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A Boy and his Frog

Ah a boy and his frog…

What? Not the animal that pops into your mind when you hear “a boy and his…”? Well, we actually do have a dog. In fact, we have two dogs. Little Man adores them and they adore him right back, but lately when I am thinking of my youngest child, my Little Man…when I find myself a bit stymied and worried about his future (and his present, for that matter) a large green slimy bullfrog comes to mind and reassures me. His name is Sucky and he was born deep in the recesses of the mind of one of the very most inquisitive and imaginative little boys that I have the pleasure of knowing…of raising in fact, and he has inspired me to put pen to paper and to thus revisit some of my own dreams and aspirations…

On the days when Little Man steps off the bus with his shoulders slumped, head down, and brow furrowed, his feelings of defeat are almost tangible. He is having a hard time adjusting to the third grade…and the new expectations. This will be a year of letter grades (something of which he is acutely aware…having overheard many a discussion with his teenaged sisters) and additional standardized tests (which brings the testing to: 3 NWEA tests, 2 I-STEP tests, and an IREAD in a pear tree…) and all the stress that comes with them. It is a year when wealthy corporations who profit from selling kits to master the very tests that they apply to our children, push even harder to convince everyone that they can, in a matter of hours…and with a one size fits all test, accomplish what we parents have been trying to do since the very first day we laid eyes on our children…and what the teachers struggle to do simultaneously with multiple children (in between the time needed for teaching specifically for the tests) from the moment they walk into the classroom: understand who our children are, how they learn, and help them to figure out what path is best for them. And though I am eternally grateful to Little Man’s school for the way they view these tests and the care they take in their application, I also understand that their hands are tied as to whether this many tests or these kinds of tests should even be given to children this young.

Ok…so I may be slightly anti-standardized tests, but that isn’t even what this is about. I know that Little Man is a “quirky” kid and that when he is focussed on something, whether it be the insects of Australia or the reptiles of South America, it can be difficult (understatement alert) to redirect his attention to the subject at hand. He is a veritable treasure-trove of nature facts, and would much rather talk about them than shoot the breeze about the latest video game or sports competition with his classmates…or work on his math word problems or spelling. My heart feels torn between wanting him to do well and to fit in and not wanting him to surrender himself in the name of conformity. So, when I see him stressing over potential grades or worrying about failing this test or that…at the ripe old age of EIGHT, I try to call that bullfrog to mind, and the creativity that brought him to life…and I know that as long as we keep those embers burning…he will be ok in the end and we can help him learn to deal with the rest.

The title of this blog post is “A Boy and his Frog”…but it could just as well be “A Girl and her Pencil” or “A Girl and her Drums”…etc. I started writing this after Little Man had another rough day at school, but it just so happens that in this case, the Moon, the Sun, AND Little Man’s bad days aligned in a perfectly stormy eclipse of anxiety and need. A while back I compared raising the kids to keeping plates spinning atop poles, like they do at the circus, in Squeaky Wheels and Spinning Plates . Well, in this case all three plates seemed to be at the brink of sliding off… and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep up and get them all back to spinning gracefully upon their poles.

Why do I try to think of the frog…or the drums…or the artwork in moments of chaos like these? Well, my kids are far from perfect (like from Indiana to Australia far) and like most humans their age, they are stumbling around a bit trying to figure out the world around them and oftentimes creating their own drama in the process in addition to any drama they may encounter from the outside. As a parent, I find that I can get so sucked into the here and the now of the crisis at hand that I no longer see the big picture. I go into damage control mode or mamma bear mode and become mired in the details of the latest dilemma.

The truth is, I find myself trying so desperately to inspire the kids and to carry them through the here and now, that I momentarily forget those things about each one of them that inspire me, the things that will serve to get them through their difficulties in the future when they are on their own. Whether it be my Moon’s ability to capture the world around her and translate it into art, my Sun’s fearless sense of self and justice, …or Little Man’s imagination and the way he sees seemingly banal things…things like a common bullfrog… in the most interesting of ways, calling them to mind helps me to remember that if we can just keep these embers burning, they will grow and shine brilliantly when the time is right.

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