Recently a friend and former teacher came to visit just as I was putting away the homeschool lesson for the day. Oliver and I had been working hard on one-to-one correspondence for a number of weeks and still, he wasn't getting it. I was having a hard time not being frustrated, mindful that I can't teach effectively once I start in with the pessimism: "He's NEVER going to get it!" But still, after trying everything I could think of to get the concept across I felt myself heading in that direction. Dangerous territory for the whole family! I said as much to my friend and her reply startled me with its clarity. In essence she said: "Then put it away. If you are trying so hard and he isn't getting it then he isn't ready. Do something else for awhile and come back to it. He'll get it eventually but don't make yourself -- or him -- crazy." I think I really needed for someone to say this to me because taking the long view of things often gives us such needed perspective.
Her advice made a lot of sense to me and it is something that I practice regularly with Sami without even thinking about it. You know, with Sami it is pretty easy to trust in the developmental process. Not ready to potty train? Fine. Let's give it some time. Tying your shoes? Reading? Who cares! We'll try again in a couple of weeks. And really, it has been as easy -- as not worrisome -- as that. With Oliver, however, trusting in the developmental process hasn't been so worry-free. But after years and years of mothering Oliver you would think that I might be just a tiny bit more relaxed about it. After all, I've seen astonishing growth in my boy. I've seen his plateaus followed by bursts of development over and over again. I spend a lot of time being amazed by him. He and Sami just have a different rhythm to their forward momentum.
So we abandoned our lessons for awhile. I still incorporated numbers and counting into everything we did but I didn't try to sit down with him and match numbers with quantities again. Until today. Today was Sami's first day of school and so I figured it might be a good time to break out the numbers and counters again. And do you know what? It was like he had been doing it all along. He still had trouble remembering some of the names of the numbers, thanks to his aphasia, but he very clearly matched them with quantities. And each time he counted out the right quantity he proudly turned to me and said: "You did it!"
"No," I reminded him: "YOU did it!"
A couple of nights ago I listened to a speaker who reminded the audience that we cannot "pour language into our kids." This has kind of stuck with me because I like the image and because it is so true for just about everything. I mean, as much as we might like to, we can't pour anything into our kids (and here I'm also thinking about Resident Teenager!). Language, development, learning, reason. ... these are things that our children have to come by naturally through the course of living. What we can do is support them (with the right environment and teachers and all that), pay attention to their own individual rhythms, create lots of learning opportunities, and find a way to trust in the process.
And sometimes, I remind myself, the process of living and learning can even stretch well into a person's fortieth year!