The Absent-Minded Professor

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?”
“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.”


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.

  1. Kelly @ Love Well

    September 17, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    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.

  2. erin//suchsmallsteps

    September 17, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    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!

  3. Jen

    September 17, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    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.

    • whoorl

      September 17, 2012 at 4:47 pm

      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.

    • Lisa

      September 18, 2012 at 9:28 am

      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. Schmutzie

    September 17, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    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.

  5. Janet

    September 17, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    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.

  6. Rachel

    September 17, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    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?!?!

  7. Kristen Howerton

    September 17, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    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.

  8. brianne

    September 17, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    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. Amy Smith

    September 17, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    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!

  10. Caroline Cohenour

    September 17, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    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. Jill V. / TerraSavvy

    September 17, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    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.

  12. Luisa

    September 17, 2012 at 11:52 pm

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

  13. Dawn @ thedalaimama

    September 18, 2012 at 4:44 am

    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.

  14. Torrie @ a place to share...

    September 18, 2012 at 7:11 am

    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 :).

  15. gorillabuns

    September 18, 2012 at 7:11 am

    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.