Living (and Excelling) with the Hand Dealt to Our Kids

I have dreaded this moment since I first became a mother. You know that moment, when your child becomes self-aware, compares himself to peers and starts cataloging all the ways he doesn’t stack-up to others. Self-doubt and self-consciousness becomes part of daily life.

We thought there would be at least another five years until my eternally optimistic six-year-old started noticing the realities of the world around her. I joke that she is like the dog in the movie Up….she can be in the midst of a sentence or a deep thought and then – SQUIRREL!!! – her attention is quickly captivated by a new shiny object. It is an endearing trait to be around someone for whom emotional storms pass quickly.  But earlier this week, that all changed.


She has been struggling with reading and I have not been able to figure out how to help her improve. Everything clicked when I came across an old report from my husband’s second grade school counselor. It documented learning struggles he has, especially in processing and reading. All the symptoms were exactly what my little girl is showing. It turns out that, like my hubby, she is showing signs of dyslexia. Quite possibly, reading will always be a tougher struggle for her than for other kids.

Since every child learns at their own pace, we have not made it a big deal. And because she learns at home, she wasn’t self-aware that her struggles are unusual, until children’s Bible study this week.

Every child her age was able to fluently read a verse and then discuss what it meant. I coached her through her verse, but she just couldn’t“get it”. When it came time for her to discuss, she froze and I asked the group to skip us.

I have never seen my usually upbeat and outgoing daughter look so distraught. Her body crumpled under the weight of defeat. And as we walked home, she looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said, “Everyone could do it, but me!”

sad girl0

All children are going to feel the sting of being different or not part of the group. And usually I am quite sanguine about those types of situations. When I witnessed my daughter being purposely excluded from friends at a playground, I saw it as a great opportunity for her to build resilience, remember what it feels like so she does not do it to others and learn to quickly forgive. It is a lesson about life when her brother gets privileges that she does not.  Life is not fair and we all will experience some sort of exclusion or bias. But there is something different about this situation that just hurt me to the core.

Maybe because, like my hubby, this will probably be a struggle she has her whole life. Or it may be one of those key things that defines how she views her abilities and potential. But I think mostly it’s because I can’t guide her through this problem to a quick fix. It will take years of hard work and she will always have this in her life.

When I chatted with a friend about this (over a much needed glass of wine) she reminded me that some of the best success stories are molded out of hardships. Countless successful entrepreneurs were kicked out of school or had ADHD. There is also a higher number of dyslexics that are successful leaders.

These people realize early on that their biggest problem is their greatest gift. Since they can’t fit into the system, they have to figure out work-arounds, coping skills and also win people over. Plus all the hard work to overcome any potential handicap can be applied to all areas of their life.

I am on the front-end of this journey.  We still are getting a formal evaluation and pending the results, I will change how I teach her.

Through this process I hope she gains pride in her individuality, tenacity to face any obstacle and also the patience to persevere. But most of all I hope that she doesn’t just live with the cards that are handed to her. Like a skilled poker player, I pray she realizes that life is more than luck, and turns her hand into a royal flush.

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