First off, it is colder than hell outside. And while you may think that’s an obvious (and somewhat stupid) statement – let me just say that for some people (*ahem, me) being cold is a whole lot worse than being hot! And yeah, I’m in Florida. No, thankfully it is NOT snowing. Yet, YES, I am still bitching. I’m cold when it’s 80, you can bet your fluffy down comforter I’m freezing when it’s 30.
Anyway, I started off saying a first, so let me get to the second. I’ve finally figured them out. My kids. Frighteningly enough, part of the riddle has been solved. No, really, it’s actually pretty scary.
Oh, and yeah, third. I’m back. Again. I’ve been remiss. Yada yada… busy, busy. Life and all that crap. So, I offer no more empty “I’m back for real and gonna make this a weekly thing” business, because I’m being honest, and I honestly cannot guarantee when I’ll actually write anything. But I’m writing this, so I’m going to go ahead and be happy with that.
Back to the second. The boys. My favorite Monsters. Holy realization moment. Kaleb is me. Mase is totally Daddy. And while they both have parts of us in some ways (I’ll man up and take blame for the road rage) – it isn’t the same. Allow me to explain…
I need recognition for things I do well. No kidding, serious verbal recognition. I thrive on it. I will keep doing the things you verbally recognize and appreciate I do. If you don’t … well. I tend to stop doing them. Because I feel like they (and I, by extension) go unnoticed. I need visual stimulation. I need to be able to escape from reality though books, music and other such things when I get overwhelmed with life, because otherwise I end up over-thinking everything and my anxiety gets bad enough that I stop functioning like a normal person should. I require step-by-step instruction when introduced to something new because otherwise I will totally go off book, and let’s be honest – that never ends well.
I don’t respond to hounding or constant reminders – that feels more like a piano hanging over my head by a string than a motivation to remember something. My memory is lax when it comes to a lot of things because there is almost always something bigger and more imminent looming in the forefront of my mind, even if that particular thing seems small to anyone else. Threats never work with me, because it isn’t real if it isn’t right there in front of me.
I know, to an extent, how much this sucks for the people in my life who want to convey important things to me. Because while I can spend hours, days, or weeks consumed with fictional worlds, I cannot genuinely envision my life without the things that are already in it. I forget simple tasks, silly things people ask me to do for them, things I usually start to do (because they mean a lot to people who mean a lot), and then I get bogged down by other things. Those big important things that are consuming my thoughts like endless riders on a Merry-Go-Round. Or I get overwhelmed. I don’t know what to do first. I start a million things at once and finish exactly… none. I let people down constantly. I let myself down constantly. Because the minute my mind leaves one topic, another crops up, and the one that is right there is the one that ends up being most important. I can’t imagine how petty and selfish that must sound to you.
Honestly, it sounds horrible to me, and I’m talking about myself.
But this is me on my most honest level.
***Okay, I know I said before that I need recognition – but not on this. I’m not looking for validation here. I’m looking to be brutally honest with myself as a person. So the first person who tries to offer me an excuse for the behavior I have just admitted to will be promptly showed the door ***
I’ve been like that forever. Ask my mom. She could ground me for weeks. I would shrug and walk away. What did I care? But to take my most prized things? My books, my music… the world would all but collapse as far as I was concerned. I was actually a decent student. I did my homework. Every day… but I’d forget to turn it in. Every day. I’d forget to put it in my bag. It wasn’t because there was something else I wanted to do; it was more because I would finish that task and move on to something else that was now a big deal. But even then…when I’d really get in trouble (and believe me, I totally deserved it when I did. I was a sh*t), I’d scream, and I’d cry – but to what end? Did I actually do what I was supposed to have done in the first place? Eh…. Usually not. I had the kind of attitude that would send people running for the hills faster than you could say “Call SuperNanny!”
Kaleb’s like that. He’s stubborn. He has a few interests that really encompass him. And he has a few passing interests, ones he could do without, but they entertain him when all else fails. He’s got an incredible imagination, and an admirable amount of determination. Add that to his confidence in himself and his growing skill-set… in 20 years he will be a force nobody will want to reckon with. But as a child…
I want to go back in time and pick up every hair I must have caused my mother to pull out of her head.
