01 December 2010

The immeasurable

A few days ago, a blog post I read from my neighbor Sarah stirred up a lot of emotions in me... In a nutshell, she was opening up about one of those "mommy moments" we are not proud of... A friend had called and told her that her sophomore daughter had been ranked #1 based on performance during freshman year at our local high school. Sarah (who also has a sophomore, just like me), rather than feeling happy for her, let her competitive side come out and felt angry and hurt that her son wouldn't "measure up" the same way... We've all been there... Society sets standards, grades, rankings, and we do our best (and expect ours) to measure up... Be it in academics, sports, jobs, credit, we try to achieve the highest grades, scores, salaries, and measure our worth by quantifiable numbers... Sarah mentioned how her son was bright beyond his years, yet his performance at school was "average" according to academic standards....

My three girls have always excelled in school. I have never had to worry about their grades, they are smart, responsible, secure young women and I have always been proud of their accomplishments. My son does not excell in school... His literacy level is poor, he hates to read or write, and his behavior at school (he likes to be a goof ball) is considered disruptive at times. School conferences cause me anxiety, because I never know what I am going to hear... His social skills are getting much better but they were a struggle in the beginning because he is very strong minded and has an "anger issue" (so say his sisters!). He has a hard time working independently... Doesn't complete his work in class and often brings it home to finish... Homework can be a struggle, only if he doesn't feel like it...

But here is the irony: he is extremely smart. He has a mathematical mind, he is an excellent problem solver and a very creative entrepreneur, in his own right. He will build you an airplane out of sticks and masking tape in minutes. He is very (and I mean very!) strong minded - after all, he was the only kid in his two years of preschool that refused to dress up for the halloween party... I figured his decisive, non-conformist ways may come in handy when the time comes to resist peer pressure to drink or do drugs... Oh, and he looooooves money, he is always trying to figure out how to make a buck, even if it means trying to sell empty water bottles or rides in his bycicle-attached wagon... Or smile for the family picture!!

Yet, I worry. I worry that his grades will hold him back... I worry that he will struggle to meet academic expectations... I worry that society will "box" him in and judge him by a number... I worry that he will be made to feel he is not "good enough"...

Raising my son has presented, and will continue to present, many challenges, many more than I ever expected (remember this post?)... I was told, when he was born weighing 10 lbs 2 oz, that he was going to be a handful... But rather that dwell on the "why can't it be easier?", I am embracing those challenges... I think the rewards will be tremendous, and I have to look beyond the small setbacks to see the big picture. Even though academic excellence doesn't come as easy to him as it does to his sisters, there is absolutely no way I could ever measure up how proud I am of my son and how much joy he brings to our lives...

The other day I was talking to my dad on the phone. He was asking me how "Dennis the Menace" was doing - my dad's nickname to my son. I always tell him about all the latest comical episodes my son has starred in... Like when he made a mess with toys in the living room, and my husband said "Hey, buddy, help me clean this up", to which he replied "You're a big guy, you can do it all by yourself...!" I was sharing some of my concerns, and my dad reminded me of something that had made him laugh histerically! On our summer visit to Italy, we faced a major heat wave. My son insisted that we buy him a hand held accordeon fan, so I gave him 3 euros and he bought one. Shortly after, we hoped onto a bus and I saw my oldest daughter handing over a coin to him in exchange for the fan. When I asked her what was going on, she told me that her brother was "renting" the use of the fan in exchange for an euro... Reminiscing about this, my dad laughed again, and told me that I should never, EVER, be worried about my son's ability to be successful in life...!!


  1. Loved your story about your son. He will be a very wealthy man one day, count on it. He already has the skills. lol

  2. I loved this post! Your son is smart, creative and a BOY. Kudos to him for being an individual. This world places way to much on grades and I can't stand that they won't let boys be boys. Don't get me wrong, grades and studying are important, but its not the whole package. From what you wrote your son is way ahead of the pack. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, I loved it. And I am still smiling at the fact, that he charged rent on the fan. That's one smart kid you've got there.

