The other day Caden asked what would happen if he didn’t learn to read. What he really wanted to know was what would happen if he didn’t ever get to move on to first grade.
See, Caden needed a reason as to why he didn’t move on last year like his friends did, and we told him that he just wasn’t ready for first grade yet because he still needed to learn how to read. We had hoped that he wouldn’t really be aware of the fact he was repeating kindergarten again or that he wouldn’t care but we were horribly wrong on both accounts. I think part of the reason is because every single child he played with last year moved on and the part is explained through his affinity for numbers/order/patterns and knowing it was kindergarten then first grade.
We’re three weeks into the school year and he hasn’t accepted being in Children’s House any better than he did last year when he didn’t bridge. He has become the special classroom helper and almost obsessively turned his attention to making sure the classroom stays organized and neat to the point nap mats are organized by color and style every….single….day. We can’t leave school at the end of the day until he is satisfied with the classroom. Unfortunately he hasn’t had many opportunities to make new friends to play with because Children’s House is young this year with more 3 year old preschoolers than 5 or 6 year old kindergartners. He’ll be back with his friends again next year because E1 is 1st-2nd-3rd grades combined but that doesn’t do a darn thing for this year at least in his mind.
Don’t get me wrong, he is learning a lot and the decision to remain in kinder another year was the right one. He is working on multiplication and is quite the math whiz. We are closer to knowing most of the letters of the alphabet and he can tell you more of their sounds than their names but that is progress. He can even sound out letter combinations and make words by combining letters with a base like “at.” More importantly I think he is starting to understand that letters make words.
But some days I wonder if Caden understanding that he is different makes the road harder for him. He now knows that people can’t understand him talking (particularly if they aren’t familiar with Caden-speak) and that makes him self-conscious to the point sometimes he won’t use words at all. The other day he didn’t think his buddy understood him at Miracle League baseball so he started using a grunt with his tongue in or a grunt with his tongue out to mean yes/no. How hard must it be to know that people can’t understand you even though you are trying your hardest to use your words? He knows that not everyone uses chewies at school so he’s stopped accepting his but the anxiety that made it necessary is still there so instead he picks his lips until they bleed. He watches baseball every night on television and knows his version isn’t quite the same but at the same time no matter how great his skills are, he can’t mentally handle the competition and chaos that a “normal” game entails. This list goes on and on but the point remains the same—he knows he is different but doesn’t have the understanding to realize that being different is okay. All he knows right is that being different often means the kids on the playground don’t want to play with you, that it is easier to just not talk to strangers, and that somehow he just didn’t get whatever it was that he needed to go to the next grade like his friends.
So that question the other day was about so much more than just reading for both him and for me. Ironically for both of us it was a reference to the future and a question about being accepted and about being like others. I could give you the standard mom speech about how being unique and standing out in the crowd is so much better than being a lemming but to be honest don’t we all want to fit in. All I could say through my tears [question to the universe…why does he always want to ask world weight type of questions when I am driving?] is that if he can’t read next year I promise with all my heart that I will figure out a way to homeschool him and that I will find a way for him to learn to read. And of course in that promise for both of us was so much more. I won’t break my promise to my baby boy but now I am left wondering what promises I won’t be able to make in the future. That’s a thought that will probably keep me awake for many nights to come.