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Life-Changing Emails

We had one of those life-changing moments a few weeks ago, and I’m really at a loss as to how to write about it.  Because when I try to put it into words, it sounds… well… fairly small to be life-changing.  At first, I was going to give up trying to write about it because it didn’t feel like it was my story to tell.  But I’m also quite emotional about it.  So, there you go.  I’m back for a final try.  Forgive this post if it’s a bit sloppy and all-over-the-place.

By which I mean that you may want to stop reading if you’re not in a good place right now.  Children are mentioned below.  Specifically the Wolvog.

The Wolvog is… let’s just say, a challenge sometimes in a traditional classroom setting.  Like most boys, he isn’t fantastic at sitting on the carpet quietly during circle time.  He also has a lot of “good ideas” such as reprogramming the classroom computers and has a tantrum when he doesn’t get things right on the first try and pokes the child next to him a dozen times just.to.see.what.happens.

In other words, it’s not really a shock to me as a former teacher that he might be a challenging student.*

But he is also sweet beyond words and creative to boot.  And he’s tenacious and curious.  All good things that I hope balance out the times that he sobs because he didn’t get a turn to answer a question.

I hope.

A few weeks ago, his teacher — who generally responds with a good-natured sigh when she calls me over to speak about a behavioural incident — and I were chatting at school. (This woman was so made to be a kindergarten teacher.  I’ve been in the classroom on numerous occasions when a kid will ask a bizarre question and she doesn’t even blink.  She just smiles at the child and says, “that is so interesting.  You should ask your parents tonight because I’d love to hear their answer!”)

She jokingly asked if it would be appropriate to ask the Wolvog for help with figuring out her new cell phone, and I told her it was fine — I’ve had him teach me how to use things on plenty of occasions.  We talked about the Wolvog’s penchant for all things electronic, the way he navigates the computer world.

And she told me that she has never had a student with the Wolvog’s computer skills.  I know all parents think their children are brilliant — and they most likely are — but it is quite another thing for an outsider, a teacher, let’s say, to confirm what you’ve suspected all along.  Your children are extraordinary.

She had a connection via a friend to the Wolvog’s computer idol and she asked it would be meaningful to the Wolvog to receive an email from his idol.  I responded that it would most likely blow his little kindergarten mind because he has watched him countless times on YouTube to give speeches or do press for a new product release.  So she set it up and a few days later, an email arrived in my inbox from the man.

I went downstairs and asked the Wolvog whom he’d most like to speak to via email and he brightly said, “President Obama!  Could you have him email me?”

I told him that I’d get on that, but for him to think about someone who truly embodies his interests.  I mean, President Obama is well and good (apologies, Mr. President, but we are talking about a kindergartener whose interests range from cars to computers; not the economy or military families), but wasn’t there someone else that he’d love to hear from?

The Wolvog thought for a moment and said, “well, I’d love to hear from St.eve Job.s.”**

I flipped around the blackberry and he squinted at the screen, and then his eyes got huge and he screamed, “how did you do that?”

I explained what his teacher had done, and he sat down to read his email.  Then he said, “it makes sense.  We’re both CEOs of computer companies.”

You see, the Wolvog has an imaginary computer company which rolls out new electronic products (and they’ve branched out recently into vehicles and bicycles comprised entirely out of light) on a fairly regular basis.  He runs his company with utmost seriousness, selling computers to all of his imaginary friends (with a fine business model — for people who can’t afford a computer he has a volunteer-to-own program).  So it made perfect sense to him that the CEO of a real computer company would want to chat with the kindergarten-aged CEO of an imaginary computer company.

I tried to explain to the Wolvog that this was quite special.  That his idol was a busy man.  That existing computer companies as opposed to imaginary ones take a lot of work to run.  And that he must need to shuffle through thousands of emails a day.  Therefore, taking the time to send one to a little boy was something that deserved a special thank you.

The Wolvog wrote him back the most chit-chatty email about his love of the iP.ad and I added a thank you below it.  I don’t think the Wolvog truly gets that other kids aren’t receiving emails like this, but I’m holding onto it for the future.  I hope having your idol tell you to keep dreaming is enough of a motivation whenever he gets discouraged by life.  I have premonitions of a day when he’ll feel beaten down and doubt himself, and I’ll pull it out again and say, “see, a bunch of adults all believed in you if you don’t have the energy at the moment to believe in yourself.”

