When my son turned ten, my husband and I took out an old video and transported ourselves back in time ten years. When did we grow old?
I send my son to school every day. There, I know, is a bully. Also, an inexperienced teacher riddled with insecurity. I want to protect him from our insane reality, the cumbersome nature of the human race. Why do we need to step on the passions of others, intimidate those we most admire, bully the innocent and by far, the most prevalent behavior of our time – punish those we don’t understand? Instead of spirited curiosity, the mystery in others unnerves, penetrates and threatens. But, isn’t it our own familiar prison we most abhor? Perhaps it is the mystery in others that reminds us of endless possibility, the expansion of a new soul – in sum, inspiration and imagination lost.
I want to protect my son. I hear stories from the underground and want to throw him down a rope. Yell for him to come up, come home, leave that ridiculous place we call “school” and rub off the hate with alcohol. I want to hug away the shame and remind him again and again that life is not about that but it’s about this – this place that I can create for him called love. But, I can not. I struggle to restrain myself day in and day out. Because even though I know that real life is just not fair, it is out there that children will learn to stand up on their own, find their voice and pick and choose from all those injustices a cause to refute. “Out there” is the place that we can go to test our work, check in on our progress, reflect, get feedback. From my son’s stories, we can learn to readjust, reassign, redirect our teaching. Find out what he needs a little more of or a little less.
A few weeks ago, my son was wrongly accused and assessed. My husband and I and our five year old daughter marched over to the school like a miniature army. His teacher was concerned, apparently, that he was too smart for his own good and that she worried he might take advantage of the other children. She had wrapped his strength in a shroud of criminality. After sitting with her for about twenty minutes and sitting with the principal for another half hour, I felt my pulse quicken and my words slow down into a clearly directed speech pattern I usually reserve for a client. In this mode, I was able to pick up a more subtle vibration coming from my left. From the direction my son sat, I began to smell something delicious. It was the smell of a back bone. When did that happen? While my son’s favorite Ratatoulli character was still decidedly Linguini, I couldn’t help feel that the boy beside me was more in the flavor of Iron Man. When it was time to say goodbye and my husband and I worried about sending him back to his classroom, I was surprisingly reassured by his resolve and unbending strength. Astounding! Child teaches parent.
I have this plant in my sun room that is sick and probably dying. At first I didn’t know why but then it dawned on me. The last couple of times I had watered it, I had poured an extra teaspoon of vitamins into the water. The leaves keep falling and I am sad. How can I have killed something with too much of a good thing?
My plants, my hair, my friendships, my career, my children — I want them all to grow. I have some idea what ingredients are needed but sometimes I am not sure about the how much and the when. How much imagination is needed to make a dream come true? How much time do I need to spend cutting off split ends? How many times do I try before it’s okay to quit? How much sun? How much rain? When do I come closer? When do I give more space? The variations are endless. And then we assess. If I had just pushed a little bit harder, he might have… Or, if I had just waited one more day…
The learning curve is something like this. Caring about life. Paying attention to detail. Stopping to reflect. Assessing holistically. Finding your imagination. Having the courage to change. Changing behavior. As a teacher, parent and member of the human race (one who has loved and lost, succeeded and failed, and who continues tirelessly to trust in alchemy), I can’t help believe that we can all locate each other on the learning curve. Whether you are wearing the hat of a student or the hat of a teacher, you are somewhere caring about your life, paying attention to detail, stopping to reflect, making an assessment, searching for your imagination, finding the courage to change, changing behavior accordingly, caring about your life.
Sometimes I get discouraged when one stage seems to dominate my entire existence. Or when I hold on too long or too hard and suffocate life. Of Mice and Men. Every day this week for example, I sit next to my plant and hope for a resurrection. I think that God’s creatures have this nifty healing mechanism built in. When we think all is lost, there is a miraculous recovery. Like my son’s backbone. Isn’t that humbling? But, some things will inevitably die along the way. And this is why life is so overwhelmingly daunting. The only thing I can honestly say about the learning curve is this. Whichever stage you or a loved one is at, be patient. Everything needs time to grow. And we don’t say – God Speed, for nothing, either. It’s our little way of reminding each other that while you and I will always be starred in the leading role – we must not forget the stage, the director, the cast and the crew. So, God speed, every one! God speed.