He threw the book and stomped off to his room.
“Don’t you understand?” he yelled, clearly frustrated. “I have dys-A-lexia!”
As he slammed the door, I tried to sort through all my reactions – smiling because of the way he pronounced dyslexia, bitter because he threw the book and we have been trying to help him work on the explosive responses, sad because reading is so very difficult for him, despair because maybe we will never be able to get this right, and grateful because I know he is at least making progress, whether or not we can both see it right this minute.
He came out of his room a few moments later, sheepishly apologized and climbed up onto my lap.
He rested there for a minute, and as I kissed his head and smelled his hair, I asked him what happened.
The only thing he could say was, “This is too hard. I can’t do it right.”
Two years ago, his older brother suddenly started reacting aggressively and violently towards everyday life. He would lose it every single day, and literally destroy his room and anything or anyone else in the way. He pulled over bookshelves, punched and kicked holes in the wall, hit me in the face, threw heavy objects at my head. He stopped sleeping, preferring instead to cry and bang his head against the wall for hours and hours.
We were on several waiting lists for an evaluation. But waiting lists don’t help when it’s 3 AM and you have bite marks on your arms, and your baby is slamming his head over and over again into the wall.
I remember sitting next to him, rubbing his back, trying to help him settle down, praying that it would just stop, and saying to myself, “This is just too hard. I can’t do it right.”
When we finally got the diagnosis, I distinctly remember asking the developmental pediatrician what I was “doing wrong” in caring for him. Her answer was so simple.
“Just because this is hard, doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong. It’s going to be difficult. It is difficult. There is no way around that. But it doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong. Sometimes things are just hard.”
I know my son and I are not alone in feeling this way. We want to know how we can fix it, what we aren’t doing, what’s the right way.
But sometimes, no matter how hard we try, no matter how many books we read, no matter how many doctors we see, no matter how many prayers we pray…sometimes it is just hard.
Sometimes the difficulty level in this game called life is way beyond any of our abilities.
It doesn’t mean we are doing it wrong.
I gathered my frustrated boy up in my arms, carried him back over to the table with the books and the flashcards and the pencils, and I sat down with him. I asked him to face me, looked him straight in the eyes and said –
Just because this is hard, doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong.
But we don’t quit. When something is this important, no matter how difficult, we keep going. Even when we get frustrated. Even when we are sure we can’t take it anymore. Even when we know that we are in way over our heads and have no chance of ever not being faced with this circumstance.
We take the next step. And then the next. And then the next.
As he began to work on his reading assignment again, I said a quick prayer, thanking God for the reminder I needed more than my son. For showing me over and over again that as much as I want to believe I can fix it, that I can try harder, do better, and just get it right – the truth is, sometimes life is just what it is.
And in the midst of all the difficult, rather than looking for what we are doing wrong and trying to control it, the beauty is in the acceptance, the surrender, and the embrace…
as we simply take the next step.