There is this line that I think all parents have to walk. The line straddles the belief that your children can do ANYTHING and the fact that well, frankly – no, your child is NOT the next American Idol.
You can’t be too far one way or the other. Too positive and you’ve lost your damn mind and you have no concept of their actual skill level. You ARE the person screaming as your baby doesn’t get the Golden Ticket on American Idol about how YOUR BABY HAS TALENT when in fact your baby is tone-deaf at best. You think your kid deserves to be the QB when in fact he needs to settle for his spot on the offensive line and be good at that.
There is a value in knowing their skills – and their limits.
Then there is the other side. You can’t TELL them they can’t do things. You have to believe in them and pump them up. You have to let them fail. When they fail you have to pick them up and tell them you love them for trying, and maybe help them figure out how to WIN next time. You tell them about all the times you failed. You tell them how horribly it went. You tell them how much you believe in them, and you try to give them exposure to the skills they need to do the thing – whatever it is.
You walk the line. You’re positive. You’re realistic.
Then there are those kids that these rules aren’t the same for, yet they are there as well.
Such as my two little sweeties. My special little guys, to borrow Marge Simpson’s phrase. Charlie had a teacher once who spent time every day teaching the guys in his class to roll silverware. His comment to me was “Maybe some day he can work in a restaurant!”
I thought this very nice man had lost his fucking mind. If he thought I was gonna let my Charlie go out in the world, the very fucked up work of food service, alone to roll silverware….well let’s just say that’s not ever happening. That doesn’t mean I don’t think Charlie can do things. Charlie is 13. He can write his name. He can count pretty darn high.
But they’ve both always had teachers who incredibly believed in them. They had teachers who didn’t assume they couldn’t do things. They had teachers who just said “This is what we’re doing.” They don’t always do it right, but they do it.
I get frustrated, though, when they get “normal” homework. It’s not normal 8th grade homework and yet – it’s often so far above their heads it frustrates me. It’s been known to make me cry. It reminds me, often, of what they can’t do. I don’t have this skill set of teaching them or working with them in this way. So I look at their homework and I cry because my beautiful babies can’t even do this work.
Today’s assignment was due to the digital learning day we had because of the snowstorm.
So there I am, about in tears and just furious. Why do they have to constantly remind me of the sort of concepts my kid can’t understand? WHY? Yet how can I fault a man who believes so much in my kid, that he just assumes my kid can and will do this assignment.
I read him the sentence a few times. I didn’t need to do that, he can read. The first thing he did was copy the words. Then I asked him what’s his dream? He stared at me, until I said “Well what do you love?” And he yelled LOVE and wrote that word down.
So his dream for the world is LOVE.
I sat there feeling like a dick, because why can’t I believe in my kid as unequivocally as his teacher? Why do I see what he can’t do instead of what he can? Because it breaks my heart and I’m not neutral? I don’t know. But I feel bad about that. I want to be a better parent than that.
I want to be Frank Zappa telling the PMRC that you shouldn’t decide how smart a child is by labeling a toy for an age. I want to believe that a child can play with any toy – or do any homework because they can.
I love that Frank put on a suit and cut his hair. He stepped into their arena and played their game. He played it his way. But he didn’t waver from his convictions. He believed in his words, and he didn’t cave in.
I need to be more like Frank. I need to not believe in the things that hold them back, but that I don’t know what they can do – so let’s find out.
I posted it on Facebook, my level of butthurt that had been visited upon me by the teacher and then I realized I was being ridiculous.
I wasn’t believing in my own kid.
So I hugged him and told him good job. His dream for the world is LOVE. How about that?
Right about the time I had this amazing epiphany, this moment of autism parent clarity – he walked down the hall and hit Charlie in the face.
Maybe be more like Frank but not completely like Frank…