My daughter, Jamie, has a processing problem, which has caused a constant struggle throughout her school career. She receives extra support through the resource room in addition to help from private tutors at home. Even with all the additional assistance, her GPA typically remains in the C range.
Jamie will be starting high school this fall, and I worry: How she will make it through the next four years if elementary school presented so many hurdles?
Recently, my parents threw us a curve ball, and I’m not sure how to handle it.
“We’re going to Israel after the High Holidays,” they announced gleefully, “for two weeks. We thought it would be extra special to take our eldest grandchild along. Of course, you’ll let Jamie come, won’t you?”
They peered at me, eyes sparkly with excitement and anticipation. I could practically see their dreams being woven: praying at the Wall and the many other holy places together, having the exhilarating sense of “coming home” and being among our people, swimming at pristine beaches, enjoying restaurants, and having a glorious bonding experience as they tour our land together. How can I deny my daughter this priceless opportunity?
And yet, can I, in good conscience, allow Jamie to take off two full weeks from school? There is no way she will be able to catch up on all the missed work! Would this not be sheer negligence? She will undoubtedly have a wonderful vacation and return with precious memories, but at what cost? What if she fails her classes and will be compelled to repeat ninth grade because I was too spineless to say “No”?
A Confused Mom
Dear Confused Mom,
What an incredibly generous offer your parents have made! How fortunate are you and your family to have such doting grandparents!
School is certainly vital and prepares our children to face their futures. I believe, however, that the school of life is sometimes an even better educational tool.
A child like Jamie may suffer from low self-esteem. It is intensely difficult to feel “dumb,” to constantly see low grades coloring the tops of papers and tests. No matter how hard she tries, she feels doomed. Surely, she must want to throw her hands up and say, “Why bother?” Concerned mom that you are, you probably afford her opportunities to shine in other areas so that she doesn’t view herself as a complete failure. And yet, it is still so challenging to be that struggling student. After all, school takes up the bulk of a child’s life!
Would you consider meeting with Jamie’s teachers and discussing why you feel it is vital for her to go on this Israel trip? The myriad benefits practically spring from the offer: special time with her grandparents, inspiration, seeing the words and lessons of our Torah come alive. Especially for a child who struggles, this trip could be such a boon for her! If the teachers are understanding, maybe they can adjust their expectations accordingly.
You didn’t mention if Jamie’s academic issues affect her social status. Since these problems often go in tandem, that would appear to be yet another reason to proceed with the plan. Among her peers, she may be ostracized. In the company of her grandparents, she will have two full weeks to bask in their undivided, loving attention. It sounds like the perfect balm for her ailments! And upon her return to school, I can picture her classmates gathering around to see her pictures, their mouths hanging open in wonder. And who knows? If they suddenly see Jamie in a new light, perhaps the new impression will stick?
Despite the tone of my response, I must add a disclaimer: I was actually quite studious back in the day. I am a strong proponent of a good, well-rounded education. But I also feel that there is so much more that contributes to molding a loving, responsible, moral adult. Eye-opening experiences that cannot be duplicated can be a game changer for Jamie. And so, Mom, I hope you allow her to go and spread her wings.
As they say in Israel, “Nesiyah Tovah!” (Have a good trip)