What are they doing now: Noah
When I first became pregnant, I hoped for a boy. As I told Jon (Noah’s dad), I assumed that if I had a boy first, he’d naturally have the “first born” characteristics—he’d excel in academics, he’d want to please his parents, he’d “go with the program.” I was nervous about raising a boy. Since I was a firstborn, I thought having my boy come first would give me a headstart on parenting.
I could not have been more wrong.
Whether or not birth order factors into how your children develop, I can’t say. But what I will say about Noah is that from the beginning, he’s very much known who he is and what he can and can’t, will and won’t do. Noah did not have a “strong will” of the kind you read about in parenting books. He wasn’t a rebellious kid or an angry kid or even a disobedient one. Rather, Noah always had a strong sense of two things:
1. The limits of his body. Noah was incredibly clear-sighted about his abilities and proved reliably aware of what he could do/attempt and what he couldn’t. However, as a parent, that sense of power and competence in his body meant watching him climb the outside railing of a two-story stairwell at age 2, and shimmying up tall trees by age 4, indoor rock climbing at ages 9-10, and playing lacrosse in high school (after no previous sports experience whatsoever), and eventually doing urban gymnastics as a young adult (like jumping off two-story buildings and flipping over hand railings).
2. The unlimited power of his mind. Noah never met an idea he didn’t want to chase. He read voraciously from 8 years old and hasn’t stopped. His curiosity about language led him to study Klingon, Esperanto, and constructed languages for what would have been his junior and senior years in traditional high school. Instead, as a homeschooler (unschooler, really), Noah pursued what interested him.
I often say that Noah is the child sent to teach me to be human. He was playful, free-spirited, curious, not interested in rules for no reasons, confident in his abilities, willing to talk about anything, and utterly guileless. Rewards and punishments never worked with Noah, though believe me, I was suckered into trying both, frequently.
What worked for us was to become close to each other, for me to become a student of his temperament and a friend to his spirit. Noah showed me the value of learning for its own sake—for self-directed, absorbing, pursuit of a topic because you must wrestle it to the ground and know it intimately.
Noah never did go to high school (like a couple of his siblings). He did take Algebra 2 at the local high school (we couldn’t afford tutoring for him at the time). When I picked him up after his first test, he jumped in the car and I said to him: “How was the test? Did you feel okay about it?”
Noah replied: “It was okay, but guess what? I wrote two poems.”
“Excuse me? You mean during the test?”
“Yeah. I got done quickly and then wrote these two really awesome poems. Want to hear them?”
That in a nutshell is all you need to know about Noah.
He is currently in college (for a second time – first time quit due to frustration with the system, but is now ready) studying computer science. He is moving to Connecticut with his longterm girlfriend who will be in a Master’s program there. Noah will study at the local college.
Noah was, as all firstborns are, the guinea pig. I’m so grateful for his energy, his ability to forgive me when I overstepped, his cheerful optimism about life, his passion for self-directed learning, and for teaching me how to be a mother and a compassionate human being.