A Beautiful Brain

I’m writing a book of letters to my daughter. On the eve of Esther’s 9th birthday, here is an excerpt.


Dear Esther;


Yesterday, just before you drifted off to sleep, you asked me why it is that everyone in your class is so much faster than you are, why you are so slow getting your work done at school. This question hit me hard. It’s the first time you’ve verbalized any knowledge that you are different than your classmates, and I was worried that you might be starting to doubt yourself and your abilities. So, let me explain something.


It’s a little more complicated than this, but basically, there are two sides to your brain, the left side and the right side. The left side is… well… it’s black and white, it moves left to right, it’s logical, orderly, and analytical. The right side is in full blooming color. The right side moves in circles, wanders around a lot, and finds answers outside the lines. The right side dances with tree frogs and paints with a spoon. The right side is magical and knows you’re a part of everything and everyone. The lines on the right side are squiggly and blurry but sometimes there just aren’t any lines separating anything from anything else. Life on the right side is open and boundless and hops on one foot from gumdrop to marshmallow. You, my little cabbage, are a right-brained girl.


Now it just so happens that you go to a left-brained school, which, frankly, sucks. I mean, it’s a really good school; it’s just not a really good school for you. Most schools are left-brained, and the schools that are right-brained usually cost a lot more money than we have, which is a bummer. If we had the money you’d surely be attending one, but since you’re not, you’re having to fight quite an internal battle to get the right side of your brain to do stuff better suited to the left side. You’re the square peg, sweetheart, working to get into that pesky little round hole. So, the truth is you are NOT slower than the rest of your class. In fact, you are likely working a million times harder than the rest of them and your brain is going a zillion miles a minute. You’re thinking about 25 things while they’re thinking about one! And that’s why it’s so hard for you to concentrate on just the one thing your teacher asks you to. Besides, you’ve got far more interesting things on your mind than writing the answer to 341 minus 267. I mean, who cares about that when there’s infinity to ponder and a unicorn prancing on a rainbow right at the edge of your eyelashes?


You also happen to be a very bouncy girl who hates to sit her bottom in a seat, so a classroom chair for you is like prison. You’d much rather be jumping rope and doing cartwheels and handstands to backbends, right? Well, you put that right brain together with your bouncy body, and doctors and teachers and psychologists like to call that ADHD, and they like to call it “disordered” and they like to “medicalize” it and medicate it and make it out like there’s something wrong with you. But there is nothing wrong with you. You just don’t fit into their left brained, black and white, orderly, logical world. Did you know, Esther, that your mommy is right-brained too? Did you know that when I was little they didn’t understand people like us at all, and that my 2nd grade teacher actually called me stupid? Isn’t that the silliest thing ever? I knew you ‘d think so…


I’ll tell you what else, Esther, right-brained people are the ones who make the world beautiful with paintings and poetry and purple pixie lipstick. And we don’t care about time. What is time, anyway, except an arbitrary boundary some left-brain people decided to place on our planetary experience? For you and for me there is no time, there is only right now. So how are we supposed to solve 50 multiplication facts in 15 minutes? What does that even mean? I’ll tell you what it means. It means nothing. Nothing at all. We can solve those problems, no doubt, but what’s with the clock? Why is that important? Why are only the ones who can finish in 15 minutes called smart? Why can’t we take 3 earthly days to finish? Why does that make us stupid? I know, Esther. I don’t get it either.


So remember, sweetheart. You are not slow; you are timeless. While others live bound by subjective time restraints, you live in infinity, so you’ve got forever to ponder 12 times 9. And when you finally decide to write it down, you’ll do it with your favorite markers and make the answer come alive with every color the world’s palette has to offer. You’ve got a beautiful brain, Esther. And one day, you’ll realize not only how lucky you are to have it, but that left-brain people envy you for it, and are awestruck by it, and wish they could be like you.


Love you, honey…