So..I got stomping mad tonight at Sam's ridiculus feeding pump. Then I found myself laughing over it and started thinking about something that happened yesterday when I was over at a friend of mine's consignment sale. I had taken Sam with me which is a rarity in of itself because I am a ninny about him being in certain public settings for fear of illness etc. Anyways, this mother approached my stroller and said, "Is your son tube fed and does he use neonate formula?" At first I had to look down at Sam because I thought his wires/tubes were more covered up but it turns out they were peeking around the edge of the stroller. As I said yes and listened to her kindly offer extra medical equipment bags or formula that was of no use to her but would not fit our pump, I went into a daze of sorts thinking 'Wow.. I am really here.'
You see, I had this de ja' voo moment back at Shands when Sammy was just a month old and about to have his Gtube/ fundoplication surgery. It was during the night before the surgery and I was nervous..sick nervous. They were about to permanently change my child's anatomy for a reflux problem they had no evidence of but wanted to be sure to prevent. After the surgery he would eat my pumped breast milk entirely through the tube in his stomach and quite honestly I could not imagine anything more horrible. I was so naive then. But that night I had this moment where I imagined myself chatting up Gtube supplies and such like it was everyday business with another Gtube mom. It was particularly odd to envision, since I did not know a single "gtube mom" at the time. Anyways.. I was mad at the pump tonight for not running right and all I could do was cry and laugh that there was once a time when I could never fully grasp what this stage of our life would look like. All this prompted me to pull open my old caring bridge website and read through some of those early posts.. I guess I was trying to reconnect with that part of me..whoever she was.
As I read my emotional and completely overwhelmed posts shared during what was the most challenging days of my life, I realized I was never more frank and honest with myself and all our friends and family than I was back then. I guess I shared it all without hesitation or worry about judgement. This is interesting to me now because I can't tell you how many posts are sitting in my "drafts-that-will-never-be-published file". Those are the raw ones.. the ones that needed to be typed but maybe the world could live without reading. Not that I think anyone feels like reading my ramblings lately. With all of that in mind I am going to share something personal that really hit me in the last few weeks and left me a bit vulnerable.
Up until about two weeks ago I felt like I had done okay with balancing most things. I felt the girls have channeled through some really rocky experiences but were overall doing well. I felt pride about the love and respect in my marriage. I felt joy and optimism about Sam's recent progress of late. I was even settling into this news of expecting an unexpected 4th child. I was trying to not feel like a bomb was ticking under me. Did we somehow manage to escape falling doom and find a new somewhat manageable normal around here? That was before I entered a new world of worry, guilt and confusion.
An in-class math assignment of Bella's was returned and it showed a 4 out of 8 grade at the top. This was really strange since she knew the math and had no trouble doing the homework. NOW.. I won't go into my background but let's just say there were no acceptable grades in my house except straight As. Period. So on this 1st chapter of 1st grade math assignment, she had correctly completed all the math but did not do certain secondary requested tasks such as showing her work with an illustration or circling the matching answers in a row of 5 problems. I was concerned and so I emailed the teacher. This was actually the tipping point of several other concerns..first off her reading materials seemed entirely too easy as she was bored reading it to me and never even had to work at it. Her comprehension of it was great, but I did not want the ease of it to dampen her excitement about reading in general. There had also been this other child's graded homework packet sent home to us with no name on it that was clearly not ours or even similar to what we had sent in. So I approached the teacher and she said all was going fine.. that the one assignment was no biggie and the homework mix up was just a swap up mistake before leaving school and not what was actually collected and graded. Based on this I decided all was going ok. Then I had a chance to go have lunch with Bella at school. While there, the teacher told me Bella had just finished getting 100% on her first math pretest and was doing great. I knew she was doing well in spelling as she had been acing the tests including bonus questions..like amphibian and reptile (Let me tell you- first grade is quite different now-a-days!).
We really did not have much homework back or individual feedback coming home so of course it came as a complete shock to me when 4 days later I received her progress report showing several areas that were hardly where I would have expected them. I won't go into detail but 2 areas (lang arts and math) were less than satisfactory and several others were just at satisfactory. Pure shock hit me like a rock. This from my child who wrote paragraphs willingly in her journal at home and was jumping into chapter books...? I started worrying about whether we did not commit enough one on one time with her during the past year. Was I too tired to notice some sign she might be in left field somewhere? SO, after numerous emails with the teacher and sleepless nights worrying over whether amidst all that was going on with Sam, I somehow had failed to prepare my oldest daughter for first grade, I finally had a chance to sit down with her teacher in conference. It turns out she knows the math content just fine but somehow rushed on the actual test and like that one assignment which had wrinkled me a bit before, she must sometimes lose her focus about following instructions to the T and moved on too fast to the next one, in the end making stupid mistakes that don't best reflect her knowledge of the material. With so few grades yet, the score looked worse than it should. Pretty much the other mediocre grades reflected her not really showing much effort when she knew it like the back of her hand. In my opinion that may actually be because it is unclear what is expected of these kids from the start and if they are bored or not focusing seriously, it shows.
So why am I venting this all here? Because amidst all the life and death stuff we have been faced with over Sam's health since birth, I never saw this coming and it rocked my world. How will I ever make it through to highschool graduation if I am a mess over whether my child crosses her Ts perfectly straight or forgets to elaborate her answers more fully and in better handwriting on her reading test? I asked for handwriting samples of S+ work and let me tell you.. practically a microsoft word sample. I do want high standards for her and this is why we chose the structured charter school she attends, but it does seem that the jump from everything is perfect in Kindergarten to boy.. you could seriously screw it all up in first grade is amazing to me. I did have to laugh that on the math test one question that she missed was asking her to write out a numeric sentence for addends of 5 and 3 and to show the sum. Easy enough. My child then goes on to write out, "Five plus three eqols ate" instead of showing numerically 5+3=8 (the correct answer). I just had to laugh again to myself when she explained to me, "But Mom, it asked me for a sentence!". DUH!
All of this made me pull out my old journal notebooks from Fairfax County schools in Virginia..The year was 1985 (first grade).. The Subject: The love of my mother.. on each and every page with pictures. :) Comparing the writing samples in that book with how my daughter writes now is like night and day... and I was considered "gifted." We expect soooo much more now from these kiddos. You sure are not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy! I hope in the process of trying to raise the bar, we don't end up dashing out the parts of growing up that are special and build character.
Here was my writing sample from the first month of first grade..
and now here is Bella's...
So... the moral and resolution to my long winded story is that I need to chill out and breathe a bit. If anything this stuff with her brother has made her stronger and I doubt it caused any lasting issues. We have gotten through worse and this will hardly be the last time I am taken by surprise. We will be explaining to her how she needs to better slow down and apply her knowledge beyond what she does on homework etc.. and I will no longer just listen to a teacher saying all is going great.. right before I am surprised by this type of news. She has a great teacher and I hope she now understands that we actually do want to be informed of how our child is doing. I think they must have some parents who just don't care.
I guess I am learning how all this works. I know what a smart girl she is and I don't want to apply all the pressures I grew up with of succeeding for someone else.. but instead I hope to build her up so she will want to succeed for herself. I also need to give her a break.. as we just discovered that she did not even understand that class work had grades, which actually matter and could effect her future. She thought making Straight As meant working very hard to write the perfect letter A. Bless her sweet first grade heart. SO there it is.. sharing some raw parts of my parenting journey.