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.
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.”
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.