In a lot of ways, I’m grateful that my kids are nothing like me. I’m the most disorganized person in the world. Messy. Distractible. I can’t draw. I can’t keep cupboards organized. I lose socks. I can’t balance checkbooks. Forms confuse me. I sometimes lose steam on projects due to crushingly low self-esteem. I didn’t do that great in school and I royally sucked at standardized tests. The things I could do well in childhood (and if we’re being honest, adulthood too) fit on an index card: tell stories, talk about stories, sing songs and make people feel wonderful about themselves. That’s pretty much it.
My kids, though. They are not like me at all. They are focused. Intense. Wicked smart. And crazily organized. So where does that come from? How does a So Not Type-A She’s Practically Type-Z And If There Was A Past-Type-Z She’d Be That mom give rise to three very Type-A kids. Even Leo – my sweet Leo! – if viewed through the lens of third-grade-boydom is pretty dang Type-A. He keeps his drawings organized and his magic cards organized and his Scouts stuff organized, and he does his homework the SECOND he gets home so he can check it off on his checklist. He’s even starting to organize his legos. (Good luck, kid.)
But of the three, it’s my middle child who is not just Type-A. She’s Type-A+. We went to her parent teacher conference the other day, and got to hear her teacher gushing about how organized she is, what a leader she is, how she comes up with creative ways to make even dry subject matter come alive. How she organizes other students into schemes to enrich the class – skits, songs, interpretive dance, all with an eye to making learning interesting and collaborative and fun.
“Yep,” I said. “Of my three kids, she’s the one who was born to run things.”
“My guess is that she’ll be my boss someday,” her teacher said. “Or maybe she already is.”
At home, she writes up schedules for the family. She makes goal statements. She starts making homemade Christmas presents in July. She is eleven for god’s sake, and she’s already written out the christmas cookie baking schedule.
We are going out East this year for Thanksgiving – something that we usually don’t do, but it was the only time to get Ted’s side of the family all together. And because it’s not the usual time that we travel, it kind of snuck up on me this year. I was eating dinner with the kids, and my oldest remarked that she has a two-day week next week.
“What?” I said. “Why?”
“Thanksgiving, mom,” my oldest said.
“Are you sure it’s November?” I said. I had honestly forgotten. All three rolled their eyes.
“Mom,” they sighed.
“Huh,” I said. “Well. I suppose you guys should pack this weekend. Then you won’t have to do it after school when you’re crazed.”
“You should pack too, Mom,” said my middle child.
“I totally will,” I assured her. But I won’t. I am physically unable to pack before T-minus-five-minutes. I make sure everyone else is packed, and I check their bags to do a socks-and-underwear-count and that there are enough sweaters. For myself, I shove stuff in a bag and hope for the best.
“Well,” my middle said. “I’m already packed.”
“Really?” I said. “We don’t leave for a week.”
“I’ve been packed for a while.”
“Maybe three.” She blushed. “I like to make sure the things I want are clean. And maybe I’ll forget what I like to have when it’s almost time to go. I also packed my activity bag. They’re under my bed. I made a list for you, Mom.”
What kind of crazy person packs in advance? My own little crazies, that’s who. They did not get this tendency from me, and they certainly didn’t get it from their dad. They arrived – a crystalline distillation of their Utter Selves, hard, bright, whole, and completely separate from me. And I love this about them, even as it makes my heart break to pieces. They are growing. Even as we sit at that table, they are light and cloud and wind. Energy. Change. Potentialities. They are growing wings. And they will fly away.
(this thing that I have. this life. it will pass away. indeed, it is passing already. and oh, my heart, and oh, my heart, my heart, my heart.)
“You think I’m weird, don’t you,” she accused.
“No, darling. You’re the most normal thing in my life. I’m the weird one. Good thing I have you.”
(What will I do without you? whispers my heart.
I have no idea, I whisper back.)