Thursday, September 10, 2009

Who Are You?

My son started kindergarten this week. This means he is officially a "big boy." And oh, he is

I watched him stand in line outside the school doors and marveled at how tall and boyish he is. The baby is all gone. Long lean limbs jut out of his cargo shorts and short sleeves. He was all smiles and excitedly gripped his backpack as he waited for the school doors to open.

The parents were all greeting one another and coming over to say hello. His father was approached by at least ten people, social butterfly that he is. And then my son looked up at me and said, "That boy over there is wearing a cool shirt. Can I go over and tell him it's cool?'

"Yes, of course you can," I said.

I watched as he marched up to the kid, an older kid, and told him he liked his shirt.

Who are you? I wondered.

Who is this boy? Who is this friendly, outgoing, happy, self-possessed person? When I look back on my own first day of kindergarten, I clung to my mother's leg and howled as she walked down the hall. For the first hour or so of the day I refused to play with the other kids, despite my teacher's attempts to encourage me to play with the other girls in the play kitchen.

(Maybe I was crying because of the forced gender roles?)

But not my son. He was happy to find his kindergarten class, delighted to hang his backpack in his cubby, and proudly took his seat at the table. He immediately looked around and started talking to the other kids. He smiled at his teacher, and looked somewhat surprised that his dad and I were still there when we came over to hug and kiss him goodbye.

He was like, "Oh. You two are still here? Yeah, bye."

No, he wasn't like that. He just gave us hugs and kisses goodbye and happily waved goodbye as his father and I peered through the door.

I've always marveled at my son. He is this separate entity. He is not mine. I am merely here to hold his hand from childhood to adulthood, and then let go.

But I still marvel at him.

Where did he come from? Who is he? He is not me and he is not his father. He is more outgoing and confident than I am, and he is more tender and sensitive than his dad. Sure you can see a little of each of us in him, but he really is his own person. People often credit his various attributes to my good parenting, which I discount. I don't discount it because I'm modest. I discount it because I know this is simply who he is.

It is not the result of me or my work.

It is his nature, his temperament, the personality that was set in stone when his heart first began to beat in my womb. His genetic code was set and he would be who he is. Yes, I understand that this is Nature, and the other part is Nurture. So yes, his father and I may have each done a decent job of nurturing his nature to fruition — but he is still Cracky.

A certain Crackiness that is not my doing.

The innate Crackiness of him.

Beautiful.

What a beautiful human being he is! I know most mothers will say such things of their children, but I say it not in ownership or pride. I say it as an observer. I observe that this strange human being that came into my world is lovely. Such a lovely, kind-hearted, funny, sensitive, thoughtful, caring, affectionate, confident, character-of-a-boy.

That's all him.

And I marvel as his personality continues to unveil as he grows. I know the five-year-old boy, but wonder who the man will be? Just as I wondered that first day I discovered he was in me. I sat on my porch rubbing my belly, mystified and incredulous that a separate entity resided within me.

"Who are you?" I said to him then.

And I still say it now.

That's the beautiful mystery of children. They are not ours. They are their own. We are merely temporary custodians.

But what a lovely shift it is.

43 comments:

  1. They aren't ours?

    ... are you sure? Can't I at least pretend they are for a little while? The other option, of them being free and able to go off away from us at any time, makes me feel sick to my stomach. (I know they still will, but I like to think that they won't.)

    Ugh. Back on the evolutionary path I go.

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  2. *Sniff*

    I am sure you had more than a little to do with it . . . beautiful post, Mandy.

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  3. The core part of personality is developed by age 5, so he's always going to be this wonderful boy. :)

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  4. How am I supposed to be all funny and jaded and "Heh." when you write stuff like this? You're totally messing with my vibe, yo.

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  5. Never discount credit for his attributes! Mothering 101. Or is that It's all about Me, 101?

    Seriously, this piece is a very sweet keeper for the scrapbook, or memory box, or whatever you plan to hand to him when he's heading off to college to tell college kids he thinks their t-shirt is cool.

    He's off to a great start!

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  6. He's an amazing little human being. Truly. And I can totally see him taking charge and finding new friends. From what I saw, he's not shy, that one.

    I think that you can take a little credit in whom he has become.

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  7. oh mandy - you wicked person to make me tear up on a thursday.

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  8. This is perfect in every way, lil mama:)

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  9. Don't let him bring any pennies to school.

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  10. People are always trying to figure out who mine are like and I too tell them, these girls are just themselves. Little versions of who they will eventually become, people in their own right who are just not fully grown yet. It's awesome that we get to study them day after day. Beautiful post!

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  11. Awww...I loved this write :)

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  12. Please don't under estimate your input. You've allowed him to become this confident Cracky, this brave, adventurous, curious Cracky. He might have found it on his own, but you most certainly helped.

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  13. that was special--and yes, you had more to do with it than you know!

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  14. Yes there is a dividing line between nature and nurture but I am betting that you and your husband are great parents. Understanding that you child is a person in his own right, is magnificent. Congratulations on a wonderful son. Peace, howie

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  15. He ain't my husband. He's my ex-boyfriend and we are co-parents.

