September 25, 2007

Childhood revisited...through another's eyes

Standing on the brink
Of a new and wondrous adventure
You look back at me
Excited fear in your eyes
Holding onto my hand, fingertips to fingertips
On the very verge of letting go
I give you a trembling, encouraging smile
Hiding my breaking heart
I don't want to let you go
Even though I have no choice
You do not belong to me alone
Though, deep down, I wish you did
I wish you could be my own little angel
That I could hold you safe from harm
But that just isn't the way it works
I can't hold you close and protect you forever
So off into the world I'll send you
To watch you grown and learn
To see you move away from me
Become the man you're meant to be

My oldest son is 6 years old. He'll be seven in a few months, but I refuse to think about that right now. :) He's in first grade, which is a very different first grade than the one I was in. We live in Florida, which is a state that has implemented the stupidest system for determining how much a child has learned. But, that's another story.
My point, and as others have said, I do have one, is that my child is in school, and he brought home his interim report today. My son is very, very intelligent. I know, I'm his mother, and I'm prejudiced, but in all seriousness, and not being a braggart, my son really is incredibly smart. He has the ability to do so much with his brain. His downfall, which is also his greatest gift, is his imagination and his energy. He gets the imagination from me, so I am (partly) to blame for this. He cannot sit still. On those rare occasions when he can be still, he drifts off to a world of his own design, where no one else can join him. This makes for some very poor conduct grades come interim report time. He got his interim report today: A's & B's and nothing else for his academics, which I'm so proud of I could bust. But all N's for behavior. This does not make me happy. He could be on the A/B Honor Roll if he could just behave. My biggest problem is: How do you tell a child to stop using his imagination and to contain his energy at school without stifling that same creativity and turning him into a lethargic lump? It seems like a catch-22: If I tell him to stop, he'll take it so literally that he'll stop using it period, but if I don't tell him to stop, he'll get in trouble all the time. It's frustrating, and yet at the same time, I have to be proud, too, because so many people these days seem to lack imagination and energy. The energy to run and play, the energy to chase their dreams and hopes and wishes. The imagination to come up with creative, outside-the-box solutions to world problems as well as personal everyday problems, to dream and dream big, to inspire, create, and grow.

My other son has the same imagination and energy, but those will not be his downfall. His downfall is, without a doubt, his unequivocal stubbornness. He gets an idea, a thought, an opinion and just will not back down. If he thinks he's right, that's the end of it. He won't hear otherwise. When he wants to do something, he will never stop trying, and if he's not allowed to do it, he will never stop trying to think up ways around that. Isn't it amazing how something so silly can be such a double-edged sword? It can be your best trait or your worst.

I get frustrated with both of them, for those things mentioned above. I don't know how to get through to them, to get them to see that they must compromise, between where they are now and the complete opposite. My mother will laugh and remind me that I was this way as a child, too. When I deny this, and I do, she points out specific instances that I have blocked somewhere behind the pain of childbirth and where I left my car keys when I got home tonight. Oh, yeah, I forgot about those. But still, my children are supposed to be better than I was, right? No, my mother says. I have that old axiom wrong: I'm supposed to want better for them, not expect them to be better than I was. Damn. Can't we re-write it?

But, as mothers do, she made me think. And when I look back on my childhood, I see those same traits that are so blocking me in my sons, blocking my parents with me. And I see how I turned out, which if I do say so myself, is not half-bad, thank you very much. So, I guess it can't be too bad, right?

When I look back like this, though, I see other things as well. I see dreams that fell by the wayside as I grew and changed and experienced life. Reality has a way of tearing dreams to shreds, sometimes, and others, we just are lazy and decide not to hold the tender threads of those dreams together. And when you pick the tatters up later, it's impossible to tell which was the case. Some dreams are destroyed with no hope of revival, such as the dream of having only one marriage that lasts my whole life through. Divorce tends to run over, shred and burn that dream while it's still singing it's love theme. Others can be revived, with a little CPR and TLC. And then there are the ones that didn't fall away, that are still present, still being dreamt, but you just forgot you have to work at.

My still alive dream is to be a published writer someday (no, a blog doesn't count. Unfortunately.) I write poetry, novels, short stories, whatever mood strikes me. I've never given up this dream, never stopped thinking of it, but I've stopped working at it. I write my poetry, and post it on a website and forget about it. I write my stories and novels....whenever I'm bored and think about it. I get tons of ideas, all of which I duly note...and then promptly forget about. In the hustle and bustle of school, work, homework, dinner, baths, bedtime stories and childhood illnesses, I tell myself that I just don't have time, too busy, have more important things to do. But really, is there anything more important than a dream? Think about it: Food sustains the body, love the heart, but what sustains the soul? Dreams. Without a dream, your soul will starve. If your soul is starved and slowly dying, what will happen to the heart and body? I can't help but think it wouldn't be good things. So, I think everyone needs a dream.

And I would not have thought of this if it were not for my child and his unacceptable behavior. It's interesting how something as mundane as a school interim report can send you on a journey through your memories and dreams, to help you find that place where your soul resides. Not just your soul, but your childhood self, to remind you who you used to be, before children, work, responsibilities and life itself took over and turned you into an adult while your back was turned to put away your barbie doll.

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