“What are you putting in your backpack, Stephen?” I asked him the day before school started.
“My books, Matilda and The Phantom Tollbooth,” he answered.
“I don’t think you’ll have time to read on the first day of school!”
“I’m going to read during recess,” he said.
“Oh. Well, I think it would be better to play with the other kids at recess. Especially on the first day. Don’t you want to play and get to know people?”
“Ok….” he said, sounding unconvinced.
At dinner after his first day, I asked him what the best part of his day was.
“Going to school!” He responded.
“Great! What part of going to school?” I asked.
“What did you do during second recess?”
“I sat in the shade and read Matilda.”
My heart dropped. “I thought you were going to play with your friends during recess!”
“Well, I played at first recess, but I got hot and bored, so I decided to read in the shade for second recess, and it was way better!” He explained.
I felt disappointed…because…well….that’s what I did during recess. And I guess I hoped my kids might be cooler than me. When you’re a nerd, sure you want your kid to be smart, but you also harbor a secret hope that your kid might like the stuff he’s supposed to like: football and playing tag.
I spent all my recesses in the library, reading or helping the librarian. Recess outside meant playing games I hated with kids I didn’t like.
When I was 8, I read so much that my mother actually took my book and put it on top of the refrigerator to make me go outside and play.
I didn’t fit in with my peers until high school, when I became friends with an awesome group of
geeks kids like me; we founded our high school Science Olympiad team and competed for top scores in our Advanced Placement classes.
I know I’m pretty cool as an adult, but my inner nerd still makes it hard for me to connect with some of my peers. For example, here are some conversations I had recently at work:
Co-worker: “So what do you listen to?”
Co-worker: “Oh…I’ve never heard of that band. Is it hip-hop?”
Co-worker: “Oh no! Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck broke up!”
Me: “That’s terrible! Is she one of our OB patients? Which doctor does she see?”
A few weeks ago, I was invited to go out with some women from work. When I told Eric I was going out, he raised an eyebrow.
“Really. You want to go to a bar at 9pm.”
“Yeah! Well, maybe. I could go to a bar,” I said defensively.
He grinned. “Ok, if that’s what you want to do! But I think I know what you’ll really be doing at 9pm.”
My husband knows me well. 9:00pm found me in bed, engrossed in my novel.
And now my son would rather be reading, too.
A few weeks ago, Stephen told me, “I love reading and playing the piano! They are the best things in my life.”
Part of me was happy to hear it; reading and piano were my great loves in childhood. I’m glad he’s passionate about such wonderful, enriching activities. But part of me is a little sad, because like me, I know he’s not going to fit in with most of his peers. Most 8 year old boys are not enthusiastic about piano and reading.
But also like me, he’ll find his way; he’ll find the band geeks and hang out in the library.
And in the evenings, we’ll enjoy reading together and drinking our tea.