The Boy Who Was Really Good at Kindergarten

Originally posted as part of The Good Men Project here

 

When my younger son was 4 he came to me one day, and climbed into my lap between me and my laptop. He took my face in his little hands and made me look straight at him and he said very earnestly “Mama…I’m The Love.” Now part of my brain was going wha? huh? whatever thought I’d been having still hanging there…and where did this come from? what does that even mean? But part of my brain with complete clarity said “YES!” Because of course he is The Love.

It wasn’t long after that day that he started school and many of my favorite things about him turned out to be symptoms that he was wired differently than other kids. I celebrate difference so that didn’t bother me. What bothered me was that he was struggling and suffering in the school environment. What broke my heart was that he went from being my peaceful pixie of love to being extremely anxious and unsure of himself. His first kindergarten teacher could not evaluate his reading because he was too scared to read in front of her.

By the end of that first school year the long wait to have him evaluated for Autism had begun. There was a meeting with me and his teacher and assorted other school people where they worked very hard to gently let me know that they couldn’t hold him back without my permission, but that they strongly believed that he needed to repeat kindergarten. I agreed wholeheartedly. There was no way I was going to push him forward into a new situation he was not prepared for.

There was a boy in my son’s class that year that he spoke about in hushed admiring tones. “He is really good at kindergarten” my son would say. So I sat down with him after that meeting at the school and I told him that I knew this year had been hard but that I thought if he had a chance to do it again, he could be “really good at being in kindergarten” just like the boy he was so amazed by. He nodded wisely accepting this with absolute trust that made me want to cry in appreciation and fear that if he couldn’t do it this time he would feel betrayed.

♦◊♦

The second year of kindergarten was completely different, beginning on the first day. Instead of being a stiff anxious robot who would not speak or even draw, he walked right up to the pile of paper and the crayons and wrote his name and drew a picture of himself. He was still a stranger in this land of “normal” kids but he now knew how things worked.

Now starting 5th grade, my son reads at a grade level far above his own and leads his school in AR points. He routinely stands up in front of his class to answer questions and his biggest complaints about school are that it takes up too much of his reading time, and it’s too boring and loud.

Things are not perfect at school of course, we work with a counselor to try to convince my son that talking to his classmates, saying good morning back to his teacher or even making a friend might be something he should consider. So far he goes back and forth between being uncomfortable with the idea, to rolling his eyes at the concept of taking time away from his reading for these “illogical” things.

This morning when I got up my son flung himself into my arms (he does this part every morning) and without any preamble the following conversation occurred.

Him: “If there wasn’t love there would be no life”…pause for thinking…“or it would be only amino acid life…If there wasn’t love there would be no intelligence.”

Me: “Why are you so smart about love?”

Him: “Most people are.”

Me: (not sure I agreed but keeping that to myself): “But you *really* think about it.”

Him: (As always in his Professor Spock Logical voice): “Love is very interesting. More interesting than Star Trek even.”

Me: “More interesting than Star Trek?!? Wow”

At some point some expert gave us some letters to describe my son, PDD-NOS. Over the years I have spent quite a bit of time reading and I often hear that people on the autism spectrum have no feelings and are incapable of empathy. I think that’s complete crap. I think the problem is that people don’t understand emotions and empathy when they are expressed differently, not that people on the spectrum don’t have or express them.

After breakfast my son and I snuggled up on the couch and talked.

Him: “I am a genius.”

Me: “What are you a genius at?”

Him: “Legos… hugging… being happy.”

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A Drop in the Bucket

I’ve been drawn to the idea of blogging recently, but whenever I think about starting a blog I begin to wonder why I want to do it. I do love to write but I’m not an expert in anything so I don’t have any specialty to share. I’m also not among the best writers around. So the reason for my writing can’t be information, nor can it be perfect examples of the written word. I may occasionally have unique thoughts, but for the most part other people have already thought the things I think of. With the millions of voices on the internet it’s almost certain that at least a few of those people have already written them down.

