June 21, 2010


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.

IMG_2356We 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.


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What a lovely post. You captured what it is to be a parent, to want "the best," and to find out what really is best. I also found that in finding the best way to school my child that I did much of the learning.

that is really the best we can do for our children! let them be who they are and support them. how wonderful that you were able to find the right learning environment for him to be successful. we are all so individual. conformity is not good for our human spirits. thank you for this post! :)

as a mama of a litte boy, your post made me teary this morning. motherhood/parenting is hard - we have had a challenging time of it lately but to read this and hear such simple, poignant and sound advice in a culture so ready to label and medicate, it really lifted me. you are a wonderful mama to have had the strength and courage to listen. beautiful!

Jenny, What a touching story. How blessed Andrew is and will be as his life unfolds. As I sit here and think back...if only I had had this opportunity~to have pencils, paper, and paint available to my heart's desire? Oh, but I am not sad. I know that all things happen and work out for a reason in our lives =)
I am really just so proud for you and for Andrew that he has the opportunity to develop in the way he was intended.
This truly is EVERY mother's wish.

Very touching

Letting Andrew grow outside of the box was such a wise decision. After reading this beautiful post, I can practically feel all the love that went into making this choice.

What a lovely story; brought tears to my eyes. Yes, parenting is so difficult and we pray we make the right choices; where is the manual with the step by step guide??? Here is to more "letting it be!"

Awesome!! As moms, that is what brings us true joy- to see our children happy and discovering their passions. Andrew is blessed that you chose to do what was best for him. Thanks for sharing.

Thank you so much for sharing. I have 2 little girls and they are total opposite from each other. I struggle sometimes not to compare them and just to "let them be". I appreciate hearing your story.

Oh Jenny that is such a sweet post.
That was one clever Doctor to give you such fabulous advice.
Advice that many parents should follow. They do bloom beautifully in the end. I know I have a bunch of beautiful blooms in my life

This is a beautiful post and a reminder that I need to have posted on my mirror. I have 4 yr old twins: my girl is a real people pleaser, go-getter, sweet, and just tries to get along. My boy on the other hand, is very much his own little man, he'll do things if they're his idea, on his terms. But when he wants to be sweet, he is the sweetest, most lovey little guy. My struggle has been not comparing the two of them-they have the same birthday but are not the same! I'm working on this and letting them both be who they are going to be! Thank you for sharing!

My boy found dance. It saved him too.

You were very fortunate to get good advice from your child's doctor. A mother has an inner instinct and knows what her child needs. Unfortunately, many times the most esteemed medical professionals cannot see outside the box and give bad advice.

It is wonderful news to hear that your son is following his dreams and that you gave him the wings to do it!

Hi Jenny,
Our Charlie sounds like a "twin" of your Andrew. He just turned 10 and we struggle most days...Thank you for this post. I plan to print it out and stick in on our fridge.

Jenny, this is such a beautiful post... it is a joy to see inside of your mothers heart.

My best friend always says, if there is any one thing that I am doing RIGHT as a Mother, it is that I love my child with all my heart. Your post reminds me that loving someone is truly looking within them to see what makes them happy.

xoxo Heather

I had 5 like that.

I sure hope you did something revamped and recreated with that cardigan.

If only more doctors were like that. How wonderful for your son.

That's the kind of mother I had. She encouraged me to spread my wings and be who I was meant to be. She died at age 48, and not a day goes by that I don't think of her. xoxo

what a happy post, congratulations!!

Being a teacher, it brings tears to my eyes to read your post. Thank God for the wise doctor who gave you such wonderful advice... and thank God for schools and teachers who allow children to be the persons they are meant to be. I wish your son the best in his future... he is lucky to have a mom like you.

Jenny.......art saves......but, you already knew that!

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Henry David Thoreau.
I found this quote on a blog through crescendoh, which i follow every day because it inspires me,much the same way you do Jenny.
I have a son about to start school here in the uk and I hope i can give him the tools to be his own person but most of all to be happy and content with his life.

Such wisdom in this post. What a blessing for Andrew that he was blessed with parents who honour and respect his individuality. And a blessing for you to be so open to allowing him bloom at his own pace. So many of us refuse to understand that you cannot force a blossom to open without destroying it.
Many lessons to be learned here ... many thanks for sharing it.

Thank God for that doctor...way back when...

jenny, you made me cry too. my 3 year old is nearing school age and I am not sure he will fit into the mold. i hope I have found a school where he too will blossom. being a mom is hard. thanks for sharing with us.

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