Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Columbus arts educator, author and all-around inspiration Mimi Brodsky Chenfeld shares more of her wisdom about raising happy, healthy, creative children:

It was the last day of school and my fourth graders had already packed their treasures and hugged warm goodbyes. As always, Ricky lingered after the others had left for a last few minutes of talk. This was my third year of teaching and Ricky was one of my terrific kids: fun, lively, full of playful mischief, bright, curious, restless but totally attentive when something interesting to him was going on. Just a delight to have in my class all year.

When he left, I had drawers to clear and files to check. After emptying out my desk, I felt something pushed way back in the drawer. A crumpled, bent file that I must have missed. Missed all year. When I read the content, my mouth fell open and my heart stopped. The heavy file was all about Ricky: negative reports from his previous teachers in all aspects of behavior and achievement. Page after page described my Ricky as a serious problem, a trouble maker, inattentive, bothersome, irresponsible, disruptive, easily distracted, hyper…Had I been asked that same day to nominate an outstanding student, I would have named Ricky! Because I had never read that file, I did not anticipate, label or pre-judge. I only knew the child before me and made my own conclusions from that year of direct experiences with him.

Remember, this was an era BEFORE Special Ed, before ADD, ADHD, OCDC, ODD, and other dire diagnostic definitions. Probably, in today's very aware educational scene where we sometimes too easily jump to serious conclusions about our children's behavior, Ricky would be deemed a child with learning disorders, emotionally disturbed or hyperactive. His parents would be relentless in their pursuit of treatment. He might even have been in a program for children of special needs. For sure, he would be tested and observed and probably taking medication.

Of course, I realize that there are many children who truly fit the diagnostic labels, who need special programs and serious clinical intervention. We are thankful that such important help is available and successful. All of our children need observant and informed families but I think too many of our families are ready to push panic buttons, too ready to label, too worried to often see their children in a more holistic context. Too many children have letters after their names symbolizing serious conditions.

Let's try to step back before adding anxiety to our observations. Let's remember that we are all unique personalities, with our own mix of gifts and strengths, our own original personalities. We grow in our own journeys of development. We are not robots or carbon copies! Before we quickly rush our children to the nearest clinic, let's try to relax and enjoy, communicate and share, provide experiences that ensure success. Let's not push our children into a mold. I guess I want to say, chill!

By the way, Ricky is happy with a family, a satisfying career, and a relatively good life! The only letters I associate with his name are R I C K Y.