Friday, March 13, 2009

"I Fail..."

Yesterday I had confirmation that the gut feeling I have had about Kenny and his education is true...he IS feeling overwhelmed and my concerns are very valid.

Thursday afternoons are when Josh and Kenny have piano lessons. Kenny LOVES piano, and is doing pretty well at it for a beginner. He is hooked, every time he walks by the piano in our TV room he has to plunk away at it. He is actually beginning to sound as if he is really playing music! I had hoped that music would "take" for a couple of reasons...A) It would help with brain development and B) It would give him a place where he might be able to experience success and C) It would give him a place all of his own to shine with his peers someday.

He has spent several months now in lessons, and was working on the last page of his book this past week. Before his teacher even came he was excitedly saying "I get a new book next week! I am on the last song now!!". I was in the living room reading some email when he was done and it was Josh's turn, and although he said nothing I could tell that he was upset about something. Kenny has en extremely expressive face, and it is easy to see the emotions as they play across it. I asked him to sit down next to me, and the way he snuggled and buried his head in my chest I knew something was wrong for sure. I asked him to look up at me, and realized he was near tears. He explained "I'm sad, I didn't finish my book today.". I said encouragingly "Kenny, that's OK...that's the first time you haven't moved on to another song after a lesson. But the music is getting harder now because you are getting better...and sometimes it may be WEEKS before you move on once you really start working on harder music! That's normal!". That is when he really started to cry and he could hardly talk. When he calmed down for a moment he spoke, "Mommy, I am good at piano, it's the ONLY thing I am good at! I fail at math, I not good at reading or writing...but I was good at piano!".

So, my son who I happen to think is pretty darned brilliant is feeling like a failure in almost every corner of his academic life. And yes, he used the word "fail". I am quickly realizing how many assumptions are made about Kenny because his vocabulary and verbal skills are extraordinary for a child in his circumstances. We talked...of course I offered encouragement and pointed out all the ways in which he has improved, we mentally walked the path back to his first days here when he couldn't speak a lick of English and I had no Russian and I got him chuckling over that. We just got a math review back from his teacher and he had a "D" on it, and he told me "I don't understand a lot of my math, and I need to tell my teacher but I'm not sure what to say." . I think he was trying to tell me that he doesn't know what he doesn't know, if that makes sense. I can very easily see why math is difficult for him, they changed to a new math program this year that is more concept based, more language based with explanations than it is a list of problems to work on a page.

You know what makes this that much harder? Kenny KNOWS he is smart, he KNOWS what he ought to know by now, he KNOWS he is capable, but he too can not make up for lost time, and it is frustrating him to no end. If he was a child who was not so self-aware, it wouldn't be as difficult, but inside Kenny has a drive unlike many kids his age, and he definitely needs to feel more success at school.

He is so amazing, he has the kindest heart of any kid I have ever met. Even last night as we were all sitting on the couch and Joshie was reading to us from his "Dick and Jane"collection, I could see Kenny following along reading with Josh...but there wasn't an ounce of jealousy out of him that his 6 year old brother reads almost as well as he does. All Kenny could do was grin that big old smile of his and tell Josh "WOW Josh, you read so good for Kindergarten! You are awesome!". What generosity of spirit I live with every day.

Kenny finally pulled it together, and told me "I will practice a lot this week and next week I'll get my new book." I think we might just make a BIG deal out of his new book next week and go out for ice cream that night. And I have to find more areas for him to excel in, where he can rest on his success in other areas while we continue to struggle with school issues. This kid has too much going for him and I can't let him feel this way about himself! He is SO NOT A FAILURE...if anyone is a failure, it is me, for not doing more to advocate for his needs and not recognizing what it is that I need to do.