So I kept being drawn back to the idea and I kept coming back to needing to clarify why. I need to know my writing is adding something to the world or what is the point? I don’t want to just make more noise in this world filled with far too much already. I also hate wasting time, so if I’m not doing something worth doing then I won’t be motivated to do it for long.

I considered that maybe the writing could be just for me. It will help me explore ideas and work issues out and maybe it doesn’t matter if anyone ever sees it. Those are important things I get out of my writing and if that is all that happens when I write, then there is absolutely value there for me. However, if I’m writing totally for my benefit why am I feeling drawn to blog instead of journal in that fancy new blank book I got myself not long ago?

Clearly, I want my writing out there but motivations are very important to me, so what is my motivation for wanting my thoughts and ideas out there for others to read? I have in the past gotten truly thought provoking feedback by putting things out there and that’s wonderful. But I keep coming back to What do I have to add to the world through my writing? Not what do I have to add to me, but what do I have to add to others, to the community, to the world?

I think I’ve figured it out. It’s not that what I have to say is totally unique. It’s that what I have to say is, I believe, important. Not because I’m the only one saying it, but because the more of us who talk about equality, and individuality and how our society isn’t working, the more chance there is for someone new to come across it. The more chance there is for someone to find themselves in an individual story or unique wording. The more chance there is for someone to find something that clicks for them. What I have to say is not necessarily unique, but how or where I say it likely will be and maybe that will make all the difference for someone.

The other thing about important ideas is that the more of us who talk about them, the more aware, the more accepting, the more mindful the world may become.

So my mission for this blog is to share myself yes, but that is not my goal. My goal is to be another voice out there, another drop of rain in the bucket, another tiny bit of something moving toward the tipping point on the issues I care about. There wasn’t one person who came out of the closet or one LGBT blogger that began shifting people’s views of the LGBT community, it was I believe all of the courageous voices that have brought us to where we are now. Our society values the one, but I am beginning to believe it is the many who change the world.

Things worth saying are worth saying more than once.

 a-drop-in-the-bucket

‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’

I love quotes. I REALLY love quotes. But it is rare that one makes me gasp in acknowledgement of a truth so obvious and deep that I can’t believe I did not see it before.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
― Marianne WilliamsonReturn to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”

This is one of those quotes. I could have been thrown off by the power of a message it would have been easier to ignore. I could have allowed myself to be put off by the mention of god. I didn’t, I let this idea in and offered it some space to get cozy.

That was 10 years ago and I still struggle with this. I still struggle with the voices inside and outside of my head trying to keep me small. It’s risky to shine bright, the brighter you shine the more people will be inspired but also the more people who will lash out and be watching and waiting for you to stumble or make a mistake.

I didn’t trade my light for acceptance by the general public though, at least that is not my main issue. I traded my light for connection. I made myself smaller in order to not overshadow the insecure closest to me. I spent years doing that only to realize in the end that there is no smallness I could achieve that could ever make that person feel ok. So when that relationship broke up I made a commitment to myself that I would not trade my light for connection, I would not sell my light for someone else’s soul. It simply doesn’t work, you can never be filled up by someone else’s light or truly feel brighter by someone else’s lack.

So why am I still struggling with this years later? Is it habit? Is it deep fear? I am sure those are part of it. I have also added a new facet to my struggle. I’ve begun to practice Insight Buddhism and I’ve embraced some of the beautiful lessons of the Tao. Both of these have brought me to a place of backing away from how our culture celebrates individuals. They have brought me to a growing respect for humility.

My job now is to accept that I have valid light to shine, that others will benefit from it not be reduced by it and break the habits of smallness that I’ve been practicing for my whole adult life while also keeping a firm grasp of my complete unremarkableness. Maybe the key is to always remember that I have the potential to shine greatly JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE. Then to make sure that I never ever forget that any shining I do, does not make me better than anyone who has not found their own way to shine in that moment.

The image that comes to mind as I write this is a bright but gentle light. An illumination, not a spot light or a flood light. I am reminded of one of my favorite hymnals.

When I breathe in, I breathe in Peace
When I breathe out, I breathe out Love

Maybe if I breathe in humility, when I shine my light will be filled with it. Maybe it will give others permission to shine.

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