Am I a bad parent? We say we home-school our child, but what is he learning? He should be starting the sixth grade, but instead he is sitting here doing what I consider fourth grade math, and struggling. Clearly he has not mastered the basics of long division and geometry. We wonder how much of his delay with respect to cutting and pasting is from the cerebral palsy and years of blindness, and how much of it is due to our cavalier attitude toward his development and achievement. Perhaps we’ve kept the bar too long for too long. Breathing room air was a neat feat, but he’s been doing it for several years now. That whole “I was blind but now I can see” miracle is almost four years old; I think he’s milked it long enough. At least he's finally learned to color between the lines. His doctors were so wrong.
I am in complete denial about my child’s development. He is years behind his peers socially. I can accept that he was not a candidate for daycare as a baby, what with the heart monitor, oxygen tank and eye patch and all. In his defense, he was completely potty-trained before age two – a boast few cerebral palsied-kids can claim. Since he didn’t eat solid foods until after he was four years old, he missed out on the preschool experience. No sense sending him to school while he was still eating Gerbers Stage 2 to be ridiculed by the food-eaters. Even now at 12, people are shocked that he’s never tried a Twinkie or most other junk foods. He’s so abnormal he’d rather drink water or milk than soda or sugary drinks. Pity.
Once they fall behind, it’s so hard to catch up. Although he could read and count quite well by age five, he was not ready for regular kindergarten. The school system was more concerned about his inability to zipper and button than his reading and writing skills. They did offer him Special Ed but those children were little more than vegetables, so we declined. We just kept him in sweat pants and Velcro shoes to avoid the hassle of dressing, but in retrospect, we should have devoted more time teaching him to dress himself that teaching him how to walk … NOT.
"Get off your toes."
"Don't forget to move your arms."
"Relax your shoulders."
Man, that was tiring.
Then he wasn’t ready for first grade or second grade, and then by the time third grade rolled around, he was such a sheltered nerd that we were too afraid to send him out into the real world. In Orange County (California), a tall Black boy with dreadlocks and glasses is sure to attract unwanted attention. Nerds remain the favorite target of the American playground bully.
I don’t recall fourth or fifth grade. Total disasters. Except for his eyes self-correcting and him being able to see without glasses, those grades are a blur. We spent most of that time working in Mexico, playing golf, going swimming, and learning Spanish. We probably should have put him in regular school in retrospect, but since less than 42% of children at our local schools read, write or calculate at grade level, we didn’t really see the need. Still, my proudest moment was when he "discovered" that the local children not only did not have to attend school but also did not have daily lessons he took it upon himself to raise funds to outfit 24 students with the supplies they needed to attend school.
His words: "If I have to do lessons, EVERYBODY should have to do lessons!"
Year later, we're still proud. As I think about it, he did have to repeat the fourth grade, but that was mostly due to the botched brain-shunt surgery, the coma, and the second brain-shut surgery. The trips to the specialists for the tumors and other medical ailments didn’t help (neither did the death threats, but that’s a whole different story), but we are still considered bad parents for not sending him to school. We haven't been back to Mexico since his last health melt down. The world fell apart for us that month and try as we may to put it back together, it's taking longer than expected.
So here we sit, one year later, trying to home school but falling further and further behind what I think our child should know. By the time I was his age I was college-ready, but my husband says I don't count because of my "child prodigy" status. According to people who meet him casually, he is quite a bright boy. He’s earned many academic pins, belt loops and badges while in Cub Scouts and Webelos. He’s maxed out the Summer Reading Contest every year and is a decent chess player. He’s read Shakespeare and many other classical writers but not Harry Potter so clearly he is illiterate. He’s never been tested by the system so he must be dumb, right?
We must be bad parents. How dare we spend time with him every day making sure he knows the things we think he needs to know! How dare we protect him from bullies and predators! How dare we refuse to hand him over to an educational system that fails more students than it succeeds! Yes, we must be bad parents.
I think we’ll remain bad parents a little while longer.