The Absent-Minded Professor

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I am having a hard time wrapping my brain around first grade. I mean, FIRST GRADE. First grade is the real deal. Wito is growing up so fast, yet still needs me so much, and finding that balance between standing back and being there for him (letting him order his own food, yet still wiping his face with a napkin…allowing him to use the boys changing room at the pool, yet him needing me to pull up his wet swim trunks that won’t budge) is such a learning curve.

It’s just a strange time. (For me, that is. Wito couldn’t be happier.)

We changed school districts this year, so I’ve been a ball of nerves about Wito making friends. He is such an eternal optimist and dreamer, that kid. Always so excited about seeing new places and people, yet blissfully unaware of feelings of rejection or nervousness or animosity. He’s the type of kid who says things like (just yesterday), “It’s just a wonderful day for swimming, isn’t it?” and remarking that everything around him is just so fun and exciting. (I will never forget landing in the Oklahoma City airport last Christmas. Wito, the kid who has grown up amidst forever blue skies, palm trees and ocean breezes, stepped off the plane, looked around, and said, “this is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.”)

Now, all of these traits are absolutely endearing, but you know, it’s not the most typical typical first grade boy behavior. There is a prevailing “coolness” that starts to fester within a lot of boys at this age…and that’s just not Wito’s forte. Coupled with such a bright and complex brain that NEVER stops churning out ideas and daydreams and elaborate schemes, he can seem a bit lost in his thoughts at times. (Okay, okay. REALLY lost in his thoughts. The boy…he has a lot of thoughts. Wonder where he got that from?)

The Absent-Minded Professor.

While chatting with a loving teacher from his previous school last month, she used that term to describe him, and it was like a total Oprah a-ha moment. YES. THAT IS MY SON. Exactly.

So how’s the Absent-Minded Professor doing at his new school? According to him, great! Things couldn’t be better!

“How was school today?”
“Great!”
“Did you meet any new people?”
“Ummm, I’m not sure. Maybe?”
“How was lunch? Did you sit with any friends from class?”
“No. I just sat with people I didn’t know.”
“Did you all talk about anything?”
“No. I just sat at the end and ate my lunch alone. I was very hungry, and I was thinking about stuff.”

CUE MAMA BEAR HEART RIPPING OUT OF CHEST.

But here’s the thing. He’s okay with it. Hell, he’s great with the way things are. Just yesterday, while we were swimming at our neighborhood pool, I watched him happily splashing around by himself, daydreaming of who knows what while a group of boys played at the other end. I briefly felt a little pang that he wasn’t playing with them, but I got it. I understood. Because next to to the group of boys were all the moms chatting and laughing…and where was I? Sitting under an umbrella across the pool, reading a a book, and well, thinking about things. Perfectly content.

He will find his tribe, like we all do. I just need to stand back (yet be there!) and let him find his way.



COMMENTS (26)

Comments

  1. My oldest started sixth grade this year. SIXTH GRADE! All I can say it: I relate to every bit of this, always and still. It’s hard to watch your kids grow up and not project onto them. But it’s the struggles that make us. Growing up is learning to let them do it on their own.
    Kelly @ Love Well recently posted…The Joke

  2. I can relate to this so much. My daughter just started kindergarten and I ask her daily who she played with, if she talked to anyone new, if she has friends at her aftercare program. I can’t get a good sense of what her social life is there so far, but she seems happy so I’m trying my best to just let it go and trust that she’s fine. She’s almost six so we definitely are in that weird stage where she feels very adult and independent but I still see her as a little one!
    erin//suchsmallsteps recently posted…Mom on a Mission: Estelle of Pink Moon Daily

  3. Ohhh, yes. Do not fear. My guy spent his 1st grade recesses walking around by himself. When I asked him why he didn’t play with friends, he explained that he needed the “alone” time to think and decompress from the jostly classroom. Playing with his buddies, which he had no problem making since he was easy-going, came in time. He found (thankfully!) other boys whose minds never quit and who loved to chat about all the goings-on up there. He’s 11 now with great friendships. Your fella will be just fine, and his intelligence and optimism will serve him well – very attractive qualities. First grade, first kid, my heart goes out to you. :) In our experience, the absent-minded professor tendency hasn’t diminished, and there are many incredibly beautiful things about it. Things that the world needs more of.

    • I so agree about the absent-minded professor tendency – there are so many beautiful and surprising elements to it, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I truly believe these kind of inventive minds belong to the ones that make incredible change in the world!

      Really enjoyed reading this comment, Jen.

