Jewel E. Leonard
What I Wish for My Son (revisited)
As you may or may not know, this is not my first website. (I've lost count of how many I've had, to be honest.) My most recent site was on the receiving end of a hacker's attack and with the absolute lack of help I received from my prior host, was rendered unusable and unsalvageable so I walked away. In the last couple months, the registration and all that crap lapsed and I think it now belongs to someone else. Whatever, may they have better luck with it than I did. (And if they think I'm going to cough up any money to retrieve it, well, HAHAHAHAHAHAHA NO.)
Anyway, I accepted its fate and took the opportunity--with my husband's expertise and assistance--to build something vastly improved (this website) with what appears to be a much better web host. Unfortunately, with that attack, I lost access to all my content, which I also accepted seeing as it's my responsibility to make back-ups, which I didn't. I guess this shows how much it really didn't matter to me as I do back up my writing. A lot. (I'm not obsessive or anything but I save my manuscript file every time I hit enter, and back up the file to a cloud service every hour or so while I'm actively working on it.)
The thing is, there was one particular blog post I loved, the one that got far and away the most response on my website and across social media. (It wasn't a whole lot of action, mind you, but it was a lot for me!)
My husband Scott, the miracle worker he is, suggested revisiting that post to help me restart my stagnant blog and I thought we could share it once I found the one backup I managed to resurrect sometime in the last year. Of course, that old file was nowhere to be found. But as I said at the start of this paragraph, my husband is a miracle worker. What follows is the post he managed to reconstruct, text, photos, formatting and all. For those of you who've been following me for a while, you may remember this post. For those of you who are new, this is a great little introduction into my life. Why I'm sharing it here and now will follow at the bottom.
So without further ado, What I Wish for My Son:
In general, I don’t talk much about my son’s antics. It isn’t that he (and his adventures) aren’t worth sharing. It’s just that, as he is more-or-less neurotypical, I imagine his experience, and mine mothering him, aren’t unique. If you want to read blogs about “normal” little boys, there are countless out there. Kaela’s journey is different, and even among those with microcephaly, her experience is unique to her; that is why I share it more than anything else. But this blog update, the day following an exciting Mother’s Day, is about my son.
Last Tuesday, I watched many children going into Wyatt’s elementary school. During that drop-off, I had the exceptional good fortune of witnessing something I may not soon forget. Something (unfortunately) rare.
He was a tall elementary school student, walking by himself to school, except that he wasn’t alone. His glasses-clad face was crammed into the pages of a thick, hard-cover book. I couldn’t see either cover, but the pages over which his brown hair hung were without illustration. Just text. I found myself wondering if he was reading The Hunger Games, or the well-known “gateway drug” of children’s love of reading, Harry Potter.
I watched this boy for a few moments (not long enough to feel like—or be seen as—creepy stalker mom) before retreating to the car. On the “nothing drive” home, as Wyatt refers to it, I reflected on my son. He is one of the older children in his kindergarten class (though months from being the oldest) and is currently reading at a second or third grade level. As I understand it (because as other parents of children his age may know, everything is a competition), no one in his class reads books as advanced as he does.
Wyatt adores being read to, and while he doesn’t stumble over words, he reads aloud quietly. He mumbles. The first time we actually got him to read out loud to us was only after the school year started this past August, and we had to trick him into doing it. “Your baby sister would love for you to read to her!”
To this day, I’ve no idea from where his lack of confidence in reading stemmed, but it was not because we in any way criticized (we didn’t), or cruelly corrected his errors (like hell I would; I know how awful that feels), and I’m reasonably assured he was not teased in class. If he had been, it would have been for his being a stronger reader than his peers, and he is smart enough to know that he was being teased for being ahead, rather than behind. (Aren’t children great?)
Anyway, I was pleased with my little trick of having him read to his baby sister. It worked like a charm, and is one of few wily parenting techniques that left me feeling like an actual competent mom (it’s a rare, fleeting feeling for me).
Wyatt loves books. He prefers being read to, rather than reading to himself or to anyone else, even if he’s good at it. His baby sister, now less than a month from her first birthday, has lost some of her novelty, so asking him to read to her doesn’t work so well anymore. (He loves her, is fiercely protective of her, and is wildly affectionate with her. It’s just that she’s been around for a while now, so the desire to be with her every waking moment has waned. Still never a request to “send her back.”)
