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What Child is This? December 5, 2007

Posted by dreamom in family, Happiness, Parenting.
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There is a young child sitting in their school desk. They are looking at their feet. They never noticed that one shoe was scuffed more than the other. The child starts rubbing their foot on the floor to see what movement made it scuff. They decide that if they figure it out that they will even it out. Then they notice that their shoe is making a little bump-bump-bump sound when they rub it. The child is starts seeing if they can make different rhythms with their shoe.

Not certain why, the child glances up. The teacher is looking at them. The whole class is looking at them. “Well?” says the teacher. Well what, the child wonders? Looking around the child notices that some of the kids are laughing at them. Why does this always happen? Stupid shoe.

At recess the child wants to play basketball with the other kids. They look across the yard at the basketball hoop where kids are jostling over the ball. For a minute the child thinks they will go join everyone. The child’s cheeks start to blush, apparently for no reason. They are remembering earlier that morning – when the whole class was laughing at them… Well it felt like the whole class anyway. The child plops them self back down on the ground. Why did they have to be playing with their shoe? That was so stupid. The teacher went on and on about how they need to pay attention, like they didn’t know that. Then the teacher came over after the other kids started working to explain what the child was supposed to be doing. She was trying to be nice, but every time the child glanced up they saw their classmates glancing at them, and knew that they all thought the child was dumb. They felt dumb. Maybe they were dumb. The child started to think about how maybe they were dumb, and they just didn’t know it. They decided that would be very embarrassing. The bell rings, startling them from their thoughts. The child starts towards the door, not sure what they figured out.

Sitting in class the child keeps thinking about what happened that morning. They are determined that they are going to pay attention this afternoon. They are not going to let anything distract them. Sitting in the desk, looking at the teacher, trying to concentrate on every word, the child starts to think that it is working. Suddenly the child hears tickety-tickety-tickety… “No!” The child thinks. “Don’t look. You have to pay attention. You need to show people that you aren’t stupid.” The child continues to look at the teacher. In their mind though they have started to think about what could make that noise. Without looking they try to figure out where the sound is coming from. Slowly the teachers voice has faded into the background, like someone had turned the volume down. Actually the only thing the child hears with any clarity is the mysterious sound. They are now thinking about all the things that could make that noise, is it in the classroom or in the hall? The child’s efforts to change the events of that morning are now in vain. All that effort wasted because of what the child determines must be a noisy fan in the ventilation system.

That afternoon the kids all get their report cards. Even though the kids aren’t supposed to open them, most do. Not the child. They know what is there. You don’t get A’s when you can’t spell answers properly – even if you tried. Even if you spelled things the way they sounded. You don’t get B’s when you don’t finish your tests. Even if you were solving some mysteries. The child goes through the motions of getting ready to go home, but is spending almost all their energy trying to not cry. This was not a good day. No day is ever a good day. Every time the teacher calls their name to hurry them along, the child feels embarrassed all over again.

The child starts walking home with a friend. Well, the child thinks the other student is a friend, but on the long walk home the child starts to wonder if the other student just feels sorry for them. Maybe it is only the child who thinks that they are friends. By the time they part ways the child has decided it would be embarrassing if they thought they were friends, but really the other student was just trying to be nice because they felt sorry for them. The child decides that they better keep their distance tomorrow.

So what child is this? Whose story am I telling? When I look at my son, I’m not sure. This could describe any number of my days in school – details only shifting slightly for elementary, secondary school, or University. This is my story. Even today I will go through times of feeling insecure about my friendships because of a seemingly catastrophic social blunder.

Looking at my son, getting after him for not paying attention, looking at his homework, trying to help him finish work that he was supposed to finish in school, I remember these moments. Now I am going to be going to Parent/Teacher interviews, playing the role of my mother – advocating for him, trying to help him feel accepted, successful, not dumb. I see his tears over his C’s and D’s, and remember the pain and loneliness.

Somehow I need to show my son the patience that I never had for myself. I need to have the tolerance that I never had for myself. Even though I too have been distracted easily by seemingly invisible things, I have no wisdom for him. There are no answers. During Church I am distracted by the humming of the lights. By the cough of an elderly person in the back. I try to solve the mysteries of why the lights flicker, what caused the feedback on the sound system, I suddenly notice that I have been staring at someone while I was thinking about something else. I wonder who noticed. I wonder if anyone really likes me, or if they think that I am weird and feel sorry for me.

How does that person teach their son that they are wonderful, smart, loved. How can I show him that I think he is important when I can’t pay attention when he is trying to tell me something. When I suddenly look at him, and realize that he is asking me something that I can’t answer because I was thinking about something else?

All the tricks I found will sometimes cover it up. Nothing has fixed the problem for me. I hope he figures it out. I hope he isn’t held back because he doesn’t. My child isn’t perfect because I’m not.

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