    • Really great point about needing to decompress from the group at recess. My oldest is in 1st grade and we do the daily “who did you play with” and it is so frustrating to hear she just played on the swings alone. But maybe that’s what she needs right now. She does know a lot about her classmates (she is a quiet and very observant child) and has a “boyfriend” so she can’t be doing too bad. Right?

      I would HIGHLY recommend the book “Quiet” http://www.amazon.com/Quiet-Power-Introverts-World-Talking/dp/0307352145/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1347985677&sr=8-1&keywords=quiet it really opened my eyes to how my daughter processes things.

  4. This is how I was as a kid, and I still am now, and I love these kinds of stories. I am so glad he’s got a parent who gets it. He’s blessed.
    Schmutzie recently posted…A Fairly Brief Video Tour of Our New, Partially Re-Painted Home

  5. Oh, I love this post. My boys are coming soon, and I wonder so much what they’ll be like one day. Wito is lucky to have you as his mama.
    Janet recently posted…where the children shall sleep through the night

  6. Gahhhh this just slays the momma in me. I know what you’re saying about knowing that they will eventually find their own tribe. It’s just the finding it that makes me nervous because I know how long it took me to find mine.

    Why is this parenthood thing so freakin’ hard?!?!
    Rachel recently posted…Before & After: Grandmother’s Vintage Buffet

  7. We are sooo cut from the same cloth, because these are the very questions I ask my kids every day after school. (Screw the learning, did you play with someone???) And yet, I am so the loner mom with the book.

    Of course, Wito always has a cheering section of kids who think he’s a celebrity at the Howerton house.
    Kristen Howerton recently posted…the biggest first world problem ever: cleaning before the housekeeper comes

  8. My oldest (who is in second grade) is much like Wito. Happy, sweet, and is also unaware of rejection, animosity, etc. He sees the best in every situation and each person. I was afraid that sending him to school would change him into a typical boy, but i’ve been so happy to see that like has attracted like. His best friend is so nice and sweet, someone I would’ve totally chosen to be his best pal.
    It is so difficult to stand back. But sometimes letting go (just a little teeny tiny bit!) can show us awesome things about our kiddos.

  9. This post could be about my oldest, literally, word-for-word. He has always been super enthusiastic about life and super chatty. He says the quirkiest things for his age and just seems to be in his own little word. He’s definitely not the cool kid who is into sports or super heros. He still loves Pixar with a passion. While he loves playing with other kids, he equally loves playing in his own imaginary world :) He just started first grade at a new school this year as well and I have been interrogating him every day the minute he gets in the car with the same questions, “Who did you play with? Who did you sit by?” He doesn’t seem to care that the friendships are coming a little more slowly and seems completely content, but every day I freak out a little bit that he’s going to be labelled even at this early age. But when I think about it, I don’t remember really caring that much about friends and who was cool at that age. I definitely think I’m projecting as mothers the crap I went through in our middle school and high school years and think our he’s walking into a class of “mean girls”. When in reality, I think most 6 year olds are probably in their own world. This is just the beginning of me needed to trust the love we’re pouring into them is going to help them through the ups and downs in the years to come!
    Amy Smith recently posted…open handed

  10. OHMAHGAH I LOVE YOU BOTH SO MUCH. You know the reason he’s comfortable in his own skin and will create the most amazing amazingness in his life? Because you and D support and embrace his Witoness. Makes me love all of you even more! What a cool kid. (What a fab mama!)

  11. This describes my second/middle child – Cole, exactly (and me too!). He is 7 and in second grade, still in his own little worl of creativity and oh so friggin’ bright!! And SO content with all of it.

    The heart pangs never go away!

    I too would be under the umbrella, alone reading! A loner at heart.
    Jill V. / TerraSavvy recently posted…New Blog Design!

  12. This post made me cry. So bittersweet and lovely. That’s all.

  13. Parenting is such a complex task–letting go, helping, etc. As they get older we have to let them lead us a bit (and I think that is especially hard for moms). My kids are super social (I’m not) and my son–also in First Grade (it is so hard to believe) is one of the kids everyone wants to play with. So our struggles are different but equally hard. He often gets pulled between several friends who are territorial and he doesn’t understand why one gets mad when he plays with the other or why they all get mad when he plays with someone else.

    The wanting our kids to be happy is hard to manage-because we look at it with an entire lifetime of experience and they look at it “now” and “in the moment.” Learning to let them have their “now” is hard.
    Dawn @ thedalaimama recently posted…Pitfalls of Private School #2543

  14. i love this for so many reasons.

    the beautiful son that you have… the complex nature of helping/backing off in parenting (it does not get easier :()… you sitting under an umbrella- in your own little world (oh, i can so relate to that one)… most of all, worrying about your son in social situations. mine is pretty quiet, deep, funny (but in a you’ve-gotta-get-to-know-him-first way), sensitive, cautious- even though he’s one of those kids that everybody “likes”, ‘social’ hasn’t always come easy for us. so i GET it :).
    Torrie @ a place to share… recently posted…Forging ahead.

