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Turning “Interesting” into an Action

Jamie Sumner
Special needs mom and author
12/01/23  10:00 AM PST
Unstructured Play

My son Charlie recently got a new bus mate. Her name is Emmaline and she is also in fifth and uses a wheelchair. I had met Emmaline several times over the last few years, but only recently, at the fall school picnic, did I have a chance to really talk to her. To put it simply, she is lovely – eloquent and emotive and kind. Charlie adores Emmaline. He is mostly nonverbal, but they get each other in a way that does my heart more good than I can adequately express. This is Charlie’s first true friend. He is almost twelve and I’ve spent many years waiting/hoping/wishing for this for him. I hope they travel on to middle school together next year, but I am almost too nervous to wait/hope/wish for that one. We shall see.

While Emmaline is all the wonderful things I listed above, what I love about her most is her curiosity. She actively wants to know: how I am, how Charlie is, what he’s thinking, did he like the substitute they had in class, does his wheelchair come with wheel guards like hers? She’s a curious kid, but it’s a mellow kind of curiosity – she’s good knowing, but she’s also good just waiting to see. You see that kind of interest so rarely these days. It’s a chill vibe, but one that is wholly engaged.

I recently came across a book by Russell Davies called Do Interesting where he explores what it means to be an interesting person and do interesting things. Turns out the key is to be interested in people, ideas, etc. It’s less about curating your own person and more about diving into the lives of others and the workings of things in ways that make you forget yourself altogether. Essentially, he turns interesting into an action. You have to “go interesting” just like you’d “go running.” You actively make yourself notice the path you walk to your car, the leaf that landed on the hood, the way the neighbor always parks their truck wonky. You pay attention and by paying attention you learn the workings of the world in a way you didn’t before.

Kids are great at this, despite all their claims of being bored all the time. They naturally comment on how the bug walks like an old lady or how the sky is the same color peach every morning at the bus stop. It is us adults who forget the act of wonder—especially those of us who are caregivers of those with different needs. We fall into routines, because routines are safe. They provide stability when health and diagnoses and the future is so unpredictable. But they can also box us in, both in our expectation of those we care for, but also in out expectations of ourselves.

Emmaline reminded me of this and I so have been practicing “interesting. “ I walked around our historic downtown until I found an unfamiliar brick path and followed it to a sign that marked a battle from the Civil War. It made me want to come back with paper and charcoal and do one of those rubbings we did in elementary school. Later, I asked my daughter to go for an evening stroll and I stopped a woman walking her dogs to ask if she had any tips for puppy training. She did! Dog air spray! You can get it on Amazon! Works like a charm! I love these conversations and these noticings, mostly because it makes me forget myself. Maybe one day I will grow up to be like Emmaline.


child with special needs
Jamie Sumner is a special needs mom and author.

Author of the middle-grade novels:















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