In my internal vision of myself as Mother, I am patient. I am kind. When I assist with homework, I explain the item at hand and then continue to clarify as needed until the proverbial lightbulb goes on over Emily's Head. I am a teacher, after all, and my knowledge of teaching pedagogy and practice guides me.
In addition, since I intimately know the challenges that my daughter faces in her learning, I am brilliant in my ability to supportively meet her needs.
Except for Sometimes. Sometimes I find myself getting so frustrated with her that I verbally lash out at her; telling her that she simply isn't LISTENING to me. Sometimes I send her to her room because if I spend one more minute with her arguing with me about how she is doing it the RIGHT way, when I am clearly showing her that her answers are not correct and thus she cannot be doing the problem the RIGHT way, my rising blood pressure will surely send my brain exploding through my skull.
Early last week, Emily received her corrected grammar test. Since I know that my daughter does indeed know what nouns are, and can accurately distinguish plural from singular, the very poor results were disconcerting. With my teacher eye, I scanned the test. Ah, yes. I see what happened here.
Emily starts out all right. The first part of the test is pretty good. However, by the middle of the 2nd page, I can see her starting to panic. Her answers become more scattered, she may be concerned with how much time she has left to complete the test. By page 3 of the test, she has encountered a question that she did not immediately know the answer for....which leads to her full freaking out mode. By page 4, she is writing ANYTHING in the space provided to just be done with the damn thing and hand it in.
When she flings the test at me upon her arrival home from school, she immediately starts to cry. Wail, actually. She holds her head in her hands and tells me she just doesn't KNOW why she did so poorly. She is worried that her father and I will be angry and disappointed, while she cries that she just wants to do well on a test for once.
Oh. Oh my love.
I console her. I tell her that I will talk to her father. I will talk with her teacher. We will work with her to find a way for her to take tests so she can show us what she knows.
I spend the next day writing emails to her new ( and wonderful) teacher. I speak with Terrance and explain what I think is going on with Emily. I calm and reassure him. Ms Jessica, Emily's teacher, suggests that she would be happy for Emily to take a re-test during recess so she can have a quiet room and more time to complete the test. We try this theory out with a Math test she did poorly on, and Emily's grade improves dramatically.
Three days later, as I help her with her homework, I lose my cool. I snap at her and as she begins to cry, I get louder. Terrance races into the room and separates us. He calms her down and sets her back onto the track of her homework.
I sit in my room glaring at the door, waiting for him. He walks in and shuts the door.
"If you are coming in here to criticize my parenting, you can march right back out the door." I am tensed, ready for the fight.
He just stares at me. He comes over and sits on the bed, his hand on my foot.
"I know", he says, "It is easy to get frustrated with her..."
I start to cry. "She wasn't listening to me. She wanted to argue that she was right rather than re-do the problem. I was just asking her to re-do the problem and she wouldn't."
I cry until I am finished.
Later, I apologize to her for snapping at her. I explain that I wasn't angry about her getting the answer wrong - I was angry because she was arguing with me about it being wrong. I was trying to help and she wasn't hearing me because she was so invested in not having to do the work again.
I wish I could say that I am a model parent of a child with learning difficulties - disabilities, if you will - but alas, I am not. I wish I could say that I am always ready to help her, with unending patience and a never depleted reserve of good will and support. I wish I could say that I never wished that it just wasn't so god damned HARD for her, and for us to struggle through every facet of her educational experience. I wish I could say that we never turn on each other, parent on parent, child on parent, parent on child, with accusations, blame, harsh words and tears.
I wish I could. But I can't.
We each remain human. Imperfect.