What’s in a name? I can’t make heads or tails of this tonight, or maybe ever. Funny how I keep shifting the focus away from what really matters: my sweet boy and who he really is and what he really needs.
I guess we find out soon enough. Lowenstein’s been in preschool to observe my little Good Will Hunting a few times. She called today to schedule an appointment for next week. “I’ll tell you what I think is going on with The Boy.” Righty-O. What is going on with The Boy? Part of me fantasizes that it’s entirely contextual; that he’s fine – whatever the hell “fine” means – and he just needs some details of his environment tweaked to get it right.
But why is that what I’m secretly hoping for when it’s so open-ended and unhelpful? Where would that leave us? I know in my heart that it’s not true, anyway. It’s been clear to me for years now that something is, indeed, “going on” with that boy. I took it on myself. Stepped up the parenting skills to eleven. And now I’m at the point where I just can’t be objective, or even know which end is up. His teacher asks me for suggestions and sometimes I honestly just don’t freaking know.
Hence, the evaluation. Some people are reluctant to slap a label on their kid, and I can definitely understand why. A label can change everything. A big, implication-heavy label. Something about which articles are published. Something that will pick us up out of this nice little identity I’ve dreamed up for the family and put us back down way over there where I don’t know the language. Something that will draw attention away from his intelligence and creativity and put it squarely on his differences.
But really, that’s already happening without the label anyway. His anxiousness, his anger, his strange aversions, his boundless energy. None of that translates into optimum classroom behavior. And people don’t like it.
I see the dad who yelled at me at school that time and I just want to hide. I can’t even look at the back of his head. My heart rate goes up through the roof. “I’m sick of you, I’m sick of your kid! He should be kicked out of school!” That was more than two weeks ago and still no apology. The preschool administrator tells me “it may be more due to shame and embarrassment than thinking what he did was right.” I hope so. I could sleep so much better if I knew for certain that he felt remorse for treating somebody's mother like that (in front of a playground full of kids and parents, no less).
Which, again, shifts my focus way the hell away from where it might do anything useful. So some loser dad had a “George is givin’ it to T-Bone” moment with me on the playground. I can curse his name until the day I die and it won’t do my son any good.
So, back to The Boy. There’s so much to love about him. And I’m not the only one who sees it, either. He charms just about anyone who talks to him. He’s so well-spoken, so smart, with an astounding depth of knowledge on dinosaurs, ancient Egypt, ocean life, and all things Lego-related. He builds and builds with anything he can get his hands on. He has such joy in him. Such love. He used to curl up with me and say “Mommy, I’m your baby tiger.” Of course if I remind him of that now, he just grits his teeth and gives me the stink eye. But he still loves to be cuddly.
And he loves his friends so much. I attended a lecture on children’s social lives recently, and the speaker defined cliques as “cocoons of safety.” “When we’re at our most different, we seek to create sameness,” she said. And I can see this happening before my eyes. School used to make him so anxious, to the point where he’d freak out if we ran into a family from school at the beach or something. But this year, he’s made his own friends at school without the least bit of facilitation on my part. It’s downright heartwarming, really.
I think it’s all this binary thinking that’s screwing me up. You’d think I’d have evolved past it by now. Obviously whatever label he ends up with doesn’t discount any of these wonderful things. The label is mostly just a key to free services through the school district next year. It’s a tool for understanding how to help him succeed instead of trying to cram him through some door that just doesn’t fit and never will. He’ll be happier. We’ll be happier. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.
The truth is, I’m so ashamed. Not of him. Of myself. I’ve never been quite right either. I had my own brand of childhood anxiousness and strange aversions. (Unlike The Boy, though, I was much more “flight” than “fight.”) For years I believed somewhere in my heart that there was something fundamentally wrong with me, that I was just plain defective somehow. I learned over time to embrace my strangeness and make it work for me. But how quickly that all comes undone at times like this.
Luckily, I know it won’t stay undone for long. If I can just figure out how to stop listening to the noise . . . if I can just stop trying to convince everyone that my son is a good boy and I am a good mother; accept that I don’t need anyone’s affirmation but my own . . . if I can just live each day joyfully with these amazing kids that I’m so lucky to have . . . Well, we’ll get there. Gradually.
Tomorrow there’s no school. The Boy’s getting a much-needed haircut and then we’ll visit the fancy cupcake place next door. And we’ll take it from there.