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When a kid outgrows his reputation

Submitted by on Tuesday, 2 November 2010 2 Comments

Sometimes it’s hard to see your kids as the rest of the world does. Once in a while, you’re lucky enough to have someone come along and open your eyes.

For me it was a substitute teacher at the guys’ school, one who’d been in both their classes recently and had figured out that they were siblings only because of their last names. Their behavior certainly hadn’t offered any clues.

“You are so good in class,” she said to one. “You always pay attention and get your work done.

“You’re a real wiggle worm,” she said to the other. “You just have trouble staying still.”

It was about the report I expected except for the fact what she saw was totally contrary to my cliches.

Big Guy – the one who’s never able to keep his mouth shut for longer than 10 seconds without risking implosion – is good in class.

Boots – the one who will sit for an hour and patiently piece together a puzzle – is the wiggle worm.

Huh? When did that happen, and how did I miss it?

I should have started catching on when we went to Back to School Night in mid-August and Big Guy stood silently, at parade rest, the entire time his teacher spoke.

But I didn’t clue in. It seems that I’d made Big Guy the victim of the very thing I’ve always bemoaned – that once a reputation is formed, people won’t let you outgrow it.

That always was the case with me, and family members still love to drag out 8 millimeter movies of a brother clocking me when I was about 9. Apparently almost 40 years later it remains a laugh riot that the bully finally got what was coming to her. Sheesh, isn’t there a statute of limitations on this stuff?

It was the case with other kids I grew up with, too, including the one who needed a little extra help in kindergarten and was labeled “not college material” in high school. She now has a master’s. I wish I were “slow” like that.

Yet as much as I’ve always complained about the injustice of labels that stubbornly refuse to change even in the face of redeeming evidence,  I wound up doing the same thing to my kid.

Sorry, Big Guy. If it’s any consolation, I promise to learn from this and not complain to future girlfriends that you always leave your underwear in the living room floor. All bets are off, though, if you haven’t stopped doing that by the time girlfriends are stopping by.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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  • Laura Scarborough said:

    hated those labels growing up just like you. and like you i find that i do it to my own kids too, as hard as i try not to. i love when they manage to break out of that box they get put in and shine with all their own amazing, awesomeness.
    LOVE that smile on your boy!

  • The sleepover that almost wasn’t | 9to5to9 (author) said:

    [...] cry at bedtime or wake up a few hours later and want to go home. Right theory, wrong child. Once again, the guys surprised me. Boots acted like he owned the house from the second he walked through the door. Big Guy whimpered, [...]