One of the things that I strive for very much in my parenting is nurturing and encouraging my boys’ self-expression and comfort in doing so. Often, their self-expression might be considered out-of-the-box, but mildly so, at this age. Sometimes the line between when I know its appropriate to encourage it or not, is gray.
For instance, I’ll tell you the story of what happened this morning at an “assessment” meeting with Logan, his teacher Mrs. Crom, and myself. Sitting across a small table from him, she looked him straight in the eye, folded her hands and asked him what kind of a person he is, how he likes to learn and what ways tend to work best for him. She was really interested in conducting a one-on-one meeting with him. At that point I was just his ride to school and a fly on the wall, as it were. His mind was really running after she asked him her question, I could tell, and that is when he leaned over and asked me, via a whisper in my ear, if I thought it would be OK for him to tell her that he likes to describe himself as paranoid and delusional.
Please note: He already told me yesterday about how he likes to use these two words when referring to himself. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity then to find out his reasons for it and understand that he is still our sturdy and stable guy, with his head on straight and that he only finds amusement in using words like these as it feeds his imagination and sounds a little more dramatic.
This was when I had to make a quick decision. To encourage this sort of openness with his teacher, or squelch it. It was a meeting for her to get to know him a little better, so I decided to encourage it, as I most always do. This is who my boy is after all.
So he says to his teacher, with intent eyes, but an ever-so-sly grin on his lips, “I like to describe myself as paranoid and delusional.”
And then, without batting an eye, she asked him to please explain to her what made him feel paranoid and he told her that his fear stemmed from the thought of his skin burning off in the sun.
In a very matter-of-fact way, she asked him if he wears sunscreen. And he said that he does…most of the time.
She nodded and encouraged him that his wearing sunscreen was good and would likely do the trick as it most often does. She moved on to investigating why he considers himself delusional.
He easily began describing how he thinks a giant monster is coming to attack and eat the school and everyone in it.
She wondered out loud, then, if they could problem solve his anticipation over the arrival of the monster. And again, she was still so serious in engaging him, you know, straight faced but very conversational. She never belittled his words in anyway. Her facial expression remained consistent the whole time.
She went on…”Has there ever been an actual instance that a real monster has come and devoured a school before, Logan?” she asked. “Ever, in the history of the world?”
He thought a moment, his eyes on her’s and his hands folded, right next to where her’s remained folded in front of his…
“Well, no. Not that I’m aware of.”
“So then, Logan, please consider that since a monster attack on a school has never, ever happened before, how likely do you think it would be that it could possibly still occur?” Mrs. Crom asked. “Do you think it could never, ever happen? Do you think there’s a small chance that it could still happen? Or, do you think that it absolutely could still happen, definitely and no matter what?”
I could see what she was doing here. I appreciated her presenting scenarios to him as choices. I wonder how she truly thought he would respond? What I was most impressed with, was her ability to discuss all of this on the fly. It was as if they were talking about something so commonplace as the sky being blue.
Logan told Mrs. Crom that he thought it was the second option….that there is still a small chance of their school being attacked by a monster.
And he added that he and his pals are actively developing a shrink ray during lunch and recess to save them when it actually happened.
That was when my “helicopter mom” showed up and I gently rubbed my son’s back and encouraged him to try and answer her original question of how he likes to learn.
Mrs. Crom told me afterward that it is these imaginative, “genius” minds that Logan was blessed with that become the next Bill Gates of the world. She said it is, in fact, important to nurture them. She told Logan before we left that she wants him to trust her and feel comfortable telling her anything. And, I know he already does. After just three days into fourth-grade, he felt confident enough in her (and in himself) to already be that honest with her in using such (unexpected) words.
I love love love the unique individuals that both of my boys are becoming. And I’m eternally grateful that they have been blessing with such amazing teachers so far. I hope that their free-spiritedness remains soaring and that they continue to be placed with others who embrace it, add to it and never, ever let it diminish. May their stars never be stolen.