The problem with….

There is a boy in Selam’s class. Let’s call him Bob. He has a shock of hair, freckles and a smile that God painted to demonstrate delight. Seriously, this kid is full of delight. Sand moving from one hand to another? delight. Water and a red boat in the water table? delight. Selam liking his shoes? delight. It is an exquisite smile. It’s one you just want to mirror.

The problem with Bob is, well, he has problems. He has a hard time sitting still and following directions. He gets excited and pushes kids. He destroys materials, just to see what might happen if, say, you were to snip the tips off the markers. He gets angry and hits.

All year, I’ve heard people talk about this child (this child that honestly I find so exquisite that I feel defensive on his behalf even though he’s not my kid). The problem with Bob is that he’s the only boy in the family. The problem with Bob is that he has no discipline. The problem with Bob is he must have ADD and needs medicine. The problem with Bob is that he has no respect. The problem with Bob is….

The thing is Selam loves Bob as much as I do. More, actually. Truth be told, she breaks into a big goofy smile every time she sees him, and will run full out across the room for the chance to share the listening table with him.

As pure as her love for him is, she’s also the self-appointed class reporter. Everyone who gets in trouble with the teachers goes on Selam’s daily report. Today, she was telling me what Bob did, and then I heard her say the phrase that I’ve come to hate from parents and teachers…..

“The problem with Bob is……he has a good heart inside and he just can’t let everybody see it yet. He needs help getting it outside.”

I’d like to say that Selam has some concrete ideas for how to help her friend. She doesn’t. It’s really not her job. That’s the job of the grownups–of all of us, really–to help all the kids get their good hearts outside.

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4 thoughts on “The problem with….

  1. This made me tear up Susan. El has quite a few of these boys in his class and he loves these boys. Sometimes he gets roped into the naughty behavior but that’s another story. I was seeing it as a huge negative but thanks for helping me look at it with another perspective.

  2. I found you via a friend on FB. I loved this post. I have three wonderfully and exquisitely naughty children myself!

  3. Hi — I followed the link from your comment on jo(e)’s blog. (I love her blog too!)

    My son is not like the boy you describe because my son, at that age, hardly ever spoke. He’s like that boy, though, in his zest for life and for experimentation. When he was a toddler he used to throw food on the floor to see what happened when it fell, splat!, and then look at me with such joy — Look at the pattern! Look how far it splashed! (My daughter, on the other hand, used to throw food on the floor and then watch the expression change on my face.) We let him experiment as much as we could without our house getting destroyed, but we also talked a lot about the consequences of such experimentation — he always, for example, had to clean up his mess…. Now that he’s 9 he’s a very interesting, interested fellow and, if I may say so, quite polite and well-behaved. Also he’s good at fixing things with duct tape : )

    Anger management is a completely separate issue. We dealt with that too. It turns out that in our society, there is no legitimate way to express anger. (Think about it! No screaming, no yelling, no tattling, no hitting, no stamping your feet.) You have to teach kids to swallow their anger. Harder for some of then than for others.

    Anyway, as the mother of a child who’s a little bit like Bob: thank you for appreciating him : )

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