Before I had kids, I used to look at other people’s offspring and think to myself “Why is that kid so annoying? Why don’t they do something to fix it (and by “it,” of course, I was referring to the child in question).
And then I had my first kid, and knew she wasn’t going to be one of the annoying models, because I would nip that shit in the bud and mold her into a well-behaved non-irritating version.
And to be honest, it kind of worked (well, I thought it did. Now I realize kids are who they are and parental guidance is probably not the ultimate determinate of a kid’s behavior. It turns out THEY HAVE PERSONALITIES! (who woulda thunk it?)). At any rate, my oldest kid has always been a level-headed, engaged, poised child. She sits in restaurants, chatting with adults. She generally obeys the first time you ask her to do something. She’s independent, self-motivated, focused , and driven. She does well in school. She remembers to brush her teeth and floss, and write in her journal and write thank-you notes, and she does her homework without being asked, and knows how to keep calm when necessary, hanging out with adults with a grace and confidence we all find immensely appealing. She is the quintessentially not-annoying child. Damn, she makes me look good. She blows my mind on a daily basis.
Ah, but then I had Rocket.
And let’s be honest: Rocket is, on a regular basis, really freaking annoying.
Why lie? He is.
He’s loud, intense, and constantly moving. He’s like a tornado that makes noise. Most of the time, if Rocket is awake, he’s knocking things down and pissing his sisters off. He’s tying things together and rigging up traps and filling the sink with water and forgetting about it. He’s making the most irritating heart-stopping nails-on-chalkboard screeches you’ve ever heard in your life. He’s making sounds no human has ever made before, and should never make again.
He’s banging toys and accidentally breaking things, often.
He’s not brushing his teeth.
He’s ignoring your orders.
He’s drawing on the door of the car rather than opening it.
He’s forgetting his backpack in the backseat, and his lunch on the counter, again.
His shoes are in the bathroom but he can’t find them because by the time he gets down the hall he forgets what he was looking for.
He’s poking and prodding and flailing and flinging himself off the couch. He’s “hi-ya”-ing the folded laundry pile with a stick he brought in from the backyard.
He’s up in your business. He’s right against your body. He doesn’t always know when to quit.
He’s playing too hard, a little too long (and you find yourself saying “Rocket, please stop!” ALL.DAY.LONG.)
It’s a strange moment when you realize you have a kid that irritates people. It’s a piercing reality when you see the look in people’s eyes, saying “This boy, he’s too much.” And you see that The Excessively Uptight pretty much can’t stand being in the presence of your son. Sometimes, they’re mean to him, and you want to break their faces with blunt objects, and grab your boy and fold him up back into your belly, where the assholes don’t exist and he’s safe.
But you know what’s the most amazing feeling in the world? When you realize you don’t give a shit what they think, and you’re set free from the insane notion that your kids should all fit perfectly all the time into society’s idea of a “well-behaved” child.
I have a boy who doesn’t fit. He doesn’t fit in school. (He “makes up Kung-Fu movies in his head” during class.) He’s seven years old and not reading yet. He gets “below basic” marks in every area on his report card.
And you know what? I don’t care. And I’ll tell you why:
The other day he was playing with 9 cubes and he all the sudden said “If I had four groups of these cubes I’d have 36.” And I asked him “Dude, Rocket, how’d you know that?” and he said “I don’t know. I saw it in my head.”
And he’s fascinated with planets and cranes and mechanical devices (he’ll stare at a gadget forever, until he can explain how it works). He builds complex Lego systems and memorizes how to get to places in other cities even though we’ve only been there once.
(He told me when he was five he was “born with maps in his brain.”)
He’ll listen to Jimi Hendrix for hours and after hearing Miles Davis he said “This music seems simple, but it’s actually really complicated. Will you get me some more jazz music?”
His heart’s so big it’s like a constantly exploding star. When he gets upset he looks at me and says “Mama, I LOVE YOU,” as if that’s what’s going to fix it, that’s where his strength comes from, from loving others, and hearing that they love him back.
And I do.
I love him so much my heart breaks sometimes just looking at him, my little son, because I can’t believe I could cherish anything as much as I do that little boy.
And his teachers say he’s doing just fine, when I get worked up and want some answers, about why he isn’t reading yet, and why he just won’t quite fit. They say he’s a natural leader and a joy in class and they love him as much as I do, well, almost.
If I were honest, I’d say “why isn’t he meeting my expectations? Why isn’t he fulfilling MY VISION?”
Because he’s somebody else, doing something else, that maybe I don’t understand.
And yeah, sometimes it’s fucking annoying.
But the rest of the time, I listen for his music, and hear the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard, and I feel more alive myself, watching this kid dance moves I’ve never seen before, feeling my feet start moving right alongside him, knowing if I practice long enough, we’ll be dancing together.