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Stargazing

I have never been a New Year’s resolution kind of person. First, why should I put myself under pressure before the year has really started and second, for me, most resolutions seem trivial shortly after they’re made. This year, within a few short days, my decision was confirmed because, had I made any resolutions to remain calm and poised, they would have all been broken by now.

What could possibly have such a dramatic affect so early in the year? The fifth grade.

Ten plus years ago, 14+ hours into a long process, machines started beeping and it was clear that things were not going as they should. The head of obstetrics was called to the room and did an examination and pronounced my unborn child a, Sterngucker or, star gazer. Meaning, instead of facing down and cooperating as he should, my bundle was face up attempting to “see the stars.”

Over the past 10 years, I have recalled this comment many, many times and have always been surprised at just how accurate it seems to be. A five minute walk can take 10, 15, or 20. In a short journey from one room to the next, all instructions can vanish before their presence has even been registered.

I’d read and heard of children who, while walking down the street, see an army of ants and, suddenly they’re on an adventure to discover what the ants are all about. I’ve actually spied my son walking down the street, arms outstretched and singing and dancing to himself as he loped down the street.

Star gazer.

I am convinced that we send our children to school so that we too can learn. Before the winter holidays, my son came home and said he had a book report project that would be due after the winter break. We got him the book and he got to reading. Last week we discussed that the poster for the project would have to be done over the coming week. I wont go into the details but, we realized ““ on Sunday ““ that the entire project was due on Tuesday and, well, we hadn’t done anything since buying the book.

I actually really enjoy these projects. We get the glue gun, the paints, scissors, the computer, hunker down on the floor, turn up the radio and”¦ los gehts.

The usual procedure is my son comes home and, with a higher voice and clearly accelerated heart rate, announces that he forgot that he has project X due tomorrow. We then construct and paste late into the night. Luckily, this time we had two days to get it done and, at the end, my son was very pleased and proud with the result.

Then, on the due date, he walked merrily out the door with poster clasped in his hand, off to submit the poster and begin work on his oral presentation which was scheduled for two days later.

That afternoon, he came home with the l o n g e s t face, snuggled on my lap and, when I asked what had happened he said, in one of the softest voices I have ever heard; “I lost my poster.” At this point, the brain cells in my head short-circuited and I said, softly, “What?!” Clearly, I had heard incorrectly. He then repeated that it was lost on the bus. On the way to school. The poster never even got to see the school. Uh?

It was at that point, that whatever New Year’s resolutions I could have made to remain calm, zen, and more at peace with the world would have been completely and totally broken. I could not (and to be fair, still don’t) understand how the poster could go “poof” and seemingly vanish in  mid-air.

Well, suffice it to say, there were a couple of unpleasant days in our house. In true cause and effect fashion, I determined that part of the problem must have been that he didn’t have full ownership for his project. He wasn’t “invested” enough in the outcomes. (Do we need any greater evidence of how one area of our lives bleeds over into the next? Since when would a 10-year-old be invested?) I decreed ““ there is no other word ““ that I was not going to help at all.

And then he re-did it. All of it. Alone. And, when it was done, he said: “I’m prouder of this one because I did it all by myself.” Today he went to school, submitted the poster (which took the journey nestled in and attached to his book bag), did his oral presentation and said that it went very well. I think he’s grown 1-2 inches since the great Mama meltdown.

Later on, I said I’m sure there’s a moral to our story and I was trying to figure it out but, in the meantime I think I really have to remain calmer when these sorts of things happen because wigging out doesn’t really accomplish anything, and he responded: “Yeah, it really doesn’t.” And, there’s the moral of the story, getting our knickers in a twist does nothing but get our knickers in a twist.

I have often said that being a parent is probably one of the most difficult things we could ever do in our lives. It is also the most rewarding. One of the things that I value about motherhood is those moments when my son reminds me of how much of a nitwit I am being. Our day-to-day lives are so often run by deadlines and to-do lists and we’re so focused on being productive and efficient that we sometimes go overboard and see everything through that lens.

Rather than seeing the mishap as an unfortunate event, in my mind I thought of it as lost productivity. Namely, mine and once again, that is the beauty of what our children are constantly teaching us ““ it’s not about us, it’s about them. The event provided my son a number of wonderful lessons: he learned how to adjust his plans to account for unexpected situations and that what he does without me is just as good, if not better, than what we do together. And, most importantly, he learned that a setback does not have to mean failure.

What did I learn? That in helping him I also have to maintain distance and objectivity. I have to provide him the space to do, make mistakes, and learn without taking his stumble personally. We are supporting actors in their lives, even though they may be stars in ours.

Before he arrived he was called “star gazer.” I didn’t understand it fully then but, the doctor was giving me a message. He was giving me advance warning that he’s a bit of a dreamer and he moves at his own rhythm and pace but, as we learned an hour later, when the right moment arrives, he will rise to the occasion.

This piece was originally posted on my blog ““ Musings of a Gypsy ““ on 12 January 2012.

9 replies on “Stargazing”

“We are supporting actors in their lives, even though they may be stars in ours.” This made me tear up.  Good points all around.   We have twin first graders, both at different learning levels, and most nights are a struggle, and we sometimes feel we are just plain failing as parents.  So we have to step back.  I need to remember more that knickers in a bunch are just bunched up knickers.  This is good advice.   Thanks!

This reminds me of a quote by Ian MacKaye in an interview titled “It’s Fucking Natural” in Rad Dad: dispatches from the frontiers of fatherhood.  He said, “with a child a parent is born.”  How true I find this to be every day.  I talked about it a little on my blog last month: my son has taught me more about zen and accepting life than anyone.  As a note, I strongly recommend Rad Dad to all of my friends, male and female, fighting in our social revolution :)

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