This morning, my six-year-old son asked if he could stay home from school.
I asked him why.
“I’m stupid,” he told me.
“Oh, sweetie. You’re not stupid. Why do you say that?”
“I do everything wrong,” he replied before rolling over and burying his head under a pillow.
Trying to conceal how stricken I was, I said with as much calm as I could muster, “Sweetie, the fact you feel that way means something is wrong, but it isn’t you. It’s in you being forced to ‘learn’ through worksheet after worsheet that prepare you for test-taking instead of helping you learn by real world exploration and play. At my iob, they understand everyone learns different ways–but most of all by really doing, not by doing pile after pile of repetetive worksheets–and they encourage that! But then I send you to school, and you are expected to be like everyone else and learn like everyone else and show your learning in the exact same way. Teachers lose when testing is everything. Parents lose. Kids lose. You aren’t stupid, sweetie. It’s adults who are doing everything wrong, and I am so sad you are suffering for it.”
I only barely did not cry, a fact that has barely remained true throughout the morning so far.
I must work. My law degree and bills won’t pay themselves.
I like working. I don’t feel like I’m abandoning my kids when I am doing something that challenges me and they love what they are doing.
But when one of my kids is miserable and my short-term solution is “just keep sucking it up as best you can, mmkay?” then I feel like I am abandoning.
That it’s not my child who’s failing, but I who am failing him.