A Minecraft Mind

My son was supposed to be typing a paper on my laptop, a memoir project but I could tell just by glancing at him that he wasn’t.

“Maximilian.” I said.

He didn’t look up. Headphones in, pretending to type. I crossed the room and closed my laptop. He was watching Watch Dogs videos. Xbox nightmare. I had just found his progress report folded up and hidden in his backpack, and I tried to remain calm as I set the paper on top of my computer. He took a moment. His eyes scanned. Neurons scrambling in his head as he saw the “F” in English and the list of missing assignments.

“I have this one in my backpack,” he said. “This one too.”

His finger speeding down the list of missing assignments, too many to count. It didn’t matter. It was too late. He’d hidden the Report for a week. The grades were in. It was too late. He started to get up, to go to his backpack.

“Sit down.”

I wanted to tell him it would all be okay. I wanted to tell him it didn’t matter. I wanted to tell him I could fix it, but I was done fixing. I was done making it better. I was done. He is twelve, and I’m done.

“Stop. It doesn’t matter what’s in your backpack. It doesn’t matter.”

He froze, waiting for me to react, to lose it, to start yelling. Normally, I would yell in frustration, ask why he had once again not turned in the work he had done, why the missing assignments were still in his backpack. But, I was tired of myself and my reactions. I was tired of doing the same shit and hoping for different results.

“I want to know what you think?” I said.

He stared at me, lost in the question, wondering if it was a trick. He looked back at the paper. His eyes moving down the page, assignment after assignment. Classwork F. Homework F. Project/Tests F.

“It’s getting harder,” he said.

I wanted to cry.

“Do you understand what happens if you fail 7th grade?” I asked.

He didn’t understand. He didn’t care. He didn’t make the connection. It wasn’t part of his world. It wasn’t defiance, or laziness, or anything intentional. He just didn’t do what he didn’t want to do.

I’d heard moms say…

“It’s just boys. My boy is like that too.”

I wanted to say No, he’s not. He’s not like your boy, and it’s not just boys. Because he wasn’t like their boy. He wasn’t. He didn’t bully anyone. He didn’t judge anyone. He didn’t care about being popular. He was in his own world.

Peter Pan came to mind when I watched him play, engage, and just be. A boy lost in Neverland, floating through ethereal time and illogical space. Laughing, playing, experiencing his magical world of wonder, simplicity and joy. Younger at heart than kids his age. Happier than kids his age. Confused when kids were intentionally mean. He had never been mean to anyone, not even his sister.

I am his first Wendy. His anchor. His port. His safety net. I protect him. I ground him. Scold him and then remind him of the cruel world we live in where hopes and dreams are painfully intertwined with hard work, disappointment and loss. I wonder, does he need a Wendy? I tried to imagine what it must be like to live in his brain, in his world. A world where 13-year-old boys discuss things he doesn’t give a shit about. Was his brain on fire? Was he exploring new worlds beyond our realm? I understood why Minecraft was his escape. It was a world he understood. A world he could live in. A world he could thrive in.

“The video games are gone. Your phone is gone. TV is gone.”

I hated punishing him but there had to be consequences for his actions. I knew it wouldn’t work. It never worked. It sucked to punish him.

“Okay,” he said, dropping his head.

I wanted to rip up the progress report. Tear it to fucking shreds and yell “FUCK THEM!” They don’t know how smart you are. They don’t know how you think. They don’t know anything. But I held my tongue. I knew that day was coming, but not yet. First I would attempt to talk to them, to see if they could give my child the education he needed.

“It will be okay. You just think different than them, but it’s a good thing.”

He looked at me confused, pausing for a moment before responding.

“It is?” He asked, intrigued. “Why?”

“It just is,” I said. “You’ll see.”

His lips formed a small smile but his eyes spoke the truth of his soul. He didn’t think it was good. He didn’t understand. He didn’t believe me.

“I love you.”

I smiled, trying to convince myself and him that it will be okay. He will be okay. He has to be.

“I love you too, Mama.”

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