This is in the back of Maverick’s favorite book. I nearly wept when I read it. I bet if his mother and I met for coffee, we would be instant besties.
Last quarter, Maverick’s report card contained straight A’s, except for one C which was in conduct. Did you know they give letter grades for conduct now? Well … they do, much to the misfortune of elementary-aged talkers and disruptive types all across America.
He never mentioned anything to us about it, until one day when it came out in conversation that he thought he couldn’t go to the Honor Roll ceremony with his friends because he “has bad grades.” I remember standing at the sink when he said it, stopping in my tracks and looking straight at him. “What?! Maverick, you make EXCELLENT grades!” I looked into his big eyes and realized that for almost three months, he had been operating under the assumption that his grades sucked.
After I explained that the reason he didn’t make Honor Roll was because he had a C in conduct, I watched a fire start to burn in him as he said “I am going to do better next time. I want to get on Honor Roll. If they can do it, I can do it.” I remember my mouth dropping open a little, but I collected myself and said something like he can do anything if he works hard enough.
We have never pushed him to excel academically — unless you count putting him in first grade when he was 5 years old, the youngest in his class. This year is an experiment, we are fumbling through it in the dark and just waiting to see how he does. We congratulate him on a job well done, for working hard when he does well — but we leave it at that. There is no pushing. Most of the time, I am running around like a cat tied to a stick just trying to keep him from burning the house down or poisoning a sibling with one of the “potions” he likes to mix up in the bathroom.
Parenting a child like Maverick requires a skill set that I’m not even sure I have, and energy I only possess occasionally. Lately, most of my days have been pretty rock-bottom terrible. It’s just another valley; a time when I feel too exhausted to keep pressing forward, but I have no choice but to keep going, lest I be trampled or dragged along with my face in the dirt. Sometimes I find myself in a pit where it feels like everything I’m doing is wrong. It’s lonely there. And dark.
But it doesn’t last forever.
Yesterday, Maverick came home with a report card peppered with A’s and B’s. He was bursting with pride over making the Honor Roll. I’d totally forgotten about his resolve to improve until I held the report in my hands. He did it, just like he said he would.
He has that fire.
I am so proud and I am so terrified. That boy can do anything he puts his mind to, whether we want him to or not. In my soul I know that if we ever slip up and pressure him to succeed, he will fail on purpose to spite us. So we remain calmly encouraging, careful not to make too
big of a production of things, all while still acknowledging his hard work. It’s like walking a tightrope.
Sometimes I lie awake at night terrified that somehow we will screw up and that fiery self-motivation will redirect to something else, something negative. What if he becomes a scientist and figures out how to make blue meth like on Breaking Bad? What if I make him really mad one day and he slips me a roofie? What if he teaches himself how to drive before he’s legally allowed to and he leaves home with a road map of the U.S., finds a life as a con man, and never comes back? WHAT IF HE TAKES THE OTHER ONES WITH HIM?
Maverick is clearly my greatest challenge, so when he does well without any prodding on my part, it’s a huge victory for me. All the battles we wage in our household take their toll on my psyche, and just when I felt like I couldn’t possibly go on because I AM A TERRIBLE MOTHER WHO CAN’T UNDERSTAND OR FIGURE OUT HOW TO BEST PARENT MY OLDEST CHILD …
The light came through.
You make me happy too, Maverick. And mad. And frustrated. And slightly crazy. But the feeling that always overshadows the rest is the constant, unstoppable, NO MATTER WHAT love that I have for you. People tell me that you’re going to … Continue reading
In honor of Throwback Thursday.
Someone I love sent me this piece from The New Yorker this morning. I got it after a nearly-two-hour experience in the pediatrician’s office, which ended with me trying to peel my middle child off their front door when it was time to go. What kind of kid wants to STAY at the doctor’s office?!
Oh, wait. I know. A three-year-old. Because nothing with a three-year-old makes sense.
I’m reporting to you from the trenches. And I could go into a tirade about who snotted on my one pair of clean yoga pants today or why bath and bed time has me wanting to rock in a corner, clutching vodka … but I won’t. You already know that parenthood is hard; the highs are always followed by lows that we get through by telling ourselves “everything is a phase.”
But everything is.
