My son was a lot like the little boy from Jerry Maguire; he wore coke-bottle nerd glasses, complete with an elastic strap to hold them onto his head. Although he was an introvert, he became a sagacious conversationalist in the presence of those who possessed the patience to wait for him to open up, which was like watching an evening primrose come into bloom: absolutely breath-taking.

In spite of conforming to the “nerd” stereotype, my son was spared from being bullied by other children because of his magnetic adorableness. Not that other kids held any relevance for him anyway; he was most comfortable when surrounded by his parents, our highly-intelligent hipster adult friends, and the occasional chess-fanatic kid. He simply liked people who could manage to keep up with him in conversation.  I’m not saying he was a prodigy exactly, just that he was really, really smart – teetering on the verge of genius.

While he was an incredible chess player, my son’s true passion was reading. Since he was naturally quiet and introspective, books fed his insatiable hunger for knowledge without overwhelming his delicate constitution. We often discovered him curled up in his reading nook, brow furrowed, devouring books far advanced for his age, intrigued by subjects like quantum mechanics and string theory. It wasn’t long before my husband and I began to joke that we could “hardly keep up with the kid anymore!”

We traveled a lot, even while our son was still a baby. My husband and I took turns with him on our backs in the carrier. He cried sometimes, but only briefly, and then quickly fell asleep. I concede we might have merely been lucky that our son was one of those kids you could take anywhere – but I’ve always secretly wondered why so many other moms complain that they can’t go on vacation with little kids. Is it really that difficult?

Kids are even easier to travel with as they get older. Once Lucas was old enough to comprehend (age two, give or take), we simply told him what was expected of him using a stern tone and looking deep into his eyes. We never needed to make restrictive rules because we had explained things so clearly that it became second nature for our son to know what was inappropriate or unsafe.

Soccer practice was the only time my son ever went “crazy.” Even through his nerd glasses, it was easy to see his laser-focused determination. He was tenacious and ferocious. His dead-on aim made other parents smile in admiration. “That kid,” they’d mutter, shaking their heads in awe.

Yes, my son was as near to perfect as any child could get.

And then he was born.

Here’s what really happened:

First off, no adorable nerd-glasses for my son; his vision is fine. And he’s cute, but not outrageously cute, at least not to anyone besides his immediate family.

My son is almost eight and has never played chess. We’ve tried checkers a few times, but since he has ADHD, it’s a challenge to make it through an entire game. He’s pretty good at stacking up the pieces into a tall tower and karate-chopping them down while yelling “HAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIGHAAAAHHH,” though. That’s a talent, right?

I’m happy to report my son does love to read, and to my delight has developed a fascination with the more complex theories of physics, even though he doesn’t fully understand them. But there is no “reading nook;” my son does his reading on a bed that, even after laundering the sheets, smells faintly of boy-sweat and… something else (Pee??). The wall adjacent to his bed is ornamented with footprints and boogers.

And travel? Please. Until our son was three, we scoffed at the idea of travel except to visit family. I was a slave to my son’s nap schedule. God forbid that kid miss a couple of hours of sleep, he would bring me to my knees with his grabbing, fussing and crying. We tried carrying him in one of those backpack carriers, but that only worked for a couple of months because he was an extremely fat baby and neither I nor my husband is a Sherpa.

I have no idea where I got the idea that all I need do to discipline my child was to look deep into his eyes and fill my voice full of meaning. What a crock of shit. Kids need consequences, and what works great today very well might not work at all tomorrow.

My son does play soccer, though; that much of my fantasy turned into reality. But he’s no star. At this point, we’re relieved he has finally begun to invest some energy into the game after years of picking at the grass, spinning in circles or swinging from the goal while making jet-noises or fart-sounds.

Yeah, I was one misguided lady thinking I had being a parent all figured out even before I actually became one. And yet, in spite of my gross miscalculations, we’ve made it nearly eight years – and fairly successfully if I do say so myself. Besides, knowing what I now know about my sweet, rambunctious Lucas… that kid from Jerry Maguire ain’t got nothin’ on him.


Was motherhood very different from what you expected? How so?

This post originally appeared on Bluntmoms May 2014. Since then, Lucas has taken up chess. And he’s pretty freaking good at it. Ya never can tell, can ya?

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  1. Isn’t it crazy? We can’t help but fill our heads with our unborn child’s attributes. I think it’s about anticipation and just being excited to be a parent. Nothing I could have imagined then, though, could have prepared me for what the real experience would be like – how I’d want to embrace the stellar and the … less than stellar. Because they are my kid. All those factors. And if you can’t take pride in that … what can you take pride in?

    Wonderful piece.

  2. Love this. I am not sure why I thought why my children would inherit all of my wonderful traits and drop my sucky ones, inherit my husband’s wonderful traits, and lose his sucky ones, but they did not. Instead of all three having his math aptitude combined with my love of the language arts and being straight A students, they are each their own kid. One loves to read, he is a writer. He’s been scribbling on paper since he learned the alphabet. But math. Ah– fugetta about it. And my husband, a brain surgeon, was slightly upset when said son failed the Central Nervous System Test. The girl, my only daughter, the one I thought would take after me… ugh, she spells like her dad. You know “magical spelling.” But the fantasy was nice before they arrived. And the surprise of who they are is great. Except when it sucks and we spend shit tons of money at tutors. But mostly it’s great.

    • Haha, I have to say if I were the kid of a brain surgeon, I think I’d be a little anxious about living up to that! Those are some tough shoes to fill! =) I agree that the surprise of who they are is great. My son is so much better than my silly fantasy. 😉

  3. Loved this. I daydreamed about all of my kids before they were born and now … I don’t really remember what the daydream was to compare. The reality is better, right?!

  4. Omigosh, this post was so relatable for me that I shed a happy tear! I’m filled with a sense of pride for my wild and imaginative son, but before his ADHD diagnoses and coming to terms with it, I felt a whole bag of emotions that were not quite so much fun as pride. Thank you for sharing your experience!