Reed started campaigning for a guitar and guitar lessons this summer. I'm not sure how he got the idea, but if you know Reed, once he gets an idea, the idea becomes its own little universe that we all inhabit. He was tireless in making sure we all knew that learning guitar was the idea of the year.
So, finally, the day arrived.
First of all, in setting up the lessons, I had resisted a bad habit I've picked up of explaining and offering disclaimers for Reed. If I'm about to bring Reed to someone's house who hasn't met him, I usually say something along the lines of: "Just so you know, he's a little, um, wild," or "spirited," or "hyper." All true. One night at home we were talking about how quiet it was without the kids there. I said something about how Reed can be a little loud. Ellis said it isn't that Reed is actually loud in volume, it is that his whole being is loud. He fills a room. He makes his presence known. He touches and hugs a lot. He often falls out of his chair at dinner, and when we laugh, he does it again. Reed is the kid in 1st grade who sits with "the heavy turtle," a plush turtle stuffed with heavy beads, on his lap during circle time. The teacher is literally trying to anchor him to the floor.
I admit that Reed can sometimes be a tad tiring, and one of my tenderest spots as a mom is a fear that he is "too much" for others. But I had succeeded in consciously not saying anything about how "excitable" or "wiggly" Reed is to his guitar teacher before the first lesson.
Instead, I sat in the waiting area, on the other side of a thin wooden door of the guitar studio, and listened to Reed handling himself perfectly with this new adult. You know that old story/ urban legend about the new teacher who inherits the kindergarten class of kids who are known to be unruly and academically behind, but the new teacher is told they are brilliant and gifted, and so he treats them as such, and the kids respond accordingly? Well, I didn't go so far as to tell this teacher that Reed is a picture of good behavior and focus, but by not labeling him ahead of time, I had essentially allowed Reed to make his own first impression. The teacher spoke to Reed as if he were a mature and smart kid ready to learn to play guitar. And he was cooperative, attentive, and well behaved. In other words, he was a mature and smart kid ready to learn to play guitar.
The second revelation I had is that I often answer questions for Reed, or at least attempt to translate for him when he talks to other adults. Sometimes Reed makes obscure references to things he thinks everyone knows about, and I sometimes chime in and explain what he means. I was so aware, sitting on the other side of the door at guitar, that I couldn't answer for him. Because what kind of awkward mom move would that be to shout answers through the door? Thank goodness I resisted.
The teacher asked him the musical background of his family. I held my breath and listened. He answered that his sister "plays the piano," that "we have a piano in our home," and that his "Omom, which means grandmother, plays something that looks like a giant violin." A cello? "Yes, a cello. That's it. My grandmother plays the cello." He even knew that he needed to explain that Omom means grandmother.
I was impressed. Next, the teacher asked him what kind of music he likes to listen to. I immediately thought: he doesn't know how to explain that. I wanted to shout: "He likes pop tunes and boy bands! He likes Taylor Swift! He likes to sing from the bathtub: "We will never ever ever ever get back together!'"
He said: "Well, my favorite song is 'You Don't Know You're Beautiful' and I like the band "Big Time Rush" and I like all the songs in "Teen Beach Movie." Wow. Pretty good, Reed. I thought, surely the guitar teacher didn't know what he's talking about, as this movie is all the rage, but only with the 6-9 year old set. Next thing I heard was the teacher clicking on his computer and then, I heard the opening rifs to the "Teen Beach Movie" song that we have on repeat in the car. "This one?" Reed said: "YES!" He was thrilled. His guitar teacher was understanding and speaking his language.
Next the guitar teacher asked: "Can you read?" and I heard Reed say: "I read pretty well, but some words are hard for me."
Clearly, he was doing fine without me.
|Aw, bud. Your shoes are on the wrong feet. I mean: I love you. You're perfect.|
This might just be one of those truly classic parenting moments, me realizing that my baby is growing up and doesn't need me as much as I think he does. I don't need to speak for him or apologize for him. I'm proud of the little person he is, and have learned that I don't want him to be any other way than how he is. After all, he is thriving in first grade and hardly even needs help with his homework. He has a ton of friends and his teacher describes him as a "great kid."
On Tuesdays when Skyler is at piano lessons, Reed and I sit and talk in a nearby cafe, and every-other week, I let him get a whoopie pie. I adore this time with him. When he's alone away from an audience whom he feels he must impress, he is so calm and fun to be around. He tells me stories about school, or asks me questions about the world's biggest roller coasters, or when I think maybe he could get an electric guitar, and I listen.
I always say that the best gift my dad gave to me growing up is that he was the world's best listener. He would let me go on and on, talking about my world and would only ask questions to encourage me or validate me, never speak over me or for me.
That thin wooden door to the guitar studio has been good for me. It is forcing me to sit back and observe my little one thriving in the world, to give up a little bit of control. And when the door opens and he comes out of his guitar lesson, he is so smiley and proud and happy, and once we are out the front door, the wiggling begins again.