His attention span is exactly that of a dead gnat – unless what he’s looking at involves a book of LEGO instructions, Marvel Superheroes, or something that will piss off his brother. He forgets to do something about five seconds after you tell him, unless it is either A. written down; B. directly in front of him; or C. beneficial to him in some very literal way. Everything is a personal attack. And I do mean everything. It is your fault he’s screaming, because you told him to use his napkin and he didn’t want to use his napkin, so therefore it is your fault he’s screaming. See the logic?
That’s the thing. You have to actually see the logic to understand him. His world consists of exactly two things, and two things only: What makes him happy, and What makes him not happy. I wasn’t quite that bad as a kid. But, the more I think about how he thinks, the more I understand it. For Kaleb, everything is immediate. We can put him in a five minute time-out, but at the end of that five minutes, his mind has wandered all over the place, and he genuinely might not remember why he was in trouble. Sure he can remember every name of every Spiderman Nemesis – but that is inherently important to him. At least, it’s a whole lot more important than remembering to use a napkin.
Then again, there are the times he just screams – I mean really, really screams… I think that’s honestly just to make me completely crazy. Mason had to have taught him that.
I keep asking myself how do I get through to him?
The honest answer is…. I probably won’t. I probably won’t be the one to do it. For me, it was a couple of incredible teachers who banned together and changed a great many of my perspectives. Don’t get me wrong, I was still a total shit when I was at home. And my mom never stopped trying. She never gave up on me, or the future she wanted for me. I was just not ready to listen to her. At the same time, for once she wasn’t the only one fighting for me. I worked a bit harder for my future. I responded to people differently. I stopped forming so many arguments against my mom in my head and started listening to what she was saying, even though she didn’t know that (and still probably thinks talking to me is the equivalent of talking to a stack of bricks).
But as I pointed out in the beginning of all this – I am in many ways still who I was a kid. I’m a more grown-up version, sure. The problems have changed, they’ve gotten bigger, more challenging. They aren’t just my problems anymore. They’re the problems of everyone I love and care about. Myself included. But it’s sobering to realize as a parent, that there might be a lot more to that old saying about taking a village to raise a child. Kaleb’s teachers get through to him in times when I can’t. There are days when they ask me how we handle X, Y, & Z when all I want to do is ask how they got past A & B.
Then, there’s Mase. Ooooohhhhh The Mase Bug.
It started off as a totally absurd Dora-Inspired nick-name. The kind of thing that starts because it’s too late for the hospital to do anything but batten down the hatches and tell you to hold on. An hour later you find yourself face-to-face with this little dude (who may just have the most expressive eyes on Earth), while silently still singing the song Dora sang to help the Mommy Bug-a-bug find her baby bug-a-bug in the episode you fell asleep watching with your toddler. Or… maybe I wasn’t singing so silently.
Now, I actually think it might be a thing. The Mase Bug. He’s cute. He bats those ridiculous eyelashes over those big brown eyes and you want to smoosh his little cheeks. He says goofy, silly things, and makes absolutely no sense, and you just adore it. Despite the fact that he’s four, and has a perfectly functional vocabulary he is completely competent in using.
My curious, destructive, charming, deceptively smart boy. He is his daddy’s clone. He’s too smart, and too distracted. By everything and nothing. He may not being paying attention outwardly, but he is fully tuned in when you think he isn’t. He wants everything his way, otherwise, well… you can just kiss that cute little butt of his and wish him safe travels – ‘cause he will cease existing in your world the minute you stop making sense in his. Now, to be fair, both boys are very much like that. But Kaleb lets you know when you’ve stepped off his planet (usually by screaming that you are wrong). Mason just checks out. He won’t return the key – I swear he’s a time travelling Muse for The Eagles. He’ll check out any time he wants – but he won’t ever leave.
You can sit with him and talk and talk and talk to him until you are rainbow colored. But unless what you are saying consists of certain key words or phrases, you could be talking ancient Greek. ‘Cause he is not listening. He’s thinking about a hundred different other things. He isn’t building like his big brother. He’s not dreaming of LEGOs or colored pencils. He’s thinking about how one car went faster than the other, and he is wondering why. He’s ripping apart brand new toys just to figure out where things are, where they’d be better suited, and why other things are missing.
