Owen: They put fireworks in your milk at school daddy.
One of the best gifts I've given my kids is creativity. On the one end of that scale is a wonderful imagination. To be able to have fun just making anything up and having fun with it. My daughter still holds that dear and I love it. No opportunity is missed to take the slightest stimulus and turn it into something hilarious. Such as her contention (after buying shoes for her toy dog her grandparents got her at Build-a-Bear - what a shocking money pit that place is) that somewhere in the mall is a store for dogs where they can dress up their humans. But the genius being their toy humans end up doing dog stuff - like eating out of a bowl or shitting in the garden. Didn't think it was the right time to bring up the fetish club two blocks over and how both those things are half-price specials on a Thursday night.
Anyhoo - I love that imagination. Her brother though has taken that flight of the imagination to the other end of the scale and quite often just talks endless bollocks. And instead of a cheeky laugh and the understood notion that it's all for fun insists it's true. Such as the fireworks in milk thing. He scowled when I suggested that wasn't true. He also insisted one of the kids in his class is a dinosaur. And - more troubling - confessed that he'd persuaded one girl at school that there's such a being as the Poo Pixie that works very much along the same lines as the Tooth Fairy. I can't imagine the level of disappointment in that girl's house this morning when her parent's discover she's had a shit under her pillow. Followed quickly by the kid's despair that doing so didn't earn her twenty five cents. The thing, is I'm somewhat sure I've joked about the Poo Pixie in the past to him. Which might mean that is actually my fault. I mean I am aware that apropos of nothing I will spout utterly inane nonsense to almost anyone when I think of it. For example I remember in work on Friday someone mentioned the new James Bond movie. And instantly I started rambling that now Bond is grittier and Bourne-esque that presumably a side-story of the new movie will involve Daniel Craig contacting all the women he's knobbed in the last four films to inform them he's got an STD and they should probably get checked. It's just that while it's obvious I'm having a laugh that my son might actually think it's funnier to claim that sort of nonsense is actually true.
My kids have been at school for just over two weeks. My daughter is - as expected - loving it. My son took to it like a duck to water. He gushed and gushed about doing crafts, playing in the gym, being invited to parties and getting to talk endlessly about Minecraft to people who simply can't get away. He wore a huge, happy grin that first week and a half. Especially as his teacher kept remarking what a shockingly good boy he was. But then a funny thing happened. It's as if someone sat him down and said, "This is cool right? Loads of new friends. Fun stuff to do. Pizza for lunch every damn day if you want it. Here's what The Man isn't telling you though. You have to do this for the next thirteen years." At which point he presumably (and continuing the water-fowl theme) muttered the very English phrase, ".....well fuck a duck." His unspoiled, perfect-child record has a few plummets from a One Star (basically the teacher couldn't ask for any better) to a Three. Normal and expected. It is only week three. And it's not like he's showing signs of mentalism like the kid in my daughter's Kindergarten class in New York who threw a pair of scissors at the bus driver. Scissors he'd stolen from art class. And then when he saw the buses pull up out the window had legged it out of class specifically to chuck them at the driver. And that was at the end of the year. I'm serious - that kid was so resistant to any rules laid down in class that he may actually have fucked a duck just to get out of helping put the toys away.
Anyway - the point is that it is expected. It's quite an adjustment. And as stubborn and driven by emotion as his sister is (translation: has been known to instantly flip into Cthulu-levels of murderous, demonic rage) he is a lot more stubborn. If he doesn't want to do something then he won't. His sister is driven even more by pragmatism. She can be tormented by her emotional side. But she'll know that from a Big Picture perspective that she may have to just do things she doesn't especially want to. Hence choosing friends with bullied kids because it just seemed unfair. And knowing she'll endure crappy treatment but being okay with that temporary sadness because in the end two people will be happier in the long run. Of course she had to work and age to get to that. When she was five there were inexplicable moments when she'd vault over the couch to rip me apart like a bread roll. Which made the dichotomy between her unbelievable good behavior, weird superhero-levels of intellect and unexpected eruptions of satanic rage even starker. This is a girl who - and I swear there was no indication or logical reason behind it - was once given sour gummy worms whilst in the back of the car by her mother and instantly started throwing them at her and screaming, "why does everybody have to be mean all the time."
Owen though - he's five. Once that emotion wells up he's paralyzed. I used to mention often how years ago he'd get chocolate or cream on his fingers and be absolutely unable to move. Mouth clamped open like a hypnotized snake. I'd find him stood in the kitchen - trying to alert me with his eyes whilst at the same time trying not to let the melted chocolate know he was calling for help lest it go batshit and heaven forefend claim another finger - stood statuesque until I cleaned him up. And no reasoning whatsover could release him from the horror of knowing his finger was dirty. "You could just....lick it off?" The number of times I made this point whilst looking at a terrified boy traumatized by the near-fatal melted-chocolate-on-finger nightmare he'd just endured. With chocolate smeared all over his face (apparently that didn't count though). Of course then he'd go outside and sit in an enormous mud puddle and literally pour buckets of river water and mud down his underpants. Consistency wasn't important, apparently.
Still I've been told by his teacher that a couple of times he's become upset and nobody can get him to do anything. And any persuading or demanding goes from pointless to problematic when he just breaks down in an emotional heap like a teenage Brony kid who has just discovered that his hormone-driven fourth wank of the day ended up landing on his favorite Twilight Sparkle plush doll. Evidently the only person who can snap him out of that standing-still and boiling into a sobbing mess is me. And then only by getting right down to his height, telling him it's okay and he's allowed to feel what he's feeling - and then he still has to let out the angry, crying, flailing-limbs intensity of five year old's feelings.
And as his Dad I want to go help him. I don't want him to be tormented. Stood in his classroom knowing he doesn't want to do something because it sounds scary. And because someone is making him and his Dad said school really isn't all that scary that everyone is mean, Dad might be a liar and that can't be true but right now it feels like it and all all he wants to do is go home. But that can't happen. Not for hours. And this horrible feeling might happen every day. For thirteen more years. But I also know that the best thing for him is to suffer a few more of these episodes and learn that it's okay. It's a really weird thing to know as a parent that a major element of growing up is learning that sometimes pain is necessary and that you are going to get sad - and that it's how you deal with it that counts. Written like that it seems warped. I only realized that feeling overwhelmed to the point of sadness isn't a weakness about five years ago. And as a nearly-forty year old adult there are plenty of moments where I've thought that I just can't take it and I want to run.
And then last night we sat and did homework. I'll just briefly say it's shocking how much a five year old gets. It's at bare minimum 45 minutes a night. But during that - as he sat on my lap on the floor - he became so happy when he could read a word he didn't know a month ago. Clearly felt such a level of achievement when he knew how to solve a problem. Moved from being slightly annoyed that even after school he was still expected to do work, to feeling really happy that he knew how to do it. And that I got to see that he can too. And that's the point. So often the pain, the sadness, the discomfort - it's all worth it. It's all a part of growing. I'm no different at my age. There's lots that's uncomfortable. Lots that seems insurmountable and confusing and too strung out. But it's okay. It's just dealing with it, thinking things through, making choices and knowing that someone loves you beyond words and that in itself will help you get through those moments.
Plus I go back to work tomorrow and I'm fairly confident I can convince someone that the Poo Pixie is totally real by the end of the week.