Saturday, October 12, 2019

My big boy

William, at seven-and-a-half, is a lot like me as a kid. A LOT. Right down to the poor eyesight and bumpy knees. I am right on his wavelength. Still, that doesn’t mean I’m not baffled by his random fears and eccentricities at times (as I’m sure my parents were baffled by mine). Recently he’s developed a fear of midnight. “Is it midnight?” - he’ll ask, as soon as the sky is dark. “Is it midnight?” - he’ll persist, when I check in him after bedtime. I’ve sat down with him numerous times to analyze and neutralize this fear. I’ve drawn pictures, gotten out the classroom clock, and had him unknowingly stay up until midnight having fun with friends, only to say, “See? Midnight won’t hurt you.” It persists. The other day he sat bolt upright over his Cheerios. “Is there a midday?!” And riding home the other night commented that the worst part of a storm was “probably the midstorm.” 

I remember laying in bed at night as a kid, afraid my parents would go to sleep and I would be the only one in the house awake. William struggles with the same fear. For some reason, he can’t fall asleep for at least an hour and a half after I put him to bed. I give him a flashlight and books, and play children’s audio dramas for him. I keep promising I’ll be back to check on him once more. He wants to know I’ll check on him when he is sleeping. He is such a good little boy to lay there, holding his blanket to his face, looking up at the ceiling, waiting for sleep. 

He sees the world in black and white. He likes knowing the rules, following the rules, enforcing the rules. He asks me several times before doing something he’s patently allowed to do, wanting the reassurance that YES, you can go upstairs to put socks on. He hates crying; he seems to consider it shameful. When he sets his jaw and blinks hard, I know it’s time for a quiet talk.

He loves Bo deeply. He pets him every day, and when Bo presses against him for more affection, William laughs and says, “Bo, I’ve been petting you all day long!” But Will always obliges. He likes to rub my back and play with my hair too, because he knows I love it. At night, when I go to check on him, I sit on the edge of the bed and talk to him, and he reaches over to rub my back, “so you’ll stay with me and you won’t be able to leave!”

He loves tickle fights. He loves to initiate them, usually at the most inopportune moments. I’ll be holding a cup of coffee, or cutting an apple, or deep in thought and focus, when I feel fingertips abruptly shoved into my armpit. Cue deep annoyance (which, to be fair, is a reaction he loves to elicit from all of us). One day I’ll look back on this and laugh (okay, I’m laughing to myself now), and I’ll think, I should’ve been a little more lighthearted and fun-loving, but as it is, I don’t handle being tickled very well, and I usually respond with, “Gah! William! that’s enough!” I keep a mental tally of how many times I rebuff his tickling advances and how many times I laugh and try to tickle him back… I try to keep the tally fairly even.

He has his Shelf of Treasures. This is an important aspect of William. These treasures are broken toys, interesting pieces of debris found in parking lots, spent gift cards, shiny objects, rocks and shells. He is the proud curator of a museum of things saved from the garbage can. He doesn’t really ever look at the objects; he just enjoys knowing they’re there. Mixed among all of this are some truly cool things, like a geode he found in Montana and a Petoskey stone he got from Uncle Mike. He often approaches me with a communal object - Neva’s necklace, a Star Wars book – “Mom, makes me want to put this on my shelf.”

He loves saving his money more than he likes spending it. He was in the habit of promising his siblings a certain amount of money to do favors for him – bribing Barrett to wrestle with him or Neva to let him play with her toy- then he would, for the rest of the day, threaten to withhold the payment if they did not continue doing other things for him. I put a stop to that.

The other day, halfway through a game of Long Cow: “Hey! Is this a CARD game?!”

He made me laugh so hard a few weeks ago. We had just picked out our Halloween/harvest party costumes from Goodwill, and he was so intrigued that his Revvit costume covered up his face so effectively. He began concocting a plan to go to his school harvest party as a new, different student. “Mom,” he said excitedly, “I’ll go in with my costume on, and you’ll say, ‘This is Dan. We just moved to town and we go to this school now.’” He paused considerably. “Oh, you’ll have to say, ‘We just visited William, and he’s sick, so he won’t be here, and this is Dan.’” Another pause. “And Mom, you can wear your sunglasses- and different earrings- and your rocketship shirt” (a t-shirt from my Dearborn 10k with Hannah) “and you can tell them that your name is Kelly. And no one will recognize you. And you can tell them that our last name is Slaze.......dird.” The last name was devised so arbitrarily that I could not stop laughing, even later when I related the story to some friends. 

Today we were slogging through some online discussion board work (“slogging” is being generous- it was an exercise in patience- Will does not love making his virtual academy contributions) and after at least an hour, we were on the very last question. “Okay, Will. One more. Stay with me. ‘What is subtraction, in your own words? Give an example using apples.’” His eyes were already viewing distant planets before I’d reached the end of the question. I rephrased it, helping him define subtraction, then said, “Now, tell me a story to illustrate subtraction, using apples.” (Every other kid had entered something like: “Four apples take away two is two apples.”) William instantly perked up. “Okay,” he said, “four apples walk into a haunted castle. Suddenly, a live skeleton jumps out and grabs two and eats them! Now there are two left. They run down a dark passageway, but it’s not a passageway! It’s a monster’s mouth! He eats them! CHOMP! Now there are zero.” 

When he was very little- three years old- he decided he was afraid of swings. “I don’t want one to break,” he told me. 

“Honey,” I assured him, “swings are strong. They won’t break underneath you.” 

“Well,” he replied, “I saw a broken one, once. SOMEBODY was swinging on it when it broke.” I was dumbfounded. Since then, he has not wanted to swing- until this year. Now, we swing side by side at the park, and I’m so proud of him for moving past that. I know that he will continue to conquer each and every fear he faces- in his own time. You can’t rush a William (or a Maegan). You just encourage, and wait. 

Will’s favorite things to do are: reading in the book nook, playing LEGOs, eating chips, watching football with Daddy, helping Daddy work outside, wrestling with Barrett, playing Beyblades and checkers with anyone who will join him, watching movies, talking to me, and playing VIDEO GAMES. He lives for video games. 

He is just like me, in so many ways, and I’m so delighted to be able to understand and relate to his quirks. I’m so curious to discover what he will do and become. It’s such a profound privilege to be his mom- his, and Barrett’s, and Neva’s, and Mac’s mom. Will, if you read this someday, I hope you know that you are- and have always been- and always will be- very much loved. 

His favorite horse at the Shelby carousel, named “Ben”

Target practice

Being my teammate for “Oregon Trail” board game

His most faithful friend

Do you see Dan Slayzdird back there???

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