Friday, December 11, 2015

Believe in Them

Ethan came home with a paper in his backpack the other day. They've been talking about fairy tales and folk tales lately in second grade and this paper appeared to involve Little Red Riding Hood. I began to read Ethan's (somewhat messy) scrawl that filled two pages. Was this a story, as in, an Ethan original?

Long ago, there was a little girl name Red Riding Hood and everyone loved her. One day, Red Riding Hood's mother asked Red Riding Hood to bring muffins to her sick grandmother...

Nah, couldn't be. The teacher was probably having him practice his penmanship, I figured, or to write down the story from memory.

I kept meaning to ask him about it, but every time I'd get interrupted and forget until he was asleep or at school. I read through it several times, and after a few days, finally tossed the papers in the trash.

But a few minutes later something compelled me to ask him.

"Ethe, that store about Little Red Riding Hood -- did you write it?"


"Without copying from anywhere?"

"No, I made it up."

I went back to the trash and un-crumpled the paper.

...Red Riding Hood went through the woods and got to her grandmother's house, but she saw a wolf in the distance. Just when her grandmother's house came into sight she saw the wolf race into her grandmother's house. When Red Riding Hood went in, she was gone. The wolf ate Little Red.  

One day, the wolf was sick. He threw up. Out popped Red and her grandmother. Apparently Red always carried a jackhammer with her. Wack! Twing! Kapput! The wolf was dead. They lived happily ever after.

This, from the boy who talks about the evils of "writer's workshop" every time he gets. Was it a masterpiece? Of course not. But between the lines I could see the glimpses of so many things...a good grasp of vocabulary; creativity; humor.

I thought back to when he was little. "He's so smart!" the therapists who came to our home used to say.

I couldn't see it.

In school we'd have meetings and I always wanted to talk about what might happen, what could go wrong, which pitfalls he might plunge into (I still do that. Just less often.).

"Don't assume. He's going to surprise you," his teachers and therapists kept saying. "Look at how he's already surprised you."

But I'm not here today to write about how Ethan has surpassed expectations and blown us all away.

I'm thinking about how I need to believe in him. In my kids. In my husband, too.

I don't mean this in a sappy, "everyone wins a trophy," "you're so wonderful at everything" kind of way.

I mean I need to believe the best. I need to set expectations high but never weightier than the unconditional love they feel. I need to not confine them to a box.

I've joked with Anna about how she struggles in math and spelling. Now I've realized in the process we've kind of resigned her to just not being good at math and spelling. What if we started telling her "You can do this?"

That's different than telling her she can be a math genius. Maybe she can't (then again, maybe we need to keep our lips tighter on what our kids can't do and let them find that out on their own). But she can get better. She can work hard. She can gain more understanding.

I'll never forget what someone said to me during a marketing and public relations internship my last semester of college. "You are one of the best writers we've ever had," she remarked, "but you're also the least confident." It's something I still struggle with to this day.

There is a fine line between confidence and pride, between feeling assured of who you are verses having an overinflated picture of who you are.

But Little Red Riding Hood reminded me that believing in the people close to you is a way that you love them. That doesn't just mean believing in them to succeed and use their talents well...but maybe believing in them to make the hard choice, or to do the right thing, or to turn back when they've gone down the wrong path.

And if they let us down?

Just keep loving.

"Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends." - 1 Corinthians 13:7-8

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