I recall occasional glimpses into my son’s academic future when he was a toddler. These glimpses typically ended with my shaking my head and thinking, “Boy, I don’t think school is going to come easily for him.” Whether we were casually trying to ask him what color something was, or working with letter flashcards, or, later, trying to show him how to write his name, he would buck. “No,” he would yell, “no!” And we would back off and wait a few weeks or months before trying again.
His first two years of school began with teacher-requested conferences a month or so into the year. “He’s such a sweet boy,” they would say, before launching into descriptions of daydreaming, zoning out, and difficulty following multi-step instructions.
On Friday afternoon, as I tried to coax him out-of-doors while the daylight lasted, he pleaded to be left alone. “Mommy, please…I’ve had the worst day.”
I sat down next to him. “What’s the matter? Why did you have the worst day?”
“My teacher yelled at me,” he said softly.
“I don’t want to tell you. I’m scared.”
“Nolan, listen. I don’t hit you, I don’t yell at you, you have nothing to be scared of. I need to know what happened.”
And after some gentle prodding, he revealed that he “didn’t hear” the teacher’s directions, and that when he asked how to do something, she yelled and told him that he would just have to get an “F” on his paper.
A quick check of his papers revealed a note from his teacher disclosing the other side of the story. Daydreaming through directions and not finishing work.
After arranging yesterday to meet with his teacher today, I formed a plan of attack. He needs a good night sleep. I need to rethink breakfast. And maybe a little hot cocoa would give him the spark necessary to stay alert in class. Sending a well-rested, fortified little boy out the door in the morning with positive energy will surely help his day.
At 7 a.m. my plan started to fall apart. When I woke him up, he was groggy. I eased him out of bed with the promise of hot chocolate I prepared a healthy slice of peanut butter toast, with instructions to eat while I got ready. He agreed.
After a few minutes, I walked out my bedroom door and called to him…”Nolan, you have about three minutes to finish eating.”
Several minutes later, I found him huddled over his hot chocolate, his nibbled slice of toast still mostly intact on the table.
“Nolan,” I said, taking the cup from his hands “you’ve had two bites of toast! Take a bite of toast while I get your shoes!” And when, in the process of slipping his shoes on, a pile of sand spilled out of his shoes and landed on the floor, the rest of my plan which included positive vibes fell apart.
When my diatribe ended, we hugged half-heartedly as I sent him to the bus. I walked back into the house and saw the scattered evidence of my failed morning…a half piece of toast, mostly-drunk hot cocoa, and a pile of sand on the floor.
Why, oh why, is this so hard?