When the Road Forks: When the Road Forks Again

June 20, 2021

After a particularly difficult day of second grade for my oldest son this year, I was walking him to the car hoping to provide some encouraging words to combat the rain pouring outside and inside of both of us. I began to tell him tidbits about his new school. “You know, son, when you get to this new school, every student in your class will have some learning difference just like you” was the first thing I mentioned to him. He seemed to ponder that for a minute before replying: “They’ll all be exactly like me?” I sighed. Well, no. They wouldn’t. In fact, the most glaring difference is that he would still be the only child in his class with hearing aids. “No, no one is exactly like you, son. But to be honest, no one is like me either. Every person is unique and special and has their own combination of talents and gifts and struggles.” I went on to describe for him the small class sizes and that we would soon be able to drop our nighttime appointments of speech, tutoring, and occupational therapy. “I really think you are going to like it,” I said with measured excitement as well as anxious hope as we walked to the car huddled together under an umbrella. “We will see,” he said, ever the realist. 

A couple years ago, I wrote an article about the discernment that went into deciding to send our oldest to Catholic school in the first place. Back when I wrote that article, I had no idea that I would be discerning again a short three years later. I didn’t know then that there would be yet another cannonball moment shifting our course. 

Three years ago, my cannonball moment was finding out that my son had hearing loss in the first place. Unlike the cannonball that hit Ignatius in the leg at full speed, however, this cannonball was slow. It took it’s time, offering little bits of destruction along the way before hitting me full on. We battled for years with communication issues and speech problems and epic tantrums without knowing exactly what was going on. But the battle came to a head when we learned of his hearing loss. To be honest, this discovery shifted how I thought about everything. But the one thing it didn’t change was where I intended for my children to go to school. 

At least that cannonball didn’t. 

The next one did, however. This cannonball, a bit faster in its trajectory, came during shelter-in-place last year. In fact, I’m pretty sure I am not the only parent who faced this cannonball during that time. It was the one that hit me full in the face the first week I sat down to help my son through his first grade homework. It was the cannonball that said “something is still not working here.” Through my haphazard homeschool teaching done in between work and keeping the twins alive, I saw right away that my son was not jiving with the normal ways of teaching. Assignments that were supposed to take 20 minutes took an hour. Everything was challenging. He got distracted by text boxes that moved around the screen. Once he discovered they moved, he would sit and move them bigger and smaller over and over again. He would get stuck on what the perfect color of the text would be. Or he would erase his whole drawing and start again just when I thought the assignment was almost over. He also was still struggling tremendously with reading and writing, way more than I thought he was. As a parent, I wondered if I had just not been paying attention enough. Looking back, I am incredibly aware of what a gift of time shelter-in-place was to help me see the fuller picture. 

We started second grade hopeful that everything would just right itself now that we were back in school. But it didn’t. Things got harder. In December, we finally did the full battery of tests to discover that despite the lack of literature on it, children with hearing loss can and do have other learning differences in the classroom. We started working with all of the diagnoses, and I was still incredibly hopeful that everything would be able to remain the same. 

But in the end, it couldn’t. He needed a new environment that was equipped to celebrate him for everything that he is. He needed a new environment where he was surrounded by students who also learned differently. He needed me to acknowledge that discernment is fluid, and even if I had just undergone this same process on this same decision three years ago, it might be time to do the process again. 

I think it is easy for us as human beings to get attached to the way things are. We settle into routines, we have expectations. We have dreams about how life is supposed to go. The truth is, however, that life never seems to go exactly the way we expected. But the truth also is that when the road forks, when the cannonball hits, that is when the most incredible things happen. I know, I’ve gotten to witness the incredible before. I will get to do so again. 

That afternoon walking to the car in the rain reassuring my son and myself about the new adventure ahead, I paused at the curb to look at him. I wondered at that moment if he knew how incredibly special he has made my life. I wondered if he knew that I would gladly take every fork necessary in this road with him for the privilege of seeing him shine. I don’t know what’s going to happen as we take this new adventure together, but I do know that he is worth it.



Going Deeper: 

 Photo by Kuanish Reymbaev on unsplash.com 

Gretchen Crowder has served as a campus minister and Ignatian educator for the Jesuit Dallas community for the last fifteen years and counting. She is also a freelance writer and speaker. She has a B.S. in mathematics and a M.Ed. from the University of Notre Dame as well as an M.T.S. from the University of Dallas. She resides in Dallas, TX with her husband, three boys, and an ever-growing number of pets.

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