I have shared Thea’s story with school for years. How our oldest daughter was labeled a struggling reader in kindergarten and has been in intervention ever since. How she declared that reading was simply too hard in 2nd grade, despite her incredible teachers, but that Dog Man by Dav Pilkey made her believe that she was a reader and that she had always been a reader.
How our oldest daughter was bullied so badly that she asked whether you could survive without friends. That she ended up changed last year, new pieces of a puzzle that we have yet to figure out how to fit together.
I have shared how we have we searched for answers. How we have focused on protecting her hope of reading. Her love of school. How we have flooded her with books, fought for her right to be safe, and seemingly tried everything we can to make her believe that she has worth.
Thea is a child who tries even when it is hard. She is our dreams come true.
What I have never shared, fully, is the guilt that comes with having your child identified as someone who hasn’t learned what they should. The shame in your own parental structures. The questioning of your own ability to parent successful children who do not need intervention. Who do not end up being a question mark.
Who do not end up being bullied. Being the victim of other children’s vicious nature and whims.
Who do not end up being the parents of a child who thinks that she doesn’t deserve friends, because she is lame.
I think of all of those emotions that are tied in with our own children’s journey. How their journey in school only seems to highlight the failures we have as parents. As people. How we blame ourselves when they fail to reach benchmarks. When they get in trouble. When they fail to find the community that other children seem to so easily find. When they make decisions that we seemingly cannot understand and we know that the teachers that teach them may very well think that we are the ones that pushed them in that direction.
How many nights of conversations my husband and I have had about what we were doing wrong. About what else we could do. Trying to come up with solutions to a situation we are not sure we understand. How many nights we have held our tongue and assumed that perhaps a teacher did not see how something affected our child. How many nights I have cried over how I have failed my own child because of what she has to face. How I wish I could take her place but that I know that as a parent that is not my role.
I think of how many times I have assumed that a child stood in front of me and acted a certain way because that is how their parents or those at home acted. That the child in front of me is surely the product of everything those at home failed to do.
I am ashamed of this realization. Of the judgment, I have so easily passed. Of the assumptions, I have let shape my decisions in how to work with kids. In how to work with those at home. But in shame comes learning. Comes growth.
Because what Thea has taught me, what all of our children have taught me, is that most parents try their best. That we send you the very best kid we can. That we have probably done all of the things that are meant to make our child as successful as they can but it turns out it might just not be enough.
That sometimes even though we follow the rules, take the advice, try all of the tricks, a child, our child, will still confound us. Will still mystify us. Will still make us pause as we wonder what else we could have done.
I hope my children’s teachers see us as parents who try. That they know that sometimes we don’t understand a behavior either. That we have raised them right but that doesn’t guarantee that they will act right. That even though we did all the things to raise a reader, our child, who is a reader, may not be able to read well, yet. That even though we have raised our child to be kind, helpful, and loving, others may not see her as such.
May we all remember how hard it is to send a child to school. How hard it is to let go and hope that the child that walks through those doors is the child you hoped would show up. Because we tried. Because we are trying. And I hope you see that. I hope we all remember that.
If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child. This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block. If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.