• Personal

    Better Than We Used to Be

    School assemblyThe other day I received an email from my youngest daughter’s teacher. She invited me to the Friday assembly to see my daughter receive an award for being respectful in class. A little later I told this to my mother by phone. We laughed. We laughed so hard. My youngest daughter has mild brain damage and her control center isn’t the greatest. She works on it, she works on it hard at home, and she is better at controlling herself than she used to be, but her history … let’s just say she has a history of being a hellion.

    Still, as she’s grown over the years, she has matured. Kindergarten was difficult, first grade amazing, second grade, hard but improving. Now in third grade, her teacher says she often acts “like a fourth grader,” meaning she follows directions and does what she needs to. Something switched for her. She likes the attention she gets for being good. And her teacher’s had her for two years, so she knows she hasn’t always been this way. She’s had to work hard to do it.

    We go to the assembly. It’s wacky clothing-clash day. The principal has a weird sweater on. One teacher’s in a silk shirt and tie dye vest. It’s all so fun and cute. There’s the school cheer. The announcements. The reading competition results. The holding up your hand when you’re ready to hush. Then the awards.

    Each awarded child gets a certificate from the principal and gets to stand on the bleachers behind him. They go through the grades. Soon they come to my daughter’s classroom. They call her friend’s name, and another friend, then her. “For being respectful!” the principal says. She runs up to the front of the gym, forgets to get her certificate, and flies past him. Another teacher catches her and she goes back for the paper. She’s the only child in all of the recipients to do this. Like I said, her control center’s not the greatest.

    Afterward, we hang the certificate on the magnet board in the kitchen. She has to be reminded as to what it’s for again and again. Finally, she remembers when she tells my mother on the phone. Then after she hands the phone back, she runs upstairs to play with her older sister. A few minutes later, I hear her sister scolding her, her laughing, louder scolding, the booming of feet running around, and yelling. Finally, she lets out a high-pitched scream of frustration and there’s the hard whap of a door slamming. I tell my mother, “Someday, she’ll earn that certificate at home.”