  15. I understand this all too well. I so wish someone would have told me being a mother is hard and heartbreaking in the same breath. Wito is a wonderfully bright, sensitive and kind child. The world needs more of these little dudes.

  16. I just have to say – thank you so much for these insightful, caring and wise comments. I’m so lucky to have such supportive friends and readers. xo

  17. I have an absent-minded professor, so I understand. I’m only linking to this post, because in it I link to two articles you must read. What you have is an orchid, and this can be a very good thing.

    http://blogs.babble.com/babble-voices/the-frog-and-snail-society-page-roxanna-et/2012/06/18/the-advantages-of-aspergers-adhd-dislexia/

    You should also read “Quiet” — in fact, I insist that you do!
    Roxanna recently posted…The Sleep Project

  18. The most important part of this whole thing is that he’s content. Inner confidence is something many search and strive for. Sounds like Wito’s got it!

  19. Wito sounds exactly like my almost 6 year old son. In fact, I think they would be great friends. They could have a perfectly lovely playdate reading books to themselves while sitting in the same room together and then come home and proclaim that they are Best Friends Forever! Totally!

  20. I love this. My son and my husband are known as the absent minded professors as well. Fox is how you describe Wito to a tee. When he switched schools last yr, we went to a meet and greet. One of the “cool” boys immediately started up a game of tag. He looked at Fox and said “You’re IT!” in a not nice way and urged the rest of the class to beat it, run away from new kid. I was the new mom standing alone too. I felt like IT, nobody was talking to me. I wanted to tell someone what a shit their son was. Heart in throat. But Fox was happily playing along, oblivious. He caught three kids and got them to be “it” with him. All last year he shook off that mean boy like rain on a slicker. He loves people, nature, storytelling, science. He does his own thing. He is nice. In a way it makes him bullyproof because his enthusiasm and open -ness is infectious. He doesn’t have to try to hard. He is unapologetically himself – bright, curious, kind and intellectual. I try to learn from him. I worry still (3rd grade) but slightly less. These are good gifts to have. I could tell Wito was that kind of kid too. He has a special light. xo
    ciaran blumenfeld recently posted…Gluten Free Lunch: Turkey Go Fig!

  21. I loved this post. You are such a strong mother… not wanting to get too wrapped up in your son’s school life but also being there for him when he needs you. I am taking notes! I have a 3 month old so I have a long way to go until she reaches the stage of first grade and making friends. However, I know it’s coming! And my heart would ache too (even shed a tear) if she was having trouble making friends at school. Aww! Hurts right now just to ponder the thought. But I just love how happy and content your son is about it all… it’s like he knows that whatever happens, he’ll be alright. I hope my little one will react the same if she is ever in this situation. Thanks for posting : )
    Keri recently posted…Good News // Promoting A Happier Monday

  22. This is exactly what I needed to read right now. Wito and my son seem to be cut from a very similar cloth (they are also, if I am not mistaken, just a few days apart in age, as well). It was only a couple of days ago that I was able to stop myself from feeling sad whenever I asked my son about lunchtime at school and he answered, “I sat with people I didn’t know, but it was good.” And then I ask him about recess and he would say, “I played by myself on the playground, but it was fun.” Spoken that simply, his school hours sound sort of sad and lonely, but if I know that, overall, his days are not nearly that cut and dry. Sometimes I have to remind myself that the ability to play and be alone is an important trait. Thanks for this.
    Elizabeth recently posted…Lemon Pancakes with Blueberry Sauce

  23. I love that Wito is so comfortable in his skin and his own thoughts. That will take him places!

    My son is pretty social, more so than mama, so he’s teaching me at thing or two and breaking me out of my shell a bit. I love how kids can do that!
    Sarah recently posted…My Kayak Adventure at “Turtle Town” in Makena, Maui

  24. Oh my, I can so thoroughly relate to this post! My son (now 9) was nicknamed the Absent-Minded Professor by his 2nd grade teacher, and it so totally fits his personality. He is incredibly smart, observant, curious, and yes, quite absent-minded as well. His mind is always working on something (these days it’s mostly focused on what the next Lego creation will be). He’s messy & unorganized to the point that it drives me crazy. He loves homework and music and does not really like sports. As such, he is not one of the “cool kids” and school, and does get picked on from time to time (talk about mama bear!!). But he is proud of who he is, and likes what he likes, and has found some good friends. He’s perfectly quirky, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.