When my Andrew was in kinder, we tried to make him fit into a box. A box made up of uniforms, shirt tucked in, belt in belt loops, no fidgeting, quietly in seat, no horsing around. Rules that we thought were "normal" for every boy and girl. Rules prescribed by the "best" private schools around. Not only did he fidget, he horsed around, and most certainly couldn't keep his shirt tucked in. And let's not talk about his belt and belt loops.
In the box he was not. And no matter how much we tried to make him stay in there, I knew, in my heart of hearts, that I would be allowing the highly esteemed system destroy him if I forced him to don the pristine school logo on the 60-dollar cardigan, find him a diagnosis and load him up on meds so that he could sit there with his shirt tucked and belt buckled. I remember his face every morning. He tried so hard. He wanted to please his mommy.
We searched for answers. And we met a wonderful doctor who said this: "Ms. Doh, every child is wired differently. They bloom at their own pace. Rather than spend the next several years chasing a diagnosis and forcing him into a timeline that is not his, why not let him be? Let him blossom in his own time? Find him a school that has a small class size, that has a staff that focuses on his strengths, and allow him to be who he is?"What a concept. Let him be who he is.
So that's what we did. We traded in the expensive cardigan for more comfortable attire and enrolled him at a school much more suited to his style. And in the blink of an eye, my Andrew has completed 6th grade.
And today, I had my parent teacher conference with his teacher to receive the kind of feedback that makes a mother weep. "He is a lovely child. He loves learning. He is inquisitive. He is ready for 7th grade. He is helpful. He is considerate. He is kind. He is a phenomenal artist. He will be successful."
As I write this, I weep. Because it's not so easy being a mom, you know? You never know if you're doing the right thing. You never know. But all I have ever wanted is for my children to be happy. And for my Andrew, who struggled early on ... to have grown into such a wonderful person, and an extremely talented artist ... well ... it makes me so happy.
I was recently talking with my friend Michael. And when I asked him who has been the most instrumental person to have supported his art career, he named his mother. "Not that she wanted me to be an artist, per se," he said. "Just that she wanted me to be happy." And so when she figured out that art made Michael happy, she made sure that he always had enough of art supplies in the house.
The coming year for Andrew will be one where we continue to help him improve in academic areas that need improvement. But the great thing is that we've heard loud and clear what makes him happy. Paper. Wire. Clay. Paint. Pencils. Pens. Photoshop.
We will be sure to make sure all of these are in good supply at home. Because they are what I know will make him happy. But more importantly, they are what will help him be.