His teacher asked the Wolvog to talk about the email with the class, and news spread through our tiny town.  People have been coming up to him to talk to him about it since and it’s interesting.  He’s the same boy that he was before this email was sent, but receiving it seems to have marked him.  He went from being the quirky kid with the imaginary computer company to being this tiny genius who dreamed up an imaginary computer company until he could make it real.  Everyone is exactly the same to him, but I’m also suddenly getting told several times a day, “I can’t wait to see what the Wolvog is doing when he’s in his twenties.”

Me too.

But here’s the thing — unless I botch up this mother-child relationship completely, I will get to have a front row seat to all of the ChickieNob and Wolvog’s accomplishments.  And that is somewhat mind-blowing.  That I got to be there from the very beginning, believing in him.  And very few people will be able to say that.  I count myself as so lucky to be in the ChickieNob and Wolvog’s lives.

It’s such a small thing.  An email.  Something we write daily without thinking anything of it.  And yet, it was life-changing for two reasons.  (1) It was the first time someone outside of our family looked at the Wolvog and saw his incredible potential… and celebrated it.  I mean, he is the pet of the employees at the local Ap.ple store, and plenty of people have remarked that he’s smart.  But this teacher is the first outsider who looked at him and said, “you know what, this kid had the potential to do something cool in life and I want to nurture that any way that I can.”

And (2) It is always an amazing experience to get to communicate with your idol.  I am well aware that his idol is just a regular man — a person just like you and me — but he has accomplished what the Wolvog hopes to one day accomplish.  And it can change your life — give you the necessary energy — to keep marching to the beat of your own drummer.

My mother always told me that I heard my figurative drummer so much louder than other people heard their drummers, but that I should march to that beat instead of ignoring it.  I hope that I always convey the same idea to the twins since they also seem to be people who hear their drummer much louder than the other kids around them.  And that can be hard.  But it can bring such huge rewards later in life.

And I’m just grateful that there are other adults out there that exist who want to celebrate the twins’ drum beats and encourage them along their respectively chosen paths.

If you could receive an email from anyone in the world, receive correspondence encouraging you to not give up on your dream, who would you want to receive an email from?

* Dear Wolvog of the future — I read this to you and you said I could post it.

** I placed the dots in there because I didn’t really want this Googlable, and I’d appreciate it that if you use the name in the comment, that you also add dots in.


1 HereWeGoAJen { 04.26.11 at 10:04 am }

Wow. That is pretty amazing.

One of my favorite things about kids is that they don’t yet see anything extraordinary about getting an email like that. Because they haven’t yet learned to doubt their awesomeness. 🙂 I hope he never does.

2 serenity { 04.26.11 at 10:17 am }


1. I love that there are people in his life that can really CELEBRATE him. It’s so heartening to see people look past the behavior and really SEE your kid. One of my biggest fears for *my* kid. I want everyone to see the gem he is.

2. And holy cow I LOVE his reaction to the email.

3 April { 04.26.11 at 10:36 am }

That is awesome. Just simply awesome.

4 manymanymoons3433 { 04.26.11 at 10:45 am }

What a truly inspiring story. I am thrilled that you can shout at the rest of us up here in the bleachers from your front row seat to the twins lives. Sounds like you’re really doing something right!

5 Sue {Laundry for Six} { 04.26.11 at 10:46 am }

That is the coolest thing ever! What an amazing teacher to play that card for him. I can’t even think of who I’d want to have an email from, but I am imagining what it would be like to have that email filed away for days when I doubt myself and need to read that someone like that recognized and celebrated my gifts.

6 edenland { 04.26.11 at 10:47 am }

Crying, that is just so good.

Mel I think it goes even beyond who would you like to receive an email from … it’s who do you look up to in the first place? Who are your heroes? When I met Bono last year, I told so many people of that whole amazing day. Remarkably, a lot of people wistfully told me they don’t know if they would wait four hours to see somebody, that they didn’t have a hero.

Meeting Bono … is helping me get through the rest of my life.


PS Your children are extraordinary – they were most likely born that way, but having such a fucking kick-ass mother helps.

7 Lacie { 04.26.11 at 11:05 am }

That’s awesome!!!

You are an amazing mom, truly. I am so happy that he’ll have you right there, in the front row, cheering him on for life!

Who would I want an e-mail from? That’s so hard. Would it be a successful and humorous memoirist (Augusten Borroughs, David Sedaris)? Would it be a writer/traveller/chef? (Anthony Bourdain?) Would it be a photographer/blogger/photographer/writer (Ree Drummond)? Sheesh! There are too many to pick from.
Maybe one of them will read this and surprise me. 😉

8 Denver Laura { 04.26.11 at 11:07 am }

That is one incredible teacher.

