There’s no doubt in my mind: I’m where I am today; because of my Dad.
Today I am a college student. I’m unpacking my suitcase in my dorm room and later today I’ll sign up for my classes. It’s actually happening… but there was a time when no one – including me - thought it could.
When I was in elementary school, I doubt any of my teachers would have predicted I’d make it to college. Most of them probably wondered if I’d even make it through their classes. They gave me all kinds of labels: ADHD, learning disabled, emotionally disturbed… all I knew is it took me forever to figure out my school work – and my teachers figured I was either lazy or stupid.
Back then, when I looked at schoolwork, it sometimes seemed as though the letters and numbers on the paper would suddenly stop making sense. The letters would suddenly seem incomprehensible and the numbers would just spin around in my head. My brain would often just get stuck like that – and by the time I’d look at my paper again, I forgot which question I was doing and whatever I might have done so far.
Dad got me through it. When I was repeating second grade (and feeling frustrated and totally ashamed) he told me he’d had a similar problem. He told me he loved me just the way I am. He reminded me God had created me this way, so he knew God would help me figure out how to survive school – just like he did. He gave me a special gift, too.
He gave me a thinking cap.
It was pretty much like the ones you might have seen in cartoons. It’s a red pointy cardboard hat. Dad made it for me. He put a little blue tassel on the end and pasted on some gold and silver stars. When we’d sit together doing my homework and my mind would get “stuck” on my homework he’d get out my thinking cap and put it on. He’d put his arm around me, smile and say, “Now you’re thinkin’!”
Putting on that cap didn’t zap my brain or impart the wisdom of the ages, but it made me smile and help me relax enough so my brain could “unstick” enough for me to try again. Even when I was a kid, I guess I knew the cap wasn’t magic; it was taking that brief break and then tackling the work again. Dad never stopped believing in me. Maybe having a similar problem gave him that patience, but I sure appreciated it. When I wore that cap, and when Dad had his arm around me, I felt like I could eventually get through the homework.
And, year after patient year, I did.
Somehow, those years paid off. By the time I was in high school, I didn’t need the cap as much, and we put it on the top of my bookshelf. But, every once in a while, if Dad noticed me getting stuck on a problem or project, he’d just smile and point to the cap.
As I began to see my efforts pay off and realize I was going to make it through high school, I began to think of what it how it might be for other kids like me – and how maybe they might not be lucky enough to have a Dad who would make them a thinking cap.
So, here I am in college. I want to be a Special Ed teacher; to help kids like me. And, as I open my suitcase in my new dorm room, I smile as I realize my Dad must have added something, after I finished packing.
Because the first thing I saw, inside it, was my thinking cap.
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