My son is a dreamer. An absent-minded sort of kid who responds to every question with silence. Who’s always looking intently off in the distance or up at the ceiling. Then, when the question is repeated, he’ll look as if he’s just noticed you’re there and say, “Wha?”
It’s a trait that, not surprisingly, drives some of his teachers mad.
“Doesn’t pay attention,” reads his report card. “Forgets to complete work.”
And yet his marks are stellar. We shrug, perplexed. Somehow he absorbs what he’s being taught by osmosis, while daydreaming of LEGO spaceships or sketching a “concept” aircraft with the power of a plane and the maneuverability of a helicopter.
I admire his creativity. His no-boundaries inventiveness (rarely does he let the laws of physics constrain him). I’m his biggest fan, at least until I need him to do something. Like put his dirty clothes in the hamper. Or set the table. “Wha?” he asks, bewildered and looking around, surprised to find he’s sitting in a kitchen and not on some military mission to free oppressed people.
I’ll sigh an exasperated sigh and my voice will tighten. “Pay attention!” I’ll snap.
And he’ll look at me like he doesn’t quite understand the command. And, I imagine, he’ll note to himself that he was paying attention. Just not to what the world — his world of teachers and parents and cool kids — wants him to.
His world will continue to try to convince him that none of the stuff he dreams about is really important. That what matters is what’s in front of him. His math book. His hockey practice. His chores.
The world, including me, gets exasperated with someone who seems to float just out of reach. Who seems to see things that aren’t there. Who dreams of … who knows?
And yet I know absolutely how badly the world — always, but especially right now with such incredible challenges ahead — needs dreamers like him. Who, if the world doesn’t convince him otherwise, will develop technology and products and perhaps redemption the rest of us couldn’t possibly imagine.
And so, when I need him to take out the recycling … or when I know he has a social studies test … I’ll try to gently tug him down from wherever he is and bring him back to earth. To focus just long enough.
And then, I’ll let him go.