Last year I read some article about a study on pre-diabetic people who took Metf.n for a few years had a lower risk for diabeties and heart disease. I went to the Oxford university website and looked up the professor who was quoted in the article (becuase I’m stalkish like that) to ask if the same could happen for PCOS. Two days later, I got a response from him. I never thought he would respond to a silly question like that.

9 My Bumpy Journey { 04.26.11 at 11:11 am }

wow. I am so excited for Wolvog and so thankful that he has such a wonderful teacher to see him for WHO he is..and not try to put him in a box.
I think you are doing a wonderful job teaching and nurturing both of your kids.
To the fact that he took the time to write that email….wow.
I honestly don’t know WHO I would want an email from. I apparently have a boring imagination. hmmmm…..

10 Betsy { 04.26.11 at 11:48 am }

Wow, that’s awesome! Go Wolvog! Also, go Wolvog’s Kindergarten teacher!

11 geochick { 04.26.11 at 12:00 pm }

That is so awesome and mind blowing!

12 Lori Lavender Luz { 04.26.11 at 12:14 pm }

“hey’ve branched out recently into vehicles and bicycles comprised entirely out of light”

Hello, Indigo Children? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indigo_children

I am so blessed to regularly get emails from a person who encourages me, for whom I have the utmost respect. I can think of no one “higher” than her.

13 Farah { 04.26.11 at 12:19 pm }

What an honor. A great teacher, student and opportunity. I love that kids are so limitless with their thinking

14 G { 04.26.11 at 12:41 pm }

I love the idea of “volunteer-to-own”. Awesome.

15 MeAndBaby { 04.26.11 at 12:41 pm }

I teared up reading that. I don’t have an answer to your question because I’m too busy enjoying that moment with you. Thank you and Wolvog for sharing.

16 Esperanza { 04.26.11 at 12:46 pm }

Wow, that is SOOOOO cool! I had no idea you had a computer genius on your hands. How wonderful. I love that he was so nonchalant about getting the email. That is what is so wonderful about small children, they remind you of how the world could be seen and experienced if it weren’t for all the years that mark us for better or for worse.

If I could get an email from anyone in the world? Hmmm. That is really hard. I wonder what it says about me that I don’t have an immediate response… (insert many, many minutes of thinking)… actually, mine is kind of a strange one. I think I’d like to get an email from my older sister, who was adopted ten years before I was born (when my parents were 17). I’d love to get to know her and see what she’s like and hopefully become friends. I don’t even know if she knows she’s adopted though so it might be complicated. But I think that is who I’d choose.

Thanks for getting me to think about that.

17 Kathy { 04.26.11 at 12:50 pm }

What a great post! 🙂 I especially love this part:

“I hope that I always convey the same idea to the twins since they also seem to be people who hear their drummer much louder than the other kids around them. And that can be hard. But it can bring such huge rewards later in life.”

I want so much to teach my children this (and for them to learn/appreciate it) too.

That is so exciting that your son got that email, both for him to experience and appreciate now and for the “adult him” to have later in life, as you said. That is also so great that you got that validation from his teacher. That means so much.

I don’t share much about it on my blog, though I may in the future, but my son was tested for, got into and attends a “gifted school” and once he started being in classes with other children who think and act more like him, it has been amazing to see how he thrives. He is a very intelligent boy, but also very quirky.

As for the question about who I would most like to get an email from, I echo Lori, I already have been blessed and lucky enough to get a number of emails from someone who validates and encourages me not to give up on my dreams. Thank you. 😉

18 Aramelle @ One Wheeler's World { 04.26.11 at 1:28 pm }

Well,I, for one, am very glad that you were able to finish the post. What a beautiful story. 🙂

19 a { 04.26.11 at 1:33 pm }

The perfect example of why Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon is not just an amusing parlor game. (*is there anyone who even plays parlor games any more? Am I showing my age?)

How awesome for the Wolvog – but you’d better get to work on that presidential email. :). I can’t wait to see him make those bicycles out of light. For real. I have no doubt he will be able to do it.

I don’t have anyone in particular I’d like an email from – I’m of the opinion that people are the same everywhere. If I had a question for someone, I’d probably fire off an email and then be stunned if I got a reply. Then I would think kindly of the person more for being courteous than for anything else. I guess that’s what I value highly – courtesy. (Tell that to my coworker whose conversation I just rudely interrupted and he would LAUGH)

Any chance the Wolvog’s teacher would like to go on to first grade with him next year?