He wants to watch me cook, because he wants to figure out what the difference is between a raw egg and a scrambled egg. Start to finish, he has to understand the entire process or he is not satisfied. He wants to know why the dome light comes on in the car when the door is opened but turns back off when it’s closed. He doesn’t just want to know, but needs to know the how and the why. He wants it faster, louder, and bigger. And if he has to rip something apart to see what was different inside this toy, versus that toy – he will do it in a heartbeat.
He’s singled minded, and determined. He’s brilliant, but stubbornly makes everyone show him how to do everything multiple times before he’s satisfied knowing he can do it himself. He’s loving, but only to certain people at certain times. He’s distant, but he feels so strongly for those he loves, it’s almost become a defense. By all accounts – he’s just like Daddy. Smart, sweet, stubborn, with an insatiable curiosity, and a unique, yet disquieting way of viewing the world.
They are us. Our product. Both of them. Beautiful. Strong. Stubborn. Isolated inside a world filled with people that love them, but don’t quite understand them. Sometimes angry at the hands they’ve been dealt, when they played so much better than everyone else at the table. Loyal. Fun. Joyous. Intelligent. Underestimated. Overestimated. Such a delirious mix of light and dark.
I forget as a parent (a lot), how I was as a kid. How singled minded I was. How absolutely focused I got on the things that interested me. The things that gave me joy just by doing them on my own. The things that made me… “Me”. I’ve become so focused as an adult on making my kids “well rounded” that I forget that a part of becoming an adult is honing those solo interests. Screaming when you feel like you’re going to explode. The tantrums and the fights about the fairness of life. Those things that make me so mad as a parent – I honestly couldn’t count how many of those I put my mom through when I was growing up. They’re a part of growing up. You don’t just wake up one day and realize “I’m 4, I should be potty trained.” Or, “I’m 7, I can tie my shoes.” Those are things you learn as you go. Things other people teach you. Frustration, anger, sadness, confusion – that’s part of life whether you’re a child or an adult. You only learn how to channel and process those things by watching the adults in your life.
Of course, no matter how much I kicked and screamed I still had to do my math homework – but I was a hell of a lot more prone to do it (and turn it in…) if that meant I got an extra 20 minutes to do something I genuinely enjoyed at the end of the day. Some days that was watching Gilmore Girls with my mom (Yes, I just did totally out you Mom, sorry). Some days that was sitting on the kitchen counter picking apples out of the pie mix Nana was making when (I thought) she wasn’t looking. Or going upstairs and getting lost in a story. Every day I was a different version of myself. Some days I wanted companionship, some days I didn’t. Even as a small child. That’s an easy thing to forget.
I think maybe it’s time we all take a few minutes to remember ourselves as kids – our HONEST selves. How we really were, not how we like to think we were, and try to imagine applying it our lives now.
Think about what motivates you now – what motivates your spouse – what motivates your kids…
And I don’t mean money, work, grown up crap. I said think like a KID. A little kid. Little kids don’t think about money – at least not in concrete terms. They think about the abstract. If you could do one thing at the end of the day for twenty minutes, what would it be? What about your spouse? Your kids? Not a group activity – save that for the weekends or holidays. Not some sibling activity to force your kids to get along (BTW, if you have one of those I am beyond open to suggestions). Not something for someone else either. Be selfish, be abstract. Think like a child. Find a true, free, honest reward for surviving the day.
I’d spend twenty minutes writing. Or doing something to further it. Research, outlines, whatever – something just for me. I’d give Daddy twenty minutes of complete he-man time – no phones, no kids, no email, nothing but peace and the understanding that comes with a perfect match of man and machine (just for the record, if this wasn’t an abstract, I’d give him twenty minutes a day flying instead). I’d give Kaleb 20 minutes of LEGO time. I’d give Mason twenty minutes to talk about, throw, drive, or destroy any 3 toy vehicles of his choice.
If we all stopped looking at life like a race to be won, a battle to be waged – and started thinking about how to encourage the people next to us to be better, happier versions of themselves, instead of constantly trying to make everyone be like us, think like us, want what we want – just imagine how much better and happier we would all actually be…