2e Tuesday: How to end a sentence that begins with “I can’t…”

Guess who this is:

She has been called—by the Guinness Book of World Records, among others — the best-selling writer of books of all time and the best-selling writer of any kind, along with William Shakespeare. Only the Bible is known to have outsold her collected sales of roughly four billion copies of novels.

Do you know?

Do you know now?

What about now?

OK, I’ll tell you.

It’s Agatha Christie, author of an impressive work of literature.

Now, guess who this is:

“I, myself, was always recognized . . . as the “slow one” in the family. It was quite true, and I knew it and accepted it. Writing and spelling were always terribly difficult for me. My letters were without originality. I was…an extraordinarily bad speller and have remained so until this day.”

Yes, it’s Agatha Christie, again.

I think it’s safe to assume that Agatha Christie was firmly in the 2e league. Extraordinarily gifted in storytelling, as well as extraordinarily challenged in the processes (spelling, writing, organizing, etc.) of it.

That is a 2e kid in a nutshell…naturally gifted in so many ways, but always filtered through (at times) crippling learning differences that are the source of a huge amount of frustration.

Not surprisingly, many of these kids are late bloomers…it takes a while to learn to work around the learning differences. Naturalist was around 11 before she could/would read a book. I found a mentor for her who understood reading issues and who herself hadn’t read before she was in high school. Now, she’s a reading specialist and helps other kids like Naturalist learn to work around their weaknesses to develop literacy.

Oftentimes math facts go unlearned, grades are less than stellar, notes are spotty and unorganized, written reports are illegible. There is a long line of gifted creative thinkers who either never made it to high school or dropped out after a short time.

These kids, who are intense, sensitive, and emotional anyway, are understandably driven both to succeed and frustrated at their inability to do so. Late bloomers wrestle with this dichotomy all their lives, and in the crux of that paradox are the seeds of their talents incubated.

In a great article about late bloomers, Malcolm Gladwell writes:

Twain fiddled and despaired and revised and gave up on “Huckleberry Finn” so many times that the book took him nearly a decade to complete. The Cézannes of the world bloom late not as a result of some defect in character, or distraction, or lack of ambition, but because the kind of creativity that proceeds through trial and error necessarily takes a long time to come to fruition.

The article goes on to point out:

On the road to great achievement, the late bloomer will resemble a failure: while the late bloomer is revising and despairing and changing course and slashing canvases to ribbons after months or years, what he or she produces will look like the kind of thing produced by the artist who will never bloom at all. Prodigies are easy. They advertise their genius from the get-go. Late bloomers are hard. They require forbearance and blind faith. (Let’s just be thankful that Cézanne didn’t have a guidance counsellor in high school who looked at his primitive sketches and told him to try accounting.) Whenever we find a late bloomer, we can’t but wonder how many others like him or her we have thwarted because we prematurely judged their talents.

Gladwell finishes by saying the final thing that late bloomers who succeed have going for them is a strong support network of family and/or friends who simply believe in them. Cezanne, who started painting early but became recognized for it in his 60’s, was able to bloom late because of the patronage of his friends and the financial support of his father. None of them encouraged him to get a job at the local McDonalds after 5, 10, or even 15 years of mediocre paintings. And certainly not after a few bad grades on some standardized tests, if you get my drift.

This last part is important to me. Every day I deal with the frustrating cries of “I CAN’T DO THIS!” from my kids, who know that they *should* be able to. They *should* be able to read chapter books with ease. They *should* be able to write legibly with ease. They *should* be able to remember math facts, regurgitate random history dates, etc. They feel this way because they look around at everyone else in their peer group and see the difference between what they can output vs. their peers. They don’t see what I do…that their self awareness, intuitiveness, higher order thinking, and conceptualizing are highly developed. They don’t understand that intelligence isn’t a race and ability isn’t a set goal. Just like the story of the tortoise and the hare, I try to help my kids remember that slow and steady is sometimes the best way to go.

And the best way I’ve found to end their sentences that start with “I CAN’T…” is to add afterwards, “…yet.”

“I can’t read chapter books”
“…yet. You just haven’t found the right book for you. YET!”

“I can’t remember how to multiply numbers together!”
“…yet. You just haven’t found the right method for your brain to hook into. YET!”

“I can’t make my brain focus”
“…yet. We just need to discover what turns your thinking down a little bit, and we haven’t…YET!”

This turns a declarative prophesy of doom into merely a matter of time. Naturalist has seen this come true. Where once she couldn’t read a book while everyone of her friends was, now she is reading 5 novels consecutively. I point this out to her when she says how pointless math is. “You said that once about reading, and look at you now. You couldn’t live without your stories! Because we found the right ones. And so it is with math.”

The next time your child (or yourself) starts a sentence with “I can’t…” try adding a little “…yet!” onto the end of it. It’s like rainbow with a pot of gold hanging out underneath a raincloud. It just brightens things up!

Other links about late bloomers:

The smarter you are, the longer it takes your brain to finish developing.

A wikipedia article all about late bloomers.

How to succeed in life as a late bloomer.

Confessions of a Late Bloomer.

“Is my son learning too slowly?”