20 JJ { 04.26.11 at 1:46 pm }

Love this story 🙂

21 Lori Lavender Luz { 04.26.11 at 1:47 pm }

P.S. Jamie Lee Curtis, perhaps.

22 Meghan { 04.26.11 at 2:07 pm }

What a wonderful story. Right now Sophie believes she can do absolutely anything. And I wonder how to realistically encourage her. Especially since the rest of the world isn’t going to see how amazing she is. This post gives me hope. All we need is teachers as fantastic as his and if you could bottle of some of your mom instincts, that’d be great. What an amazing thing for Wolvog to have as he gets older. Thank him for agreeing to share his story

23 Casey { 04.26.11 at 2:09 pm }

Firstly, you rock. (First time reader/commenter- got to you from Kim at Alive and Mortal) Really enjoyed this post, and looking forward to reading more. One day the Wolvog is going to be even more psyched that you pulled those strings and got that in motion for him. Your disclaimer amused me, and your post improved my day tenfold. For me, a ‘Keep on dreaming’ email would rock from anybody, but Emmylou Harris would be the person I’d most appreciate it from. (Her music’s sorta keeping me afloat at the moment- dealing with residual from the recent loss of a friend to anorexia.)

Best wishes.

24 Jamie { 04.26.11 at 2:15 pm }

What a great story! Thank you for sharing. Kids are so amazing and innocent all at the same time. That letter is going to be a gift one of these days when your little one grows up a bit and has a fuller understanding of how great it really is.

25 Heather { 04.26.11 at 2:21 pm }

My faith in humanity has been restored.

I don’t know who I’d want an email from. I don’t have any real idols. Sometimes I just want to be noticed. I’m still 5 in my heart…excited by the possibilities, fearful of monsters.

26 Justine { 04.26.11 at 3:52 pm }

Incredible. I love his teacher for this. And I love Wolvog’s reaction to the email.

Me, I don’t have any idols, I think. But I got an email last week that blew my mind, from a famous writer/blogger I admire a LOT … I was thinking, WOW she READS MY little blog? Maybe you know her … her initials are MF. 😉

27 Baby Smiling In Back Seat { 04.26.11 at 4:03 pm }

How wonderful for the Wolvog! I’ve known people to create fake emails like that for their loved ones, but of course real is much better — and Wolvog would be able to trace a fake, anyway.

Hmm. Right now I’d appreciate an email from a woman who’s been successfully able to balance work and family. Sadly I can’t think of anyone in my own field offhand, but Ruth Bader Ginsburg did amazing things while she had young children (and of course beyond).

Perhaps ironically, a friend of a friend actually clerked for her, so in theory I could make that email happen if I really wanted. But I won’t.

28 loribeth { 04.26.11 at 4:10 pm }

That is just too cool. : ) How wonderful of Wolvog’s teacher, AND Mr. You-know-who to respond!

I can’t think of anyone presently off the top of my head, but I did get a letter once that I still think of fondly (I must retrieve it from the bedroom at my parents’ house one of these days!). When I was in jr high/high school in the mid-1970s, I wrote a letter to the editor of our local city newspaper (right up until the day it closed, it was the one place I always wanted to work someday) — who just happened to be a woman, which was a pretty rare thing back in those days — asking for career advice. She sent me back a very kind reply, & I was so thrilled. She must have gotten lots of those kinds of letters, but she still took the time to send me a personal reply.

29 Valery { 04.26.11 at 4:58 pm }

Mhmm.. I think I got my special email last month, when a friend of a friend offered to be egg donor for me. (I live in a country where you need to find your own donor and it is near impossible) I carry the print with me everywhere. It is getting me out of my depression and might be life changing for more than just my life….

30 It Is What It Is { 04.26.11 at 5:02 pm }

This gave me such chills for him and for you. He is at such an impressionable age, where impressions can form foundations.

Bravo to the teacher, bravo to you, and bravo to him.

I would want to have receive an email from Oprah or Presidents Obama or Clinton.

31 Seriously?! { 04.26.11 at 5:49 pm }


32 NotTheMama { 04.26.11 at 6:15 pm }

That’s awesome for the little guy!!!
I’m sitting here on my bunk during free time, as a chaperone for a group of school kids, at the same camp I went to before they were born… Where one of the higher-ups responded to a letter I wrote, and invited me back for summer camp, which started my camp-love and led to my college degree.
I would love an email, or rather a series of emails, from my favorite (deceased) teacher from high school. I found out about our IF after she passed, but she shared a small amount about the many years it took her and her hubsand to get pregnant after adopting their son… So much I wish I knew and could ask!

