The other night we wrapped up our day with our family in the kitchen talking about what all went on at school and work. What started as an innocent and fun conversation, soon ended in frustration and tears from our son. A simple conversation about the day created a complete meltdown by our entire family and concluded with me yelling at him for not being able to hold his emotions together and crying over something ridiculous. It wasn’t until I was lying in bed at 11:30 that night that it hit me – the emotions and anxiety of the beginning of school are here – the meltdown had nothing to do with the simple conversation we were having, it was the stress of the school year starting and all of the fear that goes with it. It was at that moment that I felt like the worst mother in the world. This wasn’t the first time, nor will it be the last time that I will lay in bed feeling like I failed my kids – but every time it happens, it hits me like a ton of bricks.
Shortly after our kids started Kindergarten, we excitedly went to our very first parent-teacher conference. Little did we know, things were about to be turned upside down. Just as expected, we heard that our daughter was doing great – she was exactly where a kindergartner should be and flourishing in school. We bopped down to our son’s classroom in anticipation of much the same – only to hear different. He was struggling, and not just a little bit. He was unfocused, he was fidgety, he was “immature” and having trouble keeping up with the class with his letters and reading. The word “retention” was used. The room started swirling – how could this be? He is brilliant, and I am not just saying that because he is my son – the kid is truly brilliant! If you have ever spent any time around him, you know he is eerily smart and observant. So, I did what all good Moms do (or so I thought), I went home and brought down the hammer. The next day, the kids were invited to a birthday party. I took them both, but while our daughter had fun swimming with everyone, our son and I sat in the corner working on flashcards. Without realizing what I was doing, I beat him down with his own weakness right in front of all of his peers. I thought I was teaching him a lesson – he was going to have to focus and work harder! It wasn’t long after that day that we discovered that he has severe dyslexia. No matter how hard we worked, those flash cards weren’t going to help. That day and my lack of grace and kindness in those moments has haunted me. My son still brings it up and I can’t say that I blame him.
Over the past 6 years since finding out about his dyslexia, we have worked hard as a family to navigate a world that looks “different” than we anticipated. How is it possible to have a child that has an extremely high IQ but struggles to read and write basic words? How does a mom that has never experienced that help him? How do we encourage a child that comes home and says “I will always be the dumbest kid in the class” and convince him that he is SO far from dumb? I wish I knew the answers to all of these questions, but I don’t. What I do know is that as we start school and all of the fears set in about what the year will look like, Nels and I will do our best to love our kids, encourage our kids, advocate for our kids, lift our kids up and offer a WHOLE LOT of kindness, grace and even apologies to them when they are warranted. And I pray that the kids will learn to offer all of that back to me on those nights when I lay in bed feeling like I failed them once again.
Luckily, our son is a very driven kid and is now experiencing great success in school but the beginning of the school year can be rough. The beginning of the year for him always hurts my heart a little. It’s a time filled with anxiety of the unknown and pressures to fit a certain mold. The pressures that our kids feel are nothing like I experienced as a child – school work is hard – especially math (I mean HARD, thank goodness we have Nels for that 😊 ), there are activities at every corner and the demands on our kids are greater than they have ever been. I pray that as the wheels start to fall off from time to time, that we will all take a little pause and show a little extra kindness, a lot of extra love and an ABUNDANCE of grace! Here’s to a great school year!