My 8 year old started school on Monday. Back to school is a bittersweet time. Sweet because after 3 months of them hanging around the house complaining that there’s nothing to do, you finally have a way to occupy their time – School. Bitter because you see these children that you have raised getting older and older by the minute and you can never really believe they’re old enough to go into the grade they’re going into.
My daughter is now in 3rd grade and I am left baffled wondering where the time went. Third grade was a heady time for me. Mrs. Hanibut was my homeroom teacher. She was a
Space nut. She has a passion for Space and passed on that passion to her students. If for only the year she was their teacher. She was one of the teachers who was a finalist to be on The Challenger. Thank goodness she wasn’t picked. She was kind to me and I’ll never forget her spunky attitude.
Third grade is the year I really, really struggled with Math. Mr. Standing was my Math teacher and I remember his classroom clearly as I sat in the back and struggled with the concepts. My parents got me a tutor at Weber State University and it changed my life. Not only did I improve the math skills I should have already had, but she started me on the times tables way before my class did. So the day that Mr. Standing introduced them to the class, I was able to show off what I had learned with my tutor. I impressed the other kids whereas before I was just the shy kid in the corner unable to compete.
Third grade was also the year my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. My parents, not wanting to scare us, didn’t really clue us in on what was going on. I don’t think they realized this scared me more. When Mrs. Hanibut found out about my mother, she immediately paid extra attention to me. I remember the absolute pain my mother was in, but also that she never lost her fighting spirit. She had a million and one mastectomy jokes. Every morning she would get up and walk 6 miles. Two weeks after her double mastectomy surgery, she was out walking again. I can still remember her doing the “finger crawl” exercises she did to regain mobility in her arms. She taught me to never give up in the face of adversity and that laughter really is the best medicine. I don’t remember much from that year, but I remember the important things.
As my daughter embarks on her 3rd grade journey, I have a lot of high hopes for her. Hopefully she is more accepted by her fellow students than I was and doesn’t spend every day being mercilessly teased. I hope that now that she’s on the right ADHD meds she can realize her full academic potential. She’s a smart girl and I hope that now that she can sit still and pay attention she will really flex her intelligence muscles. Mostly I hope she is happy.
On an interesting side note, Thursday night we went to our children’s back to school night. It was broken down into sections and we were supposed to spend 20 minutes during each session in which each teacher introduced the rules of the classroom and expectations. I literally witnessed a miracle. The entire 20 minutes that her teacher droned on, she sat in her seat and paid attention. She didn’t get up once. She wasn’t even distracted by the other student, who is a boy that as often gotten her into trouble. He got up several times from his desk. Reilley is did not. Reilley is different than she was before. I don’t know if her 1st and 2nd grade teachers would ever think that was possible.
I am stunned by how well she is able to just be herself on this new medication without the constant noise in her head. No one really knows what it’s like to have a learning disability unless they have one. It’s like 1,000 stimuli coming at you at once and you’re supposed to still be able to focus. The other night we were watching the news and on came a story of a mother who was arrested for child abuse. Reilley remarked, “how could a mother ever do that to her child?” That made me feel good because I’m obviously a good enough mother that my own child could never conceive of abuse. She was also crying thinking about the abuse that this child suffered at his mother’s hands. I was proud of her for having that capacity for compassion at such a young age.
My little girl is growing up. And back to school is just another reminder of that.