Archive for October, 2011

We’re still learning…

It’s not quite the end of October, so fall has only just begun, so really I shouldn’t feel so defeated when I look back at my last post and realize that since then things have only gone downhill. I know this thing we call life is a marathon and not a sprint, I know that the goodness of the seasons both of the harvest and of life are not determined within the first trembling weeks. Still I can’t help but wonder just how long before the “lookin’ up” mentality takes back over my attitude. Oh sure, I put up a good front for everyone else, telling them that it WILL get better, we just have to trust God and be patient, but the reality is I wonder if all I’m saying is just empty words.

I don’t guess things are really THAT bad, certainly not as bad as they’ve been in the past. Actually things were much, much worse even just this past summer. Maybe I’m just now settling back into ‘normal’ rather than ‘crisis’ mode, and so the adrenaline let-down is clouding my senses.

We did go camping and we had a great time, despite Matthew having a couple of very emotional days. He went through the whole rainbow of emotions within hours (more than once) and that did dampen the fun somewhat, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t. The first week we were back home was way worse. The rage came back with a vengeance. There was a lot of destruction of property that week. We followed that with a trip to the ped and an increase in both of his bipolar meds. The next week was better, and the rage has not come back to the extent it had been, but neither is he the ‘sweet, golden, little boy’ he was for those 2-3 wks of May when he was taking the same amt of Seroquel. THAT is the part that’s dragging me down, I really think. I had so hoped we’d see that level of ‘good’ again. =(  I’m trying so hard not to lose hope, though. I know that the mood stabilizer needs a good 8wks at therapuetic level (which he just hit this last week) to reach its full potential, and I know that the last week he hasn’t been feeling all that great physically as his asthma has been acting up. I’m REALLY trying to hang on to the hope that as he gets well physically, the emotional/mental will ‘catch up’ as well.

Meanwhile, our school experience has been VERY relaxed. In years past this would have had me in an absolute frenzy of guilt and even anger at the kids (and myself!) for being so far ‘behind’. The title of this post explains my feelings on this situation now, though. True the kids have not completed vast amounts of written work each day. True if you go by the recommended schedule given for each course, they are quite behind, but no it’s not the end of the world. For one, they ARE still progressing in everything, just not at the ‘recommended’ pace. For another, it’s finally beginning to hit home that neither one of my children are destined for the great academia life that I’d always secretly hoped (and pushed) for them. Oh, they’re both highly intelligent, no doubt, but the academic ‘way-of-life’ is not a strong suit for either one of them… for different reasons.

I’ve always known that academics was a good fit for some people and not others. For instance, a child born with Downs Syndrome absolutely CAN and will learn, but would not be expected to be able to soar through standard schooling and college with As in every subject no matter how difficult those subjects may be. A child born with legs that will never be able to hold their weight wouldn’t be expected to win all the events at a track meet. A child who loses their sight due to illness would never be expected to ‘find Waldo’ or excel at ‘I Spy’, nor would they be thought less of because they were not suited to those kinds of activities. Each person is born with different abilities and God has a different plan and will for everyone. We’re not all supposed to be neuro-surgeons, or chemical engineers. We’re not all meant to be athletes. We’re not all meant to mechanics. Some people have natural affinities for these things… others do not.

I’ve always thought it simply cruel for parents to expect their children to excel in athletics simply because they did themselves in school, regardless of whether the children were physically CAPABLE to or not. I’ve certainly seen that exact scenario often enough! “How selfish and simply ridiculus of those parents to just assume that the child would be great at something just because they wished it so. Don’t they realize that some kids just aren’t CAPABLE and if not they should not be punished or denigrated for it? They can’t help the way God made them.”, I would think to myself. Some kids have athletic ability, some do not…and that doesn’t even take into consideration the possible physical limitations the child might have.

It humbles me to say so, but I was guilty of doing just exactly the same thing! =(  Just because I managed to sail through school and always wanted to learn more, wanted to study more advanced subjects, wanted to soak up the academic lifestyle does NOT mean my kids will want or be capable of the same thing. Yes, both kids have high IQs and for a long time it was that and that alone that I looked at as a factor for whether or not they were achieving what they should be academically. The Lord’s been working on me about that, though. Especially the last couple of years. When I’m honest with myself and with God, my first priority as their mother is to teach them to fear and love the Lord. After that it is their physical, mental, and emotional health that I am to attend to. ONLY after those things have been taken care of am I to worry about teaching them the ‘academics’. Yes, learning to read, write, and do basic math is important. Yes, I am to train them and teach them to take care of themselves and live as a member of society, so yes school is important. It’s NOT, however, the be-all, end-all that I used to think it was. So what if they don’t study calculus and make straight As doing it? So what if they don’t graduate from college at the top of their class (or at all, for that matter)? A person is so much more than just their school grades. LIFE is so much more than just the next A or getting better test scores than everyone else.

