Perpetual Student

“On page 65 and 66, you said you used creativity and silliness to encourage Wil to do things. How did you think of using silliness?”

“From Wil,” I answered. “He’s the master of silly. He uses it all the time. It’s an incredible motivational tool…for me too!” 

I was the guest author of a book club meeting. The book being discussed was, “Stories of Wil: Puberty Part 1.” Upon answering the question, I realized something I had known but never consciously registered — almost everything I do to motivate Wil was originated by him. 

As I grew into adulthood, much of my silliness faded. It was revived by raising Wil. He adds silliness to nearly everything he does. And so I learned to do the same. Just last week, Wil refused to brush his teeth. I knew if I pressed the issue he would dig his heels in deeper. The night before, Elizabeth showed our family a salsa dance she learned in Spanish class. So I grabbed Wil’s hands and said, “Let’s salsa!” We salsa danced from the living room to the bathroom while I sang, “Let’s go brush, brush your teeth,” to the tune of “La Cucaracha.” The song and dance flipped a challenging morning into a joyful one.

“On page 92,” a reader from the book club stated to me, “you said that ‘I may be missing a lot of clues that someone from the outside looking in could see plainly.’ I find that astounding, that when you were struggling like you were with Wil’s behaviors, that you could step back like that and have perspective.” 

This process of stepping back, too, I learned from raising Wil. Wil’s behaviors, at times, can be challenging and difficult to identify the underlying triggers. When Wil was born, I felt the most stuck I ever have in my life. I knew I needed to take a step forward, but I didn’t even know which way forward was. So I reached out to people who were already living this life, and though the road stretched out long before me, I was guided by those who had a much wider perspective than I did at the time.

On the occasion the reader referred to, Wil was knee-deep in puberty. I was navigating new behaviors I had never seen from him before. Neither his teachers nor I knew what to do. I was receiving almost daily calls from the school. After one such phone call, I pulled into the parking lot at work and broke into tears. I knew Wil was hurting, I was hurting and his teachers were hurting. I was in that stuck place again and didn’t know a way out. I had to go into work so I took a series of deep breaths to calm myself down. I reminded myself there was a solution, I just didn’t see it yet. With each deep breath, I repeated to myself, “there is a solution, there is a solution.” A name popped in my head. Julie Feldkamp. She has been Wil’s teacher consultant since preschool. I called her quickly and she soothed my nerves immediately. She said I was not alone, she had worked with many students with varying behaviors, and we would get through this. We still had a long road ahead of us, but her words pulled me out of the abyss and placed us on the road of progress. 

At the end of the book club, the readers shared how much they learned through Wil’s stories. “As I have, too,” I said.

I may be the author, but Wil is the teacher. 

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