Monday, November 7, 2011

simply zander


A little while back, against all will of mine, we decided to put the kids back in school. My pregnancy with our fifth child and the fact that Chris travels 90% of each month were large factors. Me having to run the household, and educate the kids totally alone on a day by day basis was becoming too much for me to handle and we decided that there are worse things on earth than our kids getting 100% on everything in school.

We knew that for the most part Mia would be fine, but then there was Zander. Zander is mostly miserable on a day to day basis since we've re enrolled him. He's totally changed and I don't really care for much of his attitude. I've seen a decline in his patience, willingness, sweetness and it's even traveled over into swim. So much so that the coaches have noticed a change. Oh how this child worries me. While I know that home school is the best option, we are just going to have to choose better in this category. I struggle with good, better, best on a daily basis around here. What good parent doesn't.

Since Zander was born, well since Mia was born, I knew that Zander was something else. Now I know that every parent thinks they have a super kid, but that's not what I'm talking about. Zander sees the world differently than most kids do. I watch him. I watch him when he doesn't think I am. I watch him with his peers. I watch his peers. Zander is different.

A few weeks ago, the school conducted parent teacher conferences. These pretty much go the same every year. Mia flies by and Zanders is much more intense. As he's gotten older, the meetings have gotten more and more intense. So a few weeks ago I entered his classroom with knots in my stomach because I knew what I was up against. It's not the grades we discuss. Zander's grades have become inconsequential to me. He receives nearly a perfect score on everything he does and always has. I've spent years trying to understand him so I can be a better mother to him.

Well the teacher sits me down and asks me to read a poem that he wrote. They were learning about poetry and the class was asked to write and read a poem out loud to the class. Through the course of reading this poem I learn another thing Zander is good at. Poetry is not something you can fake. It's not something you can follow rules for and have the desired affect. His poem was sweet and soft. It was emotion felt and tender. I have no idea what is the expectation of 4th grade poetry but Zander's poem was very well written and fulfilled all purpose. I love poetry and have always read it to the children. I know a good poem because it gives me goosebumps and a clarity of what the poet is conveying.

So the second part of the assignment was that they had to read it out loud to the class. Zander refused. He didn't just refuse, he cried and begged not to. He doesn't have a fear of public speaking at all. He's very social and often has opportunity to present things in front of his peers at school, at church, at scouts, and at home. Never a problem. So I asked him what was up. I asked if he felt that his poem was inferior, after all I had never read another 4th graders poem before and all of his peers have already presented. He said no, that he knew it was good. Well then what's the issue? He told me that he wrote it from a special place and he didn't want other people to go there...yikes.

As a way for his teacher to encourage him she told him that if he didn't present his poem that he would lose 20 points from his final grade. She knows what motivates him. He's a people pleaser and that's a pretty severe penalty on a grade. Especially on a poem that was pretty darn good. I knew immediately which option I would choose, but I told him to choose. I was hoping that this would offer me some more insight into the thought processes of Zander. This needed to be his decision. Yes I could force/motivate him to read that poem, but I have a hard time imposing my will on things that are sensitive to our children. I treat them how I want to be treated.

So after a day of thinking he came to me and told me that he was going to take the lower grade. This was the option I would have also chosen but I hadn't told him that until I heard his choice. Most people probably wouldn't have chosen that way. For most, this wouldn't have been a big deal at all. According to his teacher, Zander was the only kid in his class that had this issue. I was so proud of him that he didn't let social threats compromise his internal guiding mechanism. He didn't compromise who he was to comply with grades and peer pressures.

Now I understand that there is benefit in forcing yourself to be better and stronger, but I don't necessarily think that this was a case of that. I don't think that this had anything to do with better and stronger. I think what Zander did was the harder and stronger choice. It would have been easier to give into these pressures. I think that forcing him would have belittled Zander. I watched him struggle with this decision. If this were his Native American presentation that he didn't want to do, that would have been a different story. This was sensitive to him for some reason. This was special. He didn't want to cast his pearls before swine, so to speak.

We spent the rest of the conference talking about how to help Zander deal with the world he is living in. How his peers affect him so profoundly. How his teacher and I can be a team to help him overcome some of these battles that he constantly has. We glanced at his report card, at his grades, at the way children are measured in society. These had nothing to do with Zander. How Zander conducts himself is a larger measure to me as a mother. That's the report card that matters to me the most. The opinions of his leaders, friends and teachers on what type of child is Zander. On how they feel to be around him.

And once again at the end of this I'm left mystified by Zander. There's this song (yes I'm noticing a trend with my blog posts) that I heard again for the first time in a while, when we were going through this. It's called Oh me. Nirvana performed it but it's by the Meat Puppets. This song is Zander. My perception of him. How his mind works. 

If I had to lose a mile
If I had to touch feelings
I would lose my soul
The way I do

I don't have to think
I only have to do it
The results are always perfect
But that's old news.

Would you like to hear my voice
Sprinkled with emotion
Invented at your birth?

I can't see the end of me
My whole expanse I cannot see
I formulate infinity
and store it deep inside of me

If I had to lose a mile
If I had to touch feelings
I would lose my soul
The way I do

I don't have to think
I only have to do it
The results are always perfect
And that's old news

Would you like to hear my voice
Sprinkled with emotion
Invented at your birth?

I can't see the end of me
My whole expanse I cannot see

I formulate infinity
and store it deep inside of me

3 comments:

Nicole said...

wow! what a proud moment as a mom for you. :) he is one heck of a kid and i think he came to you since you are one heck of a woman. ;) he's not going to have the typical challenges in life and most people probably won't understand that. i know that you are the right person to guide him and that you will be able to understand him better than anyone. :)

nuttbutts said...

ahhh.. public school. for a kid like zander it has to be tough. in almost all ways. i sure hope things go well for you all! i feel your pain, but also see your pride in a kid who totally deserves it! what a good mom :)

Debbie Buchanan said...

I love reading your posts. How lucky your kids are to have a mom who cares so deeply and will take on the world on their behalf. And congratulations on #5!!