Parenting Consultant: Everyone Learns Differently

The Next Family


By Ann Brown

I have a theory about myself. I believe that, given enough time and the right teacher, I can learn anything.

I am somewhat loath to share this theory publicly because when I mentioned it to my sons last year at a family get-together there was a very long awkward silence.

I know that silence. It’s the, okay, then, time to look into a nice residential facility for Mom silence. The silence when I’ve been unable to name the planets, or figure out the square root of something, or remember which one of my children is deathly allergic to cats.

“It’s not that I think I’m so brilliant,” I clarified to them, “it’s that I think pretty much anyone is capable of learning pretty much anything. “

My kids, being scientific brainiacs, wanted empirical evidence and data on my hypothesis.  I gave them a lecture on respecting their mother, instead. It is quite exhausting to have children with minds of their own. Remind me in my next life to have dull, obedient children who will blindly accept my every word.

Undaunted, however, I still hold to my theory. I think I am capable of learning anything.

I am not, however, capable of doing everything. I mean, you can teach me the mechanics, technique and artistry of figure skating but chances are I’m not going to be doing any triple lutzes in the near future.  Although I would not rule it out. Shaking a Venti martini for four seconds every afternoon for the past forty years builds biceps. Ann’s got some upper body game.

One of my kids struggled with learning disabilities when he was young. Reading didn’t really come together for him in that perfect harmonic convergence until late in fourth grade. During the years when his friends were reading and he was struggling, I had to do a lot of soul-searching. Oh, I also did a lot of lying to people (“he can read, he’s just…um… super tired.”) but eventually I realized that the way I was seeing his learning challenges was going to be how he felt about his learning challenges. So – as in all things parenting – it was up to me to get my own issues under control to make way for my son on his own journey.

What I learned from my son is that there are myriad ways to get to the same goal. Some of the things I did were unconventional (me? What a surprise!) and many things took more time than his teacher expected, but my son got there. And once he was “there”, he took off on his own. Now he has clearly surpassed me in that I go to him for answers, and also, every four years he needs to re-explain the Electoral College to me. Luckily, he is a patient person, although in my defense, the Electoral College is a very non-intuitive concept.

It’s easy to fall into a secret competition with other parents. At some point, your kids are going to be bad at something in life. Or, at least worse than someone else’s kid. And as much as we tout acceptance for everyone, and we honor our differences and blah blah blah, when it comes to your own child, it can be hard to walk the walk. At least it was for me.

Actually, it still is. I heard that the daughter of a friend of mine just made partner at her law firm.

My son could have made partner, too. Only he was…um….super tired.

Featured Photo by Chattanooga Public Library 

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