The Alex Chronicles, Or How I Raised A Great Child In Spite Of Myself, Part 1
While Lorna fully admits Chuck was an involved and loving father, these stories are about a son who teaches his mother a thing of three about life. Chuck and Lorna didn’t
ever always agree on how best to handle Alex when it came to disciplining him, so any pejorative derogatory judgmental tone is purely an artifact of my biased witty story-telling.
Here’s the way we think it’s supposed to work: the parent teaches the child how to be a successful (whatever that means) person. Here’s the way it worked for me from the get-go: my child taught me how be be a better (I know what that means) person.
Entering motherhood, I didn’t have
a great deal of much any experience. I learned most things from books and the sagely advice from others who had raised children, either successfully or not–it didn’t matter, because any advice was better than no advice. One thing no one prepared me for was biting. No parent likes to admit that their sweet darling likes to take a hunk out of an unsuspecting piece of flesh like an angry piranha. And just for the heck of. Alex was no different. I got my first bite-attack incident report from M (Magical Daycare Provider in D.C.). Since she was the expert, I asked her what to do. “Bite him back.”
Surely there was a more
sane humane effective way of dealing with the problem. A week of gentle discipline and reasoning with an 14-month old got me some impressive flesh wounds and another M incident report. So the next time he bit me, I bit him hard enough on his little fleshy arm to leave a red mark and, yes, a slight dental imprint that could be used by CSI investigators should I be arrested for child abuse. Alex looked at me, his arm, at me, his arm, and then started wailing. “I warned you.” I said evenly. Then I hugged him and cried along with him because we all know, crying feels better in stereo.
MOMMY LESSON #1: When you say “This is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you,” don’t be so sure. The hurt is fairly evenly distributed.
Alex started heaving huge sighs around the age of three, when we moved back “home” to my-in-laws, then to the “Broken House.” I didn’t notice it at first. Chuck pointed it out. “Huh,” I said, “Where do you think he got that from?” Chuck looked at me with a “duh” expression that said it all, but he went on. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” he said with wide-eyes, waiting for something profound to dawn on me. “Huuuuhhh,” I huffed. “Me? Whell…” I trailed off, blowing in the wind.
MOMMY LESSON #2: Children pay close attention to their parents. I was world-class in the art of The Sigh, which I now refer to The Cleansing Breath. It was actually quite comical to listen to a 3-year-old walk around heaving sighs like he was trying to figure out to eliminate poverty, terrorism, or vegetables. None of the other adults around me shared my sentiments, so I stopped all that heavy breathing. Well, I tried. But I was living through some trying times, so Alex and I continued heaving much-needed
sighs cleansing breaths in private. It was our little breathy secret.
Being a child of two “professional” parents, I wanted Alex to have every advantage in the “smarts” department. Rather than play silly reindeer games with him, I
enjoyed focused on games that taught him important skills like reading, critical thinking, and ciphering. These activities had the bonus of fewer errant pieces to pick up or lose. Sure, I’d chase him and tickle him and play hide and seek. But I always left plenty of time for reading, puzzles, and poker. I wanted him ready for Kindergarten.
The Kindergarten he attended required an entrance exam. That surprised me. What could they put on a test for 4-year-olds? I wasn’t allowed to be with him during the test, so I had to rely on him to tell me. His response: “Stuff.” “Like what?” I probed. “Like stuff. I’m hungry.” I should’ve focused on games that made him divulge information, Jeopardy in reverse, perhaps?
Since getting a good score on this mystery test meant getting into
Harvard Kindergarten, I was anxious for the results. When they finally came, I tore open the envelope with Little Alex looking up at me. He passed everything with flying colors except identifying his colors and counting past 20. “How’d I do, Mommy?” “Well, you seem to have a problem with picking out colors and counting past 20.” I must have scowled. Alex thought for a few moments, then asked, “What did I do good on, Mommy?”
MOMMY LESSON #3: Focus on the positive, not the negative. My heart melted. I squatted down and showed him all the columns where bright gold stars gleamed as proof of Alex’s accomplishments. The 2 white stars meant “needs work” not “send brain back to factory for reconfiguration.” I told him he passed, I was proud, and he was going to do great in school. He beamed.
Stay tuned, but not right away, for more lessons from the Alex Chronicles. There something brewing between Lorna and Chuck…