Adrian had a great idea. (He has a lot of great ideas.) “Let’s do an ex-pair-i-mint!” he said. “What do you have in mind?” I asked. “We can put water in the freezer with cardboard in it!” “Okay,” I said, not one to stifle creativity.

I procured the supplies: plastic cup, rectangle of cardboard, bathroom sink, freezer. We talked about how water expands when it freezes, and especially if there is a top on the container, you have to leave space at the top so it doesn’t blow the lid off. He poured out a bit of water.

“How long do you think it will take to freeze?” I asked. “I think eight minutes!” he said, his index finger in the air exuding confidence. “Okay!” I said, “we’ll check it in eight minutes.” “It’s not frozed yet,” he said.

At 90 minutes, he proclaimed it frozen, wiggling the tip of the cardboard and scrutinizing water movement beneath the surface, belying his observation. He ate the loosened icy crust then, rendering the experiment invalid.

As facilitator of the investigation, I failed. I didn’t watch for the one hour increments; but sometime between 90 and 180 minutes it froze solid and the young scientist was gleeful, already looking forward to the next experiment.

He also drew the weather and tracked the movement of box elder beetles on the window (before the exterminator returned), drawing a circle around each and then again as they moved, then lines from one circle to the next.

We had a civics lesson this week too. My ballot came! Elliot had been talking about it for a week and was eager to go with me to the courthouse to post it when it showed up. Wednesday he helped me vote. I explained how I decide how to vote on the advisories and referendums and down-ballot races. I showed him the bi-partisan voters’ guide and told him about the progressive guide I consult online. And that I talk to friends who are directly impacted. “Why is there so much?” he asked as he carefully filled in bubbles, having expected only the presidential race. “In a democracy, the people get to make a lot of decisions,” I said.

Who do you think we should vote for for president? I asked when we finally got to the back of the page. JOE BIDEN! he shouted. I agreed.

Four years ago, many of us thought we were in for a bad four years. What we knew to fear was just the tip of the iceberg. And the nightmare just won’t quit, even three weeks before the election. Thursday morning I woke up thinking about RBG. She made the ultimate sacrifice. I have to think she probably meant to retire four years ago, when Hillary followed Barack into the White House. Instead she tried to hold out through her illness, do doubt missing family time and more in the last years of her life. And she almost made it. And now look where we are: set to watch the course of history bend toward injustice.

One of Elliot’s math assignments involved playing cards; he chose the courageous woman deck and the game did double duty with the likes of Rosa Parks, Sacajawea, Hillary Clinton, and Shirley Chisholm.

You’ve been reading here about the challenges (and joys) I’ve faced welcoming my grandsons into my home, for Camps Gigi in the past and now several days a week. Elliot has been the brightest child I’ve ever encountered right from the time he could barely sit up and was enamored with books, learning (or born knowing) his letters almost as soon as he could talk. The perfectionism, the out-of-control-behavior, the inability to block external stimulus, the lack of response to consistent disciplinary measures—all just part of being gifted. Or maybe not.

After the virus interfered with the therapy sessions he had just begun with a behaviorist, and the switch to online was unsuccessful, a few weeks ago, his parents did first a paper assessment and then a face-to-face (online, of course) consultation with an ADHD specialist. And there it was. His moms suspected the possibility because of the signs we all know: fidgeting and inability to focus (or over-focusing). Turns out, that is just the tip of that berg. Check out this graphic:

I started circling the traits below the waterline that Elliot exhibits, then deleted the mark-ups because they were almost all circled. The well-read moms have tried many measures to facilitate behavior change and faithfully followed through; but still this delightful, smart child is sometimes a challenge.

While I don’t believe a “diagnosis” is an answer to anything, knowledge is power and a place to begin. As I wrote last week: what if we changed our thinking from “he would do better if he wanted to” (children DO want to do well), to “he would do better if he could”? It’s my new mantra.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird

I’ve begun watching the videos that accompanied the “what if” statement, “Lives in Balance” (Ross W. Greene, PhD). “What is blocking him from doing well?” Dr. Greene is patronizing and arrogant, but I’m hopeful there will be some helpful information.

For this week, though, I dusted off my counseling hat (yeah, that degree was a long time ago), and tried to think outside the box.

The pandemic has challenged us all to a new way of life, and it has been opportunity in some ways. In that spirit, what if we saw this as a chance to take some of the pressure off these little guys in ways that might not happen in the classroom? Instead of nagging Elliot to do all nine of the suggested daily school tasks during independent learning, what if he chose five of the nine, and more of the day were dedicated to other kinds of learning and free play? We tried it this week, and—for whatever reason, it’s too soon to draw conclusions—the school hours went much better.

Elliot was really jazzed about doing an assignment in our outdoor classroom: making a list of living things and of non-living things, while Adrian played with slugs. We also went on a mushroom hunt one day.

Our field trip was to the county courthouse in the next town over to post our ballot. I’ve usually mailed it, but not this year. (I did mail 50 postcards to Georgia, Kentucky, and Ohio over the past few weeks.) I didn’t even want to put it in a drive-up official box. We parked the car, donned our masks, and walked it in.

On the way back to the car, the boys so proud, I asked whom we did not vote for. “HONK HONK MANGO BUTT!” they shouted with glee. Change is afoot; I feel it.

And now we breathe. And wait. And cross our fingers. And pray to the Universe and St. RBG and the One Who is More and to whomever we pray for a tsunami of change, personally and politically. We’re doing what we can. Let’s sink that iceberg. VOTE!

17 thoughts on “The Tip of the Iceberg

  1. For several years I volunteered with kids who had either a primary or secondary diagnosis of ADHD. All very bright kids, all with very different ways of learning. One young boy I will always remember because of an “aha” moment we had together. A super bright kid who would fly off the handle during certain tasks. Our “aha” moment with him came when we realized it wasn’t the tasks that were the problem, but rather the order of them. “The way” to help him achieve success was to allow him to create the order in which the goal was met. It was “the way” for this one child. I was just a twice a week volunteer. But it made a huge impact on me. I applaud your path to discovery. Your attention and consistency must be very grounding for them, and dare I say it, things not always available to them in a traditional classroom filled with dozens of other kids. Maybe there is even a blessing in this new school environment. Onward you all go. Thanks for the share. 

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I think I mean to applaud the “showing up” every day, even when it’s hard (especially when it’s hard). The important thing is the being there. Building your particular rhythm together, wonky as it may feel, is still beautiful noise. (As it was with your Mom). You’re good at doing hard things and I hope you can hear the compliments ♡ 

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for baring your soul in the writing and with these two precious ones…they are all precious! I was getting the idea that all was orderly and satisfying…thanks for your honesty! What great memories you are creating!

    Liked by 2 people

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