~Rebecca Pepper Sinkler
Today was a good day. I got things the house picked up and took a break from writing. I got out a bit and enjoyed my life with my six year old son.
We played two rounds of miniature golf. He is a real free spirit and tends to slump his shoulders, swing while his feet are in motion, hold a club that would make any reasonable golfer cringe, and listens to instructions about as closely as I listen to foreign language translations while impatiently left on “ignore”, when calling customer service numbers.
Yet for all my attempts at teaching technique, he easily tied my score, simply by playing the way Frank Sinatra would have advised, “I did it MY WAY!” That is to say, he dragged his club while swinging, tapped around each hole faster than Gregory Hines, and skipped from hole to hole with no regard to keeping score or winning.
Since he’s been born, I’ve always known he possesses that “something different” quality. I keep trying to teach him, mold him, shape him, and above all instruct him to please follow directions! I want him to do well in school! I want him to pay attention! I don’t want him to get picked on. I don’t want him to be a teacher’s “pest”. Basically, I want to spare him any trouble that comes from being a non-conformist.
But you know what? I can’t. I can demand, argue, and rationalize why it’s so great to follow directions and how it makes life easier, but it sort of falls on deaf ears. It’s not that he is bad, or doesn’t want to follow directions; he just has such a strong sense of self—and a propensity to be distracted, because everything is interesting in his world!
When he hears the word no, that is his cue to no-gotiate! When he gets in trouble, he may not hear you the first five or six times, but then he will turn on the charm to soften any anger after the fact.
He is our creative, and highly hilarious little bug-a-boo! He is the one who clings to all of us, from parents to siblings to grandparents. He loves so deeply and so pure. A talk show host would say he possesses “rugged individualism”. Yes…all forty two pounds of it!
At one point, when he was haphazardly hitting the ball all over the place, I asked him for about the tenth time to please stop and LISTEN to my directions. I want you to succeed in life! You need to listen and follow directions. I don’t want you to be like that boat over there; I don’t want you to sink!! He just looked at me and kind of shrugged and skipped to the next hole.
Do you know what that little stinker did next? He got a hole in one. Yep! For the rest of the day, Mom went into overdrive, competing against a six year old with a vengeance, determined that if I could not beat him, I would at least join him in the “hole in one” club. Many shots later, in our second game, I finally got mine! Ah, sweet victory!
What is the lesson in all this? The thing with free spirits is somehow things always seem to work out for them. Sure, they have to accept basic responsibilities in life, but for kids who are determined to find their own way in sports, academics, and in life choices, I’m learning as a mom, to take a breath, and bend like a willow, rather than stand tall and hard like the mighty oak.
The older I get, I’m learning to follow my own inner voice too. I am setting speed records these days in giving up control and organization in order to follow my creative side that has been lying dormant for some time. I’m learning to embrace my weird, wild, quirky, funny, sad, obsessive, angry, and faith-filled sides of my personality that makes me, ME! No one pushes back harder than I do, when I feel misunderstood or that I don’t measure up in some area or another. Why would I expect him to not feel the same way?
I think my son is seeing that. He is learning the joy that comes now by living in the now, seeing where the day takes us, and finding the smallest things that make life joyful. So color outside the lines, my baby. Collect other people’s pistachio shells on our walks and give me these “clues” to take home. Hit all the buttons in the elevator so we can see how each floor is different than the one before. Bring me your stash of pigeon feathers despite the germs they may carry.
Be you and be happy. Because your mom loves you always, exactly the way you are!