Home > Education, Learning, Parenting, Reflections > How he will grow!

How he will grow!

They saw the bigger picture that I couldn't


The tiny human I took home from the hospital five and a half years ago is no longer tiny.

He’s now tall enough to ride the California Screamin’ coaster at Disney California Adventure. Only twenty inches tall when I first held him, he currently rises to a full four feet.

He once spoke in single syllable words, graduating to babbling and then speaking in short sentences. Now he narrates his way through most minutes of every day, as if he’s preparing to begin his own blog someday.

He learned to say one letter of the alphabet. Then he learned another one. Soon enough he could say the full alphabet, and before long name one or two written letters. Before long, he could write his name. Now he can write short sentences with sloppy but legible words and read much, much longer ones.

Most days are a flurry of hurry and hustle around here. I tell my little boy I love him, and savor snuggles as we read together, but don’t spend too much time thinking about how much he’s grown in our five and a half years together.

Boots almost as big as mine

Now: Boots almost as big as mine

And then, there’s a moment. A revelation: This little man is the same tiny human that couldn’t even lift his neck when I met him.

Sometimes I find this awe organically. I’m overwhelmed witnessing him sharing food with his brother, or expressing his feelings with nuance, or using a phrase that makes me bust out laughing.

Yesterday it came from a parenting first-for-me: a parent-teacher conference with his teacher, Miss A.

His teacher and I reviewed Li’l D’s progress this year. We concluded we see the same strengths and weaknessesopportunities for growth. We see a soft-hearted lover of reading, language and communication; one who greets numbers somewhat grudgingly but is still more than ready to dive into first grade.

First grade.

But didn’t I just bring him home from the hospital?

Part of me is nervous. I remember how terribly Li’l D faltered last year at the hands of a teacher who disdained him. In three and a half weeks with that teacher, his confidence and vibrance were reduced to shadows of what they’d been before. He’d sobbed for me to take him home the week before I withdrew him, but I’d written it off as adjustment pains. “You’ll get used to this new school,” I told him days before talking to his teacher and hearing with horror how casually she dismissed him in front of me, his parent and her equal. If she was that comfortable dismissing him to me, I could only imagine her quiet but unmistakable hostility when I wasn’t there.

I’m also excited. I know better now how to listen to my son. I know better what questions to ask teachers and school administrators. I know what to listen and to look for, both bright and bitter. I will see and assess it all, with an openness to revisiting daily, weekly or monthly as needed.

My husband and I will work with Li’l D to choose what seems best for him. If we need to choose again soon after, so be it. The rest of his life will unlikely be determined by his first weeks of first grade.

Our “best for him” won’t be gauged by how many “outstanding” marks he gets on his report cards, which tell us very little about our little boy.

We’ll measure bestness in smiles. In happy chatter. In enthusiastic recountings of everything he learned during the day, with occasional grumbling asides about how so-and-so said his lunch was stupid or his socks were mismatched.

We’ll measure it in how his teacher talks to him, with him and about him. How she expresses willingness to partner with us, understanding we will also partner with her. We will not be adversaries but coconspirators in creating the brightest, most enthusiastic learner we possibly can, with each of us understanding some days are better than others for everyone.

We’ll measure it not in how quickly he masters each and every new challenge, but how willingly he tries free from fear of blistering repercussion.

One year ago, we returned Li’l D to Miss A with aching hearts and crossed fingers.

Miss A built him up through the remainder of the school year, and then did the same when she transferred to the kindergarten classroom this year.

We'll always have Mexico!

We’ll always have Mexico!

We’ll all be sad to say farewell to Miss A as Li’l D’s teacher, though we’ll take comfort knowing she’ll be eternally a part of our son’s educational foundation and our lives.

Far more than sad, we’ll be grateful. Miss A’s combination of wisdom, patience, and compassion blended with book and heart smarts was exactly what Li’l D needed to learn not only facts but something far more important: love of learning. With that foundation laid, we believe the rest will follow.

Miss A has taught me even as she’s taught my son. Watching her, I have seen there’s both art and science to teaching. The science can be taught, but the art springs truly from the heart. From a teacher’s passion for seeing her pupils grow as people and future scholars.

It’s been amazing watching my little boy grow from newborn seed to tiny alphabet-singing tendril to flower unfurling itself. Reflecting on Li’l D’s last year with Miss A especially fills me with wonder.

A plant can grow some with even a little damp soil and a hint of light, but oh! How much better it grows with just the right mix of water, shade and sunshine.


  1. May 12, 2015 at 10:17 pm

    Crazy what a teacher can do to a child. You hope for them to make them grow, to support them and make them flourish. Unfortunately there are some “teachers” who can’t do that or who just don’t care enough. But then there are the others too. And those are the true teachers. The one you want around the kids and who will bring the best out of them. I hope your kids will only encounter true teachers from this time forward.

