On Sunday, Samantha and I drove out of state to visit a very old and dear friend of mine and her young son who were several thousand miles closer to us than usual while visiting her parents for the week. It had been a full year since the last time I saw them, and, with our children only 3 months apart in age, we always had so much to talk about on these brief occasions.
Her parents, a sweet, generous, and loving couple, took us out to lunch when we arrived. I tried to keep the antsy, withdrawn Samantha entertained while we waited for the food to arrive. With unfamiliar company, she shut down a little, needing a bit more warm-up time. I knew she'd be okay eventually, but in the meantime, she played games on the Toshiba tablet until the battery wore out. My friend, a teacher and ever-prepared for just such an instance, pulled out a small, compact set of 1st reader books, and Samantha, always keen to get her hands on new reading material, perked up.
My friend's father, across the table, asked, "So, with school...what are you going to do about school for her?"
I smiled, waiting to see what he said next, pretty sure I knew what was coming.
"Will you homeschool her?"
Ah, there it was. Absolutely nothing negative about what he was saying - he just didn't know, and I was so happy he asked.
And I was so happy to respond.
"Actually, she's *in* school. She's going into 1st grade!"
He wasn't sure he'd heard me correctly. "What?"
My friend jumped in. "Dad, she just finished Kindergarten - she's going into 1st Grade next month!"
He looked surprised, but happy to hear this, learning something unexpected and new.
But the surprises kept coming.
Samantha took the reading book from my friend, and began to read it, breezing through. My friend's son, not as strong a reader, said, "Try book 10 - it's really hard. I can't read it."
Her parents were paying close attention by now.
I turned to book 10 in the series. Samantha read it effortlessly.
"Does she memorize it?" my friend's dad said.
"No, Dad - she reads at a 2nd grade level."
He was really intrigued now, and I explained that while she's a natural reader, surpassing both my myself and my mother at her age (both in accelerated reading groups all through school), we're now working on reading comprehension.
Uh, and speech intelligibility, of course. My friend's son, trying so hard, couldn't understand much of what Samantha said to him, partly due to her tendency to go off on rambling random tangents, and partly due to her speaking way too fast. My friend and I both had no trouble understanding her. We came to the conclusion that children are not accustomed to reading between the lines, to gathering context to fill in the blank spaces and to formulate full meaning from snippets.
Frustrated, he threw up his hands, and made his own conclusion, "I think she's speaking Spanish."
We stifled our giggles, and I silently congratulated him for his valiant efforts.
And later, after we said our goodbyes and Sammi and I headed back home, I had some time to think, reflecting on a time not so long ago, when interactions like this would have bothered me, would have left me in tears, feeling that vast gulf between Samantha and her typically-developing peers so sharply. But time and perspective have shifted things, allowed me to look on them as learning experiences for myself, for Samantha, and for the other child.
Perspective is such an amazing thing. It is an indication of growth, of maturity, of acceptance. It is an indication of having come full-circle, of creating a starting point for the next phase of our lives, of seeing things in a new way and throwing out old, stale misconceptions and negativity, allowing myself to embrace the future. I hope that each stage in development, both Samantha's and mine, can be met with such clarity, with that new perspective that opens up the next door in front of us.
One day at a time...