Maverick got a little wound up in the days following Halloween. All that extra red dye # 40 did a number on him, apparently. After a particularly long and difficult day, I finally said that he was going to bed early. He got mad, I got mad, we both dug in. I ended up dragging him to his room after reminding him in the living room who was in charge.
I gave him time to calm down and then tried to talk it over, but he was so angry and he just kept yelling that I was a horrible mommy — a very bad mommy — and he wished I belonged to someone else. “I understand that you’re upset with me,” I said as I covered him up. “But I am glad I belong to YOU.”
He replied with an angry noise.
Sometimes it’s hard to know if you’re doing the right thing. I’m all the time wondering if I’m too hard on them or not hard enough. Am I respected? Am I a doormat? I’m a fairly self-assured person, but I find motherhood to be discombobulating.
The next morning, Maverick crept into our bed at 6:15. It was still dark out, and I was fumbling around for my glasses when I heard him say the following words. I hope I never forget them, because it was the sweetest apology that has ever come out of that boy’s mouth.
“Mommy? I’m so sorry I yelled at you last night. You’re a good mommy and I love you. I really love you. And you know what else? I really WAS tired, like you said. I konked right out after you left! Man, I was tired. I feel better now. You know what I was thinking? Maybe I could go make you some coffee. I know how much sugar to put in it, and Daddy showed me how to use the Keurig. I’ll be really careful.”
Speechless. I still tear up when I think about it.
I struggle. We all do. And sometimes, yes, it’s even barefoot in the snow like the essay from The New Yorker suggests. That would be a low point. But the highs … they are so, so sweet. Just like my coffee.
Maverick has asked us repeatedly what “these things” are, and we have answered repeatedly that it is none of his business.
Finally, I guess he wore Robbie down.
“They’re for her armpits,” I heard him tell our son.
“What?! She puts them in her ARMPITS? Why?”
And then … I found him like this.
You know what’s hilarious? Overhearing a first-grader reading an Anne Taintor calendar out loud.
Slowly and painfully he read from the October page, “There’s a very fine line between medicated and over-medicated. Hey Mommy, what does ‘medicated’ mean?”
I just laughed and hurried him out the door, feeling pretty proud of my 6-year-old who over the past few months has started to REALLY read. That feeling of pride continued until the next evening, when I caught him in our bedroom trying to sound out the second word on a greeting card my friend Kelli sent almost 2 years ago.
I turned the corner and saw him studying it closely, mumbling to himself “You’re … f … ”
I quickly redirected him and shoved the card deep under a stack of papers, and once he was out of sight I stood still for awhile and let the waves of mom fail wash over me. I am well aware that there are many things worse that hearing your child trying to sound out the F-word, but I can’t think of them right now … unless it’s the time last week when Robbie and I were chatting with Maverick after the other kids were in bed, and we were making up rhymes.
Maverick was silly and tired, and I was just about to suggest it was time for bed when the following came out of his mouth, and I quote: “You don’t have a wiener, Mommy. You have a pagina. Starts with a ‘P’ and ends with a ‘gina.’ Do you have the Great Wall of China in there? How does it fit?”
Robbie turned his head away, his body shaking with silent laughter, as I sat frozen and speechless.
THAT is worse than hearing him try to sound out the F-word.
I’m writing this post for my handful of long-time followers, as well as my close friends and family who have been riding this ridiculous train with me since 2010.
HI! I can’t believe you’re still here, but I want to thank you for staying. Can I offer you a drink?
Let’s talk about Maverick, my oldest child, aptly named. Remember all the times I honest-to-God thought something was wrong with my son? All the posts I have written (and they are countless, just type in “Maverick” or “ONE” on the sidebar and you can spend the next two hours reading about him if you’d like, which I’m guessing you wouldn’t) about what he said or destroyed, the weird things he did and the exasperation I felt at not knowing what to do … figuring out this child has eaten up a considerable amount of my time and energy.
I have called him high-spirited. I have said he was challenging. I have talked about his persistence, his rebelliousness, his penchant for questioning authority, his shocking hilarity, and my frustration at figuring out how to best parent him.
