Bad Mommy Moment #973

Sometimes teaching Rex (7) is really challenging.

We met with the school this week to work on his IEP and the meeting was…hard. No matter how helpful, it’s tough to hear test results about your kid’s learning levels. I kept smiling and making tear-free comments like, “Uh huh! Sure! Totally, we see that…” Because quite frankly, I can’t cry in front of these people about Rex. They see kids with such huge struggles, struggles that make ours look really non-struggly and lame, that it would be nothing short of rude and selfish of me to bawl.

But smiling and acting like I don’t feel genetically and environmentally responsible (I do) is the hardest thing ever. And their blunt honesty is like a squirt gun to the face over and over and over. I smile and try not to feel like I’m on one of those horrible old D.A.R.E. game shows by Nickelodeon where I know the green slime is coming.

At the end of the meeting I finally had the chance to ask a few questions. These people are professionals, they went to school to learn how to teach kids with learning problems.

“Okay,” I said, “So tell us what we can do at home. What books should I be reading about this––” yes I actually asked that “––what kind of methods should we be using?”

And all I got were six blank stares. “Well,” one of them finally said, “Just…keep doing what you’re doing. Lots of repetition and reading and writing, you know, just work with him.”

Just work with him? Are you serious? I’ve been working with him since he was two and I’m horrible at it. There has to be more than that. I prodded a little and kept getting looks like, “Lady, this is how it is. He’s going to need more time and more attention and more effort than your other kids. Get over it.”

This is the part where I realize there is no magic “think” method that will show me the secret back door to his brain. And all afternoon I felt grief. Waves and waves of grief that this will be hard for him; no easy way, no easy rhyme, no easy method to teach my kid reading and writing and how to remember his numbers.

Jason sat Rex down for homework that night. When they got to the math Jason looked up at me and shook his head. “This is ridiculous, how is any first grader supposed to get this stuff?”

I am not exaggerating when I say that it was pre-algebra-esq. My kid still writes the number 3 backwords and crosses his 7’s. “No problem,” I said, “Scootch over, Rex and I have totally got this.” I sat down and began the long process of Getting This Into Rex’s Really Cute Blond Head. It was so hard. All I could think was, How in the world are we ever going to get this sweet kid through elementary school?

We finished the page with some serious effort and painstaking simplification and I opened his homework folder to put it away.

There were three more untouched pages just like it.

I dismissed Rex and he went to get his homework treat. As soon as he left the room I crumpled up the remaining homework pages and threw them at the wall, putting my head in my arms and trying really hard not to cry like a big whiny baby.

“So Mom,” Rex said, coming back in with the calm and poise of an 18-year-old, “Didn’t have such a good time tonight, hey?”

I looked up a little shocked and plastered a too-late grin on my face. “What do you mean, buddy?”

“You know, doing homework with me. Didn’t have such a good time tonight, hey?” He gazed into my eyes and nibbled at his chocolate piece waiting for an answer.

And in that moment I wanted to die. Horrible Parent of the Year, right here.

I pulled him into a hug, got my act together, and read him books for another half hour just to remind us both how much we love each other. I will get better at this and so will he. We’ve both got a lot to learn here.


  1. When he does “get it,” and he will with time, you will rejoice. And the tears you’ll have will be most welcome.

  2. Lots and lots of fasting and prayer. Be thankful that you know he has specific challenges, and what they are. One of my 4 had a teacher (at Ramstein!) who was a nightmare. This daughter didn’t have any “challenges” (except moving mid-year to Germany, living in TLF 6 weeks, moving to village, then moving on base), but was having an understandably difficult time. She was 9. We finally thought to pray that the teacher’s heart would be softened towards her, and that Kate (our daughter) would be able to discern this teacher’s requests. (Meanwhile, the teacher wouldn’t even meet with me! She said Kate knew what was required/expected, and wasn’t doing it!) It did help a lot — pray for Rex’s understanding of specific skills – read scripture stories where people overcame huge problems. Pray your gratitude for small victories.

