During the final week of his kindergarten year, a few weeks before his sixth birthday, Arlo’s teacher (the famous Ms. Ashley) called to share that he’d been having a hard time with his “memories” book that each student was compiling as a culminating project for the school year. The kids were given several prompts, such as “favorite unit of investigation” and “favorite game to play” and “favorite piece of playground equipment”. Immediately I understood why Arlo might be having a hard time with this assignment; sometimes asking kids to pick a “favorite” is an overwhelming request. Unless clear, obvious choices exist in their minds, choosing from what, at times, is a number of options unconfined to finitude can feel daunting, particularly because many of the items within each category are apples and oranges to each other. Add to this the fact that Arlo, like many kids, derives such great enjoyment from almost every engagement he makes in the social setting that school provides that he’d be hard-pressed to narrow the options down to a single front-runner. There was yet a third reason that this exercise would prove challenging for him: he’s not a simply concrete thinker, and his insightful interpretation of the world frequently surprises us with its explicative perspicacity. He doesn’t just “think outside the box”, to use a hackneyed idiom; he breaks the box down and puts it out with the recycling so there is no longer any box that could possibly contain his thoughts.
When I asked Ms. Ashley for more details, she recommended that we do some summer work with writing so that his confidence increases. She explained that he’d really had a hard time with one question in particular: “Where is your favorite place to be at school?” because his answer was so long that he’d stalled out in trying to write it all. I asked her what his answer was and she said, “He said his favorite place to be at school was in other people’s minds because that means they’re thinking about him.”
I have a hard time with favorites, too, but I can definitely say that that answer to that question is hands-down my favorite favorite.