In our state, there is a college scholarship called “Bright Futures.” Among other requirements such as a very good GPA and community service hours, students must have some impressive SAT scores. It’s a great program and really helps alleviate the financial burden of college for parents and students.
My son spent most of his elementary school with special education teachers, speech pathologists, and occupational therapists. He could barely say his own name in kindergarten and there were so many nights my husband and I cried, wondering if he would ever read. The sight word drills were endless. The reading together at night became more of a nagging chore rather than a special family moment it should have been. There were many days I just wasn’t sure if I was qualified for this, and I am a special education teacher!
The thing is, he worked harder than anyone I knew. He never gave up no matter how tired he was. He just wanted to please us. He knew he was behind. He watched his friends surpass his test scores with ease, and I could always see the disappointment on his face when he knew he did his best, but it wasn’t as good as the students receiving As. The look of that disappointment in your son’s eye is gut-wrenching for a mother. It’s hard to explain to a 5-year-old that his best is good enough when everyone around him seems to be doing better, catching on quicker, and getting all those special certificates at the school report card ceremonies.
Although school never really became easier, he did get better. Years and years of homework at the kitchen table together, tutoring, and extra help did help his confidence improve. That hard work paid off, and when he was a junior in high school, he won a local engineering contest. He has outworked every student I know.
He spent weeks staying up until 2 a.m. to get his project done. He never gave up no matter how tired he was. He also holds a weekend job as a dishwasher to save for college. Somehow, someway, I know his work ethic is a reflection of all those years of extra work in elementary school. He never got to take the easy way out. Every day was hard work, and to keep up, he had to outwork his classmates.
Flash forward to senior year. I keep hearing him say this friend or that friend has qualified for the Bright Futures scholarship or even received a full scholarship for academics to some prestigious schools in our state. No one prepares you for these moments as a mother. I thought the well of my tears had run dry a long time ago for this kind of stuff.
I never compared him to his friends, but I can see the disappointment on his face when his friends deliver this news. See, although his GPA is impressive, his SAT score was not. He never did well on any standardized test because, well, he is not a standardized kid. He is so much more than any test score. Every year he fell behind what our state considered a “proficient” score in reading. We tried everything—tutoring, extra practice, and more time. Eventually, I had to realize he is much more than these silly tests, and it didn’t matter to me that he didn’t pass because I knew how smart he was.
From age four, he could sit for hours and put together the most intricate and time-consuming LEGO sets. He couldn’t handle if a friend of his was getting his or her feelings hurt. He loves with passion and has the biggest heart of anyone I have ever met. He still kisses his parents goodnight and makes sure his sister is taken care of. Even while being a full-time high school student, he has managed to keep the same job for over two years. His co-workers and managers can’t stop raving about what a good employee and kid he is.
So, when I see my son, his future is bright, too! His future is just as bright as those who get perfect SAT scores. Just as bright as those with the perfect GPA. Just as bright as the star athlete. Because I know, no matter what he chooses to do in his future, he will do it with grace, hard work, and dedication. I can only pray that the world will see him the way his mom does.