I just finished a thirty-minute reading session with my almost-first grader. A tedious session to put it mildly. She has a horrible fear of thunder and northeast Ohio weather hasn't provided a lot of variety in the last month; clouds and thunder rule, with a smidgen of sun here and there.
Thunder sounded throughout our session, making the difficult tortuous.
Mary's attention span just isn't where I'd like it to be and words like see, come, funny, something, which were repeated ad nauseum in the Dick and Jane book, just didn't make it on her radar today. She kept sounding them out over and over, as though her brain hadn't seen them before. And no, she doesn't have dyslexia; I looked at a checklist recently because she keeps confusing u and n and h. She knows all the sounds and can blend them, but she still struggles with a few letter-formation mix-ups.
She lives to be outside catching frogs, toads, cicadas, grasshoppers, and crickets. Nature is her passion, much like her brother Peter. School work she can do without, thank you very much.
Don't get me wrong...I believe strongly that young children should be out observing God's glory, not learning to read at age 4 (unless they want to). Mary's been a young scientist for a long time, and now, at 6.5, I have to move her along intellectually. It's clear she won't budge on her own.
I remember a time when, about 18 months ago, she loved to just sit and write the capital letters precisely on the line. And I marveled and observed from afar. But it turned out to be a stage. She never sits down to write anymore (unless I make her), especially since warm weather arrived.
I've patiently backed off at times, waiting for her attention span to grow, but now it's time to really push her. Intellectually, she appears to be lazy, though I understand how rapidly kids can change.
Do you know how hard that is for me, to come to the conclusion that one of my children is intellectually lazy? I don't want that for any of them. I have to keep reminding myself, with the Holy Spirit's help, that I'm not supposed to be raising a clone of myself. Yes, I'm curious and I like to study. Being outside is nice with my family on a hike, enjoying gardens and foliage and God's glory, but I don't live for the outdoors. For one thing, heat and humidity and I don't get along. Fall is my favorite season and I. can't. wait. for. it.
Mary is perhaps my opposite in so many ways. She doesn't care for dresses anymore, except for a couple hours in church. She's often dirty as a result of her outdoor escapades, and I hate to be dirty.
Her sister, Beth, is much more like me. She loves her dollies, her dishes, her stroller and shopping cart; she plays for hours in the playroom, happy as a lark.
These days my girls hardly play together. They've become so different and it saddens me, though as I said, I know how rapidly kids can change.
It's occurred to me sometimes, after I roll my eyes at Mary's dirty nails and wet, muddy clothes, that if I'm not careful, she's going to think I prefer Beth. And maybe, just maybe, she would prefer another type of mother? One who also sports dirty nails and loves to be outside?
For all the mothers out there who understand one child better than another, I want to reassure you: You aren't playing favorites. Your heart isn't betraying you. Don't mistake understanding one child better, to preferring one child more.
Each person is unique, having been placed in the womb by a glorious, imaginative God. Having intellectual curiosity and enjoying study isn't better than loving the outdoors. Liking dresses and being clean isn't better than loving nature and getting dirty. I believe in our mother hearts, we celebrate differences. God is wise and in creating unique individuals, he gave us a beautiful gift in our fellow man. We get that.
But differences can sometimes be scary. We have to work at understanding our children. We have to work at getting involved in their passions. We have to act on what our heart knows: That God created our children unique and beautiful, each one. They're a story to unfold, one page at a time. In their hearts, they only want to be appreciated for who they are. To be appreciated is also to be loved. The challenge is to push aside our prejudices and appreciate every word, every story plot, every fresh page.
My Dearest Mary,
I love you, darling. I love it when you rush in, shouting with glee that you caught a cicada. I love it when you hunt for tiny toads and treat each one as your special friend. I love it that you spend time catching crickets for your pets to eat, faithfully caring for them as though their lives depended on you.
I love it when you pray before bed, begging God for sunshine. I love it when you wake up and celebrate sunshine when it dares to come, if only for an hour. Your enthusiasm for God's creation is beautiful and valuable; I hope you hold His gifts dear all the days of your life, and teach your children to appreciate them.
Your mind is bright and active and God has tuned it for science. Keep on exploring, keep on marveling. Keep on rushing in the house, joyfully telling me about your discoveries. I love you my beautiful, darling Mary. I love everything about you, and I thank God for the day he knitted you in my womb. Thank you for letting me snuggle with you, thank you for loving me. Thank you for having patience with a flawed Momma who's desperately trying to get this right.
All the love in my heart and more,
Your grateful Momma