Tuesday, 22 September 2015


About a week ago I sent my son to kindergarten. It was his first day in a big school. His first time to meet school teachers and kids he doesn't know. To see playgrounds, gyms and libraries. To eat lunches and snacks all by himself. It was very overwhelming. The next day, I sent his teacher a letter. 

Dear Ms. ...........,

I just wanted to write you some things that might help you connect with Riley.

Riley will surprise you. Just like he surprised his teachers at pre-school. When you first met him, I imagined it was like meeting a shadow. Voiceless and nearly invisible, like a dark outline following his mama or papa around.

It takes time to get to know him, which I hope you will take the time to do. I’m sure he’s just as curious about you as you are about him. And like any relationship, it just takes time. And patience. He may not do everything you ask of him, but he is a keen observer with the memory of an elephant. He would often remember something that happened weeks ago while I can hardly remember what I had for lunch.

He is a big fan of the solar system. He has mastered it from the tips of the sun’s solar flares to the edges of the milky way galaxy (and educating the rest of the family while doing so) I think he loves it so much because it is constant. Unchanging. The same eight planets revolving around the same sun in dozens of solar system books scattered on the floor of his bedroom. That knowing gives him confidence and also comfort.

When Riley is at ease, or more accurately, feels he is in a safe environment, he is a rambunctious child often testing the limits of what he can do. Whether it’s seeing how far he can jump or how many forward flips he can do, much to the chagrin of our neighbor trying to have a quiet dinner below our apartment.

You’ll find that he can read and write and spell and add although he’s still working on going to the bathroom by himself. He is voracious in his appetite to learn new things and is currently trying to grasp the concept of multiplication tables. And to be honest so am I.

Perhaps because he is very mental in some ways, you may think that he is less emotional. I find that this isn’t the case. In fact, he feels as much emotion as any child, except that because he thinks so much, he is constantly trying to reason with himself or explain the whys and why nots internally that when the emotion gets too strong, it just bursts out of him like a volcano. Sometimes, I am happy when he cries because I feel he needs that release. To spiral uncontrollably to the bottom and eventually plant his feet back down and stand up again.

For whatever reason, Riley doesn’t immediately give people his trust and as a child, he is still learning what social behaviors are acceptable and not acceptable.  So please don’t be offended if he doesn’t hold your hand or say your name. He is just a boat lost at sea looking for safe harbor.

Please be that safe harbor for him. Maybe it won’t happen next week or the week after, but one day he’ll tell you that the rings of Saturn are made of ice and rocks. And that one side of Mercury gets really hot and the other side gets super cold.

And when you know him, he will shine bright as the sun and you will see no more shadow.

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