Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gratitude - Day 12

Ben can't write. He knows all his letters. He knows all the sounds they make. He's just on the cusp of putting them together into words. He's discovered that adding or subtracting a letter can change things. He's fascinated by this. His enthusiasm makes my heart swell. I am thrilled with where he is cognitively. He's funny. And well mannered. And a people pleaser. And enthusiastic about everything. But he can't write.

He attempts to write B. E. N. on papers but it's pretty much illegible. He can't even trace B. e. n. with a modicum of success. He just can't. This has started to bother me. To cause me to worry. And that worry is making me angry. He's four.

And I want him to be four.

I don't want to care about whether his fine motor skills are going to give him trouble when he enters kindergarten next year. (Because I suspect they are.) I want him to explore what he is passionate about and nudge him gently towards things he may not be. I want him to sing songs and climb on rocks and read lots of books and color pictures and pretend to be a pirate for hours on end. I don't want him to sit at the table practicing writing his letters. He's not ready. Or maybe he is.

I'm not ready.

I'm not ready for the next phase. Where they started getting rated by what they can and cannot do. Where words like "behind" and "struggling" and "needs extra help" enter our vocabulary. Again.

Allison's having a difficult time in school. I have alluded to this several times before. I won't go into details but let's just say she's in 7th grade. And her problems are not academic. For the first time since first or second grade she leaves for school each morning dreading the day ahead of her. She feels unwelcome. Unaccepted. The other day she told me she feels invisible. And my heart, it crumbled.

I am relieved that Allie is talking to me about what is going on with her. But I don't know how to fix this for her, and it's killing me. I walk around with a pit of anxiety boiling in my stomach. Imagining her feeling unwanted. Imagining her feeling unworthy. I find myself treating her differently. I don't make her do quite as much around the house. I buy her small things to make her smile. I write her little notes. When she walks in the door from school I can't help but pounce on her, asking her a little too cheerfully and pointedly how her day was. I want so badly to make home a soft and comforting place to land.

When Allison was Ben's age we had concerns about her starting kindergarten the next year. Her birthday falls 6 days before the cut-off so she was the youngest. She didn't really know her letters and she was just seemed immature compared to the other kids. It seems so obvious to me now that she wasn't ready. But her teachers encouraged us to send her on, and so we did. (Incidentally her fine motor skills were amazing)

Eventually she caught up academically but socially she has always been younger. We will always regret the decision we made to send her on. Even now, eight years later, I cannot help but wonder if she would be in this place if she were a year older.

Did we make the right decision by her back then?
Probably not.
Did that decision cause her the pain she is experiencing now?
I don't know. There is no way too know.
Is it helping her to deal with her current situation by coddling her at home?
I don't know.
Am I afraid to send Ben on to Kindergarten because of Allie's struggles then and now.
Would it be the right decision to hold him back as well?
I don't know.

I just don't. And it kills me that I don't. And that I may never know if the decision I make is the right one. The most difficult part of parenting is not doing what needs to be done, but knowing what to do. And relying on God when you don't. I'm not so good at this.

Today I am thankful for my two sensitive children.

May I always do right by you. And may my prayers be enough to carry you when I don't.


Elizabeth said...

I've been reading your blog for a while now, and I've enjoyed all of your days of gratitude posts. This post in particular made me cry because it hits so close to home. I have a fourth grader who is already dealing with the pre-teen angst. My sensitive child is almost 6, and watching him work through his first semester of kindergarten reminds me of myself at the same age. You're right-it is hard to know what to do sometimes, but I hope that my prayers are enough when I don't.

Lori said...

Oh... this made my heart hurt on so many levels.

I have one boy who has always struggled a bit academically and was almost held back from Kindergarten simply because his fine motor skills were not up to par. Unlike Allison, socially he completely belonged with his peers and so I am glad we didn't listen and sent him on. He still has crummy handwriting but it has always been the right fit in every other area. But those are all things you are trying to discern when your child is all of four or five years old! There is no crystal ball! How can you really, really know until years later? And even then...

And dear, sweet Allison... Could I send her a happy note and buy her something pretty too? That's what I would want to do too. I don't know that it is coddling her. You are piling on some extra love and kindness during a time she really, really needs it. She doesn't strike me as the sort of girl who would take advantage of that. I'm sure she is just grateful she has a mom who loves her so much and is willing to go the extra mile to let her know just that.

karen said...

Oh, I know exactly where Allie is right now and my heart is crushed - there is no easy answer and the road to the place where the age gap with her peers ceases to be an issue is a long one. In addition to all you're already doing to make her more comfortable, you might encourage her to spend time with her true friends. A small but stable ship can make it through decades of storm, no matter how high the waves.

Lynn Stallworth said...

I feel your pain, Joy! We'd carry all their struggles and pain if only we could!

Sister K said...

i'm with my sister k on this one...i was always the youngest in my class...i was shy and naiive and maybe that helped carry me through to post-12th grade...but as many people as there are to tell you it gets better, it doesn't until you live life's lessons and see for yourself many years down the road that maybe really it wasn't so bad. my mom always wanted me to go back a grade but i'm truly glad i didn't at the time because i had my close friends. each child is different. the decision you make will be the right one in the end. in the end, they will be where they need to be at the time that they are where they are. and overcoming the hard times will help them become strong, sincere and sensitive to others who struggle :)

kandy gibson said...

I feel for Allie too. I remember vividly the woes of 7th grade and the other girls, how mean! But you know what? Somehow in the long run, it will make her strong, more mature, and more sensitive to others needs. I would keep loving her the way you do and make her feel like she is loved and special and the most important 12 year old in the world. Overall, she will remember how much you cared in her time of need. Hang in there Allie, a lot of us have been there and we are behind you!

Kyla said...

It is so hard to make decisions for someone else, someone little who is completely dependent on your judgment and who will have to live with the consequences either way. It is even harder to look back and second guess yourself and wonder what if. I know. I'm so sorry you're contending with that. The decisions we make in love for them, with the best of intentions are the best we could have made. We didn't have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight while making them. Hang in there, you.