I was a late bloomer. It’s a term that is mostly used for flowers today. Way back when, children who didn’t seem to grow as quickly as their peers were often called “late bloomers”. I struggled to read. I sucked my thumb until I was in third grade. I clung to my Mother.
My garden is sprinkled with yellow sundrops, a flower that blooms early in the summer. Before opening, they show their red encasement. Going from red to yellow is a beautiful metamorphosis. Most are now gone, yet as I dashed by my garden last week, I noticed one. This one.
The flower still was still encased in red. This little guy was all alone and had not yet opened. Most of his brothers and sisters were long gone. I was pulled back into my early childhood looking at this solitary little flower. The feelings of being scared at something new swept over me. Memories, and then a great wave of understanding. I stayed with this little guy a while. We talked. Well, I talked. He seemed to listen.
The next day I returned. This is what I saw:
A bloom at last! Like me, a late bloomer. But, oh how beautiful, as if all that extra time had given him more beauty and strength than his brothers and sisters. That’s exactly how I felt.
As years went by in my childhood, somehow my experiences seemed particularly memorable. They were important. I was living life with more wisdom and bigger eyes than many others. All of those experiences seemed to pour into my heart. I became a preschool teacher. I began to tell stories and then to write. Somehow I knew that my yellow bloom was a hallmark for me.
When I teach young children, I… understand. I know those late bloomers simply need love and encouragement, and time. A favorite picture book written years ago is Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus.
The simple and gentle text carries the message of giving children the time they need to grow.
Leo couldn’t do anything right. He couldn’t read. He couldn’t write. He couldn’t draw. He was a sloppy eater. And, he never said a word. “What’s the matter with Leo?” asked Leo’s father. “Nothing,” said Leo’s mother. “Leo is just a late bloomer.”
Children need to hear stories that reflect how they feel. So do adults. That’s what connects a reader and a writer, a teacher and a child. Every child is different, yet they all need the same thing. Like the sundrop that needs rain and sun, children need love and encouragement. Roots. Perhaps those late bloomers have stronger roots. I do.