A little child shall lead them…

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Column and photo by Bradley Robertson

This writing is a tough one for me. 

Tough to talk about, tough to feel, but one I think all of us should consider.

On our farm, I can feel fall beginning to blow in. Literally. The breeze has set in at just the right time, giving our family a fresh sense of renewal and purpose. My husband is by nature a worker bee; therefore, my children fall effortlessly into this role. They do not sit well in idle time and are consistently eager to “do” things.

Braxton has two young calves at our barn that he got off the farm himself and is raising. One is a steer and the other a cow. They both know him and rely on him daily for nourishment. He gets up around 5:30 every morning before school to tend to them. He sees to them every evening for grooming, walking, talking and care. He loves it. It is his purpose and joy for today.

Sweet Sissy holds a position on the JV cheer team for her school. She tried out for the team just before coronavirus hit and was over the moon happy to have made it. Practices began in June, and she cheered her first football game just this week. Sissy also takes her school very seriously and puts in the extra effort to ensure her good grades.

Thankfully, this farmgirl still feels the joy of playing. She is quick to hang out with Shep on the rope swing in the evenings, and she is definitely up for helping her dad on the farm. Sister knows more about growing corn and selling it than any book could ever teach her. She is so much like her father in her grit and effort, something Isaac beams at when he sees her at the end of his long workday.

And then we have Mr. Shepherd Ellington, the man of the hour. The boy who never stops and has always been known for his laid-back sense of fun and ability to do things of a grown man. He cuts grass and has his own weed eater. He builds bird houses and can also make a pitcher of sweet tea. Shep knows no limits… that is until he began to learn to read.

Out of all three of my children, Shep was the only one who actually said to me, “Momma I can’t wait until I learn to read.”

His heart began to comprehend last year, in first grade, what his reading mind just could not. Shep simply did not catch on to reading. I didn’t think much of it at first; I assumed he would get there and it would “click” one day. However, Shep’s confusion and frustration with reading seemed to get worse and worse. He began to feel sad for himself. His eagerness and zest for anything school began to deflate.

During quarantine and summer life, I saw Shep more and more eager to build, to work, to construct and to do anything of strategy and creativity. But whenever I mentioned reading, he immediately fell into panic. His momentum came from what he knew he could accomplish; he was willing to walk away from what he assumed he “couldn’t” do.

Shep was diagnosed in June with dyslexia. In my own words, it means that he does not have a natural reading brain, and the way he learns and processes letters is not the norm or standard. The beautiful news is that he will learn to read, but the hard news for him is that it will take longer and he will have to work 100 times harder than most.

To top things off, just last week, I pulled Shep out of second grade and placed him back in first. Doesn’t that sound all peaches and honey for a young boy? Oh, I wish it were. It has been anything but. Tears, fear, anxiety, worry, concern and hopelessness. These are the things Shep has felt in the last few weeks.

I have never been one to harp on the hard. I don’t know if it’s my nature or I learned it, but forward motion and optimism are my strengths. But when it comes to your own young child and helping them through crisis, it’s much, much different.

We have all seen  the hard and hopeless since March 15. We have not all experienced it the same, but we have each felt the hurt of this season in some way. Deaths, job loss, judgement, illness, depression, anxiety, fear and let’s not forget loneliness. We have all felt something. And for most, we have all had the ability to walk away from the hard, close it in a closet and move on. We adults, including myself, become very good at this.

Not Shep, not learning to read.

Shep is the hopeful example of every human in pandemic life. He cannot walk away from his hurt and pain. He must walk right up to it, face it head on and figure it out.

He is a child, and yet he is braver than I. He will have to work on this skill every day for the next couple years just to catch-up. He will feel doubt, he will feel insecure, but he will conquer. And years down the road, when he is a grown man, he will see that he can face the impossible.

Shep will know that a pandemic occurred, but his story will be one of courage, perseverance and new life.

What are you struggling with due to the pandemic? Is it something in hiding or are you ready to face your giants head on?

The story you share later in life of 2020 rests in your hands. How do you want your story to end?

Shep’s story will be great. We will walk this road hand in hand, facing hard truths, believing in the impossible, and Shep will be leading the way.

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