Me? Mommy Dearest?

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Car seats are the worst thing about motherhood, no doubt.

My 6 year old can manage his now, praise Jesus, but my 4 year old’s m*&^erf%$#$ one! How I hate it, especially when it’s raining or snowing as my cellulite-y old caboose pokes attractively out the rear car door. I couldn’t wait for them to outgrow diapers, bottles and sippy cups – each, in turn used to be the worst, I was positive – but the freaking car seat thing never ends.

How blissful was my ignorance. Now – and I’m sure this time – overseeing my first grader’s homework is the absolute, bloody, gall-dang-it-all, why-did-I-have-children? worst. That, not diaper bags, not carting around that behemoth two ton breast pump or even the bloody car seats, is truly the worst thing about parenting. Nothing will be worse, right?

I could strangle my beloved first grader as he moans, complains, fakes a tantrum and just generally gold bricks when it’s time to pull out what his school so pitifully calls “life work”. Yeah, that’ll make him take it seriously. I know, I’m supposed to send the message that school, and it’s chores, is just all in a day’s work tra la! No stress, no negative significance, no heavy handed “your future depends on it” steely-eyed determination. But that’s not how I feel about it. EDUCATION IS EVERYTHING!!!

Morals and character I teach him via everyday life. The average Uno game, following through on my threats and promises, driving the speed limit when everyone else is speeding, and even just decorating the tree last night provide ample, abundant opportunity for that. I only had to ask him twice to stop trying to hang his giggling sister from the tree. But differential equations? I need the entire nation to help me help him with that one. And I need him to take it seriously.

I can’t help it. I get all Nurse Ratchet about school. But if I don’t calm down soon, all three of us are going to dread “life work” time, with my four year old desperate for attention and homework-boy desperate to escape it. God help us when she hits first grade and we have two different sets to manage. My two little homies have no idea how much worse the whole homework, “why didn’t you win the Best Play Dough Design award” juggernaut thing is going to get. College is only 12 and 14 years away! When you’re a 48 year old Mom passing up your beloved mani-pedis to beef up two college funds, that’s tomorrow. (Here’s some good news though.)

Four-eyed and nerdy since third grade, “Extra Credit Debbie” won everything (except popularity contests). I was the kid left in charge when Mrs. Jackson had to step out and I still hate prissy Nellie Ferguson for winning the only awards I never could back at Benton Elementary — Penmanship. Rot in hell, Nellie. When the kids are older, I’m going to add a doctorate to my MA and JD because learning neat, new stuff just turns me on. My poor kids, having a ghetto girl for a Mom, the up-by-your-bootstraps, professional student type who believes in education the way Rastafarians believe in blunts. With my oldest still in the womb, I tortured myself with thoughts of having to tell the moms of the star students “My Junior has, sniff sniff, other talents. Grades are meaningless.” NO THEY ARE NOT.

It’s not just learning enough to support themselves or impress others, it’s learning enough to nurture and sustain themselves intellectually and spiritually. The world can take everything away from you but your mind. I never aspired to prominence or money (though I’m cool with both), just intellectual fulfillment and the capacity to master whatever I chose, wherever it led. I fully expected to live a life of genteel poverty teaching English at best but more likely reading a novel a day on breaks from my secretary job; becoming a successful writer was the by-product of a focus on my mind, not the goal. My parents were Jim Crow sharecroppers; I’m not supposed to be doing any of the stuff I’m doing. School, books, general intellectualism made all the difference in my life. It all just fed me so, let me transcend my circumstances, made me so happy and, as society progressed, enabled me to latch onto all the opportunities that modern, western life affords.

Which is why I’m terrified that my pampered kids won’t love school and books as I do, that I’ll raise slug-a-bed, privileged little Paris Hiltons with 15 second attention spans and a constant need for fancy trips and external stimulation. What if, as the children of privilege, they simply can’t find that fire in the belly that drove me to challenge my destiny and find out what I was made of? Their destiny is looking pretty good without their attempting much more than the minimum. Worst of all, what if they simply aren’t book smart, however hard they might work?

Then I read the below and was able to breathe, just a little, if my kids aren’t as bookish as Mommy. More seriously, it reminded me not to be a snob. Books — I can’t believe I’m writing this – aren’t for everyone? OK. I can do this: books aren’t for everyone. And, if they’re not for my kids, I’ll have to love them enough to be OK with that. Otherwise, I’d be punishing them for not being chips off the old block.

From the NY Times:

It has long been known that dyslexics are drawn to running their own businesses, where they can get around their weaknesses in reading and writing and play on their strengths. But a new study of entrepreneurs in the United States suggests that dyslexia is much more common among small-business owners than even the experts had thought. The report, compiled by Julie Logan, a professor of entrepreneurship at the Cass Business School in London, found that more than a third of the entrepreneurs she had surveyed — 35 percent — identified themselves as dyslexic. The study also concluded that dyslexics were more likely than nondyslexics to delegate authority, to excel in oral communication and problem solving and were twice as likely to own two or more businesses…..

“We found that dyslexics who succeed had overcome an awful lot in their lives by developing compensatory skills,” Professor Logan said in an interview. “If you tell your friends and acquaintances that you plan to start a business, you’ll hear over and over, ‘It won’t work. It can’t be done.’ But dyslexics are extraordinarily creative about maneuvering their way around problems.”…

One reason that dyslexics are drawn to entrepreneurship, Professor Logan said, is that strategies they have used since childhood to offset their weaknesses in written communication and organizational ability — identifying trustworthy people and handing over major responsibilities to them — can be applied to businesses.

“The willingness to delegate authority gives them a significant advantage over nondyslexic entrepreneurs, who tend to view their business as their baby and like to be in total control,” she said.

OK. I’ll keep reminding myself to keep an open mind about my kids’ likes and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses, and focus on guiding them to work hard at that which motivates them. Books, arcane knowledge and debate fascinate me. I’ll have to spend the next decade or so reminding myself that, as long as they focus on something, and on doing that something well, that will be good enough for Mom.

See how important reading is?


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