.

We publicly claim not to fall for each other's brushed-up pictures of amazing scuba diving vacations, trendy music festivals or cocktails at the latest restaurants anymore. Facebook has allegedly moved beyond idle and phony. And yet, take a good look at what the proverbial "we" marks as fit: personal fame and fortune still reside.
In Facebook-terminology, I'm not ambitious. My job doesn't come first, nor comes it second - I actually have no ranking for it at all. I know very well that working only parttime as a self-employed copywriter and "getting by" might sound odd to some. The truth of the matter is, that the Zen concept of just the right amount, is becoming increasingly meaningful to me. My earnings are based on what we need, instead on what I could make. Or, if you'd like to leave the Buddhist mumbo jumbo out of the comparison: our spendings are defined by what comes in, not by a target budget.

If you've got it, flaunt it. But what do I have that fits the current social criteria? Money and professional status obviously aren't in sight. I don't have a husband with a smashing career either. Instead after four and a half years, chronic illness has shifted from a reason to reach out, to one to look away. Nothing is happening, moving forward or moving whatsoever at our place. Define boring again? There are innumerable snippets of happiness, unique and relevant moments, that keep me going. Because of course we aren't in a complete standstill: Kenji is fighting fiercely, but his efforts remain largely unseen. Our life is evolving around elements that are immensely purposeful to the four of us, yet are seemingly lacking in status to others.

I find myself in a strange, and above all socially uncomfortable paradox. Day by day, we continue to survive, coming to terms with the past and, with every breath, extending our future together. The other day I heard myself say that I was scarred (not something I will easily confess) and without disregarding the personal and marital growth, I would lie if I'd say otherwise. Over time, the paradox has arisen: survival isn't about adapting to common social standards, to play it safe and therefore fit in, but to use the sparse energy that is given to stick to your beliefs. After what we've seen and were forced to undergo, we aren't the average late thirty/forty-something couple with a midlife crisis on their horizon.
Am I sorry for not being "Facebook-fähig"? From the older-and-wiser-perspective, no: I'm grateful for where I am today. From experiencing disconnection from my peers? A big fat yes. I never claimed to be a saint: when I "flaunt" my gifted dreamer or my little rascal, a quirky artist publication or my absolutely amazing hero of a husband, I'm not indifferent to any kind of thumbs up. The life online, or what I'm sharing in general, is such a tiny and subjective fraction of real life - in the end, nobody but our family experiences it the way we do and hence nobody else should judge it.

I'm taking yet another break from writing here. Not that I experience a writer's block (the babbling above shows the exact opposite), but some silence will do me a world of good.

The ultimate cliche couldn't be more true: your kids really grow up before you know it. This morning I dropped off Little Brother in kindergarten. For. The. Last. Time. Bye bye circle of small chairs, theme corners, picknicks on the classroom floor and reading books with a bunch of kids crawling all over you at the beginning of every school day (I wasn't too fond of the last part, I have to admit...). Our days in kindergarten are officially over and as parents, we are definitely ready for the next step.
Whether Little Brother feels the same way? On one hand, he can't wait to be more like Big Brother - "I'll have my own desk in first grade, with a drawer!" - on the other hand, he liked what he had a lot and, deep down, prefers to play it safe. In his perception, first grade is huge.

We can't blame our little one. Big Brother's year in first grade wasn't smooth at all and Little Brother's antenna immediately picked up the tension. He has seen firsthand that there aren't any shortcuts anymore, that you have to sit behind a desk most of the day, that playtime as he knows it will be over and that, if you are lucky enough to be ahead of your class, homework will be in the picture as well.
"I'm not going to do a thing next year. I sooo don't want to skip a class! I want to be with my friends forever and ever. But wait a minute, if I do nothing, I will have to repeat the grade. I know what I'll be doing: something in the middle, enough to stay with my group but certainly not too much." I smiled at Little Brother's one-of-a-kind-theory and told him that he won't get away with anything but doing his best.

Little Brother is lucky though: one of his kindergarten teachers will be his first grade teacher next year. We are lucky as well, since Little Brother comes with quite the 'manual' and not having to 'instruct' a new teacher is such a relief. He is reading books with her in kindergarten and will take those with him to first grade, just as his reading skills test is already scheduled. Both his teacher and we know that he will love to learn and discover new things and his teacher can't wait to spend another year with him! What more can an almost six-year old ask for?

As I was cleaning the first grade classroom at school, I ran into Little Brother's teacher who was sorting out kindergarten stuff in her classroom. Suddenly I spotted Ko, a doll that each kid gets to take home for a weekend. Parents have to write a short report in Ko's diary, preferably with pictures of all the weekend activities Ko has 'participated' in (the report has turned into a kind of social show off and scrapbooking competition between mothers). After politely playing along, first with Big Brother and this year also with Little Brother, I won't miss smelly, dirty Ko for a single moment and couldn't hide my joy. Fortunately Little Brother's teacher could see the joke as well.

Good ol' Ko showed me that it's time to move on and close this chapter. First grade, here we come!

"Big Brother, do you know why you are here?" Big Brother, shy but at the same time very resolute, replies: "Yes, to discuss my test results." His teacher whispers that she has just told him that in the hallway; we mentioned the meeting to Big Brother at breakfast as well. Papa, mama, his teacher, the special education resource teacher, the school's internal supervisor: our boy has gathered quite the crowd. The internal supervisor turns towards him: "We have come up with a plan for you. You did such a great job on your test and you're doing really well in general. How about you join the group where you have been going for extra classes this year after the summer? Would you be alright with that, to skip a class and go straight to third grade instead of second? We all hope it will be less boring for you." Big Brother's eyes become huge and everybody in the room witnesses how his mind, as well as his body, processes the message. His lip trembles for a moment, then he pulls himself together and says: "Yes!"

I didn't sleep much last night. How to come up with what would be best for Big Brother? How to deal with school's strict terms and regulations? How to stick to the non-doing? In the end - it was long after midnight - I concluded that the answer would be by doing nothing. Simple and not easy at all.

After the special education resource teacher had explained her calculations and openly admitted that she kept re-calculating, because she had rarely seen figures like these, our jaw dropped. Completely. By now, we had guessed Big Brother was gifted. However, after we heard that Big Brother had scored beyond the limits of the IQ test on certain elements, which made calculating his exact IQ even more difficult, we were speechless. Absolutely flabbergasted. Our boy?!

The internal supervisor completely smoothened the non-doing part for us. We were only five minutes into the meeting, when she told us how the team of teachers had already convened to discuss Big Brother's case. That in the first time in the school's history, they were offering a child the possibility to skip a grade and that Big Brother was even eligible to skip two grades. Letting him skip a grade would allow him to enroll in the gifted program of Day A Week School, and that would only be the start. Next year he would be tested further, in order to see what other extras would be required.

I guess I need a drink. Our mysterious Big Dreamer has surprised us to an extent we never held possible.

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