Slice of Life 1:
We’re driving down 143rd street, en route to Dr. French’s office. Michael had just recently attained, “shot gun,” status in our car. I was thankful. I began to feel a little, “Driving Miss Daisy,” with Michael being in third grade. He’s always been a big boy. Family, friends and most often, strangers, always seemed to feel compelled to remind me of his stature.
“My.. He’s so tall”
With his feet stretched onto the dashboard, Michael lounged in the front seat playing with his two Mine Craft figures, talking in imaginative voices, fully engulfed in his own alternate reality. I’m listening to the radio, systematically tuning stations as Taylor Swift’s, “ I knew you were Trouble, “ song seems to be playing on every station in ten minute intervals. My thoughts are entrenched in dinner, the following work day, the weekend errands, the papers that need to be dropped off tomorrow.. Do I have those papers?
He snaps out of it.
“Mom, why do have to go?”
“We have to go because this therapy is going to help you see well.”
“But mom!! I can see. I can read. Look.. Subway.. Bakers Square.. Citgo.. Speedway..”
As Michael continues on reading every sign and establishment our car cruises past in an attempt to validate his literacy skills and denounce the need for visual therapy, I begin to strategize, but then hastily decide to wing my little parental guidance speech.
“I know you can read. Reading is not just about saying the words. It’s about understanding the words. Analyzing them. Connecting ideas. Having opinions and being able to communicate them effectively. Look- I’m still going to school.. Why? Because I value education. I know how important it is. I know that no one can ever take that away from me. Even if you can read you have to keep striving to be better. You have to keep trying.”
With this, Michael’s voice, which was already at a high pitch whine, now floods into a teary plea.
“You think I don’t try? I do try mom! I try my best..everyday. I just don’t think it’s fair.. “
Activate mom voice.
“I’m not saying you don’t try. I know you do. I’m saying that no matter how hard anyone tries, we can always aspire to be better. We can always look to improve. The most successful people in the world are the people who never give up. They believe in themselves. They look for solutions. Even when things get difficult.. We keep going. Do you understand?“
“Mom.. ok two things. “
“Do you have anything to say in response to what I said?”
“No. But I have something to say.”
“Well when you are actively listening you are able to respond to what is said, Michael. That is what I’m talking about. It’s being able to show you understand. “
“Mom can I say something? “
“Michael, did you listen to me?”
“I have two things.”
By this point I step off the high horse. I let the chips fall where they may and essentially waved the white flag. I expect to hear two more reasons we should not be wasting our time going to visual therapy and should instead be at home.. most likely playing Xbox.
“What it is Michael? “
“Well first, I am creeped out. It says here that children can be killed or seriously injured by airbag. And second thing. Can I get a Shamrock shake after?”
“What?? What are you talking about?” I say as I glance in confusion. He’s staring at the warning sign on the visor. I start laughing.
“I’m serious Mom. I’m creeped out. Why do you have me up here?”
I couldn’t take it. Holding back my laughter, I then have to launch into another parental guidance themed speech about safety and I attempted to reassure him that he is the appropriate size to be sitting in the front seat.
Immediately after he drifted back into his imaginative alternate world of his own, talking with his figures, and I was left once again to the unfortunate isolation of the radio and Taylor Swift’s relationship woes. He wasn’t aware that he had somewhat inadvertently proven his point by reading the warning and responding emotionally. Nor was he aware that his simple, arbitrary request for a shamrock shake jolted his mom back into reality. I shut off the radio. Instead, I tuned into my little.. strange.. sweet son, in his big, “shot gun,” seat. We were going to the doctors. Hopefully, something I said will resonate. For that moment though, I know for certain I was the one who saw a little more clearly.