She wasn't at school more than a few minutes when the phone rang.
“Hello, this is the school nurse. It's not an emergency, but I just wanted to let you know Ittybit was accidentally elbowed by another student while they were getting off the bus just now. She's OK, but I needed to call and let you know that I have to send her home with a head injury fact sheet. ...”
You know … that dreaded list of instructions that implores you to monitor your child closely for the next 24-hours to 48-hours, and that you should probably have 911 on speed dial just in case any of the signs of brain injury reveal themselves, such as confusion, unresponsiveness, vomiting or seizure.
I should be used to it by now since I get at least two of these calls per month, yet seeing the school's number on my phone always fills me with dread:
Ittybit has a fever. Champ fell off the monkey bars. Bee sting. Stomach ache. Accident (whispering), the non-emergency-room kind (bring a change of pants).
And notes from the teacher are even worse.
“There's an orange note from my teacher in my folder for you. I gave it to Sarah on the bus because she can read, and she said it's pretty bad.”
Sure enough, there on an orange sheet of paper, was a note setting up a conference because of lower than expected test scores in reading.
My stomach makes a frown-y face, too, as my mind races to conclusions.
Is he dyslexic? Could he have vision problems? ADHD? He's autistic!!! I should have been more concerned about his aversion to loose-fitting clothes and squeaky shoes. And holy-moly how much TV do we watch? (And, not to digress, but who are these people surveyed that say their kids are watching a scandalous average of one hour per day? Liars!) We seem to watch one screen or another on a daily basis as if it's our full-time job.
Deep breaths. Don't panic. Deep breaths.
It's not as if we haven't been doing all the things parents are told to do to ensure successful early reading. We've read to him religiously since he was born, and, since he started kindergarten, we've encouraged him to sound things out, look for clues and skip and go back. Even in the every day he's read cereal boxes over breakfast, lists in the grocery store and signs when we travel.
Yet, as I wait for the appointed time, I can't help but worry that despite all of our good intentions, inconsistency makes us the worst parents who ever roamed the Earth … or, more likely, Target.
Because … when it comes to our kids it's really all about us, right?
Or is it about their siblings?
I try to remember: Ittybit seemed to have similar problems, didn't she? She wasn't interested in reading until third grade.
Think. Think. Think. ...
Could this be the new standards talking? A dragnet? A rubric? An overhauled set of expectations that no one applied to Ittybit as she sat in this same chair three years ago? Could it be a place in number scale where all students must fit between if they are to proceed and the schools earn their gold star?
That must be it, I told myself, and then I relaxed a little.
In time, his teacher would tell me that she's not terribly concerned about his abilities, but as a formality she has to warn me of his progress (and lack thereof). He just needs practice and confidence, and remedial reading will help.
My stomach unknots reinforcing not only my gut instinct that he doesn't really have a diagnosable problem, but that not having a problem doesn't mean he wouldn't benefit from educational solutions.
And then it hits me: I'm beginning to see the value of standards and practices.