My second son, who happens to be dyslexic and have a partial executive functioning disability in planning and organizing, walked out of his school and got into the car. He dropped a wad of one and five dollar bills on the console between us.
“What’s that for?” I asked.
“I’ll explain in a minute,” he said, “it’s a little complicated.” He set his backpack on the floor and dove into the snack I had brought for the ride to his drum lesson. I braced myself. Listening to one of his explanations is usually a great way to find a migraine.
“There’s this kid in my LA (language arts) class, and he lost his vocabulary book,” he began, crackers around the edges of his lips. “So I told Mr. Michalski that I lost my book and gave him the new one Mr. Michalski gave me. And then he gave me the money for the book in case the school charges you for it.”
I nodded. This was going to be interesting. “Why couldn’t this kid ask Mr. Michalski for a new vocabulary book himself?” I asked.
“Because he already lost one vocabulary book this year.” It’s only the first week of October, I thought.
“So have you,” I pointed out.
“Mom,” my son said with the kind of patience you would use on a two-year-old, while he laughed a little. “This kid is a straight A student. He’s all stressed about this and what Mr. Michalski will think. He’s not used to being in this kind of problem.”
“Not like you, huh?”
“Exactly,” my son said, nodding his approval that I got it.
I suppose I should have been concerned that my son was deceiving his teacher. But I was bitter-sweetly proud of him. Every day is a struggle for him in school. Not because he isn’t smart enough to manage the academics at his academically rigorous school, but because of his LD issues. Just last night we spent an hour to find his phone and his social studies binder. We never did find his planner, another item we were looking for, because looking for things he’s misplaced is a daily ritual for us. I often hear from other people “Well, boys that age always lose things.” This is an undeniable truth, but for my son it is beyond what is normal even for his peer group. He struggles all day long to keep track of materials, schedules, and tasks.
So when he could laugh at himself while sacrificing what his teacher might think about him for a classmate, I had to admire him. He often feels the stigma of being LD, often struggles with his self esteem, often wishes everything didn’t have to be so hard for him. He hates having to be tutored and go to summer school. He hates knowing that when he comes home at the end of the school day, I most likely am going to interrogate him about the email(s) I got that day from his teachers about missing or incomplete homework or lost books.
That day, in that moment, he accepted himself exactly as he is and found humor in it, while helping a kid who doesn’t know what it’s like to be my son. When I see his teacher, I will tell him what happened because I think he will understand. He seems to be someone who gets what being LD is all about. But for now, I’m accepting my son exactly as he is.
And I’m proud of him.