Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Perpetual Motion

My family isn’t known for its ability to sit still. We all have excess energy, and it manifests in various ways—team sports, running, walking, fidgeting, talking, humming, nonstop reading, endless projects… Age eventually slows us down, and we learn the value of quiet moments, but our children suffer the same comments and frustrations we endured, especially in school.

Fortunately, for the most part, my children have had teachers who appreciate their kind hearts and brain power, rather than focusing on their constant, unconscious fidgeting. The first real opposition I encountered came from J’s third grade teacher. She was very concerned about the fact that he couldn’t sit still, but he was one of her top students, followed directions, worked quietly and never had issues with classmates--he didn’t fit classic ADHD profiles.

During conferences, she expressed her concerns and told me that I should have him evaluated...for something...she wasn't sure what. I took a deep breath and explained that J had been in motion since conception (I'm not exaggerating), that moving actually helped him think clearly and that I loved who he was. I also told her that if he was distracting other students, he wouldn’t mind extra space around his desk, because he didn’t like group seating arrangements.

I spoke calmly, but inside I felt sick, waiting for his teacher to continue her negative diatribe. Instead, I watched her face change and soften. She admitted that J didn't disturb his classmates, and I realized she was viewing him from a completely new and different perspective. Like the Grinch, I felt her heart grow three sizes that day, although she didn't do the impressive sleigh-lifting thing. She also gave me much-needed hope and strength regarding encounters with future teachers.

At home, I’ve learned to give my children a wide berth when they’re telling stories—they walk back and forth, make laps around the kitchen island, hop from foot to foot. The stories are expressive and creative—I can’t imagine what I’d squash if I told them to stand still. Let alone the fact that it would by physically impossible.

These thoughts are going through my mind, because while watching M get ready for school this morning, I was struck by how beautifully she moves through life. Her excess energy manifests in constant dance moves and dramatic facial expressions—she was born to Hip Hop. She plays the viola and composes piano music, always moving to her internal rhythms and beats.

I’ve never seen M stand still—that’s what makes her captivating and amazing. That’s what makes all of my children captivating and amazing. And the only reason I recognize this so clearly is because my mother constantly told my brothers and me how unique and special we were, that our active minds were gifts to cherish.

She never told us to sit still, and I realize now that the absence of that statement may be the greatest gift she’s ever given us.

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