Friday, May 17, 2013

The View From Up There

My 13-year-old son was given his first detention last week. His infraction was being inside the school building after school without permission. It had been raining outside, so he went inside to work on his science homework with a student who knew how to do the science homework. This all seemed very commonsensical to my son. 

But it was against the rules. And rules are rules are rules. And some rules tend to bead up and roll off his palms, landing on the blacktop in hard splats before his fingers ever have the chance to close around them.

I asked my son what his detention would be and he said he would have to … wait for it … stay after school and do his homework.

Methinks it was the moment he grabbed that particular bit of irony by the scruff and held it in front of the principal’s nose for a good, fragrant whiff that his fate was truly and properly sealed.

To be honest, I can’t believe it took him until the end of seventh grade to get detained. This particular son is an out-of-the-box kid constantly charging into the sharp corners and rock-solid walls of a sturdy middle school.

He’s not a rebel, he aims to please. He’s outgoing, personable, inventive, and bright. But he sees the world from the sky, in wide open format, not neatly contained in a rubric. He’s an idea man, cogs spinning, thoughts flying, impulses hurtling, sometimes plummeting. His increasing challenges will be to manage the controls, stay on course, apply the brake every once in a while, and bring it all in for a safe landing. Oh, I have every confidence this child will soar in life. It’s me, I fear, who will require the use of more than a few air-sickness bags while I ride shotgun in what I forecast to be a bumpy trip through the fixed hallways of high school.

For me, the view from up where my son navigates is new, different and a bit scary. Although I guess it shouldn’t be. I married a man whose toes have never once been anchored to the ground or housed inside anything even remotely cube-shaped. I, on the other foot, am just hunky-dory peering out at the world from the inside of a cardboard cut-out window pane. I’m content drawing colorful pictures on the interior, load-bearing walls. I’m happy curled up in a precise 90-degree corner reading a book with minimal conflict and a happy ending. I’m well insulated from loud noises and when necessary, can easily refer to a how-to manual that’s sensibly outlined and tabbed, with a glossary and frequently-asked-questions page. The calendar affixed to the wall orders my day in the same precise way the nuns did during my 13 precise years in Catholic school.

Yes, I am happily ensconced in the box and am not coming out without a good prescription. If I am ever out of my comfort zone you can be sure it’s because I tripped and fell out or someone lured me out with something chocolate and gooey.

Give me a treat and call me Marley, I just realized I’m crate trained.

I think that’s why I admire, and sometimes envy, the very same qualities in my son that guarantee every year I’ll get to know his teachers on a first-name basis. My son is not afraid. He’ll make a decision and make it happen, leaving his detractors bobbing in his wake, their mouths filled with salt water. He’ll argue a point so far into the ground you can almost see China. But after the bursts of the day’s activities have fizzled into cricket calls and chamomile tea, I can vaguely detect the tiniest glow emanating from each of those impressions. I realize he’s just staking his claims in his own, unique and beautiful life. He’s laying the groundwork and mapping a flight plan … from a much broader vantage point than I ever could.