I remember hearing a speech about education either before I had kids or when Chloe was a baby. Back when education and parenting were all theories that worked to perfection. Back when I knew it all.
The speaker was a father of four school age kids. He opened with a cute little vignette. He said his world was opened by the birth of his first child. By having his own child, he finally, finally knew what kids were like. And then his second child was born. He was humbled by this experience, but was ultimately grateful because if he hadn’t had that second child, he wouldn’t have known there were two different kinds of kids in the world. And then his third child was born, and, again he had to remold his ideas of categories for kids. As an educator, I guess God didn’t think he was getting the message. So, it took a fourth child for him to realize that, like snowflakes, all children, and all people were unique and operated in the world with their own internal compasses.
I chuckled appropriately at his quaint introduction, smugly wondering if I was more qualified to give this speech.
Ten years later, I have learned to heed caution when I have smug thoughts like this. I have learned to brace myself and proceed gingerly. I have learned to recognize an, often painful, lesson heading my way just as I can recognize the almost imperceptible cooler currents of August air letting me know Old Man Winter is always watching.
Turns out, it was OK that I was smug that day. I have always had a visceral understanding, and a subsequent appreciation of the differences in people, all their strengths and shortcomings, and how the world needs it all in order to function. To this day, I find it hard to take a stand on any side of most issues, given my propensity to understand, believe and feel both sides. (Oh yea, except for my husband’s side.)
When I was kid, I always wrote stories. Or rather, I started many stories. But my favorite part was planning the stories. I would spend hours writing the descriptions and histories of the characters, or describing the houses and places that would eventually be in my story. I would create an entire world and setting. Often I was bored after that with the actual story line. So I would move on to create another story.
My newest lesson is a fun one, not painful. (She says thankfully.) It’s like starting a new story. The lesson is basically an extension of all people are unique and special and should be honored for who they are. The new lesson incorporates complexity. I think all people are much more complex than I have given them credit for in the past.
This new discovery is a grass roots one, starting with myself and my family. My kids go to a wonderful school where many adults know them intimately. It’s not just their classroom teachers, but many specialist teachers (art, gym, drama....etc) and the associate director of the school. They are opening my eyes to the complexity of my children. I hadn’t realized how I had already put them in boxes that they may spend a lifetime trying to escape. Even armed with the knowledge that the world does this and how much I fight it, I have come to the realization that I have done it.
My oldest daughter’s greatest gifts are her persistence, her vibrant personality, her interpersonal skills, her artistic, musical, and writing abilities and her problem solving skills and her can do, will do, let’s do mentality. I praise these all the time.
My son’s greatest gifts are his athletic prowess, his mathematical and reasoning skills, his happy disposition, and his ability to charm anyone around him, making him much loved by anyone, adult or child, who comes in contact with him.
My youngest daughter’s gifts are a little harder to articulate. She values her relationships and is intensely loyal. She is very slow to warm, cautious, and always follows her own internal compass, regardless of the external stimuli. Her mind is always moving, processing and she needs quiet and alone time to process. She will not talk to people unless she has something important to say, and does not like talking in front of groups of people. She is athletic, very independent, loves drawing and writing, and is tough as nails.
Last spring, I was talking to my son about the fitness test and talking often of the goals of the Presidential Award. My oldest daughter finally came up to me and asked why I expected that out of Chaucer but not her. Hmmmmm.
Last winter, my oldest daughter had an accident that ended up being painful for weeks. She had to have an unexpected “procedure” at the hospital and it took lots of pampering and attention on our part. My husband and I kept quietly wondering why it happened to her, rather than one of the other two, who would have been much tougher and less work. The principal of the school called to say that in her 40 years of being in the school, she had never experienced such a tough kid. Hmmmmmmm.
Last spring, some things were occurring in the second grade. My son’s teacher started sharing some of them with me, and I brushed it off, saying he was always happy and, luckily, he didn’t get caught up in that. She said, “Well. I don’t agree. I have found him twice crying in the bathroom.....” Hmmmmmmm
My son has a reading disability and has to be pulled out of class to get extra help. They scheduled his tutor during art time because he had not appeared to care much about art. He came home terribly upset because “Art is the best place to mix colors and poetry together.” What? Hmmmmmmmm
Sally’s first grade teacher came up and said she so appreciated Sally volunteering to give her “presentation” first. She was so impressed at how well Sally carried herself while speaking in front of the class. Hmmmmmmmm.
An assistant at school told me a beautiful story about Sally searching for days at the book fair for books for (the assistant’s) grandaughter. Sally brought her books several times, often not saying a word. She had this incredible awareness and was nurturing that relationship differently than we understood. Hmmmmmmmmm
I am excited about my new discoveries. I am giddy about erasing the lines I have inadvertently drawn around myself, my children and all those around me. I am thrilled to discover the complicated complexities that are often hidden and obscured.
Mostly, I am anxious to discover what limits I have put on myself and the opportunities that exist outside of the box.