Friday, September 14, 2012

What We Bring With Us

Yesterday, Jacob's math teacher called home. I was rather surprised that anything Jacob did would warrant a call home. He's kind of perfect at school. In fact, that is what the call was about. A kind teacher called to tell me that my son was acing his AP Calculus assignments, that he was well-behaved, and insightful, an asset to the class. Needless to say, I love hearing that. I should probably write her a thank you note. 

There is nothing in Jacob's genetic make-up that would give him a natural edge in math. Certainly, his elementary teacher was only middling in math and not enamored of it. (In fact, my limitations as a math teacher are why Jacob chose to attend public school as a sophomore. "Math books and CDs only explain it one way, Mom.") Neither nurture nor nature should have produced my math boy, but Jacob has excelled from the very beginning. He has both love and aptitude for the subject. This talent as much as anything else convinces me that children developed as individuals with their Father in Heaven prior to their birth.

It's interesting to see how the attributes that my children showed so early on are developing. Elaine was an observant baby. She watched people, listened to them, absorbed. Now she is one of the most insightful people I know. She notices nuances in people's words and body language. She finds people fascinating. I always ask her to tone-check sensitive emails (things that might easily blow up) before I send them off. Invariably, she catches subtext. Not surprisingly, psychology is the field that fascinates her. Gifts. 

My husband is a talented musician. From the time he was a wee child he knew he wanted to play the trumpet. Nothing in his family would have taken him that direction. It just was part of him. His family thought he was just being a kid and it would pass. When he was five, they gave him a toy trumpet which was greeted with joy, quickly followed by disgust as he realized that it was a fake. Seven years later his parents got him the real thing and a teacher, a great teacher. Music still feeds his soul.

I myself was a born reader. My mom tells the story of finding me teaching the neighborhood kids to read when I was four. No one taught me to read. I had "Sesame Street," "The Electric Company," and a gift from God. My Natalie similarly began to read early with very little instruction. Just a gift and a passion.

I love this stanza from Wordsworth's Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.

 Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
          The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
              Hath had elsewhere its setting,
                And cometh from afar:
              Not in entire forgetfulness,
              And not in utter nakedness,
          But trailing clouds of glory do we come
              From God, who is our home:

At one point, I believed I would shape my children to be what they ought to be. Now, I know better. Yes, I do influence them, but they are vehemently their very own selves, formed before they gained physical bodies. I'm blessed to be able to watch them blossom into those selves.

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