For eighteen years, I’ve been mom to a child who sees the world differently. In the early years, it often led to misunderstandings, actions and behaviors that upset others, causing concern and sometimes frustration, and while I didn’t always understand my son’s actions and reactions, I learned to seek his heart intent, the why behind the behavior, the reason for the action, but they weren’t easy years. Others weren’t always kind or patient or understanding, questioning my parenting, our choice to home school, sometimes quick to label.
Across the span of a decade, I learned that my son simply sees the world differently. If I’d set an art project in front of him, he’d balk at prescribed directions, impatient with step-by-step processes, frustrated by a prescribed outcome, but if I simply laid out the materials out and a possible end result, he’d spend hours intently focused, enjoying the process, creating something far beyond what I’d intended. So I stopped buying pre-packaged art projects, stopped working toward a specific end product and instead simply collected “supplies” in a big square bin: empty cereal boxes and oatmeal containers, cardboard tubes, plastic caps, fabric scraps, empty thread spools, buttons and beads and lids by the tub, bits of wire, colored paper, glue, glitter, tape, markers, colored pencils, paints and brushes, wood scraps, waxed linen, pastels, embroidery floss, craft needles, felt, clay, Velcro, spice jars, coffee tins, anything and everything my kids could use to build, string, sew, stack, fold, weave, erect or create, and they would, for hours at a time.
During those same years, I discovered that my son struggled with workbook-style learning, that reading comprehension was slow and laborious, that he agonized over finding the right word to fill in a blank, end a sentence, complete a puzzle, the answer instead of an answer, and learning became a chore, something to dread rather than enjoy. So I took a deep breath, threw out our workbooks and pulled out tubs of Legos and wooden blocks and dominoes, spread out paper and pastels and paints and pencils, bought clay by the pound and began to read, read, read, and as my boys built and sculpted and drew and created, they learned, interacting with knowledge and enjoying the process without even realizing it was happening.
Through story, my son found expression for his vision and it poured out in lines and shapes and shading and ink, flooding paper and screen, tumbling across days of obstacle courses and forts, origami and clay, strummed from guitar strings, thrummed through djembe and camera lens, color splashed across days, inscribed into years, never one right answer, but rather expression integrating life and learning, experience and discovery. And in the process, I too learned to see. Teaching my son opened my eyes to the possible, to what can be instead of what is, to beauty in unexpected places, and to compassion, for we weren’t created as assembly-line images, single slices of one standard flavor, but as unique and individual threads, each different and diverse, woven into the whole fullness of creation, en masse – every size and shape and people group and personality, together, the beautiful and boundless Body of Christ.
*Today’s reflection inspired by chapter 9, “Decreasing Prejudice by Increasing Discrimination,” of the book Mindfulness by Ellen J. Langer, and shared with Laura Boggess at The High Calling.