Behind resistance…

I just spoke with a friend who’s considering taking a new job that would be a huge step up in responsibility and opportunity.  There’s a great deal of leadership involved in this new position. She’s concerned that some of her traits, a need for ongoing creative outlet and for periods of solitude, a distaste for drastic risk, may get in the way of her ability to perform well in this new job.

As we talked about it, it occurred to us that the very traits she’s concerned about may actually prove to be invaluable for her new position.  It’s in solitary reflection that she comes up with some of her best ideas, the ones that attracted the attention of the people offering her the promotion in the first place.  And it’s her cautious attention to detail that has made her successful thus far and taught her supervisors to trust her.  It’s her creative spirit that makes it possible for her to solve old problems in new ways.  The parts of her that won’t slip themselves quietly under the rug so that she can appear to be without need or hesitation are among those that will keep her on track, and ensure her success.

It reminds me of something that I’ve always found to be true of children.  Every resistance turns out, upon closer inspection, to be a stand for something, a commitment to something.  It might be several layers down, heavily obscured, but it’s there.  (It also may not be the one we want, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.)

A resistance to reading may be the expression of a need for activity, or a commitment to waiting until the mind is ready for making sense of written language.  A resistance to writing letters without squiggly lines trailing off of them may be a plea for the chance to set the writing aside, at least for awhile, to make pictures.  A willingness to write perfectly neat, normal letters, but from the bottom up rather than the top down, may be a stand for letting the mind work the way it’s trying to work; a way that may be harder to understand but may also serve a new and different purpose.  A resistance to being with groups of people may be a stand for having more specific, intense connections with others.  In short, any resistance can mean any number of things.  It’s true, sometimes it’s bratty (or at least, the delivery is).  And it’s true, sometimes kids, and others, just don’t feel like doing things.  But it’s just as possible that it’s not just that.  If, that is, we believe that people are interesting, nuanced, complicated.  And life’s a lot more fun and productive when we believe that.

We get to interpret kids’ resistance any way we want, just the way we can interpret our own any way we want.  My friend was thinking about her preferences and quirks as hindrances to her productivity and effectiveness when in fact they are essential to both.  When it comes to kids, we have an even greater tendency to forget that our interpretations are not actually the truth and may in fact be getting in the way of what we actually want for kids and from kids. Our interpretations are what we’ve decided to think about what we’re seeing.  If it seems like kids are just being difficult, it’s because we’ve decided to think that.  If it seems like they don’t know what’s best, or that they’re lazy or spoiled or entitled, it’s because we’ve decided to think that.

We can look as deeply as we choose to.  We can stop on the surface, assume lousy things because they’re quicker and easier to find (and more familiar!), or we can look deeper.  The more we look, the more we can see. And the best part is that the more we see, the better it gets.  It’s what’s underneath and behind all those resistances that makes each of us specific, makes us interesting, makes us new.