Monday, August 17, 2009

Four Years with My Son--A Reflection

My son is one of the greatest blessings I have ever received in my life. His arrival in my life has completely transformed me in ways I often find hard to articulate. He has magnified some of my insecurities and worries but in some areas of my life he has imbued me with a confidence that I never knew I could have. Z1 is not an easy child and has never been. He came out of me screaming, roaring like a true Leo and never stopped. I spent countless hours during the first weeks of his life walking him while he was screaming. Gripe water and every remedy for colic failed miserably on this little one. It was in those early sleep-deprived months that I discovered baby wearing and became a senior member on one of my message boards. Yet, underneath all that aggression is a peace and an agelessness that is truly profound. He has got to be one of the sweetest people I know yet upon meeting him you might think him rude or abrasive. More than one parent has confided in me that they didn't think Z1 liked their child and I have to patiently show them the ways in which he was demonstrating just how much he did like their child. He's just that unique kind of child that keeps you on your toes. Like how for a while there he was consistently saying that his aunt (my sister) smelled like poop. And how for a while there he absolutely refused to say goodbye after playdates. He's great for a chuckle too. I suffer terribly from allergies and one day he says to me, "Mommy, if you sneeze a lot you have to go to the sneeze doctor. He will give you a red lollipop. I hope he has some!" in such a sincere way that I willed the sneezing to go away so that he wouldn't worry anymore.

At the same time, I am able to acknowledge today that I did not have the greatest of childhoods. I find myself repeating some of the things my parents did that weren't really healthy. And I come down hard on myself too. Really hard. On the other hand, I find myself trying to overcompensate. I get downright obsessive about making sure he has the things that I didn't have as a child and sometimes he bucks at the pressure. And if you know Z1, he is someone that will not perform for you under pressure. And I'm learning slowly how to take it easy and give him his space. His interests and wants and wishes won't be the same as mine were as a child. I'm learning by force to listen, actually listen to my son. Even though he talks incessantly and sometimes I am really tempted to tune him out.

And I worry too. I worry that he's not as bright as his counterparts. That he'll struggle with reading like his dad. That he'll lag behind his counterparts. That if he ends up going to school, he'll hate it and hate learning. That if he is homeschooled, I'll screw up and he'll hate learning all the same. I then remind myself about his inherent worth and the damage that I am still trying to undo in myself from years of being compared to others. Years of competing and never measuring up in my parents' eyes. I try to relax and let him learn things at his own pace and this kind of reaffirms my desire to homeschool him because if I succeed at respecting him, who he is and what he is worth in this regard, he will be all the better for it. So he may not grasp a certain concept as well as other 4 year olds might but if I just take a minute and look, I am sure to come up with a list of things that other 4 year olds struggle with but Z1 does with ease. There really is no use in comparisons.

I hope to be able to give my son things my parents never gave me. Somehow, I must find ways to convey Igbo culture to him. I want him to master an instrument or an art or something . . . to know that accomplishment. I want him to always feel free to come to me with any and everything, big and small and know that while I may not always be happy, I will always be there. Even if I can't do anything, just to listen to him.

But beyond all that . . . I love that boy with everything in me. He is sweet. He is generous. He is thoughtful. He is kind and loving. He chose me to come through and I'm grateful. These four years have been some of the best of my life.

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