She used to. She made gold honor roll for all 4 quarters of 6th grade, and for the first quarter of 7th.
She was our amazing girl in the wheelchair, always working hard, an A student who could be anything, and do anything she set her mind to.
An inspiration to everyone around her, fulfilling even the most demanding parents ambitions, hopes and dreams.
That she could achieve so much in the face of so many challenges was the icing on the cake and I started to allow myself to dream of her having a glittering future as an advocate and role model for other teenagers especially those with physical disabilities.
And then it stopped.
For most of 7th grade she didn’t even want to be in school. Hormones hit. Cliques were formed, friendships faded away and her wheelchair always seemed to be in the way or was too difficult to accommodate and she quickly went from being accepted, to being condemned to the social Siberia. Happiness, motivation and inspiration left the building, taking grades and performance with them leaving me tearing my hair out for most of seventh grade trying to convince her that the future would be better and that it was worth investing in.
My assertions that school and education were her golden tickets to a life of happiness and opportunity and repeated assurances that things would be much better in high school, were tolerated but not believed, and her attendance at school became nothing more than a calculated strategy to avoid the endless conflict and a negotiation tool to get me off her back.
So this year the 8th grade is going much better. The exciting Make a Wish activities kick started the year and her paintings and plans for a fundraising exhibition have ensured that her interest and involvement in school has returned with a bang.
Just not the grades.
And by all accounts so should I be. And I am, of course I am.
So what if she has gone from straight As in accelerated math to failing and being asked to repeat pre algebra. If anything less than an A is an Asian F then I must be well on my way to a Tiger Mom crisis of epic proportions.
And then I am reminded of the 67 days she refused to go to school last year and that she is now back in school and that she is happy and enjoying her classes. And I am glad just not totally happy. I can see her trying less and less, taking the easy way out, getting a B where she used to get A’s and as a result expectations of her are being lowered.
It’s hard to get any child to do something they don’t want to do. With a child of disability whose every day requires such extraordinary commitment and effort and whose future is unknown, it is seemingly impossible.
At times it seems “cruel and unusual punishment” for me to expect more of her, for her to focus on what the long-term benefit of all this effort will be when neither of us can see what or if that future might be. But I know she will be better prepared if she is educated and have more opportunities if she is well-educated.
So I’ve explained and I’ve tried to inspire her. I’ve pushed and I’ve negotiated and I’ve grounded and I’ve shouted. I’ve used the carrot of rewards and treats, and the stick of losing the things she values. I’ve begged and I’ve cried and I’ve screamed (a lot) and I’ve given up (a lot).
and no doubt tomorrow I will do it all again.
She’s worth it.