33 Suzanna Catherine { 04.26.11 at 8:19 pm }

This is an awesome post!

Please thank the Wolvog for sharing this very special experience with us. I hope to be around when those bicycles made entirely from light are being mass produced. 🙂

You are an amazing Mom and it does not surprise me that you have two truly amazing children.

34 Barb { 04.26.11 at 9:44 pm }

All kinds of awesome!

35 Jamie { 04.26.11 at 10:18 pm }

I love this. This is exactly the type of inspiration all of our children need and it makes you a wonderful mom for encouraging his passions.

36 Missy { 04.27.11 at 12:47 am }

What an amazing experience for your son and what an awesome teacher he has! Go Wolvog!

37 Chickenpig { 04.27.11 at 8:29 am }

I want an email from the future, from my son, telling me that everything turned out ok, that autism didn’t hold him back, that other people have in fact seen him for the bright and shining star he truly is.

38 BigP's Heather { 04.27.11 at 11:56 am }

I can see why this made you emotional, it made me cry.

This line: “see, a bunch of adults all believed in you if you don’t have the energy at the moment to believe in yourself.” really touched me because this is how I feel about this community.

And I LOVE that we can watch our kids grow into these amazing people who will accomplish so much.

39 Conceptionally Challenged { 04.27.11 at 2:10 pm }

Wow, that is totally awesome of both the kindergarden teacher and the idol.
Also, you post made me all teary. I hope so much I’ll someday also have a child I can watch grow into an amazing person.

40 Hollie { 04.27.11 at 3:12 pm }

That is GREAT that he’d (SJ) take time to write to a Mini CEO ;o)

I hear you about how thankful you are to be a part of their lives. I watched my 18 month old swim under water a few days ago, and every time I think of the experience, I tear up/cry/blubber. Makes me think that this parenthood thing is more about the parents than the kids! Is that selfish? 😉

41 Vee { 04.27.11 at 6:52 pm }

That is just awesome!!

42 MommyOdyssey { 04.27.11 at 8:01 pm }

I burst out crying reading this. WOW!!!!!! This is amazing.

43 Kristin { 04.28.11 at 3:01 pm }

This is one of the coolest, most uplifting stories I’ve read recently. Huge kudos to St.ev.e Job.s for stepping up to the plate and emailing your budding genius.

44 Luna { 04.28.11 at 9:16 pm }

What a truly wonderful story, every bit of it!

45 Luna { 04.28.11 at 9:19 pm }

Oh and I especially love his volunteer-to-own idea. Brilliant and compassionate, just like his mama.

46 Battynurse { 04.29.11 at 8:44 pm }

What a beautiful post.

47 Kir { 05.02.11 at 1:53 pm }

oh wow, WOW!!!!!! I’m so excited for him. I love that he marches to his own beat and even at that age has such vision. I wrote about Jacob and him finding his way…over bouncy things.

the volunteer to own, I mean how amazing is your son????

I also love how you wrote about us as parents being in the front row , the first cheerleaders for our extraordinary kiddos. It touched my heart.

You know whenever you visit my blog or send me an email, I get that butterfly nervousness. I know it sounds silly, since I’ve met and hugged you, I’ve asked you about CM and betas but to me you are a hero, a person I look up to and when you find time in your life for me…it makes me want to write, want to keep going, to be all the things I am capable of . You’re my “SPECIAL EMAIL” all the time. xo

48 Alison { 08.28.11 at 9:57 am }

Love. Love. Love. I especially like that he accepts it as logical since they’re both CEOs of computer companies. Kids are amazing. (And his teacher sounds awesome.)

49 Andrea { 10.06.11 at 12:19 pm }

Only reading this now after the passing of SJ, (no disrespect intended, just coding my wording) and I am in tears. How very beautiful, indeed. Thank you for sharing, and thanks to twitter I found this at the very perfect time.

50 Leslie { 10.06.11 at 12:53 pm }

What a wonderful story! It’s something I must remember about my youngest child as well. Thank you for sharing this, it’s an important message about the character of Ste.ve Jo.bs and what we need to do with our children to ensure that many more of them grow up to be visionaries and forward thinkers. Different is awesome.

Also – hope that you guys find comfort in each other this week, loosing a hero can be so difficult, but what he stood for and inspired in all of us will remain, especially in people like Wolvog.

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