I was sitting with my son Taraz many years ago, and out of the blue he asked me what causes men to wind up on the street, holding a sign saying "Will Work For Food". He inquired about the hobos getting a free meal at "The Mission" in downtown Tacoma. After I talked about mental illness, drug and alcohol addition, role modeling, making ones own choices to be responsible, and spirituality and health, he asked, "Do you think I will ever wind up like that, holding a sign and sleeping at the Mission?"
I felt his worry and concern. He had just tried 3 times to get through the 9th grade. We'd worked with special education teachers, holding many conferences and working with incentives. I talked to doctors about ADD, wondering if Ritalin would help Taraz. But, George, who works as a counselor in child development, refused the medical model in favor of self-regulation techniques. "Read your body", George would say, and then Taraz would have to learn to regulate his energy in a more calming manner - generally by isolating himself in a room he'd created strictly for that purpose. In time, he would be able to focus on homework.
If he was in a study cubicle, at the University of Puget Sound, if he was left undisturbed with his books, he could make some small measure of progress. But he was unable to keep up. One day George told him that a 'vacation' from acadamia might be worth a try, and that is what Taraz did. Of course, I worried about him, as I struggled to support my husband's point of view.
While Taraz was away from academics, he began to cultivate his own interests, plan his own day. Music filled the house. Creative projects on tape and DVD were born. He began interviewing me on tape, and we talked about what was important in life, what made us happy. He eventually entered a Bates Technical College, and got certified in Digital Arts.
I began to see that he had slipped through the cracks perhaps for a good reason - to cultivate what was most unique about himself. That all along, he was uncommonly joyous, so ever- ready to shout, laugh, give bear hugs, and explore. Unstiffled by rigid academic structures set him free to get in touch with the fullness of his true endowment - a sensitive heart and an effervescence that reaches out to others.
I've told him to work hard at anything he does along the way, to bring it to the level of an art. With that attitude, I hope he will prove to himself that he hasn't slipped through the cracks, unworthy of any acknowledgement. He's becoming a pretty good dishwasher at a couple restaurants in town. I've told him, "The dishwasher determines who will come back. If those dishes are dirty, it doesn't matter how good the service or the food is. The customer will not come back."
So, slipping through the cracks may be tough, but, if he works hard enough he might just find a workable niche that is a beginning. Thats all he needs right now.