Joshie caught me off guard last night as well (these kids keep me on my toes) when out of the blue he walked up to me determinedly while I was working in the kitchen and said "We really don't need birthday presents, you know." and I turned to him and asked "Why is that? Do you not want birthday presents next year?" and with all the wisdom a 6 year old can muster he replied sincerely "Because we already have lots of love, and that is God's present to we really don't need anything else." then he turned on his heel and walked away, somehow in my eyes looking about ten feet taller than when he walked in.

Thanks God, I needed that...


Joyce said...

I think you need to see that you arent failing your boys and Joshie just reinforced that. I admire you so much (from afar) and you have gotten yourself and your precious kids over so many hurdles that we cant even imagine occuring in our lives, let alone trying to get them over.
Keep loving them as you excel the most at, and you will never fail them.


Maureen said...

I'm sure it is so hard for you to hear Kenny say that he thinks he is a failure, but you did the right thing. You pointed out his strengths to him and how far he has come in a short time! How heartbreaking to hear that he thinks he is a failure. Keep encouraging and advocating for him. From everything you say, he will get there. And I think you are on the right track by encouraging his piano lessons. Maybe he is the next great concert pianist versus the next great mathematician.

wilisons said...

You and your family are anything but failures! Your boys have such amazing spirits that they inspire many from afar.

As a parent it is SO hard to watch our children feel bad about themselves. Kenny is lucky to have found a mom who will love him through this rough patch and you are lucky to have found another son to fill you will awe.

What special services does Kenny get at school? Perhaps there is a way to supplement the regular curriculum with something that will support Kenny's need for less language and a more concrete approach. I am a teacher and would be happy to email with you if you have specific program/curriculum questions that I can help with.

Hugs to you all,
mom to 2 Kaz cuties

Anonymous said...

Keep him in piano!! If he is reading music he is doing math and learning another language!! Please tell him that! Keep at it and hopefully the music will spread into his academics.
Kim in Seoul

Bob; Carrie DeLille said...

How long have you been a mom? Cuz I've been one for almost 26 years and your wisdom amazes me. Your children are blessed and you WILL figure this out and really, all God wants is those words of Joshie.

Lindsay said...

I'm so sorry Kenny feels such a failure - it's so hard when we, as adults, see the amazing skills they have and progress they are making; yet the individual child sees nothing but failure. I think you did an amazing job of boosting his esteem and letting him see how far he has come.

Have you thought about art classes too for Kenny? It would give him other skills and another way to express himself too.

Ally said...

Hi Cindy, I found you blog through the Olive Tree and as I sit and read this my heart hurts for you. I know that you must be so worn down but I feel as if I must share a story with you about a Giant and a young boy. Very good friends of ours went through a private adoption and adopted a beautiful little boy only to have him taken back by the birth mom 2 weeks after he was home with them. My friends are youth pastors at their church and morned the loss of their son and had many questions for God. After their healing 4 years later, they were placed on a new journey for another private adoption of a sweet little girl. All was well and she was home when 3 months in the "waiting period" they received a call from their adoption attorney in another state. To try and make a long story short and get to my point, they were faced with a fight were they had been before. Faced with one of the potential birth fathers wanting to take little Hope. My dear friend were very confused and it brought back many memories of her pain from losing her son. When one day God revealed to her the age old story of David and the Goliath. See many Giants stand before us but having the faith of a young child can defeat any of those Giants with the Help of our Heavenly Father. God is good and He wants to slay your Giant. I pray that you have a new since of hope and I will be praying for you and your family. My friends after a long 3 months now have finalized their adoption and Hope is theirs forever!
Go and Get that Giant!!!

Robin Urheim said...

Let us bear your burdens , when you just can't. Please know that we are praying for you, renewed strength, encouragement and fight. It's a good thing to be surrounded by a cloud of witnesses- we just can't do it all the time ourselves. Praying for you in Va!

votemom said...

i'm a lurker coming out to say that i've been where you are. as i read the words you have typed, all the awful feelings in my stomach and heart rise freshhly up to the surface.

praying right now that He will help you believe, down to your core, that He is God and His purposes are perfect.