Tuesday, February 10, 2009

like mother like son

First off, thanks for all the e-mails about my post yesterday regarding Cal in all his little old mannish-ness. Just seeing the volume of stories about kids just like Cal who are all doing well (despite the best efforts of us parents to TOTALLY SCREW THEM UP) was very reassuring. One piece that I should add for context that is also reassuring (or possibly alarming, depending on your point of view) is that when I was a kid, I was actually very much like Cal is now. Especially when I was very young, meaning nursery school up until...oh, say...second grade? I just found the childlike hijinks of other kids a little overwhelming for me, and occasionally puzzling. Why are they doing that? Why are they so loud? Why would they just knock that block tower over? Why do they keep touching me? I don't want to name a body part to stick into the circle to shake all about for the Hokey-Pokey. EVERYONE STOP LOOKING AT ME. And then I would cry. I think I cried a lot in school as a kid. They even broached the subject to my parents that maybe I should see some sort of child psychiatrist for what they construed as my crippling shyness and anxiety (who knows, maybe they were right) but anyway, such things were just not as common then as they are now, and besides, as I got older (and perhaps just as importantly, my classmates got older) everything sort of normalized, and here I am now, restricting my serial killing to just the weekends.

Well, the important thing is that Cal really loves his school, and that the emphasis be on him getting as much out of the experience as possible rather than getting him to fit into some cookie-cutter mold. However, I also worry (warning: exposure of deepest darkest neurosis ahead) that the teachers or other parents somehow think that Joe and I are psychos because we have this kid that more than one parent has described to us as, "so sweet, but so serious!" I mean, this thing that Cal says to get out of doing things, by saying, "I'm not very good at [insert activity here]," be it playing some group game, complying with instructions, breathing, what have you--is just strange, because where did he get that? One of the other moms said to me at this party on Sunday, "Well, isn't that cute, he just wants to be the best at everything!" Lady, let me tell you, Cal wants a lot of things, but could not give two shits if he is The Best at anything--I'm not even sure he understands what that means. Why he says "I'm not very good at this" as an excuse I have no idea, but if it somehow gives the impression that his browbeating overachiever parents are telling him that if he can't be the best at something, he shouldn't even try, I will die of mortification. Seriously, I will die. I know I shouldn't worry about what The Other Parents think, but let's be honest, we all do, right? ADMIT IT. (See also: why I will put on lip gloss for the parent teacher conferences.)

But anyway. Tomorrow is Cal's Gold Star Day (specifically engineered with his teachers so that I could attend during my maternity leave--he wasn't originally scheduled to have his Gold Star until the end of the month), and afterwards, I will stick around and help the kids decorate cookies for Valentine's Day. It's quite possibly my only chance this year do do anything with Cal's class at school during actual classroom time, so that will be fun, and possibly even take the edge off my working mom guilt somewhat.

Oh right, that reminds me of my other secret worry--that I made Cal into an anxious collection of neuroses by working such long hours. Side story: one time I got out from work early and was picking Cal up from school. One of his classmates, a little girl, asked me, "Are you Cal's babysitter?"

"Actually," I told her, "I'm his mom."

She paused for a long time, looked me up and down, and then retorted, "NO. You're his BABYSITTER." Ah, little girl, practicing for high school already.

Anyway, whatever, I know it's the fatal flaw of all parents to overanalyze everything with their own kids to absolutely no benefit, so I'll just try to stop. It's kind of like in the hospital, how the especially complicated patients will have this huge thick chart just filled with reams and reams of notes, but at the end of the day, the essential plan to stay the course with current treatment remains unchanged. Or as one of my attendings is med school put it, "no one ever died of note-openia."