Multimama

I'm a multitasking writer/mom to multiple multi-ethnic little ones, via multiple routes to parenthood. Just call me Multimom!

Just Like Me

on November 12, 2012

Today, at a kid birthday party, my son was so clingy. Even though lots of his friends were there, even though it was pirate-themed and he loves pirates, he didn’t want to participate in the games or activities, or sit or play with his friends. He just wanted to stay clamped onto my leg. Now, to some extent, I am pleased to have a boy who is so bonded to me. On the other hand, I was carrying his baby sister while also constantly holding his hand in the perfectly safe party room, flying solo while my husband is away on business.  While my friends chatted as their kids ran around doing planned activities, I was juggling two kids (luckily, you can usually still converse with two kids hanging off of you).  But I was getting a little frustrated, wishing he would participate like the other kids.

And then we got to the obligatory pirate treasure hunt, and he got really excited, cheering and running after the guy leading the activity, right along with all his friends.  He loves him some treasure.  To avoid total 3-year-old plundering mayhem, the guy had the kids wait in line to choose one toy from the box. When it was Dev’s turn, I grabbed a bracelet to placate his baby sister (it was probably totally safe for her to chew on…), while he stared into the treasure chest, deliberating over which prize to select.  Since other kids were waiting, I encouraged him to pick quickly, and, on impulse, he took a bracelet just like his sister’s (he is man enough to rock a pink bracelet with “princess” emblazoned on it).

He wore it happily, until we were sitting waiting for cake (he hates cake, but his sis was happy to eat his instead) and he noticed that a couple of other boys had gotten cars from the treasure chest.  Then he started saying, “Mommy, I want a car.” I have to be honest, having checked out the options in that box myself, the cars were totally the best loot. He was right to want those instead.  I told him we would see if we could switch, but then I couldn’t find either of the hired event leaders.  When I spotted the treasure chest in the back room, I figured I’d just make the trade for him, and we decided together on a cool little wizard finger puppet (Dev calls him his “magic guy”), and he was very happy.

Because the thing is, I remember so clearly that feeling from childhood. The excitement at what might be offered, the urge to pour over each item, making sure to choose the very best one, the disappointment upon seeing something even better and feeling that you made the wrong choice, the desperation to correct this mistake, and the powerlessness of being a small child who can’t actually fix this yourself.

This moment reminded me of two events from my childhood. First, a time at church when I was about his age, when the pastor called all of the children to the front and had us each pick an M&M. I think he was teaching us something about how despite our differences, we’re all the same inside.  But see, I’ve never liked chocolate. So I stood there, holding up the entire church service while I tried to decide what color of something I didn’t even want to select. My parents were apparently mortified, but I was calmly weighing the pros & cons of each option with zero concern that 100-something people probably thought I was weird.

This, here, is the first lesson I want to point out.  Here I was, worried that Dev wasn’t getting the most out of the party, or that other parents would think he wasn’t well-adjusted or something, and honestly, it just doesn’t matter. He had fun at the party, got into the action when it was something he really wanted to do (the treasure hunt), shared some laughs with his buddies, and avoided some really crazy scenes (note: giving a roomful of 3-year-olds two wading pools full of balls to throw is a recipe for disaster). He was enjoying it in his own way, and I never want to put pressure on him to act the way I think he “should” because it’s what others kids are doing.  He is, as I was, a thoughtful kid who likes to get the lay of the land before deciding to jump in–and who may choose not to jump in at all, at times.  That is a valid choice.  Also, plenty of other kids were clinging or acting up or melting down throughout the party–common kid party hazard. I doubt anyone thought anything about my son, who was merely clingy, not ill-behaved.  I think because I was labeled as a shy child for having a personality much like his, I worry a lot about him getting stuck with that label, and want to push him into greater extroversion–for his own good, of course.  But he is totally cool with himself, and I adore him, and I don’t, actually, want to push him to be anyone else.  I refuse to let anyone apply the “shy” label because I think it was harmful to me (I believed it for years, eventually taught myself to “fake” outgoingness as a teenager, and probably only as an adult have realized that I’m actually quite outgoing, in the right situation–and awkward other times, as I assume everyone is).  He, as I always did, has several close friends with whom he can be silly and hilarious. Actually, he has a lot of friends, and tends to be a leader with them (he’ll start doing something fun and funny and they immediately join in, copying him exactly), but he prefers to interact with these friends one (or two, maybe three) at a time. Having lots of his friends at the party today wasn’t as much of a plus as I’d assumed, because he didn’t get that one-on-one or small-group time with any of them.  He gets overwhelmed by big groups–but then, I think a kid party is pretty much the definition of overwhelming.  And he adores his mom and baby sister, and would rather party with us than with his friends–I think I better enjoy that while I can.  He is perfectly, wonderfully himself, full to the brim with awesome, and I don’t want him to change one bit because the bottom line is, he’s happy. He doesn’t need to be like anyone else, and truly, I don’t want him to be, because all I want is my one & only him.

The other thing this reminded me of was going to some kind of Disney on Ice thing with my dad, his friend, and the friend’s two daughters. The other girls wanted these Mickey Mouse flashlights, so I asked for one too. But after my dad got me one, I saw these fiber optic wands that to me, were stunningly beautiful (honestly, I still think those things are pretty amazing). I knew my dad wasn’t going to get me two souvenirs, but I wanted one of these wands so much I couldn’t stand it. I told him, and begged him to exchange the flashlight, and even though that can’t be standard policy from those arena vendors, and I’m sure he wasn’t thrilled at the idea, my dad did it. And I was so happy, to have gotten exactly what I wanted instead of being saddled with a toy that almost instantly disappointed me.  So I completely understood what my son was feeling, and instead of telling him that he’d made his choice and it was no big deal anyway, I tapped into my child-self and indulged him. Because I know how powerful that longing can be when you are a kid, and how much it means for an adult to make things right in a way that as a child, you just can’t.

It is true that Dev shares no biological or genetic ties, and yet, he is so clearly my boy, like me in so many ways. I was reminded of some, and noticed some new ones, today, and for that I am thankful.  I love my parents and I think they did many things well, but if I can be to Dev the parent that I would most like to have had, I think that will be exactly right.

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