I’ve written this letter at least 100x in my head. I woke up today with a terrible cold and a rotten stomach. I sat down at the Mac, wondering if anything would be accomplished today, and I watched a video about using everyday objects for unexpected uses. And it brought me great pause; I saw a new perspective. This once tearfully sad letter about Daddy and I making extraordinarily tough decisions for you now feels ridiculously limiting. So here goes:
Sara. You are going to attend 1st grade again next year. Parts of this plan are going to totally suck. You will miss the pals with whom you’ve shared a classroom for 4 years. Parts of the year may feel repetitive. Just visualizing the possibility might scare you to your very core. Like I said…SUCK.
Sara. Parts of this plan will liberate you beyond your wildest dreams. As an August baby who was actually due closer to September, you will finally be with more kids who are your age than with kids who are older than you. You are a natural-born leader and you might get to try that hat on for a change. Your Language Arts curriculum will be different, because you’ve worked your BUTT OFF and will move groups. Your Math curriculum will be a total repeat. Awesome. I don’t think you can imagine a world where math even remotely makes sense, and if this plan works? I’m a wizard. We don’t have any guarantees that it will come together, but this chess move is most certainly the wisest. You get to stay at the school you love, which you declared was your top priority. You, who are fantastic at making new friends, will be introduced to a new class of kids, half of whom you already know, and who I’m sure will adore you. You get to stay with the teacher who has taught you to fly. You get to repeat a year you have loved to pieces, which is astonishingly weird, considering the circumstances. In your entire life, you might be the only person you’ll ever meet who struggled academically, and still begged to go to school. And your academic struggles might turn into victories. That possibility is too bomb-diggety fabulous for words.
Sara. Your Daddy and I prayed and fought and hugged and cried over this decision for weeks. We met with everyone but the Dalai Lama to help us decide. In the end, in a fit of anxiety, I laid it at God’s feet one night and begged him to decide for me. In a newly cleared conscious, he put these words upon my heart: The Gift Of A Year. And there it was. A gift we give to you. Who wouldn’t take a free year? As an adult, this will make more sense; time is the ultimate gift. A gift that cannot be bought, wrapped, and given. But I CAN. I CAN GIVE YOU A YEAR. RIGHT NOW. For free. I’ve driven you to Educational Psychologists, Occupational Therapists, Urologists, Developmental Neuro-Optometrists, highly specialized Tutors, and experts in Twice-Gifted Curriculums….and now? I’m going to give you something far more valuable and infinitely interesting: TIME. I’m going to watch you shoot for normal. You are going to be in extra-curriculars. Be less tired at the end the day. Be less pressured. Be given space to stretch and breath. JUST BE. Time is a gift no doctor or specialist can grant. It’s the gift of 2 parents who are looking over the horizon, and knowing you as we know you now, are not sending you to college at 17. We love you. We’d like to keep you…a whole do-over year. It’s sweeter than cotton candy Ducky. I promise.
Sara. Your existence brought into stark focus for me that I was living in a limited reality. I saw life as win or lose. Black or white. Pass or fail. I’ve never been comfortable with the idea that a more evolved world view includes a thousand shades of grey. I simply didn’t have the guts for it. Alive or Dead…that was my gold standard of measurement. Then I met you. Not a single piece of my formula worked. I couldn’t cry or scream or manipulate or think or read or cheerlead you into a first-this and then-that process. You are a multitude of colors not currently on anyone’s map. You are a breaker of the cosmic egg of every institution you’ve encountered. You don’t just change policy…you change PEOPLE. Within you lies a endless list of possibilities…and to take this journey with you…I had to change. Everything. I had to get braver. I had to dare to look into the eyes of seasoned experts and convince them to try something new. I’ve had to believe in unconventional plans that have no guarantees. I’ve had to take a hammer to my imaginary crystal ball.
Not a single step has been taken haphazardly or tread without an enlightened team of people who have shared with me every ounce of their expertise. The people surrounding us, whom have shown us uncompromising charity with their love and guidance, has allowed me to break free from my solitary fortitude and believe in LIFE. In the direction of the Universe. In the idea that THIS WORLD IS INNATELY GOOD. This experience of helping you through Dyspraxia, Convergence Disorder, Daytime Enuresis, an unlabeled yet intrinsically present Learning Disorder, and ADHD…should have been awful. It certainly WAS the end of the world as we knew it. But there have been arcane moments when we climbed yet another mountain, and we could look out over the landscape and see that we are far better people than we were before you came. We are more charitable. We are far more gentle and empathetic. We have patience we never thought imaginable. We have emotional scars. We’ve never been more frightened. We have never believed in anything with a more singular and intense focus. We’ve found that we are never alone. We’ve come to believe in God and our spirituality in a way I could have never imagined. We’ve been humbled by the belief God had in us when he chose us for you. We know our wisdom won’t fix everything, and we’ve accepted that life is intrinsically imperfect. We’ve learned that we see and experience grief, growth, victory, and challenge with different eyes, and are learning to accept that we must somehow win this potato sack race together, despite these differences.
Sara. I hope someday you’ll look back and see how this crooked line makes sense. I hope my myriad of feelings become a straight line as well. Right now, I’m wavering between horrid fear and new bravery. Just the thought of walking you through this change makes me want to hide under my bed, which can’t be confidence inspiring for you. I’ve spent most the past month forcing myself to live inside the other half of my brain. The half that knows to her core this is the right decision. The half that listened to the parents who said they wished they’d done the same, and to the parents who made this same choice and swore is the best thing they could have done. In all of my very unscientific research, I haven’t met a single person who said grade retention was a terrible mistake. But then again, you are the Master of Unconventional Outcomes…so still, I hold my breath.
For better or for worse, we are here, always together, always trying, sometimes failing (with great noise and confusion), and maybe this time finding a new and better reality without a label whatsoever.
In any case, you are and will always be, our blessedly perfect baby Sara, and no 2 people will ever love you more.
With every ounce of devotion,
Boppa & Daddee
*Special Note for our fellow scholars at school: while the adults are aware of this decision, we are leaving it to Sara to decide when to inform her friends. As of now, she has decided to wait until late May. Thank you for keeping Sara’s confidence.*