    I have a lovely boyfriend who is my partner.

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  16. I still marvel at the uniqueness of my daughters. Some of the traits they obviously get from me make me smile, some make me sad that I passed them along.

    But the things that are 'them' and them alone - those make me proud. Proud that they are their own people, not little mini-me's.

    Namaste!

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  17. This made me tear up - and I don't even have children - so you know it must be good. :-)

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  18. I remember my son's first dat at KG.My wife and I were in tears. First time away from us.

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  19. My daughter started last week and she didn't hardly even look back.

    That was a lovely post!

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  20. Weaning the child towards coping in the real world starts with that first day of school. I think you must be doing everything right as a parent because my first memory of going to the first day of school was my mother dragging me out of the house screaming, dragging me literally.

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  21. Awww! reading this made me all: nostalgic; happy; sentimental; pleased for you.

    Cracky is a very special big boy!

    Lafang

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  22. Wow, even if you won't give yourself credit for the way he is turning out, give yourself credit for celebrating it in such a beautiful way. A lot of kids aren't so lucky to have parents that see what you see.

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  23. Isn't being a mom just the absolute best?

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  24. Being a mom is the BEST...it just keeps getting better, too!

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  25. That is perfection. I hope you save this for your son to read when he's older.
    xo

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  26. That made me tear up a little. I dropped my 10 month old son off at group daycare for the first time this week, and crawled right over to the other kids with a big smile and started playing the minute I set him down. I, however, cried all the way to work. I can't imagine how hard kindergarten is going to be for me.

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  27. Children are very mysterious and wonderful, arent they?

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  28. So very beautiful! I often say that to my boy who started first grade. I say " I know we've met, but you have become new to me."
    It is a bittersweet thing to see our children thrive and move on. My youngest step-daughter just drove away to college this morning. It was literally yesterday when we were watching dance recitals and kissing away tears from nightmares.
    Makes me wanna sing "SUNRISE, SUNSET, QUICKLY FLOW THE DAAAAAAYYYYSSSSS".
    Now I'm verklempt.

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  29. my kids are teens and sometimes I have to remind myself still that they are not me. Amazing, isn't it. Great post.

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  30. Hey I just found you through uh...oh Buddha's blog! and wanted to come by. I think we have quite a bit in common. You wrote about your ex...and I just wrote a post entitled Mental Illness, and it's many tentacled grips in my life. I'm glad I found your blog. Hello.

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  31. This made me think of my first day at kindergarten...it was the only day my mother took me to school. She being a single, working mother and all. She met the teacher with me, and it turned out that Mrs. Spellman was her kindergarten teacher when she started school. What a happy surprise! It made the whole event less traumatic for me. To have that connection, that "in" with my first teacher.

    Your attitude of conservatorship and wonder in regard to parenting will serve you well in what I think may be the most challenging aspect of child raising...allowing them to become individuals.

    Kudos to you, Mandy. And best wishes always.

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  32. Hi Mandy,
    Your son does take the good you see from his mom. Please don't sell your self short.

    "...For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable."

    I'm sure your son knows this and should he read "Who Are You?" he
    will thank you.

    What is as fine as a child who is priceless: his priceless Mom.

    Sincerely,
    Richard

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  33. I love nothing more on this earth than being Mom to my two amazing girls. Like Cracky, they are their own people. It's fascinating and wonderful and mesmerizing. I love to just sit and watch them, when they don't know I'm watching them. They are perfection.

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  34. Sounds like you have an amazing son :)

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  35. Late to the party...of course.

    I love this mostly because it's straight out of my head (only written more eloquently than I ever could). I marvel at my kids all the time.

    My illusions of shaping a human being where shattered the minute my son and I first locked eyes with each other just minutes after he was born. I swear he was sizing me up. I knew right then he already had his own personality and that he was perfect. My job was simply to love him and not screw him up to badly...
    Then when my daughter was born...same story only different from her brother, father, AND me. A unique little rosebud...amazing.

    You know just like probably everybody else...I heart Cracky! He is a very special boy and he is going to have some great adventures. Lucky for us, his Mom is a great writer and we'll be able hear about them from time to time.

    Oh...I hope you saved this one for him.

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  36. Late to the party...of course.

    I love this mostly because it's straight out of my head (only written more eloquently than I ever could). I marvel at my kids all the time.

    My illusions of shaping a human being where shattered the minute my son and I first locked eyes with each other just minutes after he was born. I swear he was sizing me up. I knew right then he already had his own personality and that he was perfect. My job was simply to love him and not screw him up to badly...
    Then when my daughter was born...same story only different from her brother, father, AND me. A unique little rosebud...amazing.

    You know just like probably everybody else...I heart Cracky! He is a very special boy and he is going to have some great adventures. Lucky for us, his Mom is a great writer and we'll be able hear about them from time to time.

    Oh...I hope you saved this one for him.

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