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Friday, 19 December 2003

Last week, my five year old son brought home his first-ever report card from kindergarten. His grades were nearly perfect and his teacher wrote, "Wow! His math skills are amazing for his age! He is doing very well in all academic areas and is a joy to teach!" Tears sprang to my eyes. So this is what parental pride feels like!

I have two older kids, the twins, who are in fifth grade. TwinBoyA normally does well, though his handwriting is horrific and impedes his progress in writing. He has an enormous vocabulary, but when writing will choose a small, easy-to-write word rather than a bigger, perfect word. This year, he's really working hard and earned an academic award recently. I'm relieved, since fouth grade ended badly. (Let's just say, when he started sitting next to a girl named Tasha, everything went down hill.)

TwinBoyB, though, is another story. He is a kind boy, charming and fun-loving. Even at this age, when pimples are beginning to dot his nose, he'd just as soon be out in the backyard swacking bushes with the metal pole he broke from the broom. He makes a lot of noise, mouth-noises, foot-noises, just plain hollering. He's hated school since the day he started. I remember driving him home the first week. He chanted all the way home, "I hate school! I hate it! I hate it! I hate it!"

His handwriting has been messy at best, illegible at worst for years now. His second grade teacher told me, "It's just second grade." She used to help him cheat on his spelling tests because she knew he'd get a milkshake if he got a perfect score. What a scam that was. He is a charmer.

So, the week after YoungestBoy brought home his perfect report card, TwinBoyB tells me early Tuesday morning, "Mom, I have to tell you something, but I'm afraid you'll be mad."

I hate it when the kids start a sentence like that. Then I have to assure them I won't be mad.

"Mom, my Roanoke report is due today and I didn't do it."

I just raised my eyebrows instead of my voice. When I finally pulled all the details out of him it turned out that the class had been given a week and a half to write a fictional historically-based story. TwinBoyB didn't understand the directions from the start, so he just fiddled away his time. He never mentioned it to me. When I asked about the project, he said they were working on it at school.

I emailed the teacher for the information. Then, for two days after school, I hovered over TwinBoyB while he agonized over writing three pages. He is truly a horrible writer. He has no intuition, no skills, no interest. As a writer myself, I just cannot find a bridge between us. When I was in third-grade, I wrote a ten page story for fun and won an award for it. Words have always been my friends, my partners, my solace.

TwinBoyB's worst enemies are words.

No, I take that back. His worst enemy is long division. And multiplication is out to get him, too.

I worry that this child will never succeed in school. And I realize how important it is to me that he does well. I feel like this is what I do. I raise kids. If my kids fail, am I a failure? Sigh.

Then again, I think of YoungestBoy. I've raised him the same as his brothers. In fact, I didn't even teach him how to write anything before school, not did I "work" with him in reading or math. He just embraces math. The other day he said, "Mom, I know what 5 minus 50 is." Half-listening, I said, "You do?" And he said, "Yes, it's negative 45."

So here is what having adopted children and biological children is teaching me. My older kids are not struggling because of me. My youngest is not excelling because of me. My job is not to duplicate my own successes in school. These kids are individuals.

My job is to give them a map, help them read it, point them in the right direction, and watch them go. They will succeed, they will fail. They will learn, maybe not the way I want them to, but they will learn.

In the meantime, I need to work on being a soft place for them to land. Especially for my boy who hates writing and loves mud.

Posted by Mel at 3:04 PM PST
Updated: Friday, 30 July 2004 4:00 PM PDT

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