Let me be clear from the get-go: no one has actually ever said these words. No, this is purely my sensitive Momma’s heart hearing implications that may or may not be there.
And let my appreciation of my son’s teachers and our school district also be abundantly clear. I feel very blessed to live where we do and to have the education and loving, talented professionals that are available to us.
All of this said, my kid is different. He doesn’t fit the mold. If you’ve been anywhere close to my shoes, you know the exact mold I’m talking about: the mold that sits calmly in desks for hours on end, doesn’t chew on pencils and can complete all assignments in a timely basis with enough energy left to play appropriately and animatedly with their peers.
This is not my son. Beyond “normal” 5-year-old boy antsiness, he does not sit still; in fact, he rarely sits. He prefers to run around aimlessly. He chews on everything. It can take him hours to focus in enough to complete one assignment, usually with endless support of teachers at school and many frustrated, pleading tears from Mommy at home. By the time he is done, he is beat and wants to chill in his own world. I get this; my social energy level is the same.
I never, ever imagined these struggles. I was nerd-extraordinaire in school. I worked hard for my good grades, but I got them. And I can’t imagine the horror on my mother’s face if I had come home with a note from the teacher; I was able to do what was expected of me, plain and simple.
My husband tells a far different story. His growing up years were filled with constant reprimands for not paying attention and consequences when he did not. Regardless, he turned out okay, pretty darn okay, actually. So he tells me not worry, that our son will be okay, that this is just his personality, that it’s who he is.
I could feel okay about this, I probably could, if we weren’t so busy being presented with ways to fix our son at every turn.
Let me be clear about one other point: I am fully okay with getting him the help he needs. We are not unwilling to accept that our son may have a diagnosis of some sort and all the future implications, treatment and services that will go along with this. We are actively and eagerly pursuing many options to help him succeed at what is before him. He currently receives Speech Therapy and Occupational Therapy, has individualized aide support and special oral stimulation devices at home and at school, and works with a Learning Support Specialist. We have had countless meetings and conversations with school staff and do our very best to dedicate loads of time and attention to his needs at home.
While I don’t begrudge assisting my son or aiding him in getting to where he needs to be, I wonder if all this assistance and aid would even be necessary if the mold he is being forced into wasn’t so tight. I was recently chatting with a friend about all of this, and she referenced the European model of children learning to read at age 6-7 versus the American push for 4 and 5 year-olds to read. I wonder if we are pushing a 5 year-old boy beyond what is truly reasonable and developmentally appropriate. I wonder…
It’s not that he’s different that is a problem. It’s that his difference is treated as a problem.
I see my son, and I see a boy who is brilliant with a fascinating memory and an incredible heart. I see a boy who is kind, plays well with others and has so many friends. I know that he is very behind his peers in reading and writing, but I also know he is far ahead in mathematics and logic. While frequent redirection from the world he zones off is necessary, his creativity is a beautiful thing that shouldn’t be stifled. Because is it really the best thing for our children to quash who they are?
The thing is, he still functions at an age-appropriate-level: eating, dressing, learning to ride a bike, planning the elaborate paper decorations he wants to make for a belated Arbor Day party, and fighting with his sister over whose turn it is to play with their new Baymax toy. Most of all, I see a boy who is happy. My son, with his endless giggles and smiles, is the happiest child I know.
So I don’t see a child who needs to be fixed. I just see a child who is different.
It would be so much easier if he fit the mold, mostly because I think it would save us all years of extra meetings, fights over getting assignments done, and migraines of frustration. But he doesn’t.
What do I believe? I believe that his future school years will be very painful and exhausting. I think we will all have to work really hard to just get through them without being buried in defeat. As parents, we will have the tricky task of catering to the mold while still nurturing the unique beauty our son brings to this world.
But I do believe, that on the other side he will be fine. He will be a thriving, functioning, society-participating adult who succeeds in life, and then I will cry in relief. I also believe that he will probably always zone out in the middle of dinner conversations and annoy his own spouse someday, just like my husband does to me.
You know what I don’t believe? That I will refuse to ever believe? That my son is a problem.
He’s different, he’s not broken. He’s exactly the way God made him. And you’ll excuse my momma bear hackles which will always be raised if anything otherwise is ever said or implied.
Check out this VProud video for an example of an teaching style that inspires and provides me with hope for the direction our educational system might someday go!
First image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:12359307, copyright:prometeus