Wednesday, February 22, 2012


It’s strange.

Out of habit, I sit on the plastic chair, my back stiff, waiting for the news.

The news that she’s not doing something she ought to be doing at her age, the news that she paces back and forth—stemming, they’ll call it, the news that she melts down for no reason at all..

But I don’t get told any of that.

“She’s doing everything she’s supposed to,” the teacher explains. “Everyone wants to play with Natalie.”


I don’t realize I’m holding my breath and let it out slowly.

And then I feel guilty.

I feel guilty because when I was pregnant with her, I thought, please, please, I don’t think I can go through the constant worry all over again like I did with my son. I don’t think I can go through phone calls from the teacher almost daily.

And when I got a kid that didn’t appear to have any “delays” any “issues” I was relieved.

That’s when the guilt started.

Is it bad that I almost dread going to Tommy’s conferences because I know I’ll be told that he’s not doing something that he should?

This time it was the fact that he’s at a first grade reading level. First grade. He’s in fourth grade. The teacher slid the results over to me and I chewed my lip as I took in the low number.

The issue is reading comprehension. He knows how to read but answering questions about what he reads is a struggle. Hence the low score. He also doesn’t get that when he’s asked, “What would happen if such and such happened in the story?” that he actually has to write something other than “I don’t know.” That’s what he does now. Then he’s like, “Why is that wrong? I answered the question!”

He gets extra help in reading but his score still isn’t coming up as much.

His grades are As and Bs though so the teacher tells me not to worry but how can I not?


“Is it wrong that I dread going to Tommy’s conferences and am thrilled going to Natalie’s because I know she’s going to be praised?” I asked Tom. “Does that make me a bad mom?”

Tom shook his head. “No.”

I got a workbook on reading comprehension to work with Tommy. It’s not always easy. Sometimes Tommy will toss his pencil down, place a hand on either side of his head and squeeze. “I hate this,” he’ll grumble. “This hurts my head.”

“But,” I will say, handing him his pencil. “This helps. Don’t you want to improve?”

Tommy, who doesn’t like to fail, nodded slowly.

Guilt, maybe.

But I know Tommy will get it. And even though I’m told about struggles that he goes through at teacher conferences, I’m also frequently told that he’s a polite, great kid.

And, you know, in a world filled with people who seem to have forgotten manners, that’s a feat in itself.

I’m linking up with Shell, over at Things You Can’t Say.


  1. I know it must be so worrying, and the fact you worry means you're a great Mum, but don't let the score put his other abilities in shadow. And feeling guilty? I think that's probably normal isn't it? I'm not a mother, but my friends who are assure me motherhood makes you feel more guilty than a trip to McDonald's after the gym. Hang in there, you're doing a wonderful job.

  2. "...motherhood makes you feel more guilty than a trip to McDonald's after the gym."

    Sarahf said it perfectly!! Guilt comes with the territory no matter what you do. Or what your child is like or what they struggle with. You are doing a fantastic job!

  3. What does his IEP look like? Are they modifying his assignments and tests? There is so much that can be done for him if you know what to ask for.

    Jakob has an amazing Special Ed teacher who bends over backwards for him and anytime he struggles with ANYTHING all I have to do is email her and she knows a way to help him understand.

    My mom is a reading and dyslexia specialist and I'd be happy to ask her any questions for you if you'd like.

  4. Tommy sounds soooo much like Alex. We're working on the reading comprehension thing over here too. It kills him---he hates to fail and is otherwise brilliant but with the Executive functioning part of Aspergers he's at a loss as to how to make sense of understanding what he's reading. He's great with factual information but give him a book about regular things and he's lost.

    We read stories out loud and I explain what's going on in my own words. We also do the same thing with small parts of TV shows as he doesn't watch more than 10 minutes. Maybe that will help??

    I so know this as my two girls are not on the Spectrum.

  5. I had a "Tommy" years ago. I fretted. I worried. I cried. I pushed. Now he is 23 and working and self supportive and tells me. "You need to relax more mom, everything is OK"

    And it is. Have Faith. Have a xanax if need be and have fun with your child. His tender, thoughtful ways are valuable in this world. I'll bet you had something to do with those skills!

  6. It is so hard to see one of your kids struggle. I understand your feeling. Hang in there.

  7. I'm right there, too. My oldest is so smart and polite at all (we won't go into how he is at home, heh). While my 5 year old has all of these hurdles. Your Tommy will get there. I have a feeling he really does know, it just might take a little bit more to get it to come out.

  8. I feel for you. I have similar issues with my son. All I can say is keep doing your best and love him. You are a wonderful mom. Don't give into those negative feelings too much or they will rule you.

