It’s Not All Mary Poppins

It’s as clear as the nose on your face … maybe

All the children are at the table. We are colouring fire. The bowl of crayons in the centre of the table is filled with “fire colours” — red, orange, yellow. We are talking about fire, how it’s hot and makes light and cooks things. We are talking about scribbles and filling the whole paper with fire. We are talking about red and orange and yellow. We are using words like ‘flame’ and ‘flicker’.

And Timmy, in the centre of this fiery maelstrom, takes tiny bits of paper and twists them. Twists and twists little bits of paper. He does not pick up a crayon. He does not join the conversation. He twists little bits of paper into tiny skews, smiling to himself all the while.

What’s your response to this?

“He charts his own course.”
“He’s not very socially aware.”
“He doesn’t follow instructions.”
“He’s more tactile than visual.”
“He’s independent.”
“He doesn’t listen.”
“He lives in his own head.”
“He’s oblivious.”
“He’s not too bright.”
“He’s creative.”

Any, some, or none, of those could be correct. How do you choose? Through careful and objective observation of the child? Maybe. Or perhaps, like most people you’ll just choose the one that meshes with your biases and pre-conceptions, not even realizing that you’re doing so.

So the very out-going person who loves to be mixing it up with others will determine that this child is socially unaware, a little oblivious. This observer may be amused or annoyed by the oblivion, but will be quite firmly convinced the root cause is social — because that’s his/her primary motivator.

The person who values independence and creativity may well see those traits being displayed in this behaviour. The person who likes method and order will see inattention or inability to follow instructions or the example of others.

And each of us who observes him and reaches our conclusions thinks we’ve nailed it. It’s so obvious! It’s ‘just the way he is!’

You have to be aware of your biases in this job.

My evaluation?

Oh, I dunno. He’s just a weird little dude sometimes. Cute, but weird.

January 24, 2008 Posted by | parenting, peer pressure | 10 Comments