Published on Mommy Tracked (http://www.mommytracked.com)

Hard To Relate

When I was a kid, I pretty much loved school.  Learning was fun for me, probably because it came easily and because I did well.  I never broke the rules, I never got in trouble, I did what I was told, and I loved the praise and the positive feedback that I got from my teachers.  My husband, too, was a similar kind of student.  As adults, we relate to each other in terms of our enjoyment of learning new things, our motivation to do well, and our willingness to work hard for what we want.

My husband and I chose to be with each other because (among other things), we both value these traits in a partner.  But as parents, we don’t get to choose who our children are.  We’re partnered for life with these little people, even if they have personalities that are completely opposite from our own, even if they have character traits that we don’t quite understand.  Even if we can’t totally relate to them.  It’s an exercise in patience and tolerance, and in learning how not to project our own feelings onto the children we’ve created.  It is, in short, not easy.

My son does not enjoy school.  There are things about school that he enjoys – recess, lunch, PE, sometimes Computer and Library – but when it comes to the actual core subjects, he more or less just tolerates them.  I have to force him to read books, and he wants to know, up front, the minimum number of pages he has to read.  When his friends’ parents ask if he’d be interested in joining their kids for math or science camp in the summer, I politely decline.  He’s addicted to Minecraft, but when I suggest that he take a class in order to learn how to build his own Minecraft mods or to create his own server, he says he’d rather just play.  As someone who reads voraciously and who still gets excited when browsing through college course descriptions, it’s hard for me to relate. 

I’m fairly sure that my son’s distaste for school is directly correlated to the fact that school isn’t easy for him.  He’s a disastrous speller, he can’t seem to memorize his math facts no matter how many flash cards or iPad math games he does, and reading is still not effortless for him.  I know he’s not dumb – he can think critically and he’s far more creative and imaginative than my husband and I ever were – he just has a hard time fitting those skills into the box that is a traditional classroom.

As someone who once defined herself as a “student,” it’s hard to understand someone who would define themselves as anything but.  As someone who cared about achieving in school more than anything else, it’s hard to understand someone who cares about it so little.  As someone who looked forward to going to school every day, it’s hard to understand someone who counts the minutes until Saturday.  And yet, he’s my son, and it’s my job to try to understand him.  

I’ve given up fighting with him.  You can’t make someone like things they don’t like, and you can’t make someone care about things they don’t care about.  All I can do is encourage the things he is interested in, and continue to cultivate the skills that he does care about.  

He likes to write song parodies, so I help him with that.  He likes to come up with clever inventions, so we talk about them.  I hope that one day, when he’s older, he’ll discover the joy that can come from learning.  But he’ll have to come to that on his own.  And if he never does, then I guess that’s just how it will be.  It won’t be easy, and I won’t relate, but I’m his mom and I love him, so I’ll try.ModernMom.com [1]

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