Some time back, I was at an elementary school and met a little guy who was having a hard day. He had been sent to the principal’s office for hitting other children, and he was perseverating about one of his favorite topics: vacuum cleaners. Did I have a vacuum cleaner? he wondered. I said I did. What brand? Darned if I could remember.
“Maybe a Hoover,” I said.
You don’t know? I shook my head. Can you draw me a picture of it? I told him I couldn’t draw well and asked him to draw it for me. What does it look like?
I described my upright vacuum while he asked me if it was short or tall, if it had a rotating beater brush and what kind of attachments it had. Does it have an extender rod? Could it suck up a dead mouse?
I asked how old he was. He ignored me. I asked what kind of vacuum he had at home.
“That’s a good one,” I said.
Do you have a shop vac? I said I do. What brand? I didn’t know. He was incredulous.
What kind of vacuum do you use to vacuum your car?
“I don’t usually vacuum my car. What do you like besides vacuums?” I asked.
He ignored my question. Can you please draw your vacuum? He passed me a piece of paper and a blue Crayola. I asked him for a brown crayon instead.
You have a brown vacuum? What brand is it?
He watched me draw from across the desk; the image was upside down to him. That’s a funny kind of vacuum.
I kept drawing, adding a table with plates on it and a few bits of food on the floor. I turned the picture around to show him.
A smile spread on his face. Your vacuum is a dog?
“Boxer brand,” I said.
I told him I thought it would be a good idea if he didn’t hit others–maybe he could earn more time using vacuums. “You could even study them. That way,” I said, “you ‘ll be an expert, and you will be able to design better vacuum cleaners than anyone else and maybe someday you’ll design your own brand of vacuums with your name on them.”
He grinned ear to ear.
I believe it. This child’s passion could translate into that kind of success. But first he needs a little guidance.
I wanted to talk about one thing, but we end up talking about another. If we’re patient and let them lead, sometimes children come along.