Saturday marked the twenty-third birthday of our oldest son, Yotam. Yotam is our eldest son, and like all firstborn, he had a big role in establishing our family. Yotam deserves tons of birthday wishes. He grew up to be a lovely young man, with a lot of love in his heart, and with wisdom and diligence that each of us can learn from.
Yotam was a happy, bouncy child – a delightful kid – full of sweetness. When he reached first grade, we had hard time understanding why homework was an endless nightmare. At school, Yotam had great difficulty just sitting in one place for a long time. The first and second grade teacher in Israel did not really understand what the problem was and moved him to a back row, so his jumping wouldn’t interrupt and disturb her. The same happened with the third grade teacher in the United States. At last, when we reached fourth grade, his experienced and wonderful teachers spoke to us and suggested testing for learning disabilities.
The diagnosis revealed that Yotam suffers from ADHD, dyslexia and dysgraphia. I will never forget the day we got the results back. Of course, our hearts went out to our son to for the difficulties he was going through. More than that, I personally was a mess, feeling disappointment in myself as a mother, and a huge failure. “How did I not realize something is unusual?” “How did I fail to see there is a problem?” “I gave him the learning disabilities!” I realized only then that I, too, have learning disabilities – disabilities are usually genetic. I had terrible guilt. But it was a huge turning point. From that day on, we looked for tools to help our sweet, charming and unique son. Here are the things we taught Yotam, and those things that I think all parents of children with learning disabilities (and maybe all parents in general) should teach their children:
- You are unique and special. We love you as you are, no matter what.
- You are smart and creative. Children with learning disabilities will always find creative ways to deal with every problem.
- Grades are not valuable and are not indicative of how good you are, not how talented, not how intelligent, and so on…
- If you have done the most you could, it does not matter what the results are.
- In Hebrew we taught “What does not enter through your head, goes through your bottom.” This means, if you cannot understand or remember something, try harder, keep trying, or try something different – until you get it. We taught this to all our sons, whether they had learning disabilities or not. You do not give up, just try harder.
- Failure is a tremendous gift – by failing we learn the most about ourselves and our abilities. Failure always takes us to places of growth. It hurts to fail, but is never the end of the world. The most important thing is to learn from our failures and take our failure as a growth process.
- Successes are to be to celebrated. Enjoy and be proud of them – any success is not obvious. These were the main ideas that we tried to teach Yotam and his brothers. Three out of four of our boys have learning disabilities. So what?
What does it mean to actually have learning disabilities?
Having learning disabilities means we learn in different ways, sometimes unconventional. In addition, each of us has his own talents. The trick is to channel the talents and empower them. The most important value we teach our kids, is that they always have a choice. They can choose what they will do in life. Not everyone has the luck to be born to a supportive, understanding family. Having challenges in life is to be expected. They must always strive to do the most they can in the existing conditions. This is the fifth year of Yotam at the University. He is about to complete a double major degree in Accounting and Psychology, and has already a signed a contract for to work at a Fortune 500 company.
If Amnon (my best friend and life partner) and I had known the future, that this child who had so many difficulties in elementary school, middle and high school, will do great in life, we would had been much more relaxed. Believe in your children; believe in yourself; the rest will come.