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…



22 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. kelly tallariti

    simply beautiful, what a lucky daughter what a lucky momma…

    February 23rd, 2012

  2. So well done. Esther is one lucky girl.

    February 23rd, 2012

  3. vicki

    Hurray for the right-brained children. ALL the others will be working for them some day.

    I can’t get enough of this piece, Kay. So well crafted. So much heart. So much love and oh, how i can relate. Thank you for writing and sharing this with us. You must submit this somewhere. It would be a gift for so many parents.

    Love you,

    February 23rd, 2012

  4. Wow. Such a wonderful tribute to Esther (and to you, Kay). Because of you, Esther will find her wings and soar into the wide beyond!

    February 23rd, 2012

  5. susan

    Write like you talk. Works like a charm. Your lucky charm. Stunning work. xo

    February 23rd, 2012

  6. SUE

    I agree with Vicki. This would be a gift for many people to read, whether or not they are parents, or right-brained creative types, or school administrators. It’s a perspective that is not heard enough, or sometimes at all. Bravo! Never stop believing exactly this way. Our school systems are waaaay too linear.

    February 24th, 2012

  7. Randy Berger

    That’s like a 34×67 wonderfully fantastic cartwheels. Beautifully written for a lovely little 9-year old, and a bunch of us older ‘kids’, too.

    February 24th, 2012

  8. Maryann Davis

    Only Mother’s LOVE can see.

    February 24th, 2012

  9. Lori Kelly

    Oh, how I wish my mother had said those words to me. I still wonder if I’ll catch up to the rest of the world. You are an amazing mother. Color on.

    February 24th, 2012

  10. Betsy Petrie

    Post it to the world. Such eloquence; spoken as only one who had “been there” could do.

    February 24th, 2012

  11. Dear Kay-
    Please adopt me.
    Your wannabe son.
    P.S. That was beautiful!

    February 24th, 2012

  12. Kristy (Petey) Medina

    You are one awesome mama. That is one lucky little girl. XOXO

    February 24th, 2012

  13. Denise Madruga

    Wow…beautiful sentiment..I wish the rest of society could embrace and celebrate everyone..right or left brained!!! Esther is lucky to have you and you are lucky to have Esther

    February 24th, 2012

  14. My heart exploded out of my heart reading your letter. Simply stunning. Bravo, mama. Bravo.

    February 24th, 2012

  15. Why, why, why does the world insist on change our special children to fit the mold when they should be encouraging their uniqueness? Imagine the possibilities that could unfold. You have a wonderful way with words.

    February 24th, 2012

  16. Nina Valli

    Wow! That is the best letter I’ve ever read. Thank you for sharing it. You are a great mom, and Ester is very lucky!

    February 25th, 2012

  17. David Nachtigal

    Thankyou for the moment .

    February 26th, 2012

  18. kathryn

    You should publish that as an editorial in the LA Times….or at least submit it to Newsweek’s “my turn.”

    Esther IS perfect….and you are her perfect mom.

    Love you guys

    March 1st, 2012

  19. Congratulations, Kay, I’m nominating you for the CANDLE LIGHTER AWARD!

    “The Candle Lighter Award is an award for a post or blog that is positive and brings light into the world.

    The Candle Lighter Award belongs to those who believe, who always survive the day and who never stop dreaming, who do not quit but keep trying.”

    There are no rules for this award. Just celebrate, and if you feel like it, pay it forward to somebody else you think embodies the award.

    Swing by my blog and see your name in bright lights!

    Congratulations again!
    The Art of an Improbable Life

    March 24th, 2012

  20. So beautiful. Every child should have a mother as loving as you clearly are.

    July 27th, 2012

  21. I love this…

    August 18th, 2013

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