Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Right Kind of Learning

I've done a lot of thinking in the last few weeks about the things big C will be learning in school this year.  I have wondered if there will be enough to keep him occupied in class, hoping for a healthy balance between reinforcement of the things he's already learned, and opportunity for new growth.

Then, today, I read this, and it brought it all into perspective for me.

So many times I have wondered about how to talk to him of his brother's special-ness, how to  introduce the subject in a compassionate, instructional way without confusing him or overloading his little brain.  This post encapsulates exactly what I want to say to him, what I want him to really learn.  More than the letters or the numbers or even following directions, I want him to learn compassion.  I want him to learn to look past the surface of others' actions and see the person underneath.

Tonight, after I'd been mulling this post all day, big C and I were discussing his school day.  Lo and behold, he informed me that everyone in his class had gotten smiley faces on their behavior charts except for one little boy, Josh.

He was mean, my baby said.  He was trying to kick people and was "bad."

Slowly, cautiously, I prodded for a little more.

"Why do you think he was mean, baby?"

A shrug was my only answer.

"Are you happy when you feel mean?"

After an initial protestation that he was "never" mean, I had to explain that it was okay to feel mean sometimes, like when he was hurt, or sick, or too tired, or angry.  It was just never okay to act mean to other people.

Satisfied with the clarification, he acknowledged that yes, sometimes he did in fact feel mean, and no, that did not make him happy.

I pushed it a little further.

"So do you think Josh is happy, baby?  Do you think he might be feeling mean because he's mad about something, or scared, or maybe--just maybe--he's lonely?"

Now, before you start rolling your eyes at me, I realize these kids are in kindergarten, and this may be a gross act of overthinking on my part.

I'm pretty good at grossly overthinking.

But at the same time, I know my kid, and I know his heart, and his way of thinking about things.  All sorts of things stay with this child long after I'm positive they've passed through one ear and out the other.  He mulls them, turns them over and over in his head when it just looks like he's watching TV, or coloring, or reading his books.  When he's satisfied that he's mulled something to death, a (sometimes frighteningly insightful) question will usually come out of nowhere.

That's just how he rolls.

So, although Josh may be a kid who just likes to be mean, I have a hard time believing that a five-year old is acting out in such a way without some sort of underlying issue.

An issue, which I tried to explain to Big C, that he might be able to help with.

"How?" he asked.

"By being his friend, baby," I answered.

"But he doesn't want to be my friend," he protested.

"That's okay," I reassured him.  "Sometimes it's okay if you just try."

We went on to discuss what one nice thing he was going to do for Josh tomorrow.  Of the scenarios discussed, we settled on wishing him a happy birthday (supposedly, this kid's birthday is Saturday.  I am fully prepared for that to be a complete and total five-year-old fabrication, but it's a start, although potentially a really confusing one).

During our discussion, the thought was ever present in the back of my mind: That boy is somebody's baby.  It's somebody's hope that he is happy, that he has more good days than bad, that he will not go through life  alone.

It could just as easily be my baby.

When little C gets dysregulated, his normally sunny disposition can turn stormy in a heartbeat, sending him into a tizzy of confusion and fretfulness and whines that probably look to all the world like another bratty kid.  A kid that might cause another child to label him as "bad."

So I think I've come to the conclusion that this is how I'll teach Big C about his brother's special-ness--by teaching him there's nothing that special about him at all.  His challenges may differ here and there from those of others', but those are just what's on the surface.

It's our job to make sure we see what's underneath.

~"Brave is not something you wait for.  It's a decision."

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