Monday, May 4, 2009

Tough Kid

Joe-Henry has always been a bit of an old soul. He'll spout poetry at the drop of a hat. Not poetry he's learned (although he loves to read poetry), but stuff just comes out of his mouth that makes his Dad and I drop our jaws and rush to write it down. He used to do that with his music, too. He'd make up songs on the guitar with lyrics that went deep, deep, deep (and not just deep "for a kid"), but lately he refuses to pick up an instrument. Except the piano. I force him to practice. But I don't make him pick it up, because that would just be cruel.

Yesterday, we had a few errands to run. First stop was The Barber, because a) I needed a second opinion to find out if he just had crazy bad dandruff, or a fantastic colony of headlice, and b) he needed a cut anyway. On the way there, he BEGGED me for a mohawk. "PLEASE, Mom! I want to look tough! Your rules are stupid!" I told him to chillax, because until we found out if his head were home to the largest infestation of bugs since the dawn of time, his hair was going to stay longish. Luckily, the barber we had gave us the good news that he had cradle cap, and just needed some oil on his scalp, so a hair cut followed. He decided that throwing a big tantrum in front of all the hot ladies at The Barbers (this place deserves an entire post of it's own) was a bad idea, so he said nothing about a mohawk, and instead came out looking like the Joe-Henry I know and love. I realize that the time will come when I have no say about whether or not he gets a mohawk, or dyes his hair, or pierces and gauges every loose flap of flesh on his body, but until then.... Many parents will say that they let their kids do whatever they want to their hair, that it's a battle not worth fighting. I may change my mind at some point, but I don't think he's ready yet for the awesome responsibility of a shitty haircut.

Later, we were at Fred Meyer, buying a few groceries and I was looking around for some pants for him because he's growing so fast his ankles are sticking out of his jeans so far that they could technically be capris. But while we were looking, he spotted some t-shirts with graffiti on them that came with, gulp, skateboards. Not full size skateboards, but big enough to do some damage. He begged, he pleaded, he threw a full size fit: "MOM! I WANT THAT! WHY WON'T YOU LET ME? YOUR RULES - AAAAAGH! I WANT TO BE A TOUGH KID!! TOUGH KIDS HAVE MOHAWKS AND RIDE SKATEBOARDS!" It was one of those tantrums that you realize that no matter what you say, it just needs to run it's course. The time to talk about how special he is? And how throwing a fit is the perfect way to lose privileges? That time is later. Now is the time to ignore him and let him exhaust himself. Which is great for two reasons: 1) it's the right thing to do, and 2) I could pretend he's someone else's kid. I stayed in the area, just to make sure no one would make off with him, because doesn't everyone want an ranting, flailing eight year old? A moment later, he brought the t-shirt with the skateboard to our cart. He had managed to get it down, although I'm not sure how - the display was almost too tall for me to reach. He threw it dramatically in the cart, and I calmly took it out and put it back. He had just about exhausted himself at this point, and he started to cry. In part, because in getting the t-shirt down, the skateboard had bonked him pretty hard on the head, but mostly because he wanted some control over his life.

Two things I've learned from yesterday: Never, ever take him to do errands without feeding him first. Big mistake. The second thing is much harder and more complex. My boy is really struggling with who he is. So much of his syndrome is benign. He is so much better off than others who have it. He's able to walk, he's mostly pain-free. But his feet are really large, he's self-conscious about his birthmark and his fingers, he can't run as fast as other kids in the class, although he tries so, so hard. More than being bothered by his syndrome, though is the fact that he's just incredibly smart and sort of beyond the other kids in his class. I don't say this as a competitive, doting mom. I don't. It's just a fact. He's a really deep well of complexity and he's beyond most of the kids in his class in that regard. And while I know that's a great thing, he can't see it that way. He just wants to be a tough, running, cussing kid who laughs in the face of danger. Or at least at Mom's rules.

I get it, because I wanted to be that way too. For most of my life, I wanted to be someone else. Someone sexier, smarter, taller, faster. Don't we all? But with age comes some kind of acceptance, and at this point in my life I really like who I am. The only thing I'd change is this:

I'd like to be better at helping my kid see what I see in him. Last night at bedtime, he apologized for throwing a tantrum, and when he was going to sleep, as we were talking and our heads were close on the pillow, he said this: "Mom, your sweet face is the home for all my kisses."

Tell me how to make him see the treasure in his good, sweet, brave heart.


Melissa said...

Anne, you son is so amazing and I am just learning the very tips of the parenting world right now but I hope Lucy is as great as JH and I hope even more that I am as great of a parent as you!! I completely understand the worry and wishes you have for your child now that I have my own and I also understand that as a child you love your parents but you have no idea how much your parents love you until you have one of your own. Love you my friend, miss you lots and I will see you soon!!

I, Rodius said...

Do you ever let him read the stuff you write about him? That might do it.

sarah said...

hugs. I have no words of wisdom as I am struggling with the similar stuff with Blake at age 5. I am also struggling with homeschooling vs public. So hugs and I can really empathize with you.

Lisa L said...

What about some T-shirts made by some of the famous skateboard companies? Echo,Volcom etc... They also love hats with the logos...

Robin Amos Kahn said...

Well, I wish I had some really good answer. Zoe had some of the same issues. (She loves your blog, by the way.)

I think that JH is a brilliant kid and growing up is a struggle, period.

But he is extremely lucky in many ways, the most obvious is that he has the greatest parents. And you can't beat that.

English Garden said...

you do an awesome job Anne, I feel that I may have similar struggles with kate, her EB is so mild compared to others but enough that she is different from most kids, and beginning to realise it, sometimes its hard for them to see their true potential and talents because they just want to be like everyone else. Although, isn't that what most kids are trying to do, whether they have these physical differences or not, just fit in, there's a line from the book Stargirl or its sequal Love Stargirl that goes along with your post, they are cute books, aimed at teenagers but an easy read.

Alycia said...

Anne, I'm nearly 24. Today I threw a tantrum. I'm fat and fit into none of the clothes I need to fit into in a few weeks for prac. The alternative clothes, well, they're just not suitable for prac... Why? Because I need comfortable, practical shoes, that won't make my leg ache. And I need to wear my stocking, so I need to wear the boots. THe boots that will cane my leg if I wear them all day long. So what to do. Buy new clothes, waste good money, all because of bloody K-T. Moral of the story, no matter how mild some of us are afflicted, we still hate it, and tantrums still occur and tears still flow. One day, JH will be big and care less, then the next day, he'll care. It's not a reflection on him not seeing the amazing kid he is. After meeting him, I know he has no doubts about how amazing a kid he is! He's wonderful! You'll all get there. You will. You have to. If Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman could make it to Magadan, you guys can make it too! :)

Donna said...

Alas, as far as I can tell, they all get this way. Whether they look different, talk funny, are too smart, too dumb, too hyper, too sad, too slow, to big, too little, or whatever compared to that mythical "EVERYBODY ELSE" in their class, they all feel less than perfect. Some of them cry about it, some throw tantrums, some become bullies. :0(

I haven't figured out how to say "It's OK!" and have him believe it. He wants to believe, but most days it apparently doesn't feel like enough.

Maybe JH and Tyler need to be pen pals. They are a year apart, but sound like kindred spirits.