The Perfect Kid

I don’t want to brag, but I have the perfect kid.

Well, I would if only I could take the best parts from both and ditch the rest. If I could take a little splice of that one and a little slice of the other and stitch them together with pink thread into some sort of Frankenstein creature type of thing, zap it all with Mom juice and presto change-o, perfect kid!

If only, if only, if only!

If only I could take the philosophical musings from one and pair them with the confidence of the other. If I could take the calm, slow to anger personality of that one and splice it with the self-awareness of the other one and bolt it all together at the neck….

I’d take a dash of the big one’s humor and tailor it with the younger one’s affinity for puns. I’d dig up the small one’s inner drive and pad through the dead of night to steal some chutzpah from my first-born. I’d secure a little motivation from here and a little natural charm from there. Grab my darning needle and voila!

Perfect child.

I’d take the genome that apparently dictates whether or not you remember to flush the toilet and mix it with the ability to make the bed without daily reminders. The bit that drives one to brush his teeth without threats glued to the other’s ability to remember which day of a nine-day cycle it is at the drop of a hat.

I’d lay out one’s happy go-lucky nature and combine it with the other one’s leadership qualities. One’s patience with the other’s determination.

Oh, what a kid I could make if I could pick all the best and get rid of the rest.

But of course, I can’t. And honestly, where would the fun in that be? And plus, who am I kidding. I don’t have a darning needle.

So I’ll keep harassing the thirteen year-old to brush his teeth because he also never gets angry and I’ll keep calmly explaining to the ten year-old why he can’t spend his life in disgusting pajamas because he also does his homework in Greek, just for the fun of it, and I’ll overlook the last-minuteness of the older one because he’s a stellar friend and pretend I don’t mind the way the younger one whines sometimes because his heart is so big.

No cut and paste stitch together, lightning bolt perfect kid over here.

I’ll take them just the way they are.

 

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Eyes Wide Shut

86282397At a barbecue the other evening, a friend commented on how gentle and sweet my nine year-old was with her three year-old twins. I may have snorted. It’s possible I rolled my eyes. I may have even started to debate the point with her, because after all, the only younger person I see him interact with on a regular basis is his younger brother and let’s be honest, that interaction usually takes the form of in-your-face-screaming, torturous teasing, WWF wresting moves and generalized ass-like behavior. But before I could crack wise, before I could launch into a hundred stories of the way he makes his brother’s life the 8th circle of kindergarten hell, a funny thing happened. I took a step back and looked at my son through my friend’s eyes.

As parents, we often get the worst of our kids. The tired, hungry, cranky, frustrated, bored, pain in the ass bits. There are long stretches when it feels like all we get is the worst of our kids; when from sun up to sundown it is endless negotiation tactics, refereeing, moderating, cajoling, bribing, pleading, and counting down the minutes until bedtime. But as my friend’s casual statement showed, others see our children through a different lens, from a different perspective. Is the image our children present to us as parents more accurate? Or is the reflection they present to the rest of the world the one to be trusted?

They’re both valid of course, mirror images of the same object. While my eldest son is a typical older brother toward his sibling, pushing boundaries and learning how much he can poke and prod a six year-old before he is on the receiving end of a frustrated six-year-old wallop, he is gentle and kind with his twin cousins and the younger siblings of his friends. While he screams at me when things don’t go the way he wants, I hear constantly from his teachers that he has a role as peacemaker among his peers, soothing potentially volatile situations with his even handedness.  The same holds true for my younger son. I see him as a loather of mornings, hater of Lego tidying, someone who goes to great lengths to let you know how much he disdains being told what to do. His teachers see him as reflective and responsible, others see him as generous and compromising. What to me comes across as stubbornness is seen to others as independence and capability.

It’s easy to get stuck in a holding pattern with your children, to get sidetracked by the negative. It is easy to start to see the annoying, bratty, hair pulling, aggressive behavior as the norm and lose sight of the whole picture. We get so caught up in negative traits, the ones they unleash upon us as parents with such ferocity, that we sometimes forget that children are more than just a single trait. We fall into a habit of parenting with our eyes wide shut.

article-2104579-11D92A32000005DC-960_634x865It was nice to watch my son play with my friend’s twins, to see him through her eyes. It was nice to see him outside the framework of our own home and family. It was nice to be reminded that he is more than just the pain-in-the-ass big brother I get to see. It was good for me to open my eyes a little wider, to let my pupils expand and take in a bit more of what my son has to offer. It was a good reminder to keep my eyes wide open, because only when they are open will I be able to appreciate the kaleidoscope of images that he presents to both me and the world.