I have written this post three times, trying to communicate what I want to say. I’ve rarely had such a challenge with a blog post. So, I’ll say it up front: This post is about the the good from the bad and bad from the good.
For example, over Memorial Day weekend my family needed to go to a funeral. My husband’s step-mom’s mom passed, and while it was sad, it wasn’t unexpected. The family took it well, and had a few weeks between event and memorial to manage their grief.
With that in mind, the weekend went splendidly. My son managed to stay still through a Catholic service, which earned him a medal of honor of a sort. We were proud of him for not melting down. If you’ve never sat through a Catholic service, you may not be aware of the long, strange rituals filled with archaic terms and repetitions. Catholicism takes its rituals very seriously, rarely updating their cannon to be accessible. I remember being a young girl sitting through a Catholic Mass with my grandmother. I got into trouble because I followed her up to take Communion. (I wanted the cracker.) I got into trouble because I didn’t understand what the cracker meant, and the symbolism behind it. To me it was just a cracker. To them, it’s the Body of Christ.
Ritual is soothing to many, and the Catholics faith is nothing if not stable. To a child, there are few things more exasperating than being forced to be quiet and listen to unfamiliar chants for an hour. Toby twisted and turned, flopped and flipped, but he was quiet, and he kept mostly to just his seat. When you’re a child with ADHD, that is a testament to self-control.
What’s more, Toby’s teacher has praised him the last two days because he’s been more focused on his work. When compared to the funeral, going to school just doesn’t seem that terrible anymore. This isn’t simple supposition. This is what my kid has told me when I asked him what caused him to behave better. Apparently the experience of the service showed him that were in fact worse things than school. I didn’t imagine something good coming out of sitting through a Catholic funeral. It seems as though allowing Toby to experience first hand this tough thing had the unexpected benefit of giving him something for comparison.
This is going to stay with me. I am a protective mother, I admit it. I often try to protect Toby from experiences I think he won’t like. I see now that what I’m doing is narrowing his field of experience, which isn’t teaching him anything. I’m not going to throw him out into the street and expect him to fend for himself, but it definitely is an argument for trying things for other reasons than just suiting my son’s tastes.
Not long after we got back, I got into an online conversation with a girlfriend of mine who is also attending school. She is beginning to see the downside of being as talented as she is. My girlfriend is marvelous, she’s got a good head on her shoulders and has a business sense that is getting her far with her teachers at her school. Quite recently she endured some thinly veiled teasing that made her feel awkward and uncomfortable. It made her quite upset.
I chimed in with solidarity in the online conversation, but mentally I turned this over in my mind. I realized why she was so upset. In part, it was because being the best in the class is supposed to be a good thing. There aren’t supposed to be any downsides to earning the highest place through hard work and talent. She had worked hard to get where she was, so why wasn’t she appreciated?
I never thought about it. People don’t warn you that being at the top has downsides. Everyone wants to get to the top so bad, I’m not sure anyone would listen if they did. When you make it to the top, however, those who want to be where you are have no incentive to treat you with respect. They will do everything in their power to shake you loose, and not lose a night of sleep doing it. It made me sad to realize this was something that would happen. After all, good things should be all good, right?
Everything in life is a little bit good and a little bit bad. Some things are very good, some things are very bad, but typically there isn’t much that you can’t find a little bit of the other. When it’s good, though, we expect it to be all good, all the time, with no interruptions. Why wouldn’t we?
Both of these lessons were worth learning, and have given me a lot to think about. I’m a fan of trying to make things as simple as possible to keep them efficient, but recently I’ve learned that efficiency may not be the most useful human trait. Sometimes we have to remember that it’s more complicated than we think it is.