  3. I think we all need to take a moment and reflect on those in our history that did well in school or went along with others...or was it the ones that didn't that made our world a different place??
    We are all our own person and we all show it in our own ways. Remember not being normal is best, whatever "NORMAL" is.
    He is a giving and smart young man and he will live his life as such and prosper with his god given one of a kind ways.
    Give him support and love in his life and he will do just fine.

  4. This is a wonderful post. While I have always stressed to my boys that school is important, getting good grades are important, etc. I have always understood that not every kid is the same - not every child who does well is school excels in like and some who don't do well become millionaires. School is important, but being creative, street-smart (world smart), and open minded can also get you very far in life. I am sure with lots of love and support he will become a successful young man.

  5. Too funny, I think your son and my daughter were separated at birth! She has many of the same traits, including the quick temper that tends to get her in a fair amount of trouble.
    She does very well in school (grade-wise) and is extremely bright, like your son. Like you, it's the social that sometimes kills me! She's a goof-ball too, likes to be class clown, and LOVES to be in charge. She's the child you can't NOT notice....:)
    But because of that, I think her personality and abilities will take her very far in life, I'm sure like your son.
    I celebrate her differences (most days) and always tell her to "be her own person" and not follow the group....good advice for anyone.

  6. I just love this post!! You are not alone and thank you for making me feel like I'm not alone! My son is also creative and smart but a clown who gets so distracted (and does a lot of distracting too!). He hates doing his reading and writing homework, it's an argument every night about it even though he knows it's coming. I try to reassure myself with the knowledge that he could sell ice to Eskimoes and when he talks, people listen. So I figure, that's got to count for something! Your son is a great character and very resourceful, I am sure he will be very successful in whatever he chooses to do in life. I also hear boys are kinda like this for a while. Thanks for the great post! Natasha

  7. While reading this post it struck me as funny that your son is a combination of both my children. For Joey it all came to easy...his teachers said he wasn't challenged enough and tried, but there is only so much they could do with the school guidelines. My daughter on the other hand worked hard, but couldn't make the grades he could. She was frustrated and had some anger issues. Joey was the class clown...Jenn the introvert. We had her tested in the second grade and discovered she was dyslexic. about a life changing moment. Once she learned how to study in a different way...she blossomed. Oh she still has her anger issues, but she also learned how to curb it. Joey on the other hand, continued to coast through graduation...classic underachiever or so I thought. Kids do learn from example and both of them have excellent work ethics. I guess my point is just when you think they're not paying attention...they are!
    P.S. I'm a firm believer in you gotta have common sense to go with the book sense. Sounds like to me...he's on the right track.

  8. He will have more than he will ever need.
    Let him pick his classes when he gets into Jr and Sr High and let him go. I will bet you he is completely bored right now. They are trying to teach things he already knows or they are teaching too slow. They are not keeping his attention. Do special things at home- pick a subject- and teach him just as fast as you can go through it. Let him pick the subject and see what happens.
    I had to do this with both of my boys. They were bored to death in grade school and mostly through the rest of it. We did a lot of science and math at home, along with reading.
    Let him start his own business and teach him all the little details that go along with that.
    He may be a millionaire before he graduates high school.

  9. I think that we all have these worries about our children as moms, we want our children to succeed and do well in life in whatever season they are in. When I get anxious that one of my kids isn't doing as well as another child in academics, I always come back to the knowledge that I'm growing them up to be loving, caring, kind, responsible adults who are secure in who they are, and all else is just an added bonus. Plus every child learns in their own way and their own pace, it's society that puts these expectations out there that influences us. Your son is loved Isabel, and that's the most important thing! Lisa ;-)

  10. Your story touched me more that you know. I have a 14yr old daughter that i have never had to worry about. i have a 7yr. old that is just like your son. He will keep you in stitches and you never know what he's going to say next. He never stops moving. He also has a nickname "The Mess." I have spent many nights worry about him and praying that he could just catch up in school. He just does things on his own timing. I was reminded that God has a purpose and a plan for him and so he is made just the way God intended for him to be. If I try to change him then that could be more damaging. So we just have to embrace the moments and love them no matter what.

