Last night was…sad. It was hard. There were tears of frustration and sadness.
In an attempt to be honest here I feel like I need to write about the hard stuff even as we celebrate the good, awesome things happening in our world.
See, Olivia’s homework is my responsibility. Tom doesn’t even want her to open her backpack until I get home so we can work on her homework then. Last night I was tired after a day at work. I was already a little stressed and as I sat there, trying to get her to focus on her math, which is so, so hard for her, I was complaining under my breath that homework shouldn’t sit solely on my shoulders.
Alyssa was at the table with me and Olivia. She heard my comment. She agreed that her dad should have to take on homework duty a couple of nights a week.
Then, she muttered, “It’s hard because she’s dumb.”
Oh my goodness. I’m surprised my head didn’t fly off my neck at how fast I swiveled to look at Alyssa. I think she realized what she said a millisecond before I hissed, “That is a horrible thing to say.”
She dropped her gaze and mumbled an apology.
Olivia asked what Alyssa had said.
I told her it didn’t matter because it was a mean thing to say and I wasn’t going to repeat it.
Then Olivia and I went back to her homework while I fought tears.
See, Olivia struggles with basic math facts. It’s very hard for her and we have to go over it over and over again every single night. But she’s not dumb. She tries so hard, she wants so badly to understand it. And so I work with her, I keep trying to figure out new ways to teach her old things.
But I worry so much about the big bad world being mean to my sweet girl that I when I heard her own sister say that about her, it broke my heart.
Now I realize that siblings say mean things about each other all the time. Heck, Olivia tells Alyssa she has a big butt all the time and it never triggers the kind of emotions the ‘dumb’ comment did last night. And honestly, if Olivia were typical, the ‘dumb’ comment probably wouldn’t have bothered me the way it did last night. But O’s not typical and we all know it. And there lies my fears, my angst.
I guess I just thought that someone who lives with Olivia must see how hard she works, how much she’s already overcome and would never, ever utter such a thing, especially not when she was right there and could hear it. I’m so glad she wasn’t paying attention to us and didn’t hear it. But what about the day she does hear it from a peer or a stranger who happens to see that she’s ‘different’?
Obviously Alyssa’s comment hit a very raw, very deep nerve with me. I try so hard to keep Olivia dressed nicely, her hair brushed and braided, her face clean because I know that society is kinder to people they perceive as caring about their appearance. I also know that society is kinder to more attractive people. It just is. And so I do what I can to make sure she encounters more kindness than cruelty. But last night, it felt like we were slapped in the face with cruelty right there in our own home by one of our own.
I know that Alyssa didn’t mean to hurt my or her sister’s feeling. She was feeling the frustration that pulsed through the room. She wanted math homework to be done too so we could move on to more fun things, like watching the Brady Bunch or just hanging out instead of hearing a near constant, “Okay, Liv, what’s one less than five? Okay, what is six plus four?”
I emailed O’s teachers this morning to let them know about my concerns with math. I wanted to be sure they were aware of how hard we’re working at home and let them know that we’re hitting a few walls. I also wanted to check in with them to see how she’s doing at school.
Math at school is hard too but we have an amazing team working with Olivia and together we’ll find a way to help her succeed.
And tonight, Miss Lyss and I will have a talk about kindness and how much words can hurt. And I’ll work with Livie on her spelling homework and her math homework and we’ll get through it because what else can we do?