I asked Tucker, as I do everyday, how his day was at school. He said, “Not Good“, then came a flood of tears.
I swooped in with a hug and began to peel back what was hiding behind the tears streaming down his face.
It was a four letter word. A little girl in his class had called him dumb.
He was devastated and it took a bit of convincing on my part before he actually appeared to believe that contrary to what she said, he’s in-fact, very smart.
While I wish he didn’t have to learn lessons about character, respect and kindness at the expense of his own confidence, often these are the most impactful lessons learned.
Tucker has a learning disability, as do I. (Post here). While I don’t know the circumstances surrounding why this little girl decided to call him dumb; based upon his level of devastation and tears, I suspect it had something to do with his challenges in school.
I feel for him. It breaks my heart. I walked in his shoes and I know what it’s like to be called dumb or stupid. It’s awful and those words eat away at your self-esteem even when you’re too young to realize what they’re eating away.
He’ll overcome his challenges just as I did and along the way I can only hope he encounters less ignorance and judgment than I did.
My dad had shared a story with me a while back that I couldn’t help but think about.
I had asked my dad to read a speech I had written and get his opinion. A talented writer himself, I value his opinion, insight and honesty. Not one to mince words, he will always offer an honest assessment; a take it or leave it, you asked for it attitude.
He read the piece, handed it back to me, smiled and then laughed. His reaction was a bit unnerving. He quickly jumped in, said it was fine, assured me I’d do well and offered a suggestion or two. He then told me I was a good writer and had always been a good writer. I was quick to accept his compliment and he then went on to tell me why he was laughing.
One of my teachers in middle school had told him in a parent/teacher conference that I couldn’t write and showed him a short story I had written and said it was the worst thing he’d ever read.
My dad had told my teacher that whether or not I could write or was a good writer wasn’t going to be decided in middle school and he was confident I would do just fine. My dad looked at me, grinned and said proudly, “I wonder what he’d think of you now?”
Whether or not I am, or am not, a good writer is irrelevant. I enjoy it, my parents are proud of me, people read what I write and most importantly it’s a meaningful part of my life.
Along the way in my journey through school, just like what Tucker’s experiencing, there were plenty of classmates and sadly teachers, who directly and indirectly exhibited little confidence in my potential and intelligence. Yet, along the road of life that’s riddled with pot holes and crap, I discovered that perseverance is a beautiful quality in life. I hope he discovers the same quality in himself.
So, as Tucker wakes up tomorrow to face the day and move ahead with a steady stride in conquering his challenges, I will tell him this as I do every morning…
We are so proud of you. You are smart and you are capable. Hold you head up high and do your best. Do your best work, take your time and don’t get discouraged. We believe in you and we love you.
Hopefully my words can overshadow the dumb.