It's report card time around here. A couple of days ago, I received a courtesy call from our son's teacher. She wanted to warn us about a mark that didn't look like the rest. It was no surprise to hear it was in an area of oral evaluation.
She described some class scenarios and, after listening and nodding, I described him. And when I say described him, I mean the him that's hard for others to see.
She was relieved to have my insights. She wants him to reach the potential she sees hiding behind his silence. She wants to understand him.
We felt torn. How much could we expect him to conform or change to meet the expectations of the classroom? How could we help him do that without making him feel we valued him any less for being exactly who he is? How would he fare with a teacher less willing to look for the great stuff that hides underneath?
We decided to give it a couple of days and come up with some ideas to bring back to his teacher. Then last night, while sorting through some old boxes, we came across a note written by my husband's mother.
She was an extraordinary, fiercely smart, incredibly wise woman, who told me early in my own motherhood experience I couldn't do anything to change who my children are. She said they would come to me exactly as they were meant to be.
The letter she had written was on behalf of my husband, to whom we can only assume were his teachers. We read it with disbelief. We weren't surprised at the compassion in her words, or the fact she was his advocate. She always was.
We were amazed to be reading a description of our own son; a grandson she barely had the chance to know.
The words on the page kept rising up to meet my eyes: outstanding, quality, seen, accomplish, gift, not a talker.
She was there in the room whispering to our worried hearts : watch him, see him, know him.
Feel his tender heart—the one that can't bear the brunt of being misunderstood. Look at his elaborate drawings and creativity—they capture the beauty and the wonder he sees in the world. Listen to him play the piano—do you hear the joy?
He is so much like his father. It's the reason he craves time with him. My husband doesn't just see him, doesn't just understand him. He knows him.
I didn't fall in love with his dad because he enters a room and makes himself known. I love that he guards the best parts of who he is; to know them is a privilege. I love his brilliant mind, his artistic creativity, his beautiful musicality. All of them traits he has given to our son.
The experts say parents shouldn't apologize for the child who doesn't respond when an adult asks a question. They say we shouldn't provide excuses or reasons that make our child feel inadequate. We agree, but still struggle with wanting him to be seen.
In that letter, there was a gift. Understanding.
Our son came to us exactly the way he was meant to—there is nothing we need to change.
Watch him, see him, know him.
And only then will it be okay.