1. Life has been about 3 steps past bonkers busy -- which on MY scale of busy is about 900 steps past what normal people consider busy.
2. My boys have not been funny. They've been wretched brats. Not the "oh we'll look back and laugh at this" kind of twerpiness, but more in the "I am amazed I allowed them to live and it's really too bad we don't still have the (really evil and barbaric) practice of leaving unwanted children 'out in the night' to perish" kind of horribleness.
WHICH makes today's post all the more appropriate. We've recently launched our oldest son on a two-year mission for our church. He's going to Australia, about as far away from home (Pacific Northwest, USA) as you can get on our planet. Maybe Antarctica would be farther, but frankly, penguins don't care much about their mortality and life choices. (Although they do apparently care about dancing and singing in large, well-harmonized, groups?) At any rate, it's so far away, there is really, really nothing I can do, as a parent, to fix, solve, or rescue in any way. He is on his own. And I am not worried one bit. Truly.
First, I'm going to tell you about the past 18 months with Will. His senior year of HS, he was team captain of every team he was on that had a captain. He won the Inspirational or Coaches award for every team he was on. He made a conscious effort to be kind and pleasant at home (when he was there -- see below for how HUGE this was). He was accepted to BYU (average incoming freshman gpa 3.9, ACT average 29. This is a TOUGH school to get in to. We were frankly SHOCKED, Will most of all. He still thinks the Admissions Office made a mistake, but he's not about to point it out!). He suffered some heart-breaking set backs at the state tournaments in BOTH wrestling and track, but handled them with class and foresighted maturity, recognizing his own mistakes and shortcomings rather than ever blaming anyone else or declaring the world "unfair." (But his mom might have . . . ) He started college one week after graduating from high school and immediately began taking his classes seriously. He hoped to make the BYU Track team, even though it's one of the top track teams in the nation. He worked out with the track team all year, knowing his chances of making the team were very small. And he did not make the team. He was just that close, but not quite enough. But he talks about how glad he was that he did that, about the discipline he learned and the friendships he made.
He earned an academic scholarship after Fall semester, with a better gpa than he ever had in high school. He chose to take 2 years off of school and life to be a missionary. He is not paid to do this. In fact, he has to PAY $400 a month to be a missionary. Missionaries do not do anything other than be missionaries during this time. They can call home twice a year -- Mother's Day and Christmas -- and write home once a week. No girls, no tv, no movies, no swimming or water sports (bigger than you might think as Will is a surfer and he's going to the Gold Coast). He is doing this because he really does believe the principles of our beliefs can help people have happier lives. He didn't choose to go to Australia, that's simply where he was assigned. If he had been assigned to go to Boise, he would have gone just as happily and willingly. Within the first week of his mission, he was chosen as a District Leader (meaning he's in charge of a group of fellow missionaries, to make sure they are being good missionaries, as well as all the work of actually doing the missionary work). He loves what he is doing and we are so proud of him.
NOW I'm going to tell you about the 18 years BEFORE the last 18 months.
1992 -- Born on the day Bill Clinton was elected to his first term. No, we did not name him after Bill Clinton. We named him after my brother, my uncle, my great grandfather, and my great-great grandfather. When OUR William arrived, he immediately wrapped both arms and legs around the doctor's arm. The doc was crouching there, with this wet, screeching baby wrapped around his arm like a limpet. "Well, he's definitely passing the APGAR test."
So they took him away to clean him up and sew me up (9 pounds and 15" heads are tough to pass, no matter how to do it. 5 out of 6 of them. Not kidding.) A little while later, I could hear this baby crying. Well, it's a maternity ward. There's always a baby crying somewhere. But this baby was LOUD. You could hear it across the whole maternity ward. You could probably hear it across all of Houston. And it got louder, and louder, and then it came into my room. It was my son. And he only got louder.
|Blood makes a lovely accessory.|
At age 2, he discovered he had an opinion. He exercised it on EVERYTHING. He would scream and his eyes would roll in the back of head over things like wearing pants. I had to sit on him to get his clothes on so we could go grocery shopping or to the park or anywhere. I had to sit on him to change his diaper. This is a trick to do without getting poo EVERYWHERE. I hope you never have to do this.
