While my memory is becoming more and more selective, I still have a strong tieback to my childhood. It’s one of the things that makes parenting both easier and more difficult. When I am kneeling on the floor in front of a sobbing 2nd Grader, trying to explain the importance of turning things in on time (and the repercussions of not turning things in out of fear), I am fighting my own 2nd Grade self, who did exactly the same thing, and trying to balance her out with my grown-up self who knows that no matter how insurmountable this feels to a 7 year old, it’s really nothing at all. I haven’t found that happy medium yet.
School is the first place a child gets to exercise independence. Mom and Dad aren’t there keeping an eye on them. They have no one’s full attention, and are quickly clued in to the fact that sometimes the teacher turns her back. They can push boundaries that they wouldn’t dare cross at home, and with each inch they squirm over the line, it is easier to push further and harder for them to come back to base. I write that as a child who wiggled her way as far as you can go without ruining your chances of getting into college.
I’ve told y’all about how much school I used to skip. If I’d had a car in elementary school, I’d never have been there either. But in elementary school, the only way to get to take a break is to get sent out into the hall, or go to the nurse’s office. I did plenty of both. I was booored. I was antsy. I was confused.
One of the things I can remember very clearly is how it would feel when I woke up from a daydream to realize I had no idea what was going on in the classroom. It was a horrible feeling. For any subject other than math, I could regroup quickly (usually I’d already read the text and was at least a chapter ahead if not more–I used to read my textbooks for fun), but if numbers were involved, waking up from wherever I’d been with Mr. Spok, or the G-Force gang meant a cold shower of terror. And because math was already difficult for me, I just fell more and more behind. There was no catching up.
By 4th Grade, I was copying a friend’s homework on the bus in the morning, or in the library before school started. I wasn’t cheating because I was lazy. I wasn’t cheating because I wanted a good grade. I was cheating because I was terrified. I couldn’t work the problems on my own. My parents weren’t able to help me understand the work. I thought if I could copy Catherine’s homework that I could figure out how to solve the problems by going backwards–same way I solved mazes. Turns out that plan worked well enough to get me through 10th Grade before I started failing math classes. I could pull a C out of my butt with decent test scores until Geometry. It’s kind of hard to work backwards on a graph, though.
The point is, I remember how it felt. I remember that vividly. I remember the fear, and the shame–oh, I was absolutely ashamed of myself for cheating. I didn’t feel good about that at all, but I didn’t see any way out. I remember thinking I was unworthy. What I remember is that I was having a lot of big, adult feelings about small, elementary school things. I was nine years old and fighting emotions that drive grown men to jump out of windows.
I think about that when I’m dealing with Thor’s emotions. I strive to be a safe place for him when it comes to school and his social life, no matter how much of a demon he probably thinks I am when it comes to it taking 20 minutes for him to put on a single sock (it only takes 2.5 seconds to get the other sock on, so long as I stand over him bellowing ONE—TWO—THREE—) He’s a daydreamer, too. I hate thinking he wakes up from being the NFL Football Robot only to find himself in a different world.
I tell him about the mistakes I made, and I tell him how I felt. I try to make it humorous for him, so maybe he can laugh about me when it happens to him.