My son, however, is not like that at all. There are some new things that he will not try...like ham in his grilled cheese sandwich. However he is more then willing to dip his grilled cheese sandwich into pickle juice in order to see what that tastes like. This week I have been struck by how free my son is to live. My wife and I sat through an IEP that talked about how far behind he is in his social skills, how limited his abilities are and how a brilliant mind that underachieves is not the priority of the education system. I know that there are rules that educators must follow in order to do their jobs, but IEPs are enough to drive anyone to homeschooling. In stark contrast to that meeting, I watched Diego do two things that he has no experience in. First we went ice skating for his sister's birthday party. He has skated maybe three times in his life. However he has seen people ice skate and he has read about people ice skating, so in his mind he can ice skate. He strapped on the skates, headed out to the middle of the rink and proceeded to enjoy two hours of skating, jumping, dancing and twirling...grinning the entire time and not caring about how he was supposed to be afraid of falling or being laughed at.
Then we had the science fair. For those of you with children, "Science Fair" is a phrase that can easily lead to nightmares, fights and marital counseling. Diego decided that he wanted to do his project on "The Physics of Wipeout." You know, Wipeout. The gameshow that knocks people into the mud and water in clever and painful ways. My kids love the show so much we got the video game. Now my son knows nothing about physics. But he put together a project with lego models and experiments and conclusions that was the hit of the class science fair. We put in a lot of time over the past couple of weeks, but the end result is completely him in tone and presentation...I just helped him get the idea out of his head and into the physical world.
I am amazed and inspired by Diego's fearlessness. He is not hindered by my fear of failure. He is not weighed down by thinking through all the things that could go wrong. He does not have all the voices in his head telling him that he is defeated before he starts. I want him to keep that. I long for him to keep that. And I am not sure how. Every administrative meeting, every school district assistant with good intentions, every self-conscious peer who is lashing out from insecurity...the world is full of people yelling at him to sit down, be quiet, stop laughing and worry. How do you protect your kids from the entire world?
Here's what I know for sure:
- God made diego this way, complete with the adventurous spirit, tender heart and quick smile.
- God placed him in this specific family, knowing that we would be good for him and he would be good for us.
- Family input is foundational input. What we say about Diego settles deep and resides at his core, for good or for ill, no matter what anyone else says or does. If we speak words of affirmation and encouragement, that will serve as a large shield against the lies of the world.
- Children respond to what is modeled for them. If I want these things to continue to flourish in my son, he needs to see them affirmed and lived out in my life. He needs to see a life of joy and a life of compassion...and a life of trying new things.
- And finally I must remember that my only hope, for myself and for my family, is in God's gracious and loving hands. May He carry and protect the precious treasure that He has made in my son.
I'll have to watch my son some more to find out.