“So, did you bring any electronics?” Kendall asked as he hoped up on the exam table after the nurse left and before the doctor came in.
Frozen was playing on a TV in the exam room. A TV was playing a current movie. In the room. At a doctor’s office. I looked at him quizzically.
“Uhm, no. I mean, I have my phone, but it’s nearly dead. The doctor will be in soon anyway,” I replied.
“So you didn’t bring my Kindle Fire?” he innocently pressed.
Yes, we bought him a Kindle Fire for his 6th birthday. I got some kind of $50 off deal from Amazon last week, and in an exhausted haze thought, “Eureka! What our kid needs is another device with apps and games! Birthday present, check!”
In my defense, we’ve set the Kindle to only allow him to play the games (that we download for him) after he’s done an hour of reading. This kid is smart, but he also needs incentives. And if a Kindle Fire is going to get him fired up about reading books, I’m all for it.
Sometimes I’m convinced we’re failing him. Maybe we don’t discipline him enough, or the right ways, or we give in too easily. Maybe we’re “those parents” who allow their kids to play apps while out to dinner so we can carry on a grown up conversation. Maybe we’re part of “the problem,” whatever that is.
A lot of other times I feel pretty good about how we’re handling things, though. I’ve learned with Kendall that we can’t force him to do things. I mean, I guess we can, but we might also get arrested for trying. So there’s a lot of reward charts, and rock jars, and devices that make him think that reading an ebook is more fun than a paper book.
Book purists, please don’t hate me. I assure you we have MANY books made of actual paper. And we read them. Often.
The point is he’s reading. The point is we are trying as hard as we can to instill a love of learning, and to encourage his natural curiosity, and to help him succeed in a school environment where he often gets into minor trouble for talking too much and not sitting still.
I’ve come to accept that there likely won’t be an age with him where he hits a switch and stops being challenging. Each year he pushes us, frustrates us, and forces us to rethink our entire strategy. With him, I don’t think we’ll ever be able to coast through parenting.
I don’t say that as a bad thing. This boy who made me a mother has shaped me into a version of myself that I am quite proud of today. All his grit and toughness has washed over us again and again, wearing us down, smoothing out our rigid edges, breaking us in. I think we are more comfortable because of him, like a well worn leather sofa.
Every year, I remember how my very first Mother’s Day was spent with him at the ER at 4 in the morning because he was crying so hard and I just could. not. make. him. stop. There was nothing “wrong” with him. He was just… mad? Colicky? Introducing himself to me?
I think of all the things I didn’t know then, and still managed to keep him alive. I’m acutely aware of all I still don’t know, and yet he still thrives.
This weekend, there is much to celebrate. Kendall’s 6th birthday party is tomorrow, Mother’s Day is on Sunday. He is healthy, and his spirit is full of fire. I am healthy, and full of gratitude.