Monday, August 11, 2008

Mother Bear

Liam, my precious boy- admiring the koi in the pond of our library's courtyard.

I took Liam, my seven year-old son, to the library this afternoon, so he and I could do some reading in peace. If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you will know that Liam, though incredibly intelligent and skilled for his age, has some diagnosed neurological "issues" which affect his reading and writing abilities. He has to work about ten times as hard as his peers to put his thoughts into words on a page or to read words in a book.

As we sat together on a couch in the children's section, a rather snarky mother came over to her child, located about five feet away from us, and began yelling about how the books she was reading were for babies and she was not going to be checking them out. My first instinct, out of love for my son, and knowing how those words must have made him feel, given that he was struggling to read one of those "babyish books", was to kick that insensitive wench in the teeth- in addition to feeling sorry for her poor daughter, having to face public humiliation over her choice of reading materials, of all things.

Being a mother and loving your children is wonderful, yet so hard at the same time. More than anything in the world, I just want my son to be happy and feel good about himself. I know that his brain functions as it does for a reason and that he, like his sister, will succeed in academic areas in his own time. But I worry so that his self-esteem, in the meantime, is plummeting and that his confidence will carry such scars that he'll have bigger burdens to carry in the end. As he prepares to start second grade, I agonize over his place in the public school system, and damage control- there is so much pressure in this town to perform at levels which not all are ready for at the same moment in life. I hesitate to hand him over to an institution which doesn't seem to respect the uniqueness of our children- it is aimed at molding the masses and Liam does not fit that mold. He has more imagination and fine motor skills than I can relay with words- skilled at arts beyond most of his peers- none of which matter when the eyes of the world he spends six hours of his day in are focused solely on reading, writing and math- and standardized test scores. There are fabulous benefits to living in an area where the schools are aptly funded and the teachers highly trained and motivated. My daughter, who is going into fifth grade, is thriving in every way and I so appreciate her educators. But things were not always this easy for her and, the difference now, is mainly, that she can tow the line effectively and pass the tests, while keeping her individuality and self- assurance. I long for the same results for all my kids- that they feel happiness as they define it in their own minds- not as determined by a sometimes effective but heavily flawed education system.

As he reads to me, and I watch him struggle to form the sounds on his lips, I ache inside and long to make it all okay for him. I am the mother bear and he's my baby bear, and protecting him is harder than I ever dreamed it would be.

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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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