Raising Calvin: a lifetime of Daily Jakisms

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

Be careful what you ask for…

I begged for him. I spent 18 months begging for him. I subjected myself to 6 months of painful hormone shots to keep him. I got very sick bringing him into the world before he was done baking. He was tiny and came out screaming like a miniature pterodactyl. Wahhh wahhh wahhh. When they handed him to me, I was so sick that I couldn’t hold him or lift my head to kiss him. But then, after all the chaos settled and the oxytocin finally kicked in, to take him from me would have required prying him from my cold, dead fingers. No force in the universe is as powerful as the moment you fall in love with your child.

And nothing is more painful than realizing you’ve crippled him by giving him your DNA.

It is a big enough challenge that he is male. Boys have a much harder time keeping their butts from going everywhere at once. They need to run and wrestle, and build and destroy. They are magical little cape-wearing, sword-weilding creatures, saving imaginary princesses from hideous, fire-breathing dragons. I wanted a tiny knight for myself. The universe outdid itself when it answered my call.

Epic failure is neither instant, nor obvious.

“Mommy, my work plan is my nemesis.” Said the tiny voice in the back seat of my car, after removing his thumb from his mouth. I can thank Minecraft for that addition to his vocabulary.

“Yes, baby, it is.” I replied, smiling at the accuracy.

It is a daily struggle for him, as it was for me. He knows the work. He’s proud of himself when he finishes the work. It is not rebellion or disdain. It is battles with Creepers, and potions and elixirs, and portals to the nether. It is magic.

My child is struggling with one simple problem. He cannot focus on now. He is one of millions of children who struggle with now. It is not new or mysterious, but it is painful for me to watch.

It is painful because I have failed.

Long before I had him, when first my husband and I discussed having children, I said that my biggest fear – outside of safety – was that my child would struggle with learning the same way I did. It is for that reason I elected a Montessori school when it came time to choose. I couldn’t have been more right in doing so.

But inasmuch as I recognize what he needs from his education, I fail in my ability to give him as much of my now as he needs. I am him. Just as he struggles with his ability to get through a thirty minute work cycle, I fail to get through thirty minutes of listening to and engaging in his adventures. His overwhelming need to interact with me is my nemesis.

I go into his room every night, after he is showered and his teeth are brushed and his homework is done, and I sigh deeply as I look at his peaceful face. The day’s battles are won. His dragons are vanquished. The princesses are safe in their beds, and my little knight sucks his thumb and dreams of far away places.

Long ago, during one of my bed time visits, I realized that loving someone that much means that you can, with your bare hands, pull the beating heart from anyone that might try to hurt him. I could feel myself getting angry at this imaginary threat. But last night, just fifteen minutes prior, I was yelling at him because he hadn’t done what he was supposed to do for the hundredth time since he woke up. I was yelling at a boy who was off on an adventure in his head that was far more pressing, and much more exciting than brushing his teeth. When his big, brown eyes – mirrors of my own – filled with tears, I suppressed the tired, frustrated, fire-breathing dragon that I myself had become. It was time for something to change. I had to change.

There is nothing wrong with my child, just like there was nothing wrong with me at his age. In fact, he is a funny, loving, creative little soul whose many wild tangents include outbursts of “Mommy, I love you” and “Mommy, you’re the best mommy in the whole universe.” One of us knows that last bit is not true, but it can be.

Moving forward is a project.

The hardest thing for me now is that to do my job as his mother, I cannot be me when I’m with him. Not me, the personality, but me, the mechanics. I still struggle with all of the things that make learning a challenge. And while I am a good parent who gives him heathy food, a good education, and a safe and happy home life, I want to be a better parent to my child: my little unique, mushroom cloud of personality. I will help him visualize his dragons, and we will make swords and shields out of cardboard, and capes out of pillow cases. We will sail the fiery seas of carpet on ships made of couch cushions.

Together, he and I will learn what it means to defeat our nemeses.

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