When Mary was five, six, seven, I used to talk to my mother on the phone about Mary’s developmental delays. I needed my mother’s support, her empathy. I poured out my worry, sorrow and despair about Mary’s test results.
One day I realized suddenly that Mary was very quiet, listening on the other side of the door. An uneasy regret settled in the pit of my stomach.
She must have understood on some level.
Every year, Mary was tested to measure her progress in learning to read, in activities of daily living, in muscle strength and coordination, in speech, in memory, in fund of information, etc. Her therapists frequently noted she was initially nervous about the testing, but mostly compliant. She had a desire to do what they wanted, but was frustrated in her ability to perform. Her speech, reading, memory, strength, coordination always tested at the 10th percentile or lower.
However, at nine years of age, she began to test at the 50th percentile in math, and then above average, and then well above average. When she talked about math, her face lit up. Math was her first meaningful mainstreamed subject. At the end of 10th grade, she toured the Skills center for our county to explore the possibility of entering the computerized accounting program. Her teacher told me later how her eyes shown at the prospect of studying accounting. She completed the two-year course in one year in part because she enjoyed accounting and in part because she didn’t waste time socializing. After high school, she went on to get a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting Systems.
I have asked her if she remembers listening at the door. She says that she doesn’t. She does not remember much before the age of 12. Then a switch was thrown in her brain. Twelve was the year she began to conquer reading.
This is one of the regrets I have in raising Mary, and I share it as a cautionary tale. As parents, we all make mistakes, we stumble, we fail, but we keep on going. Day by day, step by step.