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Monday, May 31, 2010

Shame and guilt

Tessa finished up her first grade year last week, and as of right now, she is going to repeat the school year. We go next week to have her tested for dyslexia and ADD. If she does have either of those, she will not repeat first grade, because I don't believe it will do her any good, but if she doesn't, I do think it will benefit her to repeat the grade.

I'm going to make a confession, and it may make me sound like a terrible person. This is truly hard on me. I have spent all of my life as the smart one, and I grew up believing my children would be just as smart as me or even smarter. My whole identity is based on being the smart one, and it is really hard to hear that your child may have a learning disability or even is struggling not to fail a grade. I am jealous when people post things on Facebook about their children making straight As or receiving school awards, especially when these people weren't the smart ones in school. My cousin, whose son has autism, says she felt the same way.

I can't put into words what I'm feeling, which is unusual for me. It's not that I'm ashamed of Tessa, because I'm super proud of her for being a good friend and a good big sister. It's not that I think she's dumb or stupid, because I know she's not. She picks up on certain things really quickly, and she's able to read people faster than she can read a book. Maybe it's that I'm scared of what it's going to mean for her, how it's going to make her feel, how it's going to affect her life. I don't know exactly what it is that is so hard about it for me.

The biggest thing, though, is I am ashamed I feel this way. I feel like I should be saying, "She has a learning disability or is struggling with school. No big deal, we will handle it and get her through it," and I am saying that aloud to everyone else. But, deep down inside, it is bothering me, and I hate that it is. I hate that I am jealous of people who kids are doing well in school, and I am ashamed of that, too.

Then, there is a part of me that feels a sense of guilt over the fact she may have dyslexia or ADD. I wonder if I did something to cause it, even though her daddy has it and so does his mom. And, I feel like I should be doing something more to help her with school, even though we work together every night on her homework, I read to her every night, went to the school to advocate for her, etc., etc., etc. I still feel guilty.

No matter what though, I'm not showing any of this to Tessa. We have told her about dyslexia and that it simply means she learns differently, not that she has a learning disability. We have told her her daddy has it, and she might, too. We have made it out not to be a big deal. She also knows that if she doesn't have it, she will being doing first grade over again. I asked her how she felt about that, and she was ok with it, as long as she didn't have to have her first teacher, the one who dumped her desk out in front of the whole class, again.

In the grand scheme of things, I guess I just need to look at it like this. I know she is intelligent. I know she is beautiful. I know she is a sweet child with a huge heart. It doesn't matter if she repeats first grade or if she learns differently. All that matters to me is that she is a good person who tries her best.


jordgubben said...

One of my best friends was diagnosed with dyslexia in the 2nd grade. She said it was one of the best things to happen to her. Because it was identified early she was able to get the help she needed. She was classified through high school but was in main stream honors classes and an honor student. She's currently taking courses toward a PhD in Occupational Therapy. Everyone learns differently. It's good that you're taking steps to identify the way your child learns early in her education. It will certainly make things easier for her in the long run.

Reese said...

I think we all have some expectations of our children, and get a little disappointed when they don't meet them. The best you can do is roll with the punches, and I think you are doing that in spades. I hope the guilt and shame leave you, and I think once you see her thriving in this new environment, they will quickly dissipate.

Your sweet girl IS bright, but may just need help learning in a way that makes sense to her. You will be teaching her is to get the help she needs. And like the poster above me here, I have met many people who are dyslexic (my colleague is), and he is one of the brightest minds I have come across---and he managed to get his PhD as well.


B's Mom said...

I have a brother who was diagnosed with ADD and he always tested off the charts. ADD does not necessarily mean "dumb" it just means that you learn differently. My brother is well read and articulate, he can rattle off all kinds of statistics and memorized anything easily. But he didn't finish high school. I blame my mom for this because she was not his advocate (That's another story for another day). He did not learn well in a traditional classroom. He just didn't. He did go to Syl.van learning centers (I don't know if they have that in your area) which said they had never had anyone test as high as he did (he really is very intelligent!) and they helped him find the best way for him to learn. It was well worth the money.

I also have another brother who has some sort of learning disability. He was very slow to learn. When he was in first grade his teacher suggested he be held back. He could have passed, but she thought he could benefit by staying back another year and maturing. As she put it "It's easier to repeat the first grade than the fifth." At some point they believed he would have to be held back, and they would rather him repeat first grade. My mom made the (wise) decision to hold him back. He was one of the oldest kids in his class, but that just meant he was one of the first to get a driver's license! :) It was really the best thing she could have done. He didn't struggle like he did before, and that extra year gave him the boost he needed. He's 31 now, and a happy successful adult. He did not struggle through school, and I suspect that he really would have if my mom didn't hold him back in the first grade.

Sorry this is so long! Good luck!

(And don't feel like a failure. It's hard not to feel guilty or take the blame when our kids struggle. Sometimes it really has nothing to do with us.)