Taking a Step Back So That He Can Grow

Parenting is hard but watching your child struggle is probably one of the hardest things we have to deal with as parents. From the time our babies are first placed in our arms, we are so used to regularly assisting our children. It becomes second nature to us. Times were so much simpler when I look back at this first-day-of-preschool picture of my son. School was about learning to listen, to get along, and using words and not hands to express oneself. Now that he's older, parenting sometimes requires me to step back and let him work out challenges on his own. Just this week I had to deal with this very issue. My son is a good student. He has never had to try too hard to get good grades but just this week he hit a brick wall in the form of memorizing the multiplication table. He can absolutely complete multiplication but as with much of his school work, he is thoughtful and purposeful in most of what he does, and that usually means moving at a slower pace. His math teacher is trying to prepare the class for the rigors and pressure of standardized testing. She wants them to recall multiplication facts for 40 problems within one minute.

My son, who takes pride in his work, could not complete the worksheet given to him in class in one minute. He came home with a practice sheet on Monday and repeatedly tried to beat the timer. He was unable to complete the task at every attempt. It was heartbreaking to watch. He repeatedly teared up out of frustration and sadly there was nothing I could do except to encourage him to take breaks and to calm down so that he could focus. He became so frustrated that at one point he uttered a word that might as well be a curse word in our house. He told me that he couldn't understand why he was so dumb. My heart sank. If you know my son then you know he's an intelligent, witty, bright eyed boy who who is quick to offer smile. He will often look at the bright side of situations so seeing him berating himself over schoolwork was upsetting to me. After dinner I insisted that he take another break to help me walk the dog. It was a ploy on my part to have him get some fresh air and hopefully gain a fresher, more positive perspective on the situation. On our walk I told him about times I struggled with learning something new and how I had felt similarly to him. I reminded him that no matter whether he learned the multiplication facts that evening, or a few days from now, he is still the same amazing young man who is loved by his father and me. I told him all the things I adore about him; that he is kind, funny, creative, imaginative, athletic, and smart, and that he is loved and supported no matter the grade he receives on a quiz. He still went to bed in tears. I cried too after putting him to bed. Seeing my child in emotional pain is difficult. His smile was absent all day and I missed seeing it.

I find that prayer gives me comfort and strength. On Monday night, while my husband was still at work, I prayed for our little boy. I prayed for him to realize that he is more than a grade on a quiz. I prayed for him to realize that he is competent and capable and he will eventually learn that entire multiplication table. The next morning my normally chipper kiddo wasn't too eager to go to school. He was going to face his multiplication nemesis in a timed battle. He wasn't optimistic and if I'm completely honest, I wasn't either. Ten problems stood in his way from completing that entire sheet. While driving to school, I made sure to give him a pep talk. "Do your best. That's all your dad and I ever ask of you, and no matter what happens, I love you," I said. He sighed and with slumped shoulders and bowed head he made his way into school. My stomach was in knots all morning. That afternoon I received an email from his teacher who knew that he was quite upset post quiz the day before. She let me know that he finished the drill in the time allotted. I was in the middle of the parking lot of Wegman's and I couldn't hold back my tears. He conquered it! Of course that means he will have another set of multiplication facts to learn for another timed drill but in this process the greatest lesson he learned what that he has the power within himself to turn any situation around. My husband picked him up from school on Tuesday and messaged me a picture. Sitting in the back seat of his daddy's car, our boy had that familiar smile we so love on his face once again. ~HZM

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