Thursday, October 28, 2004

Tell Me More! Tell Me More!

At 5:40 p.m., I was hunched into a small, blue, first-grader-sized chair. Next to me, Miss B. sat quite comfortably. She is the first-grade teacher, a small woman with a quick smile and teeny-tiny little hands that reminded me of my college roommate. (My college roommate was 4 feet 10 inches tall and wore a size 3 shoe. I am 5 feet 7 inches tall and there's nothing size 3 about me.)

Miss B. began by telling me what a joy it is to have YoungestBoy in her class. She told me how once, at the beginning of the school year, she found him disoriented in the hallway, lost. She reminded him where the room was and he laughed and said, "Oh yeah! Short term memory loss." We both laughed out loud.

Then she pulled out a paper which listed an assessment of his knowledge so far. He excells in every area--except penmanship. He needs to work on that. But today, he received a Student of the Month award for "Amazing Writing." He loves math and shows an unbelievable aptitude for numbers.

All too soon, it was over and she asked if I had any questions. I didn't. But I wanted to clutch her half-sized hand and beg her to tell me more about my brilliant, darling son. I wanted to sit on that little chair and compare stories and discuss his cuteness, his charm, his unintentionally hilarious comments. I told her one story about last Friday. I'd rented a video game for him the night before, so Friday morning he came to me and said, "Mom. My nose is stuffy. And (small fake cough) I think I should stay home." I said, "Really?" and kind of laughed and he said, "Okay. Well, that cough was fake."

I told Miss B. that I've come to the conclusion that if I only had YoungestBoy, I would be a smug parent, a condescending parent, one of those mothers who thinks she is the reason her child is so . . . everything.

But, I have the twins, and they have challenged me every step along the way. They hate to write, their handwriting is illegible, they dragged their feet through every grade. The other day, they actually came to blows over Play-doh. They are average. Average is all right, but average is not perfect. And that's okay. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

If I only had YoungestBoy, I would claim credit for him. But I have his brothers. They keep me humble, while he buoys my spirits.

And it's not all about me, anyway. My job is to keep them safe, to nourish them, inside and out, and to help them reach their potential. Sounds simple, right? If only.

I sometimes think I'm the only mother who looks around at the bedlam and the mess and thinks, Am I doing all right? Is this how it's done? Have I ruined my children already? Is it too late? Why did I ever think I would be good at this? Would they be better off without me? Sometimes I long for the days when I worked for Blue Cross--at least then, I got a regular job review and a raise. I could measure my productivity against the company standards. At the end of the day, I could walk out to my car and not look back. Of course, back then I was a clock-watcher and I yearned for the days I have now.

I just thought I'd have perfect children who would love to play checkers (without fighting) and read by the fireplace and sit quietly at the dinner table where they'd eat brussel sprouts and discuss scripture verses. I thought they'd be darling marionettes and I'd be the master puppeteer, handling all those strings without ever getting tangled.

It turns out that life can't exactly be planned, children are individuals, not accessories, and the kitchen counter will always attract stacks of paper. And that's okay. As long as some of those papers have YoungestBoy's name on them and a shining star from his teacher to show that she is extremely impressed. (He's mine! I gave birth to him! Isn't he sweet?!)


Blogger WordsRock said...

Ah yes, another side benefit of being mother: owning the good and the not-as-good features of our little darlings.

And Mel, they are ALL better off with you as their mother. Shining stars on their papers or not.

5:54 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

I know how you feel. I have a 7 year old like that. I'm not sure the others will follow. My middle child is average and i have to keep reminding myself that average is what he's supposed to be. If only we could get gold stars as moms!

6:47 AM  
Blogger Judy said...

There is NOTHING quite as wonderful as knowing that someone else thinks your kid is as wonderful as you do!

12:11 PM  
Blogger Tina said...

See, I told you I like Zachary do too! He sounds like a priceless little boy...

6:20 PM  

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