In Due Time
Last week, I got a phone call from my son’s teacher. He’s in second grade. She went on to say that he is a kind and caring boy who gets along with his peers. He’s never in trouble and gives his all at school. She didn’t want the report card to come as a surprise, so she warned me that he was getting a 1 in reading because he was reading at a level 7, when he should be at a level 11. This is also affecting his problem solving in Math because of his struggles in literacy, but otherwise he is doing well academically. I thanked her for the information and told her that we will continue working on it at home. We’ve always placed a great deal of importance on reading at home, whether it’s my husband and I reading to our boys, or them reading to us. She went on to say that she is not concerned one bit, and that it takes a lot for her to be concerned about the learning of a student because we all learn at our own rhythm. He is progressing, which is all that matters. She didn’t add on more reading. She didn’t request that we drill sight words night after night. He just needs time, and he will get there when the time is right for him.
If I didn’t love this teacher before that moment, I sure do now.
This is exactly the kind of conversations I have with parents, too, when I call and update them on their child’s progress in school. I believe with every fiber in my body that we all learn and develop certain skills at different times in our lives. Who is to say that a child is supposed to know this or that by a certain time… are they moving forward (and I don’t just mean academically)? Yes? Great!
This has been my philosophy ever since I can remember, but it was really solidified after my twins were born. Here I was with two boys, born only two minute apart, raised in the same environment, and still developing at a different pace (obviously!). One learned to walk months before the other. One has been more agile and light from the get go, while the other has been much more gentle, and thoughtful in everything that he does. Potty training happened effortlessly with one, while it was a very frustrating process with the other. Is one better than the other? Absolutely not! They are different and each have their strengths, as do all children, and all people!
After that phone call from my son’s teacher, I was inspired to write him a letter, which he will read someday, when the time is right. But really, this letter is for everyone who might be struggling with “keeping up” or feeling “less than” as they play the sick game of comparison.
I know you might not see it yet, but I know that one day you will. You will notice how your peers are “better readers” than you are. They might be reading more advanced books, or reading with more fluidity. They might have better decoding skills and comprehension, or they might have more confidence and expression. Although my hope is that by the time you do notice, that you won’t care, because you will understand that you have strengths that they don’t. You will be proud of the fact that you are doing your best and that you persevere when it’s hard. You will remember that you’re amazing at so many other things, including hockey and building all sorts of incredible contraptions out of scraps. You will know that you bring so much to the table, and that together, while tapping into everyone’s strengths, you can move mountains. But I know that’s hard, because I lived it, too.
I want you to know that although I struggled with reading and writing when I was younger, and although I didn’t enjoy it because it was so challenging and left me feeling as though I wasn’t good enough, I love both now. It took me longer, but I got there, and I am now writing weekly and reading every single day, not because I have to, but because I want to. Many have even complimented me on my writing throughout the last couple of years… which is crazy because when I was younger, I never imagined that I would be writing because it brought me joy. Ever. I didn’t believe I was good enough, and I hated it! You are not defined by your weaknesses, and I hope you will also help others understand this.
Keep your chin up and keep giving it all you’ve got, even when it’s hard. It won’t always be like this, it will click one day, and you will learn a great deal along the way.
Keep learning and developing at your own speed, because that speed is the right one for you.
I am so proud of you and always will be! Je t’aime,