Saturday, January 19, 2013

I Have A Dream

If you have been reading this blog you likely either know me, or you were introduced to me from my recent guest post at This Is Mommyhood.  So you know a bit about my Fab. Fam.

Years ago, when Thing 1 & Thing 2 were preschoolers, I worked at the child care center they attended.  A recent conversation with a former co-worker from those days reminded me of this story about my son.  In the spirit of Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream where lovingkindness prevails over hatred, and all of our children have the chance to succeed together, I offer it to you.

Long before we had a diagnosis for Thing 2, of course, we had issues.  He was impulsive and disruptive. In preschool, he was the boy the other children blamed for anything that got spilled or lost or broken.  He was always the class clown and usually the class problem. Then this happened:

A local family adopted a Russian orphan.  He was nearly five years old.  As I understand it, he had been abandoned on a freight train at birth.  Before being adopted and coming to America, Ivan*  had spent his entire life in an orphanage.  (*name changed to respect his privacy.)  The social worker assisting in the adoption recommended to his new family that he spend time with American children in a school setting.  So, for a few days a week, Ivan attended my son's preschool class.

For the longest time, Ivan didn't speak.  Not even in Russian.  He sat under the teacher's desk and watched the class. After several days of this, Thing 2 started clowning around to get Ivan to interact with him.  He'd roll him balls or bring him books or make silly faces.  Ivan remained unmoved and my easily distracted boy bounced off to another activity.  The next day, though, my son was back with a different approach.  He crawled under the desk and simply sat with Ivan.  He stayed all afternoon.  His teacher was amazed, because it was the longest my son had ever sat for anything.

When Ivan's mother arrived to pick him up and found my son sitting with him, she burst into tears.  I was paged to come to the classroom.  I was already becoming "That Kid's" mother, and too frequently was called to address some difficulty that my boy had caused.  So when I came to the classroom to find Ivan's mother crying, my heart sunk.  What had my son done?!  And then she hugged me.  The boys' teacher explained everything, about how my son sensed what it was Ivan needed in a new friend.  How he stopped his usual antics to just sit quietly.  How my boy had been the classmate to show real kindness to Ivan. 

This beautiful incident didn't change my boy. He was still the boy who disrupted the class and spent more time in trouble than anyone else. It did show me, his teacher, one frightened boy and his mother though, that my son was so much more than just the trouble he causes.

It is important to remember that about people.  We are all more than our troubles, whatever you perceive those to be.  Dr. King was speaking about people who consider other people's  skin color to be trouble.  Today people talk about mental illness or poverty or immigration status or sexual orientation or, even still, skin color as trouble.  And that is all that they see when they look at a person. 

I have to admit to often forgetting that about my own son.  He is so much more than his mental illness.  And I love him with every fiber of my being. How much harder is it to remember that about strangers?  That is the task before us today, though.  As people all around the country remember the legacy of the great man who tried to make the world a better place for his children--and for everyone else in the process--we are charged with fulfilling his dream.  For me, the place to start has to be remembering that every individual is more than their trouble.

Where will you start?


1 comment:

  1. You should and must be very proud of your son. Everyday I remind myself to be patient. With my child, people and life.

    "Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." ~ Plato