Kendra and I had a homework assignment from Jaden’s and Dillon’s new teacher due on the first day of school. We needed to write a letter to the teacher about each of their talents and characteristics. We had done similar assignments before with Logan, and may even have done something like this for them last year or in Pre-School. But somehow this one bothered me… as they get older, I grow increasingly concerned about people taking shortcuts in learning who they are. Any action I perceive as someone trying to compartmentalize them is immediately met by me with resistance…slowly approaching mild hostility. I understand that they are identical, and that it can be difficult to distinguish one from the other solely on appearance. But after spending any time with them, and making an effort to know either of them, it becomes apparent almost immediately who each is based on mannerisms or expressions, even posture! Each definitely has his own light… It isn’t that they are different so much that they just aren’t the same. I think I saw the assignment as an attempt to label or classify them for easier reference, and I didn’t want to arm her with any preconceived notions about how they might behave in class or provide her with the means to say, “Oh, you’re the one that likes… and you’re the one who…” and have that shape her interactions with them. I would much rather she got to know them individually and allow their personalities and talents to reveal themselves gradually and by situation…just as I prefer to get to know anyone or prefer anyone get to know me.
My first few drafts of the letters were…well they were rude. I was frustrated by my perception of the assignment and thought of several clever ways to tell this devious woman what I thought of her trickery and suggestions as to what I thought she could do with her assignment. As I thought it through and reason slowly settled in to push emotion out, and the barbs and jabs slid from overt, to thinly veiled, to non-existent, I began to focus on a section of the assignment I had overlooked. The instructions recommended sharing the contents of these letters with the children, so they could be aware of our views of them and be encouraged to know these talents were evident in them. I examined that passage for evidence of traps or double meaning… anything I could use to re-weave my tapestry of conspiracy… but alas. So I thought about the essence of Jaden and of Dillon, and what stood out to me as a key fiber of who they are that would draw her in to get to know them better and to lead her down a path that would reveal their other talents and abilities. I wanted something that, if perpetuated into some self-fulfilling prophesy cycle, would not begin or end in bias or stereotype and would not allow them to be easily labeled for comparison. It needed to be simple and honest… it needed to describe their individual fire. I contemplated each of them for a few moments, and I had my approach. I created the letters and received Kendra’s stamp of approval…pondered them momentarily… then hit “send” on the email to their suddenly less demonic 1st grade teacher.
I shared the contents of the letters with each of the boys separately in the morning before school. I wanted them to leave the house that day with a keen awareness of what they had to offer and what we saw in them that burned bright. Each, being an individual, handled the message in a way that was specifically befitting of himself. I will probably never know what impact the content or discussion had for either of them… I just hope it fanned the flames a little… enough for the fire to burn just a little brighter as they stepped into this new unknown… enough to light any corners of doubt that may have existed about who each is to us, and what we believe about them individually…enough to withstand the darkness of any box that might get used as confinement and burn those borders down to ash…or at least enough to get them through the day…then I can tell them again tomorrow.
Kiss your kids!
Thanks for coming along for the ride.