    • May 13, 2015 at 4:43 am

      Thank you! I know so many who are inspired by something burning deep within their hearts, but also a few who seem to be timecard punchers annoyed by anything requiring more than the bare minimum from them. I know I shouldn’t be surprised by this; people are people, and there are all kinds in the world … but when you’ve seen so many exceptional people doing the job with great love, it can still be surprising. (We all have days, of course, but when those days are weeks or months, kids will be the one paying the price!)

  2. Angie
    May 12, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    I’m in tears here while I’m washing clothes, feeling a bit discouraged from an earlier conference but I thank you from the bottom of my heart because all I ever wanted was for children to love to come to school not because of the learning part ( which is important, of course) but to learn beyond the ABC’s and 123. To explore and expand their thinking and for children to know that I’m there to listen and to laugh with. So yes this bought me to tears and I thank you. At times, I do think is this worth it, but I remember Lil’D and other students who just want to sit next to me or hold hands while we walk to recess and think yes, yes it is. So I want you to know that you and Lil’D, even Lil’ J will forever have a special place in my heart.

    • May 13, 2015 at 5:02 am


      I love coming in and catching a few moments of you with the kids. Just a couple of seconds reveals someone so perfectly matched to her profession. I loved watching D interact with you in between running around after J at the conference. I usually get these brief glimpses, so to get a whole 30 minutes seeing him in an environment he so loves … man, it was great!

      I remember feeling almost a sense of entitlement a couple of years ago. The specifics have faded away with time, but I remember feeling something like “This is how [x] should be done! How can it not be so!” And then, somehow, I moved from the parent-knows-everything model of thinking to the coconspirators one. I can’t remember when/how that happened, but am pretty sure it came from watching you … which makes me chuckle, thinking of those old PSAs: “I learned it from watching you!” Then, to see and talk to you after seeing someone clock-punching … it was absolutely cinched. I can’t believe I ever thought or felt differently, but am glad to see clearer now.

      I’m sad to hear about the rough conference. But most of all, I am so, so glad you are part of our lives, already thinking about how and working to ensure D succeeds even after you are his teacher. I’m inspired by you and can’t wait to see where the years ahead take you. I don’t know the specifics, but I do know–with a great big grin–you will make a profound and lovely difference to many young hearts and minds. I feel blessed that includes my own kin.

      I wish I could better show you what I see through my eyes, and through Li’l D’s words and acts, but I am glad my inadequate words show some of it.

      You are and always will be a ☆ to us. ♡

  3. May 12, 2015 at 10:51 pm

    He is growing and learning – and so are you. Which is wonderful. And just as it should be.

  4. May 13, 2015 at 5:16 am

    Oh I have to shed a few tears over how he is growing! And, learning to listen to what your son(s) says is so very important and I’m so proud of you for recognizing that and trusting yourself and your son! Just last night Mr. T got home after being called in to help at work and I was just ready to crawl in to bed, but went out to say hi, and we ended up talking for about 20 minutes as he recapped his frustrations and told me about the night. And it took a few sentences before I could tell that he didn’t need help, he just needed to talk, and so I sat and savored every minute 🙂 I remember the days when he narrated every thing he did, and talked non-stop and all I wanted was a moment of silence… and now, I grasp hungrily at the conversation he offers! 🙂 Have a great day!

  5. May 13, 2015 at 5:49 am

    Mine is headed to first grade in the fall also. I am confident in her, but extremely worried about the teachers. Both my older boys had trouble in first grade; trouble they NEVER had in any other grade. This was five years ago and more, so I’m hoping the young, inexperienced teachers have grown some, but I am concerned that none of them went into teaching with a love of children OR teaching. It’s a tough spot because we live in a very rural area with not many other choices. I just try not to worry about it–my daughter is very different from my sons, and hopefully her experiences in first grade will also be very different. I hope both our little ones are in a class with a compassionate, dedicated, and flexible teacher.

  6. Deb
    May 13, 2015 at 6:23 am

    Miss A will surely be the teacher you and your son remember forever. I think, hope, that we all have at least one of those special academic individuals who come into our lives and share with us how to be the best people that we can.

  7. May 13, 2015 at 6:41 am

    Its scary what an influence teachers have on our children. I’m glad your little boy found someone that makes him shine.

  8. May 13, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    I was so happy when you returned him to Miss A and he flourished under her gentle guidance. I am so happy he is ready to move on, yet like you sad that he is growing up (the same age as my grandson woe is me I am so dang old). Where is the time going?

  1. May 14, 2015 at 9:03 pm
  2. August 20, 2015 at 6:57 pm

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