  3. I am a special ed teacher and I can say there isn’t a simple fix. BUT. If one thing doesn’t work, I try a new one. I’ve got kiddos who are visual learners so I have to come up with some kind of visual learning plan for every lesson I do with them. Others need it compared to something they already know (which can be limited), etc. If one way of helping your little guy doesn’t seem to be working, it probably just isn’t his way of learning. Trust me. I have had to out do myself in terms of creatively teaching some of those kids and it is my JOB. Don’t give up or feel like a bad parent. The best thing you can do is be consistent in praising him for what he’s done well and loving him. If you ever need help, just know you’ve got a spec. ed. teacher that follows your blog who is willing to help in any way possible. Promise.

    • annie valentine says:

      Bec, thank you so much for this. It’s great advice and I’ll keep tweaking and remember this because I think you’re right. There is a way that’s best suited to him and I need to find it.

  4. Check out the brain gym book, the ordinary parent’s guide to teaching reading by Jessie wise, and my fav Structural reading by Toni S. Gould., there are also some books by Peggy Kaye she has some books on learning games and math games. I’m not sure what you’re dealing with, but hope Maybe it will help. Love your blog.

  5. Oh, my kids reminded me of some games, Blink, Spot it, and SET which is a little more challenging.

  6. *HUGS*

  7. Annie, you are a fabulous mom. The fact is, the homework wasn’t fun, not Rex. You enjoyed reading to him after the homework. Rex himself is a fun, loveable kid. It’s the homework that isn’t fun to do. And I’m sure Bec’s advice is spot on. You just need to find a way to teach him that appeals to him. Bunny rabbit multiplication and teddy bear division, The I See Sam books with the animals, or whatever it is he needs. It’s ok for Rex to know that homework isn’t fun. It isn’t. But what is important for him to know is that even though it isn’t fun, you’ll still take the time to do it with him because you love him. And it looks to me like he knows this.

  8. Totally off topic but I was thinking of you…

    My bff’s dad is dealing with gout (as I know you do) and the pt is here right now saying that all of her gout patients swear by unsweetened dark/black cherry juice. You’re supposed to drink just 8oz./day and the gout hardly ever flares up. I hope that is something that is helpful to you and that you enjoy your trip home!

  9. I came across your blog and wanted to share the name of someone who has honestly given me hope and a future for my daughter. She holds a workshop every once in a while where they simulate what happens inside the brain process of someone who learns differently than the mainstream student. It helps to understand the anxiety or fear of failure that comes from someone constantly getting things wrong. I know your pain as a parent and that’s why I encourage you to at least speak to her. Shelley Hatch- My daughter has learned more in 18 months with her than she did in a private school through 3rd grade and now she is back in a public charter school and is doing well.

  10. Like Bec, I am a special educator. I am also a mother who absolutely hates homework. I was infuriated when my daughter came home with three-five hours of homework each night in middle school. And so, she frequently didn’t do it . . . when she didn’t, I quoted the district’s homework policy (1/2 hour per subject per night) in a note to the offending teacher(s) and principal. Homework should not substantially interfere with family time and with time to relax and be a kid. I also am an absolute expert on IEPs. The fact that you spent too long working on one page and had three more just like it indicates to me that the work is excessive. The purpose of the IEP is to put provisions into place to assist a student in being successful. I fail to see how four pages of math that takes an exorbitant amount of time to complete is making Rex successful. It is making him hate school. It is not allowing him enough time to recharge. There is a section in the IEP called Accommodations and Modifications. Give some thought into requesting that he have shortened homework assignments for math (and/or any other subject that requires excessive homework). We frequently write an IEP that allows a student to do every other math problem (or even every third one). Do not allow the school to make Rex’s home life become an extension of his school life. You are a wonderful parent. Many parents would not put the time into working with their child that you do. You are not to blame for Rex’s school issues. And, he will come out of this stronger, wiser, and better than most. Today’s trials become tomorrow’s blessings. And remember, we no longer refer to learning disabilities or difficulties; they are called learning differences. Your boy can learn; just differently. The key is in finding how he can learn. That learning difference is part of what makes him unique in the all the world. Keep fighting the good fight!

  11. Parenting is the hardest most under appreciated and under compensated job EVER! Know you are not alone. I usually get a gold star for parent of the year daily!