Monday, August 20, 2012

A Symbol Worth One Thousand Words

Have you ever been surprised to learn something unexpected about someone you thought you knew well?  If not, get ready.

Cael, who has to be the most outgoing and extroverted person I know, has a tendency to execute a mental shut-down every time he is asked to complete a task by someone outside of our immediate family.  It's not even shyness, but a total brain lapse during which he slumps over but remains standing, locks eyes on his shoes and refuses to show any visible signs of life. 

At first I thought that he was just very shy.  Then I considered that he was antisocial or had some sort of anxiety around people.  But after an exhausting week of vacation bible school culminated in a concert during which Cael did a spot-on impression of a pensive mannequin, it became clear that his behavior was completely intentional and wholly unnecessary.

There's no sense trying to move him in this state.  His feet, barely mobile, shuffle along at a glacial pace and words come out slurred and unintelligible.  But for Cael, the only thing that matters is that it works. 

If he doesn't want to participate, he won't.

Knowing this unexpected tidbit about my son's personality, you can understand my concern when I saw him beginning to shut down at his school's open house-style "meet and greet" last Monday.  It was an opportunity to check out his classroom, chat with his teacher and see who his classmates would be.  But Cael, my social butterfly, found it more entertaining to pick at the edge of the carpet with his shoe. 

One of the items of business we were asked to take care of was for Cael to choose a symbol to represent him for the coming year.  The small picture would be on his coat hook, on future papers and would be inevitably tied to "all things Cael" until he takes the plunge into Kindergarten.

Pardon me, I just got the chills writing that.  Brrr.

There were dozens of choices.  A car.  A rainbow.  A boat.  A sunshine.  As we gazed at the possibilities, Joel and I tried to point out the ones that we thought might appeal to Cael, only to receive the occasional grunt or shrugged shoulders in response.  After several minutes of fruitless searching, Cael slowly stretched out one clammy, pointed finger.

"That one."

"That's the one you want?"


"Are you sure you don't want the boat?  What about that cool moon?"

"Nope, that one."

And there, at the end of his outstretched finger, was his symbol of choice.

A snail.

I have a feeling that this will be a long, slow, slimy year.


  1. Better not serve him escargot...

    Milo was the same way in preschool -- for his first classroom concert, he hid under my arm. For his second, he jingled the jingle bells with his face under his own arm. But he totally came out of his shell (haha) in Kindergarten and is much better with performance anxiety.

  2. Too funny! I wonder what made him pick that lol


Leave your own "ism". Cael and Graham double-dog dare you.