Tuesday, September 11, 2012

How I'm failing at raising a little superhero

Yesterday, I sent a text to Steve in Chicago: "I'm having a hard time liking the kids right now."

Yes, I did.

It wasn't really having him out of town. It wasn't my new job starting today, and all the preparation for it.  Those things probably didn't help, but really, it was just plain ol' poorly managed crabbiness on my part. I started the bedtime routine about 2 hours early yesterday, out of desperation to put the day behind us.

I was so grateful for the school drop-off this morning, even if it was just 3 hours until I went back to get Simone and Andrew.  More than needing a break from them, even, I knew my kids needed a break from me.

Steve and I spent hours (and hours) of conversation this summer about whether to send Andrew to school yet.  He's a complex character, with contradictory needs.  His mind needs so much stimulation, more than he can get at home, but I couldn't imagine him sitting in a classroom. We've worked so hard to fill his life with things that suit his spirit -- swimming, running, superheroes -- but sometimes, some days, it feels like an endless sea of need.

Their new school seemed like a perfect fit for him in some ways -- they have cooking classes like he wanted, and lots of free-play.  It's about creativity and individual attention and all that cool progressive education stuff that hippie-moms like me appreciate.  And, there are only 10 kids -- so there was a good chance he'd get enough attention that his teachers would see his unique Andrewness.  That they could see past the constant jumping, running, punching-the-air kid and see his tender sweetness beneath.  

Today, I went to pick up Andrew and Simone. They're in the same class, and before the school year started, I wasn't sure how that would go. As I was helping them straighten up, their teacher started talking about Andrew and Simone.  How well they get along together.  And then she started talking about Andrew.  How much Andrew cares about his sister...helps her...is so proud of her.  He'll say things like, "Hey, look what Simone made!" to the other kids.  

And then she started tearing up.  "I don't know why I'm crying about this," she said.  "But it's really beautiful. He's such a great big brother."

Oh my.  I was so grateful...more than words can say...that someone "saw" my Andrew.  

The craziest part about my reservations on Andrew are that I have these qualms about sending him into the world and being misunderstood -- to have people feel frustration or irritation about his busyness, and not see the inner awesomeness in him.  And here I am, his own mother, wanting him to just.sit.still for a few minutes.  I'm feeling irritation about his busyness and not seeing his inner awesomeness. 

I don't really wish the activity-level away.  I really don't.  Not on a global, macro-level of him.  I want his colorful, passionate, frenzied approach to life. I love how he throws himself into everything he does...like charging full-speed down the driveway just to get the mail.  

My appreciation for him as a person, though, runs counter to my needs as a mother.  Wanting things to not be strewn throughout the house.  Broken.  Lost.  His passionate, full-throttle self doesn't leave much space for attention to the details.  He gets it from his mother. ;)

I really want him to have a mother who can calmly handle it when he breaks a DVD player, the brand-new shoes he just lost, the dirty clothes that never quite make it to the hamper.  I want him to have a mother who takes the Big Picture on days that seem so filled with chaotic passion that my brain just fries.  

A mother who knows, in those small moments of parenting, that his huge heart is so much more important than having a clean house.

I just don't always know how to be that mother.

He tries so damn hard.  He really does.  He gives such sweet apologies when he leaves his cereal bowl on the floor (the floor?) and then accidentally runs over it.  I see his tiny little body wiping up the mess -- his little hand and the big rag -- and I have no idea how someone could ever be frustrated with him. 

How can I care about those things, when this little boy greets me in bed at 5AM with a huge smile and a bowl of oatmeal he made me all by himself?  Who still...at age 5...hugs like a baby monkey, with all his limbs wrapped so tightly around me?

God, I love this little man so much.  Just the way he is.  

In my heart, I know I don't need to change him. He'll grow into being adept at these life tasks like clothes-in-the-hamper or other nonsense moms think are important.  He's still learning and trying to figure it all out.  I do understand that.

I'm just tired.

Tomorrow, I'm going to give him a better mom.  I'm going to have a day...one day... where I don't tuck him in with a whispered apology and a promise to do better the next day.