Resolved

June 14,2011
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

Swim team timed trials for the new season were held this past Saturday. The kids did great--especially L., whose attention at practice these past few weeks has been a little hit or miss, to put it lightly. I've spent many, many afternoons now watching from a pool chair while he spins and dunks himself in the water distracted by even the spatter of water against the lane markers. The kids around him get too close, clustered together on one side of the lane and he often lashes out, verbally, a coping "skill" I know he learned from school. A parent has already called to complain about L.'s behavior at swim practice. I felt my hackles rise when I heard about this, and it took me one full day to begin to let it go. That's progress though, I thought. I've been working hard on this.

On Saturday morning, though, L. had it all together. I watched him dive from the block and strike out as he hit the water and I felt so proud of him. I thought to myself, not for the first time, imagine what he could do if he put his mind to it because there is always, always this thought behind everything I see L. do. He is capable of so much, yet so much holds him back.

How do you tap into that? How do you find the magic key to turn, releasing all that potential into the world?

One of the things I'm afraid of the most is that my son will move through life barely skimming the surface of all he's capable of doing. And everyone around him won't see the possibilities inside of him, the way we do. He's been like this from Day 1 almost--easily frustrated, spinning between interests and pursuits like a top, crashing against one or two along the way, but never immersing himself fully enough to make the thing his own.

Buoyed by his success at the timed trials we returned home to find a message on our voicemail from a woman who runs a children's program both L. and T. are involved in. She wanted to talk about L., and about how he's been acting a little less-than-respectful as she put it, tactful as always. I felt my spirits sink, taking with them for just a moment my pride in L.'s achievements that morning. But I saw that happening, and I pushed the pride back up to the surface again, so it could breathe, and flourish. I've been working hard on this.

I get weighed down a  lot, by what I know other parents must think about L., or about our parenting skills (or lack thereof, they might be thinking) and I let all that eat away at me. I let it get in the way of my own enjoyment of L.'s successes. This will be the summer I let that all go, I've vowed.

We have a long, long, list of goals to work on this summer with L. We have our work cut out for us, in many ways.

But I have a list of goals for myself, too. This will also be the summer I work on my own baggage, because I owe it to myself. I owe it to L.