I wanted to share a little piece I wrote recently at the request of Amy Brenneman.* She produced Chimeapalooza — a performance benefiting the Chime Institute — which happened last weekend. Paul Adelstein performed my piece and I can’t wait to see the footage because everyone says he was awesome. **
(that was a lot of hyperlinks; sorry about that)
When he was three or four, my son Sam went through a licking phase. It was mostly metal: stair railings, playground equipment, the occasional iPhone. We tried giving him a spoon—his own personal spoon—hoping it would mitigate whatever it was about… but no luck. He kept licking.
The grossest of all lickages—the most egregious transgression—was when I took him to the Sesame Street: The Body exhibit at Hollywood & Highland. Solo parent and son bonding was great until potty time. We were in the stall together—because that’s what you do—and Sam had already taken care of his business. I was finishing mine when I realized that he was facing away from me and holding his head at an odd angle. Because he had stuck his tongue in the crack between the stall door and the wall. Probably the third grossest potential tongue-place in the public restroom (with the second being the floor and the first being—obviously—the actual toilet).
Of course, I freaked out, yanked him away, and all but boiled his face in the sink. When he was clean (kinda), we went outside and sat on one of the benches by the jumping water fountains. We had a long talk about why we don’t lick things. It’s gross; it’s dirty; there could be germs; you could get sick; if everyone licked the bathroom, it would be covered in spit, etc.
Sam was sweet and contrite and receptive. He nodded. He understood. He agreed to the rule: if you have a question about whether or not something is okay to lick, ask Mom or Dad before you take the express-train to tongue-town.
So I let him strip down to his underpants to play in the jumping water, and I sat on the bench, watching his little boy body splash and sing and dance in the sun…
… and then he ran over to me and licked the bench so we went home.
Dude! So gross!
Later, however, my mother-in-law asked if maybe he had a mineral deficiency so we bought this liquid supplement… and Sam stopped licking. It turns out that was what he needed. Not consequences. Not speeches. Not judgment. He needed something he couldn’t express because he—himself—didn’t even know. He didn’t have the words for that something, but he needed something.
Chime is like that. A place where children are given what they need.
One of my kids had a classmate who couldn’t sit still. Squirming, wiggling, tapping. In another school, maybe it would have been hard for that kid. Maybe he would have been labeled a bad listener, a trouble-maker. But at Chime, someone figured it out. Someone got a thick piece of elastic—like a really big rubber band—and slid it around the two front legs of his chair so he could bounce his feet up and down on it without disturbing his friends or the lesson. It was quiet, it was no big deal, and it was what he needed. He just needed an outlet for that energy.
That’s Chime. A place where each kid is special and where their differences are both accepted and celebrated. A place where they get what they need. A place without judgment.
Unless you turn left onto Collier off of Jumilla Street. You do that, and I will judge your ass. ***
* You probably know Amy as an actor, but she is also a gifted writer who has this incredible ability to splash her heart all over a page. Check out her beautiful essay in the Huffington Post.
** I wasn’t there because I had a family commitment. It involved Polynesian fire dancers, if that tells you anything about my family.
*** Total inside joke for Chime parents. Again I say: sorry about that.