In my life, nothing has taught me more about my own failings and shortcomings than parenting. Something about seeing them manifested in the little people under my charge makes them scream out loudly in all their bald-faced, raw ugliness. It provides the objective microscope that I so often lack. Like looking in one of those fun-house mirrors and learning that the reflection is not a distortion but a reality.
Never was this more apparent than the other night while I was helping Addison with his reading. Addison's reading journey has not followed the trajectory I would have ever expected from such a clever and intuitive child. He has wrestled with reading from the very beginning, largely because he struggles with something much more basic, focusing. It's not that he's not capable of reading or putting all the concepts together. There are just much more interesting things to do, conversations to have, daydreams to imagine, and questions to ask. This has really caught me off-guard. My child not get reading straight off? Never! I mean...have you met Trey and me? We're nothing if not readers, and we have always read prolifically to our children. But as with so many other things on this long, parenting road, I am learning that doing all the right things doesn't mean you get the expected or desired outcome.
There is no formula. We are individuals full of complexity and nuance, shaped by our environment and our personality. Addison's mind works a mile a minute and it's a real challenge for him to sit still and put together all the pieces that are required to read. Eyes moving from left to right. Typical phonetic sounds, word chunks, rule breakers. Breathing and inflection and reading comprehension. These are things that all proficient readers take for granted, and I surely did until my son was back at the beginning and just not getting it.
He's actually doing much better now. After initially being tested at a Level 0 at the start of the first grade school year and working one-on-one with a reading specialist in his school, he has just reached Level 14. Which brings me to my story.
Another little girl in his class is also in the same reading program he is in, but she is at Level 15, and as we were working on his reading the other night, Addison looked up at me with his irresistibly blue eyes, chin beginning to quiver and said, "B is on Level 15 and I'm only on Level 13."
Wow. So this is one of those hard parenting moments. Boy, did I feel a knife to the heart for several reasons. First, because his sweet, little heart was in pain and what mother can stand to see that? And how do you take it away? But second because I do the same thing. All the time. Compare, especially when it comes to my children. I want to be best, the winner, the top dog. It's the occupational hazard of being eldest born, and although I'm fully aware of it and can readily identify it, I so often feel powerless to slay it.
And here I sat with my firstborn, hearing myself preach a lesson that I needed to live myself. That life is not a competition. That he has worked tremendously hard and achieved so much in improving his reading. That effort sometimes is worth more than results. That we need to celebrates others' successes irrespective of our own performance. Wow, did I feel like a hypocrite. Because if I'm honest, I've played the comparison game in my head about his reading too. He just doesn't know it.