  9. I was super smart in school but because of insecurity issues I was stunted in my personal growth.

    Book smarts aren't everything, the average students are the most successful ones (according to some study). But yes, it is nice to hear praise lavished on your children. It just is.

  10. Motherhood is SO HARD. All the worry and stress...I feel for you.

  11. I think it's normal to feel almost like your child's accomplishments or struggles are a reflection on yourself. It's normal- all you can do is what you feel is best for them on a daily basis & help them out with their struggles along the way.

  12. Of course you like to hear the good stuff! Who wants to hear anything but how perfect their kid is?! Hang on to that good personality though, that will get him far in life, even if he's not the valedictorian!

    Good luck!

  13. I get so frustrated with the school system sometimes. I remember being a preschool teacher and I kept being pushed to teach them skills that clearly they needed a couple more years to comprehend. All I wanted to do was let them play and be kids for just a little while longer. Instead of telling them to sit still, hold the pencil correctly, color in the lines. Ugh!
    It's obvious you love your children so much and only want the best for them. Don't feel guilty, feel proud that you take care of them, love them and they will shine for you in their individual ways.

  14. Amen sister!!!

    Girl, I've been on the other side of that conference and you precious son's teachers need to be more sensitive to his needs.

    It's always easy to simply blame the child.

    It doesn't surprise me that everyone wants to play with Natalie but please don't be hard on yourself for feelin' different between the two conferences...your a great Mom sweetie.

    God bless ya and have an amazin' day!!! :o)

  15. I was in the gifted program all through school and worked with the guidance department in high school. I can tell you that over half of our gifted students also had dyslexia or other delays which were part of their IEP. He knows what he is reading and that is most important. Not being a good test taker isn't. You are doing a wonderful job.

    There is nothing wrong with being grateful that one of your children has an easier time of it. I think that's just compassion for knowing what your son has gone through.

  16. Definitely not a bad mom. You are obviously a great mom! But I know what you mean. My 3rd grader is making all A's and my 7th grader has not been doing his best (at all!) this year.

  17. That's gotta be so tough. I can tell that you're trying your hardest to help him out, though, and he sounds like such a great kid. Try not to beat yourself up too much about it!

  18. I'm sending you extra hugs today.

    Don't feel guilty - or try not to. Being a mom means feeling guilty for everything anyway.

    You are raising a fine young man. And that's what counts. Not his scores

  19. I'm feeling your pain. I sometimes used to come up with mysterious, last minute illnesses to put off the inevitable string of disappointing comments at those parent-teacher meetings.....and then feel guilty. Both for missing the meetings and then for having a kid with a leaning disability in the first place.

  20. I think guilt goes hand in hand with parenting- and it's the worst part.

  21. Hugs!! You are a great Mom!!!!!! Bad Moms don't wonder if they're good or not. They don't even think about it.

    Bella had issues with reading comprehension too, and those workbooks DO help! Keep with it! She found them boring (they kinda are, lol!), but whatever works, right?

    No child is perfect and they all have special needs or quirks...and that's what MAKES them awesome!

    Someday when Bella is getting her fifth Oscar award for acting....I'll remember all those angry teacher phone calls about how she's a "dreamer" and "can't stay focused on task"!!!!!

  22. I think motherhood and guilt go hand-in-hand. Anyone who's ever had to sit through a parent/teacher conference and listen to discouraging comments about their child will understand completely why you dread Tommy's conferences about Tommy (and why you enjoy Natalie's).


  23. You are a fantastic mom to your kids! I always worry about how my son is doing in school and he's only in K1. :)

  24. I am a child therapist and it is extremely common that children with Aspergers have reading comprehension difficulties. They can decode words and actually read the words but understanding what they are reading is a struggle. I will e mail you a few articles that might help this weekend.

  25. Ok, here's my advice as a mom of an Executive Functioning 7th grader and a 4th grader who still has some reading delays. Tommy KNOWS how to answer the questions. I really do think he does. But for boys like ours, it's SO much easier to write the words "I don't know" than write the words. Have him dictate to you. Have him tell you the answers, write them down for him and then he can copy them onto his homework. This isn't a permanent solution by any means, but it can help his confidence that he DOES know the answers and CAN think outside of the box on occasion.

    And I get the guilt. My second son's social abilities were off the chart, so we never had the somber expressions of teachers when we walked in like we had with our oldest.

  26. I totally understand this.

    I brace myself for my middle son's conferences, knowing I'll probably want to cry just a few minutes in.

    and the other two are just so easy. Or if they do have a problem, it's so minor in comparison that I practically laugh it off.


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