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When Your Kid Is Smarter Than You Are

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Many summers ago, our family went to a local art festival, and while I visited another booth, my son found a turquoise and green glass pendant and, though he only had eight dollars in his pocket, he convinced the vendor to sell it to him.

We coined the piece of jewelry my “compliment necklace” because every time I wore it, I received kind words from strangers who gushed over the glass that glowed in the sun.

I loved my necklace like nobody’s business, and I wore it every day.

Recently, while we were vacationing in Florida, the glass pendant slipped off its silver chain and smashed on the bathroom tile.

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“NoooOooooo!” I wailed, falling to my knees. “NoOoo! No! NoooOooo!”

Carrying the jagged shards in my open palm, I showed the pieces to my son who happened to be sitting in his brand new rocking chair, reading a book, and eating a slice of pie.

Standing, my boy put one hand on my shoulder. He’s taller than I am now, so he looked down at me a little. Stepping aside, he pointed to his new rocker, not 24-hours old.

“Come. Sit down. Have a little pie. You’ll feel better.” He offered me his plate.

I shook my head. Because I didn’t want any pie.

I wanted my glass pendant back.

“You bought it for me when you were 7,” I complained. “Every time I wore it, I thought of you.”

My son settled back down in his rocking chair. “If we didn’t lose people and things we love, we wouldn’t know how important they are to us.” My son shoveled some pie into his mouth and pointed to his chest. “Anyway, you don’t need a necklace to think of me. I’m right here.”

At home, TechSupport doesn’t let me tuck him into bed anymore. But, the night my pendant smashed, my son let me cuddle with him for a few minutes. As I stroked his spiky crew cut, I saw a silver thread in his hair.

I tried to pick it out, but it was attached.

Turns out, my 13-year-old has a gray hair.

My husband and I have said our son is an old soul. To us, he’s always possessed the understanding, empathy, and kindness of someone with more life experience.

As a youngster he always shared his toys. He was comfortable with rules, and sometimes, as I explained things to him, he eyed me suspiciously, as if to say: Of course we don’t write on walls, or touch hot pots on the stove, or stick fingers in electrical sockets. Of course, we don’t bite our friends. Or push them. Duh.

Over the years, I’ve complained when he’s been overlooked for awards. It kills me each Friday when his middle school publishes its list of “Great Kids of the Week,” and his name never makes the list. Meanwhile, he doesn’t care. He tells me he doesn’t need his name announced over the loudspeaker or his picture posted in the hallway. He knows about his good deeds, and that’s enough. A stellar student, he doesn’t like me to mention his grades. When he was bullied in elementary school, he refused to retaliate. Even when his father and I gave him permission to kick the bastard who was bugging him in his cahones, our son told us he believed in nonviolence. Like Gandhi. How did he even know about Gandhi in 5th grade? Though middle school can be an unhappy time as teens jockey for popularity, Tech has maintained a core group of smart, kind people who are loyal to each other.

Our son has never been interested in material things.

He has simple requests.

A bed.

A book.

A rocking chair.

A slice of pie.

That one single silver strand of hair on his head confirmed it for me: proof positive that my kid is an old soul — unusually understanding, wise and empathetic beyond his years.

Don’t get me wrong: he’s a teenager, too. He eats constantly, hates putting away his laundry, and making his bed. He laughs at dumb YouTube videos and would play Minecraft all day, if we let him.

But he knows how to talk me down when ants are crawling across the kitchen floor. Or tonight, while I held my stomach as I listened to the news, crammed with voices, the President talking about justice and violence and terror — again.

This is the world I brought you into, my son. A world where things are always breaking. And nothing is solid.

But he has the right words. Reminds me that most people are good people. That G-d hears prayers and love transcends zip codes and time zones.

“Kinda makes you realize your necklace wasn’t such a big deal,” he said.

What will I ever do without him?

Have you ever lost a sentimental something? Do you put on a strong front for your children? Or do you let them see you cry?

tweet me @rasjacobson

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