… a fish in a tree…

 goldfish tree reflection

Everybody is a genius.  But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

~ Albert Einstein

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About a week ago I saw this quote for the first time.  It struck me in such a profound way that an entire expanded blog post has been wandering around in my head since then, unpacking & rearranging & dissecting & analyzing & marveling at these words.

fish_in_a_tree_by_itsmebrownmindpopper-d2ztpxtA fish.  With a tree.  Climbing, not climbing.  Pondering the situation.  Wondering maybe why the heck someone would expect it to climb?  Maybe a slightly annoyed fish waiting for someone to recognize its fins are for swimming.  Like, duh!  … Or maybe a fish not really caring about trees, just being a fish and being content.  Not caring if someone else judged its ability at all, as long as it got the water it needed to live.  You know what I mean?

Or are you staring at the computer screen with your mouth hanging open, thinking maybe I’ve completely lost my mind?  Well, that would be okay too.  It’s all good, really it is.  See, it comes right back to the beauty of that quote in the first place:

We judge because our minds are constantly trying to make sense of our world.  Einstein’s quote is perfect to me because it clearly illustrates how ridiculous and imperfect our judgements of others really are, and then gives a gentle reminder of our silliness and sends us back out into the world to look at others through a new lens.

456088-sandy_cheeks_squirrel_largeDid I think that fish could climb a tree?  Did I expect it?  Was it fair?  Or should I set up a nice little oval aquarium and invite it to show me how it can swim better than a squirrel?

Can you see it?

I smile as I write this because I can see it, and I can feel it.  And just being able to do that brings a whole universe closer to me somehow.  I believe there’s a higher power who created the world, and I believe that everyone is special and important, every living thing has its place, things happen for a reason, and that we have lessons to learn in life.  Seeing that fish, imagining that tree, makes me realize the immensity of ALL of this.  I’m only one part, and me with my own judgements and ways of seeing the world…. well, maybe I have a lot more to learn, too.

Are you with me?  So to take this quote one step further into my life…

fish-and-monkey-jarsMy son is a fish.  He can swim like nobody’s business.  He loves the trees– all the typical stuff– but he’s not good at a lot of it.  For years I thought I’d find the “cure” that would change his fins to feet, would make him be able to survive without water, so that he could live in the trees with his little sister (whom I’ve always affectionately referred to as my “monkey”) and be happy.  Then I realized the key to everything, the key to really being a good mother (in my humble opinion) was to recognize his fishy-ness, to get him what he innately needs for the way he was created to live.  So that’s what I’ve tried to do.

But about a week ago, Albert Einstein reminded me that I missed another important part:

If in my world of trees, I had missed an obvious point entirely about the abilities of my little fish and about my own judgements of others, then what else could I learn from a fish?  What else was I missing about what fish *can* do?

flying-fish

As often happens in my life, an answer to these silent questions swirling around in my curious brain came to me in a truly beautiful and touching way.  Alex’s former ABA teacher Steph (of “Tigger Takes a Swim“) emailed me out of the blue yesterday:

“I’ve been thinking about Alex a lot lately… I just started doing consulting work and I’ve been going back over my years of doing therapy [with kids] and I keep coming back to him. … I don’t think [that’s] because of what and how we taught him during his [early intervention] days, but more about what he taught us and reminded us. …

“Alex taught me that answers aren’t always in books.  He taught me that patience and love get you a lot further than sitting at a table and doing things by the rules.  He taught me that sometimes you have to look beyond the obvious and search for the deeper meaning…  And even after searching if you still can’t find something, then just act goofy and laugh because laughter makes everything okay, at least for a bit.

I owe you a much needed thank you for allowing me to be a part of his life and learn from him.  I honestly believe it has taught me to be the best I can be in my job and that when A and B don’t add up, then maybe they aren’t supposed to so just move along!  I hope beyond hope that he is doing well in his new environment and learns all he can and continues to teach and inspire those around him.” 

