Then my son started school and his classmates chimed out, “I wish I was as smart as Haskell!” Their parents now call me to ask my plans for Haskell’s education and want to bring me their own plans to approve. Suddenly I have become an authority on the formula for success. As I listen politely and offer them reassurance, all I can think is: “Do they have any idea that the Wiz Kid’s mom lives a double life as high school dropout?”
Haskell, of course, knows the truth. He refers to my dyslexia as “a condition” and is fascinated that I didn’t know how to read until I was 13. Often he assists me with tasks like spelling and calculating restaurant tips; sometimes he makes fun of me and scolds me for not getting my Bachelor’s degree. He knows that both my own and my husband’s family are full of Ph.D.s. So he would rather do his homework with my husband, sister or mother looking on. I’m not offended by his preference for someone more engaged than I, who knows the answers and will not shudder at the sight of math equations and composition books.
On an unlucky night, when I’m the only show in town, I don’t encourage good study habits. It tends to grow late and his homework remains untouched. Then deadlines plague Haskell and we erupt into fiery spats. He may lash out at me: “Did you know that you’re totally useless, Mom?”
I can’t argue. But for my son’s sake I have found experts close to home who fill in when I’m deficient. My husband has taken over homework duty whenever he can and my mother has researched public school programs for gifted students. Last spring we struck gold; Haskell was admitted into a fine, local public school. What a relief! I did not want him to molder at the head of his average class with its disruptive kids and burdened teacher. I did not want to leave him too long where a polished apple of confidence would over-ripen into arrogance. He is the child I do not want to see “left behind” any more than his low-performing counterparts.
While I haven’t put myself in a position to directly help dyslexic children — by working as a guidance counselor, for example, or facilitating in a Davis Dyslexia Correction program — I recognize them in the music classes I teach for Head Start, or in friends’ families. Then I know to provide the warmth and playful bolstering they need, because I remember how badly I needed it.
Haskell does not need this brand of sensitivity. He has more need of his grandmother’s attention to schools and his father’s energetic supervision of homework. Sometimes my son is best served when I step aside and let others assist him. So I’ll continue to take pride in Haskell’s achievements and I’ll enjoy my second chance with school. All the more so because I’ll not forget my own earliest lessons.