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 thoroughly 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 just 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 he was old enough to comprehend (age two, give or take), we simply told our son 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.


Kristen Mae is a novelist, freelancer, classical musician, and artist. Follow her on Abandoning Pretense, and check out her books, Beyond the Break and Red Water, available now at most online booksellers.


  1. I love this. Sometimes our kids turn out to be better than we could ever have hoped BECA– USE of their little imperfections. Plus, that kid from Jerry Maguire was really annoying 😉

  2. I seriously wanted to punch you in the neck until I got to “And then he was born.” Then I was all, duh that couldn’t be a real child!

  3. Karen Flint Reply

    Our Grandson Lucas, yes the boy in the blog, is absolutely perfect to us. Yes he has ADHD and sometimes I know drives his parents crazy, but you could not ask for a more lovable, sincere, insightful, intelligent boy. He’s the best. He’s awesome actually. And you know what, he told me, his grandma, that no matter how old he was, he would never be embarrassed to give his grandma a hug and kiss. God, I love that boy!!!!

  4. Before my kids were born, I had visions of them playing quietly and contentedly on the living room floor–building with their Legos, making obstacle courses for their matchbox cars, then cleaning everything up and putting it away when they were done.

    Reality: my kids play together only when you define “playing” as trying to beat the shit out of each other with an inflatable plastic guitar won at the school carnival (at least it’s not a real guitar?). Matchbox cars and Legos make good projectiles for when the guitar develops a slow leak from the abuse. They have two volumes, THE TOP OF THEIR LUNGS, and asleep. Sometimes it’s like parenting four fucking Sam Kinisons, only without the profanity and the sex jokes.

  5. This is so clever! Love it. And I have one that was going to be a rocket scientist. Only he’s not. Going to be one, that is:). More likely a stunt car driver. Sigh.

  6. As always, incredibly well done. You had me convinced until about the fifth paragraph, then I was calling shenanigans. I did the same thing prior to my first coming into the world. Now I have to constantly remind myself that I was completely delusional and I need to accept parenting for the comedy of errors that is really is.

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