This week, we found out that my son Sam, who is in first grade, has been overperforming at his grade level, and is going to be moved up a grade. We are excited, obviously, and especially happy that the school is doing their best to make the move easy for all of us. Sam is going to start off going up to the second grade just for reading class (since that is his strongest subject) and then slowly transition to other classes and activities. At the end of the year, he will be a second grader, but he will still do some first grade activities so that he will still get the social benefits of being around friends and his first grade teacher (whom he loves).
It all started when he was routinely tested for reading ability at the beginning of the year. Matt and I noticed that Sam was becoming a strong reader, but I don't think we realized how strong. After the test, we got a note saying that Sam had tested on a 3rd-4th grade reading level, and that the reading specialist was now talking to teachers, the principal and other school administration about what to do for him. There was a danger of him getting bored in class, as many students around him are just starting to learn to read. He took subsequent tests in math and although he wasn't as strong, the results were very much the same. At that point, we started to realize just how awesome all this is.
The whole thing is interesting and wonderful because until this point, I would be up late at night worrying about Sam and his cognitive abilities. Sam was born while I was a junior in college and Matt was a senior. Gabby was 4 years old. Matt and I were living in our first apartment, a tiny place where the main redeeming quality was the addition of a full-size washer and drier. It was the cheapest place we could find that offered that, and with a kid and full study schedules, we knew that was the one thing we needed. Matt was working in the Modern Languages Dept. as an aid to the professors, and I was a waitress at a fine dining restaurant. We kept our money in a latte mug. When I got pregnant, we were shocked, but soon became excited. We resolved to finish school and have our baby and keep on keepin' on.
But then Sam was born. And things were crazy. There are quite a few pictures of me, sitting in the papasan chair in our living room, holding Sam with one arm and a Norton Critical Anthology in the other. There are just as many pictures of us asleep in the same position. Sam went with me to class sometimes when the babysitter canceled and I knew that he would sleep through it. I used to joke that he liked 18th century British lit the best because he could sleep during it. Matt wrote his honors thesis with Sam sitting beside him at night, asleep in his swing. Matt was inducted to PBK while Sam crawled around in the courtyard of the Wren Building, and I sat at the door, listening to the proceedings inside while watching Sam and trying to keep him from eating pinecones. When I went up to get my diploma, I carried Sam with me, and made sure that the "My Mom Rocks" t-shirt I had bought was prominently displayed (I graduated on Mother's Day). Then we moved to CA. And instead of rushing off to class, I was rushing off to work. There are pictures of Sam playing with cars inside the Slavic Library, where Matt was working a student aid job.
And in the middle of this, a lot of my plans for him fell to the side. I had planned to read to him every night. That didn't happen. I had planned for him not to ever watch tv. That didn't happen either. I had planned to actively teach him things, to make everyday a learning experience, to make sure that not a day went by where I didn't sit down with him and teach him something. That happened sometimes, but not every single day. There were many days where I was just happy to get through and get him fed and hugged and kissed and bathed. Forget the teaching. I was happy to just be with him, falling asleep beside of him as we both watched Cars for the 20 millionth time. It was only when I laid awake at night that I thought of all the things I wasn't doing. And it was then that I felt like a horrible, over-extended, crappy parent. All too often I felt that.
But, now I realized that despite all the craziness, Sam spent his early years surrounded by people who adored him. And by people who loved books. So even if we weren't always reading to him, if sometimes plans fell through, we were there. And he saw us reading. Perhaps too much! So now, despite all my worries, here he is, this little reading beast, a self-described "nerd" who wants to have a historical-themed birthday party (which sounds sweet, but seriously, you try to plan a cupcake for each president...yup. That's how I'm spending my time these days.).
So the moral of this (sloppy, disjointed) story is that kids, despite all our worries, usually have a way of turning out ok. As long as they are loved, kids don't have to have perfect parents. They don't have to be surrounded by perfection every day, they don't have to have every day go according to plan. It sounds like an easy concept, but how often do we beat ourselves up because we aren't doing everything perfectly? Sometimes I feel like there is something every single day that I go to bed worried about because I didn't accomplish for my kids. But things have a way of working themselves out, I've found. As long as there is love, there can be a lot of non-perfection along the way.