They are rare. Sometimes you can’t remember the last time one happened. Yet, I’ve experienced them twice in less than 24 hours.
We’ll come back to this, but first you probably need a little background info to fully understand what I’m talking about.
Just like us Moms, each of our children has their strengths and weaknesses. They each struggle with some area of their life. And therefore, we, as their Moms (parents) struggle with some area of their lives. Sometimes that struggle with your kids feels all-consuming.
Watching your child struggle through the tough spots is just about as excruciating as it gets.
The last 2 years, really 3, have been quite a struggle (felt more like a full-on battle) – socially and educationally – for our youngest, The Starling. She is actually a very intelligent child. That is evident and always has been, however her behavior (even since she was a wee little one) has been less than promising at times. My mom and I have joked for years about whether she would use her powers for good or for evil.* When she was little she was quite the demanding child, to say the least. When she was a toddler, I would refer to her as a little tornado. – Climbing and destroying everything in her path.
But goodness, she has always been cute. I’m not just talking about her big baby blues, precious (though sometimes quite mischievous) grin, or long blonde locks, but her personality is as funny and entertaining as they come. She could win over the Grinch in a split second. And you should see her dance. I can be angrier than you can imagine with her about one of her impulsive mishaps, but that will always be when she pulls out something absolutely hilarious or incredibly precious, making it all-together impossible for me not to laugh or smile.
I’ve been convinced for years that her extraordinary cuteness was a self-defense mechanism given to her by God, because it has saved her many times. Like when she flooded the house. But that’s another story for another time.
The Starling had always been the confident, strong-willed child. Full of passion for life, incredibly creative and out-going. Exuberant and funny, expressive and strong. Knows no stranger. Lives life out-loud – in the best way.
However, we have seen a change in her these last two years. The child who instantly knew everyone when we moved here 4 years ago was becoming somewhat of a loner. The confident, self-assured child we once knew, had turned into a somewhat fearful, self-conscious shell of who she used to be.
In addition to her sudden lack of confidence, in these last couple of years all the “tornadic” (for lack of a better word) behaviors that used to seem like a lag in behavioral development didn’t go away. In fact, they got worse. And at age 6 she still wasn’t able to follow directions with more than 2 steps. Or recognize all the letters in the alphabet consistently. Or find her shoes. Ever. Or remember her friends’ names. Her BEST friends, mind you. She couldn’t sit and finish a meal. Not one. She would get frustrated to tears when trying to ask me a question, because she didn’t know how to verbalize what she wanted to know.
My nerves were shot by the 6th – 7th year.
At the time, I was convinced that she was making the choice to push the limits. That she just thought her cuteness and knowledge of when to use it would get her out of anything; therefore she didn’t have to work – you know, the typical last-born, “I’m the baby; gotta love me” syndrome in the birth order debate. And, I’ll admit it : there were times that part of the problem was that I was tired. I wasn’t able to put in as much time and consistent parenting with her, as I had been the first two. My grandfather’s (who had 10 children) words came back to me on more than one occasion, as well: “Once you have three kids, it doesn’t matter how many you have. Once you’re out-numbered it’s chaos.”
Out-numbered. Husband traveling. Tired. Not enough of me to go around. Not enough consistency in my parenting. Birth-order. Her personality.
I didn’t really know what to blame it on, so I blamed it on a combination of all of it. I hoped that with time, maturity and development – and maybe if we could get their WAPI Dad in a job where he wasn’t traveling.. well, maybe then I’d have more energy to invest in being more consistent, and maybe then it might get better.
Then, my WAPI husband changed jobs and was home all the time – just as she began kindergarten.. and the year progressed, but she didn’t. I began to get concerned that her challenges were something more.. something that maybe – just maybe – she and I didn’t have control over.
Now, if I were to go into detail about the events and examples and trials and tearful, sleepless nights we’ve had in the last couple of years since Kindergarten, I would officially be publishing a novel instead of a blog post, so I will skip it and just say this: It’s been a difficult road. With potholes that seemed to be bottomless and speed bumps that you couldn’t possibly see over. I’ve cried a lot. And so has she. And I’ve been so frustrated that I thought I might stroke out. And so has she. — Same goes for my WAPI husband. And her siblings have paid quite the price for her all-consuming needs. When you have three kids and one needs at least 75% of your time, the other two aren’t left with much.
(And try though you may, you can ONLY give 100% of your being. All that crap you hear about “giving 110%”? Well, that’s just the biggest load of B.S. ever. No one has more than 100% to give. No one.)
Teaching her to read (and actually retain what she was learning) has proven to be more difficult than weaning, potty training, and sleep training combined – times 1000.
In addition to severe reading challenges, her particular learning issues have caused very atrocious hand-writing – to the point that it was often illegible.
BUT. Thanks to a lot of exploring, hard work, testing, diagnosing, commitment on our part, some bi-focal glasses, and one pretty spectacular teacher, we have begun to make headway.
Finally. (When I put it this way, it seems so simple. But trust me, it wasn’t.)
Not that the bumpy road will ever be completely smooth for her, but it’s getting better.
Now, at the end of 2nd grade. The work is finally beginning to take shape.
Last night I watched my once-struggling reader lie in her bed tucked into her daddy’s chest while she read to him by Kindle-light. The reading was good. Really good. She flowed through the pages. No help required. When she hit a word that stumped her she remained confident and stayed with it until she figured it out on her own. And it never took long. REAL second grade words and all. And she was happy.
There was something about the moment – with her precious little face framed in her reading glasses (it’s hard to learn to read when you can’t see the book OR the board) and lit by the blueish-white glow of her newly purchased Kindle Fire – I stopped and took a mental picture. So relieved that we were finally at this point, where she could confidently read and really fully enjoy her love of books, that I couldn’t even step away to get my camera** for fear that I’d miss the moment all-together.
It was a moment that made me smile so big that my face hurt, and my throat burned from trying to hold back the tears of joy.
As if that reading break-through weren’t enough, there’s more. Until today, I can’t remember an instance where I could read an entire piece of my daughter’s writing without having to ask her to translate a good portion of the words … or skip them and pretend that I knew what I just read, because she needed a confidence boost.
But here it is. A Mother’s day gift that’s two-fold. I’m not sure what moved me more: the message.. or the fact that I could read it. All. By myself.
And this is what I meant up there in that first line.
Every once in a while in our motherhood, a moment happens where you can see a glimmer of the fruits of your labors. A moment when the endless laundry and meals and sleepless nights and cleaning up stomach viruses and all that other crap just disappears and you actually get to see the worth in what you are really doing. Where you realize that in between all the crap-jobs that are the major daily work of motherhood, you really are doing good work. Really good work. Important work.
Something makes you step back and get a preview of what it is going to look like in the end.. before you throw yourself back in to the work so closely that you can’t see it in your line of sight. The foundation is being laid and suddenly something makes you see the form of the cathedral beginning to take shape.
The reading by the kindle-light and the writing of a Mother’s day note. Twice in 24 hours I got a glimpse of the beauty that is The Starling’s Cathedral.
Happy Mother’s Day, indeed.
And if you haven’t had one of these moments in a long while — hang in there.. your Cathedrals ARE taking shape. Even if you’re a little too close to see it yet.
* I typically inject some humor into difficult situations, not to belittle them or make fun of my kids or myself, but because it helps me gain some perspective.
** Those that know me know how huge a moment has to be for me sacrifice taking a picture of it, because I don’t want to miss it in person.