Life Under the Apple Tree

Thinking Out Loud

An Ode to Andrea

with 2 comments

odetoAndreaPicture: Andrea at Howe Caverns, Sept. 9, 2009

“Most of us would protest that of course we love our
 children without any strings attached. But what counts is how things 
look from the perspective of the children — whether they feel just as 
loved when they mess up or fall short.” ~Alfie Kohn

These were the messages that Andrea received from school (regardless of anyone’s best intentions): You can’t read well. You can’t pay attention well. You can’t make friends well. You are bad because you won’t pay attention to what we’re saying, or do what we’re telling you to do. You’re not as smart as everyone else. You are falling “behind” and if you don’t catch up, your world is very soon going to fall apart. You are so “bad” that we are afraid for you. Go sit in the corner. You’ll never get any of this unless you work harder. We must force you and punish you until you do, until you get what we’re teaching you. You will sit there, and you will not go out for recess or join your friends because you are not as smart or as good as they are. That is why we are doing all of this: For your own good. You are making us do this to you. We are sorry, but it’s your fault.

As Andrea’s parents, Scott and I felt required to continue the same messages at home. Get your homework done. What’s wrong with you that you won’t pay attention and just do it? Get up. Get out of bed. You have to go to school. You have to get on the bus. You have to do these worksheets, this project, or study for this test right now. All children have to do this. This is all for your own good, and if we are not happy with you, it is your fault. We don’t like the way you are behaving. We don’t like you for not doing what you’re told and for making us do this to you. (That last was my wake-up call, that I was beginning to feel hatred for my child. I never said “I hate you” in words, but I’m sure my actions spoke loudly.)

Now these are the types of messages a child should receive from someone who loves her and cares deeply about her: Andrea, you are beautiful. You have so much artistic talent. You are smart and capable, and and everything will come to you, or you will find a creative way around it. You were only seven when you were in school. Now you are thirteen. You still have plenty of time to discover yourself. There is no hurry, and I am always here for you if you need anything. Just ask and I will do anything in my power to help you with anything. You can come to me. You can trust me. I will never punish you. I love you and I want you to know that I am on your side. I have faith in you and your abilities, and if any adult has ever made you feel like there is anything in any way wrong with you, we have wronged you, and it is our fault. I’m certain I have, and it is my fault, and I am deeply sorry. What would you like to do? What are you thinking about behind those confident eyes? What are your interests? I would love to hear what’s keeping that wonderful mind of yours so occupied. Your imagination is so beautiful and special. I know you’ll do something amazing with it. You do amazing things with it. You are beautiful, intelligent, capable, and special. There is no question that you will be able to do anything that you set your mind to. I can’t predict the future, and I have no idea what you will be good at in the future, and which of your skills and talents will bring you success in life, but I’m sure that you will be successful and that you will put your talents to good use. Relax now. Let your imagination create whatever it is that it’s creating in that lovely head of yours. Do what brings you joy, and let your joy lead you to your success. I stand by you unconditionally, and with no strings attached. This is your life: Love it! Love yourself. Like I love you.

[Edit: I’ve sent the third paragraph as a letter to Andrea in an email (because our printer has run out of ink). I have no idea when she will read it.]

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Written by cherapple

24 September, 2009 at 7:32 am

2 Responses

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  1. This is very powerful and a beautiful expression of your love. Thank you for sharing.

    Free Spirit Mama

    27 September, 2009 at 7:34 pm

  2. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    cherapple

    27 September, 2009 at 9:15 pm


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