By Bradley Robertson
My good little boy Shep began first grade this school year. Time for him to leave the full-time farm life behind and meet school head on.
Shep is Mr. Enthusiasm and has loved every minute of this new childhood adventure. He loves his friends, devours PE, believes school lunch is the best food ever and I can only imagine his excellence on the playground. His teacher is a perfect piece of pie to my momma heart and he hangs on every bit of knowledge she feeds into him.
There is just one little thing he can’t quite grab on to: reading.
Shep has dreamed of being able to read for years, like other kids dream of riding tractors. He longs for it, ponders it and his sweet heart can’t quite understand why it’s not as simple as it should be. And honestly, it tears at my heart too.
Among all the skills for children to learn, reading is probably the greatest, and one we often take for granted. Reading is knowledge and wisdom and power in our own hands that feeds into the rest of our lives, in every way possible.
So, when my chubby faced, happy boy stares at me in frustration and confusion upon reading, I feel crushed. Helpless. Sad. It leaves me wondering, what on earth is going on in his little head?
I was an exceptional reader in school. I always got an A+ on my tests and I raised my hand at every occasion to read aloud in class. I was a confident reader, a joyful reader. I find it only natural for me to want the same for my little boy.
Braxton caught on very quickly at the beginning of first grade and never missed a beat. Sissy’s skills kicked in about Christmas time her first grade year and has been non-stop ever since. And we all know we are not to compare one kid to the next, but we do. I think about it.
Shep is grand and impressive in so many ways. He built a doghouse by himself this weekend. He cuts my parents’ grass and weed eats for them too. He made his own grilled cheese sandwich yesterday. He builds fires for us at night in our fireplace. But this reading, this simple skill, is a mountain for this boy.
So, I begin with consistency and encouragement, which honestly only goes so far when frustration kicks in. Next, we play games and make charts, in hopes the reading doesn’t seem so out of reach. Candy is involved and other rewards, but even weeks later, we are still in the same boat. Has he improved; I wonder? Or still in the same place?
My mind quickly goes to reading disabilities. Could he have dyslexia? Is he delayed because he played his whole early childhood instead of reading sooner? Have I not practiced enough with him? Where did I go wrong? All these ideas run through my head. I’m an everyday mom wanting the best for my everyday boy.
I finally opted in for an eye exam. If he were to need glasses, that would be an easy fix. Or, if this were not the case, we could move on to investigate other areas.
Like all Shep’s other life endeavors, he could not wait to go. He counted down the days and was happy as a lark when it finally arrived. He was ever so brave and listened well to every instruction asked of him.
I sat still and quiet, observing for what seemed like hours. It didn’t take long for the obvious to surface causing a knot in my stomach. Boy could not see. Letters were not clear. Light was askew. Frustration was inevitable. Shep however, was all smiles. He knew, in that moment, he was going to be able to read.
What once seemed unattainable in his little mind, he now knew could be something real.
Last week, we picked up Shep’s new blue glasses during his lunch hour at school. I knelt to him upon putting them on. He stared at my face like he hadn’t seen me in days. His cheeky grin was not removed from my eyes. “You look so clear.” My eyes welled and I choked back tears. All I wanted him to see was my joy and delight in his little face.
He looked beyond me into the office. “Things look bigger. I can see them better.” I held his hand and I slowly allowed him to take in all his surroundings, his grin never leaving his face.
We walked outside together, and gazing out into blue skies, trees and city life Shep said.
“I can see the whole world.” I will never forget this. Seeing a whole new world, through the eyes of my boy.
Shep taught me a beautiful lesson that day. We all need new eyes to see. We all need to be stopped in our tracks at the awe and beauty of this world. We have so much and sometimes we see only what we want to see. We forget to open our eyes and our minds to people, to possibility, to the simple beauty of sky and trees and flowers.
I pray, readers, you will open your eyes this week. Gaze upon what’s in front of you with new vision and new wisdom. The beauty will be there for you to behold.
Robertson is a local mother, wife and creative. She’s an Auburn University graduate, loves good food and getting outside with her family. Bradley enjoys feature writing, as well as southern culture and lifestyle writing.