My middle child is learning to read. It’s interesting to watch.
Earlier this year, he was assigned to a reading/spelling group at school The teachers didn’t specifically note the different groups were based on skill level, but I wasn’t born yesterday — I figured it was likely the case. And it makes sense. If one child is reading chapter books, his/her needs will be different than a child working on One Fish, Two Fish.
I suspected my son was in the beginning group. It was interesting to see the voice in my head kick up a notch: “Shouldn’t he be further ahead? Is he behind? Do more at home!”.
I was a straight A student in the gifted and talented program from early on; school was a place that generally felt easy to me. I took AP classes and got into the “right” college before getting a “good” and “cool” job. And along the way, I crashed and burned, convinced that if I’d just tried a little bit harder…
Ultimately it got through to my brain: there is no one way or “right” way to do life or one definition of “success”. There are an infinite number of possibilities. It may include straight As or it may not. And years down the road, no one will care. In any case, trying, learning, loving, doing the best we can in the moment and showing up — those will always lead to moments of fun, happiness, and more of the same. (And from what I’ve experienced, that seems to be the way to a happy, healthy, and successful-to-me life. Aiming for happy now and happy now and happy now and happy now — as much as possible.)
Back to my son — I know I know that being top of the class isn’t required for him to rock out life. (As well as that where he is now in relation to his peers is simply where he is right now. TBD on how things will look later down the road. One thing I’m sure of — he will learn to read well eventually.) And yet the voice sometimes still pops up. Old habits and thoughts sometimes die hard.
Then a few months into the school year he was switched into a newly formed group. The first thing that came to mind: “Oh shit. He really is struggling. I need to help him more. I need to get him going. If he’s struggling now, by the time he’s in high school, he could be failing and then what does that mean for his future and I’m screwing up his chances at life and what kind of parent am I?!?”. This time the voice was screeching. It was hard to hear anything else.
Lucky for us all, the sanity light bulb flipped on: He would have a problem with reading — if I made it a problem. And if I headed down the road of that voice? It would be a huge problem indeed.
He is happy. He is healthy. He is kind to himself and others. He likes to go to school. (And his teacher has said he’s doing fine.) If I’m being honest with myself, this is what I want for my kids — to be happy, healthy, and kind to themselves and others. And yes, he is learning — at his own pace. And that is more than okay. I can worry about down the road and stress us out now — though perhaps that’s a surefire way to find us stressed out down the road.
What if we’re exactly where we need to be right now — because that’s where we are?
(And reminder to self: There is no failing at life.)