Last Monday marked the 100th day of second grade for Max.
In the weeks leading up to the day, emails were sent encouraging parents to send their children to school dressed as if they were 100 years old. In theory, I think the idea is adorable. I love seeing pictures on social media of kids with suspenders, white hair, cardigans and canes. Some of these kids take the assignment really seriously and the end results are kind of works of art. But in practice? Holy cow.
The amount of effort it takes is overwhelming. I was grateful for Max’s previous teachers who asked their students to put 100 of something into a bag and bring it to school. So easy with minimal participation required from me which I could provide comfortably from the couch. It is very easy to supervise the counting of 100 Legos.
As is usually the case when I receive notice of upcoming creative school projects, I started to get a bit antsy. I am very good at supplying sugar cookies (in a variety of shapes, mind you), themed napkins, little bottles of water and basic crafts. In fact, at this very moment I have two jars of red pink and white sprinkles in my bag (that I’ve been carrying around for the better part of two weeks) for the Valentine’s Day party at school tomorrow. But anything that requires me to be creative is way outside of my wheelhouse and instead of trying to summon my muse– because, let’s face it, I know she won’t answer — I usually end up hoping that the other kids in Max’s class have parents with unresponsive muses too.
But that’s never how it works out.
So after reading the first email about the 100th day of school, I decided that I would commit to making Max look as cute and old as possible. I researched the best way to make his hair white, scoured my husband’s closet for clothes and pulled out an old cane from the closet that I hope was left behind by the previous owners of the house because otherwise I have no idea how it got there. And while I hesitate to say that I got totally into the whole thing, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
Max, on the other hand, was definitely not into it.
When I called him downstairs to tell him with great enthusiasm – some of which was actually genuine– of the upcoming 100th day of school celebration, he looked at me flatly, blinked his pale blue eyes a few times and said, simply and matter-of-factly:
For a moment I was annoyed that all of my invested time had been wasted. But then I started to worry that Max didn’t want to participate in the event.
Because now-that-I-think-about-it, it’s not just the 100th day of school. He also does not participate in pajama day, or follow the themed-days during Spirit Week, or want to march in the Halloween parade wearing his costume. And for someone like me who had an intense need to fit in and do what everyone else was doing when I was Max’s age, this kind of behavior simply does not make so, of course, it must mean that something is wrong.
My head started to get spinny as I (over)analyzed Max’s response.
“Are you sure you don’t want to dress up, bud? It sounds like it’ll be fun,” I said to him. In my head, at least, I sounded calm.
“Yup. No thanks.”
There it was again. No thanks!
“Really?” My voice started to get pitchy. “I think everyone else will dress up and I don’t want you to feel left out.”
I have no idea if appealing to the parent version of “all my friends are doing it so why can’t I” was the appropriate approach. I was basically trying to pressure my son into doing something he clearly did not want to do, and while I believe that to be the majority of parenting, I’m not sure it was a good idea. Regardless, it didn’t work. Max’s response stunned me silent.
“I’m sure, Mama. I am comfortable in my own skin and don’t need to do what everyone else is doing. I am confident and capable and content with the person that I am, and yes, the alliteration was intentional. I have good friends who don’t care if I dress up or not. And by the way, you’re doing a great job of raising me. I know you constantly question whether you’re making the right choices or if you are equipping me with the tools necessary to get through life. But I appreciate your efforts and I know I will grow up to be a happy, well-adjusted adult and a productive member of society. And I will also make sure that one of us takes you in when you get old.”
Actually, what he said was:
“I’m fine, Mama. You don’t need to worry about me so much.”
But he said it with such conviction and self-assurance that I backed off.
Max may have opted not to dress like a 100 year old man that day, but the little person standing in front of me was far more mature than a seven year old. I guess I just have to learn to let him take the lead sometimes.
I smiled and tried to land a quick kiss on his cheek, but he spun around quickly and sprinted back up the stairs to continue whatever destructive activity I had interrupted. And I swear that under his breath, he said: