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. whoorl

    September 18, 2012 at 7:43 am

    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

  2. Roxanna

    September 18, 2012 at 7:45 am

    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.


    You should also read “Quiet” — in fact, I insist that you do!

  3. Iowamom

    September 18, 2012 at 8:13 am

    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!

  4. Lisa H.

    September 18, 2012 at 8:36 am

    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!

  5. ciaran blumenfeld

    September 18, 2012 at 8:40 am

    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

  6. Keri

    September 18, 2012 at 9:05 am

    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 : )

  7. Elizabeth

    September 18, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    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.

  8. Sarah

    September 23, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    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!

  9. dana828

    September 28, 2012 at 6:44 am

    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.