I look over my shoulder in his direction, “What?”
He whispers, “Come here and look at this.”
He places his finger against his closed lips to caution me to remain quiet. We make eye contact. He nods his head in the direction of our living room sofa.
I peek around the pantry. There sits Waldorf. His favorite cat on his lap. A book in his hand.
I retreat back into the kitchen, smile at B&B, and whisper, “That’s sweet.”
He frowns. Shakes his head. Whispers, “Look again.”
I do as instructed, looking more closely this time. He’s not holding the cat against his will. For a change. His feet are on the couch, but his shoes are off. He’s not eating candy. He’s reading the new book he got for Christmas. He just started it. Wait. He’s practically finished it? How could he have read it that quickly?
Waldorf is reading the last few pages of his new book. As I watch, unnoticed, from the kitchen, he flips to the first page of his book, settles in, and begins reading.
I retreat once more into the kitchen. Eyes wide, I look at B&B. “That right there is blasphemy.”
B&B wears a pained expression, “He read the ending of the book first. Who does that?”
I shrug and smile, “Evidently, Waldorf does it.”
We are firm believers in the notion that birth order shapes personality. Unfortunately for our oldest son, he is our guinea pig. Not only is he our first, he is the product of a middle child and a youngest child. Many of his seemingly indelible first born tendencies are lost on both of his parents. We recognize our oldest siblings in his behavior. We recognize all four of our parents…each of them oldest children…in his behavior. While the dynamic is familiar to us, neither of us can relate to him as readily as we can to our other kids. Our experiences as middle and youngest children make those emotions accessible to us.
I sit up in bed, propped against two pillows.
“What are you doing?”
His voice takes me by surprise. Reading intently, I haven’t heard him ascend the stairs, open the bedroom door, or sit down on our shared bed.
I keep my eyes on my book, answering, “I’m reading.”
“I can see that you’re reading. What are you doing with your hand?”
I look down at my right hand, which deliberately covers the last two paragraphs of the page I’m currently reading. “I put my hand there so I don’t skip ahead to see what happens.”
He smiles. “Is that right?” Raises his eyebrows, “Waldorf?”
I dismiss him. “You’re out of your mind.”
He laughs, “That’s funny. Considering I’m not the one who is placing my hand over the unread words to keep myself from skipping ahead in the book.”
B&B is onto something. I admit that. Under protest.
There are several aspects of our oldest son’s personality that remain an enigma to me. But there are more things about him to which I can relate.
He is private to a fault. He isn’t overly affectionate. He strives for perfection. He wants so desperately to be funny.
He is the physical image of his Father at 11 years old. But, Waldorf is his Mother’s son.
And I feel as though I’ve burdened him.
I’m not much into New Year’s resolutions. While I admire the intentions behind them, I find they are often lip service. And make for overly crowded gyms until mid-February.
Despite my feelings toward them, I found myself resolving, last January, to take more chances. Stop being so private.
To be vulnerable. Be more affectionate.
To open myself up to new possibilities. You’re only human.
To try. Knowing I’d very possibly fail. Everything you say and do doesn’t have to be funny.
I’d spent my life reading the last chapter of the book first. Planning. Controlling. Knowing what to expect.
And I found myself ready, finally, to start a new chapter. With a different book. Without my hands blocking the words. With no glimpse at the ending.
When I walked into her cross training gym, owner Pamela asked me what I wanted. I told her I wanted to be less tired. She spent 7 weeks sharing her nutritional expertise and recipes with me. Throughout those 7 weeks, she showed me that I can get the same results working out for 20 minutes that I’d been getting in triple that time exercising. It’s 20 minutes of sheer hell, punctuated with lots of cursing. But it’s 20 minutes. And, when I eat what she tells me to eat, I’m less tired. Which explains why I’m dragging after eating pizza last night. Seeing the results of my hard work makes me happy.
When I tiptoed into yoga for the first time, everything about it was foreign. The music, the temperature, the physical proximity to strangers, the entire situation. I was overwhelmed and intimidated. Over the past 8 months, that studio, once so unfamiliar, has become a place of refuge for me. I love my yoga instructor, whom I’ve deemed my spiritual bartender. I’m physically challenged and mentally balanced. I get an intense workout and an attitude adjustment each time I hit my mat. Feeling the energy in that room makes me happy.
Every time I leave my house to go to work, I stress a little bit. Should I be leaving the kids?
Yes, it’s only 4 hours/week. And I’m leaving them with B&B, who is their father. And, yes, I ate cake and got a chair massage while working this past Sunday. Semantics. But those four hours recharge my batteries. I come home refreshed and happy to see them. I love being in the store. I love the vibe. I love the clothes. I love connecting with the customers. I love the owner, who’s become a dear friend and pimps my writing like she’s my john. Being a part of their team makes me happy.
The leap I took in 2012 that’s impacted my life the most happened one year ago today. I posted my first story to my blog. It has been so much work. But it has been so very worth it. Over the course of the year, I’ve chronicled the chaos of our household, one anecdote at a time. I’ve wheezed with laughter over my keyboard at times. I’ve pushed my chair away from my computer, and allowed my body to wrack with sobs at others. I’ve been lucky to develop friendships with fellow writers in all different parts of the country. I’ve connected with readers, who’ve touched my heart with their beautiful e-mail messages. Through mutual friends, I met a literary agent in NY. She is now my literary agent in NY. She is a rock star, and she puts up with my crazy. We are overdue for margaritas. Writing makes me happy.
It feels like I’ve grown more in the past 12 months than I did in the 20 years prior to that. Opening myself up to new experiences and being vulnerable has connected me with so many new people. It’s left me content, at peace, supported, inspired, challenged.
How do I tell an 11 year old boy that I know firsthand what a burden it is to be so private, to reserve affection, to demand perfection of yourself? How do I explain to him that the most important thing he can do in this life is let his guard down and connect with other people?
I just continue to be his Mom.
And encourage him to continue to be who he is.
And quietly hope he navigates his way…eventually…
…to a brand new book…
…on the first page of Chapter 1…
…because this, my friends, is a good place to be.
Thanks to so many of you for connecting with me to make this past year…and my life…so extraordinarily full.
Please note my blog has moved to http://bethanymeyer.com/ .
This is week 3 in our This Is Childhood series. My friend, Nina Badzin…my Jewish sister from another mother…provides her honest insight into 3 years old. Please read her here. She is so much kinder about this age than I have ever been….
To be perfectly honest, I was scared of my first…(continue reading here)