Tonawanda News

November 10, 2013

DOUBLE TROUBLE: The art of raising originals

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — A few weeks ago, I posted this on Facebook:

Sam: “Mommy, we painted at school today!”

Me: “Cool! What did you paint?”

Sam: “I painted a vulture firing torpedoes!”

Me: “...”

The comment drew lots of amused responses and jokes from my Facebook friends, most of whom know Sam and his already-established and somewhat quirky sense of imagination.

Personally, I’m still a bit nonplussed. And I wonder what his teacher thought. Not sure where the vultures came from, although I suspect the torpedoes originated from some form of Star Wars lore. Why did he put them together? Why not? 

I wind up saying that a lot about my boys.

We’re raising originals. And I love it, even while I’m a bit intimidated by it at times. They’re not afraid to love what they love and do what they do, with little worry or concern that it’s not the cool thing at the time. I hope they keep that conviction.

I grew up a geek girl in a time when it wasn’t — at least somewhat — cool to be a geek girl. Sam — already secure in the little-boy-acceptableness of Star-Wars-adoration — adds to that a love of Star Trek drawn from his parents, with a hefty dash of other stories. He lives in a world where the Millennium Falcon and the Enterprise and the Reliant and the Planet Killer — see Star Trek — fly through space to attack the Death Star, and Indiana Jones, Spider-Man, Agent P and Peter Pan might well be on the bridge. Oh, and there are Klingons. Sam thinks Klingons are cool.

Now that I think of it, that might be where “vultures firing torpedoes” comes from. Or maybe not. 

He’s a bit less pop-culture-inspired, but Jim has his quirks too. Oh, does he have his quirks.

He’s obsessed with water. He’ll watch it for hours if I let him get away with it. A fountain and a handful of pennies is heaven for as long as they last. Then he’ll watch, gaze focused on the spray, thinking Jimmy-thoughts, for as long as I let him.

I’d give a lot to know what’s going through his mind there. But that’s for him to know and maybe he’ll let me in on it — eventually.

Jim likes other kids — on his terms. Or he might be off by himself in a middle of a crowd, communing with whatever music he might be able to hear, or any water in sight, or whatever random item or toy he’s interested in at the moment. The looks he gives his social-butterfly brother can be hysterical. 

And on the music thing, anything sung to him by his father is his favorite. This led to having to explain to one preschool teacher that the little jingle he kept singing was not a nursery rhyme — it was a German drinking song. But he adapts to his favorite pop culture icons, as well, as in his rendition of Sesame Street’s “People in Your Neighborhood” in which Spock, Chewbacca and Sam were all living in the same — rather unique — community.

So how do you raise originals?

I’m no expert. But as far as I’m concerned, you just let them be themselves. You encourage their quirkiness. You celebrate their imagination.

Yes, we’re raising originals. And while it’s not always easy, at least it’s never, ever boring.

•••

Why does 9 sound so much older than 8?

It’s just 364 days. It’s not any longer than 2 to 3, or 6 to 7 .... or 38 to 39. But it feels longer. 

By the time you’re reading this, I’ll have a 9-year-old son. Frankly, that somehow makes me feel older than my upcoming 40th birthday. Nine. How can that be?

I remember 9. Third grade, with my very-favorite teacher of my elementary school career. I remember school. I remember friends. And because it’s me, I remember books I first read that year. If I recall correctly, that includes two of my very favorites to this day: E.B. White’s “The Trumpet of the Swan” and Robert C. O’Brien’s “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.”

Jim can’t read those yet. But I can read them to him. And I will. 

Happy birthday, buddy. Hope it was wonderful.

Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at jill.keppeler@tonawanda-news.com. Follow her on Twitter @JillKeppeler.