As time goes on, we start to forget people in our past that we no longer keep in contact with. We have trouble pulling them up in our memories or remembering quite how they acted.
Did they make us laugh? I forget. I think they did.
Did they make us happy to be around? I think they did but I may just be making up that memory.
Unfortunately I am having that experience with my own son. He was once a voracious reader and a boy who thrived on new experiences. He would consume all of the information around him. He would assess new plants, ant hills, pictures on the wall, and the smells in the air. My son was a question asking machine.
That boy is gone. He is not interested in doing anything. He could care less about the pictures or the ant hills, and he reads only when grounded from his video games (because of school). Now the only questions he asks is "whats for dinner?" He seems sad and angry all the time and hermits himself from the rest of the family.
I am starting to wonder if he ever was the way I remember him.
Did I make those memories up?
Was it just normal kid behavior and he is now a normal apathetic teen and I am making too much out of it?
I don't know...but I do know.
He was not an average curious boy. He was curiosity on steroids and now he is apathy on steroids.
My sister in law (SIL) just confirmed this through text messages with my wife. SIL said, while looking at a picture of my daughter, that she missed my toddler daughter, missed holding her and taking her places. Too which my wife responded that she missed "little Roo" (old nickname for my son). SIL responded "yeah your toddler daughter is still in there she peeks out behind her teen self every now and then, but little Roo is gone forever, and I miss how he used to get excited about everything."
That was like a punch to the gut.
My wife responded to my SIL that Mike (that is me) blames school. SIL said "I would agree with that."
That is true. I do blame school, but I really blame myself for allowing school to do what I knew it would do if I sent him there. I work in a school. I know what schools do to kids, and I sent him there anyway.
School must get all kids to comply. School must organize large quantities of children, manage them, sort them, quiet them and control them. For a lot of kids it may not be a big deal (my daughter conformed easily). For my son it was like stealing his soul...and I helped them take it. I punished him for not complying. I yelled at him for not bending. Scolded him for not doing his mindless homework. Called his intelligence into question for not knowing his times tables. Questioned his character for failing tests. Gave him ear beatings about the "importance of school for his future." Insisted that he put aside his many questions and interests and demanded that he do what was expected of him and all the other kids ("What makes you so special?"). Just typing it embarrasses me. Shames me.
I did all of this under the guise of "being a good parent." That is what schools call a good parent. That is what society calls a good parent. A parent that helps the school "hold kids accountable." A parent that helps the school out by enforcing school atmosphere while at home. I teamed up with a bureaucracy against my own son and the sad thing is...I am still doing it- as is my wife. All because we believed that was what good parents do. Good parents withhold things from kids until they do their homework. Good parents leverage free time against their kids for good grades. Good parents help make kids do what they are told without question.
Well, I was wrong. I was a bad parent for not following my gut. I was a bad parent for not fighting for my son's sense of self. I was a bad parent for not letting him lead the way down his own path but instead dragging him to a different path. A path he didn't fit onto. I was a bad parent for not believing in him and instead believing in a machine. I was a bad parent because I worried more about "what they would think" about ME because of my son's performance. So immature of me. So self centered of me. It isn't about me. Why did I make it about me and not about him?
He does not have many years left. Can I save him? I have the overwhelming fear that I can't and the biggest fear for which I am ashamed is that I won't even try- because kids are supposed to go to school and do well. Ask anybody, they will tell you. Go to school, do well, go to college, get a job, marry, family, retire, senior citizen community, die. Ahhh life. And we chastise kids for not thinking for themselves.
I am mad at school, but that is like being mad at a dog for barking. I am really mad at myself for being a coward. For not doing what I knew I should have done to save my son from the kid cookie cutter we call school. I am a coward because I chose groupthink. I did not stick up for what I knew would have been right but instead folded to the expectations of society.
What have I done? At the birth of my son my sister jokingly said "now don't screw this up."
I have to this point.
But I don't have to anymore. But will I...
Will I still be a coward?