I stood in the park last week consoling a weepy mother. Her homeschooled daughter was asking to go to school and the mother was overcome with guilt. “Am I being selfish keeping her at home?” she wanted to know.
“Have you asked her why she wants to go to school?” I asked.
She hadn’t; so a few minutes later when her daughter started begging to join the pre-school class heading out of the park, Mom asked her daughter why she so desperately wanted to be a part of the class.
“I want to line up. I’ve never lined up, and I really, really want to line up.”
“Line up for what?”
“For lining up.”
The desires of children.
Last year, Zach begged us to sign him up for the more competitive traveling soccer team. He’s an extremely competitive child, and I assumed that he wanted to play against the best players. But halfway through the season he lamented that the travel team wasn’t as great as he thought it would be.
“But you’re in first place, and you love your team. What’s the problem?”
“I thought there was carpooling.”
“I thought that if you were on a traveling team, you got to carpool to the games. And we haven’t carpooled even once.”
The desires of children are not obvious.
My sister works in a hospital with very sick children, many of whom die. One day she walked into the room of a teen patient who had just received a horrible diagnosis He was crying and said that he was afraid. Instead of jumping in to console him, Jenny asked him what he was afraid of. It was his hair. He wasn’t afraid of dying; that hadn’t occurred to him yet. He was a handsome teen boy, and he didn’t want to lose his hair.
Last fall, while working on a poster we were making for Thanksgiving, I glared at Ezra for his lack of focus and effort. He needed to quit goofing around, I yelled. If he didn’t finish in fifteen minutes, he wouldn’t come with us to the park, I threatened. You have no work ethic, I accused.
At the park later that day, I told my friends how I had lost it with Ez. Then one of them told me that dyslexic kids have an impossible time copying text from a computer to a paper.
I went home and apologized to Ezra. “Hey buddy, I was talking to Lisa about how much trouble you were having copying the words from the computer, and she said that people with dyslexia often have that problem. I’m sorry that I accused you of being lazy. I know you were trying your hardest.”
“It’s okay, Mom. I already knew I was trying hard.”
I must have looked even more repentant at that point, because he added, “We both were.”
The assessments of children are sometimes staggering.
Guess what? Our children’s desires are not our desires. Neither are their fears nor their self-assessments. I know that, of course. But I’m amazed at how often I forget.