Last night I took my two-year-old son Rowan to his orientation for our beloved Lake Geneva Montessori School. It seems unbelievable to me that my “baby” will be going to school next year. Rowan is only two, but let me tell you what, he is one of the smartest, boldest, comfortable in his own skin two-year-olds that I have ever met.
If you have read my earlier posts you know that I often say this about Rowan; he is living proof that God knows exactly what you need. And as I accompanied him to orientation last night I remembered just how true this is. You see, this orientation was drastically different than the very same orientation for Grayson just two years ago. I can remember going to that orientation filled with nervousness. For starters, Grayson was our first child and in such the first child to begin any type of schooling. And, at that point we were pre-autism diagnosis, but post knowing that something was going on with our little man. I remember attending the orientation alone. They encouraged us to bring our children if it worked for our schedules, but I wanted a little one-on-one time with the teachers to make sure I had my head on straight. During the orientation they give you folder with a number of different forms. But I remember one form very clearly, the “Personal Development Form”. This form is more or less a “get-to-know-me” form for two-year-olds. This was just one single sheet of paper, but I kid you not I must have written in the smallest font possible on every single inch of that piece of paper. I wanted them to know anything and everything that I knew about my son. We had symptoms and tendencies and behaviors, but we were working without a diagnosis or a treatment plan. So I poured as much as I could fit onto that piece of paper. And then like most parents, I hoped for the best.
Last night Rowan came with me to his orientation. He proudly said “it’s my turn.” There are very few moments in Rowan’s life that are just about him. He is often looked to for way more understanding and reasoning than any two-year-old should need to possess. So, during our drive to orientation I made a point to talk to him about it being his turn to go to this school and that Grayson would go to a different school now. It clicked with him right away. As we walked through the gates to the school he said “It’s Rowan’s turn to go to school.” And then he dashed over to the outdoor toys and began to play. Once I talked him into moving inside he bounded up the stairs (a path and routine he knows well). He grew a slight bit sheepish as we walked into his classroom, but he quickly found his spunk and began guiding the teachers all around the room in exploration. As I sat at the table with one of the teachers I joked about how Rowan’s “Personal Development Form” could contain two simple and to the point words…”second child”. In his two and half years on this world Rowan has become the most compassionate and kind-hearted human being. Sure, he is still two. So he can throw raging fits with the best of them. But at his core he is nurturing and understanding and flexible. He understands things that some adults cannot understand. At the end of our twenty minute orientation we walked down the stairs and Rowan said “bye Rowan’s turn.” He was ready to go home, but he was so happy for the twenty minutes that were all about him.
Sometimes people describe me as a “yes, and…” kind of person. If you are not familiar with this concept, in a nutshell it means that once something is proposed you dive straight in headfirst and begin working on that idea. For example, someone can text me an idea for a charity event, and within minutes I have put together the full table scape and idea board. At work someone may suggest a new avenue for sourcing candidates, and by noon I will have put it all into a pivot table to determine the best execution strategy. I never shy away from an idea or an adventure or the opportunity to help someone in need. Of all of the things that I have passed down to my children; this is the trait I am proudest to see in Rowan (his passion for twirling skirts and sequined headbands is a very close second). Rowan is a “yes, and…” child all of the way. Rowan can be 100% committed to a TV show and if his brother comes in the room and requests a change, Rowan not only agrees to the change, but then he convinces you that it was the show he really wanted to be watching all along. Sometimes Rowan is even told which color can be his favorite color. Or which animal can be his favorite animal. And he takes it in stride every single moment of every single day.
You see, in a world full of second guessing and judging and bullying, I am so incredibly proud to be raising my “yes, and…” son. Towards the end of our orientation last night one of Rowan’s teachers commented that both Rowan and Grayson are so lucky to have each other. I could not agree more. Grayson, in his own Grayson way, is teaching Rowan about tolerance. He is showing Rowan, every single day, that some people need different things from you. And Rowan, in the most Rowan of ways, is teaching everyone around him how to be more tolerant. Every time he allows the show to be changed. Every time he brushes off a hit or a push. Every time Grayson gets the last donut with Green sprinkles on it. Every single day. Rowan rises above challenges and overcomes roadblocks every single day. And as a mom, it would be easy to let this break my heart. It would be effortless to let myself be overcome with sadness for not being able to protect Rowan. But the reality is that Rowan does not need protection because he is learning to protect himself. And he is learning to protect the people around him. Rowan looks at his brother every single day and says “yes, and…”.
Parents, I have never claimed to know it all. But this I know…tolerance is taught. Our children have the most amazing capacity to love unconditionally. To accept difference. To embrace all of the wonderful unique people in this world. As you prepare to send your children off to school this fall, remember that back-to-school is more than shopping for school supplies and sparkly new shoes. Remind your children to be good people. Remind them to be kind. Remind them to feel blessed for the life that they have. Remind them to embrace difference. To learn from it. Remind them that what they see from 8am-3pm is only a very small part of someone’s life. In that small amount of time, encourage them to make a positive difference. Encourage your children, every single day, to see the difference in the world and say “yes, and…”