The fifth graders are “feeling their oats”. Drama is high, motivation is low. We still have more than a month left. Thankfully, I have an alter ego that I happened upon while teaching quadrilaterals. “Quads” is a tough Jersey guy that owns a triangle factory turned to quadrilateral fabrication. He has an elderly cat names Francis and makes pastries in his free time. Most importantly, when “Quads” shows up, kids get down to business.Sometimes an alter ego is the key to levity and hard work.
On an almost daily basis, my wife makes cheese and crackers to eat while our almost year and a half year old twins sit on the other side of the counter eating lunch. Today I was on lunch duty, handing out pita, fruit and cheese. All of a sudden, our son started frantically gesticulating to a small wrapped package of saltines he found hidden behind the bowl of fruit. He achieved calm only when I opened the package for him. Then, before my eyes, he expertly laid down the cracker, topped it with cheese and carefully scaled down the bar stool to search out my wife and deliver her lunch. The tears welling up in her eyes, shone with appreciation…Dowan truly observed “mother’s day”.
What can we do to show that we observe/notice each other?
My autism training was based in Applied Behavioral Analysis- data, fact and behavior. Then I went to a training by William Stillman last week. His work is based on assuming age equivalent intelligence and being attuned to the “exquisitely sensitive, inherently gentle” nature of people on the autism spectrum; including himself. His stories were of people who began to talk and experience calm simply by being acknowledged as the full humans that they are.
How do we make sure to always see the “intelligent, exquisitely sensitive and inherently gentle” human before the “behaviors”?
If you were to casually walk through my house, you may assume that the tiny black droppings scattered throughout the house belonged to the rear end of a rabbit. It is only upon further study that you may spot two new walkers, toddling around with small boxes of raisins, tossing the contents as if it were confetti.
Much of life is not what it appears to be. Whether we are looking at relationships, data or the contents of the fridge, taking a closer look often provides more insight.
In the airport I sat next to a very tall young man with huge feet. We chatted for a while about being the tallest kids in middle school and exchanged stories about riding on propeller planes- his fear was palpable . All of a sudden someone approached my conversation partner, recognized him by name and began to talk about his football career- asking me to take a picture of them together.
I still don’t know the name of the famous guy with whom I chatted, but the experience will always remind me that no matter who we are or what we do, we all share the human experience. Being an elite athlete doesn’t keep you from ordinary fear or middle school.
Recently, I had the privilege of being at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Fransisco. Thirty seconds into the celebration, I was on my feet, singing, smiling and crying simultaneously. I was lead by a choir composed of a large variety of socio-economic, race, gender identity, age, and physical abilities. From the music, to the visuals, announcements and preaching, the message was clear: EVERYONE was loved and valued.
How can we create a world where this experience is the rule instead of the exception?
Last week, we decided to make the most of the eternal winter by going ice skating. Our four-year-old had never been on the ice so I quickly grabbed a support frame for her to push around. I had every expectation that she would hold on to that thing with a death grip for the entire outing. Two minutes later she was using the bar to perform swinging acrobatic tricks. After ten minutes had gone by, she ditched the frame and successfully attempted to skate on her own, throwing in a few wobbly twists and turns.
As parents and practitioners, we set up frameworks of support for those in our care. With these supports comes the responsibility to watch carefully. Some folks need to hold on to those bars for a long time, others just need the support to get started. Our job is to let go of our agenda and respond with compassion.