Friday, June 13, 2014

No Longer the Know-It-All

This week, my husband attended a retirement party for the director of his division. This man had interviewed my husband for his first position at the company, over 20 years ago, and my husband still remembers one of the questions the director had asked: What is the binary representation of the number eleven?

My husband had gone up to talk to the man at the party and relayed this little story to him, and was telling me and Ben about it when he came home. Before he could finish his story, though, Ben said, "Wait!" and started thinking. We could see the gears in his head turning, and his fingers working, keeping track of something as he calculated. After a minute or so, he said, "1011!"

"Huh?" I asked.

"The binary representation of 11!" he answered.

"Whoa!" my husband said. "That's right, Ben!" He was clearly as impressed as I was confused.

When they were babies, everything my kids learned came from me. We'd play, sing, move, go for walks and they'd learn about their world. Ben has always had a keen aptitude for math and science, so I shouldn't have been surprised at his math wizardry. What did surprise me was the realization that he knows things now--amazing things--that I could not have taught him.

It's so fascinating to watch children grow, mainly because it doesn't happen all at once. When we are adults, we go through experiences that help us to grow emotionally, and perhaps take classes so we can continue to grow academically and intellectually. But kids? They are doing it ALL, and all at the same time: physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, social and likely many more -als that I haven't even thought of. Think about how hard that must be!

But looking closely, I see that it comes in fits and starts. There may be an academic leap, and then a social setback. Or maybe after a social event or a big test, we'll be graced with an emotional meltdown to balance things out.

Every spring, as school winds down, my kids go a bit berserk. Their listening skills are skewed (I'm trying to be kind, as this is a family website), their language slips ("what did you just call him?"), their sleep and appetites are off and they are generally cranky little pills. I used to think it was allergies; as they got older, I attributed it to spring fever and the excitement of summer coming.

But I also began to notice that, just after this spring "spell" they go through, both my kids seem to have big emotional growth spurts in summer. Just a few weeks after I'm fretting over their being able to handle the next grade in school, they turn around and show me that they are more than ready.

The best part about all this growing? Watching how each element feeds off the others. When Ben wows us with something mathematical, he gets an emotional boost; that, in turn, makes him feel more confident, which spills over into his social life. When that puts him in a good mood, he's less likely to tick off his brother, and then Jacob treats him more like a peer, which feeds the fire even more.

My overall goal in this job as Mom is to work myself out of a job, and it's already happening. By outgrowing the need for my help in most areas of their lives, my kids can then go out and live productively and happily on their own. So when I get frustrated at a setback, I just need to remind myself that it's likely a precursor to yet another leap toward adulthood. They are keeping themselves in balance as they learn, change and grow. My boys won't be with me forever, I'll make sure of that. So I need to enjoy every moment as much as possible, both good and bad, as they continue to become the men they will one day be.