I love my daughter very much. There is so much about her that I sit and watch and am amazed - I have spoken often before about her creativity and she is a very bright, vibrant, energetic and caring child.
HOWEVER her development - or lack thereof - of late has been very shocking to me. Not because she is being super naughty (because she isn't) or inconsiderate (well, not more than the average 7 5/6 year old) but because there are some things she just isn't getting - and that I am having to look at my own mother and her methods to find ways of overcoming obstacles.
Tonight was a classic example. She is in Year 3 at school and doing "okay". Well, okay, she is an enigma which I think translates to "how the hell do you get this child to learn anything unless its on her terms".
However, tonight was one of those moments where you think to yourself "oh goodness - am I creating this - or what should I be doing to fix this?"
Tonight's drama revolved around the time - 7.57pm - and her inability to deduce from that how many minutes until 8pm. It was well after the hour of 8pm before nerves were soothed - well, hers anyway. Mine are still jangling.
I tried working it out with her. Her cousin, P-C, could work out far more complicated time calculations in his head before he even started school, and she often is quite peeved that he knows more than her.
But then, he is a very different child to her and has had a very different upbringing. Not better, not worse but very different. And on top of that, he listens and analyses constantly.
Part of her frustration in trying to work it out is that she "forgot" that 60 minutes was in an hour and thought I had said 80. The fact that I had to tell her (several times) about there being 60 minutes in an hour was slap enough for me. She forgets so many things.
I blame it on her busy mind, and we had a talk about "unconscious listening" where you put what you are hearing on a shelf to deal with after your mind has jumped all over the place (and I understand that process very well) versus "conscious listening" - a concept that I feel she will have to really work at as I have had to struggle with it (and still do) over the years.
But its not just the mental maths that she cannot grasp (wait for the cogs and fingers as she tries to work out 10 - 7), the concept of time aspect - its a whole bag of stuff that I have finally realised that I have to face.
With reading, she was very lazy and more capable of getting you to do all the prompting in return for her withholding tantrums and tizzy-fits.
I even sought help, and was advised that she was just above the line where she needed help. I ended up doing the "Readers at Risk" training myself (as a volunteer at the school with all those who fell below that mysterious line) just so I could have some tools to get her to start "clicking" on the reading thing.
As a bookworm who "clicked" at the breakfast table at the age of 5 it was incredibly frustrating to me to watch her not even trying to struggle with it.
She did improve greatly after I got that training, but it was still a little bit of a chore rather than a pleasure - which was painful for me to watch.
Well, about 4-5 months ago it "clicked" for her - I have the Sheltie series by Peter Clover to thank for that transition - and now, while not proficient she actually chooses to read as a past-time.
Her handwriting is appalling. She had a very good excuse for that. Besides having me as a mother, that is.
On the 8th of April 2005 - that would be in the first term of her first year of primary school - she failed to adhere to her mother's constant "one at a time on the trampoline" rule (which her mother learned - from experience - can lead to broken legs) and then failed to return to the trampoline mat after one "super jump". Well, between gravity and the ground, her funny bone was the loser.
Well, actually, her humerus was - completely - resulting in months of back-slab casts and inventive clothing options, fear at anyone jiggling her, constant pain, several surgeries, physiotherapy and the possibility of a palsied hand. Can we all shout out "I told you so"!!!
This was a very convenient excuse for her having shocking handwriting (even though she learned to then write passably with her left hand) for a long, long time - that and the genetic factor - until I found a school book of mine from her age.
Now, I know I have shocking writing and it was drilled into me in childhood what shocking writing I had. My mother gave me special exercises to do (even on the school holidays) to improve my writing. I am only now coming to terms with forgiving them (my father shall share the blame as he was in cahoots with her).
However - my writing at a year younger than her was vastly more neat than hers unless she really tries - and she really tries so rarely.
Her spelling is abysmal. With all of her creativity, she is in so much of a hurry to get her ideas down that the whole spelling concept goes out of the window.
Which is fine - I am no despot on spelling at the age of 7 - but words that she should have down pat as she learned them 2 years ago are part of the carnage, and it is all very well to write a book, illustrate it and then give it away, but if no-one can decipher it what has the world lost?
I asked the teacher for the words she should know (as she has had to do spelling for homework this year - when the homework actually gets home) and so got her friend's homework book.
I could have cried. Her friend has neat writing and such attention to detail, while my daughter cannot even remember to bring the darned thing home to TRY. I know she is only 7 5/6 - but that is part of the point. What do I have to look forward to?
My mother (again) was very tough on our spelling. We had our words recited every evening, with left field ones thrown in for good measure. My first letter home from boarding school was returned with the spelling corrected in red pen.
I come from a very mathematical family. We do maths problems for fun. I write computer programs, for goodness sake!
When she was very young, she too enjoyed playing with numbers and working out stuff with me. Now, however, she is learning to dislike even that part of life - because we are past the joys of addition, and apparently subtraction just doesn't bring the buzz.
To help her, I have tried to work out fun ways for her to have the necessary facts at her fingertips. Frankly, if you can add and subtract by rote numbers to 20, you are really set because the rules don't change.
But my daughter "can't remember" and I am starting to lose my mind.
Its not like I am an uninvolved mother and couldn't be bothered trying to keep up with where she is at in the classroom, either. If anything, I am slightly over-zealous and volunteer once a week just to keep abreast of her classmates, their rituals, how the teacher handles them and what they are doing.
I found out today that she is having special assistance - she is part of the "sentence group" that gets short sessions with a tutor (during school time, so she misses out on whatever they are learning at that time).
Now, I am at the school at least twice a week - once actually with the teacher in her classroom - am I asking too much for it to be mentioned to me that she is getting this help?
I am constantly wanting to know how I can help my enigma to move forward and always asking for feedback - and I don't get told "this is where she is falling down" but rather "she is always such a happy girl".
Am I unreasonable about that?
I remember the resentment I had toward my parents with their snap quizzes and spelling bees around the dining table; being thrown sums on drives and expected to answer in the snap of fingers; j hooks, lines and curves until my hand froze just to jump high enough for their expectations.
And I realise now that it helped me enormously - and I wonder if I have to become that figure of pain to get my daughter into gear.
I need help to help my daughter.