Sometimes teaching my 7-year-old Rex is really challenging.
We met with the school this week to work on his IEP (individualized education program) and the meeting was ... hard.
No matter how helpful, it's tough to hear test results about your kid's learning levels. I kept smiling and making tear-free comments like, "Uh huh! Sure! Totally, we see that ..."
Because quite frankly, I can't cry in front of these people about Rex. They see kids with such huge struggles, struggles that make ours look really non-struggly and lame, that it would be nothing short of rude and selfish of me to bawl.
But smiling and acting like I don't feel genetically and environmentally responsible -- I do -- is the hardest thing ever. And their blunt honesty is like a squirt gun to the face over and over again. I smile and try not to feel like I'm on one of those horrible old D.A.R.E. game shows by Nickelodeon where I know the green slime is coming.
At the end of the meeting I finally had the chance to ask a few questions. These people are professionals, they went to school to learn how to teach kids with learning problems.
"OK," I said, "So tell us what we can do at home. What books should I be reading about this ... " Yes I actually asked that and "... what kind of methods should we be using?"
And all I got were six blank stares.
"Well," one of them finally said, "Just ... keep doing what you're doing. Lots of repetition and reading and writing, you know, just work with him."
Just work with him? Are you serious? I've been working with him since he was 2 and I'm horrible at it. There has to be more than that.
I prodded a little and kept getting looks like, "Lady, this is how it is. He's going to need more time and more attention and more effort than your other kids. Get over it."
This is the part where I realize there is no magic "think" method that will show me the secret back door to his brain. And all afternoon I felt grief. Waves and waves of grief that this will be hard for him; no easy way, no easy rhyme, no easy method to teach my kid reading and writing and how to remember his numbers.
Jason sat Rex down for homework that night. When they got to the math Jason looked up at me and shook his head.
"This is ridiculous, how is any first-grader supposed to get this stuff?" he said.
I am not exaggerating when I say that it was pre-algebra-like. My kid still writes the number 3 backward and crosses his 7s.
"No problem," I said, "Scootch over, Rex and I have totally got this."
I sat down and began the long process of getting this into Rex's really cute blonde head. It was so hard. All I could think was, "How in the world are we ever going to get this sweet kid through elementary school?"
We finished the page with some serious effort and painstaking simplification and I opened his homework folder to put it away.
There were three more untouched pages just like it.
I dismissed Rex and he went to get his homework treat. As soon as he left the room I crumpled up the remaining homework pages and threw them at the wall, putting my head in my arms and trying really hard not to cry like a big whiny baby.
"So Mom," Rex said, coming back in with the calm and poise of an 18-year-old, "Didn't have such a good time tonight, hey?"
I looked up a little shocked and plastered a too-late grin on my face.
"What do you mean, buddy?"
"You know, doing homework with me. Didn't have such a good time tonight, hey?"
He gazed into my eyes and nibbled at his chocolate piece waiting for an answer.
And in that moment I wanted to die. "Horrible Parent of the Year" award, right here.
I pulled him into a hug, got my act together, and read him books for another 30 minutes just to remind us both how much we love each other.
I will get better at this and so will he. We've both got a lot to learn here.
Annie Valentine is a wife, mother and columnist. Contact her at email@example.com, or vist her blog at regardingannie.wordpress.com.