Yes, it’s a pride thing. I admit it. I never took the SATs because I couldn’t stand the thought of getting a less-than-perfect score like my cousin. It would be open knowledge to the whole extended family that I was not as ‘smart’ as he is, then. (As if they couldn’t tell without that precious test score! HA!) I set out to homeschool the kids so that I could ensure they got the absolute highest level of academics possible. By that I meant that they would be the smartest, the brightest, the most advanced students in the family. Maybe not in the world, I mean I didn’t expect them to be graduating university by 8 or 9, but certainly faster and with better grades than anyone else in the family.

It’s been tough, I admit, but I’m learning that high grades in the most advanced courses at the tenderst ages are NOT what God had/has planned for these two precious children He’s entrusted to my care and rearing. It bruises my pride to think that my kids aren’t ‘the smartest’, honestly. That’s MY problem, though, not theirs. I’ve pushed them too hard for too long in this one area.

So… the schooling has become much more relaxed. Neither kiddo is behind by any means, not even compared to the ‘typical’ student their age. If they were, though, so what? I wouldn’t think ill of another child (or their parents) with mental or even physical (say months of chemo treatments, for example) limitations being ‘behind’ their age-mates. The important thing is not what honors course they take at age 12yo, but how well they are being prepared to be an adult… a Christian… a husband/wife… a father/mother… even an employee and citizen. All kids, the A students and the F students, the ones that skipped a grade or two and the ones held back a year or two, have the same ultimate educational need… to be prepared to live on their own and support and care for themselves and their families.

To that end, regardless of what limitations and difficulties Meagan and Matthew have in any aspect of life, I’ve been far too rigid in the way I’ve approached school with them…certainly with what I’ve expected of them. I’ve told them for years that I only expect them to do their best, but the truth is I’ve been expecting them not to do their best, but to do the best compared to all other kids their age…at least in SOMETHING. I’ve allowed that Meg is weak in spelling, “but she is a math genius”, I’ve thought. And Matthew? Well ok, so he isn’t the top math student, but he is THE best speller and SO intellectually mature. “He’s my language kid”, I’ve always said.

I’m learning that academics are not ALL that’s important in a child’s life. I don’t believe either of my children are destined to excel in academics. They are solid A, B students, yes, and do indeed have ‘genius-level’ IQs, but that does not mean they are meant to (or SHOULD) study college-level courses in their early teens, as I’ve been wanting them to for so many years. Truth be told, they may never study college-level courses, and not because they simply don’t *want* to, but possibly because they won’t be *capable*. How can that be if they have such high-IQs?? I used to hang everything on those high IQs, but the truth is they are so much more than that!!

Meagan has severe social struggles. Right now she needs more practice in learning self-hygiene, and good conversational skills than in sentence diagramming. Matthew has severe emotional struggles. Right now he needs more practice in learning to deal with his extreme emotions properly than in finding the square roots of 4 digit numbers. If I focus on the academics, they are in danger of becoming adults who still don’t understand how to act around other people or how to live peaceably with others. When all is said and done those skills are more important than being able to list all the countries in Africa or describe in detail the structure of a plant cell.

I haven’t completely abandoned academics, though. No! To swing that far from the wrong thinking I had, would *also* be wrong. Instead, I’ve relaxed my expectations, especially in regards to the *timetable* I’ve been expecting them to progress by. Meagan is still taking high school courses, some of which *are* advanced compared to the public school system, and I do still expect her to complete them. I don’t, however, expect her to complete them by a set date. If she needs to move more slowly (and in a lot of areas, she definitely does as her reading comprehension isn’t strong), then so be it. So what if she’s 19 before she graduates high school? Is that really any *worse* than if she graduated at 16? The same is true of Matthew. I haven’t given up academics altogether, I’m just not harping on them so much. His emotional (and lately physical as well) health has really made it difficult for him to focus on and do well with school, so he hasn’t gotten as much done each day as I would’ve demanded a year ago, but he IS still learning. So maybe he’s focusing more on learning how to deal with emotions this month instead of learning algebra, he’s still learning. And the math is still there, waiting for his brain to become more settled and able to focus without the frustration he currently experiences.

So the kids are still learning, and I’m still learning. It’s been a hard lesson for me to learn, I must say. It’s very humbling to accept that my children aren’t ‘cut out for academia’. I don’t really know why academics have been of such huge importance to me, I just know they have been, and they shouldn’t have been. Had the Lord blessed me with a child born with Down’s Syndrome I wouldn’t have expected *that* child to excel academically, and I shouldn’t expect Meagan or Matthew to, either. Both of them have ‘special needs’ and are ‘differently abled’ than they ‘typical, normal’ child, so it’s not fair to them or to me to expect of them more than they are capable. Even if they don’t have the ‘special needs’ or ‘different abilities’ I would have picked to deal with or live with. It’s true I would have always absolutely adopted a child who I knew had Down’s Syndrome or Cystic Fibrosis or half a dozen other limitations… in a heartbeat. I’d have PICKED those special needs, but I never would have picked the special needs these kids have. Bipolar? No way. Not touching that with a twenty-foot pole. Socially awkward and immature? Nope. Also not ‘glamorous’ enough for me.

I’m learning that it’s not up to me to pick and choose what kind of kid (or what abilities that kid has) for me to train up for the Lord. It’s the Lord’s choice, not mine. He knows best, even when I think He doesn’t.

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