  11. Your story touched me more that you know. I have a 14yr old daughter that i have never had to worry about. i have a 7yr. old that is just like your son. He will keep you in stitches and you never know what he's going to say next. He never stops moving. He also has a nickname "The Mess." I have spent many nights worry about him and praying that he could just catch up in school. He just does things on his own timing. I was reminded that God has a purpose and a plan for him and so he is made just the way God intended for him to be. If I try to change him then that could be more damaging. So we just have to embrace the moments and love them no matter what.

  12. So touching, Isabel. Your love and concern as a mother will do more for your son than any competitive *keeping up with the Joneses* that life can (and will) dish out. He is clearly his own person, much like my 19-year-old step-son. Funny, charming, kind, hard-headed, unbending, *lazy* (bored probably), amicable, alternatively quietly angry, etc.

    We as parents can't possibly know what is right for anyone--although society expects us to *teach* our kids. It's a different time in history--with many influences from the digital universe. Scary stuff. But nothing is more important than love, belief, support and kindness from parents . . . AND the occasional smack to the ego if they're headed toward danger.

    Letting go begins earlier than you may think--I've been working on this for YEARS with Daniel, and his path still concerns me. But it's HIS path, as different from us as it may be . . . and that's okay! God works in mysterious ways.

    You're lucky to have such wonderful daughters, as well as one very special son!!

    ~ Debi

  13. This is such a beautiful post!! It is so true what you said... and renting his fan is just priceless! I found this quote awhile ago and I saved it for the very reasons you spoke about in this post... thought you might enjoy.

    "We destroy the love of learning in children, which is so strong when they are small, by encouraging and compelling them to work for petty and contemptible rewards, gold stars, or papers marked 100 and tacked to the wall, or A's on report cards, or honor rolls, or dean's lists, or Phi Beta Kappa keys, in short, for the ignoble satisfaction of feeling that they are better than someone else." ~ John Holt

  14. Hi, my daughter, Courtney, at
    Honeycomb Creative Co. blog asked me if I would respond to this post. Our other daughter, Sarah, is severely dyslexic. She is now a Sophomore in college, but I have walked many a LONG mile with her helping her to navigate the rough terrain that we call academia.

    Please have your son tested by an educational psychologist! If he truly has dyslexia, there are multi-sensory, researched based methods that WILL allow him to read with ease & not get caught in a bad cycle. It looks like he's still fairly young, however, and boy's brains do develop differently from girls. But early intervention is key.

    There's lots of info at: (my local resource in Kansas) (The International Dyslexia Association)

    I have to post as anonymous, but you are more than welcome to contact me at


  15. P.S.
    You already have the right attitude! Hang in there and just keep loving that special, bright spirit that your little one has!

  16. Such a good post!!Ahh Mommy insecurity! I lay awake at night over it:) The funny thing day he will employ all the kids that fit nicely into those boxes:)

  17. As the parent of a "gifted child", God how I hate that term, I can tell you that both she and I have prayed that her little girl, 2, would be of only average intelligence. From our experience, that is the real gift.

    Scores are misleading measures of one's capabilities and intelligence. But I am telling you what you already know. Your son is too smart for the "norm".

  18. I could hear your heart speaking in your last post. I went through the same concerns in raising my son.
    So many of the things you mention remind me of him. Loved to play banker in Monopoly, loved to sell his old books on ebay. Things like that. Your post reminded me of my own thoughts during that period when raising him.
    Your son is blessed to have a mother who cares enough to have these concerns. It will be ok.

  19. Oh just love him to pieces like you already do!!!! He looks like the most adorable fun kid & I'm sure he will be a great success someday.
    He has many wonderful gifts, and the school systems aren't always the best judges of what gifts are important!!
    Thank God for wonderful energetic little guys & their energy. He made them just the way they are so they can brighten the lives of others & be leaders.


  20. hi you could be talking of my son, they sound like the same child. good luck to us. mahalo hawaii

  21. Wonderful. Thank you for this post. You are so inspiring!

  22. I like a lot all what you wrote about your son and family! Many similarities with mine, thanks for share it with us
    Jacqueline, another mom thinking on his son life!


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