Monday, September 24, 2007

The Good Enough Kid



Lily and Liam- My "good enough" kids


I wonder if it is a natural tendency for mothers (and fathers) to equate a child's performance in school with their worthiness as parents...I say this because I find myself lurking on the edges of shame when I hear other mothers speak of their children's reading aptitude (it happened on the playground today, and I caught myself in a moment of doubt). It doesn't last very long, and honestly, deep in my soul, I know that my kids are really smart- even if they don't measure up according to the public education system (but why do I feel the need to mention that they are smart? what is smart? and what does it have to do with me?). It's that competitive nature that hurls us into those dark corners where we don't like to say we've been- where we want to believe that because we are such great people, our children will all be "talented and gifted" according to some bureaucrat somewhere, who makes those judgement calls. I remember my friend Julie laughing at how parents, at orientation meetings, would openly ask about the "accelerated programs" that were available, because THEIR kids will SURELY need them, but rarely ever inquired as to the special education services. That "what if" doesn't really cross our minds, does it, until it happens.

Lily struggled enormously with learning to read and did not accomplish this milestone during that kindergarten through first grade year, as is considered "normal" in our society. Oh, the tears I cried that she just wasn't getting it. And oh the stress she must have felt as a result. Tom and I removed her from the private school she was attending, unschooled her (let her learn through life with very little coercion as far as forced learning is concerned). By the time we moved to Pittsburgh, and she chose to go back to school, she was on "grade level," due not, in my opinion, to any greatness of mine but because that was her time. Now, in fourth grade, Lily enjoys books as much as any of her peers and could probably read anything put in front of her.

Liam will be seven years old in November and he is in his second year of working daily with a reading specialist. And he's having a rough go of it, in some respects, with the sight words he's asked to memorize every week. I spend a lot of time with him, playing match the sight word, go fish for the sight word..., giving out prizes for motivation- attempting to get him over this hump. But, I must say, I really do wonder if our lack of acceptance of children for who they are and their own time lines for development, does more harm than good. I worry that by harping on this subject too much, Liam will feel that he is not "good enough" as the person that he is- smart, funny, giving, and an incredible spirit- reading well or not. And, if he doesn't have the privilege of time-off from school, will this cycle of being "behind" ever end?

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Forty-three year-old, mother and staunch advocate of four young children, passionate warrior of truth and self, finding the soul in each day, sharing my struggles and triumphs as I live them. Mostly I do this for me, so my thoughts don't race as much at night as they used to. But I also give this to those of you who need to know, in any or every way, that you are not alone.

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