Beside me in his awkwardly small plastic chair, my son had rolled his neck tie up tight under his chin. When he saw he had my attention he let it go, sending it shooting out like one of those paper party blowers. His face remained impassive as he watched me for my reaction, where another child might have grinned or even giggled.
“Don’t play with your tie anymore,” I said. “If you have to fidget, wiggle your toes quietly inside your shoes.”
He sighed, a huge exasperated sigh, and leaned all the way forward in his chair.
“Sit up please,” I whispered.
He sat up and was still for a few minutes, listening as the Sunday school teacher finished telling a story about Jesus healing a blind man. Then he started chewing on his fingernails.
“Hand away from your mouth,” I poked him gently in the side.
He jerked away from me and toppled onto the ground.
“Back in your chair,” I glanced at the Sunday school teacher, who was doing his best to ignore us in favor of the row of more attentive children in front of us. “One two three…”
My son climbed back up in his chair.
“Now children, because it’s mother’s day, we’re going to make something special for your mother.” The Sunday school teacher took out a basket of crayons and a stack of paper from the table behind him. “Everyone take a paper and fold in in half, like this, then write Happy Mother’s Day on the front, and on the inside write something you appreciate about your mom.”
When the basket of crayons made it back to us, my son stared into it for a long time.
“Just take a handful,” the teacher said, at least three times.
My son finally selected one crayon.
He folded his paper in half, then in half again.
"You don’t need to do that,” I said.
“But I’m going to do it this way,” my son said.
“Please, just follow the instructions,” I said.
He opened it up, and folded it diagonally from corner to corner.
Pick your battles. Pick your battles. Pick your battles.
On the row in front of us, I watched a little girl in her Sunday dress and lacy bow in her hair write “Happy Mother’s Day” in beautiful handwriting. Could a nine-year-old child really write that neatly? It seemed strange to me. But all of them were doing it. Perfect printing.
“Look, it’s like a flower,” my son held his multi-folded paper up in front of my face.
“I see,” I said.
He took his one crayon and began to trace all the fold lines, then draw a heart in each triangular section. I watched the other children decorating their cards, which actually looked like cards. I could read what they were writing from where I sat. My son had turned his card over and started writing on it. I knew it was going to take some serious concentration to figure out what words those were.
“All done, Mom,” my son handed the card to me, this time with one of his tight smiles.
“This is my favorite color of crayon.” He'd chosen blue-green. “How did you know that? Of all the colors of crayon, this was always my favorite.”
His smile got a little bigger.
I unfolded the card flower and started working out his handwriting.
you’re the bestest friend in the whole wide world, and I love you
I rotated the card to the next panel
mom you are so awesome
There were some more scribbles I just couldn’t interpret
you are friendly and kind and loving (so am I)
Now I had to turn it upside-down
I appreciate that you are always there for me
I love you
My Mother’s Day card was different from all the rest, but that's why I loved it.