My brain sometimes behaves like an 8 year old. It hides behind things and jumps out at me in the hopes of messing me up. One of its favorite tricks is to blend words that people say to me in new and unique ways so that all I am hearing is gibberish.
As an interesting example, when I was a child, a minister friend of my father’s would greet me with “What’s new?” My brain scramble would hear, “What snew?”
“What snew?” I have no idea what to say to that. Like my brain just jumped out at me and said, “Gotcha!” and all I could do is go, “waaaaaaaahhhhh” but that doesn’t contribute anything at all to the conversation. I would function enough to know that simply going waaaahhhh would get me sent away, so I just gaped.
Since that brain scramble wasn’t enough, my brain decided to disconnect the circuitry that responds to anything. After rejecting waaaaaaaaahhhhhhh as inadequate for the situation, I would say nothing and just wait for something to load….
“Snew…” “snew.” *file not found. critical error. abort immediately.
From the perspective of the adults around me, I’m just a drooling imbecile. But my brain runs Vista and frequently shuts down.
As I got a bit older, I started to just say, “What?” Or, more politely, “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.” Or perhaps “pardon me?”
But then he would just say, “What snew?” again, which isn’t exactly helpful.
How many times does one say, “What?” before one just gives up and says the first thing that pops into his mind?
“I purpled a thing and I can’t dog anymore.
Peopling is exhausting sometimes.
Of course, as an adult, I am far more understanding of the gaping child. Look at it from his perspective: he is sitting there minding his own business. His mind is pondering. His unicorns are unicorning and his purpling is purpler than ever before. He is thinking through the mysteries of self and why I am me and you are you and what is the dogness of the dog and then some giant man shouts at you…
That’s just too much input. Critical error. This is going to take some time to boot up.
I need a nap now. This, mom, is why I just would give up and go to bed at 9:30.
If I’m gaping at you, or my words are not the expected response, please be assured that I am really trying. Also please be aware that I might just need a nap.
Jesus said to deal with your neighbor as you would have them deal with you. We all have a basic need to be understood. God created us to know and to be known.
But we teach our kids to be silent, to conform, to be just like everyone else. In fact, our whole education model is based upon making the children conform. No wonder anxiety and depression and ADHD are rampant. God didn’t create us to conform. He created us to commune! We aren’t borg. We are image-bearers of God.
But we have had generations of teaching children “Sit still. Answer the adults. Be respectful. Regurgitate your lessons properly. Don’t fidget in church. Don’t embarrass your parents by being different…”
Let’s try a different strategy. Let’s try communing with our children instead of making them conform. Listen to them. Provide a safe space for them to thrive. Let them be themselves, with all of their glorious coloring.
“I think that those who would try to make you feel less than who you are…that’s the great evil” (Fred Rogers).
Let’s stop the “I turned out just fine” model and learn from the past.
And when a child is staring with an open gaping mouth, maybe give him a break. Things that come easily to you might not come easily to everyone else, and that is OK. All of us have our own glorious purpling.