My son walks into his kindergarten classroom, wide brown eyes and happy heart. Eager to share, learn and grow.
I imagine him hanging his book bag, bumping into the other kids accidentally. “watch it” one boy says, and my son frowns as he contemplates how his body fits into tight spaces. It takes him extra time to find his seat, lost in the frenzy of colors and classmates. He knows this frustrates his teacher so.
He watches his her, tries to follow what she’s saying, also hearing what she isn’t saying. He reads her gestures, picks up idiosyncrasies, and memorizes the sounds of the room. A chill comes from the window and he’s instantaneously uncomfortable. He squirms his way through discomfort. Hot but cold… he feels off-kilter but no one else in the room seems phased. He furrows his brow and kicks at his desk. Suddenly he can’t remember what she was talking about.
What is the letter of the week?
Can she go back?
How long have I been sitting here?
Why do I feel so funny?
He gets up to walk the funny feelings from his body but its’ relentless tug pulls at his skin.
They review the day’s lessons; math, reading and more. His little brain works as fast as it can to retain the information. He coughs, a lot…. the itch in his throat rises when he’s distracted, or perhaps when he needs a distraction.
He thinks to himself, he may cry for no reason. But the other kids might stare. The teacher might ask why. His brain scrambles, while he drums his hands on the table and scrapes at his neck until the heaviness in his chest subsides.
He raises his hand to participate, not wanting to appear like he’s not listening. Yet, not quite sure where his teacher left off.
“Spell polar bear”
I’m sure she was nice, but it was too late.
When he came home from school, he told me he feels stupid, “I can’t spell polar bear mommy!” He rubbed furiously at his eyes and got lost in his fears. Looping anxiously, “I’m so stupid!” over again while choking on his tears.
I can feel his exhaustion. He desires to understand why this is so difficult for him. His expression demands answers that I don’t have.
“You are the most intelligent boy I know” I wish to fill him with these truths, “You are fearless! You are wonderful and I am proud of who you are!”
He can’t hear me anymore, “I’m SO STUPID!”
All I can think is; my child, you are such a miracle. It is a miracle you make it through the day. It is a miracle you are here with me. It is a miracle you are brave enough to be this vulnerable. Every day you step into that classroom and emerge anew is evidence of a miracle.
He struggles to spell, but he is so bright;
He can stand up to a bully so another child remains unharmed.
He can leap, bound and stretch into the mastery of his physical body.
He can use sign language to effectively communicate his needs.
He can sit and do homework, and use problem-solving skills to find new ways to retain information.
He can understand when I’m sad and bring me flowers to lift my spirits.
He can measure and cook a meal.
He can use his imagination.
He is limitless.
In this moment, all he sees is his lack… of self- worth, of brilliance, of individuality, of hope. The injustice makes my gut flare. Because he is not stupid. My son is highly sensitive and he is doing everything he can to live in a world not built for him. He is frustrated but keeps trying. He’s hurting but keeps moving. He is unsure yet thriving.
No wonder he feels abandoned.
No wonder he’s tired.
No wonder he comes home from school only to sob into my lap and pour out his lack.
He feels isolated and terrified.
He has no idea moment to moment who he’s allowed to be.
He needs space, to explore and craves acceptance in this need. He desires room to work sensory input through his body in a way that heals his mind. This isn’t about what we [adults] think is best for our children, it’s about understanding intelligence in all it’s infinite possibilities. Our job as adults is to keep them safe while they explore their environment. It’s time to reinvent an unforgiving system and give our kids a chance to love the world again.
My son called himself stupid today because he couldn’t spell polar bear and the very thought leaves my heart endlessly aching. My child is a miracle. I pray I can teach him he is so much more infinite than repeating words on a vocabulary test.