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It seems my beautiful boy fish is already doing much more than I had expected — he is making impressions, teaching lessons, causing people to pause & reflect & remember.  And because of him, lives of other little fish have been and will continue to be changed for the better.

Thanks, Steph, for showing me the deeper meaning of my new favorite quote.  And thanks Alex, as always, for swimming to your own beat.

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:~) Quote for the Moment (~:

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We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.

~ Thorton Wilder

Our first teacher tribute: Tigger Takes a Swim

Tigger takes a swim.

(My first teacher tribute…)

alex and tigger in slideWhen Alex was a baby, he received a stuffed Tigger toy which became his favorite thing ever.  He would take it everywhere with him, to school, to sleep, to the park, to the tub…  Anywhere he went, Tigger went too.  Alex’s dad always said “You’re a good friend to that Tigger.  He may not be able to talk or tell you what he wants, but you take him everywhere and include him, and that’s what good friends do.”

alex and tigger in the kitchenJust before Alex began kindergarten, poor tattered Tigger was so worn out that I scoured ebay to find another.  Somehow, I had missed that new parent rule that says buy two of the “lovie” and interchange them periodically so they both get the same wear & tear but you always have a spare in case one gets lost.  Luckily, I did find another exact match and we presented both to Alex on his 6th birthday.  I put them together in a basket on the birthday table and said “Look!  Tigger has a friend.”  Alex looked them both over and smiled big, but then didn’t pay them too much more attention.  The next time Alex left the room, I offered him his Tigger to take along, but he politely put him back in the basket.  Since Tigger now had a friend, Alex was confident Tigger would be okay and could handle life on his own.

Tigger was Alex’s best buddy.  And what was important to Alex was also important to his home ABA teacher Steph.  Steph remembered Tigger when he strayed from sight, she helped me fix Tigger when he got ripped, she cleaned him up countless times so Alex could snuggle with him each night.  And one very memorable day, Steph rescued Tigger from his biggest adventure. 

alex and tigger and pumpkinsA natural athlete, Steph had energy enough to chase my boy around school, around home, around the neighborhood.  I learned last summer that Alex is what is affectionately referred to as “a runner” in special needs teacher circles.  And yes, that means exactly what you think.  When we dropped Alex off at his first overnight camp, we were greeted by a very enthusiastic young counselor named Megan who promptly bonded with Alex and away they went.  When we came back a week later to pick him up, a different but equally enthusiastic counselor greeted us.  “Where’s Megan?” I asked.  With a big grin and a perky, matter-of-fact sweetness to her voice, the new counselor said, “Oh, she had a runner last week and she was a little tired.  So we switched.”  Now picture a mischievous, thrill-seeking, mostly non-verbal kid who is “a runner” and then try to imagine what kind of teacher could keep up with him.  Yup, Steph was pretty amazing.

One afternoon, Steph and Alex trekked down to the local park with Tigger to run around the jungle gym and play on the banks of the stream.  Alex liked to throw rocks in the water and watch the ripples.  It was a pretty routine day, with one exception.  When Steph and Alex came back from the park, Alex was his usual dirt-covered energetic self, but Steph and Tigger were both soaking wet.  Steph grinned as she explained, “Tigger decided to take a swim- and so did I!”

alex and tigger grinThe mental image of Alex gleefully hurling Tigger through the air to see where he would land made me laugh out loud.  I could almost hear the splash.  But after I laughed, the reality of the story hit me and I almost cried.  Steph had dived right into that stream– that cold, muddy, is-this-really-a-good-idea? stream– to save my son’s “lovie” and it nearly brought tears to my eyes. 

When I think about the many teachers Alex has had, and how several of them have become part of our family, this story always comes to mind.  To believe in my child, to be right there in his world, to respect his ideas even when he can’t say them with words, to be a steadfast friend to someone so many people don’t understand, to persistently work to put the puzzle pieces together to know what is important to him and to protect it– to rescue Tigger!!– well, that in my book is the ultimate gift of dedication. 

Thank you Steph for all of that, I will always be grateful for you.  xoxo