To My Daughter with Learning Differences, Whom I Once Tried to Change

05/16/2016 06:01 pm ET

Thank you for being my child. I need you. Thank you for being you. 

Although I never thought I’d say this, I’m grateful for what we've learned from the challenges surrounding your ADHD, dyslexia and sensory issues. While I know for you, this has made school difficult, and it has made life challenging, I want to go on record and say that you have made me a better person.

I spent years wishing you were different. I have to admit it and we’ve talked about it before…it’s challenging to parent a child who is struggling. You become a mom who is struggling. You look at all the kids who are “thriving” and you wish they were your children. You start to resent the other moms. You close down and protect and build walls. I did all of that.

But you know what else I did? I fought for you. I fought with you. We stood together and reckoned with the future. Sometimes our fists were up and sometimes our hearts were open but we were in it. We were strong and courageous. Together.

I told you that you could do anything and you listened. You did it. High school graduation is upon us and you are headed to college.

I think back to kindergarten and the teacher telling me that you didn’t quite understand the letters. In second grade when you were formally diagnosed with a learning disability, they kept saying, “She understands, she’s so smart, she just can’t decode the letters,” or “She knows the material, she just can’t get it on paper”.

While often we were focusing on the decoding and the “treatment”, we tucked away the truth -“She’s so smart, she understands”- and we believed. I hope and pray that’s what you heard.

We had years of doctor appointments and therapy and meetings at school and tutoring and scary trips to the neurologist and so many questions.  We fought for extra time on tests and notes written out.  The paperwork alone takes up a whole room. 

We were blessed with a school district that had resources and teachers who understood.  Except for a few losers.  Remember the one time we were so happy you got a D- we jumped up and down and cheered?  Remember how I called your one teacher an “a**hole who doesn’t understand”?  Well, I stand by that.  Some people don’t get it.  But because of you, I do get it.  I am so grateful to be firmly planted on the side of understanding and compassion.  

You can always be assured we’ve got your back. 

Oh how I worried about you.  I sought to understand you.  I didn’t understand you.  I cried and felt sorry for myself.  My sense of entitlement was called into question.  I was complaining to Dad and he said, “It’s not about you”.  That changed the way I parent and live. 

In an effort to get you what you needed, I called in the experts and I read the books and I prayed in a way that required surrender and trust.  You gave me courage and you taught me to ask for help.

You are heading off to college next fall and while I know I am not always a perfect mother, I can honestly say you are the perfect child for me.  

I read a quote the other day that said, “Why do you keep trying to change the people God sent to change you?” This hit me like a ton of bricks.  I’m sorry for trying to change you.  

I think at times I might have justified my desire for you to change by explaining that it would just be easier for you if you were “like everybody else”.  

I take it back. 

Can I take it back? 

You are a gift.  You have changed me for good.  

This is only the beginning.  Now you get to go out and bless the world.  I will be cheering you on forever.  I’m thankful that I have been close enough to see you…a unique, beautiful creation...becoming.  

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