Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Independence Day

Yesterday was a really good day for my son Will. He actually turned to me at one point and said, "Mom this is a really great day."

After meeting with Will's middle school teachers and guidance counselors the week before, we all agreed Will's primary issue at school was self-reliance.

To that end, we sent him off to school yesterday with a mission. He had to, on his own, find the after school Homework Club and navigate the late bus home. Mind you, last week I'd given him instructions not to take the bus home--that I would pick him up instead. It turned into a fiasco of epic proportions that ended with both of us crying, lost and finally reunited after about 45 minutes.

I began to get anxious around 3pm, the normal end of the school day. I was anticipating a call from someone along the lines of , "Hey we've got your kid here and you might want to pick him up." Instead, at 4:15 on the money Will came strolling off the bus with a big smile on his face. He'd done it all by himself!

Will is our only child and he's a gosh darn good one. My husband likes to tell the story of the moments right after he was born. Rod put his hand on Will's chest for the first time. He just sat there looking quietly up at his dad. Calm, happy, with thick head of hair that the nurses parted on the side.

I used to think I would have more input into how Will grows up, that my job was to mold him. Now I think Will was born the way he is and my job is to not screw him up.

I heard this interview on NPR last weekend. Michael Feldman's guest on
Whad'Ya Know? was screenwriter / essayist Paul Rudnick. Rudnick told some very funny stories about Hollywood and writing the screenplay for the Addams Family. He loved writing for these unconventional children Wednesday and Pugsley. Rudnick says this about parenting:

Also I'm a firm believer in the fact that anyone's personality is basically formed about 6 seconds after birth so parents should stop worrying so much. You know if your child is going to grow up to become a serial killer or Vice President or whatever it is so out of your control.  You know I say just treat'em like time bombs.
While I tend to agree, particularly now in this insane age of helicopter parenting, I think I was molding Will's behavior in a sense. Because I didn't have faith in him, Will was losing faith in himself.

I still believe Will was born the way he is and I should support that. But I can also see that by not supporting him, I was changing his personality. He'd gone from that first 6 seconds of serene happiness to self-doubt and fear.

As we were walking to school this morning, I said to Will, "I'm really proud of how well you did yesterday. I underestimated what you were capable of doing."

He said, "I know. I underestimated myself."


  1. what a great time for you both to learn this lesson; I wish the parents and kids (high schoolers) I work with could have this same revelation. But my experience also tells me it is HARD & SCARY so congratulations!