When Will was in kindergarten, his teacher told me that she thought he had ADD. "He seems to have trouble staying focused after a few minutes. I thought I'd bring it to your attention." Really? I never noticed. "Not in a bad way. He isn't a behavior problem, but his mind tends to wander. Give him this little test. Give him directions to do three different things and see how he does."
I took our project home and made a game out of it. Get your shoes out of the closet, empty the bathroom trash can and practice writing your name on this piece of paper. Tell me when you're done and then you can pick out a popsicle. I'd show that teacher that my kid didn't have ADD. He came back with his shoes and the paper with his name on it and said, "What was the other thing I was supposed to do?" Oh geez, honey, I can't even remember what the heck I said. This game isn't very fun for either of us, is it?
And that's how it went with he and I and the school system. He struggled with reading and I would do flashcards with him before he went to bed - dog-tired and sick of school work. In 4th grade his teacher told us that he needed to work on his fluency in oral reading and maybe he could practice reading out loud to his kindergarten sister. That lasted three nights because the five year old read better than the nine year old.
Because of his reading his test taking always had lousy outcomes. He'd come home every year with the results of the standardized test taken months earlier and my heart would sink when I saw the score. "How did I do Mom? Was this a good one?" It was great, buddy, I'd tell him and shove the envelope in a drawer never to be looked at again.
I signed him up for a reading class at a nearby college and the results weren't even close to the money we spent or the testimonials on the shiny brochure. Added to the mix was the occasional bullying at school for a host of reasons, and my full-time job became propping him up with praise and motivation and sending him into the den for another day. The nights were for the school stories, some that felt like a dagger through my heart.
Sometime in high school when another test score came in I put up the white flag. You know what? You aren't a number, a percentage or a dot on a graph. You are capable of great things in your life and this test has nothing at all to do with your future or that creative spirit you've always had. You just keep working as hard as you can every single day. That's the test.........to keep at it.
Which was all well and good until it was time to take the ACT. He took it twice. The crappy score my brother's kid got was Will's high score and we knocked wood and lit candles that it would be enough to get him into the program he wanted.
Last weekend when we were at his graduation all those things played like a newsreel in my head and I could have had a weeping good sob at any given moment. When he got his diploma we watched him walk past his professors and hug them all. "That's when I almost cried," he said afterwards. "They told me how talented I was and they couldn't wait to see where the future would lead me."
The valedictorian was proficient in Latin, Spanish and Chinese. Maggie leaned over and whispered how self-absorbed she was, but that's the way it can be with high achievers. They're very impressed with themselves while the rest of us are at the mercy of their long bio on our uncomfortable bleacher seats.
When the pomp and circumstance were over and we had gone back to Will's apartment, I noticed this list of goals on his bedroom door. The things he wanted to accomplish this year................
Looks like he made it.