It's after midnight as I begin to write this post, and I just finished watching a "Bollywood" movie with Angela, as she introduced me to her passion. Movies and all things from India have captivated her for a long while, and she asked me to watch this specific subtitled film with her tonight about a boy with learning disabilities whose parents didn't understand him.
We lay there on the floor, atop the boys' mattresses that they drug downstairs for the evening, and as we watched the story unfold, we talked quietly together.
"Mom, is that what Matthew has?"
"No, he has Dysgraphia not Dyslexia, they are different but sort of similar.", and I then went on to explain the differences as I understand them.
We continued to watch, as parents grew angry and disappointed, eventually sending him off to boarding school hoping they would be able to "straighten him out".
"They make me mad! They don't really care about him, and all they are doing is making it worse. He'll just give up.", Angela declared.
"Sometimes it is really, really hard for a parent to figure out what is wrong with their child. It's not as easy as you might think. We stay awake late at night trying to think it through, we look for possible causes, but we are not trained professionals...and you won't be either. Kids are complex, and learning disabilities can be super hard to diagnose.", I responded.
"Yea, well good parents don't just send their kids away like they are broken and not worth loving. That little boy has a gift for art, they don't appreciate it or even see it!"
"When you are a parent, you'll understand, but I hope you don't have to face dealing with such things.", I said.
"Mom, I already know I won't be like that. You and Dad have already shown us how to be good parents. You don't give up on us, and you've had some really, really hard things to figure out with all of us, but especially Kenny and Matthew...and Josh too! What would happen to any of the boys if you had been like the mom in this movie? All three of them have had confusing things wrong with them, and you didn't send them away. You just kept looking until you got help or could find what was wrong."
"Well, I hope you'd hang in there too with your kids."
In the dark, she reached for my hand.
"You're the mom that never gives up, no matter what. I'm so glad all of us have you and Dad. You don't get mad at us, you don't tell us we are lazy because things are harder or our brains aren't the same. You just keep trying. We are all so lucky to have you guys, but seeing this I think I am even more glad for Kenny and Matthew. They are both so smart, but others wouldn't think so because of their problems. You wait and see, Mom. When they grow up, they are going to be the best men and have good jobs. Seeing this movie is important because it reminds me that a lot of parents are not like you and Dad, and we need to be thankful."
Through tears I replied, "Your Dad and I are thankful to be your parents. We have five very special kids who have amazing talents and gifts to offer the world. It's just going to take time to sort it all out."
I have to stop once in a while and see it for what it is...we are doing our best with an inordinate amount stacked against us. Often I blow it off when a seasoned pro from school shakes their head and says, "I don't know how you are doing it.", but as I thought it over the past couple of days I realized I need to really hear that, as it reinforces for me that we are outside the norm...way outside the norm...and my expectations have to be that this will never be what it is for other families...easier, four hours a day and done.
We're succeeding, and the kids are happy. Kenny no longer walks around with shoulders hunched, literally hitting himself on the head and crying out, "Why am I so stupid!!"...and he can read. Matthew is no longer in tears as he listens to what he wrote and tries so hard to convince me, "Mom, that is NOT what I wrote! I DID edit my work, three different times! I really don't know what is wrong!". Olesya is gaining confidence in herself in all kinds of areas, and no longer looks at math as the "end all and be all" indicator of her intelligence. And Josh can dissect and work on higher level math until his heart is content, while his heart is protected and feels more secure because he is not afraid mom will disappear forever after dropping him off at school.
This past week was an easy one to not see the forest for the trees.
As we approach the week ahead, we will start anew, we will tweak a few things, we will inject a little laughter as we get up at 6:00 to start by 7:00, and we will just take it once step at time, figuring it out as we go along...just as we have up until now. And I will remind myself of the bigger picture, as we struggle through ionic bonds, radioactive isotopes, and deoxyribonucleic acid. As we struggle through it 6 or 8 times, I will remind myself that the mere thought that we could be attempting this is a miracle in itself and a testament to three kids' determination. With a child who has been speaking English a mere three years, another who three years ago couldn't read at a first grade level and has a wide assortment of other serious issues, and another whose writing skills mean every essay answer...heck, every sentence answer...is a mess to be waded through, we are attempting to climb a metaphorical Mount Everest.
You know what? I have every confidence we will reach the summit!
And when I lose that confidence, when things again prove difficult this coming week, I will recall this night, when my daughter held my hand in the dark and told me she knew how to be a mom because she learned from The Mom Who Never Gives Up, No Matter What.
And then, I won't give up.