Recently a new acquaintance listened as I talked about my clingy my 8-year-old girl. Then she said, “Does your daughter have learning issues?”
Bam. I love being seen by someone you hardly know, and seen in what feels like a mystical way. This woman told me about her own older daughter who also couldn’t get enough of her love, and how that all changed as soon as her girl had some success with learning how to read.
That night I was dismayed about the faucet of tears my Annie turns on sometimes when I leave the house for a much-needed night out. This conversation stopped me in my tracks, though, for a few reasons.
One, we have finally reached critical mass in Annie’s learning-to-read journey. She thinks of herself as a reader! She reads signs when we are out in public. She picks books that are above her ability and uses all of her hard-earned reading skills to slowly read these books, page by page, night after night.
Two, I dropped Annie off from my car at our school’s morning drive-and-drop-off zone. She gave me a quick hug and left the car with no complaining. There were no tears. I did not have to preface this drop-off with a long lecture about how much I love her and how she will make it to her classroom in one piece with no lion-bites taken out of her body. And her sister didn’t have to walk her to the door; she immediately found a friend and walked with her.
As I sit here and write, I could add story after story to this list and all these tales add up to one clear idea that I can only see now: Lately, everything is easier with Annie. Yes, she cried the night I met this acquaintance for a mom’s night out. But if I am telling the truth, every single person in my family is taking a collective breath of relief right now. We made it, we made it, we made it. Annie is a reader and she doesn’t remember not being a reader.
This isn’t even the best news. The most excellent tidbit is what my husband and I are gleeful about: Annie is happier. Even though the girl was quite distraught by our Fort Warden rental house’s lack of Internet access, when we told her she had to sing and dance to entertain us, she did just that. Granted, her songs were all from the TV show Phineas and Ferb. She glides into rooms with pizzazz lately, singing, dancing, talking, and telling us long stories, often stories that are really just recaps of season three My Little Pony episodes.
Annie is no saint, don’t get me wrong. She has her moments of not being so graceful and awesome. But when I grab one of her tutors for a quick chat to talk about finding a math program to help catch my Annie up in this area, it’s no surprise when the tutor talks about how different my girl is now compared to last year. “She’s just so happy,” the tutor said.
After I agree and walk away, I make myself stop and focus on the happy dance going on in my mind. This is the good stuff. I need to appreciate this moment in time. My girl is thriving after almost three years of concerted effort on her part (and my part and the part of her dad, her sister, her teachers, and her numerous tutors). I need to be thankful and gracious and celebrate this moment in time, though. Because you know what? There are going to be hard patches up ahead.
Those people who told me years ago that Annie was going to be OK? I so didn’t believe them. It took so much effort to hold their gaze and take a small part of their hope in. One mom would repeat the phrase “Annie is going to be OK” until I would finally agree with her in some small way. Right now I need to thank them for holding out a morsel of hope for my girl.
And I need to soak in the sunshine emanating from my Annie. I need to capture this moment and relish it. I’m telling myself I’ll use it later on, when the going gets tough again.
Writer, editor, and writing coach Nancy Schatz Alton is finishing the last draft of a memoir. She is co-author of two holistic health care guides: The Healthy Back Book and The Healthy Knees Book. When not navigating parenthood, she uses her brain power to write, edit, and fact-check articles for websites and magazines. She lives in Ballard with her husband and two elementary-age daughters. Find her blog at Within the Words.