A little over a week ago, I told Wyatt I would take him to the “local” library (which, with its lack-of-immediate proximity, and the road construction leading to and directly in front of it, is a bigger imposition than it should be). OK, well, it’s worse in person than it looks like it is here. –>
It didn’t happen that Friday (extenuating circumstances), so he asked if we could go Saturday. Gardening, and extended extenuating circumstances kept us from making it during business hours. So he asked if we could go Sunday. Extended, extended extenuating circumstances, and finishing up some gardening interfered. So I promised him Monday. (Cardinal rule of parenting: Make. No. Promises.)
Fortune shined on us that life and other things (gardening, and extenuating circumstances) didn’t interfere, and I was able to take Wyatt to the library directly from retrieving him from school that next Monday. With each step he took on the brief walk from the parking space to the library building, he whispered, “Yes. Yes. Yes.”
We spent an hour at the library, just son and mother, selecting non-fiction books on space (his choice) and a couple fiction “I Can Read” books (my choices for him). We sat together in a small cushioned chair and read. He read to me two books, and I read to him one. We then checked out ten books, and stopped by Walmart on the way home, where he gloated to everyone within earshot, “I got ten books from the library! Today is the bestest day ever!”
So what’s this got to do with the tall boy reading what I assume was a YA book on his way to class at the elementary school?
I was hoping that in watching this boy, I was looking into my son’s future.
I could very easily want for my son to be a writer when he grows up, except that I know the deep, ice-pick-through-the-heart misery that comes with the territory, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, least of all: my loin-fruit. (I should note, this is my experience. Another writer’s experience may be very different, and a lot more positive, though we certainly, as a group, have a reputation for enduring great emotional agony . . . so infer what you will about writers.)
What I wish, instead, is for my son to be a voracious reader, and to experience the joys that come with it.
I wish for him to be that boy with his face stuffed in a book, oblivious to the cruelty of the “real” world and its broken promises. (Bitter mom is bitter.)
That in times when he is alone, and those times will come, that he may have a book in hand and never be lonely. That he may have a deep connection with fictional characters when friendships inevitably wane and there is nothing good on TV, and a mental map of fantastical worlds in which to lose himself when his heart is broken by a lover. That he may intimately know the minds and souls of authors through space, and time.
And maybe someday, I want for Wyatt to pick up his mother’s published books (let’s take a moment for a hearty laugh at that), to tear them up as a reader, tear them apart as a critical thinker, and then question me about my life’s experiences through those of my main characters’. And may he learn, through my characters (because by then, he sure as hell won’t take it directly from my mouth), that weaknesses can become strengths, that what makes us imperfect makes us special and lovable, that scars are beautiful, and that what’s broken can always be mended. That even the biggest demons can be slain, the darkest abyss traversed, and the hardest of times, overcome.
When life is bleakest, my son, do not give up. There is triumph still to be had.
So where are we now, 5 years down the road? He is in sixth grade, attending class virtually because of this godforsaken pandemic that cost me my job back in May and made me not really feel like celebrating when I finally published book 4 of The Witches' Rede, Coven.
At pushing 12, Wyatt is not the insatiable reader I hoped he would be although he sure loves hoarding books. His interests lean more toward the technological end of things (my nice way of saying he prefers the computer and his gaming systems to ink-and-paper). Nonetheless, he is about as supportive of his old mom and her writing as his father is.
I've been struggling with my dysthymia (long term, low grade depression) in recent weeks due to any number of events on which I won't elaborate. Although it may sound like writers thrive off their mental illnesses, that is one of those popular myths that somehow continues to get perpetuated.
In my case, I've plodded through writing book 5 of The Witches' Rede and I thought about this poor stagnant website. I asked Scott for suggestions and he eventually recruited Wyatt, who has created a list of questions for me to address in my upcoming blog updates. So it made perfect sense to begin this Q-and-A series with my favorite old blog post.
Stay tuned for content curated by my amazing son. I can't promise weekly updates but with any luck, I'll update more frequently than once in six months.