It took me far too long to learn not to put my face anywhere near his (I was trying to be a good mom and get down on his level, rather than make him look way up at me) because he would thrash his head around and smack me in the mouth. I've had more bloody lips than you can imagine. He would stand by the wall and smack his head against it for fun. He would laugh while doing it. This is when I really began to worry.
He was kicked out of the church nursery for biting. Twice.
By age 3, I learned time outs were only marginally effective. Mostly he would laugh at me, kick me in the shins, and run away. This is why we have more direct discipline options. Ahem.
|We torture our children with Halloween Costumes|
At age 5, he started sports. Soccer, specifically. Every time someone stole the ball away, he would cry and run off the field. Every time. I had to drag him back and get him back in the game/practice. Every time. And keep coaching at the same time. Uuuuugggghhhh.
Ages 6-11 was a pretty good stretch. He was still surly and competitive and super active, but elementary age kids are my favorite age for a reason -- they're independent enough to do most things by themselves but still little kid enough to like mom and dad and seek adult approval. But he still tried to do things like bury a chipmunk alive to "see if it could dig through dirt like a mole."
|5 man sled. Put a hole in the wall 3 seconds after this pic.|
He put his foot through the wall twice out of anger. He had to apologize to three different neighbors on three separate occasions for various bits of stupidity involving airsoft guns. He learned how to replace and repair wheels/tires after a prank on a neighbor went "wrong." He had to do some service time/repair work at the high school after he and his buddies spent a day throwing ninja stars made in metal shop into the cafeteria wall.
He continued to scream and cry whenever a sports event did not go his way -- but he did stop running off the field. He fouled out of every basketball game in 8th grade. Then we switched to wrestling because it's ok to take down opponents in that sport. Ahem.
|You just wanna slap him, dontcha.|
His freshman year of high school, one teacher pulled Lauren (big sister) aside and asked if there was some big crisis going on at home to explain William's abysmal behavior/performance in school work. "Nope," she said. "He's just a slacker." And that describes the bulk of his high school academic effort: least effort possible to get an acceptable grade.
From ages 13-18, he was given the option 3 times to quit Scouting. He chose to stay all three times but then wouldn't do anything and complained the whole time. He nearly started a forest fire on one camp out by trying to create a bonfire with tree branches he chopped off a tree. He got in trouble multiple times for hiking 5 miles ahead of everyone else. Actually, I think this happened on every single hike he was ever on. They finally just assigned one leader (in really good shape) to stay with Will and Morgen. He got in trouble on one Klondike outing for climbing out on to the cabin roof and jumping off in to snow drifts. To earn an Eagle Scout rank, they have to complete 20 merit badges, a huge service project, several leadership positions, and a ream of paperwork before they turn 18. Will turned in his paperwork 3 hours before he turned 18.
The fist fighting with his sister stopped when he was 13 and she was 15 and they literally rolled down the stairs squabbling. They were both crying and bleeding. But he was just too strong and people were going to get actually hurt. But hey, the fighting stopped. Well, the physical fighting, anyway.
Honestly, looking back on William's childhood often seems like one long string of crying, angry, fighting, struggle of getting the kid to do what he was supposed to do.
|A real smile. Rarer than you'd think :D|
So. When your child, of whatever age, is driving you insane and you are genuinely considering sending them to a "Reprogramming Camp" in Siberia, hang in there. You have a GIANT of a soul, brimming with incredible talent, crammed into a little body that is a little on the crazy side, with all that growing and developing and whatnot going on. Of course they're going to act like rabid squirrels on speed a lot of the time. They kind of are rabid squirrels on speed. But you WANT this. Really, you do.
It's like that episode of Sponge Bob where he decides to be "normal" and slowly changes himself until he's a smooth, shiny employee who sits in a cubicle at a computer and does everything "normally." And the computer-generated burgers he creates are gray blobs of goo. Sure, he sits and behaves perfectly. But he's a gray blob of goo.
Who wants kids who are blobs of goo? Unfortunately, sometimes that's what the school and the teacher and we want. But who wants to be an adult gray blob of goo? You don't get a vibrant, intelligent, positive leader of the community from a glob of gray goo. You just don't. But that means you have to take the rabid squirrel child. Just hang on with both hands and don't let go. Oh, and stock pile whatever minor vice gives you comfort and wear good shoes. For me, it's Moonstruck chocolates and green Birkenstocks. And I have 4 more to go. Yeehaw!