Susan's Blog

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Start Anywhere

The wise man knows he doesn’t know everything, and admits it. The fool won’t admit he doesn’t know.

Anywhere you start, they don’t know it.
This was something Ned’s mother said years ago, when Nat was a baby, and we were all marveling at just how much you have to teach children. It was funny and poetic and poignant all at once, and Ned and I use the phrase as an in joke ever since. Just about any time there is something endearing that a child asks, and that we cannot believe he doesn’t know — when this lack of experience just blows our mind — that is when we quote Eleanor. I don’t mention Eleanor all that much in my writing but that doesn’t mean anything. We had a terrible, rocky start to our relationship but in 25 + years these things tend to smoothe out.

Anyway, it is kind of amazing what you do have to teach kids. I remember when Nat was a very little guy, we just could not teach him how to hold up his bottle. The only way he could drink it without help was on his back. Funny thing is, back then Eleanor had remarked, “The upper body is not quite what it should be,” kind of a whispered comment to herself, when she was doing pullups with him, tugging gently on his hands. I was so annoyed at the time, because I felt like she was being critical of Nat (and therefore, of me!), but now, of course, I do see that she was noticing something and telling us, because how could she not? And then, for years, we were told by professionals that Nat had low-tone in his upper body.

Again anyway. That is troubled water under the bridge. Yesterday it occurred to me that all little kids display that Nat-kind of innocence (another thing I wish I had understood as a young mother: it isn’t all about autism, and it isn’t all about me!). The Baby Bellies were all trying to zill. A few of them told me how the music teacher had zills but she “plays them differently.” I asked how, and they showed me that the music teacher just kind of holds the zills, suspended downward like mushroom caps, and taps them together. What a strangely antiseptic use of finger cymbals. I asked them if they would show her what they know, but they said she did not want to know. A huge teaching opportunity missed, but never mind. Many do not know what they don’t know.

I showed them how to put them on, the upper knuckle of the middle finger and thumb, concave towards each other. “What is the middle finger?” one of them asked me as I tugged carefully at the tight rubber band on her little french fry-like fingers (low tone? or just little squooshy?) I laughed quietly, storing a bigger laugh for later with Ned, thinking, “Wherever you start, they don’t know it.”

But Ned pointed out to me that actually this is a hard question, because if you hold your fingers together, there are only four of them (and a thumb, which doesn’t count, off to the side and such). How do you find the middle of four?

I think about yesterday’s BB class, and the one the day before (I now teach two; I separated the Kindergarteners into their own class, thank God), and how much fun it was. I was jet-lagged on Tuesday, having landed (from LA) at 6 in the morning, and I had taught my English class anyway. The Baby Bellies were the last thing I had to do before finally napping hard. Earlier that afternoon, I was dreading the BB class because I was so tired. Oh my goodness, (which is another one of Ned’s and my comments derived from parenting babies who don’t know so much!) But OMG. for me, to be dreading the BB. It was probably the most fun I have yet had with them. All we did was play. I just asked, “Okay, what should we play with? Veils or zills?” and they took what they wanted. Some of them want to learn actual moves, some of them want to run with the veils fluttering behind them. I just kind of fall into the whole thing, like a giant mosh pit, and they catch me and run away with me.

It’s like I have to learn it every time, that it is all good. It is totally okay with them, whatever we do, as long as it is with colorful veils. It will end up fun. I forget that. Everywhere you start, I don’t know it. My Baby Bellies help make me wiser.

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