Don’t Put Their Light Out


Don’t put their light out. That’s all I keep thinking. It’s on repeat – no, it’s a permanent neon sign – in my mind as I hold my breath every time I open the school backpack or respond to another email from a concerned teacher.

This wasn’t how school was supposed to go. I was supposed to have kids who went merrily on their way each morning, dutifully paying attention to the teacher, following directions and leading a remarkably average K-12 life.  I thought I would be on the sidelines helping with homework and giving them moral support when they struggled with math or studied for a test.

But instead, I’m at the table with the 3rd grade teacher not three weeks into school nodding my head as I find out that this is not the year.  This is not the fresh start I was hoping for.  This is not the year that he magically grows up and focuses on his math page instead of staring out the window at the kids on the playground.  This is not the year that he stays in his seat and refrains from day dreaming, finally learning to complete his work with full sentences and proper spelling.

Later, I open an email to see that it is from the other one’s 1st grade teacher telling me that this IS the year.  This year he can’t stop talking.  This year is not off to a good start and he is too social and missing directions.  He dances in line, he chats with his friends, he doesn’t know how to whisper.  He. Doesn’t. Stop.  Two behavior charts, six emails and one phone call later, we’re now having a conference next week.

The conferences, the emails, the phone calls all end the same way; looking to me for answers of how to make it stop.  My husband and I agree that it’s time to talk to a professional.  But he would have done it yesterday and I am frozen with fear.  Fear that I will make the wrong choice.  Fear that I will open up an opportunity for someone to put a label on them.  Fear that if you look for a problem, you will find one.  Fear that there really is a problem and they are receiving consequences for something they can’t control.

What do you do when the traits you love most about your children are causing them to struggle in school?  When the things that are inherent to their little big personalities are not working in a classroom environment?  My job as a mother is to protect the light that is at the center of their being.  To never let it go out despite influences and obstacles that life will send their way.  I adore my 3rd grade worldly dreamer and my 1st grade dancing social butterfly, but I also know that school cannot go on like this.

I am nervous and I’m uninformed.  I’m scared to death that the messages they are hearing about their performance as a student are translating to their feelings about their self-worth and slowly extinguishing their light.

But I do know one thing.  This is the year.  This is the year that we learn how to fix this problem and can only pray that we don’t put their light out while we’re at it.

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