A couple of recent experiences reminded me of what I probably already knew: that I should never assume what my kids are thinking or capable of.
Allison and I attended a meeting at school to make some tentative course choices for next year. The teacher who coordinates the Challenge program was helping us with this process, and she was very gentle and encouraging with Allison. After inputting the required courses she asked Allison about some electives: "What about French?" Allison looked thoughtful and said, "Maybe," so the teacher put it in as a possible option. Then she asked if there was anything Allison was especially interested in. I forced myself not to make suggestions but just to let her go with her own preferences. Allison's eyes lit up, a huge smile spread across her face, and she said, "I think I might like to take Drama!"
Although Allison is very quiet and often lacks self-confidence, she does very well when she has to speak or perform in public, so drama's actually a good fit. She's excellent at memorization, and she likes the structure of knowing exactly when it's her turn and what she's expected to do and say. Last year her class put on "Macbeth," and although her role was very minor she put her heart and soul into it and was walking on air after the performance was over. I should clarify that in fact she had two small roles, both of which involved her being stabbed to death onstage (in one instance she was dragged offstage by her feet). I hope she can break out of that typecasting niche in any future roles she may have, or her dramatic career may be a bit limited! But I was proud to see that she had the confidence both to want to take a drama class and to speak up and say, "This is something I think I'd like to try."
Jonathan also surprised me this past week. I had to take him to the dentist because of a cavity, and although he'd been to this dentist 2 or 3 times before for checkups, I had no idea how this more invasive appointment would go. Of course, few kids actually enjoy dentist visits! But Jonathan's behaviour can be especially challenging when he's insecure about the situation, and because he can't communicate everything he's thinking and feeling (or communicates it by yelling and screaming).
The first task was X-rays, which the dentist had never been able to get from him before. Jonathan must have found it uncomfortable having that big plastic thing shoved in his mouth and keeping still, but he cooperated and let her get four X-rays. The cavity proved to be quite deep, and the dentist just wasn't sure how he would take to having it filled. One option was to book him to have the work done at the hospital under general anesthetic -- which would mean several months' wait, plus an anesthesiologist consultation because of his seizures, not to mention the cost. Finally we decided to give it a try in the office. If he could handle the freezing, she'd either fill or pull the tooth, depending on how he was responding; if he couldn't, then obviously the hospital route would be the default option. "By the way, the Lidocaine could slightly lower his seizure threshold," the dentist said as she prepared the equipment. Yikes....
Well, Jonathan did it! He let her stick that big mouth-prop apparatus into his mouth; he submitted to the needle; he let her put the clamp around the tooth -- every one of which I absolutely hate when I go to the dentist -- and while one of the staff regaled him with stories about her new kitten and her daughter's Valentine cupcakes, he lay there submissively while his tooth was filled. The dentist was very pleased, and I was so proud of Jonathan. In fact, the only time he cried was when he came home and we wouldn't let him have a snack because his mouth was numb. A couple of hours later he ate a huge supper as if nothing had ever happened.
So the lesson is: when it comes to kids, never assume, and never underestimate. Actually, that's a good lesson when we're dealing with anyone of any age, I suppose. None of us likes to be pegged and told, "This is who you are and we don't expect anything different." In the end, we want to be the ones who'll decide who we are and what we can do, whether that's being an actress or a cooperative patient!