I don’t like talking publicly about my son because he is a very private person and I respect that. However, I feel compelled to write about an important issue that came to light while I was talking to another mother who was struggling in the same way with her young son as I once had. She so reminded me of my younger self; I could see her challenges ahead and my heart kind of ached after I walked away.
Here’s the thing: Parenting brings you to your knees. All parents, at some point, are on their knees begging God for something; a fever to go down, an x-ray to reveal nothing, a broken heart to mend, a bully battering to stop. You’re on your knees and you’re as helpless as a gnat. Maybe it’s 3 am and you’ve got an asthmatic kid and you’re listening to his chest heave, the wet crackling of his lungs as they try to suck in oxygen and fail. Maybe your shy, small girl isn’t ‘adapting well’. Maybe you hear from school your kid just punched someone for no reason. Maybe you’re sitting with your silent child in a counsellor’s office wondering, what did I do wrong?
You’re on your knees.
But when you’re on your knees for 12 years to the public school system, there’s another flavour to the begging. I had a healthy, bright, talented child who returned from school on his first day diminished, unhappy, and glum and said, as he lay his blond head against the cool hallway door, so quietly I nearly missed it: I’m stupid.
It was like watching the most expensive china in the world slip out of your hands and onto the floor in slow motion. I wanted to scream “Nooooooo!!” and pull it back, to stop this shattering that would never be pieced back together to the moment before its breaking.
Inside, you fall to your knees while scooping up your child and humming happy tunes all the while acting like nothing has changed, everything is fine, and school isn’t a bad place to be. That was the beginning of 12 years of telling my son: No, you are brilliant, you are talented, you are actually a genius!
I’m not sure I was enough of a cheering section to keep the insecurities at bay, but I did my best . He is all those things and more and yet, he has been lying in bed for nearly a month with migraines just trying to end this education that has, in the end, brought him to his own knees. I feel like we are both just crawling to the end of this race, wanting it to just be over. When you have a gifted child who doesn’t necessarily fit into the typical learning style of most learners, it’s not an easy road. I feel for other mothers just starting out and hope they will be more demanding than I was about the change that must come to our public school system.
Our public school system is not well, and, I would argue, it is making some of our kids sick. I know there are some great teachers, I’ve heard about them, but how many leave out of sheer frustration with our system? A lot, I would imagine. Because there weren’t too many that crossed my son’s path over the past 12 years. When they did, they changed his life. His world became a bright, creative, thriving place to be.
I really felt for the younger mother I ran into who had a lovely little boy who so reminded me of my own son at that age–precocious, smart, willful, energetic, creative. When my son was that same age , I was told I would have to home school him or put him into a very expensive private school as the public school he was attending just ‘couldn’t serve his learning needs’.
I’m happy to say he’s off to university next September, taking his immense creative talents, and burgeoning confidence with him. I know he will set the world on fire, but I am quite sure much of his fuel will come from having to piece back together his own idea of himself outside a curriculum that often failed him.