Whirling Dervish

So I just got to do something kinda fun. I got to introduce my youngest child to his new teacher by email.

For someone who can easily write 3000 words a day without thinking about, 7000 if I have an uninterrupted swath of daylight, writing this quick 100-word paragraph nearly took me a week.

I know how to say charming, creative, free-spirited, and easy-to-like in French. But, how exactly do you say whirling dervish in French? How do you say disturbingly photographic memory in French?

How do you, without setting a teacher up with a negative opinion of the child before he arrives, explain that he is a kinesthetic learner who is constantly in movement?

This last year has been a big, big, big struggle for my youngest scalawag. He’s a brilliant child. He’s sensitive to the atmosphere of a room and carefully adjusts his behavior to it, his seeming one goal being to make everyone in the room laugh. He doesn’t know his own strength, or understand the power and responsibility of his natural charisma.

To his teacher this last year, he was a nightmare scenario: because he’s smart and competent, she couldn’t keep him busy with activities long enough to be able to help other kids who were struggling. When he wasn’t actively engaged in an activity, he sought out the attention of the other kids with goofiness. Their attention was like a drug. He hasn’t learned how to channel is energy yet.

And you know what? I honestly don’t want him to have to learn how to sit still yet. He’s only four. He has so much innocent joy, and I don’t want him to be broken of it.

Trying to introduce a child like this to a new teacher by email seemed counterproductive.

We should have known

Sometimes, my indulgent husband and I will look at baby photos of our littlest scalawag and say to one another, “We should have known.” He gave us all the signs from his earliest babiness of being this impish little fellow he’s becoming. My husband doesn’t like it when I call him a clown. He’s not a clown. He’s brilliant. But more often than not, he acts like a clown.

This little guy is a kinesthetic learner and his love language is touch. His apprehension of the physical world and emotions all passes through his body. When he tells a story, he likes to get on his feet and pace dramatically. The greater the physical danger: whether climbing on a ride at a playground or standing with both feet on the seat of his bicycle while he coasts through the park, the more this child feels alive.

How do you fit an expansive polyhedron like that into the round peg of public education? I’m genuinely struggling with this question, because I really like him exactly how he is.


I am a fan of Kim John Payne and his book Simplicity Parenting. This book has informed much of how we have chosen to parent our children up until now: few toys, lots of unstructured free time, extremely limited screentime, few limits, one parent always available to them.

Last year, I signed the littlest one up for circus school, mostly because he was getting impatient about actually starting school. I get why he was impatient: dropping his big brother off at school every morning made him jealous. He wanted to go to this mysterious place called “school” where he would play with toys he didn’t have at home and meet new friends.

He was made for circus school. He was made for the artistry and physical prowess required. He was, for some reason, able to channel his distraction into observation when it came to learning new physical skills.

As he starts regular school full-time in September, I am hoping that he will, eventually, learn to channel his energy into the challenges of learning other skills.

But I cannot let him lose his outlet. I do not want to over-commit my children, but I see that he needs a challenge, a physical challenge, to feel alive. I do not want to be that parent who signs their kid up for a bunch of activities that the kid doesn’t even want to do, but I have signed both boys up for music school and both boys signed up for circus school.

I question myself constantly. Am I doing this because it is good for them and what they want, or is it because I am living vicariously through them? Will I be sensitive enough to them to know when to push and when to let them decide? I fear being Rose, that rabid stage mother from Gypsy. But I also fear letting them off the hook when it is only their fear of failure that is holding them back.

Meet my superhero

I wrote something simple to introduce the scalawag to his teacher. I said that he had lots of “enthusiasm” rather than explaining that he is a human tornado, and “intelligent” rather than explaining that he can remember every single that ever happened him and articulate it in astonishing detail while pacing the room like a caged lion. I wrote that he was “popular” rather than clownish. I wrote that he was kind and helpful. ‘Cause those things are true.

I guess I just I didn’t realize that being a parent sometimes meant that I would have to downplay how unique and amazing my child is, to not scare off his teacher.

She’ll learn soon enough. Best to not ruin her summer in anticipation of the whirling dervish.

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: