The Crushing Pain of Conforming, aka, The Terrible Task of Parenting a Savage

Okay, this is one of those blogs, that inevitable one where a parent must write about their child. This is that one, I think. I’m never really sure until I get to the end.

This morning I was packing my son’s backpack and found his homework sheet that he’d (ahem, finally!) remembered to bring home from school. At first I got ready to get angry at him because I thought he’d forgotten again, that this was last week’s homework sheet and he’d forgotten to bring home the current one for the third time. Why? Because it was completed. Every blank space was filled in. Every math question answered. He had nothing to do but review.


This is not normal for my son. Homework is a struggle. School is a struggle. Sitting down for five goddamn minutes and paying attention to anything is a struggle. Except Lego and Video Games. He’s got that mastered to an art of hours-long mind-numbing focus.

Which is why I don’t think he’s ADHD. And why he’s not medicated. But also why some days I really wish he was if only to make the struggle that is school a little easier.

Why must school just be something to survive? To get through? Why must I dread going to pick up my son and facing the teacher to hear of the daily transgressions and messes he has accomplished while let loose among 29 other 7-year-olds who are also full of piss and vinegar.

But that’s part of the problem, isn’t it? They aren’t all ticking time bombs like mine. Some of them are quiet. Some of them are studious. Some of them aren’t regularly disrupting kids because they can’t contain their energy and wondering why they are in trouble. Some of them actually get their work done when they’re supposed and therefore are a teacher’s dream.

All of these children are considered normal. All of these children are the ones whom school was made for. Mine, on the other hand, must force himself to fit the mold, one he hates and can’t quite understand.

Now, I know he’s not the only one like this, the only one who just can’t keep the fiery beast inside, but some days it really feels like it. Some days I just wish the teacher would see him for who he is: a caring, energetic, SMART kid who tends to struggle with emotional control. Someone who just wants the other kids to like him and doesn’t want to be confined to a desk and mind numbing routines all day long. Someone who is easily led astray by shiny objects and promises of something a little more exciting than a math problem.

And I can’t really blame him. I myself am distracted by shiny objects. I myself live in the world of imagination and creativity that resides inside my head and hate to be forced into routine and activities that I have no interest in. Hell, that’s why I spend my days writing at the current rate of $0/word in the hopes that one day I might actually get paid for this because the thought of answering to a boss all day long makes me want to dive straight into a shallow pool of starving piranhas. And it is no different than my son, only he doesn’t have a choice. He must learn to conform and do the work and become like the other kids who are able to get their work done in a timely, quiet manner. He must color in the lines. He must crush the vibrant spirit that is within him and just do what he’s told.

And sadly, that is his future for the next sixteen years and beyond, depending what he chooses to do once he graduates. And I can’t help but think that every time I tell him to just focus and get his work done properly and quietly as he runs out the door, I’m asking him to be someone he’s not. Every morning as I give him his pep talk before he runs for the bus, no matter how I say it, I somehow or another tell him to basically be like everyone else. To crush his spirit and just play the part. Be someone the teachers will like. Someone who colors inside the lines and never questions what kind of worlds he can discover outside of them. Someone I’ve spent years trying to un-become.

Because isn’t that it? Don’t we all spend our school years trying to fit in and then spend the rest of our lives trying to undo the damage that has caused us? Don’t we now have to dig ourselves out of the confines of conformity and search for who we are? For the person we have lost along the way? If that person can even be found at the end of it all?

Maybe today will be different. Maybe today instead of seeing a messy desk, the teacher will see a creative mind that views the world a little differently than her. And if she doesn’t, maybe today I’ll have the courage to see it. Maybe I’ll have the courage to rejoice over the fact that my son may not cut along the dotted line, but he sure makes my life a little more interesting, challenging though it may be. And then, we can go create our own worlds out of crayons or legos or paints and undo the daily damage of fitting in.

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