When it comes to my boys, I am not a quitter. I have pushed, prodded, battled and bought their cooperation in learning to swim, play the piano, understand chess and escort people to the door when they leave. With my own limited and skewed view of humanity, these are the skills I decided every child should master. Not that any one of my boys have actually “mastered” anything. It is more of a case of them indulging their mother’s insanity in order to keep the peace.
Some days, I wish I would have put more effort into teaching them how to embrace silence, clean the gutters and balance my checkbook. Sadly, hindsight is always 20/20.
Being ever-so-helpful, my husband elongated the list with impractical items such as ice skating and baseball. These additions left me squatting on the ground at cold rinks, swearing at the Ice Gods themselves for not developing self-lacing skates. Other cold and rainy days, these add-ons lead to sacred prayers to invoke the slaughter rules before the end of the 2nd inning.
When Joe suggested boxing once, I pretended I didn’t hear him.
Given that I am the one mostly responsible for steering our crazy ship of combatant boys as they bemoan Mozart and opening positions, I never really expected to hear a word of thanks.
But that is when my child surprised me.
My oldest son has been tutoring chess this summer, a small return on investment given the years of private lessons and tournaments my husband worked two jobs to fund. I had listened to Temple Grandin speak at a local university years ago, and she specifically lamented how few children, both autistic and neurotypical, were gaining work experience before adulthood. I thought an introduction to employment would be a great way for Danny to combat this trend.
For the most part, my son has turned out to be a conscientious employee. He is always on time, perhaps even a little too early. He puts together a rough plan of what he is going to teach in advance. One time, he even changed his shirt after I pointed out that he had been wearing it for a week straight.
The Wolf of Wall Street he is not.
After one particular session where the student picked up on things effortlessly, Danny jumped into the minivan, exhilarated.
“THANK YOU for buying me my first board and teaching me this game, Mom! This has been the best summer job EVER.”
He said it as though I had him working in the tobacco fields last year.
Still, it was an unexpected admission. He had connected all the work that had gone into him learning the game to the benefits he was now reaping. Danny seemed to understand that his mom actually had some vision. Foresight, even. Perhaps a smidgen of genius?
And his dad? Joe had been there all along, encouraging him even without the same full understanding of the master plan (nor the extent of his wife’s madness).
My husband and I do not parent for accolades or thanks. Our kids can act like the biggest knuckleheads out there. We know the moments of pride we feel will usually be tempered with “I can’t believe my son just did that” within a half hour. We make mistakes. They make mistakes.
But every once in a while, there is a perfect moment.
And for that, I am the grateful one.