I took the California bar exam two times. Not unusual. It is a mother f*cker of a test. In 2012, when I took it the first time, Max was 10 years old. During that time, I downloaded some free self-hypnosis podcasts from i-Tunes to see if any of them could talk me down after my days of studying for the bar exam (versus drinking an entire bottle of wine and crying). I found 3 minute self-hypnosis podcasts (who has time for more than that?) and Max checked it out, too. His favorite was one called “Wash Away Stress.” He would borrow my i-Pod and lie on his bed with my little pink earbuds in and zone out. He told me he liked to “get hypnotized and de-stress at the end of a long, very stressful day.”
When I failed the bar exam the first time, no one was more despondent than Max. He spent hours with me during the summer of 2012, lying on the floor next to our big dog Kimba, while I studied. I would tell him, “Max, go outside and play.” He refused, preferring to sort through my flashcards and read them out loud to me. Burglary. Robbery. Larceny. Rule Against Perpetuities. Strong stuff for a kid who had barely started middle school.
The evening I found out I had not passed, we had an event at our synagogue. It was probably the best place for me to be. I am not what you would call a religious person. But our synagogue is a welcoming place and probably the closest thing my hippie soul can stand in and be comfortable in for purposes of any kind of connecting to the Big Everything. I needed to connect.
I was tired and overwhelmed and too self-conscious to cry. But Max cried. He clung to me like a suckerfish to the side of a fishbowl and he cried. He kept telling me, “Go back and check again, Mom. It has to be wrong.” I told him, “No, baby, it is right. I know it. I did not pass this time. But I promise you I will try again.” I did try again. And damn it. I passed. My Max was with me the entire way. No one was prouder than my youngest son the day I was sworn in as an attorney.
Flash forward six years, Max and I are sitting in his room. Max is writing an essay about his struggles with ADD and getting his homework done on time and getting to school on time. This is a struggle I know very well. I struggled with ADD while I was taking the bar exam. Fuck, I struggle with it every damn day. I always joke that the name of my band should be “Late For Court.” We all need a little grace in our lives; the grace I ask for, every day, is that those in my world understand my struggle with the time-space continuum. And I have been given that grace, for which I am so grateful.
So far, life hasn’t been as forgiving for my son, we have been fighting to get him a little grace in his world. We will get there. But sitting in Max’s room that night, he was doing what Max does and addressing how ADD is actually a gift and has helped make him the successful person that he is today. I said to him, “Let’s do a paradigm shift. How many really successful people have ADD? Tell me someone you admire, who is your hero, who has ADD.” And he said, “It’s you, Mom. You are my hero.” And I couldn’t say anything because my whole heart was just….
We all have bad days, for sure. We all fail. You cannot truly succeed unless you do. Max reminds me that I should take time at the end of the day to wash stress away. Max gives and teaches me more grace than I ever give myself. And for that, my Max will always be my hero.