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
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
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.