I have read books. I have read blogs. I have e-mailed people who specialize in challenging behavior to get their feedback and ideas. I made a counseling appointment and I cancelled it. When his preschool teacher voiced her concerns, I talked to his pediatrician who assured me he is normal. I experimented with his diet. I made him run around a lot to see if his problem was simply hyperactivity. I cut out TV. I encouraged him to explore outside.
I turned the TV back on again.
When close friends and family members voiced concerns, it weighed on me because I knew their concerns had merit. Robbie and I have worked tirelessly to parent Maverick to the best of our ability, but we still always seem to fall short. We knew he was special, and we believed we could channel it, unless we lost our shit first … in which case he would totally take over the household and start calling us by our first names.
Thankfully, we are more determined than he is. Thankfully, good parents don’t give up.
We are truly his biggest fans and advocates, tempered with high expectations. We have conversations like, “No, you may not call me Harmony. Yes, I know that is my name, but YOU call me Mom or Mommy. It’s a sign of respect. THAT’S JUST WHAT WE DO, NOW DO IT. No, I will not call you Mr. Hobbs. I also will not refer to you as Your Majesty.”
Maverick challenges me in every way imaginable, testing to see how far he can push me before I don’t love him anymore. Trying to see if I will give up on him.
I sometimes feel guilt over the way I handled certain situations in the past, but I didn’t know what to do. And even if I took the information I have now and went back for a do-over, I’m not sure I could hold it together any differently than I did before. Motherhood is a cold-hearted bitch like that — some parts are just hard, any way you slice it. I’m not ashamed to admit that I struggled. The good news is I’ve learned to give myself grace, and we all have become experts at saying “I’m sorry.”
Six months ago, Robbie and I finagled our way into a great neighborhood so that Maverick could attend a really good school. I’m a product of a private school education and Robbie always went to public. He assured me our son would not come home the first day asking what a blowjob is, and I took a deep breath and really hoped he was right. People told us he was too young, especially for a boy, to start school. He was 5 when the school year began, barely meeting the requirements which state a child has to be six years old by September 30. But we forged ahead. Every child is different, and if nothing else I know that my kids don’t seem to fit molds very well.
We sent him to school and it’s been amazing. We’ve learned that Maverick is really … something. He’s very smart. I can’t say enough how validating it has been to have teachers review test scores with us, and I don’t mean that in a braggy way, I mean it a no wonder he gave me so much hell, he was totally bored kind of way. Yesterday we met with a teacher who he will be spending time with every day in his “Gifted Resource” class and it was such an incredible feeling to look around and see an environment that is truly made for a kid just like Maverick. I want to hug every single one of them and thank them for teaching my son, because I’m maxed out just covering the bases over here.
Here’s the best part. Nothing is wrong with my kid.
I am not a deficient mother.
He’s just too smart for his own good, and the rest of us have trouble keeping up. Wow. WHAT A RELIEF. If you happen to run into him, feel free to commend him on being such a hard worker and imaginative thinker. You can point out his confidence and his humor … but please, please, do not tell Maverick he is smart.
He’s five steps ahead of you, and he already knows.
A few nights ago I witnessed Asher accidentally pee into his own eyes. He screamed “there’s soap in my eyes!” And I said no, that’s pee, and as I said it I realized this was yet another situation I never thought of when I first pondered having children.
Robbie: “What’s your favorite letter, Asher?”
Pepper still isn’t walking. She will be 16 months old next week. She’s making up for that by talking, though, so we aren’t terribly concerned about her development. She says: No, Mama, Daddy, Maverick, Pepper, Lemme out, I wanna get out, Hi, Hello, Bye-bye, Turtle, Kitty Cat, Monkey, Brother, Baby, Milk, Eat, Bath, Boat, Pig, and a whole bunch of other things. But her legs go limp when I hold her hands and try to encourage her to walk.
She has started getting up on her knees and “walking” on them, which is not as fast as crawling but it puts her up higher. The sweet lady at the gym nursery said she’s never seen anything like it. Well … that makes two of us. At this rate it will be Christmas before she’s walking, and yes, I am in a hurry for her to start. She is HEAVY and I’m tired of carrying her.
Thanks to a book from my parents, Maverick is now an expert on the Dead Sea. If anyone has any questions relating to that body of water, please direct them to Maverick.