rainbows and poop…
The conversation must come up in every VT room, and with every parent, around the world. And if it doesn’t, it needs to. We can’t help it. We are, after all, working with children. The conversation goes something like this…
“My child gets in trouble in class because they’d rather look silly than stupid…”
The details that follow are as unique as the individual. It always makes me smile a little on the inside to hear the new, creative, and comical ways kids find to express their frustration through silliness. Although perceived as inappropriate in the classroom, there may be a lesson in there for society as a whole. Think about it, with all the bad vibes in the media, a little silliness and light-hearted child’s play would be a welcome change. Imagine the shock among us if a police officer and criminal get into an exchange of knock-knock jokes rather than the sad interactions that the news media tends to glorify these days. I’m not saying it’s a fool proof solution, but has anyone tried it? When one of our patients act out in silliness, we try to help the parents understand the root of the behavior, perhaps even suggesting it is understood. Often referred to as the “class clown”, silly kids can sometimes be among the smartest in the room, they’ve just not yet learned the tools for harnessing their intelligence. As an objective observer, the conversation makes sense. That is, until we stop being objective, and things hit home. Hearing of these events when discussing other people’s kids is easier – not that it’s easy – just easier to manage. When it’s our own kids, not so much.
My son is a great kid, and I don’t just write that because it’s the right thing to say or because he’s my offspring, he really is a great kid. He’s got a huge heart, loves people, and seems to have a bit of a silly and twisted sense of humor – ahem – no clue where the last part came from. Now in 4th grade, his mom moving over the summer has meant he is in a new school, has a new teacher, and all new friends. The transition has been fairly smooth, although, there are small moments here and there where his new environment has been a challenge. Overall though, it’s been positive. Or, so I thought.
Last Thursday, I received a telephone call from the principal of my son’s school late in the afternoon. School had already let out and I knew my kids were home safely, so I didn’t give it much thought – until she called again, and then a third time. Since I was with a patient, I was not able to answer, but did return her calls as soon as time allowed. I was greeted with “I’m glad you’ve called me back. I have to share some concerns about your son.” Oh boy… My son wrote a poem, which he named “rainbows and poop”, that he shared with his entire class. Feel free to laugh, I did. Now when I say he shared it, I don’t mean that he creatively recited something at the lunch table that three or four of his friends heard and reported him to the teacher. No, it’s WAY better than that. Apparently, he created this masterpiece the night before on his older sister’s computer, printed out copies for each of his classmates, and attempted to covertly hand them out during silent reading time. If you’re not laughing yet, it gets better. After a visit to the principal’s office and being assigned “reflection” (modern day detention), the principal called both his mom and I to read my son’s creation over the phone, which I will admit was quite colorful. I was tempted to compliment the effort and dedication it took to create this masterpiece, but I held back. I’ll spare you the details, just know that it’s a good thing his principal couldn’t see my face while she was reading it over the phone, otherwise I would have received “reflection” too.
So what do we do from here? I know a lot of this is my son’s way of trying to make friends, maybe even adapt to his new environment. I know that he is only 10 and is discovering the boundaries of social interactions and conversations. I know that academically he is doing well, yet socially, he is very concerned with what others think of him. I know all of these things both because he is my child, but also because my childhood consisted of similar challenges. I learned a long time ago that every challenge, every failure, every negative interaction, and every moment of adversity, offers us a moment to pause and seek the lesson within it. Even the days where our VT is “bad”, there are ways to learn from it. Find the good, evaluate the bad, and plan out how to improve things the next time. Parenting has to be the ultimate challenge in that respect.
Even in this less than admirable position, I was reminded last Thursday of some very valuable information which can only make me a better therapist and help my patients overcome their challenges. And that is that some lessons are painful, even the good kids will misbehave, and sometimes asking “why and how” of our kids are far better solutions than assuming the worst.
As for my son, he’s a poet and his feet show it ~ Longfellow 😛