When I was in early elementary school, I hated reading. I loved learning, playing “pretend school” with my chalkboard and stuffed animals at home. I loved doing well in school and obeying my teachers. I loved playing with my friends, and I have fond memories of the school activities like the Christmas play, the school cook out, and basketball games.
But also in regards to school, I distinctly remember hating reading. I knew I wasn’t good at it. I knew I was in the lowest reading group (I mean, come on, kids are very aware). What made it harder, was to be sandwiched between two sisters for which learning, reading, and school came easy. I’ve always been that person who follows up any somewhat negative or sad comment with a big “BUT” followed with [insert positive thought]. This isn’t a bad thing, but it can sometimes paint the picture, and communicates to others, that you are doing fine or okay, when really you are hurt or working through something or just not okay. So in reality, sometimes being sandwiched between two really incredible and talented sisters, was just down right hard. And despite the front I put up, I was very aware of it all.
What I didn’t know, was that in my early elementary years I was diagnosed with dyslexia. I actually didn’t know this until my mom told me when I was 26 or 27 years old. Needless to say, I was shocked, but also, not really. I remember the early years of school and my hate for reading, and all the embarrassing moments that accompanied it. What really shocked me, has come to my mind in recent months. As I mother (holding tightly to memories of how my mother walked through motherhood with all the grace), and as I begin to have littles in school, I think back to my mother’s roll in all of it, those early years of my education. And this phrase keeps creeping into my mind…”bearing the burdens of others”.
This was my mother. She would bear burdens for many, but for her family, first, always.
My mom was a GIFTED educator. Like just gifted. She breathed life into her classroom. Whatever course my dad needed her to teach, over their 30 years of being in Christian education, she said yes. She taught with vibrance and energy. Even in the last years of her life, when she was getting close to retirement, she was always analyzing and reflecting, so as to make her teaching better. She was inspiring. She is inspiring.
The summer in between my 1st and 2nd grade year my mom ordered “Hooked on Phonics”. Do ya’ll remember this program? I don’t even know if it’s still around! But I do remember that catchy little slogan “Hooked on Phonics worked for me”! Well apparently it did work for me, because after that summer of working through the program, I started self-correcting my dyslexia. From there I embraced school, excelled in my studies, and loved every minute of it. And in all honesty, I think my struggles have helped me to be a better teacher, than if I hadn’t had them.
As I reflect back to that season, a couple of thoughts fill my head, that I want to spill out into my own mothering.
I never knew I had a learning disability. I knew I struggled. But I was never labeled. Never put in a box. Never given the excuse or a reason to let myself slack, or feel sorry for myself. My mom gave me the tools I needed to help me overcome, and I did.
That summer, I was not the only one who participated in the “Hooked on Phonics” program. Nope. She made my sisters, who didn’t need the support, participate as well. She didn’t want to make me feel weird or the odd ball or stupid. She empowered.
She never tooted her own horn about being the primary source of helping me. Never. Not once. Hence me not knowing I had dyslexia until I was in my late 20’s!
So this idea of being a mother who bears burdens for her children, what does it look like… well a lot like what my mom was for me.
Support and step in when needed.
Support without enabling.
Don’t allow “labels” to render excuses.
Give them the tools necessary to succeed, then let them try. And sometimes fail. Then try again.
Stand in the gap without praise for oneself.
Be their biggest cheerleader. Always. May there never be a doubt just how proud you are of them, despite all the mistakes.
So thank you to my sweet and precious and selfless mama. For so many things. But today, thank you for standing in the gap for me and being my biggest cheerleader. Thank you for your motherhood that is still teaching me how to mother my own.